Who is that Guy in the Mirror?

I dread looking in the mirror in the morning! I just trotted down the hall, and I’m half-asleep. I haven’t had my coffee before I stumble into the bathroom. When I flip on the light, it’s a shock. Who is that guy? From my side of the mirror, I am at the peak of life. I’m wise and good-looking, but the man in the mirror is telling me a different story. Apparently, I am not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

During the 20th century, the number of persons in the United States under age 65 has tripled. At the same time, the number aged 65 or over has jumped by a factor of 11! Consequently, the elderly, who comprised only 1 in every 25 Americans (3.1 million) in 1900, made up 1 in 8 (33.2 million) in 1994. … The “oldest old” – those aged 85 and over – are the most rapidly growing elderly age group. Between 1960 and 1994, their numbers rose 274 percent. In contrast, the elderly population, in general, rose 100 percent, and the entire U.S. population grew only 45 percent.[1]

So, what does that mean? Solomon, arguably the wisest man who ever lived, addressed this question in his last book, Ecclesiastes:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 

When we were teenagers, this text seemed to be the theme of every youth rally. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” Now I look at the second half of that verse: “before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” As I look at the old guy in the mirror, I have to disagree. These are the best days of my life! But growing old isn’t for the faint-hearted. I remember one of our elders explaining to my teen Bible class what the rest of the passage meant. It is a picture of growing old.

“… before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened, and the clouds return after the rain, 

Solomon is talking about growing old and losing our sight as we start adding up the candles on our cake.

“… in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent,” 

The Sage continues the description of growing older as we begin to stoop as our bones age. We may start to lose a few of our teeth (or at least some crowns). Solomon warns: “the grinders cease because they are few.”

I’ll let you think about the rest of the symbols of aging that Solomon shares with us:

“and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity “(Ecclesiastes 12:1 – 8).

However, before we become too depressed about growing old, I want to say: “These are the best days of my life.” I’m not ready to check-out just yet. I have a treasure trove of memories that pop up at the most unexpected times and make me smile. I’d like to think I have some hard-earned wisdom that can help me navigate the uncertain times ahead. During the Second World War, the Merchant Marine discovered something amazing. When a ship was torpedoed, and the crew manned the lifeboats, the youngsters gave up and died while the seasoned salts survived. Why? The old men’s experience and maturity filled them with hope![2]

Something else I relish is that I no longer have to prove myself continually. Like Popeye said, “I yam what I yam.” That’s another blessing! It’s okay to crawl under the table with my grandchildren and not worry about what anyone else will think of me, and I don’t have to dress to impress. I can wear my favorite shirt simply because it is my favorite shirt.

Part of the joy of growing older is I like to think I have something to share if anyone would care to take the time to ask for my advice.

But the greatest joy is knowing: the best is yet to come! We are closer to the goal than we ever have been before!

Be a Blessing!

  [1] Downloaded from https://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/statbriefs/agebrief.html June 2, 2020.

[2] The result of these studies became the basis for the creation of the British Outward Bound program.

Total Forgiveness

R.T. Kendall opens his book Total Forgiveness, by observing: “Most of us have times in our lives when we are pushed to our limits as to how much we are called to forgive.” We are afraid if we let go of a wrong, justice will not be served. Kendall continues:

When we are bitter, we delude ourselves into thinking that those who hurt us are more likely to be punished as long as we are set on revenge. We are afraid to let go of those feelings. After all, if we don’t make plans to see that justice is done, how will justice be done? We make ourselves believe that it is up to us to keep the offense alive.

The Apostle Paul told the Romans: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19).

Kendall concludes, “It is also my experience that the quickest way I seem to lose inner peace is when I allow bitterness to reenter my heart. It’s not worth it! I made a decision for inner peace. But I found that I had to carry out that decision by a daily commitment to forgive those who hurt me and to forgive them totally. I, therefore, let them utterly off the hook and resigned myself to this knowledge:

  • They won’t get caught or found out.
  • Nobody will ever know what they did.
  • They will prosper and be blessed as if they had done no wrong.”

So, as Christians, we are forced to choose between the peace of God in our hearts and an on-going vendetta against those who hurt us. Of course, there is more to forgiveness than this, but it will take a week’s worth of meditations to explore Total Forgiveness.

