WHO IS CAUSING THE QUARRELS IN YOUR LIFE?

4 minute read

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1 NIV)

Our biggest fights are with ourselves.

Internal conflict is a universal struggle.  Nothing illuminates the ultimate acceptance of mortality more than COVID.  No one likes to think about death, but this virus makes us all think about it.  Accepting the fact, when it’s your time, it’s your time is hard.  But just because the realization is difficult doesn’t make it any less real.  Our battle is in the acceptance of the truth.

A few weeks ago, one of my best friends and I were discussing death.  As I shared my struggle with her, she confirmed the truth.  “When it’s your time, it’s your time.”  I told her I know; her next words are what I’ve thought about since.  “But you don’t believe me.”  She was right; I didn’t believe her.  Why don’t I believe her?  At this point, my answer is: “Because I don’t want to.”  I don’t want to accept the truth.  Instead, I want to change the answer, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t.

Accepting truth isn’t admitting defeat.

Our internal struggles diminish as we learn to accept God’s truth.  Lessening our inner battles allows us to find peace.  Finding peace isn’t losing the fight; it’s gaining victory in God.  As we lean into His word more, we trust His ways.  Acknowledging God has a plan for our lives, and it’s better than any we could devise, gives Him control.

People fear COVID because they fear death.  Trusting God means understanding; He overcame death.  Jesus’s actions on the cross are what gives us eternal life.  Eternity is here; we’re already in it.  When we die, our physical bodies may no longer breathe, but our Spirit is with God.  Our eternity began the moment we accepted Christ into our lives.  If God calls us home, we’re just changing addresses.  Eventually, we’re all together again. But when it’s your time to move, it’s your time to move:

“Help us to remember that our days are numbered, and help us to interpret our lives correctly. Set your wisdom deeply in our hearts so that we may accept your correction.” (Psalm 90:12 TPT)

COVID reminds us of our limitations.  Instead of living in fear, embrace today.  Remember Paul’s words:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 NIV)

Our stay on earth is pre-determined by God.  While we are here, He has a purpose for us.  We are to live life to the fullest (John 10:10 NIV).  When we achieve our goal, He calls us home.  The mortality rate is 100% on earth, eternal life 100% in heaven.

Stop quarreling internally.  Accept God’s truth.  Live life to the fullest.

Question of the Day:

What truth do you need to accept today?

Further Reading: Ezekiel 40:28-41:26 NIV, James 4 NIV, Psalm 118:19-29 NIV, Proverbs 28:3-5 NIV

HOW IS FAITH AND ACTION WORKING IN YOUR LIFE?

4 minute read

“You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:22 NIV)

Faith causes action.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t work your way into heaven.  Time and again, I’ve heard people say, “I’m a good person; isn’t that what matters most?”  The truth is, none of us are good people.   If you’re honest, sometimes the beneficial things we do for others benefit us more than they do them.  All of us, at some time, have manipulated people.  Did you ever tell your mom how pretty she looked (or some other compliment) so that you could get what you want?  Or prepare a fancy meal for your spouse to soften him up for some request you have.   Maybe, you dropped off baked goods to a friend, hoping for a favor in return.  We all have done nice things to meet our ends; none of those actions produces faith.

When we experience the freedom that comes from obedience to God, our faith causes us to produce good works.  Because I have faith in God, I read His word.  Studying His word, then applying it to my life, causes me to do something.  I take risks I would never take because I have faith, no matter what, God loves me.  Even if I bumble and fall or people reject me, God doesn’t abandon me.  He takes my messes and makes them into His victories.  He will do the same for you.

Faith opens pickle jars.

Last week, during the prayer group, we discussed this question.  “Would you ask the Hulk to open a pickle jar?”  Theoretically, you wouldn’t.  But sometimes, I do need the Hulk to do the small things because, on my own, I can’t.  Some days, the hardest thing to do is get out of bed.  Only with the strength of the Hulk can I take the next step.  And the Hulk, God, always shows up.

“And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15 NIV)

Faith in God gives us the strength to open the pickle jar.  Because we believe in a bigger God than any problem we will face, we can do the hard stuff.  Forgiving someone who hurt us profoundly requires action.  God gives us the ability to forgive because He first forgave us.  When we have faith, God forgives us; we forgive others.  Without faith, we stay stuck in the offense, unable to move forward.   Forgiveness frees us more than the offender.  Letting go is taking the next step to a healthier tomorrow.

Christ-followers follow Jesus because of faith.  We do what Jesus did because of faith.  Belief comes before action.

