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You fool! Matthew 5:22b

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No matter how rotten or rascally Buddy acts, I never curse him out. Why? Because I love him.

However, it’s much more difficult when dealing with human beings. Unlike my faithful dog, they can inflict great hurt or act hatefully. I am particularly sensitive to people who are supporting political movements that are damaging the freedom, and threatening the liberty, of this great country I grew up in. I wonder if future generations are going to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that I have, and hope to continue to have, during my lifetime. But I have to remind myself of Jesus’ warning during His well-known Sermon On The Mount speech:

“But I say to you…whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”–Jesus, Matthew 5:22b

Because we’re all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), God demands that we treat each other with respect. God showers His love on all humankind through what is called “common grace,” meaning that He gives good things to all people through what He has provided on earth: food from the ground, rain for crops, air to breathe, etc.

But it’s really easy for me to forget that when I’m feeling passionate about a topic or frustrated because someone isn’t acting the way I think they should. I have to remind myself that one of God’s greatest gifts to us is free will: The choice to love and obey God freely or to choose not to. God, being all powerful, could force us to obey Him or zap us whenever we do what displeases him. Jesus could easily have struck the Roman soldiers dead who beat and flogged him before forcing him to walk to His crucifixion. But He didn’t. Instead, hanging naked and beaten to a pulp from the Cross, He said, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.”–Luke 23:34

Since I’m a follower of Christ, He expects me to glorify Him in this hurting world, to be light and salt, to stand out, to draw people into relationship with Him.

It’s a challenge for me because we’re not supposed to be cowards, standing idly by while people destroy themselves with sin or promote evil, but are exhorted to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). But I often find it difficult to figure out how to be honest yet not be condemning. I don’t feel like I have many roles models to pattern myself after. Which forces me to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

And some people seem to be naturally easy-going: nothing much fazes them. That’s not me. I have the passionate, artistic personality–that’s the way God made me. Emotions are not evil, but how we express them can be, when we hurt, injure, or mistreat others instead of loving, inspiring and gently exhorting them.

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s a lot easier to be patient with Buddy, not only because I love him but because I do have more control over his behavior than I do people. I cannot make people love or be grateful or work hard or do good. I work at obeying God–to love others as I love myself (Matthew 22:39–and have to learn to let go and trust Him to work out His will in the lives of others, this country, and the world. Creation and humanity was His plan and He’s ultimately in control, not me.

***

If you’re not born-again, you will discover that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot improve yourself. Only God can change your soul and make you into the loving person you’d like to be. He made you with a purpose and loves you very much. If you’re tired of continually failing, please say this prayer:

Lord Jesus, I’m sorry that I’ve sinned and offended You. Please forgive me. I’m tired of trying to be a better person in my own strength. Please come into my life and help me to become the person You created me to be and to fulfill your will and purpose for my life.

If you’ve said this prayer, God bless you. You have eternal life and are starting a wonderful journey. Please find a local, Biblically-based church or Bible study where you can becomes friends with, and be grow in your faith, other believers. It helps you to stand strong when you don’t feel alone.

 

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Hurting People, James 4:11-12

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When I first adopted Buddy from Silky Terrier Rescue, he was terrified of me and my family. He didn’t utter one sound for several days, not even a sniff. We thought his voice box had been damaged by abuse but it turned out he was just too frightened to make noise. When he barked at the neighbor’s dog and was praised for making a sound, he realized it was ok to make noise. Now he’s our most talkative dog ever.

For years, however, whenever I reached toward him, he would duck as if I wanted to hit him. He doesn’t do it as often now, but he still does duck occasionally and it hurts my feelings because I have no desire to harm Buddy. I don’t know the details of his previous life and can only speculate. Only God knows, but now Buddy has a family who loves and cherishes him. He gets treats and walks and hugs and personal care.

Considering this, I realize that people often act like Buddy. There might be abuse in their past or adverse circumstances that I don’t know anything about that might be causing them to act the way they do. Sometimes people act nasty or fearful because of original sin, but sometimes there are other mitigating factors.

“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law…There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”–James 4:11-12

When the check-out clerk who is scanning my grocery items looks sullen or is unfriendly, I try to remind myself not to react unkindly. I know how many things I conceal from people that I have far more contact with. The clerk may have been forced to come to work to save their job but may not be feeling well, their dog may have run off or been killed that morning, their kid may have just entered drug rehab, or a customer earlier that day was very rude and they haven’t been able to shrug it off yet. I just don’t know what may have happened ten minutes or ten hours ago in that person’s life. Only God knows.

Similarly, a coworker may be acting like a butt because they were told bad news about a relative or had an ugly family fight that morning. Or they may just feel cranky from lack of sleep and it’s an aberration and I need to be patient while they work it out of their system.

I’m not saying that people should make excuses for acting badly toward others, but we are all human and I am certainly not Miss Sunshine 24/7 myself and need others to forgive and be patient with me, too. “Love is patient, love is kind…” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Now there are indeed times to judge because we are told to “Open your mouth, judge righteously…” (Proverbs 31:9)  We’re not supposed to remain silent and let evil triumph. “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well, is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Proverbs 25:26)

But in most circumstances of life, I need to remind myself to be patient, be kind, and not judge. Not to be reactive or defensive, but to be proactively loving. I’m still learning because I have my “hot buttons” but I think I’m doing better than I used to because of God’s life in me.

God bless you this week.

***

Without the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our lives, it’s difficult to be the person we want to be. God gives us a new heart, a new spirit, and the mind of Christ when we admit we’re sinners and give our hearts to Him. Becoming born-again isn’t just about escaping Hell and going to Heaven; it’s about entering into a close relationship with God and becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you aren’t a believer in Jesus Christ, He invites you to enter into relationship with Him. Please pray: “Lord, I admit that I have offended You and done what is wrong in Your sight. Please forgive me of my sins and enter into my heart and my life. Make me a new creation by the power of Your Holy Spirit.” If you prayed this prayer, please find a Bible-based church to fellowship with other believers and grow in the knowledge of God. As a fellow believer in Christ, I love you and so does the Lord.

Asking For Snacks: 2 Peter 5:7

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Anyone who has a dog knows they like to linger at the dining room table when you’re eating in the hopes of scoring a few crumbs or leftovers. I try not to give Buddy too many scraps because it’s not good for him, but I enjoy his company and having him near my chair, even if it’s not for the best motives.

God enjoys our company, also. Jesus encouraged His followers to pray in Matthew 7:7-8:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will opened.”

He asks us to come to His table and ask for “snacks”. Why?

“…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”–2 Peter 5:7

Sometimes I have to call Buddy to the kitchen or to the table to give him a snack because he’s someplace else in the house. If he is unwilling to come, then he doesn’t get the snack.

In His home town of Nazareth, Jesus “could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief.”–Mark 6:5-6

Sometimes we suffer because we just aren’t willing to walk over to the table and spend some time with our Master. My hip will hurt, or perhaps a sensitive tooth, for days before I remember I haven’t come to the Lord and asked Him to heal me. And guess what? When I asked recently, the pain went away. (It will return, due the chronic issues I have, but maybe I’ll remember to ask sooner for help.)

I’m not saying we’ll always be healed or delivered from our difficult or troubling situations. Sometimes He answers by giving us the strength to get through it because we live in a sinful world with selfish people. Sometimes life sucks and we just need courage to weather the storm. It may be God’s will that nonbelievers around us see how believers handle difficult situations, (hopefully), with patience, kindness and faith, not fretting, because we have a relationship with the living God. And maybe they’ll seek Him to have that relationship, also, to navigate successfully through their stormy seas.

Do you have some need today that you haven’t brought before Him?

PS. This wasn’t my original posting I intended to write about lingering, but I felt led to give you encouragement today instead of exhortation. Quotes from the NASB version of the Bible.

 

Holding My Hand: Psalm 37:23-24

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In this photo Buddy is getting some leftover snacks from my restaurant visit.

Jesus sent the crowd away and sent the apostles out in a boat without Him while He went to a private place to spend time in prayer. Later He walked on the sea to catch up to them. Peter asked Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” (Matthew 14:28) And Peter did walk on the turbulent sea, as long as he kept his eyes focused on Jesus. But when he took his eyes off the Lord and looked at the wind and the angry waves, he began to sink.

There are many lessons to be derived from this incident but here is the thought I’d like to share: God is kind. He does not reject us when we stumble in our faith.

Peter began to sink, but he didn’t sink so fast that he plummeted to the bottom of the sea and lost his life. When he cried out for help, “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him,” (Matthew 14:31). Jesus noted Peter’s little faith, yet He not only responded immediately when Peter acknowledged he was sinking, but brought him into the safety of the boat with Himself.

God promises in Psalm 37 that when we fail, ie. mess up, stumble in our faith, He will reach out, grab our hand and set us back on the right path. He doesn’t want us sink to the bottom and drown. We just have to trust in His kindness and forgiveness and acknowledge we need His help. Because He loves us and doesn’t want us to stay down. Like a baby learning to walk, He grasps our hand and sets us back onto our feet.

“Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”–Psalm 103:13-14

He wants us to continue with Him, not get discouraged and give up on our walk of faith:

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”–Psalm 37:23-24

He’s a good Father. If you have a personal relationship with Him, call out when you’re struggling with sin or weakness or temptation. He’ll reach out to you, because He delights in His children.

All scripture quotes are the NASB version.

Thank you for your time. My eternal friends, have a blessed week.