Something to Think About

We’ve all been hurt. People have failed us – even intentionally hurt us. Sadly, this includes some of our Christian family. This is especially true for ministers and their families. One preacher told me about having to literally load up his family and their possessions in the middle of the night and drive away. Another told me about having the front window of his home shot out by a pack of deacons! It’s easy to take up the refrain, “Gloom, despair, and misery on me! If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all! Gloom, despair, and misery on me!” Think about how learning to forgive can free us from the black hole of depression.

Be a Blessing!

The Example of Paul

The Apostle Paul is an illustration of God’s compassion and forgiveness. Once Paul had been a violent persecutor of Christians, but in an amazing display of God’s love, Jesus appeared to Paul in a blinding light on the Damascus Road and told him to obey the Gospel. Saul, the Persecutor, became Paul, the Apostle.

What does the life of Paul illustrate about God? God’s love is demonstrated by his treatment of Paul. Before he became the apostle we love, Paul was Saul, the Persecutor. His pride made him unlovable (Philippians 3:4 – 6). Worse, his actions: throwing Christians into prison and voting to put them to death, made him unlovable (Acts 8:1 – 3), but God’s love isn’t merited. God loves us despite ourselves (Romans 5:6 – 8).

God’s love is illustrated by his treatment of Paul. If anyone deserved God’s punishment, it was Paul (1 Timothy 1:12 – 14), but what would cause the Lord to be merciful to someone like Paul? The answer is found in two New Testament words.

Splanchnesthai means “to have compassion.” The word isn’t found outside of the gospels, and, with three exceptions, it is always used of Jesus. Jesus used it in three of his parables to describe the compassion of the king for the unmerciful servant, the compassion of the father for the prodigal son, and the compassion of the Good Samaritan for the wounded traveler. What moved Jesus to have compassion? He recognizes spiritual lostness. The people who gathered around him “were like sheep without a shepherd.” He knew they were hungry, and he felt their pain. Likewise, Jesus understood sorrow and wept real tears. All of this moved him to compassion.

When we are sympathetic, we feel for other people, but compassion is different. Compassion causes us to feel with other people. You might feel sympathetic with the characters in a movie, but you would never feel compassion for them. On the other hand, God feels with us. Our pain, our struggles move him. God is compassionate! He feels with us.

The second word is found in Acts 3:19, where Peter tells the crowd, “Repent then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.” We might forgive someone, but we rarely forget – not so God. In NT times, people wrote on papyrus. Since the ink contained no acid, when it was still fresh, it could be “wiped out.” However, in those days, when people fulfilled an obligation, it was “crossed out,” but when God forgives us, it is “wiped out.” Completely removed! There is no need to keep bringing up our failures over and over again. Our sins have been washed away: wiped out.

You’ve got a friend! Spend some time today, saying, “Thank you!” The attitude of gratitude is the heart of worship.

Antipas the Reliable

“I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells,” Revelation 2:13

Long before the Romans proclaimed Pergamum the capital of Asia, it had been a royal city. When Alexander the Great died, this portion of his empire was willed to his general, Lysimachus. The general left his fortune in Pergamum under the care of his trusted treasurer, Philetaerus. However, Philetaerus was anything but faithful. He absconded with the funds, proclaimed himself king, and began his own monarchy!

When the Apostle John wrote Revelation, Pergamum was one of his “Seven Cities of Asia,” and it was the only one of the cities built on a hill. The Great Altar of Zeus was built into the side of that hill and dominated the skyline of the capital. Its horseshoe shape looked like a giant throne. This gives special meaning to the words of Christ, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.” That could describe either the altar of Zeus, which looked like a throne on the hillside, or it might describe Pergamum as the capital city, the seat of the Roman government, and the attendant worship of the Emperor. Jesus also said he knew the Christians there held fast to his name. That wasn’t easy to do in the capital city. In fact, Antipas, one of the Christians in Pergamum, had recently been put to death!

We don’t know much about Antipas except he is called “my faithful witness” (Revelation 2:13). The Greek word translated “witness” is martyr. The term has become a particular English word for a witness who testifies at the cost of his life. (Tradition says he was roasted to death in the belly of a bronze bull for his faith.)

Jesus calls Antipas “faithful,” which means “being worthy of trust,” and so our devotional comes to a conclusion. What it would require for you to be a “faithful witness” for Jesus? Does your faith run “hot and cold” or are you reliable? In these days of change, we need Christians we can count on!

Gluttony!

It’s not just about food 

The greatest hurdle to understanding gluttony is to think it only pertains to food. Some people can’t have enough toys, television, entertainment, sex or company. Gluttony is about an excess of anything. 

Examples

  • Drink – Proverbs 23:29-35
  • Food – Proverbs 23:19-21
  • Drugs
  • Sex
  • Video games
  • People

It is possible to become so caught up in pleasure, whether food or fun, that we can no longer enjoy other things. It becomes addictive. Neuroscientists tell us, pleasure can actually rewire the pathways in our brains.

The key to overcoming Gluttony is to understand our life is out of balance. We enter into Gluttony when we demand more pleasure from something than it was made for.

Results

The results of Gluttony harm us physically (Addictive behavior harms our bodies), emotionally (Emotional – Addictive behavior harms our spirit) and spiritually (Addictive behavior harms our souls, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 6:19).

Overcoming Addiction

How can we overcome Gluttony? This is one sin where fellowship is especially helpful. One of Satan’s favorite tricks is trying to convince us we are the only ones dealing with this temptation. Sin thrives in secrecy! That’s why fellowship and confession are so important. You are not alone! Admit your problem and ask for help.

Likewise, recognize the power of sin. It’s not something we can handle by ourselves.

Finally, fill the void! Instead of focusing on not doing it again, focus on God’s gift. He promises us there is always a way out:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Something to Think About
Review the Seven Deadly sins: 

PEWSLAG: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, lust, avarice, gluttony then rank them:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 7 with one being the most difficult to overcome. Why?
  2. Which one is most prevalent in our culture?
  3. Which one appears the least sinful? Why?

Knowledge

  1. Define “Gluttony.” Give some synonyms for it.
  2. Paul says our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
    1. What does that mean?
    2. If that is true, how should we treat our bodies?
  3. Addictions rewire our brains. This makes it very difficult to overcome an addiction. 
    1. How do people do it? 
    2. What role does the church and fellowship play in helping people overcome addictions?
  4. How does the Holy Spirit help us wrestle with addiction?

Attitude

  • There are two schools of thought in overcoming an addiction. One says you need to distance yourself from the addiction and anybody else who has suffered from it lest you be tempted. The other says you must “own your addiction” by admitting you are powerless to resist. These people form support groups. What do you think?

Action

  • One of the most important elements of prayer is confession. Try to become more confessional in prayer this week.

Be a Blessing!

GREED!

It’s a common belief among outsiders that all preachers ever talk about is money. That’s certainly not true where I preach, but maybe it should be. If there was a modern idol competing for our devotion, it just might be the almighty dollar. Money is not the source of all evil (that honor goes to the love of money, 1 Timothy 6:10), but it certainly is the cause for a great deal of unhappiness.

The Younger Brother’s Dilemma
A young man turned to Jesus for help. “Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me,’” (Luke 12:13). The inheritance laws in those days seemed unjust (see Deuteronomy 21:17). The older brother got the family farm, and the rest of the siblings had to be satisfied, dividing whatever else was left. It seems unfair to us until you realize the consequences of dividing the farm between all of the siblings. An acre becomes half an acre, and then a quarter of an acre until there is nothing left, but to the younger brother, this didn’t matter. He saw himself as a victim.

On the other hand, Jesus could see the young man’s heart and used this as an opportunity to teach us about possessions: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed….” (v. 14).

The Parable of the Rich Fool
It’s surprising to note how many times Jesus talked about money unless we realize how prevalent a sin greed is. Do you remember the Parable of the Rich Fool, which comes just a few verses later?

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16 – 21).

There are two things to note about the Rich Fool: He never saw beyond himself, and he never considered anything past the present. (Ecclesiastes 5:15 and Job 1:21 remind us we will leave this world the same way we came into it.)

What Shall We Do?
Let’s ask ourselves some important questions. First, what does money represent to you? Freedom? Prestige? Power? The Apostle Paul says greed is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5), so ask yourself, “How can money compete with God?”

As a minister, I’ve asked elders to consider why people give to the church. Some answer, “Because they feel obligated. They joined the club, and now they have to pay the dues.” Others say: “because they are philanthropists at heart, and love to give to a good cause.” They remember the words of John: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17).

My perspective is a little different. I think there are two good reasons. First, giving should come from “An Attitude of Gratitude.” Worship at its heart is just that: an attitude of gratitude. We know Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain, but why did he offer a sacrifice at all? He was grateful!

Second, do you remember the story of Manna? (Exodus 16) No one was to try and gather more than they needed for that day. Why? God was teaching them (and us) a lesson. We need to trust in God. Are you giving so graciously it is an act of trust – an act of worship?

Do you have time for some questions?

Knowledge
1. Do you think the young man had a valid complaint?
2. Why didn’t Jesus address his complaint?
3. Define “greed.”
4. Is wealth good or evil?
5. Scripture Search:
a. Ecclesiastes 5:10
b. Matthew 6:24
c. 1 Timothy 6:10
d. Hebrews 13:5

Attitude
1. How much is “enough”?
2. Who is more concerned about money: the rich or the poor?
3. How can the love of money be the root of all evil?
4. How much should Christians give?
5. Why is God concerned about how we use our money?

Action
Burn a dollar. (Hey! It’s just a buck, but if it bothers you, ask yourself why? If it still bothers you, wait till we can go out again, put it in some poor barista’s tip jar – in addition to your regular tip. Just don’t let her see you do it!)

Be a Blessing!

Lust!

Desire vs. Lust
Sin grows from extremes. Righteous indignation becomes wrath. Confidence becomes pride. Eating to live becomes living to eat, and sinful lust[1] grows from healthy desire. It’s a good thing for husbands and wives to desire each other (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, Ecclesiastes 9:9; Proverbs 5:18-21), but lust is a different matter.

Joseph
Do you remember the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife? (Genesis chapter 39.) She is Joseph’s bored mistress. Potiphar has been neglecting her, and Joseph, her slave, is a desirable young man. The first time she tempts Joseph, the young man explains why he won’t sleep with her. This only makes the game more interesting, so Joseph takes steps to stay away from her and temptation.

One day his plans fail, and Joseph finds himself alone with her and desire. Rather than give in, Joseph jumped out the window!

A “One-woman man”
Let’s turn now to the New Testament. Most of the English versions translate one of Paul’s qualities of an elder in Titus 1:6 something like “the husband of one wife” (ASV, KJV, NKJV, ESV, NIV, NASB, RSV), but this isn’t quite right.

The Greek text of Luke 2:36 describes Anna as a “one-man woman.” Later, in Timothy and Titus, a man who wishes to become an elder must be a “one-woman man. (See the footnote of the ISV and Eugene Peterson’s translation which asks, “Is he committed to his wife?”)

This supports Jesus’ observation, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mathew 5:27, 28).
But with the pervasiveness of sex all around us, coupled with our own God-given, natural desires, how is this possible? Intense sexual attraction is notorious for obliterating common sense and intuition in the most sensible people.

Overcoming Lust
How can we resist temptation? Follow Joseph out the window! Martin Luther observed, “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair!”

Let me ask, “Who is the more skillful lover?” Don Juan, who goes from one conquest to another, or the man who satisfies the same lover for fifty years?

I’ve always admired Paul Newman’s answer. “Why have peanut butter out when you can have steak at home?” Remember, just because someone is advertising doesn’t give you the right to shop. Perhaps the most helpful advice I have heard came from science: “Nature abhors a vacuum” (See Matthew 12:43 ff.) The first monks tried to escape temptation by moving into caves in the desert. They believed they would be safe far away from temptation, but instead of finding deliverance, that’s all some of them thought about! If I tell you not to think about something, that’s all you’ll think about! If I say, “Don’t think about brown recluse spiders hiding under your house,” I suspect you will call the exterminator because that’s all you’ve been thinking about. On the other hand, if I say, “Think about how great a chocolate sundae will taste – hot fudge, vanilla bean ice cream, whipped cream, and a cherry,” then I doubt you will think about the spiders!

Finally, remember the power of the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, the Spirit lives in your heart! Focus on Him and not temptation.

Here are some questions to think about:
“What advice would you give someone who wants to be a Christian and still visit a California beach on a warm summer day?”

Knowledge

Re-Read Genesis 39 and answer the following questions.

  1. Describe Joseph (inside and out).
  2. The text says the Lord was with Joseph. How was Joseph with the Lord?
  3. Why was Potiphar’s wife attracted to Joseph?
  4. Why didn’t Joseph accept her offer?
  5. Why didn’t Joseph talk to her in the last temptation?

Attitude

  1. What can we learn about dealing with sexual temptation from Joseph?
  2. What’s the difference between “the husband of one wife” and a “one-woman man”?

Action

List some practical suggestions about how to deal with lust.

Be a Blessing!

[1] The words translated “lust” in the New Testament, epi-thu-mo (ἐπιθυμέω) and epi-thu-mia (ἐπιθυμία) mean “intense desire, longing, or craving.” That can be a good thing (See Philippians 1:23; Luke 22:15; 1 Timothy 3:1). When thinking about the sin of lust, we usually connect it with sexual desire.

Sloth is a Sin?

Sloth is a Sin? Most people are surprised to discover the ancients considered sloth a sin. We might think of laziness as a character flaw or a personality trait, but is sloth a sin? Yes. In fact, in most of the ancient lists, sloth comes first! Why?

What are the dangers of sloth?

M. Scott Peck, a social scientist who has written some of the most popular books in the field of psychotherapy says that laziness is a major cause of evil, a primary cause of psychological illness, and the main reason Americans are increasingly failing at human relations. Think about it. Love requires effort and growth. Laziness keeps us from growing, and I believe on the Judgment Day, the sins of omission will tower over the sins of commission (Ephesians 5:15, 16). Jesus told many parables about this subject. (Matthew chapter 25 alone has three lessons on sloth!)

Getting Rid of Sloth

So how can we overcome laziness? Plug into the power of the Holy Spirit! (Romans 8:11) Understand that sloth paralyzes us with indecision while one of the primary roles of the Spirit is leading. He gives direction to our lives.

I think it is also important to realize our fear of failure contributes to our sloth. “I might make a mistake,” or “I might fail,” and so we choose to do nothing. The Holy Spirit helps us realize, we are God’s children (Romans 8:15). Our Father wants us to succeed, and the Holy Spirit fills us with fire and passion (Luke 4:18, 19).

Here are some exercises to help you beat sloth:

Knowledge

Re-Read Matthew 25 and answer the following questions.

  1. Why were the five virgins “foolish”?
  2. What excuses might the foolish virgins have offered?
  3. Why did the “one talent man” do nothing?
  4. What was the sin of the people called “goats” in Jesus’ parable?
  5. Why didn’t they “see”?

Attitude

  1. Is it possible to do nothing and go to hell? Why?
  2. The “Seven Deadly Sins” are called “gateway sins” because they open the door to many other sins. For example, anger can lead to murder, and greed can lead to theft. What are some of the sins sloth opens the door to?
  3. Why are lazy people lousy lovers?
  4. How does sloth rob us of joy?
  5. How does passion counteract sloth? What are you passionate about? (Perhaps a better question would be “What should you be passionate about?”)

Action

Laziness leads to boredom and boredom leads to a world of sin. (“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”) What are some things (meaningful things) we can do to avoid boredom?

Be a Blessing!

Beware the Wrath of … (me)

Anger can destroy your marriage, your family, your job, and maybe even your life. It is without a doubt the number one destructive emotion – to others and yourself. 

Pinned to the Wall

King Saul stood head and shoulders above everyone in the kingdom. He was a success story until envy (the 2nd deadly sin) led him into anger. Do you remember the story?

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, 

                  “Saul has struck down his thousands, 
      and David his ten thousands.” 

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on. 
The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice. 

The last verse is the one that impresses me: “But David evaded him twice.” There is a lot of advice about anger in the Bible: “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools” (Eccl. 7:9) Fits of anger are “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:20). An angry man is precluded from becoming an elder (Titus 1:7). Jesus taught anger prepared a person for the fires of hell! (Matthew 5:21-24)

It seems like anger is particularly a problem for men. Look at Paul’s instructions for men and women in 1 Timothy 2 and fathers are to be careful not to “embitter” their children (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).

“Everybody gets angry!”

Yes, there are degrees of anger – including “righteous indignation” (see John 2:10 ff.), but we are talking about an evil, uncontrolled anger: allowing your anger to cause mental, physical or emotional harm to yourself or others. Technically, when anger explodes, it is called “wrath.”

Causes of Anger

If you want to deal with your anger, you must admit to yourself: your anger problems are no one else’s fault. Did you know that most abusers describe themselves as “victims”? Rule number one is “You are responsible for your actions (and reactions).”

Why do you get so angry? Could it be you are spoiled? Are you a bully? Do you force you will on everyone else? Do you how this sin is tied to the first deadly sin, pride?

Of course, there are many other reasons for anger. Injustice makes me mad! Unresolved grief is another major cause of anger. Finally, stress – the disease of our age – is another cause of anger. Recently, due to orders to remain at home during the pandemic, there has been a rise in cases of abuse, and couples who love each other dearly are finding their relationships strained to the breaking point.

Overcoming Anger

James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:19 – 21).

In other words, swap that quick fuse out for something patient. That happens when we seek the life of a disciple; when we learn to love. *

Be a Blessing!

(* Shameless plug for my new book, “The Stairway to Love” available on Amazon.com)

Pride: The First Deadly Sin

Savanarola, the great Florentine preacher of the fifteenth century, one day saw an elderly woman worshiping at the statue of Mary, which stood in his city’s great cathedral. On the following day, he noticed the same woman again on her knees before the [statue]. With great interest, Savanarola observed that day after day, she came and did homage before the statue.
   “Look how she reverences the [statue of Mary],” Savanarola whispered to one of his fellow priests.
  “Don’t be deceived by what you see,” the priest responded. “Many years ago, an artist was commissioned to create a statue for the cathedral. As he sought a young woman to pose as the model for his sculpture, he found one who seemed to be the perfect subject. She was young, serenely lovely and had a mystical quality in her face. The image of that young woman inspired his statue of Mary. The woman who now worships the statue is the same one who served as its model years ago. Shortly after the statue was put in place, she began to visit it and has continued to worship there religiously ever since.” —Tony Campolo, 7 Deadly Sins, p. 74

We teach our children to be proud, meaning we want them to strive for excellence, but there is a sinful pride that is at the root of many sins. Sinful pride is arrogant. It is the sin of exalting oneself and placing one’s interests above those of others. Pride craves admiration and even adoration, and will not share the limelight. Instead, Christians should:

“…give preference to one another in honor,” (Romans 12:10).
“…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave,” (Matthew 20:26, 27).
“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips,” (Proverbs 27:2).

The Problem with Pride

  1. Pride is a primary barrier to salvation. It makes it difficult for people to accept grace, 2 Kings 5:1-14.
  2. Pride infects Christians in a variety of ways that can spoil their commitment to Christ.
    1. “Look at what I have done!”
    2. Matthew 6:1-18
  3. Pride mars many ministries.
  4. Pride keeps us from knowing the truth about ourselves.
    1. A prideful person will never be able to face those facets of their lives that are evil and need repentance, 1 John 1:9.
    2. Christianity delivers us from the dishonesty that stems from pride.
  5. Pride ruins relationships.
    1. We would rather have people admire the selves we pretend to be than to love the selves we really are.
    2. Pride often acts as a barrier to reconciliation.
    3. Parental pride can lead to the destruction of their children.
  6. Pride can destroy a nation. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” (Proverbs 16:18).

Deliverance from Pride

The children worked long and hard on their own little cardboard shack. It was to be a special spot—a clubhouse—when they could meet in solemn assembly or just laugh, play games, and fool around. As they thought long and hard about their rules, they came up with three rather perceptive ones:

  • Nobody act big.
  • Nobody act small.
  • Everybody act medium.

Just “act medium.” Believable, honest, human, thoughtful, and down-to-earth.”  —Charles Swindol, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life,

The solution is to develop a healthy humility, but we often confuse humility with humiliation. Humility enhances our humanity and makes us more like Christ, whereas humiliation diminishes our humanity and tempts us to forget that we are made in the image of God. Healthy humility is the recognition that God has imparted to each of us, by his grace, a gift which makes us greater on the inside than most people will ever know.

So how can we be truly humble? By looking to God and cultivating an “attitude of gratitude.” That means it’s important to remember who we were “B.C.” – “before Christ” came into our lives (1 Timothy 1:15 – 17).