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Archive for the ‘attacks’ Category

We’ve all seen the movies about boxers and the scenes in the ring when one boxer takes the opponent’s best punch and then scornfully taunts, “Is that the best you got?”

The resulting outcome for the not-hard-enough puncher is never good.

I thought of this movie dialogue moment while reading this morning from Matthew 20:12-17. The passage was part of the daily segment from the One-Year Bible that I read online.

In this passage, Jesus enters the Jerusalem temple immediately after His triumphal entry. He is disgusted at the exploitative rip-offs by moneychangers and sacrificial animal salesmen and He throws them out of the temple after knocking over their tables.

Of course, the religious leaders had to have been conspiring with the crooks in order for them to be doing business in the temple.

So when by throwing the crooks out, Jesus was also indicting the leaders who had sanctioned the rip-offs.

Jesus followed up the temple cleansing by healing a bunch of people.

You’d think that the religious bigshots would have jumped all over Jesus for a lack of self-control or a lack of fair, judicial hearings or for whatever.

Here’s the best they could come up with: they complained that kids in the temple were praising Jesus.

Wow.

That sure is a wimpy punch by ones who desparately wanted to knock out Jesus.

With the enormity of what was happening in those days and what was about to happen, the powerful Sanhedrin was griping about kids praising Jesus as He healed people?

Jesus could have rightly asked, “Is that the best you got?”

This pathetic display of intellectual impotence continued the three-year pattern of repeated failures to paint Jesus into logical and spiritual corners.

And it affirmed the fact that the hatred of religious leaders toward Jesus was not why Jesus ended up on the cross as our atoning sacrifice.

Jesus put Himself there by choice.

Their hatred was only a tool which factored into how Jesus went to the cross, not why.

Let’s learn from Jesus’ experience in Matthew 20:12-17. When people air sometimes-wimpy gripes about our faithfulness, let’s calmly reply that we’re simply doing what we can to bring honor to God who deserves all the praise we can give Him and more.

Like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, those complaining to us might not like it, but they will hear the truth that Christians are created to give God “the best they got.”

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s not easy to overlook a malicious insult.

And I’m sure that you’ve had plenty of occasions in life when you were confronted with such remarks.

But that’s what we should do if we’re to be seen as wise in the eyes of the Lord.

Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:16)

Part of being a pastor is being confronted periodically with insults intended to undercut influence or simply cause pain for some reason.

Remember, we’re people dealing with people.

And people aren’t perfect.

Sometimes, they make bad choices.

Of course, we sometimes make bad choices, too.

Ocassionally, there is the opportunity for the insultee to talk with the insulter in order to move toward forgiveness and reconciliation.

Other times, though, there are not “ears to hear” and our choice — whether pastor or layperson — is simply to overlook the insult and lay it at the foot of the cross.

We’ve got better things to do than to fret over the hurt.

Overlooking an insult is not prudent because we’re letting the offender off the hook. Instead, it is prudent because we’re not allowing the insult to distract us from our Kingdom mission and because we’re trusting that God sees what is happening, knowing He’ll deal with the situation in a perfect, lasting way.

Even if it takes a long time for the person to change.

Perhaps that one firing insults won’t change.

We’ll just have more opportunity to demonstrate faith and imitate the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ who heard untold numbers of hurtful insults, yet continued showing grace to all.

He’s our example. Let’s do our best to imitate Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I know several people who are very nice and faithful, yet are hurting emotionally because of someone else who seems bent on making their lives miserable.

To me, it makes no sense.

I see the kindness and integrity and faithful devotion of the ones being antagonized.

It’s ridiculous, actually, to think that godly people are stuck dealing with such treatment.

Can’t the troublemakers see what I see? The goodness? The sincerity? The unselfishness? The devotion to serving others?

This isn’t a matter of logic, however.

Logic would do the character-quality math and come down on the positive side of the ledger.

I have faced — and still do at times — this conundrum of striving to be Christlike yet being treated like an enemy.

The fact is that many Christians face the same at their work or at their school or in their family relationships or even at church.

Perhaps you’re hurting now because somebody sees you as the enemy even though you treat them as friends.

I don’t have a magic wand for you, I’m sorry to say.

I certainly haven’t found one to wave over myself to insulate me from illogical antagonism.

We just have to take comfort in the fact that most Christians are logical in their treatment of others.

Most Christians don’t have a “hit list” of people they seek to make miserable.

Why this topic today?

In today’s daily Bible reading, a man named Elihu directed very hurtful, judgmental remarks toward Job, remarks that directly contradicted God’s description of Job as the most righteous man on earth, one who thoroughly pleased God.

Here’s what Elihu said:

Tell me, has there ever been a man like Job, with his thirst for irreverent talk? He chooses evil people as companions. He spends his time with wicked men. He has even said, ‘Why waste time trying to please God?’” (Job 34:1-2).

Wow. Talk about Job-bashing…..

Was God wrong about Job’s character? Or was Elihu?

Can you imagine how Job felt when he heard these words? Especially when he knew they were false? Especially after everything that he’d already been through?

Probably how you’ve felt when people said hurtful things about you that you knew were wrong.

Listen, hearing trash talk about ourselves is never fun.

Especially when we’re already having to deal with other difficulties and disappointments in life.

Especially when those saying false, hurtful things should be the ones building us up.

As with Job, it’s vital that our sense of inner strength stands on the unending love of God and our uninterrupted devotion to a life of spiritual integrity.

That way, when someone starts tearing us down with words that aren’t true, we’ll still stand because we cling to the Word of Truth.

As always, I love you
Martin

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No matter how dark the night seems, even if only a spiritual or emotional “night,” God’s love and Word shines in it if we’ll just look for Him.

Here’s the promise:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12)

Listen, there is no place that we can find ourselves that God cannot reach. In fact, He created wherever we’re at.

His arms are always longer and stronger than ours.

Reach for Him no matter how low you think you’ve fallen and no matter how far you think you’ve wandered.

He wants to rescue you. He wants to sustain you.

He desires to hold you fast.

For He loves you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Some verses are so clear.

A passage in today’s One-Year Bible reading is such a verse.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)

My goodness.

Please join me in praying that we both keep a tight rein on our tongues, making sure that they are saying things that build up others rather than tearing them down.

We’re surrounded by people with “wrecking ball” lips. That’s why it’s SO important that we pray for them and make sure that our tongues bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

A priceless faith will be ours if we’ll view the lives of others around us as priceless.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Nobody in his or her right mind would kick a land mine.

There is just too much likelihood of a terrible outcome.

But too many times, that’s just what some people do when they speak before thinking clearly.

Sometimes those “people” includes us.

Frustration over this or that prompts us to say this or that — things that shouldn’t be said — and then the situation blows up in our faces.

The fact of life was brought to mind this morning in a couple of places within my morning Bible reading.

“An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.” Proverbs 18:1

Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.” Acts 18:17

In the first text, Solomon gives a general fact of life based on repeated observed behavior of others. Those who like stirring the pot, who like “getting in other people’s faces” and bullying them are not friendly people. That means that they’re not living to please the Lord but only themselves.

Solomon’s words are very blunt. Hopefully they do not fit your behavioral pattern even in the least.

You and I should never start quarrels because they so often lead to our net loss rather than net gain.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak up — sometimes even assertively — when wrongs need to be made right.

But such a conversation need not decay into quarreling which is a tug-of-war for conversational and situational control.

People who start quarrels are verbal bullies and we should not play on their turf. We are to avoid quarreling.

In the second text, Sosthenes was an enemy of the Apostle Paul in the city of Corinth and had rounded up a bunch of Jewish synagogue members who hated Christianity. They dragged Paul to a Roman judge to have him punished for teaching against their view of Jewish religion.

The judge told the group that he had no interest in their religious squabbles so he ordered his soldiers to throw the quarrelers out of his presence.

The synagogue members were irate that their synagogue leader had put them in this position so they gave him the beating that they had wanted Paul to receive.

In effect, Sosthenes had kicked a landmine.

Take some good advice from Solomon and refuse temptations to start quarrels, no matter how upset you become over something.

When you and I fall into the trap of verbal bullying, we are headed down an explosive road.

It’s so much better to say humble, truthful things in a Christlike manner, even when others speak in non-Christlike ways.

With patience, God will work all things together for our good if we continue loving Him and living according to His purposes.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It doesn’t happen much to most of us, but when it does, it’s quite disconcerting.

I’m talking about those times when we’re actually accomplishing much for the Lord and others are seeing how God is so graciously working through us and then the Enemy sends a poisonous gossiper into the mix.

The gossiper doesn’t spew the caustic comments to us, but instead to our close friends and associates.

The idea is to destroy our credibility and, thus, our influence.

I wish I could say this has never happened to me.

I can’t.

It’s part of being in ministry, unfortunately.

But this faith-testing circumstance isn’t limited to pastors.

Most every layperson who is serious about serving the Lord has been bruised by the baloney told others about him or her.

Rather than fight fire with fire, we are called to boldly do what’s right and actually remove any basis for the complaints against us.

We cannot out-gossip the gossipers.

And we should not expect gossip from us to stop others from gossiping.

We are called to always do the right thing in a way that shows our commitment to play by the rules.

Simply put, the best way to respond to lies is to live by the Truth.

This is the message that jumped off the page this morning while reading from Matthew 17:24-27.

Some Jewish temple tax collectors came to Peter and asked if Jesus paid his annual two-drachma tax.

Notice that they didn’t go to Jesus first and ask for the money.

Here’s what they said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

Cynicism dripped from their words.

Peter, though perhaps not being sure of the answer, immediately answered, “Yes, He does.”

Peter went to the house where Jesus was staying in Capernaum and, before he could even ask about the tax, Jesus taught that kings don’t pay taxes, others do.

But in order to not “cause offense,” Jesus told Peter to go fishing, opening the mouth of the first fish he caught in order to pull out a four-drachma coin for Jesus’ tax payment AND Peter’s.

The lesson for us is this: Sometimes the best response to those trying to pull the rug out from under our standing in others’ eyes is simply to make sure we do the right thing, not only in our eyes but in the eyes of the one(s) hearing the gossip.

If you learn that one close to you is hearing gossip about you, determine to demonstrate your integrity to that person in an unmistakable fashion.

The objective should not be to shut up the gossiper. Such hearts are typically darkened and slow to respond to your patient persuasion.

Instead, the objective should be to shut the ears of your friends to the lies of the gossiper.

And that will happen as your credibility is affirmed over and over again.

That’s what worked for Jesus. That’s what has worked for me. And that is what can work for you.

As always, I love you
Martin

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