Drop the Stones!

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The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.
— Proverbs 19:11

That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?  Deferring anger.  Overlooking offense.  On a good day?  Maybe.  On a typical day, well, it’s much easier said than done, right?  We don’t usually defer anger but instead invite it in.  And rather than overlooking offenses, we excel at pointing them out and rubbing them in the face of our “opponent.”

What gets me is how we often reserve such behavior for those we love and care for the most.  We feel comfortable enough with them to be “real,”  but they probably weren’t aware when they signed up that “real” meant “real mean and ugly.”  They say “white,” so we say “black.”  They hurl insults, so we wind up and throw some right back in their face.  What is wrong with this behavior?  Where’s the love and compassion?

We live in a world that teaches survival of the fittest, so if we don’t want to be trampled, we had to step up and speak out.  We can’t allow others to walk over us; therefore, we must have the last word.  Pride insists we stand up for our opinions, whether they’re right or not.  To back down is unacceptable.  To look the other way when insults are hurled is unthinkable.  To turn the other cheek, surely, is irresponsible.  But that’s not what the Bible teaches.

According to the verse above, the only way to find glory is to let the insult pass.  Overlook the offense.  Let the hurtful words and angry tone drift away on the billowy clouds of love and compassion.  Don’t get even.  Don’t try to one-up the other person with an attack of your own.  Let it go!

That rubs against the grain though, doesn’t it?  In our frustration, we shout, “But isn’t it only natural that I fight back?”  Natural?  Yes.  But I ask you, of what nature?  The fleshly nature urges us to get even; however, the spiritual nature compels us to forgive and let it pass.  So, which will we follow?

True victory is never accomplished by casting stones!

Confidence in God's Dealing With Others - A Series on Confidence, Part 16

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And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
— II Thessalonians 3:4

I'm sure we all have someone in our lives who isn't living the way they ought to live.  Maybe they're living in sin or out of church.  Perhaps they've taken a wrong turn and are currently headed in a dangerous direction.  Maybe they're wasteful or irresponsible.  Whatever the case, the situation warrants prayer.  And we've prayed.  Heaven knows we've prayed, but they just don't seem to be getting the picture.  We've tried to reason with them, to guilt them into getting their act together and, in some cases, parted company.  Oddly enough, we want to hug them and slap them all at the same time.

But according to II Thessalonians 3:4, it's not our job to change people.  We don't have that power or authority.  Be an example?  Absolutely.  Be an encouragement?  Definitely.  Teach others how to walk the right road?  Without a doubt.  But "fix" people?  No, I'm afraid that's not in our job description.  God alone has the power and authority to change lives.  It is His Spirit that convicts the heart.  He is the One who whispers, guides, and corrects.  And ultimately, everyone has been given the gift of choice to determine what they will do with those holy nudges.  Some fight; others concede.  It's their choice.

On the surface, this may sound a bit depressing, like maybe I'm saying your loved one has made a poor choice and now they have to live with it.  That's not at all what I'm saying.  What I'm trying to get across is that our job is to be a living example of all God wants us to be and to pray for those who have gone astray.  We are to love them and encourage them to the best of our ability.  But beyond that, we must turn them over to God instead of trying to fix them ourselves.  God knows how to get through to them.  He knows what it will take for them to surrender their will to His.  The good news for us is that when we bring someone to the Lord in prayer, we can be confident that we're committing them to the only One who can make a difference.  We're placing their care and conviction in the almighty, all-powering, all-knowing God.

Think about it, if God could get through to Paul (formerly Saul, the Christian-killer), then He can get through to anybody.  Ultimately, everyone has a choice, but God can be pretty convincing, and He's not willing that any should perish.  Instead of allowing our wayward loved ones to cause us worry and regret, we can find hope in the fact that God is not through with them yet.  He is "touching" them, longing to bring them back into the fold.  Believe it or not, He cares for them far more than we do.

My friend, keep praying and be confident that God is working on those who have gone astray.  No one is a lost cause!

Stop Peeing in My Cornflakes!

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

I don't know who came up with that phrase, but they definitely weren't from this planet. Or this universe even. Nope, around here, words hurt a lot! And while they may not break bones, they certainly break hearts, hopes and spirits. Just ask Hannah.

Hannah was the wife of a man named Elkanah. From what the Bible tells us, Elkanah was a good and kind person. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his other wife, Peninnah (which, guys, if you're taking notes, is another good reason to have only one wife). Peninnah, from her description, was the queen of cruel. While she had everything she could want—a good husband, lots of children, a home—that wasn't enough. Rather than bask in her good fortune, she had to rub Hannah's nose in it. 

But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. - I Samuel 1:5-7

Well, that's mature, isn't it? We have words for people like Peninnah, but the Bible cautions us against uttering such things, so let's use the same word the Scripture uses—adversary. Enemy. We could even go so far as to call her a bully.  

What is it about the adversaries in our lives that they feel it's necessary to kick us while we're down?

Hannah felt bad enough about being barren. She didn't need Peninnah's cruel words and improper jests. She didn't need to be provoked to where she couldn't eat or sleep. What is wrong with people?

What makes this even worse is that Peninnah was family. Not by blood, but family nonetheless. If we can't count on family, who can we count on? Family is supposed to be supportive and comfort us when we're heartbroken. They're meant to be on our side—for us, not against us. But, that's not always the way it works.

In fact, I have a friend who is going through a terrible battle with some of her family members. These people, who call themselves Christians, have spouted lies about my friend on social media, addressing her by phrases like "the evil one." This is one of the most loving, caring, Godly women I've ever met. She's not the one talking about others behind their backs. She's not the one calling people names. Yet she's the evil one? (I've got to move on before I get too upset to continue!).

My point is, enemies are real, and sometimes the attacks come from people we would never expect.

Yes, it seems there are those out there just waiting for us to fall so they can kick us while we're down or pee in our cornflakes (not sure where that phrase came from either, but it seemed appropriate here). It's painful to be attacked from within. It's shocking! And somehow, it hurts so much more. But before you allow the pain to consume you, take comfort in what the Bible has to say:

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies. - Psalm 112:4-8

God is keeping the record. He is watching, and I remind you, He is very protective of His children.

A light will arise in the darkness. We don't have to be hurt or afraid. Our hearts can be established by fixing our eyes on the Lord.

And did you catch that phrase,  the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance? Let's go back to Hannah's story for a moment and see that promise come to pass.

And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord. - I Samuel 1:19-20

Who's laughing now, Peninnah? God kept His promise, and He'll keep His promise to you. I know you're hurting, but God is in control, and He will protect His own. Hang in there. Fix your eyes on Jesus and let Him fix the problem. He hasn't forgotten or forsaken you. He's on your side. Don't lose hope, dear one.

God's got this!