Taking Away the Sting of Affliction

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Only two types people can be content in the midst of affliction:

Monkish types who wear chafing robes and seek to overcome pain by annihilating their desires

and

Christians who have found their contentment in something, or more specifically someone, other than their circumstances.

Jeremiah Burroughs puts is this way:

There is a power of grace to turn this affliction into good; it takes away the sting and poison of it.

How can we find contentment in suffering? By going to Christ, who gives grace to take away the sting and poison of our affliction.

Where do you go in the midst of affliction?

+photo by h.koppeldelaney

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How To Make Little Pharisees

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A dad once told me, “I get angry with my kids so they know I’m serious.  It’s good for them to be afraid of me, at least a little bit.”

So often we resort to anger as a way to get people to do what we want.  Parents yell at their kids to try to get them to obey.  Bosses intimidate employees to motivate them.  Husbands speak harshly to their wives to try to change them.

But God’s Word says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1.19-20).

Catch that?  Anger won’t produce righteousness – in our children or anyone else.  Anger will often produce something else, though – the fear of man.  Oh, our children may obey us out of fear.  But our anger will produce little Pharisees, who obey on the outside but not from the heart*.

God doesn’t use anger to produce his righteousness in us.  His wrath doesn’t move those in hell to love him.  God imputes to us Christ’s righteousness, then moves us to obey out of gratitude.  We love because he first loved us, not because he first intimidated us.

*I’d like to credit the person I learned this from, but I can’t recall who it was.

photo by Eric Rice

Things That Should Probably Be Illegal

Just for fun.

  • Any movie featuring both Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal.
  • Any more “Chicken Soup for the [insert person, such as astronaut] Soul books.
  • Letting George Lucas anywhere near a camera.
  • Attaching the word “extreme” to something that isn’t, specifically deodorant or shampoo.
  • Bible covers with any of the following on the front: Bald Eagle, very caucasian looking Jesus, the praying hands.
  • Talking loudly on a cellphone, as if you were communicating with someone in space [I think I do this sometimes].
  • Air quotes, except in extreme circumstances.
  • The phrase “it’s not so much the heat, but the humidity that gets you”.
  • Letting Stephen ride a scooter.
  • Letting Stephen do these silly lists.

Many more things need to be made illegal. What would you add?

You Are What You Tweet

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The things I can do on and Facebook and Twitter are incredible.

I can let you know exactly what I’m doing at 2:01 P.M. on Tuesday afternoon (drinking my third cup of coffee). I can post that goofy picture of me and my buddy sporting our sweetest 80’s clothes. I can take a quiz that helps me identify which ‘The Princess Bride’ character I’m most like. I can catch up with my high school friends.

Yet in the midst of all this, something strange can begin to take place. I can feel as though the things I say and post on Facebook and Twitter don’t really matter. As if, somehow, the things I say and do online are separate from the real me. Come on, it’s just Facebook, right?

Wrong. In Matthew 15:19 Jesus said:

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

So what does this mean? It means that our status updates, photo uploads, wall posts, and online chats are a visible display of what is taking place in our hearts.

Posting flirtatious comments on someone’s picture isn’t “just what happens on Facebook”. Uploading an inappropriate photo isn’t just for fun. Relentlessly mocking someone isn’t what happens online. It’s the overflow of the heart. And it’s sin. What we do online is the real us. It doesn’t matter that we’re safely behind a computer screen.

And the sobering thing is, every action that takes place online has effects that last into eternity. Jesus said:

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak… (Matt. 12:36)

Let’s put that verse into online terms. On the day of judgment people will give an account for every careless Tweet they post. Every inappropriate status update. Every sinful picture. Wall post. Chat.

On the final day, I don’t want to regret the things I said in cyber space. So for now, I need to watch what I Tweet, upload, and wall post. Because I am what I Tweet.

Here are some questions to get us thinking. Parents, Facebook and Twitter provide excellent conversation topics. Use these questions as starting points.

  • Do I ever say anything on Facebook or Twitter that is impure or unedifying? (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Am I communicating with anyone online that I wouldn’t want my spouse/parents/friends to know about? (1 John 1:6-7)
  • What do my pictures, wall posts, status updates, and “friends” show about my heart?

Here’s the bad news: we’ve all sinned in this area. The good news is that Jesus Christ died for Facebook sinners like me. In light of this good news, let’s use Facebook and Twitter for the glory of God.

Note: This idea of the online me is the real me was first introduced to me by a pastor named Steve Whitacre. Thanks for your wisdom Steve!

A Nudge From The Shepherd’s Staff

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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me  (PS 23.4).

In college I watched the movie Wait Until Dark, a spine-tingler about a blind woman terrorized in her home by a murderer.  In one scene, he suddenly lunges at her out of the darkness with a dagger.  It so startled me I shot back in my seat, and smashed my funny bone on the armrest.  Darkness is scary.

A sheep in the desert would dread the darkness.  Predators lurk in the dark.  Pitfalls lie unseen in the inky blackness.

All Christians will trudge through deep valleys of the shadow of death from time to time.  The darkness of depression or the gloom of loneliness.  The overcast days of caring for a sick child or raising a rebellious teen.  Pitch-black places where we can’t see the next step.

But God promises that even in the valley of the shadow of death we will fear no evil.

No matter what kind of darkness you are experiencing, if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, there’s a reason you need not fear – your Shepherd is with you.  Your Great Shepherd who is stronger than all your enemies.  The One to whom night is as bright as day.  The one who conquered Satan, demons, sin and death itself on the cross.   Because he is with you, you need not fear.

How do we know he is with us?  First of all, because he’s promised never to leave us nor forsake us.

But his rod and his staff also remind us he’s there.

His rod and staff comfort us by reminding us that our Shepherd is with us.  In the darkness he taps us with his rod and nudges us with his staff.  Jesus gently pokes me with his staff when a brother exhorts me.  He says, “Mark, I’m here,” when a friend sends a note of appreciation.  He prods me with his rod when my wife asks heart-searching questions.

Jesus wants to use you to be his “staff” to comfort a brother or sister in the darkness.

“The most subtle use of the staff is to ‘be in touch’ with someone who may just need a word of encouragement or a hug.  These are ways of saying, ‘Everything will be OK’ or ‘I’m right beside you.’  These statements echo two of the most common messages God speaks to people in the Bible: ‘Do not be afraid’ and ‘I am with you.’  The staff represents these messages.  A post-it note on the computer screen.  A treat left in the lunch bag.  A surprise party… A call on the anniversary of a loved one’s death.  A passage of Scripture read at someone’s bedside.” – Timothy S. Laniak, While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks

How does God nudge you with his staff in the darkness?  How does he make you aware he is with you?

photo by Reza Vaziri