Falling into the trap of strife is dangerous. It's very easy to become offended and lash out against the one who hurt your feelings. Offense, greed, jealousy, and selfishness are the basis of strife . James 4:1-2 (Amp) says, "What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members? You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask." Conflict will build resentments, destroy relationships, and create an atmosphere of anger.
The arrogance of being right or having the last word generates controversy. We disagree over the smallest things, like: who ate the last piece of cake; the location of a store; the color of a shirt; or what was said in the last conversation. We could go on and on and you could most likely think of a few yourself. Generally that little 'thing', isn't very important and probably doesn't really matter. Believing we must have the last say or argue our belief is an expression of pride.
Families from all walks of life, have discord among the members. Some of those animosities were created years and years ago by relatives that started feuding. And, today, no one knows what that conflict was about. Holding grudges and continuing in resentments, will build a spiritual stronghold and keep people from walking in the promises and blessings of God. James 3:16 says, "For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices." If you could stop and reflect on past grievances, you would find confusion, rebellion, and all kinds of evil. Rick Renner, (Author/Pastor) described the meaning of evil like this: "The word 'evil' is from the word 'phaulos' describing something that is terribly bad or exceedingly vile. We get the word 'foul' from this Greek word. James is saying that where envy and strife are permitted to operate, thus producing confusion and anarchy in relationships, they ultimately yield a foul-smelling situation!"
So, how does one avoid strife, you ask?
First, Recognize strife immediately and refuse to participate. Philippians 2:3a (Amp) " Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance..." We must decide to lay down pride and selfishness. Love does not insist on it's own way. (1 Cor. 13) Secondly, prefer one another. Philippians 2:3b (Amp) "...Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]." Letting others express their opinion, ideas, or concerns without verbal disagreement, only demonstrates that you value their right to have a different opinion. Let's face it we're not going to agree on everything! The truth is, the Bible is the only Truth!
Beware of the dangers of strife. It can lead you down the wrong path, causing pain, sickness, heartache, bitterness, poverty, and despair. Consider, for a moment, if you've been in any "strife" situations. Take this time to ask for forgiveness from God. Repent. and decide not to do it again. Now, forgive those that were involved and let it go. As the Spirit directs, you ask them to forgive you for holding resentment. Mat. 6:14-15 "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." And Eph. 4:32 "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Choose life Not strife!
Scriptures for avoiding Strife!
Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
Prov. 13:10 Arrogance produces only quarreling, but those who take advice gain wisdom.
Prov. 28:13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Prov. 17:1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.
Prov. 26:17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
Prov. 26:21 As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
Prov. 18:6 A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.
Rom. 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
Prov. 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
Prov. 18:25 A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.
Prov. 20:3 It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.
Prov. 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
Everyone loves music. There are so many genres, it gives the listener a plethora to choose from. Even small children move and groove with the sound of songs. People wear headsets or earphones to hear their special tunes. We've got smart phones, ipods, ipads and tablets, radios, and cd's. Music stimulates us in movies, soothes us as we drive, wakes us in alarms and inspires with creativity. But more than that it's is a way that we can praise and worship God. Ps. 57:7 "My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music." Ps. 33:2-3 "Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; sing praises to Him with the harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully [on the strings] with a loud joyful sound."
It is written throughout the Bible, noting people who played instruments in the house of God, or singers (praisers) that marched out before armies. (2 Chron. 20:21) We find in Genesis that Jubal was the father of all who played the harp and flute. It was written that Moses sang a song of praise after the Exodus of the Israelites. Even Deborah, the prophetess, sang a victory song of the defeat of Sisera. The boy David, played a harp that ministered peace to King Saul. Paul and Silas sang a song in the deepest of prisons during captivity. It's written in Revelation of angels who sing continually in heaven. So we can see the all through the Word of God music is important.
In some churches, people think music is a time filler, standing or sitting to watch the musicians, never participating. Praise is an audible expression or action acknowledging gratefulness to God. We must engage in the doing of it. Ps. 71:8 "My mouth is filled with your praise and glory all day long." Ps. 109:30 "With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord; And in the midst of many I will praise Him." Notice it's MY MOUTH that's participating. I WILL, is a decision WE make to be involved.
Praise becomes more than just singing songs. It works like a plow preparing the soil of our heart, making it soft and pliable to receive the Word and His instruction. We are saying to God, 'I lay down myself, my thoughts, my fears, and MY agenda, and place You first and foremost in my heart', releasing to You authority over my life.' Praise is a condition of the heart, exalting and magnifying Him not your problems.
It is suggested that people have become 'thrill' seekers, expecting church to bring all the bells, whistles, and fireworks that the world offers. And if the music isn't as electrifying, they lose interest and fade off into a lethargic trance. To experience the power of God in any service, thanksgiving and praise always proceed. This means we must be involved.
Let me just say the Bible says, we are to bless the Lord, O my soul and ALL that is within me! It also says, that He inhabits the praises of His people. When we decide that Jesus becomes the object of praise the church will change drastically. We will begin to see a true move of His Spirit, where He actually shows up and meets needs. This means you and I must 1) Not allow emotions to dictate whether or not we praise. (Praise and worship regardless of how you feel.) 2) Be constant in repentance and forgiveness. (Sin can keep you out of the presence of God) 3) Put down fear of what others will think. (Really, they shouldn't be watching you anyway!) And 4) Open your mouth and sing out, lift your hands. (God isn't going to make you His puppet.) YOU have to do it! Love must be verbalized to be complete. Declare the praises of Him, who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light! (1 Peter 2:9-10) Let's Praise the Lord!
Trouble's all around. Our worst fears have happened. All of a sudden here we are in the midst of adverse conditions. Engulfed with thoughts of fear and defeat. Looking in every direction we find there's no way out. What are we going to do? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like what I just described?
In 2 Kings chapter 6, Elisha and his servant were in just that type of position. They awoke to find the city, to which they were staying, surrounded by the Syrian army. The servant alarmed and in a panic, reacted to the circumstance, exclaiming, "We are doomed sir, what shall we do?" (GNT)
Maybe your problems seems just like that! 'What am I going to do? How will I ever get out of this?' Observing things in the state of the natural mind can almost seem overwhelming. Pressures reveal our character, our faith, and even our dedication to the Lord. This is the moment we can decide to either be a master of the circumstance or a victim. Your predicament can be an opportunity to overcome OR a trial of struggles and defeat. True strength and character are shown in the stand during adversity. Proverbs 24:10 says, "If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small."
Back to 2 Kings, Elisha the prophet of God, said "Don't be afraid, we have more on our side then they do on theirs." I'm quite sure it didn't look like that to the servant. But Elisha saw things differently. He was looking through spiritual eyes. He saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire all around. And as soon as he prayed for his servants eyes to be opened, he also saw.
When faced with uncontrollable matters, do you see an unsurmountable obstacle? Learning to look past the problem, and see the victory that already belongs to you is key to overcoming. 1 Cor. 2:14, "But the natural man (one dominated by the soul) does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The Holy Spirit reveals the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
It is written 365 times in the Bible, "Do not fear". The writer of Hebrews wrote, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Coming to the realization that God is our defender, will strengthen our faith. Ps. 28:6-7 "Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The Lord is my strength and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him."
Praise is acknowledging what God has done, what He is doing and what He will do. When we decide to thank Him expressing praise, in the midst of trouble, we loose spiritual weapons and our breakthrough comes. (Read Acts 16:25-26) Regardless of the difficulty, God has already made a way of escape for us. All we need to do is trust Him will all our heart, lean not to our own understanding and acknowledge Him in all our ways, and He'll direct our path. (Pro. 3:5-6)
So take time right now, to lay down fear, put on faith, and praise the Lord for your deliverance from trouble. View your circumstance through spiritual eyes, because there are more with you than there are against you!
Here of late, we've been asked a lot of questions about dreams being a leading of the Lord. Truly we all dream, and find that some of them can be inspiring or enlightening. I remember a re-occurring dream I had many years ago. I would enter into an elevator alone, the doors would close, and it would move to the top floor and stop. At that point the elevator would pivot around and around, stop and then return to the floor where I began, then I would exit. I had that exact dream for over a year. Then one night as I dreamed of that elevator, it was different. I entered the elevator, along with another person, but I recognized what it was going to do. I exited and I watched as it traveled to the top floor, pivoted, and returned to the main floor, where I was standing. I wondered for years what that dream meant. Was God leading me or teaching me something?
It wasn't until years later, I discovered the meaning. I realized I was going through a difficult time in my life, as if I was living the same thing over and over. There didn't seem to be any way out. Thus the same ride on the elevator going no where, unchanging! Then after a period of time, I made some different decisions, that altered my life. That's when I recognized I didn't have to take that elevator. Conclusion: obviously this dream was derived from circumstances in my life. Dreams can be a result of several things. 1) Situations we're experiencing in our life. 2) Thoughts of worry or fear. 3) Watching a bad movie. or 4) Something we ate that didn't agree.
God can and does use dreams from time to time, but we shouldn't look to them as our foremost authority. Although we can learn from them, I don't believe that dreams are the primary leading from the Lord. For direction and leadership we can depend on the Bible. What ever we are facing within life, the Word has the answer. Ps. 119:105 says, "Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." With each step we take, the Word of God enlightens us in choosing right from wrong. Even for instruction of future events the scriptures will illuminate and give instruction. Anyone wanting to please God, live righteously and holy, will find direction in God's Word.
The Holy Spirit can help lead us into doing what is right. Ez. 36:27 " I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will keep My judgements and do them." Gal. 5:16 says, "...walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." And of course Romans 8:14, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." In these scriptures, we can see the the Holy Spirit can guide us, if we allow Him.
I know some of you would point out that many people were led by dreams in the Old Testament. Let me just say that these people didn't have the Holy Spirit nor the written Word of God for direction. Today we have both. I would encourage you to examine your dreams to see if they are the product of too many onions on your tacos, a scary show, too much concern or just things you're going through. Put more confidence in the Holy Spirit and God's Word for direction - they're a sure thing!
We are wishing everyone a very Happy Fourth of July. We live in a great country and serve a mighty God. Regardless of what is happening in America, the one thing we can depend upon is the Lord Almighty. His Word never fails and His mercies are new every morning.
America's freedom was won by the lives of many men and women over the years. Liberty costs much. Of course our thanks go out to all those that have served and are serving in the military. Thank you for helping to maintain our freedom, for the sacrifice and dedication of your service.
We thank our Heavenly Father for the freedom He gave us through His son Jesus Christ. Galatians 5:1 "It is for that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." and James 1:25 "But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives , and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."
It is important on this July 4th to reflect on the cost of freedom - paid by our Savior Jesus Christ and by the lives of others in our nation. Give thanks unto God and praise Him! Have a happy and safe day.
Pastors Michael & Ginny Gulotta
Pro. 11:25 "The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself."