Bitterness: The Antidote

Have you every thought of anger as a cancer? Think about the last time someone seriously hurt you. What were the feelings that were cultivated in your heart? Probably the strongest feeling was anger. How long were you angry? Did your anger affect the way you interact with others? When anger takes root in your life it becomes bitterness. What is bitterness? A simple definition is “exhibiting intense animosity.” In other words, it is exhibiting intense hatred.

Intense anger or bitterness really only affects the person who is bitter. Back in 2011 there was an article by Cable New Network (CNN) concerning bitterness that was quite insightful. In the article it stated, “Feeling bitter interferes with the body’s hormonal and immune systems…Studies have shown that bitter, angry people have higher blood pressure and heart rate and are more likely to die of heart disease and other illnesses.” Dr. Carsten Wrosch also noted that, “When harbored for a long time bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease.” In other words, bitterness is like a disease that slowly causes physical and mental ailments.

So what is the diagnosis? Well, bitter people really are only destroying themselves. This is why Scripture is so clear on the concept of anger.

Ecclesiastes 7:9, Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

Proverbs 14:17, A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.

Proverbs 14:29, Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

James 1:19-20, 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

We are called to be “slow to anger.” In other words, we are call not to be controlled by it. You may be asking, “What can I do to keep from being bitter?” The answer is quite simple…FORGIVE! We are called to forgive. This is the antidote, the remedy, and the cure for bitterness.

Ephesians 4:31-32, 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Lets stop being bitter and start forgiving!

 

Works Cited

Frederick C. Mish, “Preface,” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/08/17/bitter.resentful.ep/

http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/08/10/bitterness-can-make-you-sick/28503.html

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God Is Not Fair

Have you ever heard someone say, “God is not fair”? I do not know about you, but I have heard this one phrase many times throughout my life. What is ironic is that I have even found myself saying it. I can vividly remember the day that my best friend died from Leukemia when I was eight years old. I was in my grandparent’s kitchen when my mom told me that Josh died that morning. I can remember holding my mom in tears and saying to myself, “God it’s not fair”. This is one of many events in my life where I found myself questioning God.

Have you ever had an “ah-huh” moment? Well, I did today. I am currently reading a book entitled, “The Christian Atheist”. By the way, this is an AWESOME book! As I was reading today I came across a heading that said “God Is Not Fair”. As my eyes came across this page it immediately caught my eye. The more I read, the more the dots starting connecting. God really is not fair.

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…” Paul is stating that the consequence of sin is an eternal death in Hell, which is eternal separation from God. Ecclesiastes 7:20 also says, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.” So, if there is no one on this earth that has not sinned, then we ALL deserve the punishment of our sin, which is eternal separation from God.

But the story does not end there. “Psalm 103:10-12 says, ‘He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.’” If the wages of sin is death and we’re sinners, then we deserve death. We’ve broken the law. We’re guilty. We deserve to be punished. To die and suffer eternally would be fair punishment for our disobedience. But thank God, he’s not fair.”

So, the “wages of sin is death,” but it does not end there. The rest of Romans 6:26 says, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” God is not fair, but he is just. Someone has to take the punishment of our sin. That person was Jesus Christ. God loved us so much that he sent His Son to lived a sinless life and die on a cross for you and me so that we may spend eternity with Him. Notice that the verse says “…through Christ Jesus…” It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved from the consequence of our sin.

Works Cited

Craig Groeschel, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as If He Doesn’t Exist (2010), 101-102.

Wake Up Fathers

Matthew 7:24-27, 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it (ESV).”

Fathers and future Fathers, you are the primary influencer in the home and God will hold you personally responsible for the spiritual condition of your family.

This passage is part of Jesus Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount” and leading up to this parable, Jesus talks about how your faith is an active faith. In this passage Jesus was telling a parable about the wise man that built his house on the rock and the foolish man that built his house on the sand. It’s obvious that Jesus is not talking about building codes. Using this vivid word picture to illustrate his point, the clear meaning of the parable is that wise people build their life on Jesus—the “Rock of Ages.”

