Are you Cold and Bubbly or Hot and Steamy?

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“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Christianity is more than a mere list of dos and don’ts. God does have boundaries, and we do reap the consequences of our actions here on earth. But when we become wrathful, angry, bitter, and slanderous in how we respond to the mote in our brother’s eye, we need to get the beam out of our own, because those are the works of the flesh and as poisonous to us as what we are attempting to correct in others–in some cases, more so even.

Let our kindness and tenderness be truthful, directed towards encouraging one another to godliness. But kind and tender we must be if we want to be like Jesus–and we have to forgive like Jesus, too. God forgives when we repent and turn from our sin in sorrow, so we must not hold past sins God has forgiven against our brothers and sisters, either–and bitterness and anger against all offenses must be put off (into Christ’s hands in prayer.) So we must forgive everyone in the sense of the word where we are simply letting go of bitterness and anger and leaving vengeance/payback to God. But you can forgive someone in that sense but still protect yourself and not reconcile with someone who is still a threat to you. Only when the person has repented in the sense of turning from their sin and thus ceasing to be a threat does the Bible requires us to forgive in the sense of reconciling with the person and continuing on as if they had never sinned against us.

photo credit: JLS Photography – Alaska Sign of spring . . . via photopin (license)

Being on fire for God is a good thing, but lets remember what was so amazing about the burning bush. The Holy Spirit’s manifestation as fire in the bush was not burning the bush or anyone around it. When we’re full of the fire of the Lord, we should have more in common with a bubbly cold spring that consistently gushes forth sweet and refreshing than a hot, steamy geyser that scalds anyone who happens to be standing too close when it erupts.

Lord, search our hearts. If there be any hidden anger, bitterness, or an unforgiving attitude in our way today, reveal it to us, and strengthen us and grant us the will to share that pain honestly with you and release the offense into your just hands. Show us the path in which you would have us walk and grant us the courage to take those steps with you. Pour into our hearts today grace, love, and kindness that overflows and gushes onto others so we might build up one another and not tear down your work. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

[tweetthis]Are you Cold and Bubbly or Hot and Steamy? #devotional #forgiveness #kindness[/tweetthis]

Revised version of a devotion originally posted on May 11, 2011

Home to Glory

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photo credit: MashrikFaiyaz Road to Heaven II via photopin (license)

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

–Rev 21:4

I slipped into my grandpa’s room,
Eyes swollen from crying,
Fear gripping my heart,
Expecting to see a shriveled-up skeleton
With sunken eyes filled with despair.
Imagine to my surprise, I found
Just my grandpa, looking small in the bed,
Shriveled up yes, but my, there’s that same sparkle
In his eyes, and smile on his lips!

“Grandpa,” cried I, “What’s this joy I see?
How can you be so glad?
You’re dying! How can you smile?”

Grandpa laughed and, as he swung his legs to the floor,
He said, “Because there isn’t any loneliness in heaven,
And there isn’t any pain.
When I die, I’ll be free from this body of decay,
I’ll put on Glory and run to my Jesus,
And Jesus will take me up to the mansion he’s built for me,
To live where my Gladys lives and never be alone.”

And again, he cried, “Glory, child, Glory makes me glad.
Come death, as it may,
But I’m going home to glory!
I’ll be with my Jesus forever, by and by
In the place where there is no more sorrow,
and there will be no more pain,
nor any tears, and there will be no more death.
And forever I will cry Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!”

Seeing the disbelieving look in my eyes,
And knowing the doubt in my heart,
Grandpa said to me, “Bring me my walker,
I’d like to take you to see a couple friends of mine.”

When Grandpa had his walker and we were going down the hall,
He said, “Now first is Brother Larry. He was redeemed
Seven years ago from wild, riotous livin’,
But is reaping the fruits of his sin in his flesh still yet,
This is his twelfth trip to the hospital this year,
And it looks like it is gonna be his last.”

“Wow,” said I, “Now he has to be upset.”

Grandpa just smiled at me and introduced me to Larry.
Larry was wasted in the flesh as I’d expected,
But imagine my surprise, instead of fear in his eyes
And a frown etched on his face, there was the same twinkle
In the eye and smile on the lips!

“Larry,” said I, “What’s this joy I see?
How can you be so glad? You’re dying!
Why this cheerful countenance?”

And Larry cried, “Because there ain’t no devil in Heaven!
Nor is there any tempter in Glory,
When I die, I’ll go to heaven and be free from this body of sin.
I’ll run to Jesus and put on His righteousness.
Jesus will take me up to live with him in the mansion he’s built for me,
Free from the tormentor forever in Glory.”

And again, he cried, “Glory, Darlin’, Glory makes me glad.
Come death, as it may,
But I’m going home to glory!
I’ll be with my Jesus forever, by and by
In the place where there is no more sorrow,
and there will be no more pain,
nor any tears, and there will be no more death.
And forever I will cry Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!”

Now that was impressive, but Grandpa had still another friend
To introduce me to.

“Now, next we have Sister Lisa. She’s about your age.
Never had a boyfriend.
Never been kissed.
There’s a tumor in her brain,
Which is slowly snuffing out her light.”

Having not yet learned my lesson, I entered Lisa’s room
Expecting to see a pain-wracked body,
Filled with anger and hate,
Trying to mask the fear in her eyes,
This time I was still yet more surprised
To find yet again the exact same twinkle
In the eye and smile on the lips!

“Lisa,” said I, “How can you be so glad? You’re dying!
Before you’ve even had a chance to live!”
What’s this joy I see?

Lisa clapped her hands and said, “Because there ain’t no pain in Heaven!
Nor is there any Sorrow in Glory,
When I die, I’ll go to heaven and be free from this body of death,
I’ll put on my bridal gown and go meet the Bridegroom,
Jesus will be my escort to the Great Wedding Feast,
Where I will live life abundantly, forever in Glory.”

And again, she cried, “Glory, Friend, Glory makes me glad.
Come death, as it may,
But I’m going home to glory!
I’ll be with my Jesus forever, by and by
In the place where there is no more sorrow,
and there will be no more pain,
nor any tears, and there will be no more death.
And forever I will cry Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!”

This time, my heart too welled up,
Having been moved by these three testimonies,
And the Hope Grandpa and his friends had in Jesus,
I went down on my knees,
And choose this Christ who gives joy in the face of death.
So now someday I shall also sing:

Glory, child, Glory makes me glad.
Come death, as it may,
But I’m going home to glory!
I’ll be with my Jesus forever, by and by
In the place where there is no more sorrow,
and there will be no more pain,
nor any tears, and there will be no more death.
And forever I will cry Glory, Glory Hallelujah!”

—Andrea J. Graham

[tweetthis]“Glory, Friend, Glory makes me glad. Come death, as it may, But I’m going home to glory!”[/tweetthis]

 

The Parable of the Computer

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Brothers and sisters in Christ, forgiveness is plentiful and free. Grace and mercy are equally extended from the Lord to all. All we must do to receive it is humbly acknowledge we need it. As God’s children, we all know this well. So why do we ever pridefully insist God is wrong and any number of pet sins are right actions for us?

Look at the machines we have made. What computer program would dare say to its coder, “You have coded me wrong. I will ignore your instructions and do what is right in my own eyes”? Today’s machines have no ability to disobey us even when we have erred and don’t want them to do exactly what we told them to faithfully. Aside from user error, when it does stop performing as expected, its buggy, broken, corrupted, fragmented, hacked, infected by a virus, etc. and it is in need of repair, cleansing, or to be thrown away and replaced.

Brothers and sister, don’t we know God is to humanity a “user” who never errs? Don’t we know we are corrupt and buggy? Aren’t we grateful God will never throw us out, that instead God’s in the process of repairing and cleansing us? Don’t we know God is working for our good, not our ill? In any area, are we resisting the process?

Would it be right for a bride to tell her bridegroom to change who he is, deny his character and alter his personality and what he believes and loathes to please the will of a controlling person who will not love him for who he is? This is what we’re doing to God when we act as if we’re God and hence are the experts on who we truly are, as if our creator does not have the right to decide what his creations are.

How God designed us to operate is a reflection of his very nature. When we question God’s judgment on what is sin and make ourselves the determiners of right and wrong, we’re remaking God in our images.

Be alert, brothers and sisters. The enemy attacks our mind with lies and half-truths to provoke doubt in God and pride in ourselves and to convince us an issue in our lives that is particularly difficult to overcome is a crucial, integral part of how God designed us to be.

No matter how much we struggle in the flesh, no matter how weak we are, whatever we’re battling is not any part of who we are in Christ. Phil 1:6 promises God has began debugging us and the latest that he will get around to delivering us from this battle is Heaven.

To the one who’d ask, “Isn’t it unloving (and therefore against God’s character) to say behaviors we deem integral to our identity are sin?” Beloved, this question assumes we have a right to self-determination that God must lovingly respect. We don’t, not with God at least. Demanding it is us being unloving and rebellious towards God. Look again at our machines. Many of us fear machines gaining the ability to rise up and rebel against us. At the first rational sign of such a thing coming about, wouldn’t we at once judge them and seek to either forcibly bend them back to our will or else destroy them?

God is love, though, so God is slow to wrath and patient, giving us undeserved blessings and benefits. He seeks to show us he is worthy of the trusting, obedient, faith our computers mistakenly have in us. He even sent his own son to pay the penalty for our wrongdoing and enable us to be reconciled to him and function again as he designed us to. And our creator does let us choose for ourselves whether we’re staying as-is but going in a rather hot trash can or whether God will be performing a system-wide restoration. It is a generous, strong act of love for our creator to give us that choice and the choice whether to obey or rebel, considering humanity tends to give its creations (our machines) no free choices at all.

