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.
February is the 'love' month. All because of February the 14th. Focus on expressing love towards our significant other, whether just dating or married, is in high gear. Not that love isn't expressed any other time of the year, it's just a month designated to showing it. Thousands of dollars are spent on candy, flowers and gifts than in any other month. Don't you know the retailers love this month!
When I think about love, not only the love for and from my family comes to mind, I think about God. After all, He's the One that made it all possible to have family. His love far extends any other. His love is so great for us, He planned for our redemption before our very existence. Any other person would have said, "Oh, just let them go to hell, they deserve it." Yet, throughout all history, God's grace and mercy was extended, all because of His love. If you're like me, it's easy to recall to mind all the wrong actions that we committed before Christ. Regardless of the degree of sin, God in His infinite mercy forgave us when we came to Him and blessed us with innumerable benefits.
Since He gave us much grace, when we completely messed up, it only makes sense that we grant it to others that have hurt, offended, or treated us poorly. Don't they deserve the same kind of regard that God gave us? If God, can look past our immoral behavior and grant us forgiveness and love, how much more should we do for others? Despite the error of their treatment toward us and even though they spoke maliciously, forgiveness is necessary. Col. 3:12-14 says, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. and above all put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Even 1 Peter 4:8 says, "Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins."
I would suppose that everyone has had some pretty hurtful things happen to them from others over the years. And whether people embarrassed you, tried to defame your character, sent you ugly letters, called you names,or whatever the action, forgiveness is in order. During a season of very hurtful times, God explained it like this to me: "Just like the people that condemned and crucified Christ didn't know what they were doing, neither do the people that hurt you. And just like with Christ, all things work together for good...." It was at that time, that forgiveness towards my enemies no longer was just a faith statement, but became a heart statement. I could truly forgive them and release the pain to God. He then healed my broken heart and freed me from anguish of injury.
Love is more than just giving gifts to the person with whom you have deep affection. Love is what's stated in 1 Cor. 13:1-8a "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...."
Don't just read this blog with the idea that 'someone else' needs to hear this! Read this with the notion that "I" need this. Make a decision that even though you may speak with the tongues of men or of angels, in light of all your spiritual or natural knowledge, whether you have great faith or little faith, in spite of all the 'good works' you do, or all the sacrifices endured, you will care for others more than you do yourself. Resolve that you'll be satisfied with what you have, yet have faith for God's promises. Determine you will put others first, keeping control of your own actions and thoughts. Choose to never notice unfounded misconduct done to you, enduring and persevering in grace and mercy, trusting God in everything. Purpose to look for the best, insist on progressing towards the mark for the prize of God, never giving up but remaining in faith & love - because faith works by love! This is unfailing love!
Anyone out there ever made a mistake that you were embarrassed about? A bad decision or a fall into a sin? Then right after the realization that you fell short of the grace of God, remorse set in. All the repenting didn't seem to help you feel better. And the devil, who is quick to bring up past sins, guilt or condemnation was right there on your tail. Even some friends or family seem to constantly rehearse the mishap, which doesn't make the situation better. Getting past the hurt and guilt is extremely difficult. Forgiveness from yourself and those you hurt, generally seem a long time coming.
1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Of course the first thing we need to do is confess to the Lord we messed up. The second, is to ask for forgiveness. Then the scripture says, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us! That means He cleans us up. It's as if we never sinned. Now, the hard part, in our mind is, we must forgive ourself! Yes, we have to let it go, just as if we never sinned! (A word of caution, all this forgiveness and cleansing, doesn't give us freedom to sin again. Rom. 6:15) Forgiveness is not condoning the sin or even the lack of accountability, it's letting go of the anguish or resentment of the sin. It's coming to realize that Jesus himself took our sin, guilt and iniquities. Is. 53:5 NIV "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole." We can be free from pain of guilt and condemnation only by receiving it by faith from God, when we truly repent!
Now let's talk to the people that were hurt by the offense. I am reminded of the story in the Bible where, Jesus spoke to the accusers of the woman caught in the act of adultery, "he who is without sin cast the first stone". I believe that everyone of us at one time has committed a sin that affected others. I can already hear "but my sin wasn't as grave as the one committed against me"! Listen people of God, sin is sin! Lying is the same as stealing, sexual sin is the equilvalent of anger, unforgiveness is synonymous of murder. One sin is not greater than another! And if Jesus can forgive us of any sin we commit, then how simple is it that we forgive others! Holding grudges, animosity or someone hostage for their sin hurts us as much it does the one who committed the infraction. First of all it keeps us from being forgiven. (Mat. 6:14-15) Secondly, the bitterness that comes from unforgiveness keeps the blessings of God from flowing to us because we grieve the Holy Spirit. "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you." (Eph. 4:29-32)
How many times are we suppose to forgive, you ask? Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4 "Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” I know some of you are saying, 'How can I forgive this person that has done this dastardly deed against me? My feelings are hurt. Trust is broken. How do I know they won't do it again?' The answer to forgiveness is LOVE. Agape Love which is unconditional Love, like the love Jesus gave us. He forgave us even before we were born. He paid the price for our sin and forgiveness 2000 years ago. The only way to get past this hurt is by faith in the Lord. Through prayer, praying like you would for yourself and faith, forgiveness will flow. Every time you think of the pain you must forgive by faith, until one day you realize it's no longer tormenting you. That's when forgiveness is established.