Question of the Day:

How has your faith prompted you into action?

Further Reading:Ezekiel 39:1-40:27 NIV, James 2:18-25 NIV, Psalm 118:1-18 NIV, Proverbs 28:2 NIV

HOW THESE THREE THINGS CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

4 minute read

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20 NIV)

Life change happens when we are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

Nothing will change your life faster than closing your mouth and listening.  Truly hearing what someone else says requires skill.   You cannot talk and listen to someone at the same time.  Shut your mouth, tune in your ears, and pay attention.  Stop assuming you know what they are going to say because you don’t.  After they stop speaking, repeat back to them what they said, ensure you understood them.  If not saying anything is difficult for you, put your hand over your mouth to help keep it closed.  Do whatever it takes to listen quickly, speak, and anger slowly.

Listen more, speak less.

You can’t regret what you don’t say.  If God wants something spoken and you don’t say it, He’ll give you another chance.  Err on the side of caution when using words.  Less is more.  Don’t finish people’s sentences for them; allow them the privilege of speaking for themselves.  Even though you think you know everything, you don’t.  Agreement isn’t necessary.  Relationships that don’t see eye to eye on everything are possible.  Learning to love those who are different is part of life.

Sometimes, we don’t let others speak because we are afraid of what they will say.  God’s love drives out fear:

“We know the love that God has for us, and we trust that love . . . because God’s perfect love drives out fear.”  (1 John 4:16,18 NCV)

Trust God’s love for you no matter what the situation.  Just because a conversation is difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen.  No matter how uncomfortable the words, God’s love stands strong.  Verbalizing hard emotions allows healing to begin.  Sometimes, we’ve caused the pain with our actions; listening to that feedback hurts.  But you can listen, not speak and not get angry.  Instead, let God’s love guide your response.  Take responsibility for your part in the pain, then work towards a healthy resolution.

Darrin Patrick, ex-lead pastor of Journey Church and chaplain for the St. Louis Cardinals, lost his position because he abused his power.  Part of his restoration process was listening to the people he hurt.  For two days, Darrin sat and said nothing as person after person described the pain caused by his words and actions.  Not until the second day did he realize the problem was him.  Only when he stopped talking and started listening did he learn the lesson.

Quick to listen.  Slow to speak.  Slow to anger.  Let these things change your life.

Question of the Day:

What of these three things are most challenging for you?

Further Reading:Ezekiel 37-38 NIV, James 1:19-2:17 NIV, Psalm 117:1-2 NIV, Proverbs 28:1 NIV

PAY ATTENTION TO THE FLOCKS IN YOUR LIFE

4 minute read

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds;” (Proverbs 27:23 NIV)

People are the flock.

Whoever surrounds you in your daily life, that’s your flock.   The human race contains all people of all skin colors, all ethnicities, all types.  All of us are part of God’s children.  When Jesus died for the sins of the world, He meant everyone.  Therefore, whoever is in your circle, is part of your flock. Whether they choose God, that’s a different topic.

The annoying co-worker, part of your flock.  Your family member who is like nails on a chalkboard to you, part of the herd.  Applying God’s word to these relationships is hard work.  Knowing the condition of those who annoy us helps us love them.  Sometimes, those conditions are issues that are, as my husband says, above our pay grade.

Mental illness needs professional help.

As I’ve grown in Christ, I’ve learned about mental illness, including my own.  Each of us, in some way, has issues invisible to the naked eye.  Lies we internalize and believe aren’t visible to people.  Our perspectives skew, depending on the fallacies.  Some issues are from situations.  I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression ever since my mother and nephew died.  Some days are harder than others for me.  Few people see us at our lowest, but we all are down at times.  Gratefully, God is a God of healing; in Him, I’ve overcome.  God used counseling to help me find victory.

Therapy has a bad rap.  People misunderstand a counselors purpose.  My counselor helped me understand the behaviors and thoughts that were hindering my life.  She helped me discern between my problems and my predicaments.  Problems are solvable; predicaments are not.  Therefore, solve the problems, cope with the predicaments.  Somethings I needed to solve, somethings I learned to manage.

When you see a friend in pain, recognize your limits.  Understand you are not their Savior; Jesus is.  Instead, gently point them to someone who can help them.  Sometimes, the best help you can give someone is getting them into counseling.  Talking to someone objective about your life allows a deeper level of honesty.  Knowing what is said in those sessions truly stays in those sessions develops trust.  We all have crazy thoughts in our head; verbalizing them to someone who won’t judge us is liberation from them.  They have a perspective no one else has.

