Word in Action

19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hearslow to speakslow to wrath20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:19-22; NKJV)

Perspective and process.  God gives us His perspective and is teaching us how to see our world from an heavenly perspective.  He also provides us process for our lives and the order does matter.  Here, we are to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.  If we are swift in our hearing of His word then we will have a heart prepared to be swift to hear another while seeking to understand rather than be understood.  This requires us to listen first and not speak first.  It requires us to consider God’s Word, what another is saying, and then humbly respond.  In all of this, we need to remember that wrath comes last not first and that the wrath of man does not produce righteousness of God which should be our goal.

The focus really is us as individuals here and not others.   We are to lay aside filthiness and wickedness so that we can humbly receive His implanted word.  In elevating God and others in our lives, He will save our souls.  If that is the focus, then we can be Godly communicators and humbly maintain our cool.   If we leave evil behind and receive His word, then we will find salvation and share salvation.

All of this is active.  Though we receive and we react to God’s word, we do so deliberately and purposefully.  It might not be a lot each and every day but we focus on and we do what we can in in line with what God’s word says.  This changes us and changes our relationships.  We determine to listen…to God’s word and to others.  We determine to understand and apply it and allow it to work in our lives.  We purposefully turn away from evil and choose good.  In all of it, we are emboldened in our humility and God will work in our lives and our relationships.  Perspective and process do matter to God.  Reflect on His perspective through His word and work to maintain His process in your life.

 

Receive

17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. (Philemon 17-20; NKJV)

The good deed and importance is found in Philemon receiving Onesimus.  Before I start with Philemon, please recognize the Onesimus is returning.  He is determined to reconcile with Philemon though the worst outcome for him could be that Philemon doesn’t reconcile and he lose his life…a punishment that was given to slaves who were disobedient.  This was in the realm of possibility but Onesimus had a heart to go and to reconcile.  As much as Philemon had to receive him, Onesimus had to go.  This cannot be overstated.

Paul urges Philemon to receive him like he would receive Paul.  It seems they shared a close relationship so the picture here is of two dear friends reuniting.  That is what Paul is expecting for Onesimus despite the fact that he had caused Philemon harm.  This shows us what reconciliation looks like.  Forgiveness is not just a lack of retaliation but restoration.  It is about how we receive one another in all circumstances and how we build and develop relationships with one another.

This is how God receives us when we are forgiven.  We do not simply escape the wrath we deserve but He FULLY restores us into a relationship with Him.  Paul paints a clear picture of what this looks like for Philemon and we can glean what it needs to look like in our lives.  Receive one who has wronged you the same way that you would receive one of your closest and dearest brothers or sister.

Paul is a catalyst in this restoration and we can be too.  Philemon might have had a long list of grievances or wrongs and it might have caused him a great internal struggle with what Paul was asking.  But Paul steps in and offers himself to take that debt on.  He doesn’t stop there though.  He doesn’t want a list of wrongs from Philemon that are now a debt on Paul.  What Paul wants Philemon to remember is that we are all indebted to our Lord Jesus and in this case to the one who taught and led us to Him.  Paul simply wants to bring to mind how desperately Philemon needed salvation at one point in time and to return the same offering of grace and forgiveness and restoration to Onesimus which Paul offered to him.  Again, we all can understand what that looks like and at different points play our part as a Paul (catalyst for restoration), Onesimus (willing to go and restored), and Philemon (willing to receive and to restore).

We forgive because we are forgiven.  We erase other’s debts because we have a record of debts that others have against us and a debt we can never repay our God and Father.  We owe our eternal spiritual life to God.  We understand that, then it will be easier to forgive.  We forgive because we are forgiven and we work for restoration in whatever role or situation we find ourselves in.  We work because that is the action we must take in our faith and love for Jesus and each other.

 

Good Deed

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ— 10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, 11 who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. 14 But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. (Philemon 8-14; NKJV)

In considering this text, do you see the awesome and powerful demonstration of leadership by Paul and made possible by the tremendous followership of Philemon?

We have established this is a tough ask Paul is making of Philemon in receiving Onesimus…a slave of Philemon who has run away and is not profitable.  With that in mind, consider the fact that Paul does not command Philemon and he never uses the words “forgive” or “reconcile”.  What Paul does is “appeal” to Philemon’s character to “receive” Onesimus as a brother in Christ.  Paul knows that Philemon understands this is only possible if he forgives and they are reconciled.  Paul is encouraging Philemon to put his faith and love into action and to further refresh the hearts of the saints.

Why didn’t Paul command him?  I cannot say for certain but I understand the power and joy in others doing the right thing because they choose to rather than because they are told or command to.  I understand the tremendous catalyst of choice.  I have responsibility of leadership in my life whether it is with a colleague, an employee, a child, a spouse, a brother/sister…God has given me specific commands and responsibilities to lead.  Do you see that?  God has given me a work to do (responsibility) and I am accountable to the outcomes of that leadership work…and though the authority is implied…the focus is on the responsibility and the expectation is that I fulfill that responsibility as a Christian who emulates Christ Who is love!  Love in the case of Christ is “choice”!  The catalyst!

Leadership is a result of a cultivated relationship of trust, understanding, and mutual respect which provides the foundation for leading or influencing others towards a common purpose and work.  Paul cultivated this relationship with Philemon.  Philemon demonstrated his heart through his fruit.  Paul trusted the faith and love of Philemon and Philemon trusted Paul’s leadership.

This is what is so awesome in this scenario.  No barking orders.  No insecurity.  No resentment.  All of these are opportunities for Satan to place a wedge and start working a relationship apart.  The more people involved, the more opportunity and this is why leadership is so very important!  Choosing the assume the best of another provides the opportunity for them to exceed your expectations and reduces the opportunity for Satan to divide.

Paul’s letter is all about the need to forgive and how to go about forgiveness.  Paul’s approach is all about trust in Philemon’s character because of Philemon’s actions and fruit.  This is a pattern worth evaluating in our own lives.  If a brother or sister has demonstrated love and faith then we can assume the best of them and that they will demonstrate love and faith now and in the future.  This should provide us with a confidence in each other and relieve the need for “orders” or “commands” but rather open opportunity for encouragement, increased opportunity to serve, and growth.

Forgiveness and reconciliation is a hard work that has to be voluntary for everyone.  We can lead others through forgiveness and reconciliation if we first trust and provide opportunity for reconciliation rather than command that we forgive.  Jesus chose us.  Lets choose each other!

A Little Bit of Alzheimer’s

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

Watching someone you love dearly being taken by Alzheimer’s is a very hard thing. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on that, but those of you who understand…you understand.

The other day I was talking to someone about how my mother at times will be really upset about something or get agitated at one of us, but then just a short time later she is fine, happy, pleasant and doesn’t even remember what she was upset about. That’s when I said, maybe we all need a little Alzheimer’s.

Grudges can last for decades. We hold on to things that should have been let go a long time ago. Maybe we need a little bit of Alzheimer’s. Instead of fuming about something and refusing to let it go, let’s ask God to help us to be more forgiving. Release it. Stop holding on to it.

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
(Matthew 18:32-35)

10 Things About Gossip

For this morning, here is a sermon we watched yesterday from Roger Shouse about gossip. By the way, the Internet can be such a blessing when you are caregiving for someone who is unable at times to get to church services. We can click on a website and watch sermons and hear God’s people singing! Awesome stuff.

Ten Things You Need to Remember about Gossip

Here is the list of the 10 things Roger mentioned in his sermon:

  1. Gossip is often found following qualified statements (I shouldn’t be telling you this, but…).
  2. Not all things said are true.
  3. Words can hurt.
  4. Gossip comes from a heart that likes to think the worst rather than the best.
  5. Gossip lives or dies by the choices we make.
  6. Gossip puts us in an awful group.
  7. Gossip is wrong.
  8. Thumper’s mother was right (you have to know the Disney movie Bambi to get this…”If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all).
  9. As our faith grows, our gossipy ways ought to stop.
  10. We will be judged for what we say.

One of the things I loved about this sermon is the acronym Roger used at the end of his sermon. T.H.I.N.K.

T – Is it True?

H – Is it Helpful?

I – Is it Inspiring?

N – Is it Necessary?

K – Is it Kind?

Proverbs 26:20 – For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

Friendship

The relationship between David and Jonathan is one of the great friendships in the bible. I Samuel 20 provides some of the clearest insight into the nature and depth of their relationship. Verse 17 says, “Jonathon made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.”

In chapter 20, David fears for his life and is hiding from King Saul. Jonathan sets out to verify that Saul indeed wants to kill David and they establish a code so that David will know whether he needs to run or if he can return to the city. Jonathan goes out for target practice and tells the lad that the arrows are “beyond you” signaling to David that he needs to run and hide.

In order to truly appreciate the next scene, we have to consider David’s life to this point. He was the youngest brother, relegated to watching sheep. He was told he would be the next king of Israel but there was no clear timing to when this would take place. David had a mighty victory over Goliath and was propelled to national fame. He was brought into the King’s court, only to be looked at with suspicion and envy. King Saul jerked David around with marriage proposals, eventually giving him his daughter Michal, with one condition. David had to bring 100 foreskins of the Philistines, a plan designed to get him killed. Saul continued to try and kill David resulting in a nighttime escape, leaving his bride behind him. During all this it seems that David behaved honorably, trying to serve God and trying to serve the king.

This brings us to I Samuel 20 when Jonathan, David’s best friend, confirms that his father wants to kill David. Verse 41 says, “When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David the more.” The chapter ends with “Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.” This scene breaks my heart.

As far as I can tell, the only other interaction we have between Jonathan and David is in chapter 23 when David is hiding in Horesh and Jonathan comes to him and says, “Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” Tragically, Jonathan never has the opportunity to serve beside King David.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this friendship but what is on my heart is very simple. What is the significance of a best friend? Do you have a Jonathan or a David in your life? Are you actively pursuing this kind of a relationship? What barriers do we put up to prevent this kind of relationship?

Jess MacArthur

Jason Dukes

Aaron Kemple

I’m blessed to have three men in my life that are developing into Jonathan/David relationships. We have history, we have trust, we have love. They are not afraid to tell me when I’m messing up. They are not afraid to hold me accountable. They are always there to encourage me, strengthen me, and lift me up. And no matter how much time goes by between conversations, we pick right back up where we left off. What is the key to developing these relationships?

It is not a common love of football or movies. It is not similar career interests or family connections. In I Samuel 20 verse 42, Jonathan says to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.” The Lord is between us. We all share a love for the Lord and have an unspoken oath to help each other in His service. I thank God daily for putting these men in my life.

My encouragement for today is to embrace the relationships around us. We need to let our guard down and let people in. If you have a Jonathan/David, let them know how much you appreciate them. Be brave, reach out to someone and tell them you desire this kind of relationship. Life is hard, Satan is real, and God has designed us to work together.

For an extended study on David please listen to this excellent lesson from Andy Cantrell. He makes a different and powerful application.

https://www.lakeviewchurchofchrist.org/player/509

 

 

Passive Aggressive Behavior

Someone brought up to me the other day the term “passive aggressive behavior” when discussing a relationship problem he was having with another. I’ve heard the term a lot over the years, but haven’t studied it much.

Here are a few links from secular sources that deal with recognizing and defining this behavior in ourselves and in others.

5 Signs You Are Dealing with a Passive Aggressive Person

10 Things Passive-Aggressive People Say

These traits called passive-aggressive are certainly dealt with in the Bible. We have all kinds of unhealthy ways to deal with conflict, that is as old as Cain and Abel. But if we see traits in ourselves that are hurting others and hindering our growth in relationships, then understand that Scripture has the help for us to see those things. We also need to find someone who is wise, objective and godly to shepherd us through those attitudes and responses that are toxic to relationships.

Here are a few passages to consider as we go through the weekend.

Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.
(Jeremiah 9:8)

His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.
(Psalms 55:21)

He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own Is like one who takes a dog by the ears. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, Is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “I was only joking!” Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body. Fervent lips with a wicked heart Are like earthenware covered with silver dross. He who hates, disguises it with his lips, And lays up deceit within himself; When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart; Though his hatred is covered by deceit, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him. A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, And a flattering mouth works ruin.
(Proverbs 26:17-28)

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…
(1 Corinthians 13:1-8)

Jacob and Esau

Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
(Genesis 25:29-34)

Esau – Esau traded something very valuable for something of very little value. A simple bowl of lentils…he traded his birthright for one meal. All Esau could think about was how hungry he was at the moment. There was no regard for the high cost and consequences of his choices. Hebrews calls Esau a profane and immoral man (Heb. 12:16-17); Genesis says he “despised his birthright,” meaning he treated this amazing blessing as firstborn as if it had no value to him.

Jacob – He was called Jacob because of the circumstances of his birth. He was grabbing the heel of his twin brother Esau as Esau was being born. Jacob was called the supplanter, which means to take the place of another by force or treachery (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary). Jacob took advantage of his brother at a weak moment. Instead of showing kindness and brotherly love by offering a meal to his hungry brother, he seized his opportunity to get what he wanted. He was an opportunist. Through the next couple of decades, Jacob will see others treat him the same way. His future father-in-law, Laban, will seize his opportunities to take advantage of Jacob. Jacob’s own sons will also by treachery take advantage of their younger brother Joseph and will sell him into slavery.

This kinds of character traits that we see in Jacob and Esau are displayed in all kinds of relationships. We see them all around if we think about it. In business, politics, sports, family, etc. we see men and women like Esau who give up some incredibly valuable things for a cheap meal. On the flip side we see opportunists like Jacob everywhere, waiting for the right moment to gain the advantage over someone, even if it means exploiting the weaknesses of others.

What does this kind of relationship look like in a marriage? What happens when men and women have mindsets like Jacob and Esau? One spouse displays qualities like Esau in that he or she is so focused on the bowl of stew that the marriage and family suffers. A lot of families have been torpedoed because of a cheap bowl of stew. Another spouse is like Jacob and seizes the opportunity of the other’s weakness to gain an advantage. Is it possible in our marriages that we seize the opportunities of our spouse’s weakness to gain the moral high ground? Aren’t we really doing the same thing Jacob did?

Something to think about. Let’s not be Esau’s and trade the most precious things God gave us for what doesn’t even make a cheap substitute. Don’t get mesmerized by the bowl of stew. And let’s not be Jacob’s either, waiting for others to show weakness so we can show our superiority.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:1-5)

Getting a Brain Lock

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
(2 Corinthians 10:5)

We’re told here by the apostle Paul that we are to bring every thought captive in order to obey Christ. But we know that our mind can really go downhill in a hurry. Someone just gets under our skin, and we just can’t let it go. It affects how we treat that person, just like Joseph’s brothers got to a point where they could not speak peaceably to him (Genesis 37:4). Then how we treat others is affected because we are really upset at someone else (Heb. 12:15). I’ve heard the expression, “I’m so mad I can’t see straight.” That’s exactly right.

So, what are we to do when our brain gets locked on something negative? What I mean is someone at work did something that bothers or irritates you and you just can’t seem to get your focus off it. Or you have perceived that your spouse was insensitive to your needs and you just can’t let it go. It ruins the whole day and puts everyone in a sour mood. Or maybe you are on a sports team and the referee makes a bad call. It just seems to overwhelm your thinking and you go into a mental downward spiral. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point.

How do we resurrection ourselves when our brain gets focused on something that really bothers us?

Recognize the source. We have to recognize that this is one of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). The wrath of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20); instead, we become instruments of the Devil to do his bidding. Sinful thoughts lead to more sin (Matthew 15:19).

No excuses. God has told man from the beginning that we have the power to control our thinking and we can harness and redirect our emotions (Genesis 4:6-7; Jeremiah 4:14). Cain hated his brother and was very angry, and God told Cain to “rule over” his anger. Again, no excuses, no blame-shifting.

Take a moment. Even Jesus went out to the mountain to pray. Jesus had time alone with God. You may have to take a minute to yourself, go out and cool down. There is a time to speak and a time to BE SILENT. You may have to tell those around you that you need a few minutes to yourself and think things through. It may be that the more you talk the more you make a mess of things, so it would be best to be silent and chill for a bit. This is not the silent treatment, this is taking a few minutes of silence so you can later give the right treatment.

Meditate on these things. Read Philippians 4:8. I’m not saying this is a quick fix, but when our brain is at DEFCON 1, you need a go-to-place for your mind. Passages like Philippians 4:8 are Holy Spirit-given guides to tell you WHAT to think about. Imagine if you took a few minutes to thank God for 50 amazing things about your wife instead of getting OCD about the one thing that ticks you off? And, what really upsets you may not have even been a good reason to be upset in the first place!

Talk it through. In the multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14). Walking through it with a wise, godly older person will help you see that you were really silly in being so upset about this. Or even if you do have a good reason to be upset, that wise person can give you the calm guidance to work through it.

Learn to see it coming next time. A wise man sees danger and hides himself (Proverbs 22:3). With wisdom and experience should come the ability to see the warning signs that your brain is going down the wrong road. God knows the inclination of our hearts and he wants us to warn ourselves of attitude problems that may come up (for example see Deuteronomy 15:9). Daniel knew what kinds of things he would be asked to do in Babylon, and he prepared his mind on what to do beforehand (Daniel 1:8).

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
(Isaiah 55:6-7)

Trust – Confidence

Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
(Philemon 1:21)

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation.
(Hebrews 6:9)

In a relationship, trust is irreplaceable. Without it, do we really have a relationship? Yesterday, we looked at one aspect of trust in that we need to give up our obsession with having all the facts and details and info. If I trust someone (God or man), that means I don’t have to have all the info in order to believe in what he or she is telling me.

Today, I want to talk about the concept of confidence, specifically, the confidence we have in another person’s obedience to God. Look at the two passages above and see that with Paul and Philemon and with the Hebrew Christians, there was a confidence that the other person would do the right things.

Is your expectation that the other person is going to fail? And when he or she fails, we see it as we were justified in what we thought all along? They certain met our expectations because we were holding them in a box of failure. That certainly isn’t the mindset of Christ, is it?

“Love bears all things, believes all things endures all things…” (1 Cor. 13).

What is the assumption we make of others? It really says more about us than it does about them when we assume they are going to mess up.

If this is a problem for you, then take some time today in prayer and ask God to forgive you for making wrong assumptions of people (Eph. 4:30-5:2). Pray for His strength and His grace to fill your heart, and to extend that grace to others. May His love fill your heart, so that you can, like God, see the best in people (Eph. 3:19).  Sit down with a wise brother and discuss these things and pray over them. God can transform our hearts and renew our minds so that we can indeed be trusting and loving people who see the best in others (Eph. 4:20-24).