If you are one of these two kinds of people I urge you to operate in the Love of God and forgive. Allow the healing power of God to come into your life and minister to you. Remember 2 Cor. 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." Trust the Lord for a new beginning. All things are possible with Him.
Prayer #1: Father, in the name of Jesus I come to you repenting for my actions. I ask for Your forgiveness and invite the Holy Spirit to help direct me and lead me in the path of righteousness. Open my ears and seal Your Word, that I may do what I have heard. Amen.
Prayer #2: Father, I come to You in the name of Jesus praying for the person that sinned against me. I forgive them as Christ forgave me. I loose them from my anger and allow the Holy Spirit to minister healing to them and to me. I ask forgiveness for anything I may have done to cause this transgression. And I choose to operate in the Agape Love towards them. Amen.
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!
Our focus will determine the direction of the heading. We can't continue to look at what was or what could have been, and expect to get anywhere. If the attention is on something that's from the past - it's easy to come to a stalemate. Living in the yesteryears only keeps us IN the past. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJ)"Not that I have already attained or am already perfected; but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." One can't run a race and reach the intended goal looking behind to where he's been.
Past hurts, failures, or even past successes can keep us bogged down and unable to move forward. No matter how much we think, about what was or what could have been, it won't change anything in the now or the future. The gift of 'today' should be enjoyed today, and the mystery of tomorrow to be prayerfully anticipated.
I realize we can learn from our past. But that doesn't mean we have to keep focused on it. Log it, learn from it and move forward. Don't camp out there. I also know there are good memories from our past that touch our heart and bring smiles, maybe even tears. However, I am aware that it's easy to remain mentally locked on a memory of a situation or person that can cause us to exist in the realm of the coulda, shoulda, and woulda's. This can be a detriment to advancing. It can cause us to take the regard that the past situation or people, were more important than the ones in our life now. Because all we think or talk about is that previous event or person, therefore, other's in our life, feel less significant.
As many of you, we have encountered some very hurtful situations over the years. But the one thing we've learned is forgiveness is crucial to moving on. And with that forgiveness, comes leaving the pain and the embarrassment behind, never to reminisce. Yet understanding we must guard our hearts and continue to walk in God's love.
We've also made some wrong decisions. It's easy to look back and say, 'sure wish we would have done that, instead of this'. That's where we come to realize that the path we went down, has brought us to the place we are now. And although other choices may have been better, we must rejoice in the Lord for His 'working everything out conforming it to His will. (Eph. 1:11) & (Rom. 8:28)
There have also been some very wonderful people in our life that are now walking with the Lord. And although we remember them with great fondness, we've discovered that the memory of their life continues to bring us joy. But we decide to focus on those living around us, whose lives are impacting us and affected by us while we still can.
This is where we must decide to allow the past to be the past and put our attention on the here and now. Why? Because God has a plan, a purpose for us. There are people we must minister to and lives we must touch. Keeping the perspective of the past will allow us "to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Have you ever heard someone say, 'he's got stalwart faith'? What is stalwart, anyway? After researching it, I found that stalwart means loyal, reliable, committed, steadfast, unwavering, dependable and steady. So stalwart faith never gives up, never gives in, always relies on and believes in the Word of God, over any circumstance. It's where we choose to believe God's Word over the evidence of the senses. (Things we feel. see, hear, or think) . It's knowing that all natural circumstances, sickness, financial woes, fears, and such are to be kept subject to the Word of God. I'm not talking about denying the circumstances, but believing God's Word and living in agreement with it. That means declaring His Word over the situation and believing that it has the divine power over it to change it. You may have a broken arm, but instead of saying "I have a broken arm", you should say, "By His stripes I am healed". That's acting on the Word, being a doer of the Word.
We must be committed, steadfast, unwavering in belief of His divine power through the Word of God, remaining steadfast to 'see' by faith His results. It's almost like the time, when you were a child and saw into the imaginary realm. You really thought that it was real, no matter what anyone else told you. That's were we need to be in our faith in God's Word. No matter what anyone says. No matter what we see. Regardless of how we feel, we just KNOW that the Word of God is ultimately the real truth with power to accomplish what it's sent to do. (Is. 55:11)
1 John 5:14-15 "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 He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."