In June of 2014, my car was T-boned by a taxi in Fairfax, VA.  Not until I entered counseling five years later did I understand that day’s impact on my life.  Anxiety had taken root that day, trying to steal my joy.  Only with counseling did I recognize this fact.

Know the condition of your flock.  Know your limits so you can help them best.

Question of the Day:

How’s your flock doing today?

Further Reading: Ezekiel 35-36 NIV, James 1:1-18 NIV, Psalm 116:1-19 NIV, Proverbs 27:23-27 NIV

YOU NEVER KNOW WHO YOU’RE ENTERTAINING

4 minute read

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)

Angels are amongst us.

One angel I met was a gentleman in college.  On my commute home from class one day, I accidentally ran into his car.  I have never forgotten his kindness.  He immediately recognized I was a broke college student.  Even though the accident was my fault, he didn’t charge me with the crime.  His car damaged more than mine, yet he didn’t make me pay.  Instead, he showed me kindness and let me go.  To this day, I do not know his name.  Sometimes I wonder if God sent him to save me from a worse accident.  Someone needed to slow me down in those days, that angel did.  

Angels exist.

God created angels.  Zondervan’s analysis of angels is worth reading.  Over 280 times, the word “angel” appears in the Bible.  According to today’s verse, we may not recognize them.  Abraham, who God used to start the Jewish nation, recognized angels when he saw them.

“Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.” (Genesis 18:2 NIV)

Abraham’s first action is to offer them hospitality:

“Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” (Genesis 18:4-6 NIV)

Lead with love.  No matter who God places before you, care for them.  If they need food, feed them; clothing, clothe them; acceptance, accept them.  Everyone is looking for connections in today’s world.  The internet creates a form of contact, but nothing like face-to-face experiences.  

God made us in His image:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image” (Genesis 1:26 NIV)

Created in God’s image, we have great value and purpose.  God’s light shines through our lives as we apply His word to them.  Our mission is clear: love God, love others.  Walking in obedience means leading with love so reflect God’s radiance to the world around us.  Showing hospitality to strangers is another way to accomplish the goal.  When we do, we just might hear from God through an angel:

“Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” (Genesis 18:10 NIV)

Angels are messengers of God.  Abraham learned of his destiny through the strangers God sent to him.  

Show hospitality to strangers.  Angels exist.  You never know when you will meet one or what they will say.

Question of the Day:

Who can you show hospitality to today?

Further Reading:Ezekiel 33-34 NIV, Hebrews 13:1-25 NIV, Psalm 115 NIV, Proverbs 27:21-22 NIV

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO LIVE AT PEACE WITH PEOPLE

4 minute read

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV)

Peaceful living takes work.

Applying God’s principles to our relationships is how we achieve harmony with others. God begins by searching our hearts for iniquities.  When He reveals to us areas where we have wronged someone, he expects us to admit it.  Humbling ourselves restores relationships; admitting faults paves the way for restoration.  We can’t control other people’s reactions, but we can control ours.  Allowing people to live their lives the way they choose, accepting them for who they are, paves the way for peace.  

All we can do is what we can do.

When facing a challenging situation, do what you know to do.  If you’ve wronged someone, apologize.  Pay your debts.  Love your enemies.  Forgive those who offend you.  Take responsibility for your actions because that is all you can honestly do.  We can’t force people to respond the way we want them too.  What we can do is apply the golden rule to all situations:

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 ESV)

Treating others like you want treated causes growth.  When someone isn’t reciprocating your kindness, ask yourself why?  Instead of looking at the situation from your side, try to look at it from theirs.  What actions have you done which might not promote peace?  Was your tone offensive?  Were your motivations indeed what was best for the person?  Maybe your body language spoke more than your words?

People reflect what they see in you.

For example, if you walk into an elevator and look up, everyone else looks up.  When someone starts to yawn, others begin yawning.  If you’re at a performance and one person starts clapping, everyone starts clapping.  We feed off of what other people do.  People respond to us by how we treat them.

Not everything is your fault.  Some people have personal issues that steal the ability for them to receive love.  In those situations, pray for God to heal their hearts to receive the love He has for them.  Look for opportunities to plant seeds of love in their lives, pray God causes them to grow.

Each of us has a limited amount of days on earth.  None of us knows the extent of the time allotted.  Living at peace with others is a daily pursuit because today is all we have.  Each day, strive to live in harmony with those God places in your life.

Peace comes through Jesus.  Seek Him today. He’ll show you how to have peace.

Question of the Day:

Who do you need to talk to Jesus about today?

Further Reading: Ezekiel 31:1-32:32 NIV, Hebrews 12:14-29 NIVPsalm 113-114:8 NIV,

Proverbs 27:18-20 NIV

WHO IS SHARPENING YOU IN YOUR LIFE

4 minute read

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

People sharpen people.

Whatever relationship is the most confrontational is the one doing the most sharpening.  Jesus tells us:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them…But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Luke 6:32-36 NIV)

We all have that one person who rubs us the wrong way.  Every word that comes out of their mouth is annoying.  Just the sound of their voice makes your skin cringe. Typically the person is a family member. Whoever that person is, loving them will sharpen you the most.  Thank God, loving from a distance is still loving.  

Love is the best sharpener.

When we truly try to love others well, we become sharper.  God knows we don’t arrive at a point in life where loving others becomes easy.   Each day we choose first to love God, then apply the love we receive from Him to others; we grow.

Right now, God’s sharpening me with a new challenge: not taking offense.  He is revealing to me how easily I’m offended.  I’m learning I put expectations on people they never agreed to; therefore, I am disappointed.  He’s showing me examples of how to respond in offensive situations. Daily, He renews my spirit and gently prompts me when offense begins to rear its ugly head.

Prayer helps love.

For love to sharpen us, we must pray.  Lifting up the relationships which challenge us most will open the door for God’s love to pour into it.  As you pray, God doesn’t change the person; He changes you.  He softens your heart towards them in ways you never imagined.  God reveals truth to us when we pray, usually about ourselves.

You can love anyone with God.  Sometimes, the best way to love them is from a distance, with prayer.  Unhealthy people who don’t understand boundaries must have boundaries set for them.  To put guardrails in place, you must know your limits. If you aren’t healthy yourself, you can’t help others get healthy.  We all have areas in our lives where we aren’t well; all of us have spaces that need sharpened.  Only with people will we grow.

God is always sharpening us.  As we journey forward with Him, He brings people into our lives who will teach us.  As one friend said at lunch the other day, “I can learn something from everyone I meet.”  We all can.  

Love God, love His people.  Watch Him sharpen you through them.

Question of the Day:

How has God sharpened you lately?

Further Reading:Ezekiel 29-30 NIV, Hebrews 11:32-12:13 NIV, Psalm 112:1-10 NIV, Proverbs 27:17 NIV

WHAT KIND OF WIFE ARE YOU

4 minute read

“A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.” (Proverbs 27:15-16 NIV)

Wives determine whether they are quarrelsome or not.

Full confession, I’m a quarrelsome wife at times.  My husband gets tired of me talking about taking better care of his body.   When I bring up the laundry or dishes, he cringes.  However, my goal is not to quarrel.  How I combat the urge to drip rain on my husband’s day is through gratitude.  When I get irritated yet again for the half-drunk soda can left on the table, I thank God I have someone who irritates me.  I’m thankful for the work I know he did while he sat there and drank it, work that supports me.  When I shift my thoughts, my irritation gives way to gratitude.  Every time I get to pick up after my husband, I try to use it as an opportunity to thank God for him.  No, I do not always succeed.  But I do try.

Quarreling ends with acceptance.

Accepting people’s unconscious behaviors isn’t losing.  One story that helps me keep perspective is about kitchen doors.  A couple went to therapy because they were constantly arguing.  When the therapist asked what they argued about, they said the kitchen cabinets.  The husband always left the cabinet doors open, which irritated the wife, then causing an argument. Of course, the husband doesn’t realize he does this, so it’s difficult for him to correct.  What the therapist challenged the wife to do is simply close the doors and not say anything. One simple acceptance, her husband was always going to leave cabinet doors open, she would always have to close them, stopped the quarreling.  Harmony achieved through acceptance.

Another way to explain acceptance is from coaching.  One of the first things I learned was how to analyze someone’s stroke.  How people hit a forehand varies widely, even though the technique is fairly simple.  A rule of thumb I learned working with adults is that if they aren’t doing anything that harms their bodies, don’t mess with it.  In other words, as long as the annoying behavior isn’t hurting anyone, just accept it.  Ron leaving half-drunk cans sitting around doesn’t hurt me to recycle it.  The man pays the mortgage; I can throw away a can for him.  Creating a home he wants to come home to isn’t done with unnecessary quarreling.

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” (Proverbs 31:10-11 NIV)

The Proverbs 31 woman is hard to find.  She chooses her battles wisely.  Her home isn’t one of quarreling.

Question of the Day:

How can you quit quarreling with acceptance today?

Further Reading: Ezekiel 27:1-28:26 NIV, Hebrews 11:17-31 NIV, Psalm 111:1-10 NIV, Proverbs 27:15-16 NIV

WHAT IS FAITH IN YOUR LIFE?

4 minute read

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

Faith believes what you can’t see.

Faith is something we all have; we just don’t realize it.  Making plans for the future is having faith for tomorrow.  Sitting in a chair means trusting it will hold you.  Dropping a penny off a building is believing in unseen gravity.  Pressing the gas peddle relies on an invisible process.  Praying to God requires confidence Someone is listening.  Even atheists have faith; not believing is still a belief.  

Intangible is tangible.

God’s supernatural presence becomes tangible through His children.  People are what make God physical.  Church communities shine in times of crisis.  When COVID hit, churches all over the country rose to the occasion.  Food banks popped up overnight.  Websites people could use to connect to others became a reality.  Meal trains sent dinners to sick families; prayer chains lifted the world in prayer; neighbors loved neighbors.  For me, a women’s Bible study I did through zoom changed my life and deepened the physical relationships I have.  God becomes tangible through His people.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7 ESV)

Good news isn’t always words.  Sometimes, the best information a person receives is a hug.  A few weeks ago, when I was grieving my mother, God’s tangibility was my husband’s arms.  He held me as I cried, not saying a word.  Feeding the homeless, caring for the sick, encouraging the discouraged are all ways God works through His children.  Faith believes in the unseen, which then becomes seen.

“Hall of Faith” is the nickname for Hebrews chapter 11.  As you read through the verses, God reminds you of people who had faith.  Abraham’s faith leads him to foreign lands and an altar with his son on it.  Noah’s faith made him build a boat, a 120-year project.  During that period, God gave people time to repent, yet none did.  Only Noah had faith in God; he made the Hall of Faith.  The promises made through them weren’t for them:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” (Hebrews 11:13 NIV

When we take faith steps, doing what we believe God wants us to do, we may not see the results.  Random acts of kindness can have lasting ripple effects we’ll never know.  Seeing isn’t necessary for believing.  Not seeing and believing, that’s the blessing.

Question of the Day:

How has faith changed your life?

Further Reading: Ezekiel 24-26NIV, Hebrews 11:1-16 NIV, Psalm 110:1-7 NIV, Proverbs 27:14 NIV

HOW ARE YOU SPURRING PEOPLE ON IN YOUR LIFE?

4 minute read

 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24 NIV)

Sometimes, spurring on is letting go.

No one knows the challenge of spurring on better than a mother.   When your ten-year-old leaves for a week of summer fun, Mom is the one who struggles most.  The same with college or the military, but magnified.  Letting this child, who grew in their body go, I can’t imagine how hard that is to do.  But the only way to succeed is to let them go.

For me, I experience this in coaching.  Eventually, the pupil outpaces the teacher.  When that happens, they need to move on to someone else, a coach who can help them learn more.  But letting them go is hard.  What helps me make the right decision, I want what is best for my students; even if the best isn’t me.  

Spurring others on requires sacrifice.

When you put someone else’s needs before your needs, it is a sacrifice.  Objectively looking at a situation, seeking God’s guidance, and doing what is best requires work.  When one of my favorite students told me last week he’s going to start classes with another coach; it hurt for a moment.  But I know he is making the right decision, I support him fully.  Just like a mother knows she only has her children in her home for a little while, coaching is the same.  Years slip by quickly, making the most of the time we have is critical, no matter who we’re spurring on.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” (Romans 15:5 NIV)

Jesus set the ultimate example of putting others first.  He sacrificed for all, putting all of us before His needs.  When we don’t follow His example, we hurt ourselves and others.

Years ago, I worked with an Area Manager in retail that was phenomenal.  He covered his department well; his sales were on point; he was a natural.  When he applied for a new position, one that would promote him, he didn’t receive it.  His direct supervisor blocked the advancement because she didn’t want him to leave her store.  Do you know what happened?  He quit, realizing his boss wasn’t willing to help him succeed. She gave him no choice but to leave.  Both suffered because she wouldn’t do what was best for her employee.

Spurring on takes self-sacrifice, but in the end, everyone wins.  Letting go isn’t an ending but a beginning.  A new chapter only starts when the last one ends.

Spur on others by letting them go.  Give them into God’s hand; watch what He does.

Question of the Day:

Who do you need to let go of today?

Further Reading:Ezekiel 23 NIV, Hebrews 10:18-39 NIV, Psalm 109 NIV, Proverbs 27:13 NIV