1 Corinthians 3:11, 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (ESV).

This passage shows how Christ should be the foundation of EVERY aspect of your life. Jesus Christ is talking about not only your life—but your home. I am afraid that instead of being grounded in Christ, many homes in America are “on the rocks”. To keep that from happening to you and those that you love—you need to make Jesus Christ the center of your home. A home is like a Solar System. The center, the great sun, holds the Solar System together. If it were not for the sun, the Solar System would fly to pieces—and unless the Son of God is put at the center of your home, it too, may fly into pieces.

Next, you need to nurture and protect your marriage. You see the enemy cannot kill a family without dividing the husband and wife, so that is where he puts his efforts. Divide and conquer. It’s obvious that Satan has declared war on the family. Research shows that 1 out of 2 marriages ends in divorce. In 1996, 40% of American households with children were maintained by women with no husband present.

Most of what I see wrong with our culture can be directly traced to the failure of men, particularly fathers, who seem to a run away from responsibility. Studies over the last 10 years have shown that the adolescent age ranges from 12 to 29 and it keeps widening. This shows that more men want to stay “boys” instead of being men.

One Woman Man

Gentlemen, in short, you need to be what I call “A one woman kind of man”. Marriage is a divine bestowal that takes a man and a woman and makes them one. All through the Old and New Testament, marriage is exalted as the very highest of relationships. In Ephesians chapter 5, Paul compares the love that a husband has for his wife to the same devotion that Christ has for his Church. Hey guys, Christ died for His Bride. You see, a “One woman kind of man” would die, give his all, for his bride. Ask yourself: (1) Are you committed to your marriage? A commitment is your personal guarantee that you will do what you promised on the bases of a choice, not how you feel. (2) Are you a promise keeper? Or did you just get dressed up in a rented tuxedo and stand in front of God and a bunch of friends and relatives and mouth some worlds because the preacher told you to “repeat after me”? 

There is an epidemic of staggering proportions sweeping across America—and I’m not thinking of politics. I’m thinking of Adultery. Remember that one? It’s one of the “Thou shalt nots” in the 10 Commandments. What’s strange is that we don’t call it “Adultery”. In America, adultery is now called by sophisticated or dumbed-down terms such as: hooking up, an affair, a fling, or an indiscretion.

Lets cut the double talk—lets put the cards on the table. Satan has declared war on your family and in that war “Adultery” is the weapon. When a man leaves his wife and children for another woman and acts as impulsively as an aroused teenager on his first date—it’s not as affair—it’s Adultery. You see, a “One Woman Kind of Man” is ALWAYS faithful.

 

Be the Godly Example

If you believe that the role of a father is essential in the life of a child—you would be right. He is to nurture his children by giving them: instruction, encouragement, guidance, friendship, companionship, assistance, love, training, and discipline. He is also to model the Christian Life for them. I’ve got a question for all you Fathers: “If not you, then who is going to be the Role Model for your children?” Our society has a noted absence of positive role models.

If our children are to be saved from the moral dilemma into which our society is sinking, Fathers are going to have to take their God-given place in the home and muster the moral courage and appropriate the spiritual strength to lead their families by example. Many fathers are good at lecturing and preaching to their children, but they are not good at setting a daily example in front of them.

Listen to me; this may be the most important thing I say. Children don’t learn much form the lecture method, they learn by observing and imitating Mom and Dad. Manners, morals, and ethics are caught, not taught. If you want to produce a rebellious child, then tell them what’s right and then don’t live it in from of them.

Like it or not, the Father is the divinely ordained minister of the home and men it’s your responsibility to see to it that your entire family is faithful in serving and being involved in the local church. When you are not serving in a local church it sends a message to your children that church isn’t important and when they grow-up they will also see church as unimportant or may leave the church all together.

In summary, you need to build your life and your home on the Rock—Jesus Christ. God is looking for men who have a desire to become a Christian Role Model for this disintegrating generation. Men should be characterized by: (1) an unwavering commitment to their wife, (2) a willingness to get involve in the lives of their children, and (3) a gut-level desire to follow hard after Jesus Christ. And with God’s help, you can make a difference in the war Satan has declared on the family. The choices that you make with your family today will determine the quality of life in your family tree for generations to come. That’s why one man can make a difference.

Works Cited

 

http://www.divorce.usu.edu/files/uploads/lesson3.pdf

http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-553.pdf

http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/29/16/e492.full

Sermon by Martin Amerson

Say No to Prejudice!

James 2:1-13, 1 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (ESV).

In James 2 it discusses a topic that is missed by many believers today, which is the sin of partiality. The Greek word that is used here can be translated as partiality, favoritism, or prejudice. Probably the most accurate translation would be “prejudice.” Our culture has over abused this term to where it is only used to describe racism. Now what does this term really mean? One definition is: “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason (dictionary.reference.com).” How often do we form an opinion of someone before we even get to know him or her?

James provides the analogy of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man is given special treatment because he is rich and the poor man is discarded just because he is poor. Do we treat people differently based off of appearance and stature? Most people would say “no,” but the truth is that we all do.

A famous example of this is the story of Mahatma Gandhi. There was a time in his life where he was considering being a Christian. He read the Gospels and was compelled by them. He believed that Christianity was the solution to the caste system that plagued India’s culture.

One Sunday he entered a church trying to find out more about salvation. When he entered the church, which was predominately white, the ushers would not let him sit down. They told him that he needed to worship with his own people. As he left he told himself that if the Christians have their own caste system then he might as well remain a Hindu.

Every time I here this story my heart sinks because the church should be the most welcoming atmosphere. How often do we have the same attitude when a homeless man enters our church? How about the drug addict? The rough bicker? The gangster? The skateboarder?

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to love other people. How is judging others before you know them loving others? If we want to reach our culture with the Gospel, then we need to learn to love people. There are many with different backgrounds, looks, needs, cultures, desires, and struggles, but we are called to love them. The question is, are you or I hindering people from the Gospel because of prejudice?

In the Face of Rejection

Luke 9:51-55, 51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them (ESV).

Have you ever been rejected? It does not feel good. It makes you feel angry and can sometimes lead you to retaliate. What do you do when you share Jesus Christ with someone and they reject the gospel? Do you respond in anger?

A while ago I was told of a group of believers that were going door-to-door within a community to share Jesus Christ. Sounds great so far, but it did not stop there. There were many instances where the recipient rejected the message that they were presenting. Instead of responding in love, which is the biblical response, they said comments like “Well, you can just go to Hell.” What kind of response is that? How can a person who claims to be a believer in Jesus Christ respond in a way that is contradictory of Him?

1 Peter 3:14-17, 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil (ESV).

In1 Peter it states that we must be prepared to defend our faith, but we are to do it in gentleness and respect. If we share our faith with others and respond in anger when our message is rejected, then we truly do not understand what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really is.

Instead of responding in anger, lets respond in love because that is the purest way that a nonbeliever sees Jesus Christ. They see Christ in the way we live our lives.

Basher or Disciple Maker

Luke 5:31, 27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

 

1 John 2:6, whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked (ESV).

 

Have you ever been condemned for trying to spend time with someone who is not a believer? Many of us can respond to this question with a profound “yes.” Unfortunately, many who have condemned us were fellow believers. It is a sad reality that the pharisaical mindset is among many “Christians” today.

 

The Pharisees condemned Jesus Christ many times in Scripture because he devoted his time to reaching “sinners.” Why are many people who claim Christ reducing themselves to the behavior of a Pharisee? Is it because of biblical illiteracy? Is it because he/she has not truly surrendered their life to Christ? I do not claim to have the answer, but I do know that it is 100% against God’s Word.

 

Let me clarify. There are some boundaries that we must place as believers. Going to bars, nude beaches, or to a Korn concert is probably not the best idea. Not only are these bad situations, but they also can ruin your testimony. We must have boundaries, but our boundaries must not eliminate reaching the lost. In 1 John it states that we are called to be like Christ.   In biblical times, sharing a meal was one of the most intimate ways of fellowship. If Jesus spent time in an intimate setting with “sinners,” then we are also called to spend time with “sinners.”

 

Now how does this apply to me? Great question. This can be applied by intentionally spending time with unbelievers. This is the true formula of disciple making. All throughout Scripture you see Jesus Christ investing in individuals. A perfect example was the people He healed. Jesus was always surrounded by a crowd and instead of healing the entire crowd in one miraculous event he chose to heal the people individually.

 

God’s Word tells us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). How can you reach unbelievers without investing in them? The answer is, you can’t.

 

There are two questions you need to ask yourself. Are you a complainer or are disciple maker? Are you truly striving to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? So, what was Jesus saying in Luke 5? In order to reach the lost, you need to invest in the lost.

Are You Anti-Santa?

Many Christians state that they are “anti-Santa.” The reality is that most people do not even know where the legend of “Santa Claus” originated. It came from a man named Saint Nicholas. He was the bishop of Myra in Lycia, which is modern-day Turkey. Before he was appointed as a bishop, Nicholas was raised in a wealthy and godly family. Later, he inherited his family’s wealth and instead of using it for selfish needs, he gave it to the poor and needy.

Nicholas later felt God calling him into ministry and he was elected the bishop over Myra. During the Emperor Diocletain’s reign, Nicholas was tortured and put in prison because of his profound faith in Jesus Christ. When Emperor Constantine rose to power he ordered for all persecutions of Christians to cease and he released the Christians that were imprisoned. There are accounts that have stated that Nicholas was beaten so harshly in prison that his back was unrecognizable as human flesh.

Saint Nicholas was not well known for his sufferings, but for what occurred in the Council of Nicaea. During this time the church was meeting to counteract the Arian heresy. Arius denied the deity of Jesus Christ and stated that he was a created being. During the Council of Nicaea, Nicholas and Arius got into a heated debate. Church tradition states that Nicholas, while defending the deity of Christ, struck Arius to the floor in the middle of the council.

Dr. Parker said it best when he stated, “So when you think of Santa Claus, here’s something to think about: Think of a godly Christian bishop who was persecuted and imprisoned for faithfully proclaiming the faith under the most dangerous of circumstances. Think of someone who had a sensitive caring pastoral heart and took care of the flock of which God had made him shepherd. Think of someone who provided support and defense for children, the weak and poor, the helpless and victims of injustice. Think of someone with an unparalleled passion for doctrinal purity. And to top it off, think of someone whose whole purpose in life was to point people to Jesus. Now that’s my kind of Santa Claus!”

I could not have said it better myself. Saint Nicholas was a person who was persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, and someone who stood up for biblical orthodoxy. Instead of being anti-Santa, lets remind others of who he really was, a man who fought for Jesus Christ.

WORKS CITED

http://www.bpnews.net/12366/firstperson-persecuted-jailed-passionate-thats-my-kind-of-santa-claus

Worship?

Colossians 3:17, And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (ESV).

1 Corinthians 10:31, So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (ESV).

Worship is a topic that Christians sometimes have a hard time truly understanding. I believe that part of the reason is that we sometimes only see worship in the context of a church building or singing certain songs. What really does it mean to worship God?

Worship is “ANY action or attitude that expresses praise, love, and appreciation for God.”[1] So, why has the American church departmentalize worship in the confines of a church building? I do not claim to know the answer to this question, but I do believe it is because we have fallen into a preconceived idea that worship is confined to music and songs. You know, the light show of media production. Having light, smoke, and glamor is not wrong, but I do imagine that it can cause people to have a misunderstanding of worship.

True worship is how we live our lives to glorify God. Every moment of our lives should be an act of worship towards God. How we react to co-workers, to how we raise our children. The question that we must ask ourselves should be, “Am I living a life of worshiping God?”

[1] http://lcm.wol.org/teachersource

The Gospel…Hard?

What is evangelism?  One definition is that it “is the conscious attempt, through word and deed, to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others, so that they can become disciples of Christ (Arnold, 203).”  Have you ever wondered why so many believers state that it is hard for them to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.  I know that there are people out there that are afraid that they will not have the correct answers when someone asks the tough questions.  It is true that you should always be ready to give a defense of the hope that is in you.  In 1 Peter 3:14-16 it states,

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

The problem is that too many people use this as an excuse not to share their faith.  Sharing about Jesus Christ is not about having all the answers about creationism, Anthropology, Christology, Epistemology, Eschatology, Hamartiology, suffering, etc.  Telling others about Jesus Christ is sharing who Christ is and what he has done.  It is as simple as that.

Personally, I believe that people struggle in sharing the gospel because they do not have the right motives.  Jeffrey Arnold addressed this when he stated,

The message that we carry contains both an objective and subjective side.  We not only must know what is true, but we must also allow that truth to influence and penetrate our own lives before we can be positive witnesses…If Jesus Christ has not made a difference in your life, indeed if you are not striving to grow in Christ, then witnessing becomes a very difficult proposition.  There are a number of motives what may lead you to witness (including guilt and obligation), but none is as compelling as a deep love for God.  The best witness flows from his love to you, and from your life to those around you (Arnold, 204).

As Arnold stated, the best motive for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ is because we are compelled by our love for God.  Unfortunately, most of us do it out of obligation.  I am by no means excluded from this.  Sometimes I share Jesus Christ with others because it is commanded in Scripture, which it is.  The problem is that if I share Christ out of obligation then I am not sharing Christ because I love God and the unbeliever.  I would just be sharing out of duty. 

I truly believe that in order to be an effective witness for Christ it must manifest itself in every aspect of our lives.  Sharing your faith is more than words.  It is a lifestyle.

 

References:

Arnold, Jeffrey The Big Book on Small Groups. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

In the Midst of a Storm

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?—Mark 4:35-41 (ESV)

I have heard sermons and read devotionals on this passage many times, but the impactful message still penetrates my heart.  Here Jesus’ disciples are panicking because there was a storm that could have potentially topside or destroyed their boat.  This instilled fear in the disciples, and rightly so.  There are times in my life when “storms” have hit and it has caused tremendous fear and anxiety.  The question to be asked needs to be, “Is this a correct response to a ‘storm’ in our lives?”  Honestly, I would have to say “no.”

Fear and anxiety only occur when we do not have a proper understanding of who God is.  He created everything that is seen and unseen.  He is in control.  As believers, I would presume that we all would say that we believe this, but do we actively believe.  What does this mean?  Well, it means that our actions reflect what we believe.  For example, I can say that I believe that a chair can hold my weight, but I do not actively believe until I sit in the chair.  Another coin-phrase is “actions speak louder than words.”  How does this apply to fear and anxiety in the midst of a “storm?”  When you are consumed with fear and anxiety you are basically stating that you do not believe that God is in control of the storm.  This is why Jesus states, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  Jesus was rebuking them for their lack of trust in God.

Now, I am not saying that I am perfect and always trust in God in the midst a storm.  I struggle with this all the time, but the closer I get God, the more it becomes natural to have a proper response during the trials in my life.  The only way to truly trust God and have faith during a trial is to KNOW him.  How do you know Him?  The answer is by spending time with Him in Scripture and in prayer.