There was a time in our life, where the powers of hell came against us. A business partner stole $60,000. As a result we were evicted from our house, our car was repossessed, our electricity was turned off, and to top it all off, we had no money to buy food. What seemed like the end, was really the beginning for God to work in our life. It took faith to forgive this person, it took faith to believe that we wouldn't be homeless, it took faith to believe that things could turn around to be better than they were. Because we held onto faith, we got a bigger and better house with no payments for 3 month and we were given a new car debt free. Within nine months we received in the mail a check for $10,396.00 and $11,670.00 a month later, from an unexpected source. All because we forgave and exercised stalwart faith in God!
You see, we need to keep our focus on the Word, rather than on the circumstance. Things can change if we stay humble and faithful to believe. Trust the Word, know that all things are possible to him who believes. (Mat. 19:26) Keep your conversation ordered aright, there's the power of life and death in the tongue. (Pro. 18:21) Choose life! Speak faith, speak the Word and Believe God!
Offense can be one of the most deadly forces against a Christians faith. Take just a minute and reflect on your life and see if there is anyone or any situation that has offended you. The possibilities of being offended right now, at this very moment, are extremely great.
We can be offended at all types of actions: drivers driving too slow or erratic, people saying or doing things that annoy us, not seated quickly enough at the restaurant, or the checker behind the counter behaved rudely. Let's face it, offense comes in many ways. And generally, offense comes because of disappointment, lack of understanding, resentment, or disagreement.
If we would take a minute to truthfully analyze any offense in our life, we would most assuredly find that there are selfish reasons behind the insult we felt. "They said something to hurt MY feelings.", "They invaded MY space.", "They didn't do what I expected or wanted.", or "They weren't listening to ME." Let's face it, offense is an extremely selfish feeling for the one being offended. I'm not saying that all the fault lies in the offended one. The people offending are hugely selfish as well. Perhaps wanting their own way, thinking of themselves higher than they ought, or totally consumed with themselves and their problems. So, what's the best way to handle offense, you ask?
#1) Be quick to forgive. We must let any offense go. It can be a root of bitterness that takes hold and keeps us bound, eventually bringing stress and sickness. Heb. 12:14-15NIV "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."
#2) Pray for the offender like you would pray for yourself. 1 Timothy 2:8 says, to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. When we truly forgive our offender, we can honestly come before God with a pure heart and clear conscience praying genuinely in agape love for them.
#3) Walk in Love. Yes, this is a biggie. 1 Cor. 13:3-8 "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek it's own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails...."
The true love of God operating in us and through us - never takes account of any wrongs toward us, behaves considerately towards everyone, doesn't wish evil on the offender, and doesn't seek to serve self. True love, God's love isn't just giving magnificent gifts or heroic self sacrifice, but it's expression of His character through us toward others. They can 'see' Him IN us!
So the next time you're challenged to be offended or offend, remember to be the expression of God.
Mother's Day, May 12th. This is the day where we give honor to Mother's. Yes, I know there are people who haven't had a great relationship with their Mom. And there are some who have never felt the love of a Mother. Yet we, for the most part, still take this time of the year to reflect on Mothers. Maybe you had a terrific Mother. The ideal woman who did everything right. That's something to praise God about, and easy to honor.
Mom's are God's extension of Love to their children. It's customary for a mother to protect, care for, love, encourage, enjoy, and pray for her children. However, I have known of some mothers who didn't display those characteristics. It's sad to think there are women who do not love or want their children.
Yet today, as we reflect on our own Mom, let us thank the Lord for all she did for us. After all, she gave us life. We're here because she birthed us. There were probably times, she made sacrifices on our behalf, doing without something for herself, so we could have. She did the best she could with the knowledge she had. Maybe her mom wasn't all that keen of a mother. Remember, back in the day, people learned by example, and if the example wasn't too good, well.... just saying. Despite her selfish attitudes or behaviors, regardless of any anger displayed, forgive her. Pain, hurt and bitterness can cause a person to behave inappropriately.
Keep in mind mother's aren't perfect. They can miss the mark and make mistakes. They can get frustrated, tired, and discouraged, just like the rest of us. If your Mom was/is like this, forgive her for her shortcomings, encourage her in your love for her. Let her know that no matter what happened in the past, today's a new day. Let me remind you, that children aren't perfect either (no matter what age they are).
And if your mother is no longer here on earth, thank God for her life and the blessing she was to you. Then find someone else's mom and bless them with kind words, a card or a special gift, in the honor of your Mom.
For all the mothers - take this day to thank the Lord God for life, yours and your children. Have confidence "of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you." Phil. 1:6Amp (And in your children) God's still working - keep reminding yourself.
Pastors Michael & Ginny Gulotta
Pro. 11:25 "The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself."