Sister to Sister: Pop-off People

Do you know anyone who’s just liable to pop off in a rage at any given moment?…Someone you just dread being around because she just might snap at you for the least of offenses, or for nothing at all? Sometimes such a person will be fairly polite for an extended period of time, causing you to loosen your guard and open up to her–share some of your opinions–only to have her lash out once more, causing you to retreat again and making you want as little conversation with her as possible. 

I’m not an expert in dealing with such a person. But I’m getting more experience and I can think of a few lessons learned in what is, perhaps, not the prettiest way. 

First, I hope you don’t allow yourself to become embittered toward such a person. If you do, you lose the best chance to do something that builds patience (James 1: 2ff ) Instead of shouting or “smarting” back, try gently explaining that, while you do not deserve this kind of mistreatment, you refuse to lash out in anger against anyone and that you will do your best to continue to be nothing but kind regardless of how you are treated. Each time you respond in kindness, you’re building spiritual muscle that makes you stronger for the next encounter.

Second, resolve to pity that person. Just be glad you are not her. Be glad you are the recipient of ill treatment rather than the dispenser. Such a person is not very happy. Troublemakers are troubled people. Besides, you have the favor of the Lord if you do not seek to retaliate in such a scenario. Stay on His side. 

Thirdly, Read the last few verses of Romans 12 and think of some practical ways in your specific situation in which to heap coals of fire. In my instance, this person told me exactly what inexpensive item she’s looking for right now on eBay. She told me this just before exploding at me. Well, I can shop on eBay, too, and I may search for some coals. I just may find some (at a bargain price) to heap on her head. Perhaps it would help move her toward heaven. 

Fourthly, if you believe there might be a disorder or a chemical imbalance occurring that’s causing outbursts of anger, pray and consider toward finding someone who might be able to convince the angry sister (or brother) to seek medical or professional help for the problem. Often this is very difficult to accomplish (because everyone’s afraid to get close enough to the ticking time bomb to suggest it), but I have seen angry people modify or eliminate the problem with proper help. They’ve gone on to live happy and productive lives. Homes have been stabilized and marriages strengthened by medical intervention. It’s just a fact.

Fifthly, don’t put too much stock in a criticism if it is from lips that alternately yell and scowl and bear gnashing teeth. Go to an older, wiser, unbiased person and ask for an assessment before you enter the world of guilt. Most importantly, go to the Word.

Lastly, remember the lamb that was led to the slaughter, opening not his mouth (Is. 53:7 ). Remember he spoke from the cross saying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” and made that forgiveness possible beginning at the following Pentecost (Acts 2:37,38). Remember your own state without that lamb’s sacrifice. (Your sin might not be unrighteous anger, but it is something!) Be sure that you are on-the-ready to forgive if penitence is achieved in the life of the angry sister. In fact, you should be in prayer for that penitence. 

Remember, the golden rule was meant for golden opportunities. When someone pops off at you, it’s a large and spontaneous and, yes, a golden opportunity to exhibit your faith in the command of Matthew 7:12.                                                                             

Sister to Sister: It’s about the Overtime

I don’t know a lot about NFL football. I was not even present for the first three quarters of that game last night. Even after I got my father situated at the end of the third in front of the TV, got the babies changed and pajama-ed after worship, got everyone a piece of pizza and had a prayer, I could not have told you the score. But the momentum of that fourth quarter was enough to move even the most lukewarm easy chair observer. 

But this Falcons-Patriots fifty-first Super Bowl match-up was, in one sense, the most exciting of all Super Bowl games because it went into overtime. Never before has a Super Bowl game gone into overtime. And this overtime proved to be the undoing of a team that had kept the lead for about 59 of the previous 60 minutes, at one time having led by 25 points.

The thing that always strikes me about overtime is the fact that it is a brand new fresh start. Both teams begin again, just as at the initial toss of the coin…on level ground with an even score, the same number of time outs and the same luck of the toss. All interceptions, errors, fumbles and missed kicks are erased. From many perspectives, it’s just as if the four previous hard-played quarters never even occurred. 

That’s what life is like for Christians. We live in overtime. All the mistakes and interceptions and fumbles of the past life of sin are erased when we come out of the waters of baptism. We begin again with a brand new chance to finish strong. No matter that we spent three quarters lagging terribly behind in the devil’s territory. No matter that we allowed more points than we ever should have given up to the opposition. No matter than we lost a lot of opportunities and allowed strong opponents to run right over us. No matter that we let a lot of mentors and supporters down. We get to start all over again and what matters is not the last four quarters of squandered chances. The only thing that counts now is what we do with the overtime. 

I’m not so big on NFL ball. I’m glad the Pats won. I was pulling for them because my son’s a fan.  But I’m very big on the extension that we have in Jesus after the buzzer. Unlike the Patriots, we could never deserve a second chance. We’ve failed miserably and we cannot recover by playing hard and tying up the game. The blood of Jesus offered at Calvary evens the score. It gives us hope of winning once again. And the prize is not a trophy, fame, money or a place in the hall of fame. The prize is eternal life. It’s a prize, unlike the Super Bowl championship, that will be of ultimate importance a hundred years from now and, from hence, throughout a timeless state of existence.  

For Tom Brady, I know it was important to forget the previous sixty minutes and view the next few seconds of overtime as simply “all that mattered”. For me, it’s important to remember what God has forgotten. He’s  forgotten all my sins and iniquities to remember them no more (Hebrews 10:17).  Paul thought about His overtime reprieve this way in Philippians 3:13,14:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Thanksgiving: My Sin Is Not in the Deal

thanksgiving_110006174-012814-intIt’s Thanksgiving Day as you read. I hope it is the beginning of a holiday season that will bless your heart with warm memories for many years. For some, though, the holidays will bring painful memories of abuse or loss of a loved one or long days of mental torture or longer nights of physical pain. Even with the challenges that come to all people in a fallen world, the church of God, the redeemed, have constant cause for joy and thanksgiving. We are gathered around his banquet table every day of every year as we walk in His light.

Psalm 103 is a great place to go on this Thanksgiving week to be reminded of the depth of the Lord’s mercies on His spiritual Israel. Here is David’s list of the blessings, from that chapter, showered by the Father on the Old Testament nation. How many of these are just as real to the church, the people of God, today? I challenge you to go down this list and check off the ones that are applicable to you, personally. How many of these are very real and tangible in your own life in 2016? As I made this list, I realized, at once, the inconceivable nature of His blessings and my own worthlessness. There is some realm or area of my life and of His mercies in which I can check off each one! Here’s the list:

  • Forgiveness of iniquities
  • Healing of diseases
  • Redemption from destruction
  • A crown of lovingkindness and mercy
  • A mouth satisfied with good things
  • Renewed youth
  • Execution of judgement for oppressed
  • Ways made know to Moses
  • Acts made known to Israel
  • Mercy
  • Grace
  • Slowness to anger
  • Dealing NOT according to sins
  • Removal far from transgressions
  • Pity like a Father
  • Remembrance that we are dust
  • Everlasting mercy
  • Righteousness to grandchildren
  • A prepared throne
  • A kingdom that rules
  • Angels that excel in strength

I love to contemplate every one of these. But the one I love the most is that He deals not with people (me) according to their sins. There are no words for the gratitude that swells in me when I understand that he will not treat me as I deserve to be treated. He will look on me and not see sin in its blackness. He will reach to me and not touch the filth of sin. He will listen to me and never hear the wretched voice of sin that anguishes in my pleas. He will savor the sweet smell of my worship and not smell the stench of guilt. Surely if David could extol His mercies and claim his deliverance in the days of animal sacrifices, how much more can I bask in the blessings of forgiveness; living, as His child in the shadow of the cross! “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name” (Psalm 103:1)

Fabric Softener for Fabric of the Heart

Jesus told us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who use us spitefully, and to do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28). It’s a simple concept, but the practicality of it?…not so simple. I’ve had grown women tell me, “I’m sorry, Cindy. I just can’t do anything good for that woman!” Even right now, I’m thinking of a sister, who said this to me only a few days ago, adding “You just don’t know all the things that I know about her. You would not understand.”

I may not know all about her, but I know one thing about her. Christ died for her. That’s enough to know that I can, if I really want to, put all of the offenses toward me in a file somewhere marked “forgiven” or “prayer list” while I use all my creative ideas to come up with a plan for doing whatever good thing I can for the sister whose heart needs a softening.

Sometimes a heart-softening comes when a sister (or brother) looks up and finds a sweet card on his/her desk from the co-worker he/she so recklessly “chewed out” the day before. Sometimes not. Sometimes a heart softening comes when a pretty bouquet of flowers arrives at the door of the sister who intentionally left you off the guest list for the baby shower of her daughter; the daughter you attempted to teach some difficult Biblical truths back when she was in your Sunday School class. Sometimes not. Sometimes the softening comes when you go to the rehab center and help change the bandages on a sister who once called you “irresponsible” or “self-centered” or “holier-than -thou.” Sometimes not. You know who the sister is in your world.

The “sometimes-not” part is what makes it so very difficult to do what Jesus said. Sometimes I am afraid of what the reaction will be when I reach out to someone who has consistently slighted me. She may yell at me again or ignore my gesture. She may even say “Yep. There you go again, being the hypocrite that you always are.”

But you know, Jesus didn’t say pray for your enemies who will react positively. He just told us to pray for them. He didn’t say bless those who are cursing you now, but who have the propensity to become tender toward you again. He just told us to bless them. He didn’t say do something good for the woman who hates you, IF you think there’s hope for reconciliation. He just told us to do good to those who hate us.

Have you ever thought about how that each time someone in the body really mistreats you, you are given this amazing “extra” chance to show God how much you love Him? It’s true. See, we show our love for the Lord by obeying Him (John 14:15). But if we obey Him only when the command is what we really want to do anyway–what is convenient or fun to do–we really are not obeying Him. We are doing what we want to do. When we do the hard stuff, the stuff that makes us uncomfortable, the stuff that we’d rather have a root canal than do….ahh, that’s when we really obey. And in the process of that kind of obedience, we grow to be more and more like Jesus, the Lord, who willingly did THE most uncomfortable thing at Calvary–for us.

In the process of exchanging blessing for cursing you will heap coals of fire on the head of the offender. And, sometimes, you will see a change in the heart of the enemy, the user, or the curser. Once in a while, the enemy will become a friend, the user will evolve into a supporter and the one who cursed may learn to bless.

See, it really doesn’t matter if I win the battle over the promotion, the insult, the social slight or whatever the catalyst might have been. If I can successfully soften a heart to the Will of the Lord, I have won the war. And the offender is not defeated. The devil got the blow!

You’ve got this!…And it comes with so many blessings!

She’s Just so Hard to “Be Around”…

I recently heard about a Christian who expressed how difficult it was for her to be around one of the other faithful people in her congregation. She said something about it being hard “just because of the way she is.”  I don’t really know what “way she is,” but as I reflected on this sentiment I thought about how difficult it must have been for Jesus to “be around”  people like me….I mean just because of the “way” I am.
God did not love us or open communication to heaven with us because we were fun to talk to. He did it when we were unlovable, hard to stomach, and unworthy…basically despicable. While we were yet sinners…God talked to us? God looked at us? God was willing to “stomach”us. No. He commended His love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). What’s ironic is that the only way I can do any of this for Him, in return, is when I do it for the least of these (Matthew 25:31-46)—the unlovable, the one I don’t really want to “be around,” the one who is unseemly in appearance or the one who is even my enemy (Romans 12:19-21).  So there we have the unpalatable truth. We were all unpalatable to God, till Jesus came to let us get inside of Him…to put Him on, so we could be fit for heaven. 
As a parent, I have to think of it this way to get the full import: God gave His “Caleb” in order to have a relationship with and save ____________ (the most despicable person I know). And God’s Son was Deity!  He was not a mere unworthy human, like my son. That makes me want to go and be kind to and teach, if I can, that person, who is hard to “be around.”  May the Christian who said this (and I’m sure it’s been me, at times), grow, as she studies this concept. May she grow to be humble and see that she is not “good enough” to disdain anyone who has put on Christ—the Christ who left a perfect heaven where he had been for eternity with the Father, to walk the dusty roads of Galillee with people who were “yet sinners.”
And remember… if you can’t stop a negative thought about a sister somewhere between your brain and your mouth, you may be one of those people it’s just hard to “be around.” 

The Burden on My Heart…

The following is a letter originally drafted for a woman I met rather coincidentally in a small southeastern town in which I was speaking not too long ago. She was a spirited young woman who made my day by giving me a beautiful cookbook. I had to leave quickly and was unable to study with her at the moment we met. Perhaps the letter below might help another soul somewhere who is yet in sin, or perhaps it might help you as you approach a friend who is coming near to the kingdom.Dear Valerie,

It was really a joy to get to meet you a couple of weekends ago when we spoke in ____________. I am so pleased with my cookbook. Please forward my small donation to the charity about which we spoke. Thanks so much for thinking of me. I love to cook and I love new cookbooks, especially this one with potent reminders of the spiritual bread of life.

I am always refreshed and thankful to meet people who have a zeal for spiritual things and whose lives have led them down a path to a grateful realization that God is so merciful and good. That was definitely you! I know you’re very thankful and amazed by his care and that He has allowed you to overcome so much and come to this good place in your life where you finally have a chance to glorify Him with blessings that he bountifully gives to you.

The burden on my heart now is to be sure that you are in Christ and do have that hope of heaven. I carry this burden with me to every place I speak and I see it in every new face I meet. I just had to write and be sure about this because I am going to stand before the same judgment bar one day that you will and I just want to tell as many people as I can. It’s not that I have any secrets about the will of God that you don’t have. It’s just that the devil is very busy deceiving in our world today through the hundreds of denominations out there all teaching different and opposing plans of salvation. The devil really doesn’t care how religious we are if he can just keep us outside of Christ. He doesn’t care what good hearts we have if he can just deceive those good hearts into accepting false teachings. He doesn’t care how many good things we do for our neighbors if he can just keep us out of Christ. He knows that forgiveness and redemption and all spiritual blessings are found only in Christ (Eph 1:3, 7). So he loves to make people think they are in Christ when they really have not done what the New Testament says to do to be in Christ. I don’t know about you personally, but I love your heart of submission and I want to be sure that I help you if these are things you have not thought about before. I think you are right about something you said to me. When people really want to do the will of God, He can bring people into their lives for a reason. I hope that he can use me in a small way in your life. I am praying as you study the things that are in this letter that you will want to be sure that you have followed his will and that you are in Christ where forgiveness is.

About 98% of the world of “Christendom” today teaches that all you have to do is pray the sinner’s prayer in order to be saved. Something like, “Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Thank you for loving me and saving me right here and right now…” The problem with that is it’s just not found in the Bible anywhere. It is true that he loves us and that he is willing to save every last one of us (II Peter 3:9), but as with all of his blessings, his salvation is conditional on our obedience. It really bothers me that the devil uses this “sinner’s prayer” that is nowhere in scripture to deceive so many people into believing that they are saved, when, in reality, they are still in sin.

It is true that belief in the fact that Jesus is the son of God is a prerequisite for salvation. Without that faith it is impossible to please him or be saved (Mark 16:15,16, Heb.11:6). It is true that we have to repent or put away sin from our lives. If we keep on sinning on purpose, we will perish (Luke 13:3). We have to confess that faith in Jesus as God’s Son (Romans10:10). While all of these things are essential steps toward salvation, the Bible nowhere ever says that these things put us into Christ. It’s just not there.

But the New Testament does tell us what it is that does put us into Christ: Look at these clear teachings:

Rom 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Rom 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

According to this verse, it is baptism that puts us into Christ. Look at another:

Gal 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Again, God just made it as plain as day how we put on Christ.

We can ask the same question lots of ways:

How do I wash my sins away?

Acts 22:16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

When am I forgiven?

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What do I do to be saved?

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved;

Exactly what saves me?

1Pe 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

In fact, in every case in the book of Acts where people desired to be saved, they clearly were immediately baptized for the remission of their sins(Acts2, Acts8, Acts 9, Acts 10,11, Acts 16). In one case the man actually risked his life in the middle of the night to leave the jail and go be baptized. If he had been caught by his Roman superiors, he would have surely been executed (Acts 16). Each time I read and reread all of these passages, I get so upset at preachers who are reading the same Bible I am reading and yet are willing to ignore these plain teachings about baptism and teach that it is not essential for salvation…that it is just a symbol of your salvation. Romans 6:3,4 teaches us that baptism is the very place where we contact the death of Christ. If we don’t go down into those waters with a heart of submission, knowing that we desperately need his salvation, we do not even come in contact with the death and blood of Jesus!… and that is a scary reality to take to judgment.

The point is this. If I was baptized because I thought I was already saved, then I was not coming to God on his terms. I was not being baptized for the remission of sins like they did in Acts 2:38. I was not doing it to wash away my sins (Acts 22:16). I was not doing it to be saved (Mark16:16). It was not a step of faith if I did it as a symbol that I was already saved. I was putting my will above his. I was saying, “Lord, I was saved without ever being baptized into the death of your son, and now I will be baptized to show that I have already been saved without doing what you said I must do to be in Christ.” If I am a member of a church that teaches baptism is not essential to be in Christ, then I am a member of a church that is misleading people into a false security of salvation.I said all of those things because I could tell your heart was an open one to His will. I am praying as you read this that you will just want to be sure that you are doing and teaching what the Bible (the only word we have today from God) says about salvation. There is no more important subject. I have already been praying for you and for the good things you are doing already. I just pray that now that you have this letter in hand, you will look carefully at these passages in the context of the whole New Testament and be very careful not to be led astray by any person (including me!) I have nothing personally to gain by telling you this, except to know that I will not have to look into your face in the judgment day and know that I was silent about this very important subject. Just be sure the church with which you are working is the church of the New Testament, teaching the same thing that first opened its doors of salvation to the world in Acts 2. If we do what they did on that day, we will be what they were…Christians. But if we become involved in a religion that leads people astray we will be accountable for that, too. Remember, the devil doesn’t mind religion at all. In fact, since he is the father of lies (John 8:44), he loves false religions. Not every one that says “Lord, Lord” (i.e. not every one who is religious) will enter the kingdom (Matthew 7:21,22 ), but he that obeys the will of God. I could go on and on…

…And I will, if you have any questions at all with which I might be able to help. I’ve thought of you often and prayed for you. Again, let me thank you for my gift. I hope that this letter finds your heart open to do and teach all of his will. You can be a great minister for His cause to other ladies. So many are searching for these truths and so many are being led astray. Let me know if I can help further.

Because of Calvary!