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.
Recently I read a story about a man and his wife that had six children. Explaining how vigorous a household of eight can be, they began to share some of the rules they enforce within the family. One specific edict, caught my attention. They called it 'Double Trouble'! This ordinance specifies that if a child overhears a command that's been given to another, and proceed to disobey, they get 'Double Trouble'. For instance, the instruction to child #1 is no cookies before dinner. Child #2 overheard the direction, but ate cookies before dinner. Therefore, Child #2 received double the punishment based on the awareness of the rule. Although he argued, 'you told Child #1 he couldn't eat cookies, not me', he deliberately disobeyed. A value aspect in life is recognizing that we each are responsible for our actions, especially if we know right from wrong.
It works the same way with our governmental laws. We didn't hear directly from the initiator of the law, but we received the information through other means, and we are responsible for the doing. A great biblical example would be Adam and Eve. Before Eve was, Adam walked and talked with God, Who gave him instructions, especially about the 'tree in the middle of the garden'. The Lord God hadn't spoken directly with Eve about that tree, but she was still responsible for what she heard that God had said.
Acting upon the Old Testament Word of God is similar. The O.T. isn't directly addressed to us, but is there for a guide and for instruction. There are many truths in it. God gave us these so that we would gain understanding of His nature, His will and direction for our life. This makes us accountable to obey regardless of the 'way' we heard. 2 Tim. 3:16 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," Avenues of hearing can be from reading it yourself or hearing it preached.
Upon my daily Bible reading, I came across this powerful truth that gave me insight to a long good life, peace, favor with God and people, direction for decisions, healing in the body and financial freedom. If you're like me, these elements are part of a daily prayer regiment. I don't know of anyone that isn't believing God for long life, favor, healing or financial breakthrough! Let's take a look at Proverbs 3: 1-10 "My son, do not forget my teachings, and keep my commands in mind, because they will bring you long life, good years, and peace. Do not let mercy and truth leave you. Fasten them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will find favor and much success in the sight of God and humanity. Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths smooth. Do not consider yourself wise. Fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Then your body will be healed, and your bones will have nourishment. Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first and best part of all your income. Then your barns will be full, and your vats will overflow with fresh wine."
This instruction from the Lord has it all! To see these things operational in our life, we must be a doer of this Word. That's our responsibility! This Word gives us five key points to activate God's promises for us, 1) Heeding and meditating on the Word of God brings a long, good life with peace. (Josh. 1:8) 2) Always acting in mercy and truth, holding them dear in our heart gives us favor and success with God and man. (Pro. 16:6) 3) Trust the Lord instead of our own thoughts allows God's to direct our steps. (Ps. 18:30) 4) Putting down pride, and making a 180 degree turn from evil brings healing to our body. (Rom. 12:16; Pro. 14:16) and 5) Honoring God by giving and tithing from our income insures that we shall never lack. (Luke 6:38)
We can no longer blame God or others for the situations in our life, we have become responsible by hearing. The truth is, consequences are the outcome of our choices. What happens to us in life isn't about the unfairness, it's about our response to His ability! Whatever arises in life, choose to respond using the Word in order to obtain His promises.
Sailing a ship in stormy weather can be hazardous unless the captain has the knowledge and expertise. High winds and enormous waves can cause the ship to sink or shipwreck. Many a vessel has been lost due to treacherous seas. Like the tempest at sea, we are living in a troubled world. However, Jesus said "...in the world you will have tribulation..." (John 16:33) Paul also wrote in 2 Timothy, "...in the last days perilous times will come." (2 Tim. 3:1) Listening to the news we can see that we live in very dangerous, risky and unpredictable days. One who does not have the Lord as his Savior, is generally fearful and fretful. Jesus is our lighthouse, illuminating the path to safety. Through His direction and knowledge from His Word there is hope. (Heb. 13:20-21 "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to who be glory forever and ever. Amen") In light of the fact of circumstances we face, let's see how our Great Shepherd is characteristic of the lighthouse to us....
Psalms 23 says, "The Lord is my shepherd;" Making Jesus the ruler of your life, places Him as your protector, and watcher of your life. A lighthouse is guidance to safety. Surrendering to Him, just like sheep do to a shepherd, allows Him to be a guide of security. Sheep know the shepherds voice and where He leads they follow, unlike goats that question and butt everything that comes against them. (John 10:4)
"I shall not want." Phil. 4:19 says, "He supplies all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." As your Shepherd, He's going to make sure you have provision for every necessity. His supply is satisfying if we follow Him, as a ship that follows the light from the lighthouse. The Bible also tells us, He will give us the desires of our heart as long as we are delighting in Him. (Ps. 37:4) In the place of every need is supply.
"He makes me to lie down in green pastures;" When sheep lie down it means they are satisfied and content. Because we are in His presence there is fullness of joy we can rest untroubled as well as at peace, "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (Ps. 4:8 & Ps.16:11) Even in the midst of a stormy sea the beacon shines to give us confidence and peace.
"He leads me beside the still waters." We can be sure He's leading us to a place of refreshment and tranquility. When we delight in His Word, as we meditate day and night will place us by the rivers of water which provides sustenance. Therefore, keeping us refreshed and prosperous, quenching our thirst. (Ps. 1:1-3 & Jer. 17:3)
"He restores my soul;" God forgives our iniquities and heals all our diseases. (Ps. 103:3) Regardless of how much we mess up, when we repent He forgives. Because of His infinite mercy and grace we are restored. The Holy Spirit gently signals us during times of struggles to escort us to the sanctuary for redemption.
"He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake." We can depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13) He will usher us in the right direction and in safety. His Name is the Lord our Righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu. Ps. 32:8 God says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." Keeping our vision focused on Him assures traveling in a sheltered course.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," Life is full of tribulations and temptations. One thing for sure, is we are going to the other side of the problem. But we must remember not to set up camp in depression or sorrow. We are more than an overcomer through Him. Especially when storms are raging, there's trust in His guidance. Pro. 18:30 "As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him."
"I will fear no evil, for You are with me;" Paul wrote, that God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7) As long as we abide in the presence of the All Mighty God, we remain in His protection and fear will not affect us. (Ps. 91) Relying on the promise of His faithfulness to never leave or forsake us brings courage and strength. (Deu. 31:6-8) Just like the light signaling lost ships gives hope.
"Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." God's Word is the instruction we need to get us through our life. In Ps. 119:105, it says, His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. That means it will point us in the right direction daily and for things to come. If we refer to the Bible everyday, it will teach, correct, and admonish us in living. (2 Ti. 3:16)
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;" God is on our side. He will contend with those who contend with us. Although there are enemies, we will not just survive, but feast in the midst of them. We come out on top of situations because of Him. Ps. 18:3 says, we can call upon the Lord, and He will deliver us from our enemies. Our trust and faith in Him, will bring peace with any adversary. (Pr. 16:17)
"You anoint my head with oil;" The anointing of oil upon the head is symbolic of blessing, protection and empowerment. We are sanctified and set apart for Him. (1 Cor. 6:11) We are chosen to proclaim the praises of God. (1 Peter 2:9)
"My cup runs over." Jesus said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, overflowing, much more than is expected or needed. This is the blessing that spills over. We are blessed!
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;" As long as we remain faithful to God's Word, we shall be in His mercy. Ps. 65:11 says, God crowns the year with His goodness, and richness overflows wherever He is. Steadfastly abiding in the Word and His presence guarantees goodness and mercy.
"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever." We have guarantee of our place for eternity when Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior. This is a promise of security in eternity.
We want to encourage you to mediate on this scripture and let it become a reality in your heart. Realize that through the Word, God has given us guidance for anything we may face. He encourages us with the promises of provision, protection, healing, blessing, and His benefits. Our failure to recognize these, believe and trust Him, and receive it, puts us at risk in these insecure days. Don't shipwreck because you reject faith and a good conscience. Keep your eyes upon Jesus and sail through to the shore. You can do all things through Him, who gives you strength. (Phil. 4:13)
If you've ever gone through, or are going through, a hard time and wondered how to break free from it, this message is for you! We've known a lot of people that have experienced hardships of all kinds. We have also undergone these 'storms', but however intense the trial, with the grace of God we overcame! Praise God for Psalm 34:19 "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivers him out of them all." If anyone thinks he is impervious to tribulations, he is wrong. Jesus said in John 16:33 "...in the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
These so called 'storms' are all a part of life, which sometimes come from our disobedience to the Lord. A good example is Jonah in the Bible. (Jonah 1-4) His disobedience caused him to undergo 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a whale. God had instructed him to go preach to the people in Nineveh. But Jonah didn't want to. Have you ever had God tell you to do something that you didn't want to do? Maybe it was because you didn't want to see God do His miracle power for someone you were upset with. It could be you were just wanting your own way. What ever the reason for disobedience, it brings a harsher intolerable condition, thus Jonah in the belly of the whale. So how do we escape from this type of 'storm'? Repentance! Asking for forgiveness and compliance with His instruction will bring you deliverance. It's the only way!
