Tuesday’s Truth – Don’t Fight Me on This!

 

Hello, friends! Yep, I’m a day late. The Monday holiday threw me off for sure. I keep having to remind myself what day of the week it is. Ugh.

 

Today let’s talk about something really fun: fighting! We’re talking about what the Bible often refers to as “quarreling”, but what we could also call arguing, fighting, or bickering. It seems as humans we have an almost boundless capacity for arguing and fighting with others. If you’ve ever watched a group a children, you know exactly what I mean. It is amazing how they can find a fight when there is absolutely nothing to fight over. As grown-ups, though, we’re not really that much better. Part of the problem is that there’s often some small grain of truth or importance to what we fight about. I’ve noticed this lately as I’ve browsed some pregnancy and child-raising forums online. There’s a constant current of bickering going on about everything: formula vs. breastfeeding, cloth vs. disposable diapers, where your baby should sleep, whether or not to circumcise, how terrible your mother-in-law is, what heinous thing your husband has just done, even how to spell your baby’s name. These women (all of us women, really, if we’re being honest) can find a way to stir up trouble about nearly anything. And it’s not just in their responses to each other on the forum; I see it in their tales of woe about husbands and siblings and in-laws. We hormonal pregnant  ladies are not the only ones guilty of doing it. Just read the comments after a news story about anything even remotely political or religious in nature. Sometimes I’m afraid the little avatar icons are going to start slapping each other on my computer monitor, the arguments get so heated. Like I said earlier, this can be so tempting because many of these things are intensely personal and we hold very strong opinions and beliefs about the issues, major or minor.

 

But then again, we as humans also seem to take perverse pleasure in argumentation and discord. If not, how would so many reality shows get such high ratings? I know I’ve been guilty of getting sucked into so-called “train-wreck” shows. And what about a huge majority of romantic comedies? Their plot lines and dialogue often thrive on arguments, conflict, and bickering. It’s almost a cultural imperative to be argumentative. I’ve known quite a few people who will start an argument just for their own entertainment, even if they don’t actually disagree with others. As a collective, we’re trained to think that arguing and fighting is a) funny, b) healthy, and c) unavoidable. But that’s just not the truth. Before we look at what the Bible does have to say about quarrelling, let me make one thing clear. Quarrelling is not the same thing as an honest confrontation. There are times when it will be important, even critical, to confront someone about a serious moral or personal offense. The Bible is pretty clear about that. But even in those situations, an argumentative or quarrelsome tone is never the right path to take.

Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about being a quarreler. We’ll break it down into three main ideas:

  1. It is not wise to start a quarrel (or to join one).
    1. Proverbs 16:28 A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
    2. Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.
    3. Proverbs 17:14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.
    4. Proverbs 20:3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
    5. Proverbs 26:17 Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.
    6. 2 Timothy 2:23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels
  2. God doesn’t want His people to be quarrelsome.
    1. Proverbs 17:19 Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.
    2. 1 Corinthians 3:3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
    3. 2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful
  3. To end a quarrel, take away the fuel.
    1. Proverbs 26:20 Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
    2. Proverbs 26:21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

How do we put this truth to use in our daily lives? We can remember these principles when we are tempted to start or join an argument. We can remember that it is no use to argue with a quarrelsome person, no matter how strongly we feel that we are in the right on a certain issue. We can be careful about what we let into our minds (and into the minds of our children) regarding arguing and fighting by being thoughtful about the types of movies and TV shows we watch. We can even take the extra step and do what we can to extinguish a quarrel. Will it be easy? No, because it is part of our nature to argue and fight. But I truly believe that this is an area where developing self-control will bring an abundance of peace both with others and within yourself.

 

Wishing you a fight-free week!

 

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Truth – It’s Not Okay

Welcome back! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, especially all you amazing moms out there.

 

You’ll notice that the title of this week’s post is “It’s Not Okay”. Wow…how is that for some truth? But truth it is. There are a lot of things in life that are not okay. It’s not okay that thousands of children are abused every single day. It’s not okay that my beautiful friend was just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It’s not okay that three young women spent the last 10 years in captivity in the middle of an Ohio suburb. It’s not okay that my niece was born with a heart defect. It’s not okay that buildings collapse and kill people because someone was too greedy to ensure the building’s safety. It’s not okay that my best friends lost their daughter before she was two months old. It’s not okay that every day spouses are being cheated on, teens are being drawn into drug and alcohol addiction, children are being orphaned, lives are being lost before they’ve really been lived. The list just keeps going. No matter what you believe about why there is evil or pain in the world, you can’t escape the truth that it is there.

 

I almost feel unqualified to even be talking about this subject, because right now there’s not a lot of pain in my life. I am happily married, we have a comfortable house and a steady income, we’re surrounded by loving family and friends, and I’m 5 months in to an uncomplicated, relatively painless pregnancy. The scary thing is, I know that any of that could change at any moment. Pain, trial, suffering, whatever you want to call it, could pop up any day. In fact, one of these days it will. I don’t know what it will be, or when it will come, but I know that there is something down the road that I am going to have to face, whether I like it or not.

 

So often, Christians try to sell our particular brand of belief by talking about how much better life is once you accept Christ as your savior and have a personal relationship with God. On the one hand, that is true. There is absolutely nothing better than a personal, intimate relationship with a merciful, powerful creator. It changes everything. But it does nothing to change the fact that you and I will  have awful things happen in our lives. The Bible is pretty clear about this. Jesus promises, “In this world you will have troubles.” (John 16:33) His brother James, in his letter to the believers who had been scatter from Jerusalem due to extreme persecution, speaks of trials and suffering as a given in the life of a Christian. (James 1:2) We sometimes forget about it here in America, but Christians have been persecuted by economic oppression, torture, and death from the very beginning up to the present day. And even Christians who don’t suffer for their beliefs still suffer. The friends and family that I mentioned earlier, none of them are suffering because someone doesn’t like that they believe in Jesus; they are suffering because the world is a broken place.

 

God created our world to be a beautiful, peaceful, perfect place. We still see the traces of that perfection and beauty in nature, in certain relationships, in very precious moments in our life. But when evil entered the world and gained a foothold, nothing could be perfect anymore. That’s the thing about evil – it ruins everything. There is absolutely nothing in life that is completely perfect. The wonderful joy and love that comes with a new baby is only reached through months of discomfort and hours of extreme pain. The most beautiful mountains of our planet claim the lives of many who are lured in by the challenge of conquering them. Many of the most majestic animals in nature survive by hunting and killing other wonderful creatures. Man, who creates beautiful works of art and amazing feats of engineering, cannot live long without fighting and warring, whether on the battlefield, in the courtroom, or in the living room. We seem a doomed world.

 

And doomed we are. As we just saw, no one escapes the trials of a life lived on earth. There is no religion that is able to erase suffering. Some promise it, but none delivers. Now you’re probably thinking, “What a terrible thing to say. This blog is about glad hearts. I’m not feeling particularly glad at the moment.” And you would be right. So far, I’ve only given you the bad news. I wish I could tell you that it will all get better. I wish I could “sell” Christianity to you right here by telling you that if you surrender your life to God and accept Jesus Christ as your savior, all the suffering in your life will disappear. Many, many people would gladly tell you exactly that. But as I said earlier, that’s simply not how it works. Don’t despair, however, because there really, truly is good news in all this suffering.

 

What is the good news? God is the good news. Over and over again in the Bible, God acknowledges the suffering we must endure. He is not blind or deaf to our sufferings. He does not promise to remove our pain here and now. He does promise a heaven that is free of sorrow (Isaiah 25:8). He also promises to stand by us in our trials and to redeem our sufferings. Let’s quickly look at the passages from the Bible that show His promises:

  • God’s promises to be with us
    • When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. (Isaiah 43:2)
    • God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
    • Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. (Psalm 23:4)
    • My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
    • He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. (Psalm 91:2)
  • God’s promises to redeem our trials
    • You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. (Genesis 50:20)
    • God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28)
    • For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. (James 1:3-4) (Romans 5:3-4)

 

That’s a lot of truth right there, friends. God doesn’t promise that we won’t face pain and suffering. Sometimes, I confess, that terrifies me. I hate the certain uncertainty of a future suffering. I have to walk a thin line between realism and pessimism. The comfort and the victory come when I remember God’s promises, when I recall that I will never go through pain that doesn’t result in something good, and I will never walk through a valley alone.

 

I don’t know what it is in your life right now that’s not okay, but I know that every one of you has something that you are struggling with or that is causing you pain. Even in the goodness of my current situation, I encounter daily trials. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with something that seems minor or catastrophic to others; whatever your pain is, it is painful to you. I’m so sorry that I can’t promise you a pain-free life. What I can tell you is that not once have I seen God desert someone in their suffering. I’ve watched people go through the most terrible things, far worse than most of us will ever endure, and every time, something good has been the result, when those people trusted God to redeem their suffering and stand by them through their trials. Whatever it is that you are walking through right now, I encourage you to let God walk through it with you, and to bring you something good on the other side.

 

Take heart, friends.

Tuesday’s Truth – Building Small

Hello again!

Look at me – two weeks in a row!  This week let’s look at some truth about the work we do for God. We’re told to do everything we do as if we’re doing it for God. (Colossians 3:23) Often, that leads to us comparing our work to what others are doing, and we start to lie to ourselves that our work or service is not as worthwhile as someone else’s. We think teaching Sunday school is nothing compared to running a clinic in a developing country. Or that homeschooling our children can’t hold a candle to writing Bible studies used across the globe. I know that I have fallen into this trap many times. It’s such a natural thing to compare ourselves with others, even though God looks at us each individually. (Psalm 139:1-3)

Just a few weeks ago in my ladies’ Bible study group, we were discussing this very idea. We were reading about how God has called and equipped each one of us for specific tasks. (2 Corinthians 3:5) He hasn’t done that just for the people in big, powerful, well-known positions. He’s done it for you, stay at home mom, and for you, corporate accountant, and you, middle school teacher. He has called and equipped you for your job, for your volunteer service, and for your relationships. (Ephesians 2:10) Each one is important in His grand plan. One of the women in my group, whom I would say had certainly done some big things for God, related how she never really felt like she was given a calling or anointing for God’s work, even though she worked for Him faithfully. She felt this way because she had faced so many struggles, and had often seen little results. I felt so sad that she was discouraged, but I realized that many of us feel that way.

Sometimes we don’t see the results because we are trying to do good works outside of doing the works God has planned for us. But I think that more often, we simply fail to see the results because we are looking for the wrong thing. We have lied to ourselves by thinking that only “big” results count. If it doesn’t win an award or show up on the news, it’s not a big deal. But here’s the truth: everything we do counts, and everything we do for God has a result.(Luke 16:10) If we limit ourselves to only doing things we think will have big results, we are cheating ourselves and others out of God’s blessings.

An analogy here would be great works of art and architecture. Often, the great master painters would have their students and apprentices help them with parts of large paintings. These students would paint the scenery, the clothing, the “accessories”, if you will. What would those great classics be without those details? Not nearly as beautiful, that’s for sure. And yet, how many of those students are remembered by name today? Do we visit museums to see “the wonderful palm tree painted by Fransico in 1487”? No. And yet that palm tree is a crucial part of the painting as a whole. Likewise, think of the great cathedrals and castles built hundreds of years ago. Master stonecutters shaped each block of stone just perfectly so that the whole building would fit together in beauty and strength. Glaziers made, cut, and arranged pieces of glass to make gorgeous and instructive windows. But here’s the quiz: can you name a famous stone mason or glazier of the 18th century? No? Why not? What about a famous architect? Probably yes, and if you can’t think of one off the top of your head, a quick trip to the internet search will find you several. Those stonecutters and glaziers aren’t’ remembered for their work, and we don’t ooh and aah over every stone in the great cathedrals of Europe, and yet each one is a critical part of the whole.

Chances are that you are not going to become a household name for teaching the 2-year-olds on Sunday mornings, for raising your children, for teaching 8th-grade math, for keeping immaculate books, or for being a good friend. But those things matter. Love shown matters. Listening and comforting matter. Integrity matters. Compassion matters. Honesty matters. Generosity matters.  Faithfulness matters.

I’ll leave you with this thought. No one really remembers or talks about Nikola and Drana Bojaxhiu, Macedonians of Albanian descent. They were simply faithful Christians and parents who did what they knew God would want them to by raising their children and showing compassion to the poor of their city. They modeled Christ-like love and kindness in front of their daughter Agnes, and she learned her lesson well. After finishing her schooling in Macedonia, Agnes felt called by God to enter a life of service to Him. She joined a religious order in Ireland, and from there went to India, where she taught in schools, and eventually moved on to working with the poorest outcast Indians in the slums of Calcutta (Kolkata). She served in India for over 50 years, reaching not just the poor, but people across the globe with the love of Christ. You probably know Agnes better as Mother Teresa. Did her parents know what their daughter would become? They could not have. But they did know what kind of person they wanted to raise her to be, and they were faithful to that calling. What they did as parents and Christians did not seem big at the time they were doing it, but if they had not been faithful, millions would have missed out on the impact that their daughter was to have.

So be encouraged, friends. The great things in life are built out of small things. Keep building!

Tuesday’s Truth

Well now. Yes, I do still exist. I even think of things to put on here occasionally. Somewhere in between the holidays and the rest of life, I lost some of my passion, but I’ve felt recently that I need to get back at it. The truth is, I think I felt that it was only worth posting if I had something big and profound to share. But then I realized I was missing out on chances to share the things that God is showing and teaching me. So here I am, back again. To encourage myself to really keep at it, I’ve decided to get in on the weekly themed post trend. I’ve seen a lot of Wednesday and Thursday variations, but Tuesday seems pretty open, so I’m going to attempt to share some truth with you each Tuesday. Not truths that I make up, but truths based on God’s word.

Just recently I was chatting with some friends about spiritual development, and we got around to the fact that we tell ourselves and believe so many lies about life and about ourselves. What is the solution? One of the gals said it perfectly – replace the lies with the truth. When you are getting down on yourself, force yourself to think about the truth about yourself. (Or get someone to help you – it can be really hard!) When you’re starting to believe lies about life, replace those lies with the truth of God.

One area where this works so well is the realm of fear and anxiety. Most of you (the 98% of readers who are also FB friends) know that I am just over 4 months pregnant with our first baby. I don’t know about all you other moms out there, but from the moment I saw the positive test, I began to worry about all the things that could go wrong. I’m a worrier by trade, but this just kicked my fears into high gear. Then I found a collection of scriptures talking about God’s protection and peace, and I copied them and posted them all around so that I would constantly be filling my mind with the truth of God. Within a day or two of saturating my mind and spirit with the Word, I found that my fears were completely gone. It didn’t change the possibility of something going wrong with my pregnancy or our baby, but It reinforced to me that I could trust God no matter what happened down the road.

Next week we’ll look at a more specific truth, but for this week, just keep in mind that the best way to combat the lies of life is the truth of God.