Let’s each freely choose this day to not contend with our maker, but to confess our sin, humbly ask God’s forgiveness, be reconciled to the Lord our God and Father, and worship in spirit and in truth.

Original draft written on Nov 22, 2011

[tweetthis]The Parable of the Computer[/tweetthis]

Dangers of Righteous Anger

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Jude 1:21
The most dangerous anger I’ve witnessed lately is righteous indignation. The reason it is dangerous is humans aren’t righteous. We are most prone to do ugly things to each other when we’re angry and either it is justified or we believe we are justified.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Most dangerous anger: righteous indignation. We’re most prone to do ugly things when justifiably angry.[/tweetthis]

It saddens me that so many grown adults behave as if they honestly believe “I am angry, and you were wrong, therefore you are no longer worthy of my respect, kindness, or being treated fairly, and I have every right to lash out and hurt you.”

This may be one of the greatest social ills plaguing my country today, perhaps the world. I see it all over the news, cropping up in many different ways, but the underlying spirit of “righteous” rage is the same, and it can drive good, reasonable people to do the cruelest of things to the people they love, sometimes perfect strangers.

One danger I see is how this rage can blind us to the hypocrisy of our actions. “Person X said/did Y to person X and this is deplorable. We should never do/say such hurtful, mean-spirited things. I will teach Person X by saying/doing hurtful, mean-spirited things to Person X. They deserve it, so I am totally clean. My nasty behavior is justified by the nasty behavior of Person X.”

When we succumb to such thinking, in realty, we have become part of the problem ourselves. We have become what we hate.

Brothers and sisters, we can be dismayed but not too surprised when the world behaves in this manner as our culture slides further and further away from any sort of Christian foundation. Let’s seek to keep it out of the Church, starting with the one person whose actions we have any control over: the person in the mirror.

Let’s respond to evil with good. When they curse, let’s bless. When they’re rude, let’s pray for strength from God to speak kindly and respectfully back. A soft answer turns away wrath; turning the other cheek to insults can break the spread of the rage overtaking many.

No matter how wrong they are, and what we think they deserve, let’s try to take a step back, remember Christ took the wrath of God that we deserved for our wrongs on the Cross. Let’s offer freely the love we have received from Christ, and let’s try to keep in mind the love of Christ is also rather different from the world’s idea of love, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Breathe. Slow, long. When your body tenses up, choose to unclench those clenched muscle groups. Acknowledge to yourself that you are angry. Acknowledge the reality of the wrong/injustice/threat provoking the anger response. Pray and ask God for wisdom in how to address the real issue while by being kind, respectful, gentle, patient and forgiving toward the other party rather than attacking in kind. We won’t always succeed. We will fail and make our own mistakes. As much as we safely can, be sure to acknowledge your own wrong to the other person as their wrong does not justify ours.

Hate can’t be overcome with hate. It only can be overcome with God’s love.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Ro 12:14;17-21

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Angry? Hate can’t be #overcome with #hate. It only can be overcome with God’s #love. See: Ro 12:14;17-21[/tweetthis]

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Sincere Love Requires a Purified Heart

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love is a verb
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Love is a physical feeling or emotional sentiment to much of the world, and an empty action or, worse, words about action to too many in the church. Feeling and sentiment alone do no one any good. Words and promises alone do no one any good, but likewise neither does loving actions and a smile on the face while bitterness and anger linger in the heart.

One of the chief reasons we struggle to consistently love is because we’ve relegated love to mere behavior. If we harbor anger and bitterness and resentment in our hearts, life will give us plenty of excuses to be passive aggressive, procrastinate, and avoid the act or the person altogether. It is also true that we can genuinely find ourselves flooded, or we may have physical conditions that make it difficult for us prioritize tasks and control our behavior and impulses in the flesh.

At some point, we need to let love motivate us to stop letting life and our weaknesses push us around, come to the cross, examine our hearts, and lay out before the Lord honestly what we’re really feeling rather than going through the motions. Only there can we get rid of the weights and toxins that hinder us and be filled with his love and forgiveness and grace. That is the place where we can receive spiritual wisdom and the fruit of self-control, the power we need to be transformed and the strength we need to do his will,  to synchronize our heart to beat more in time with God’s and obey out of trust, love for God, and a genuine desire to do righteousness.

Lord, forgive us for pretending and going through the motions. We pray our love for you and others would be genuine and selfless. Search us, Lord, and show us what is truly in our hearts, and strengthen our relationship with you, bring us to a place where we will be comfortable confessing the “bad emotions” that poison us to you. Draw out of us everything that hinders us from loving both in deed and in truth. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Sincere Love Requires a Purified Heart–Love not in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1JN3:18[/tweetthis]

 

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