Becoming

“You don’t have to be somebody different to be important. You’re important in your own right.”Michelle Obama, lawyer, university administrator, writer, and wife of the 44th President, Barack Obama. She was the first African-American First Lady of the United States.I’ve read a lot of books since the beginning of this year, but the very first book I read is one of my favorites. I wrote a blog post on it on January 6, 2019, titled, Moving Forward in the New Year.”

The book I’m referring to is Michelle Obama‘s book, Becoming.” It is a fascinating look at her life starting on the South Side of Chicago and leading to all the way to the White House and beyond. And no matter which side of the political fence you are on, the book is a memoir and not a political statement. It comes from the very heart of who Michelle Obama has become through her life experiences.

On her website for her book, BecomingMichelleObama.com, the following statement is written:

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, “Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same. (Quote source here.)

In the preface to her book written in March 2017, she writes:

When you’re First Lady, America shows itself to you in its extremes. I’ve been to fund-raisers in private homes that look more like art museums, houses where people own bathtubs made from gemstones. I’ve visited families who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and were tearful and grateful just to have a working refrigerator and stove. I’ve encountered people I find to be shallow and hypocritical and others–teachers and military spouses and so many more–whose spirits are so deep and strong it’s astonishing. And I’ve met kids–lots of them, all over the world–who crack me up and fill me with hope and who blessedly manage to forget about my title once we start rooting around in the dirt of a garden.

Since stepping reluctantly into public life, I’ve been held up as the most powerful woman in the world and taken down as an “angry black woman.” I’ve wanted to ask my detractors which part of that phrase matters to them the most–is it “angry” or “black” or “woman”? I’ve smiled for photos with people who call my husband horrible names on national television, but still want a framed keepsake for their mantel. I’ve heard about the swampy parts of the internet that question everything about me, right down to whether I’m a woman or a man. A sitting U.S. congressman has made fun of my butt. I’ve been hurt. I’ve been furious. But mostly, I’ve tried to laugh this stuff off.

There’s a lot I still don’t know about America, about life, about what the future might bring. But I do know myself. My father, Fraser, taught me to work hard, laugh often, and keep my word. My mother, Marian, showed me how to think for myself and to use my voice. Together, in our cramped apartment on the South Side of Chicago, they helped me see the value in our story, in my story, in the larger story of our country. Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own. (Quote source: Becoming,” Preface, pp. x-xi.)

One of my favorite scenes in her book is when Barack proposed to her (pp. 155-157 in the hardcover edition). It’s time to warn you of a “spoiler alert” if you’d rather read the account in the book. Here goes….

At a favorite restaurant where they were having dinner one night, at the end of the dinner Barack raised the subject of marriage and said that as much as he loved her, he still didn’t see the point. They had discussed the subject of marriage plenty of times up to that point and nothing much ever changed. She was a traditionalist and Barack was not, and neither of them would sway. But as she writes on page 156:

But still, this didn’t stop us–two lawyers, after all–from taking up the topic with hot gusto.

After a long discussion of quarreling and doing it “attorney-style”; punching and counter-punching, dissecting and cross-examining (and she states she was clearly more inflamed and doing most of the talking), their waiter came around holding the dessert plate, covered by a silver lid. Michelle writes:

He [the waiter] slid it in front of me and lifted the cover. I was almost too miffed to even look down, but when I did, I saw a dark velvet box where the chocolate cake was supposed to be. Inside it was a diamond ring.

Barack looked at me playfully. He’d baited me. It has all been a ruse. It took me a minute to dismantle my anger and slide into joyful shock. He’d riled me up because this was the very last time he would invoke his inane marriage argument, ever again, as long as we both should live. The case was closed. He dropped to one knee then and with an emotional hitch in his voice asked sincerely if I’d please do him the honor of marrying him. Later, I’d learn that he’d already gone to both my mother and my brother to ask for their approval ahead of time. When I said yes, it seemed that every person in the whole restaurant started to clap.

For a full minute or two, I stared dumbfounded at the ring on my finger. I looked at Barack to confirm that this was all real. He was smiling. He’d completely surprised me. In a way, we’d both won. “Well,” he said lightly, “that should shut you up.” (Quote source: Becoming,” pp. 156-157.)

I just love that story! It makes the romantic in me melt. The book is warm and engaging, even though I am personally at the more conservative end (I’m an Independent–neither Democrat nor Republican) of the political spectrum from the Obamas. But the book is not about politics. It’s about, as the title implies, “becoming” over a lifetime of experiences. Her book is a memoir, and not a drumbeat to a particular political point of view.

At the end of the short section I quoted above from the Preface is this sentence: “Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” While it goes without saying that most of us won’t ever come close to Michelle Obama’s experiences in this life, we still have our own story. “Becoming” for all of us is a lifetime journey filled with many twists and turns, ups and downs, high points and low points. And it is a reminder for us to never stop or give up at the rough places or low points. We should “keep on truckin'” until our last breath, and not allow the hard places or negative people we run into in life to discourage us from going on.

At the beginning of the Parable of the Persistent Widowfound in Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. Here is that parable:

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

Let that parable be an encouragement to you, and no matter what kind of situation you find yourself in, remember to…

Always pray . . .

And . . .

Never give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Miracle” by Unspoken:

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Every Day is a Gift

“Every birthday is a gift. Every day is a gift.”Aretha Franklin (1942-2018), the Queen of Soul, singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist.At the beginning of this month (May), I wrote a blog post titled, A Month Long Celebration.” Well, it is now the last day of May so the month is now ending. Today is my birthday but as birthdays go, this one has been rather subdued. I had absolutely nothing planned for today, and since I’ve been dieting since the end of April (and I’ve lost 13 lbs so far), I’m not blowing my diet on ice cream and cake.

While a birthday is a special day every year, the truth is that every day is a gift. As anyone reading my blog posts knows, I write from a Christian perspective because I’ve been a Christian since I was a young girl. As our society has become more and more secular over the decades that I have been alive, I’ve found myself wondering at times what a person who does not have any specific spiritual beliefs does when really tough times come into their lives (and tough times comes into everyone’s life at some point). I have also been surprised, especially in the past decade, how Christianity even in America today is often mocked and even visibly so by others, and that number is growing at what seems to be a fast rate.

Yesterday I published a blog post on my regular blog titled, The Ultimate Comeback, and it deals with the issue of nominal Christianity since there is a lot of it in America today. And it is the folks in the “nominal” category that are often shifting to what is now being called the Nones group who claim no particular spiritual beliefs at all (see the March 21, 2019 article titled, ‘Nones’ now as big as evangelicals, Catholics in the U.S.,” published in Religion News Service).

Folks with little or no spiritual beliefs will most likely find the rest of this blog post irrelevant, but for those of us who truly believe, I would like to share an article titled, You Can Enjoy Your Life–Everyday,” by Joyce Meyer, Christian author, Bible teacher, speaker, and President of Joyce Meyer Ministries. Here is what she wrote:

Are you enjoying the journey of your life?

The truth is, God wants you to enjoy your life every day. Did you know that? If you didn’t, or maybe you just aren’t sure whether God approves of people enjoying their lives, take a look at John 10:10. It says, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

This is an absolutely amazing scripture because it clearly tells us that God doesn’t just want us to be alive, but He wants us to enjoy being alive. He wants us to live with joy – abundant, overflowing joy!

Learning to Live the Life

My passion as a teacher of God’s Word is to help people learn how to live the life Jesus died to give us. That’s why we’ve titled our program “Enjoying Everyday Life.” And I’ve learned through my own experience that if you don’t have joy, then no matter what you have or what you do or how great your circumstances may be…it doesn’t mean much.

So how do we get the joy of the Lord? Jesus tells us in John 15 that if we will abide in Him, we will experience God’s will for our lives, and everything Jesus has will be ours. Abiding means making Jesus the most important person in your life, living and remaining in Him, and making everything in life revolve around Him. That’s when we bear the fruit of a godly life. And that’s when God’s true joy is released in us.

It’s easy to see that focusing on Jesus has so many benefits. For one, when we’re paying attention to Him, we won’t be focused on the problems in the world; and we’ll be able to live with God’s peace and joy. Another benefit of living this way is that it keeps us from being continually stressed-out, living in survival mode and just getting through the day.

Don’t Wait on “When…”

So many people have the mindset that they will be really happy and enjoy life when…when they go on vacation, when the kids are older, when they get higher on the ladder of success at work, when they get married…the list could go on and on. I can relate to this because there was a time when even though I really loved being in the ministry, I wasn’t enjoying the daily responsibilities and activities it involved. I had to learn to live in the moment and enjoy what God was doing in me and through me now, not when the conference was over or when I could go on vacation.

I really want you to get this: God wants you to enjoy your life now, not when.

I’m so thankful that we have the Holy Spirit, who lives in every believer in Jesus Christ. He is the Helper who gives us supernatural strength and anointing to live this ordinary, day-to-day life with the supernatural joy of the Lord. Nehemiah 8:10 says the joy of the Lord is our strength. And we need that strength every day.    

It’s important to understand what joy is. It’s not about entertaining yourself all the time, getting your way all the time or laughing all the time. Joy can be extreme hilarity or calm delight and everything in between! I’m a more serious person by nature, so the “calm delight” definition is usually my state of joy. But a good belly laugh is sometimes just what you need.

Good Medicine for Your Heart

The Bible says in Proverbs 17:22 that “a happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing….” Interestingly, there have been studies done that show laughter has some exciting benefits:

Laughter causes the release of endorphins, a chemical in the body that relieves pain and creates a sense of well-being.

It can raise your energy level, relieve tension and change your attitude.

It increases antibodies and strengthens your immune system.

A good belly laugh causes you to inhale more oxygen and stimulates your heart and blood circulation. It’s like internal aerobic exercise!

No wonder the devil wants to steal our joy and get us discouraged, depressed and downtrodden. Remember that the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. But we don’t have to give in to him and lose our joy.

Lighten Up!

Make a decision today to enjoy your life. If you’re too serious about everything, lighten up! Learn to laugh at yourself and the things that normally frustrate you. Remember that God loves you always. He knows everything about you and loves you anyway. We all have things about us and in our lives that need to change, but they will really only change when we’re abiding in Christ, living with the joy of the Lord.

As you go about your day today, make this your goal: Rejoice in the Lord! As the joy of the Lord gives you strength, you’ll be able to face any problems you have to deal with, and you’ll enjoy your life while you’re doing it! (Quote source here.)

And that is what I want to share with you on my birthday today for your every day! I’ll end this post with Psalm 37:3-4Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord…

And He will give you . . .

The desires . . .

Of your heart . . . .

YouTube Video: “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin:

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Waiting in the Wings

“And sure enough even waiting will end…if you can just wait long enough.”William Faulkner (1897-1962), American writer and Nobel Prize laureate.I’ve recently written on the topic of waiting in a blog post titled, The Waiting Game.” However, the subject came to mind again today while reading a book titled, Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On (1999, 2008) by Stormie Omartian, a bestselling Christian author.  She opens Chapter 12 titled, “Waiting in the Wings,” with the following two paragraphs:

Has it ever seemed like you are waiting in the wings for the next scene of your life to start? The stage is dark and you’re expecting the lights to go up and the curtain to rise. The first act may or may not have gone smoothly, but by now you’ve been on an extended intermission and you’re beginning to wonder if the second act will ever begin.

How many times in our lives have we found ourselves waiting like that? Waiting for things to change. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for life to get back to normal. Waiting for more time or more money. Waiting for the relationship to get better. Waiting for the right door to open. Waiting for the right person to come along. Waiting for somebody to notice. Waiting, waiting, waiting.  (Quote source: “Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On,” 2008 edition, p. 107.)

Sound familiar? On page 109 she writes, “Going through a waiting period doesn’t mean there is nothing happening, because when you are waiting on the Lord, He is always moving in your life.” And he is moving in your circumstances behind the scenes, too (see blog post titled, Backstage: Behinds the Scenes).

Isaiah 40:31 reminds us that “…those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” So what, exactly, does it mean to “wait on the Lord”? GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer: 

The command to wait on the Lord is found extensively throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, it is more about waiting for the Lord’s providential care, but most New Testament references relate to Christ’s second coming. In all cases, it is about waiting expectantly and with hope. Fundamental to being able to wait is trusting God’s character and goodness.

Waiting on the Lord is something the godly do. It’s about holding on tight, hoping with expectation and trust, knowing that our Lord is not making us wait just to see how long we can “take it.” There are times when God will delay His answer, and we will at times wonder why He seems so reluctant to intervene in our affairs: “I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God” (Psalm 69:3). But, knowing the Lord, we trust that He will come at the perfect moment, not a second too soon or too late.

Waiting on the Lord necessitates two key elements: a complete dependence on God and a willingness to allow Him to decide the terms, including the timing of His plan. Trusting God with the timing of events is one of the hardest things to do. The half-joking prayer, “Lord, I need patience, and I need it RIGHT NOW,” is not far removed from the truth of how we often approach matters of spiritual growth and the Lord’s will. To wait on the Lord produces character in the life of the Christian in that it involves patience (see James 1:4). Waiting involves the passage of time, which is itself a gift of God.

The word “wait” in the Bible carries the idea of confident expectation and hope. “For God alone my soul waits in silence . . . my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:15, ESV). To wait upon the Lord is to expect something from Him in godly hope, “and hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5). We wait on the Lord in a way similar to how we wait on the arrival of out-of-town relatives, with loving anticipation of seeing them again. All creation eagerly awaits God’s restoration: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:19). Those who wait for God to keep His promises will not be disappointed.

Waiting on the Lord involves being at rest in the Lord. Psalm 23 provides a lesson concerning being still. Sheep will not be at peace near rushing water, but they will lie contentedly by “still” water, and that’s where the Good Shepherd leads us (Psalm 23:2). The words “He makes me lie down” can be translated “He causes me to rest.” When we, like sheep, are still, we are resting in the Lord and trusting our Shepherd.

Being still means we have ceased from following our own agenda or ingenuity; we have stopped trusting in our own strength and will power. We are waiting upon the Lord to exchange our weakness for His strength (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). The apostle Paul had athorn in the flesh,” and, as he gains spiritual insight, he understands that the affliction is a protective suffering meant by God to keep him from sin. As a result, the apostle is content to rest in God’s grace. God does not remove the thorn; He gives Paul a place to be still in the bearing of it. Paul learned to be still and wait on the Lord.

To wait on the Lord is to rest in the confident assurance that, regardless of the details or difficulties we face in this life, God never leaves us without a sure defense. As Moses told the panicky Israelites trapped at the Red Sea by Pharaoh’s army, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). The heavenly perspective comes as we focus not on the trouble but on the Lord and His Word. When it seems God has painted us into a corner, we have an opportunity to set aside our human viewpoint and wait upon the Lord to show us His power, His purpose, and His salvation.

When we don’t choose to wait on the Lord, we solicit trouble for ourselves. Remember how Abraham and Sarah did not wait on the Lord for their child of promise; rather, Sarah offered her maid, Hagar, to Abraham in order to have a child through her. The account in Genesis 16 and 18 shows that their impatience led to no end of trouble. Any time we fail to wait on the Lord and take matters into our own hands—even when we’re trying to bring about something God wants—it leads to problems. When we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, ESV), we can allow God to work out the rest of the details.

This doesn’t mean we sit idly by as we wait on the Lord to act on our behalf. We should not spend our time doing nothing; rather, we should continue to do the work He has given us to do. Psalm 123:2 says, “As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.” That is, we should look to God with the constant anticipation and willingness to serve that a servant shows to his master. The idea of waiting on the Lord is not like waiting for the dentist in the waiting room (thank goodness!). Rather, the sense of waiting on the Lord is somewhat akin to what a waiter or waitress does in a restaurant. Our attitude and actions should be as those of a waiter anticipating and meeting the requests of the one he’s waiting on. Our waiting on the Lord is not biding our time until we finally get the service we’ve been waiting for; it’s filling our time with service to the Master, always on our feet, ready to minister.

The command to “wait on the Lord” means that we are to be near Him and attentive so that we may catch the slightest intimation of what He wants for us. We naturally think of ourselves as self-sufficient. We turn here and there and expect help from our own ability, from friends, or from circumstances. But in the spiritual life we are taught to distrust self and depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit.

Waiting on the Lord involves the confident expectation of a positive result in which we place a great hope—a hope that can only be realized by the actions of God. This expectation must be based on knowledge and trust, or we simply won’t wait. Those who do not know the Lord will not wait on Him; neither will those who fail to trust Him. We must be confident of who God is and what He is capable of doing. Those who wait on the Lord do not lose heart in their prayers: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).

Waiting on the Lord renews our strength (Isaiah 40:31). Prayer and Bible study and meditating upon God’s Word are essential. To wait on the Lord we need a heart responsive to the Word of God, a focus on the things of heaven, and a patience rooted in faith.

We should not despair when God tarries long in His response, but continue to patiently wait on Him to work on our behalf. The reason God sometimes waits a long time to deliver is to extend the goodness of the final outcome. “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18, ESV). (Quote source here.)

In an article published in 2015 titled, The Spiritual Benefits of Waiting, by Pete Wilson, president of The A Group, and the founding and former senior pastor of Cross Point Church, he writes:

God often uses waiting as a crucible in which to refine our character. Perhaps the prophet Isaiah realized this when he wrote, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”Isaiah 40:31

Faithful waiting on God makes us stronger, not weaker. Waiting is also a sign of humility. Remember that, long ago, persons of lesser rank who served nobility and royalty were said to “wait upon” them. In a similar way, they were said to “attend” their lords and rulers. Even today, the French word for “wait” is “attend.” Maybe there is something to learn here. Maybe we should think of waiting on God less as passively sitting around until something happens and more as actively attending—listening carefully for God’s voice and watching intently for evidence of His moving in our lives and in the world around us.

Now, believe me, I understand that those of you reading these words who are in the midst of waiting for a miracle or waiting for a dream to be realized or waiting to be delivered from a dark, scary place probably feel helpless. You feel as if you’re doing nothing, but you’re actually doing something very important. In fact, this waiting—this attending to God—may be the most important spiritual work you could possibly do. While you are waiting faithfully on God, you are also allowing your hope to grow up. And if you can’t be still and wait and hope—even when you have no reason to hope—you can’t become the person God created when He thought you into existence.

Spiritual transformation doesn’t take place when we get what we want. It takes place while we’re waiting. It is forged in us while we’re waiting, hoping, and trusting, even though we have yet to receive what we long for. Spiritual transformation happens in the waiting room.

Waiting also helps us learn the vital lesson that just because a dream is delayed doesn’t mean it is denied. When we continue to hope patiently and place our trust in God and in His schedule—not ours—we begin to gain the type of long-range perspective that allows us to have peaceful souls, even when the storms of life are raging about us. With God, we can wait out the storm and see the sun breaking through the clouds. When we trust in Him, we will eventually see the rainbow and the rebirth of our hopes and dreams….

Waiting and Life

So life isn’t turning out exactly the way you thought, and you have laid it before God in prayer, over and over again. You’ve taken the steps you know to take and prepared yourself to the best of your ability—and it still isn’t happening.

Is it time to move on? Is failure inevitable? And if it is, how much longer should you keep prolonging the obvious?

My bias is that, most of the time, we give up too soon. I prefer to help people see all the possibilities God may be placing before them. I am always hesitant to place time limits on God. The important thing is to continue trusting the end result to God, even when the outcomes you want are not immediately apparent.

Remember that faithful waiting—attending—involves much more than passively sticking your hands up in the air until God rains blessings down into your palms. Faithful waiting involves actively seeking contentment, even amid less-than-optimal circumstances.

Can you listen for God’s guidance, even when things aren’t going your way? Can you proactively trust Him, even when you aren’t seeing the evidence of the victory you long for?

I encourage you to keep doing the next right thing, taking the steps you know to take, without getting frustrated because you aren’t yet where you want to be. Act on the belief that God has a plan and that He is bringing it to completion in your life. Commit to being ready for that completion to occur, even if you can’t see it coming. (Quote source and entire article available at this link.)

Waiting isn’t easy but as we’ve read above, that should never be the focus of our attention as much is gained in the waiting if we don’t lose patience. I’ll end this post with Isaiah 40:31 which states: But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles . . .

They shall run and not be weary . . .

They shall walk . . .

And not faint . . . .

YouTube Video: “Wait on the Lord” by Donnie McClurkin and Karen Clark Sheard:

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Photo #2 credit here

The Road to Eternity

“Remember always your end, and that lost time does not return.”Thomas à Kempis, CRSA (1380 – 1471), German-Dutch clergyman and author of “The Imitation of Christ,” one of the most popular and best known Christian devotional books.A daily devotion I received in my email today quoted Ecclesiastes 3:11 which states: “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Eternity is not something we often think about yet it is the final destination of every human being who has ever lived and who will ever live on this planet of ours. God has not remained hidden from any of us whether we acknowledge him or not. As the apostle Paul stated in Romans 1: 16-20 (MSG):

It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”

But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

We live in an age that tells us repeatedly and in every way and form possible that truth is relative, and that it’s anything you want it to be. But that’s not true regardless of how many people might believe it (see an article titled Is Truth Relative?” at this link). For example, 2+2 always equals 4, even if we would prefer it to equal 6.

An article titled, Three Lies We Believe About Eternity,” published on the website of New Spring Church, states the following:

Science can’t locate it. Books try to explain it. Movies try to show it. Everybody wants to know about the afterlife — Is grandma in heaven? Am I going to hell? What if nothing happens when we die?

Everybody wrestles with questions about the afterlife. Sooner or later, it touches our own lives or someone we know.

Since there is so much confusion, it can be easy to believe what’s popular or feels good. But what’s convenient should never become more important than what’s true.

Here are three common misconceptions about life after death and the truth that God wants us to understand about it:

Lie #1: There’s no heaven or hell.

This view says that after our physical bodies die, that’s it. Nothing else. Humans don’t have souls that live on after we die. Or if we do have souls, they will be destroyed rather than existing in eternity.

Truth #1: Heaven and hell exist.

Everyone spends eternity in one of these places. Jesus spoke about heaven, hell and eternity many times (John 3:13-16). The Bible describes hell as a place where those who reject Jesus will endure eternal suffering and separation from God. Heaven is a place where Jesus followers live forever with God. In heaven, everything that’s wrong with this world is set right. There are no tears, pain or death. Following Jesus is the only way to experience heaven (John 14:6).

Lie #2: Good people go to heaven, bad people go to hell.

This view says people get what they deserve. Where you spend eternity depends on how good of a person you are in life. This leaves people hopeless if they’ve lived a messy life, and it leaves well-behaved people prideful about their accomplishments.

Truth #2: Bad people go to heaven, bad people go to hell.

If where we spent eternity depended on the actions in our lives, none of us would go to heaven and all of us would go to hell. Our eternal status does not depend on anything other than our relationship with Jesus.

God’s grace is big enough for everyone. Everyone’s guilty of rebelling against what God says (Psalm 14:1-3). Because we all sin, we’re all headed toward hell. But it’s only because of Jesus that anyone’s life is changed and saved.

Lie #3: There’s a heaven but no hell.

This view, sometimes called universalism, teaches that everyone goes to heaven regardless of what they decide about Jesus. It takes God out of the picture and replaces Him with a general sense of happiness.

Truth #3: Hell exists, and God doesn’t want anyone to go there.

God’s love is far bigger than a sense of happiness. His love is so big He wants all people to be saved from their sins and know Him (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

Sin hurts us and others. God would not be good if He allowed us to hurt ourselves by sinning without consequences. It would be like a young child who kept touching the hot stove while the parent did nothing to protect the child from her self-destructive behavior. God is not OK with us hurting ourselves or others. Because God is a good father, He made a way to stop the cycle of sin once and for all.

Touching a hot pot leads to burned fingers. The consequence of sin is death. When Jesus died on the cross, he took the penalty for all of our sin — past, present, and future. Because Jesus paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to enjoy a relationship with God now and for eternity. Romans 10:9 says we just have to believe.  

Don’t let the afterlife become an afterthought. Saying “yes” to Jesus means spending both now and eternity with Him. (Quote source here.)

Many of us grew up in churches where we heard the message of Jesus Christ, but we might have later rejected it as adults. And many in today’s younger generations (Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z) were not raised in a religious environment since many of the Baby Boomers (e.g., their parents and grandparents) cast off their religious upbringing for a carefree life of “do whatever feels good or right to you” and raised their kids under the same influence. Of course, there was back then as there are today cultural messages galore that heavily influence all of us to shun the shackles of religiosity.

However, it’s not about religion per se… it’s about faith in God and in Jesus Christ that transcends many notions we have about what “religion” should look, feel, or act like. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had “religion” down pat, but Jesus made it clear to them that they were completely missing the mark. However, few of them ever “got it” in the way that Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, got it (see John 3).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not complicated. In fact, it is so simple anyone can understand it–“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). And Paul states in Romans 10:8-9, “’The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

In today’s world, words like being “saved” can bring about laughter, mocking looks, rolling eyes, or remarks like “saved from what?” And there are people who might have unpleasant memories of growing up in a church or dealing with some church folks that have caused them to shun what we call “organized religion” altogether. I have some of those same memories, too, but not enough to, as the expression goes, throw the baby out with the bath water.” After all, the church is filled with regular, everyday people. However, there is a big difference between acting “religious” and having the faith to genuinely believe.

In an article titled, The Gospel Message is Pure and Simple, by Dan Rhodes, pastor at Christian Community Church, he writes:

When the Apostle John was writing there were certain false doctrines being introduced into the church. Since then, there have been many more false teachers, each attempting to add some “new revealed truth from God” that only they have been given. Most often the result is that the purity and simplicity of the Gospel message is compromised. In other words, they try to add to the requirements of salvation.

But, the Gospel is profoundly simple. It can be summed up easily, and understood by children. One of the best summaries of the Gospel is found in 1 John 3:23: “This is [God’s] command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another.” This verse is a salvation sermon with just two points: believe on Christ, and love others.

The first pointbelieving on Christ–describes the proper response to the Gospel message. Simple, child-like belief in Christ saves us from the penalty of our sin. Nothing else is required. God’s will for his Son was to become our Savior. God’s will for us is to believe in him as Savior. The Gospel message is expressed as a command because Jesus deserves to be exalted and obeyed by all mankind. He fulfilled his Father’s will perfectly, and on the cross paid the penalty for sin. He then proved his power over death by his resurrection. For his obedience and work of salvation, God the Father has exalted Jesus Christ and given him a Name which is above all names.(Philippians 2:5-11)

The second pointloving others–is not a requirement for salvation, but rather the result of salvation. God’s love is in our hearts, and we extend it to others. God loves us so much that he gave his Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior (John 3:16). It was not nails that kept Christ on the cross, it was love. This kind of overwhelming love is within every child of God. Love for others is part of the new nature the Holy Spirit puts within us when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:22). Jesus himself taught that love for others is the identifying mark of a believer (John 13:35).

Don’t believe anything that adds to God’s plan of salvation. The Gospel message is to believe in Christ, and to love others. Response and result–its as simple as that. (Quote source here.)

As I was trying to decide how to continue at this point, a “ding” on my smartphone let me know a new email had arrived, and when I looked to see what it was regarding, it had to do with what I wanted to comment on. There are always folks out there who think that believing in Jesus Christ shows some kind of “mental instability” on the part of anyone who truly believes. However, Christianity has withstood the test of time as it has been around for over two thousand years, and it will continue to last long after the naysayers are gone–for example, Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) comes to mind. Hitchens wrote many books including, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (2007). Naysayers have been and always will be out there.

The road to eternity leads in two directions. I’ll end this post with the words from John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ]…

That whoever believes in him . . .

Shall not perish . . .

But have eternal life . . . .

YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” by Third Day:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

A Month Long Celebration

“There are two great days in a person’s life–the day they are born and the day they discover why.”William Barclay (1907-1978), Scottish theologian, author, radio and television presenterMay is my birthday month, although my actual birthday isn’t until the end of the month. I like to spend the month doing little things to celebrate my birthday leading up to that actual big day. Many of the things I do, like going to a movie or eating at a favorite restaurant or buying myself a bouquet of flowers, are things I can do at any other time of the year, but they take on new meaning during my birthday month. They are all part of the celebration.

Perhaps you’re thinking that celebrating one’s birthday for an entire month is a bit, well, excessive. However, I’m not talking about doing anything necessarily out of the ordinary from what one does in any other month of the year. I suppose you could say it is about an attitude of gratefulness for having been given life in the first place.

I was surprised at the number of articles I found when I Googled “celebrating a birthday month,” but most of them came with a “to do” list of activities, and that’s not really why I celebrate my birthday all month long. I celebrate all month long as it leads up to the most important day of my existence, which is the same most important day of your own existence. We only have one day in which we were born, and that’s a rather big deal, don’t you think?

The opening statement in an article titled, The Importance of Celebrating Birthdays,” by ABM College states:

It has been said that a  birthday is just another day, why even celebrate it? On the contrary, a birthday signifies your beginning and the joy of life. Every human on earth has been given a chance to fulfill their own unique mission. A birthday is an important and momentous occasion not to be understated. It is a time to celebrate, reflect and give thanks.” (Quote source here.)

In an article published on January 6, 2019 titled, Why Birthdays Should Be Celebrated,” posted on Holidappy.com and written by Margaret Minnicks, an online writer for many years,  she writes:

birthday is a day that comes once a year, and it should be celebrated for several reasons. A birthday is a time when a person acknowledges the anniversary of his or her birth. In most cultures, birthdays are celebrated in some of the same ways. Often, birthdays are celebrated with a gift, party, or some other special act. There are reasons birthdays should be celebrated.

Your Birth Was Your Beginning

Your birth was the beginning of your life. God created you to serve a purpose in this world. Every time when you have a birthday, it is an indication that you still have work to do for the Kingdom of God. Your birthday is a sign that you have another chance to fulfill your unique mission.

So a birthday is a momentous occasion, to be commemorated just as a nation commemorates its birth or as an organization celebrates its founding. A birthday is much more than an occasion to receive gifts. Your birthday is a chance to remember the day that a major event occurred, to celebrate and give thanks and to reflect upon how well you are still alive to celebrate the day you were born.

Celebrating Your Birthday Is an Expression of Thanks

A birthday is a time to celebrate birth itself. It is an expression of thanks to God for being born and still being alive. It is also an occasion to rethink your life. It is a great time to reflect on the past, evaluate your present and make plans for your future. It is a time when your past intersects with your present and future.

A Birthday Is a Chance for a Refresher

A birthday is not only a time to think about your birth, but your birthday is also a time to think about your rebirth. To recall your birth is to recall a new beginning. No matter how things went yesterday, or last year, you always have the capacity to try again. Your birthday is a refresher, a chance for regeneration; not just materially, but spiritually.

New Mercies on Your Birthday

To reach another year is an achievement to have lived another year.You have another year’s worth of blessings to thank God for. Think of how much of God’s air you have consumed during the year. Think of how many nights God allowed you to lie down and sleep and how many mornings He has awakened you with brand new mercies. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Acknowledge Your Existence

When you celebrate your birthday, you acknowledge your existence on this earth. No matter in what kind of family you were destined to be born, you are here to live your life to its fullest. Celebrating your birthday is a way to thank God that He allowed you to be born and to see another’s birthday.

Bond With People on Your Birthday

Birthday celebrations are great ways for your family and friends to bond with you, if they choose. Usually people make a special effort to be nice to you on your birthday. Birthday presents are good, but a wish that comes from the heart is worth all the presents in this world from those who love you. It truly is the thought that counts.

Celebration Ideas for Your Birthday

Birthday celebrations do not mean that you have to have a big party every year. Sometimes people do have parties to celebrate what they call “the big one” such as turning 30, 40, 50, 60, or 70. A simple dinner with your family or a few close friends usually is all it takes to make a person happy and feel appreciated. Greeting cards are always welcome as well as a telephone call.

So, celebrate your birthday each yearIt is always good to be acknowledged that you exist in the earth. Receive it in good faith when others are willing to help you celebrate your birthday with you. (Quote source here.)

I came across the following Birthday Prayer (author unknown) which is a good way to end this post on celebrating birthdays:

Thank you, God, for giving me another year of life.
Thank you for all the people who remembered me today
by sending cards, and letters, gifts and good wishes.

Thank you for all the experiences of this past year;
for times of success which will always be happy memories,
for times of failure which reminded me
of my own weakness and of my need for you,
for times of joy when the sun was shining,
for times of sadness which drove me to you.

Forgive me for the hours I wasted,
for the chances I failed to take,
for the opportunities I missed this past year.
Help me in the days ahead to make this the best year yet,
and through it to bring good credit to myself,
happiness and pride to my loved ones,
and joy to you. Amen. (Quote source here.)

And Happy Birthday to any of you reading this post who might be celebrating a birthday soon. If it was not for our birthday, we would not even exist. That makes it a very important day, indeed!

And to everyone reading this post, I’ll end it with a blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV): The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you…

The Lord turn his face toward you . . .

And give you . . .

Peace . . .

YouTube Video: “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

In Praise of Introverts

“Introverts live in two worlds: We visit the world of people, but solitude and the inner world will always be our home.” Jenn Granneman, author of the bestselling book, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, and creator of IntrovertDear.com.I get my energy internally from solitude and not from external stimulation such as being in a crowd, which is a key trait of introverts. I have no problem being alone as I can fill that time with many interests. However, I don’t mind being around people, either, and I find it relatively easy to start conversations even with strangers (such as clerks in stores or people in public settings). Some famous introverts include Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt, J.K. Rowling, Warren Buffet, Mahatma Ghandi, Michael Jordan, Meryl Streep, and Elon Musk (source here).

The Myers-Briggs Foundation defines extrovert and introvert as follows:

C. G. Jung applied the words “extrovert” and “introvert” in a different manner than they are most often used in today’s world. As they are popularly used, the term extroverted is understood to mean sociable or outgoing, while the term introverted is understood to mean shy or withdrawn. Jung, however, originally intended the words to have an entirely different meaning. He used the words to describe the preferred focus of one’s energy on either the outer or the inner world. Extroverts orient their energy to the outer world, while Introverts orient their energy to the inner world. One of Jung’s and Isabel Myers’ great contributions to the field of psychology is their observations that Introversion and Extroversion are both healthy variations in personality style. (Quote source here.)

Introverts tend to get a bad rap. Lifehack lists 16 misconceptions regarding introverts: (1) they are shy; (2) they are unemotional; (3) they don’t like working in groups; (4) they don’t like talking; (5) they are scared to look you in the eye; (6) they are poor public speakers; (7) they just want to be left alone; (8) they over-analyze everything; (9) they don’t like to go out in public; (10) they are high strung; (11) they are underachievers; (12) that they can break out of their shell and become extroverts; (13) they are rude; (14) they are no fun; (15) they don’t make good leaders; and (16) extroverts are happier than introverts (source here).

None of those items listed above are true, although I must admit that #8 tends to be something I do tend to do (e.g., over-analyze everything). As I was looking for information on the Internet on introverts, there is a treasure trove of information out there. One particular article of personal interest I found on IntrovertDear.com, published on April 18, 2019, is titled, INFJ: 9 Reasons You’re Still Single,” by Jenn Granneman, creator of IntrovertDear.com, who is the author I quoted at the top of this post. However, since the focus of this article is rather narrow, if you are interested in reading it you can read it at this link.

In another article on IntrovertDear.com, published on July 7, 2017, and titled, 7 Distinct Advantages Introverts Have Over Extroverts,” by Jetta, a freelance writer, artist, and blogger, she lists the following seven advantages:

At times, it can seem like a severe disadvantage to be an introvert. Extroverts appear to have all the fun, and their gregarious, attention-seeking personalities often allow them to reap promotions, popularity, and recognition. Introverts, on the other hand, may get passed over and have their valuable work go unnoticed. Their preference for quiet observation can sometimes be a detriment to their success in this dog-eat-dog world.

Despite this, there are many areas in which introverts have a leg up on extroverts. Many of today’s most successful people are introverts, such as J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg, and Mark Zuckerberg.

But introverts not only have the ability to rival extroverts professionally, they also possess a number of distinct advantages over them. Here are seven areas in which introverts shine more than their extroverted counterparts. These points may not apply to every introvert and extrovert (we’re individuals, after all), but I believe they are generally true.

The Advantages of Being an Introvert

1. Introverts are low maintenance.

While introverts may be judged for their lack of participation, they’ll hardly ever be accused of being obnoxious, needy, and disruptive. Because introverts value their space, they tend to naturally respect that of others. They’re largely independent and not clingy, and they’re generally more inclined to be polite and considerate of the impact of their behavior on others. They tend to think before they speak, whereas extroverts may blurt the first things that come to mind.

2. Introverts tend to be creative and original.

While extroverts may adopt the values of the group and what is mainstream and popular, introverts tend to have their own preferences that are less influenced by trends. They may gravitate towards things that are obscure, unusual, or downright strange. Because they spend more of their time on their own, away from the places extroverts commonly occupy, they’re apt to develop perspectives, ideas, and insights that are unorthodox and novel. The introverted theoretical-physicist Albert Einstein once stated, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

3. Introverts are shrewd.

Because of the way they’re wired, introverts are predisposed to exercising caution and deliberating thoughtfully before making a decision. This propensity for deliberation puts them at a greater advantage when it comes to things like critical thinking, problem solving, and assessing the character of another person. Because they spend more time reflecting and observing, they’re liable to accrue a deeper understanding of various aspects of life, including human behavior. This may contribute to greater judgment in business or penetrating insight as a psychologist. Introverts like to take their time to reflect on and process a decision properly so that they can choose the best course of action that they won’t later regret.

4. Introverts are generally better listeners.

The “quiet ones” tend to really listen and consider the ideas and feelings of others. In conversation, they may take mental notes and focus intently on what people are trying to express—as opposed to simply waiting for their chance to speak. Because they process things deeply, introverts are naturally more receptive and interested in taking in information than divulging it. This is why people often confide in introverts—and they are good at keeping secrets. Many introverts understand how difficult it is to open up and trust people, so they may work hard to be more trustworthy themselves.

5. Introverts are able to really focus.

Since introverts give less attention to socializing than extroverts, they devote more attention to other things. They have the ability to cloister themselves away from the rest of the world and bunker down to accomplish a task or objective. Provided there are no disruptions, they can deeply immerse themselves in solitary activities like research or writing for extended periods of time. Often, the temptations that compete for the extrovert’s attention hold no power over the introverted mind. Their ability to concentrate often allows them to become experts and highly proficient in many fields of interest.

6. Introverts cultivate deep connections with people.

Introverts prefer quality of relationships over quantity. Extroverts are more inclined to rack up a bounty of personal connections, but many of them will be casual in nature. Introverts are more discriminating in who they allow into their world, so the relationships they do form will be cherished and nurtured. The introverted personality has little interest in shallow interactions and instead prefers to establish relationships that they find meaningful and deep. They’ll invest more effort into cultivating a small number of stronger connections than a large number of surface-level associations. As a result, they’re better able at surrounding themselves with people who are trustworthy and loyal to them.

7. Introverts are more independent.

Many extroverts insist on teamwork and being a team player. Because introverts are more private, they’re inclined to cultivate a lifestyle that maximizes autonomy and self-sufficiency. Whenever possible, they prefer to work independently, and they require less supervision than most extroverts. Managers can trust them to carry out a task without being derailed or distracted by socializing. Many introverts loathe being dependent on others, and they feel empowered in being able to deal with challenges relying solely on their own merit. (Quote source here.)

In an article published in 2017 on Psych2Go.net titled, 10 Strengths of Being an Introvert,” here is that list of those ten strengths:

Susan Cain, the author of the international best seller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking lists the ten strengths of introverts.

Ten strengths of being an introvert are:

1. Quiet Temperament

Cain says that introverts have a quiet temperament which is their hidden superpower. I agree with Cain. Just because introverts are not great socializers, it doesn’t make them less powerful publicly. People with quiet temperaments have been great achievers and leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln (Cain, Mone and Moroz, 2016).

2. Creativity

As introverts spend a great deal of time in solitude, ideas spring in their minds during such a time. Right from the CEO of Apple Tim Cook, to the creators of “Cat in the Hat” (Dr. Seuss) and “Harry Potter” (J.K. Rowling) – all forms of creativity have sprung from the minds of the introverts! (Cain, Mone, and Moroz, 2016). 

3. Thinkers

Introverts are great thinkers, and most of their monologue occur in their minds. They take the time to think, think and think just the way others take the time to watch TV or listen to some music. Their quiet time, when they think a lot, it is also space for them to dream, plan, deal with their disappointments or frustrations; handle their fears or battle with their problems (Kahnweiler, 2013). Their constant thinking helps them to become better problem solvers and to rationalize and make decisions. They think through every single aspect that crosses their mind. 

4. Preparation

Introverts are good in preparation whether it comes to doing work, handling a task, or even communication, they “really” prepare. Preparation enables introverts to be ready for any kind of situation (Kahnweiler, 2013). At work, preparation helps them to do their jobs efficiently. When it comes to communication, preparation enables them to say the right things at the right time. Instead of talking a lot of things, they tend to say what is required by using the right words. 

5. Listening

Listening is one of the best qualities and strengths of the introverts. Since they tend to talk less, they listen more. They give a lot of importance to others’ non-verbal communications or body language (facial expressions, gestures, postures) and to the tone of communication. Their listening capacity helps them to be sensitive to others. They believe in engaged listening giving the space and opportunity for others to talk. 

6. Prioritizing

Introverts are good in prioritizing work, their daily schedules and the people in their lives. Since they take time to prioritize, they tend not to mismanage any of their tasks. As realists, introverts do not believe in handling too many things at the same time. They are realistic about what they can handle and what they can’t (including people). Hence they tend to prioritize their work, schedules, communication with people and social interactions ensuring that it produces satisfactory results. 

7. Focus

When it comes to focusing, introverts do the best. Kahnweiler (2013) rightly puts it “introverts seek depth over breadth.” This quality in them helps them to focus keenly by diving deep, whether it is work or relationships or knowing people. Because of their ability to focus deep, their ability to think critically, organize and make plans and implementation of the plan is done by getting into details. 

8. Role Model

Introverts are quiet role models. Leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi who were introverts lead their nations by being quiet influencers. They have stood as role models for others to follow without putting themselves at the center. What has attracted people to these quiet influencers is their modesty, quietness, gentleness, and warmth towards people. Introverts stand out as quiet influencers because they don’t use any approach to win people or adopt strategies to make others do their bidding (Kahnweiler, 2013).  

9. Stretch

Though introverts are always labeled as closed type personality with little room for socialization or getting out of their comfort zone, they do stretch at times and can come into the spotlight (Cain, Mone, and Moroz, 2016). They are like the rubber bands who pop out when required only to go back to their real self. Their ability to stretch and not be rigid is one of their strengths.  

10. Writing

Writing is the most natural and best strength of an introvert. Writing causes them to be free in their mind and being. It’s like a booster to them to write all they think freely and bring out their thoughts uninterrupted and honestly. Writing helps them to think through, refine their plans, generate breakthrough ideas and solutions which otherwise could have been difficult (Kahnweiler, 2013). As Kanhnweiler (2013) emphasizes that writing “pushes the brain to think longer, harder, deeper and more unconventionally than it normally would” which fits the introverts’ personality. (Quote source here.)

References:

Cain, S., Mone, G. and Moroz, E. (2016). Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts. New York: Penguin Books.

Kahnweiler, J.B. (2013). Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference. California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

The way I see it, there are a lot of advantages to being an introvert! So don’t let the world keep you down if you are an introvert, too. And remember that . . .

Still waters . . .

Run . . .

Deep . . . .

YouTube Video: “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

All Things Are Possible

“I dwell in possibility”Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), one of America’s greatest and most original poets of all time.Just what is meant by the term “all things” in Mark 9:23 and Matthew 19:26? All of us at some point have circumstances or situations that come up that we’d like to see changed, yet, too often, they don’t change or they change in a way we were not hoping for, yet most of us who consider ourselves to be Christians believe that God can do all things including what seems to be impossible.

I came across an article on CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) titled, What does it mean when the Bible says ‘with God all things are possible?‘” by Jared Wellman, a writer  at CARM since 2010, and Pastor at Mission Dorado Baptist Church. He states:

This question refers to a statement made by Jesus in Matthew 19:26 and its counterpart Mark 10:27. The totality of His statement was, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  The question is best answered by looking at the context of the statement, which, beginning in Matthew 19:16, consists of a conversation between Jesus and a young rich ruler. The keys to purely understanding the statement hinge first on what Jesus meant by “this,” and second, what He meant by “all.” Whatever “this” was is impossible with man, but with God, “all” is possible.

The scene opens up with a rich young man coming to Jesus asking Him “what good things he should do to inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:16). Jesus’ response is important because He begins to attack the young man’s understanding of “goodness.”  Jesus declares that only the Father in heaven is good. This of course was not a disclaimer of His own deity, but a lesson to His special audience that no one is good except for God. Continuing His discourse with the young man, Jesus then said, “but if you wish to enter eternal life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).

Because he still did not understand, the young man’s response to Jesus was to receive a “laundry list” of commandments that he needed to follow in order to receive eternal life.  Jesus replied by listing five commandments that all deal with human relationships (Matthew 19:18-19). This is important because He was making a distinction between having faith in the law (or in his own abilities) and having faith in God; that is, the difference between the law and grace. The young man thought that the law could save him, but Jesus knew that that was impossible. As John MacArthur has written, “Jesus was trying to impress on the young man both the high standard required by God and the absolute futility of seeking salvation by his own merit. This should have elicited a response about the impossibility of keeping the law perfectly but instead the young man confidently declared that he qualified for heaven under those terms.” “All these things I have kept,” said the young ruler (Matthew 19:20).

Even after the young man failed twice to acknowledge his self-righteousness, Jesus continued to try to expose the sin in his heart. The young man asked, “What am I still lacking?” (Matthew 19:20) Jesus replied, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). At this, the young man “went away grieving for he was one who owned much property” (Matthew 19:22). 

At least two sins were revealed here: First, the young man was not as blameless as he thought he was because he was guilty of loving himself and his possessions more than his neighbor (which was a broken commandment according to v.19), and second, he lacked true faith which requires an unparalleled devotion to Jesus. This is when Jesus called over His disciples to teach them a lesson.  He said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). The disciple’s response was, “Then who can be saved?” or, “Then how is it possible for anyone to be qualified to enter the kingdom of God?” (Matthew 19:25)

This is where the famous and oft quoted verse comes in, which is the inspiration for our question. Jesus replied, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). This answers our first contextual issue, for we can now see that the “this” concerns salvation. It is impossible for man to save himself by his own merits, or for the law to grant eternal life. The grace offered only by Jesus Christ is necessary. The question now is, “What did Jesus mean by ‘all things?’” 

This part of the question concerns God’s omnipotence, or, His power. It is important to understand that omnipotence does not mean that God is capable of doing anything including the irrational or imperfect. There are things that God is incapable of doing, such as lying or denying Himself (Hebrews 6:182 Timothy 2:13Titus 1:2). Because God cannot do certain things, however, does not mean that He is less God because the things that He cannot do would actually take away from His perfect nature. Instead, omnipotence refers to God’s power, which is unlimited (Job 11:7-1137:23Revelation 4:8).  That is, God can take the things that are impossible to man, and make them possible because His power is unlimited, while ours is limited.  The context of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:26 is a perfect example of His unlimited power because while it is possible for man to be saved, it is impossible for man to accomplish the goal on his own. God’s unlimited power is needed to make the possibly impossible, possible.

Scripture is full of verses that portray God making the possibly impossible possible.  When Abraham and Sarah were awaiting the promise of a son, even after they were well past child bearing years, God told them, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) In the book of Numbers when the Israelites were complaining to Moses about food, the Lord told Moses that he was going to feed over 600,000 people for an entire month. Moses was skeptical, but God said, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23). In the book of Job, after forty-two chapters of trials, Job was able to answer God and say,I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). Jeremiah said, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jeremiah 32:17). Finally, in Luke 1:37, in foretelling the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel told Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

It is easy to get hung up on the word “all,” but it is best to remember that the context of this statement is in reference to salvation. God made a way when the way was impossible for us. This is what it means that “with God all things are possible.” (Quote source here.)

In a second article titled, Is it really true that ALL things are possible with God?” GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:

While God can do anything He wishes to do, God will not do things that would be against His holy will or contradictory to His purposes. He can commit no sinful act, for example, for He is completely holy, and sinning is not in His character.

Some will still ask, shouldn’t anything be possible for an omnipotent deity? An example may help:Can God make a stone so heavy He can’t lift it?This question contains a paradox: if the Lord is so powerful He can make a stone of infinite weight, how would it not be possible, given His mighty power, for Him to lift it? Yet, since the stone is of infinite weight, how would it be possible for Him to lift it? The answer is that God will not deny Himself, which is the case here. It seems He would not even consider such an idea, for He would be pitting Himself against Himself, a foolish act having no value in His kingdom purposes.

It is worth noting that we see throughout the Bible that God is omnipotent—all-powerful—not equaled or surpassed by anyone or anything. In discussing God’s making a dry path in the mighty Jordan River to allow the safe passage of His people, Joshua 4:24 says, “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” Similarly, Jeremiah 32:26-27 relates,Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?’” Continuing, in Hebrews 1:3, we see, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” These verses and others show that all things within God’s will are possible for Him.

The angel in Luke 1:36-37 said to Mary, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” Some ask that, if “nothing is impossible with God,” does that mean I can run faster than a car or leap a tall building in a single bound? It is perfectly within God’s power to make those things possible, but there is nothing in Scripture that indicates it is God’s desire to make them possible. Something being possible for God does not obligate Him to actually do it. We must be thoroughly familiar with Scripture so that we can know what is God’s desire and what He has promised, and thereby know what God will make possible in our lives.

When we consider all of our heavenly Father’s mighty supernatural works throughout the Bible, we see that He indeed is capable of moving human events along the continuum of time, in spite of things seemingly impossible, all for His glorious purposes. (Quote source here.)

In an article written during the Christmas season titled, All things are possible with God,” by Angela R. Jones, Senior Pastor of The Greenhill Church and Christian Outreach Ministries, she writes:

…Today, I want to encourage you to hold on to your faith and believe that things impossible for man are possible with God. He can do the impossible because He is the all-powerful, invincible, all-knowing, infinite, faithful and everlasting God. He is Spirit, and He has supernatural power to move the impossible and see the invisible.

Let me comfort you with these words found in Romans 5:1-5 (Living Bible):

“So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us — they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it, until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Lessons from trials build your character. Hold on with faith in God that all things will work out for your good. The believer’s hope is different from the hope in the world. Spiritual hope can be described as positive expectancy with confidence and assurance that God will uphold His promises, even when you cannot see the outcome. It is an inward possession of trust in the power and goodness of God working in your life.

The believer’s hope is deeper than positive thinking or speaking. As believers, we know that what we hope for will surely come to pass because of the one we have placed our hope in. Hope for many lies in what they can see or do. They may or may not be able to get what they long for because of human limits. Therefore, people lose hope because they are trusting in the limitations of themselves and in other human beings. But God has no limits. He can breathe life into your dead situation.

There are three characteristics of hope that I pray you will carry with you as you move into the new year:

1. Hope believes in the unseen.
2. Hope presses through trials.
3. Hope relies on the power of God.

Beloved, hold on and keep the faith because there is hope for the hopeless. God has no limits. (Quote source here.)

And since we are on the topic of “all things,” let us not forget Romans 8:28 which states: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And remember that with God . . .

All Things . . .

Are . . .

Possible . . . .

YouTube Video: “Turn It Around” by Israel Houghton and New Breed:

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A White Flag Day

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. —Isaiah 55:8A couple of hours ago I published a blog post on my other blog titled, Between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, since this upcoming week is Passion Week (it’s available at this link). However, I still had the urge to “blog on” after I published it, so here I am for “Round Two”; however, the subject won’t be on Passion Week or Easter.

I read a short devotion this morning in book titled, Experience the Power of God’s Names (2017), by Dr. Tony Evanspastor, speaker, author, widely syndicated radio and television broadcaster, and founder of “The Urban Alternative.” He stated the following on page 97:

It’s human nature to respond to a situation by trying to alter the circumstances or change other people. We quite naturally put ourselves at the center of the problem, and we base our responses on feelings and emotions. but attempting to operate from our own limited perspective and understanding doesn’t usually work out well.

When we believe something is unfair, we should refrain from jumping to conclusions and taking matters into our own hands. Instead, we need to remember the God is always in control. He is Jehovah Elohim Tsaba, the Lord God of hosts, and He will always defend us and allow us to rest in His care.

Through our relationship with the Lord, His strength is made available to us. His forgiveness, grace, and mercy help right our wrongs. And when we choose to honor Him, He rewards us with His peace and His presence.

We don’t have to come up with our own solutions. We are never left alone to fight our own battles. And we’re never expected to retaliate when things aren’t going our way. Even if we have been mistreated or overlooked, we need to resist the temptation to strike back or get even. We should keep the love of God in our hearts and look to Him to right any wrongs that have occurred in our lives and bring repentance to those who have wronged us. (Quote source: Experience the Power of God’s Names,” page 97.)

Most likely we all have some unanswered questions regarding our circumstances that we’d like for someone to answer. I know I do. As Dr. Evans stated above, God is always in control, and God’s control extends everywhere to everyone and in all situations, and our understanding is vastly limited compared to his. Isaiah 55:8-11 states:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow

    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

God’s bigger picture goes way beyond our own set of perplexing circumstances, but that doesn’t mean He’s not intimately involved is what is going on in every detail of our lives and in this world. But we have to yield to God–we must yield our control to him. He didn’t make us robots; he gave us a will. We can deny him, live life on our own terms, and/or relegate him to Sunday mornings, Bible studies, etc., while keeping the rest of the week for what we want to do. That’s not yielding.

Another word for yielding is surrender. In answer to the question, What does it mean to surrender to God?” GotQuestion.org gives us the following answer:

This world is a battleground. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:17-19), the world God created has been in conflict with Him (Romans 8:20-22). Satan is called the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and due to Adam’s sin, we are born on his team (Romans 5:12). John Bunyan pictured this conflict in his allegory “The Holy War.” Prince Emmanuel besieges the city of Mansoul to wrest it from the power of Diabolus. Unfortunately, the citizens of Mansoul are blindly committed to Diabolus and fight against Emmanuel, to their own detriment.

When we reach the age when we can make moral choices, we must choose whether to follow our own sinful inclinations or to seek God (see Joshua 24:15). God promises that when we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). When we find Him, we have a choice to make: do we continue following our own inclinations, or do we surrender to His will?

“Surrender” is a battle term. It implies giving up all rights to the conqueror. When an opposing army surrenders, they lay down their arms, and the winners take control from then on. Surrendering to God works the same way. God has a plan for our lives, and surrendering to Him means we set aside our own plans and eagerly seek His. The good news is that God’s plan for us is always in our best interest (Jeremiah 29:11), unlike our own plans that often lead to destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Our Lord is a wise and beneficent victor; He conquers us to bless us.

There are different levels of surrender, all of which affect our relationship with God. Initial surrender to the drawing of the Holy Spirit leads to salvation (John 6:44Acts 2:21). When we let go of our own attempts to earn God’s favor and rely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we become a child of God (John 1:122 Corinthians 5:21). But there are times of greater surrender during a Christian’s life that bring deeper intimacy with God and greater power in service. The more areas of our lives we surrender to Him, the more room there is for the filling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we exhibit traits of His character (Galatians 5:22). The more we surrender to God, the more our old self-worshiping nature is replaced with one that resembles Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Romans 6:13 says that God demands that we surrender the totality of our selves; He wants the whole, not a part: “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” Jesus said that His followers must deny themselves (Mark 8:34)—another call to surrender.

The goal of the Christian life can be summed up by Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Such a life of surrender is pleasing to God, results in the greatest human fulfillment, and will reap ultimate rewards in heaven (Luke 6:22-23). (Quote source here.)

If you get as frustrated as I sometimes do with my own set of circumstances, why not make this a white flag day and surrender to Jesus and let him have complete control again, or for the first time….

You’ll be amazed . . .

What He . . .

Can do . . . .

YouTube Video: “Gracefully Broken” by Matt Redman ft. Tasha Cobbs Leonard:

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Be Still and Know

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”Psalm 46:10In our fast-paced and frenzied society, it is hard to be still for any length of time, isn’t it? GotQuestions.org gives us the meaning behind the psalm as follows:

This verse [Psalm 46:10] comes from a longer section of Scripture that proclaims the power and security of God. While the threat the psalmist faced is not mentioned specifically, it seems to relate to the pagan nations and a call for God to end the raging war. Here is the whole psalm:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Notice that the majority of the psalm is written in the third person as the psalmist speaks about God. However, God’s voice comes through in verse 10, and the Lord speaks in the first person: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Be still. This is a call for those involved in the war to stop fighting, to be still. The word “still” is a translation of the Hebrew word “rapa,” meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” In some instances, the word carries the idea of “to drop, be weak, or faint.” It connotes two people fighting until someone separates them and makes them drop their weapons. It is only after the fighting has stopped that the warriors can acknowledge their trust in God. Christians often interpret the command to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.” While quietness is certainly helpful, the phrase means to stop frantic activity, to let down, and to be still. For God’s people being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help (cf. Exodus 14:13); for God’s enemies, being “still” would mean ceasing to fight a battle they cannot win.

Know that I am God. Know in this instance means “to properly ascertain by seeing” and “acknowledge, be aware.” How does acknowledging God impact our stillness? We know that He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (all-powerful), holy, sovereign, faithful, infinite, and good. Acknowledging God implies that we can trust Him and surrender to His plan because we understand who He is.

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. It was tempting for the nation of Israel to align with foreign powers, and God reminds them that ultimately He is exalted! God wins, and He will bring peace. During Isaiah’s time, Judah looked for help from the Egyptians, even though God warned against it. Judah did not need Egyptian might; they needed reliance on the Lord: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

When we are still and surrendered to God, we find peace even when the earth gives way, the mountains fall (verse 2), or the nations go into an uproar and kingdoms fall (verse 6). When life gets overwhelming and busyness takes precedence, remember Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Run to Him, lay down your weapons and fall into His arms. Acknowledge that He is God and that He is exalted in the earth. Be still and know that He is God. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on August 13, 2018, titled, What is the Meaning of the Verse ‘Be Still and Know That I Am God’?” by Liz Kanoy, Senior Editor at Salem Web Network, she opens her article with the following two paragraphs:

“Be still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10, is a popular verse for comforting ourselves and others—many people tend to think this verse means to rest or relax in who God is. This verse does encourage believers to reflect on who God is, but there is more to this psalm than one verse—and verse 10 is actually more of a wake-up call to be in awe than a gentle call to rest. Taking time out of our day to meditate on Scripture and be silent with listening ears toward God is mentioned in other sections of Scripture (Psalm 119:15, Joshua 1:8, Luke 5:16, and others). But this command—“Be still…”—is written in the context of a time of trouble and war; therefore, we should consider the verse with that context in mind.

Instead of interpreting “be still” as a gentle suggestion, the meaning in this psalm lends itself more to: “cease striving” or “stop” and more specifically in this context “stop fighting,” which is directed toward the enemies of the people of God. The people of God should interpret the command for themselves to read more like: ‘snap out of it,’ ‘wake up,’ ‘stop fearing’—acknowledge who your God is—be in awe! However, it is good to note that there’s nothing wrong with the words in the translation “be still;” those words are not incorrect, it is simply helpful to note the context of the phrase. Verse 10 has something to say to both the enemies of God and the people of God, but it is the people of God the psalm is written to. Verse 1 starts, “God is our refuge and strength” (emphasis added). The Psalms are for God’s people. (Quote source here.)

In a June 29, 2017, article titled, How Do We Rest in God? 3 Lessons from Psalm 46,” by Dr. David L. Allen, Dean, School of Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he writes:

Where do you run for refuge when life gets overwhelming? What truths to do you turn to? I have always loved Psalm 46. How often I have read, quoted, or shared with someone in a counseling situation. As I have been reading the CSB over the past months, I have enjoyed seeing this familiar psalm in a new light—it’s been reminding me of how this psalm can redirect our efforts and help us rest in God. Here’s what I mean:

1. Stop Your Fighting

Psalm 46:10 is rendered in the CSB as “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”

“Stop your fighting” is somewhat unique among translations of this verse. Many Bible translations render the imperative as “Be still.” This is then applied along the lines of “we need to come aside from the hustle and bustle of daily life and get alone with God.” Certainly that is true, but there’s more going on this verse.

Since verse 10 falls in the third and final strophe of the Psalm, verses 8-12, the context of those verses is important for understanding verse 10. Notice how verses 8, 9, and 11 reference some aspect of war and fighting. The traditional translation of “be still” appears too tame for this context. “Stop your fighting” fits the context better.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that I may not only be fighting the Lord’s battles, but I may be fighting against the Lord Himself! There comes a time to lay down your arms and know that He is God—He will do as He wills with me and with the other guy.

Psalm 46 begins with the words: “The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” This means that you and I can stop fighting in our own strength and rest in Him.

2. Take Refuge in God

[Martin] Luther’s ramshackle cart wobbled its way to Worms, Germany, in April of 1521. He had been summoned to appear before the Emperor and Catholic prelates to give an account of this new “heresy” he was teaching called “justification by faith alone.” The learned Johann Eck laid out all of Luther’s writings and then asked Luther if he was prepared to recant.

Luther retired to his room that night to think over his answer. His Bible fell open to Psalm 46. Luther returned the next morning to stand before his detractors. In response to their call to recant, Luther responded:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

The Reformation was off and running.  

Psalm 46 was Martin Luther’s favorite Psalm. During the dark and dangerous periods of the Reformation, Luther would turn to his trusted friend Philip Melanchthon and exclaim: “Let’s sing the 46th Psalm, and let the devil do his worst!” It inspired his great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”  

No Psalm in all the Psalter expresses the tremendous truth that God’s presence and power are with us in all circumstances more than Psalm 46. We need to know God offers us two kinds of help: a stronghold into which we can flee and a source of strength by which we can face the uncertain future.  

3. Pause and Think About That

Psalm 46 is divided into three stanzas, each ending with the mysterious Hebrew word “Selah.” “Selah” was most likely originally a musical notation indicating a pause in the music for contemplation on what was just sung. You might translate it “Pause and think of that!”  

When the mountains quake, the Lord is my refuge and strength… Selah! When nations are in uproar and kingdoms fall, the Lord almighty is with us… Selah! “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations… the Lord of Armies is with us… Selah!”

Every new year brings us 365 days of uncertainty. Every new day brings us 24 hours of uncertainty. But every second of every hour of every day, God’s presence and power in our lives is available to us. What does the future hold? It really doesn’t matter, does it, as long as Psalm 46 is true! His Kingdom is forever! So, every day, let’s reflect on Psalm 46:10 or on another passage of Holy Writ and “Selah!”—pause and think of that!(Quote source here.)

With that in mind, why not take some time today to…

Be still . . .

And know . . .

That He is God . . . .

YouTube Video: “Be Still and Know” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

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The Upside of Anger

“Explain your anger, don’t express it, and you will immediately open the door to solutions instead of arguments.”Author UnknownI bet you didn’t know there could be an upside to anger. I didn’t know until I started researching the subject. We are taught from the cradle up that anger is bad, yet we live in a culture where anger is on display everywhere, everyday. Just turn on the TV or watch a movie; or better yet, get on a social media site online. Anger is being expressed everywhere, all the time. And there is a lot of unspoken anger in body language and eye contact, too. Wow, talk about a picture painting a thousand angry words. We live in an angry culture.

Handling anger is an important life skill, but most of us don’t handle it well. An angry outburst can destroy relationships and cause all kinds of damage that is often irreparable both to ourselves and to others. So what do we do when anger builds up and we don’t know what to do with it?

GotQuestions.org gives us some insight on the subject of anger from a biblical perspective:

Christian counselors report that 50 percent of people who come in for counseling have problems dealing with anger. Anger can shatter communication and tear apart relationships, and it ruins both the joy and health of many. Sadly, people tend to justify their anger instead of accepting responsibility for it. Everyone struggles, to varying degrees, with anger. Thankfully, God’s Word contains principles regarding how to handle anger in a godly manner, and how to overcome sinful anger.

Anger is not always sin. There is a type of anger of which the Bible approves, often calledrighteous indignation.” God is angry (Psalm 7:11Mark 3:5), and it is acceptable for believers to be angry (Ephesians 4:26). Two Greek words in the New Testament are translated as “anger.” One means “passion, energy” and the other means “agitated, boiling.” Biblically, anger is God-given energy intended to help us solve problems. Examples of biblical anger include David’s being upset over hearing Nathan the prophet sharing an injustice (2 Samuel 12) and Jesus’ anger over how some of the Jews had defiled worship at God’s temple in Jerusalem (John 2:13-18). Notice that neither of these examples of anger involved self-defense, but a defense of others or of a principle.

That being said, it is important to recognize that anger at an injustice inflicted against oneself is also appropriate. Anger has been said to be a warning flag—it alerts us to those times when others are attempting to or have violated our boundaries. God cares for each individual. Sadly, we do not always stand up for one another, meaning that sometimes we must stand up for ourselves. This is especially important when considering the anger that victims often feel. Victims of abuse, violent crime, or the like have been violated in some way. Often while experiencing the trauma, they do not experience anger. Later, in working through the trauma, anger will emerge. For a victim to reach a place of true health and forgiveness, he or she must first accept the trauma for what it was. In order to fully accept that an act was unjust, one must sometimes experience anger. Because of the complexities of trauma recovery, this anger is often not short-lived, particularly for victims of abuse. Victims should process through their anger and come to a place of acceptance, even forgiveness. This is often a long journey. As God heals the victim, the victim’s emotions, including anger, will follow. Allowing the process to occur does not mean the person is living in sin. (Quote source and complete article at this link.)

Whether it’s the long term unresolved anger as described above, or the immediate anger of road rage, and our general impatience at having to endure anything we don’t like for longer then three seconds, anger is a major problem in our society today.

In an article titled, Anger Management: Your Questions Answered,” by the Mayo Clinic staff, they state:

Anger isn’t always bad, but it must be handled appropriately. Consider the purpose anger serves and the best approach to anger management.

Anger itself isn’t a problem—it’s how you handle it. Consider the nature of anger, as well as how to manage anger and what to do when you’re confronted by someone whose anger is out of control.

What is anger?

Anger is a natural response to perceived threats. It causes your body to release adrenaline, your muscles to tighten, and your heart rate and blood pressure to increase. Your senses might feel more acute and your face and hands flushed.

However, anger becomes a problem only when you don’t manage it in a healthy way.

So it’s not ‘bad’ to feel angry?

Being angry isn’t always a bad thing. Being angry can help you share your concerns. It can prevent others from walking all over you. It can motivate you to do something positive. The key is managing your anger in a healthy way.

What causes people to get angry?

There are many common triggers for anger, such as losing your patience, feeling as if your opinion or efforts aren’t appreciated, and injustice. Other causes of anger include memories of traumatic or enraging events and worrying about personal problems.

You also have unique anger triggers, based on what you were taught to expect from yourself, others and the world around you. Your personal history feeds your reactions to anger, too. For example, if you weren’t taught how to express anger appropriately, your frustrations might simmer and make you miserable, or build up until you explode in an angry outburst.

Inherited tendencies, brain chemistry or underlying medical conditions also play a role in your tendency toward angry outburst.

What’s the best way to handle anger?

When you’re angry, you can deal with your feelings through:

  • Expression. This is the act of conveying your anger. Expression ranges from a reasonable, rational discussion to a violent outburst.
  • Suppression. This is an attempt to hold in your anger and possibly convert it into more constructive behavior. Suppressing anger, however, can cause you to turn your anger inward on yourself or express your anger through passive-aggressive behavior.
  • Calming down. This is when you control your outward behavior and your internal responses by calming yourself and letting your feelings subside.

Ideally, you’ll choose constructive expression—stating your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

Can anger harm your health?

Some research suggests that inappropriately expressing anger—such as keeping anger pent up—can be harmful to your health. Suppressing anger appears to make chronic pain worse, while expressing anger reduces pain.

There’s also evidence that anger and hostility is linked with heart disease, high blood pressure, peptic ulcers and stroke. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, The Upside of Anger: 6 Psychological Benefits of Getting Mad,” by Dr. Jeremy Dean , British psychologist and founder/author of PsyBlog, he writes:

We tend to think of anger as a wild, negative emotion, but research finds that anger also has its positive side.

There are all sorts of good sensible, civilized reasons to avoid getting angry. Not only does it make you feel bad, it makes you do stupid things without noticing the risks and it can be self-destructive.

As a result civilized people do their best to suppress, redirect and mask their anger. Most of us treat our anger as though it’s unreasonable, unshowable and unmentionable. But like all emotions anger has its purposes, which can be used to good effect.

1. Anger is a motivating force

You sometimes hear people talking about using anger as a motivating force by ‘turning anger into positive energy’. In fact anger itself is a kind of positive energy and a powerful motivating force. Research has shown that anger can make us push on towards our goals in the face of problems and barriers.

In one study participants were shown objects they associated with a reward. Some, though, were first exposed to angry faces. Those shown the angry faces were more likely to want objects they were subsequently exposed to (Aarts et al., 2010).

When we see something as beneficial, we want it more when we’re angry. So, when used right, constructive anger can make you feel strong and powerful and help push you on to get what you want.

2. Angry people are more optimistic

It may sound like an odd thing to say, but angry people have something in common with happy people. That’s because both tend to be more optimistic.

Take one study of fear of terrorism carried out in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In this study those experiencing anger expected fewer attacks in the future (Lerner et al., 2003). In contrast those experiencing more fear were more pessimistic about the future and expected further attacks.

3. Anger can benefit relationships

Anger is a natural reaction to being wronged by someone else and it’s a way of communicating that sense of injustice. But society tells us anger is dangerous and we should hide it. What does this do to our personal relationships?

Oddly enough research has shown that hiding anger in intimate relationships can be detrimental (Baumeister et al., 1990). The problem is that when you hide your anger, your partner doesn’t know they’ve done something wrong. And so they keep doing it. And that doesn’t do your relationship any good.

The expression of anger, if justifiable and aimed at finding a solution rather than just venting, can actually benefit and strengthen relationships.

4. Anger provides self-insight

Anger can also provide insight into ourselves, if we allow it. A sample of Americans and Russians were asked about how recent outbursts of anger had affected them (Kassinove et al., 1997). 55% claimed that getting angry had lead to a positive outcome. On top of this one-third said that anger provided an insight into their own faults.

If we can notice when we get angry and why, then we can learn what to do to improve our lives. Anger can motivate self-change.

5. Anger reduces violence

Although anger often precedes physical violence, it can also be a way of reducing violence. That’s because it’s a very strong social signal that a situation needs to be resolved. When others see the signal they are more motivated to try and placate the angry party.

If you’re still not convinced that anger might reduce violence, imagine a world without anger where people had no method for showing how they felt about injustice. Might they jump straight to violence?

6. Anger as negotiation strategy

Anger can be a legitimate way to get what you want. In one study of negotiation participants made larger concessions and fewer demands of an angry person than one who was happy (Van Kleef et al., 2002).

So there’s some evidence that anger can be used as a negotiation strategy, but it’s more complicated than that. You can’t just lose your rag and expect to win everything you want.

Anger is likely to work best when it’s justified, if you appear powerful and when the other side’s options are limited (Sinaceur & Tiedens, 2006Van Kleef et al., 2007). In the right circumstances, then, it’s possible to both get mad and get even.

Deadly sin or constructive emotion?

I say anger can reduce violence, benefit relationships, promote optimism and be a useful motivating force, but it can just as easily be destructive.

That’s the wonder of human emotions: happy isn’t always good and angry isn’t always bad (although it may feel that way). An unhappy person is also more likely to spot mistakes and an angry person is highly motivated to act. We need reminding that even scary and dangerous emotions have their upsides, as long as they are used for the correct purpose.

The likely features of constructive anger are:

    • that the person who caused the anger is present,
    • that it is justified and proportionate to the wrongdoing,
    • and it is expressed as the first step in trying to solve a problem rather than just venting bad feeling.

People seem to unconsciously understand the benefits of anger. One study found participants who were about to play a game requiring them to be confrontational were more likely to listen to angry music beforehand or think back to things that have made them angry (Tamir et al, 2008). They then went on to perform better in the task because they felt more angry.

Used right, anger can be a handy tool. But use with caution as people find anger the most difficult of all the emotions to control. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, The Last Word on Anger,” by A.C. Grayling, a British philosopher and author, he writes:

“Angry men are blind and foolish,” Aretino wrote, “for reason at such times takes flight, and in her absence anger plunders all the riches of the intellect.” When given expression it plunders all the goods and fruits of peace too, and is indifferent to the suffering of bystanding innocents. The angry man’s desire is to vent his heat, to appease himself by doing harm, not pausing to consider whether the greatest harm will eventually accrue to himself rather than his opponent. And when anger drives, such is the usual outcome.

The ancients debated anger extensively. For the Stoics it was an emotion of weakness, to be quelled as part of building self-mastery and detachment. In a sequence of three carefully considered “Moral Essays”, Seneca analysed anger, “the most hideous and frenzied of all the emotions”, and urged the classic Stoic remedy: the restraint of the heroic mind. Failing that, he said, “there are two rules: avoid anger if you can, and if you cannot, in your anger do no wrong”.

Others saw anger as an emotion capable of great power and good effect if wisely directed. “It is easy to fly into a passion,” Aristotle remarked, “anyone can do that; but to be angry with the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, in the right way, with the right aim; that is not easy.” His view is that knowing how to be appropriately angry is an essential part of the moral life – providing that it does not overthrow reason and become merely destructive in consequence. “A man that does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good,” is Beecher’s modern Aristotelian gloss.

But in vitriolic conflicts there is neither appropriateness nor proportion, so the arguments of history and justice become lost in vengeance. Rabidly angry men want only to fight; they want to inflict anguish on their enemies, and then obliterate them. It is hard to imagine, even if great-souled people stood up on both sides and agreed peace and a modus vivendi, how such hurt could be assuaged. “No man is angry that feels not himself hurt,” Bacon said, and the trouble is that adversaries have invariably become such because of hurts, real or perceived.

Each side in an angry conflict, of course, wishes to win. But what would winning involve? Hard men think it involves breaking and trampling the enemy, killing him or driving him away either geographically or into a psychological diaspora of submission. But it takes scarcely any thought, so long as it is calm thought, to see that victory is never achieved until anger subsides and both sides gain at least some of their aims. (Quote source here.)

With all of that being said on the topic of anger, the bottom line on the subject is found in the last statement in A.C. Grayling’s article above (not noted in the above quote) that is found in Proverbs. 16:32. I will end this post with that verse: He who is slow to anger…

Is better than the mighty . . .

And he who rules his spirit . . .

Than he who takes a city . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Christian’s Guide For Anger Management” (12:01) by Columbus Cody III:

Photo #1 credit here
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