Other types of 'storms' come because we are obeying the Lord. Yes, often times the devil will cause tumultuous times because you obey God! Looking at Matthew 8:23-27 Here's a story where Jesus and His disciples got into the ship to cross the sea of Galilee. Although great (mega, intense, fierce, one scholar used hurricane proportions) winds arose and waves began overtaking the ship, Jesus fell asleep. Perhaps the 'storm' you encountered was so severe and overpowering that it caused you much fear. You may have felt that Jesus was sleeping during this drastic moment. And it seemed like there was no way out. But just like in verse 26, Jesus arose and rebuked the storm, we also need to rise up in our situation and rebuke the 'storm'. In Luke 10:19, Jesus gave us power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over ALL the power of the enemy. When we are obeying the Lord in our call, we have the right to exercise authority in Jesus Name! After that comes peace and calm.
Perhaps a 'storm' has arisen during a time you've been under the authority of a person on assignment. This could be when your at work, in school, or involved in a church. You may have tried to express a leading from the Lord regarding a matter, but they wouldn't listen. It was afterwards that all chaos broke loose, just the way the Lord showed you. Yet, now you're stuck in the mess because authority wouldn't pay attention. This same type of thing happened to Paul, the apostle, when he was on his way to Rome. Being held prisoner by authorities, he tried to tell them not to sail, because the Lord revealed to him pending disasters. (Acts 27) So how can we get out of the storm? First thing, is perseverance! We must remain steadfast in faith, in love and in the Word. Secondly, pray for all those involved, especially the leadership. God will intervene and save you and those connected.
Whatever type of 'storm' you battle, know this, there is a way of escape. Recognize that in the midst of every attack there's something to gain and victory is yours. Rom. 8:28 "We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose." Discern the storm you're facing with the Word of God and discover your way to victory to escape from the storm!
Have you ever had a serious situation that occurred and left you feeling devastated? Perhaps you were so distraught that you thought God was the cause of your problem. You may have prayed, stood in faith and believed the circumstance would turn out differently. And when it all happened, in your thinking, you thought God caused it to transpire. You may believe that you did everything right, that you were diligent and faithful, but in the end you now believe that God brought you to this place and has left you.
Many people go through life believing that God caused the mishap. And now they are mad at Him, because of a catastrophic event. It could be that you or someone you know lost their job, had their house foreclosed, got in a terrible accident, experienced an unexpected divorce or had a loved one die. All those kinds of things happen in life and are always hard to explain 'why' they happened. Truthfully, we could spend the rest of our days reviewing the issue at hand only to find we are still asking 'why', and not any closer to an answer than before.
The serious danger in harboring anger towards God, can push us past the point of finding comfort or peace. When we harbor the question 'why' and hold on to our complaint for too long, it turns into irritation, which turns to bitterness. And then our bitterness turns into rage. At that moment we will no longer listen to reproof and God's Word will not have an effect on us. We shut out any words of wisdom or consolation from friends, family, spiritual authority or the Holy Spirit. Stepping into pride - we begin to blame God.
The Bible tells of a man named Jonah who got so angry with God that he wanted God to kill him. Jonah felt he had a right to be angry all because his situation didn't turn out the way he thought it should. His rage against God made him believe life wasn't worth living.
Because of your situation, you may believe life isn't worth living or that God failed you. Let me assure you that no matter what we encounter in life, God never fails. There are reasons responsible for whatever has happened. Somewhere someone missed GodWhether we were out from under God's protection (Ps. 91), or that we just didn't have the knowledge we needed (Hos. 4:6), it's time to forgive. Understand ".... that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Rom. 8:28 NIV) At this instant, decide to put down your anger. "Lay aside anger..." (Col. 3; Eph. 4:26-32) Quit asking 'why' and begin thanking Him for His love and grace. "Trust Him with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding." (Pro. 3:5-6)
Prayer: Father, I come humbly to You asking for Your forgiveness for my anger towards You. I begin today to lay aside harsh feelings and complaints. I make a decision right now to trust You with all my heart, putting my understanding down knowing that I may never know the 'why'. And I believe that You have my interests at heart and are working all these things out for my good. I love You and praise You for Your goodness and grace. Amen!
I was recently meditating on the blessings of the Lord and reflected on a specific situation that flooded my heart with God's love and goodness. Please allow me to share this miraculous testimony. It was right after Christmas in 2003. Our youngest son, then 21, had returned home from being involved in an intern program at Washington D.C.
We had a great Christmas holiday and New Years Day was just around the corner. Early morning of New Year’s eve, he prepared to travel 2 1/2 hours to visit his then girlfriend (now wife), and her family. Being compelled of the Holy Spirit , I sat down and encouraged him to drive slower than he normally did. He indulged me and assured me he would be safe.
As our custom, we gathered around him to pray for God’s safety speaking the Word of God. We learned a long time ago, that the Word of God is powerful, stronger than any two edged sword. (Heb. 4:12) Waving goodbye, we were assured of God’s protection.
Close to the time he was to arrive, it was tempting to call his cell phone, but I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit say, he’s alright. I dismissed it and within ten minutes, we received startling news. Our son had been involved in a single car accident. Where the freeway split at an overpass, he had hit the divider barrels, bounced his car 18 feet in the air, flipped and landing upside down, sliding across four lanes of traffic. It's during these types of times, we are subject to questioning God and doubting our prayers. Yet, we must not allow any circumstance redefine what we know and believe in God's Word!
First of all it was amazing he had not hit any other cars. Secondly, it was remarkable, He was coherent and talking to the paramedics, telling them to call his dad and that everything would be alright. The paramedic, whose ambulance was 10 cars behind and seeing the accident, phoned and said he was going to be fine. Now here's where it gets interesting. Before they could arrive on the scene, our son said a man with a ball cap, helped him out of his car and sat him beside his car. When asked how he got out of his car, he explained a man helped him. However, there was no man to be seen. After hearing this, I was assured that God sent an angel to help my son. Heb. 1:14 “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
The hospital checked him thoroughly and found he need a total of 6 stitches in his head, where it was cut by glass. Praise the Lord!!!!
I just want to encourage you today to know what rightfully belongs to you. Whether it's health, safety, finances, peace, joy or whatever you need, God's Word has a promise for you. Paul wrote in 1 John 5:13-15 "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."
Get in the Word - find out His will - healing, safety, peace, joy, abundant life now and eternal life! Then proclaim it! Declare it! Believe it! It's yours!
Looking around at our country and the world we see many disturbing situations. Whether we are faced with governmental circumstances, disasters that are weather related or our own personal difficulties, they are prevalent in our society. When they are so prominent it's difficult to be comforted and easy to become fearful.
In 2 Timothy 3:1, Paul writes "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come". "Perilous Times": dangerous, treacherous, risky, all define perilous! A favorite minister of ours, Rick Renner, described this verse in this way, "perilous times - carries the idea of a person, place, action or thing that is filled with high risk." He actually said the greek expressed here is: "You emphatically must know, what I am about to tell you! In the last part of the last days, in the very end of the age, hurtful, harmful, dangerous, unpredictable, uncontrollable, high risk periods of time will come." We are, most definitely experiencing this now.
So, what can we do, you ask? Here's some helpful steps we can take:
1) Do Not fear! It says, 'Fear Not', 365 times in the Bible. Isaiah 41:10 "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
2) Trust the Lord! Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
3) Pray! 1 Timothy 2:1-2 "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." Philippians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God."
4) Take your authority! (Yes we believe in the authority of the believer) Jesus said in Luke 10:19 "Behold I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt you." Jesus also said, "Most assuredly, I say to you he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father." John 14:12
Indeed, we live in very troubled times. I suppose if one would look deeply into the scriptures one would find that there were troubled times in every generation. The extent of that trouble is only magnified in the eyes of the beholder.
We can be encouraged by looking at the heros of faith throughout the Word of God and find that although they were hard pressed on every side, they were not crushed; although they were perplexed, they did not despair; even though they were persecuted they were not forsaken; some were struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9) Consequently, we shouldn't be discouraged - if Paul can call his afflictions 'light' and realize they are short lived, we too can gain strength and inspiration from the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
If in the midst of everything, realize this, Nothing can separate you from the love of God; No difficulty, not danger, no abuse, not so much as insufficiency, no vulnerability, not high risk or even death. We must remember that even in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ, who loved us. (Rom. 8:35)
Pastors Michael & Ginny Gulotta
Pro. 11:25 "The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself."