(“READ THE WORD OF GOD, BUT LOSE THE ANGER FIRST”)
“I can’t speak for other people, but I remember well what would happen when I threw a temper tantrum as a child. It didn’t help me get what I wanted, but only made things worse for me. My mother would tell me, “If you don’t stop this crying, I’m going to give you something to cry about!” I knew then not only that I’d better shape up but also that my crying and throwing a fit wasn’t going to help me get my way
Nothing good comes to the life of a believer by getting angry with God over the things that are going on in your life. In fact, that is a sure way to get stuck right where you are. That’s because God wants “us to be humble and to listen to Him as He speaks through the Word, and because He wants to bring to fruition His righteous plans for us.
When we fuss and cry at God over what is going on in our lives, we can’t hear Him above all the noise we’re making. That’s why it’s important that in all situations we remain calm and settled and committed to hearing Him.
When we do that, then we are ready to take the step of actually receiving God’s Word. “The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews tell us that the Word of God is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). “In other words, the Word is powerful when it comes to showing us where and how to change and in giving us the power to be transformed. But we need to understand that reading the Bible, and even memorizing and understanding it to a point, won’t do us a bit of good unless we receive it and receive it God’s way.
That is what James was talking about when he wrote, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (1:21).
Before we knew Jesus, our hearts were completely unable to receive His Word implanted. But when God saves us, He implants His truth and His reality inside us. That truth overwhelms the darkness that was once in our hearts, allowing Him, through His Holy Spirit, to transform us.
In this context, the word implanted refers to something that has been placed inside you, much as a doctor might give you an implant to help you overcome some physical difficulty But this is a spiritual implant. It’s a whole new nature—the nature of Jesus Christ—implanted inside you. This means that when you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, the reality of the light of God is implanted within you. It’s not just planted in your body or in your mind, but in the deepest part of you, where it transforms you body, mind, and spirit into the image of Jesus.
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Encouraging words for today: You must never allow your human weakness to disqualify you for what God has planned for you.
“You must never allow your human weakness to disqualify you for what God has planned for you. Your failures do not prove that you are wicked; they simply prove that you are human. Though you are filled with God, it’s important to remember that you’re a human being who is filled with God.
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“True and intimate friends look out for each other’s welfare. (Part 2)
As believers, we should reserve our intimate friendships for other believers, because then we are mutually committed to helping each other live and walk in the will and purpose of God and to develop godly “character. This does not mean that we should not cultivate friendly relationships with non-believers. How else can we influence them for Christ? It does mean that we should remember that no matter how much we may have in common with our non-believing friends in the areas of interests, hobbies, and the like, we are on completely different planes spiritually. Our intimate friends should be people who are seeking the Kingdom of God just as we are.
One characteristic of true intimacy is the capacity to both give and receive correction with grace and appreciation. Intimate friends love each other enough not to let sin, errors, or wrong direction go uncorrected. They respect and trust each other enough to receive correction without resentment or suspicion. Intimate friends are comfortable in the knowledge that they are committed to each other’s welfare and greatest good. “Intimate friendship carries with it the mutual responsibility of open honesty with “discretion. Openness is essential to intimacy, but true friends will carefully guard each other’s confidences. There are some things we can tell our dearest friends that no one else needs to know.
Here are some practical steps we can take to become good intimate friends. First, be ready, willing, and available to give our friends comfort and support during their times of trial and sorrow. At the same time, we should be just as ready to rejoice with them in times of success and prosperity. It has been said that shared sorrow is halved while shared joy is doubled. Friends support each other in joy or sorrow, in good times or bad.
Second, we should assume a measure of personal responsibility for our friends’ reputations. We should be jealous for the integrity of their good name and quick to defend them from criticism or attack. If criticism and correction are justifiable, we should do it privately and in a manner that preserves our friends’ dignity and honor. “Third, we need to be sensitive to traits and attitudes that need improvement, not only in our friends’ lives, but also in our own. If we are committed to personal character development, we must be open to ways to improve “and help our friends in the same way.
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“True intimacy has very little to do with sexual relations.
“A casual friendship frequently progresses to the next level of close friendship and fellowship. Close friendship is based on mutual life goals and friends at this level enjoy the freedom to suggest mutual projects toward reaching those goals. Most people never get this far in their relationships. So many jump straight from acquaintance to “intimate” because that is the model held up by society, and because they do not know how to go through the friendship-building process. What so many people call “intimate” relationships are not intimate at all, because the people involved have never learned what true intimacy is or how to build toward it. Ultimately, true intimacy has very little to do with sexual relations.
Another characteristic of close friendship is that it is the first relationship that involves genuine common fellowship. Fellowship implies mutual interests and life goals because friends are “fellows” who are in the same “ship” together and therefore traveling the same direction. We can have “fellowship only with people who are headed in the same direction as we are. As believers, we can have an acquaintance or even a casual relationship with a Mormon, Buddhist or Hindu, but we can’t really have fellowship with them because they are headed in a different direction. Their beliefs and values are different, their life goals are different, and their final destination is different.
Close friends pursue mutual goals and most often share similar values, ideals, and worldviews. It is at this level where unmarried friends begin seriously looking at each other as potential mates: “Are his dreams and goals compatible with mine? Is she a person I could share the rest of my life with?” If they are not suited for each other as far as marriage is concerned, this is the time to find out rather than later, after binding and lasting commitments have been made. “In our desire to build close friendships we should, first of all, look for and recognize the potential for great achievement in our friends’ lives. Once we see them not just for who they are but also for who they can be, we are better prepared to help them fulfill their potential.
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“One of the major problems we face today in our relationships is that so many people want God’s results without following God’s principles. They look for a godly return without making a godly investment. Everyone seeks success in their relationships, but many have little real interest in God’s place in those relationships. It is completely unreasonable to ignore God’s standards and still expect a godly outcome. “Walking in agreement does not mean always seeing eye-to-eye on absolutely everything, but it does mean being in basic agreement in the Lord. Paul made this plea to two women who were part of the body of believers in the city of Philippi: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). Unity begins with basic agreement in spirit, which then leads to harmony of mind, thought, and judgment.
“Spiritual agreement in the Lord is the basis for agreement in every other area. It is the foundation stone for every truly successful, productive, and fruitful relationship. People can share common interests, intellectual pursuits, and have the same goals, but without spiritual agreement, they will still have broken relationships.
The secret to perfect agreement is to agree in the Lord. Our fundamental agreement must be spiritually based, which then provides a solid foundation for agreement in other areas. The basis for spiritual agreement is the Word of God. Spiritual agreement is the first step toward the goal of any meaningful relationship: the development of true intimacy.”
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“How can I build a relationship based on friendship rather than physical attraction?”
“True friendship is the strongest relationship of all, and is the fundamental ingredient of every truly successful marriage. Friendship does not come to full bloom overnight; it takes time to grow and mature. Since husbands and wives should enter marriage as best friends, it is important that they develop their friendship beforehand. Building this friendship is the greatest value and, indeed, the primary purpose of dating.
The strongest and most successful long-term relationships are those that are based on friendship rather than on any sense of need or incompleteness on the part of either “or both persons involved. A relationship motivated by need destroys friendship because it is essentially self-centered. A person in need will enter a relationship seeking primarily to satisfy that need rather than seeking to satisfy the needs of the other person or help build that person’s character. Entering a relationship primarily for what we can get out of it defrauds the other person, and that is sin.
One problem I have discovered through years of experience in counseling and from my own life is that most people do not understand how to build and maintain wholesome friendships. We don’t know how to make friends or how to be a friend. While this is a serious problem among believers, it is even worse in the non-believing world. “Friendship in the world is based inevitably on manipulation. Consciously or not, people in the world use friendships as convenient and expedient opportunities to advance themselves. What the world calls friendship is not true friendship, because true friendship is based on love, which comes from God. People who are without God do not truly understand love and therefore cannot truly understand friendship. “When we became believers and were born again by the Spirit of God, our spirits were made new, but not our minds or our bodies. Those we must renew through knowledge and growth. The challenge we face is learning how to handle ourselves with a new spirit dwelling in an “old” mind and body that don’t know how to behave. We have to learn how to live and act as children of God.
This is probably nowhere harder to do than in relationships, particularly between males and females. Our newborn spirits tell us one thing while our unrenewed minds and bodies tell us something else. Without a disciplined spirit, the chemical and sexual stirrings of mind and body are difficult to deny. That is why we must learn, as Paul writes, to “be transformed by “the renewing of [our] mind[s]” (Rom. 12:2b), and to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b).
Many people ask, “How can I get to know someone without slipping into inappropriate behavior? How can I build a relationship based on friendship rather than physical attraction?” The answer lies first in understanding the nature and purpose of friendship, which is to build character, and, second, understanding the different levels of friendship and the behavior that is appropriate for each level.
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“A PASSIVE FATHER PRODUCES OUT-OF-CONTROL KIDS”
“GOOD MAN / BAD DAD”
“The sad story of Eli and his sons is set in contrast to the story of little Samuel, who was sent to live with Eli and serve the Lord at a very young age.
If you remember the story, Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was barren and cried out to the Lord for a child. If God would give her a son, she promised to give her boy back to God to serve Him all of his life.
When Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to Eli at the temple in Shiloh. So here was little Samuel, serving the Lord. But right down the hall were the bedrooms of Hophni and Phinehas, the no-good, wicked, grown-up sons of Eli who had no regard for the Lord (2 Samuel 2:12). They were the preacher’s kids, messing around while Dad faithfully served the Lord. Ouch! “By the time we meet Eli’s family, his boys were assisting him in the ministry of the temple. They were going to church with him every Sunday. They were wearing the veneer because Dad was the holy man of Israel.
But these brothers had a racket going. They were dipping their hands in the offering plate; only it wasn’t money they were taking. They were taking more of the sacrifices than the priest’s rightful share. If anyone called them on the scam, he would be threatened by force. And that’s not all; the sons were also seducing the women who served at the entrance to the temple.
By now you are probably saying, “Please, tell me what Eli did or didn’t do as a father so I can run as far and as fast the other way as possible.” Well, Eli was a man of God. No question about that. But evidently he didn’t take a strong hand in training his sons. Maybe they ran wild around the temple, getting into trouble. We don’t know. “How many times have you been in the grocery store or mall and heard a parent say to a screaming “obnoxious two-year-old who’s pitching a fit, “Now, now, don’t do that, dear. Here, let’s stop that.” “Meanwhile, the kid is wreaking havoc. I don’t know if that’s how Eli got started with Hophni and Phinehas when they were young. We’re not given any details of their childhood. What we have here in 1 Samuel is the bottom line, which is this: Eli’s sons were vile before the Lord, and he did absolutely nothing about it. Now it’s true that he did speak to them:
So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the LORD’s people. If a man sins against another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the LORD’s will to put them to death. —2:23-25”
“Eli heard about the terrible things his sons were doing and said, “Now, boys, you ought not do that. No, no. Bad, bad.”
And the boys said, “Yes, Daddy,” then went right back to robbing the people who came to the temple and misusing the women. And from all indications, Eli just turned away from it (look ahead to 3:12-14).” “The issue was not that Eli didn’t tell his children the right things, for clearly he did. It’s that he didn’t enforce the right things he was telling them. I don’t know any parents who go out and tell their kids, “Go rob a bank. Go find someone to kill. Ten or twenty years in prison will do you good.” I suspect you don’t know any parents like that either.
No, the parents we know probably say the right things, just as Eli did. A lot of prison inmates’ parents probably said the right things too. But “what is missing in so much of our well-intentioned parenting is enforcement, which represents the strength of our convictions.
Eli was not enforcing the truth. He was only stating it. He didn’t pull his sons from their posts; he didn’t strip them of their privileged access to the temple and to the people of Israel. He knew what they were doing, but he let them keep on doing it while mouthing platitudes that they should stop.
Discipline includes more than telling your children what they ought to do. We talked about that earlier. The reason that telling isn’t good enough is that our kids are born in sin. And you do not leave sinners to decide things for themselves because they will inevitably go the wrong way. “Now I can’t stop all the neighbors’ kids from messing up because they are not part of my family. But my kids, that’s a whole different story because I love them. If you want to love your children the way God loves His children, chastening and correcting have to be part of the equation.
Love means you’d better say something. And if that doesn’t take care of the problem, you’d better do something. If you love me and you see that I’m destroying myself, yet you keep quiet, you’re killing me. The most loving thing a parent or any spiritual leader can do is chastise in love.
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