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Thoughts on Bitterness

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Bitterness

Just saying the word evokes certain feelings and emotions that most of us can identify strongly with. After all, who hasn’t felt the sting of bitterness well up inside of us?

We know that bitterness comes in many forms and from many sources. You may have been done wrong by a spouse or friend. Perhaps you were overlooked for that job promotion. Or maybe you’ve been “church hurt”. And how could you ever forget the diagnosis you received?

All of these can bring about the feelings of bitterness. Some of us may have even felt like God let us down or disappointed us in some way, and we allowed bitterness to cause us to blame God. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has ever screamed at God asking why He allowed ‘this’ to happen.

Personally, I’ve dealt with just about all of these. On many occasions I might add. Just as you have.

Bitterness strikes at all of us, and while it would be easy to simply say it’s all part of our humanity, there is also a spiritual application to bitterness. How bitterness impacts our walk with Christ is the focus of this post.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled”. Hebrews 12:14,15  KJV.     emphasis mine

How do we avoid bitterness since we are virtually assured that as long as we remain here on this earth, circumstances are not always going to go our way? How am I supposed to live peacefully with those who have done me wrong? How can I escape bitterness when I’ve been dealt life-altering circumstances?

As we just read, the answer to all of these questions lies in the scripture that encourages us to live peacefully with all men, endeavoring to live a sanctified life, set apart from the world and its many temptations.

More often than not, that means we must have a forgiving heart. More on that later.

Whatever the source, unless we deal with it by giving it to God, it will come back to haunt us in the form of bitterness. That is simply human nature, and none of us are exempt from it. Face it, we are emotional beings. We laugh, hurt, get depressed, feel overwhelmed, and have the capacity to enjoy many things in this life because we are so emotional.

The Lord created us this way, but if we’re not careful, the devil will use our negative emotions as an entrance into our lives. This is why we must be diligent, as the writer says, because Satan is always looking to find an avenue to “steal, kill, and destroy”. [1]

Allowing bitterness to enter our hearts is opening the door to the adversary, and once opened it can be very difficult to shut that door on him. The danger in all of this is that if even a tiny root of bitterness takes hold in our heart, it begins to weave its way into every fabric of our life.

Picture bitterness as the root of a plant. A plants roots run deep and spread wide. Roots have to do that in order to sustain the plant they are a part of. Those roots feed the plant, and without the proper nourishment the plant will eventually wither and die.

When we allow bitterness to take hold of us, it does everything in its power to burrow itself deeply within our heart. Left unchecked, it will spread into every facet of our life. When that happens, its impact will be seen by all, and it won’t be pretty.

The things that used to bring us joy no longer will. The things we used to look forward to doing we now look at from a very different perspective. That’s what bitterness does to us. It changes our outlook on life, both in the natural and the spiritual. This is why we must constantly be on guard, checking our hearts lest a root of bitterness find its way in.

Let me give you a personal example of how the enemy would like to ensnare us in bitterness.

Recently, our family made the very painful decision to leave the church we had been attending for the past 2.5 years. It isn’t necessary to share the details here, but suffice it to say that these things do happen unfortunately, and they present a myriad of emotions that must be dealt with. In our case, those included hurt, betrayal, and yes even bitterness.

Shortly after we left, I began to have people tell me that they had been told a very different version of what actually happened that caused us to leave.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with me because if there is one thing I cannot stand it is when people are not completely honest.

So I was now in a position of either allowing my emotions to gain the upper hand, or let it go and ask God to deal with my heart about it. Which is exactly what He has done. You see, I chose not to allow bitterness to rule my heart.

I hope you caught that. I chose, or I made the conscious decision that bitterness was not going to spring up or take root in my heart. That’s right…bitterness is a choice, and if you and I choose the path of bitterness we are actually giving others power over us.

Why would we do this? This is where having a forgiving heart comes into play. I have learned through many seasons of bitterness and despair that the best course of action is to forgive and move on. Easier said than done? Of course it is, but read on please.

You know what else I have learned? I’ve learned that forgiveness is a product of a heart that is right before God. When we hold grudges against someone, forgiveness cannot come. If we remain angry at someone over a wrong that was done, forgiveness cannot come.

Forgiveness is a product of a heart that is right before God.

I encourage all of us to remember this the next time we’re faced with hurt or disappointment. Choose wisely friends, choose the path of love and forgiveness instead of the path of bitterness.

Be blessed in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] John 10:10

Putting in our order

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Who doesn’t like the occasional fast food take out vs. the work of preparing and cooking a big meal at home? Just the other night for example, my Princess decided she wanted Chinese take out, so Chinese it was.

And yes….it was very good!!

The convenience of fast food is pretty awesome if you ask me. Simply pick up the phone and call it in, or even better do it all online. Within a few minutes of placing our order, we’re sitting down to eat!

Of course, you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Simply putting in an order comes at a high cost if done frequently. Whether it’s spending extra money on top of the weeks grocery budget, or the ever expanding waist line, convenience isn’t cheap.

That being said, I think we’ve gotten quite comfortable with the ease and simplicity of putting in our order, and when you think about it, this mindset carries over into many parts of our lives.

We want maximum benefit while exerting minimum effort. Place a call, click a mouse, or speak into a device and things appear on our doorstep almost magically. Technology at its finest!

So it is sometimes in our walk with the Lord. Have you noticed that when we are facing difficult circumstances, our initial thoughts are often to try the “call, click a mouse, or speak into a device” approach when searching for a solution?

That’s called Human nature 101. Who doesn’t like easy?

Unfortunately, all too often the issues we are facing today seem to turn into giants before our very eyes. When that happens, ‘easy’ rarely works because it takes far more than simply putting in our order to send those same giants packing.

I have been guilty of this, and more times than not I didn’t even realize it until it was brought to my attention. That’s because I can get so caught up in the ‘what’s wrong’ that instead of immediately turning to the Lord, I search everywhere else, looking for that easy solution.

Do you ever do this?

The point I’m trying to make with this is that while we all have needs, and we’re all dealing with something, we also have to understand that more often than not, the solutions to today’s complex issues are not easy.

We can’t just “put in our order”, walk away, and be done with it while expecting that things will work out somehow or another. If we’re going to overcome and have the victory, we need to pray.

We might think of prayer as optional, or even a last resort thing to do when we’re out of options, but the reality of it is we are expected to pray. Jesus didn’t say ‘if you pray’, but rather when you pray.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.   Matthew 6:6

Prayer cements our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is an open line of communication that each of us has with Him, and provides the means in which we may cast our cares upon Him instead of carrying them ourselves.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.   1st Peter 5:6,7

I can think of no greater need in the body of Christ today than the need for regular prayer. The kind of praying I’m talking about is not merely putting in our order, it is personally communicating with the Almighty. Not just when we are facing giants, but every single day!

Prayer is a critical component of our relationship with the Father.

One I need to desperately rekindle.

How about you?

If you’re tired of seeing no results from simply ‘placing your order’, I believe sincere prayer will be a game changer.

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

Is there a mountain in your life that needs removed?

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Have you ever driven through the mountains? If you have, you have no doubt marveled at how the road was seemingly carved out of solid rock.

It’s interesting to see how the engineers overcame certain obstacles in the building of these roads. Some roads go right through the mountain in elaborately constructed tunnels, while others wind all the way around the outside of the mountain.

However the method, one thing is certain: it took a lot of very hard work to move that mountain in order to construct safe roadways in its place.

Much like those roadways, all of us have mountains in our lives that serve as giant obstacles to us. These mountains come in many shapes and sizes, and all of them have one thing in common: they are in our way, and we must find a way around them.

Fortunately for us, Jesus gave His disciples an important lesson in removing these mountains from their lives.

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.    Mark 11:22-24

Knowing that we are children of faith, all of us can say that we have been given a certain measure of faith. Understanding this, it should be easy enough to follow Jesus’ instructions, agree?

Except that when we look at our own circumstances in light of the verses above, we question just what kind of faith we actually have. After all, Jesus makes it sound pretty easy, doesn’t he? Just say the words and POOF!, it’s done!

Yet when we say to our own mountain “be removed”, it doesn’t budge. What gives?

The key to understanding this is when Jesus says if we do not doubt in our hearts, we shall have what we ask.

Talk about a mountain! DOUBT is the biggest mountain in all of our lives. Well, at least it is in my life. If we are to have the faith to remove these mountains from our lives, DOUBT has to go.

How do we accomplish this?

The answer my friends is found in our hearts. The only way to remove the mountains from our lives is to assume a fighting position, and for a Christian that means to humble our heart before God and pray.

You see, it is only when we pray that we bring God into the battle. Merely reciting a repeat after me prayer that someone else prayed is not believing in your heart.

This must be personal!

I have found that having ‘mountain moving faith’ is a process. A very long and arduous process. It’s a process built upon one small victory after another until eventually you have the faith to say to those mountains in your life “be removed”, and they will obey you.

If you have a mountain in your life that needs to be removed, I suggest the starting point is simply humbling our heart before the Lord.

Self needs to disappear into the background, while the Lord needs to come to the forefront. When we are diminished, He is exalted. Less of us…more of Him.

That is the foundation of ‘mountain moving faith’. When we build upon it daily, we will begin to see those impassable mountains begin to crumble before our eyes.

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

 

 

Looking with HOPE to the future

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New Years. new_year_sign_19648

I have to be honest and admit that this is one holiday that I just don’t get. For millions of people it’s an excuse to get crazy drunk. For millions more it’s all about a traditional meal that includes sauerkraut and pork.

And then there are the millions who think of New Years as a chance to start over by saying goodbye to the previous year. Oh well, no one said I had to “get it”!last_year_garbage_can_custom_800_clr_21288

 

Today I asked my mailman if he was looking forward to 2018, and he answered very quickly “I don’t have much hope for the new year,and I don’t expect things will get better until we get a new leader in office”. UGH!

 

Hmmm…..no holiday cheer there, and it was too late to say Bah Humbug!

Actually, his response surprised me as I’ve always thought mail carriers led a pretty good life. But hey, what do I know?

 

What really matters in the big picture is where our hope lies. If, as in the case of my mailman, our hope lies in the next presidential election,there will always be a large percentage of the population left disappointed and wondering what might have been.

This is just one of many reasons why my hope is in Jesus Christ. With Jesus, I never have to wonder what might have been. In addition, with Jesus I already know what to expect, therefore I know in advance that I will not be disappointed.

Now, how cool is that??

Hope in Jesus does that! This hope says that irregardless of situations or circumstances, Jesus will make a way somehow, even in the darkest of nights. Which reminds me of a fish story. Well, sort of.

There was once a fisherman in the Bible whose faith and hope wavered when circumstances began to spiral out of his control. Fact is, he lost all hope and eventually denied even knowing Jesus, in spite of the fact that he had been with him nearly every day for over three years.

Who would have thought that within a very short time his perspective would do a 180?

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, ‘     I Peter 1:3

This one time fisherman and denier of Christ became a giant of faith and hope once he fully understood the power of the resurrection. I love the way that Peter uses the words “lively hope” to describe his new found hope in the resurrected Jesus!

As Christians we don’t have a dead hope. Our hope is not in dead religion or rituals. Our hope is alive! Our hope is in the risen Jesus!

light at end of tunnel

Because of this lively hope we have in Jesus Christ, I am looking forward to seeing God do great things in our lives in the coming year. Who can tell what He might have in store for us? Who can tell what He has in store for YOU?

One thing is for certain and that is that while we may not have all the details and particulars, we know that with God its going to be a great adventure!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

Does your praise come with a price tag?

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A recent post from Mitch Teemly struck a nerve with me because it dealt with something that has been heavy on my heart for some time now, that being the subject of the cost of sacrificial praise.

In his post, Mitch uses a picture that contains the following scripture verse to illustrate his point that humility makes us real.

“Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”    II Samuel 24:24

There are many such scriptures that call for God’s children to bring to Him a sacrifice of praise, but what exactly does this mean?

When we think about the word sacrifice, we might think of it in a way that means there is a cost involved, or we may look at it from the viewpoint of our having to expend ourselves physically.

When we think of the word praise however, our first thoughts are usually of the joy and happiness coming from our heart. When we combine the words sacrifice and praise together in a Spiritual sense, we find that it is hard to think of one without the other.

Sacrifice and Praise. Praise and Sacrifice. Sacrifice of Praise.

So how do these words apply to us in real life?

My wife and I were just talking about this very thing the other day. If you’re like me, there have probably been more than a few times when something you prayed for did not happen. I was telling her that if I were to create a balance sheet with answered prayers on one side, and unanswered prayers on the other, I’m afraid that the unanswered prayer side would tilt the balance sheet that way.

Let’s be honest here, there are many times when God does not come through for us the way we envision He should.

  • The arteries remain blocked
  • The cancer has spread
  • The promotion went to someone else
  • The divorce is going to happen
  • The bank wants the car

When life presents these things to us, the first question from most of us is where is God? When circumstances force us to make decisions that we would never otherwise make, it becomes easy to think that God has forgotten us.

In the midst of life altering events such as these, praise can be hard to come by. Agree?

Yet every child of God has been given the promise that “He will never leave us nor forsake us” (Heb. 13:5). The enemy, of course, tries to make us believe otherwise, yet God remains faithful to His children.

We are also taught to continually offer praise unto our God. Note the word continually.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15

For us to praise God in times of despair requires personal sacrifice on our part. It’s not easy to praise God when your world is caving in all around you, and I’m sure many of you can attest to this. It also takes a great deal of trust.

It takes a purposeful act on our part to lay aside the hurt and pain that life sometimes throws at us. You have to want to do this. In order for us to lay ourselves upon the altar of sacrifice and give praise to God for outcomes we do not always understand, we have to want to do this.

Its called Sacrifice.

Yes, this kind of praise will cost you something. It is not cheap praise. It is not meaningless praise. It is not a recitation from a prayer book. This praise comes from the depths of our hearts. From the place that extracts the greatest cost from us.

You see, a real sacrifice of praise is not dependent upon God answering all of our prayers with a resounding YES! Real praise comes from a deep sense of knowing that no matter the answer, God is faithful and He can be trusted to know what is best for us.

When we choose to praise God even in the midst of the storm, God is glorified. I have learned through the years that the praise that is tried by fire is precious to God, and He will in no way reject such a sacrificial praise.

After David’s greatest sin had been uncovered, he humbled himself and acknowledged that what God demanded from him was not to be another animal sacrifice. God wanted nothing more from David that did not cost him personally.

No, God demanded something personal from David. He wanted his heart.

“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”    Psalms 51:16-17 

How amazing it is to find that this same David, who has previously told someone that he would not offer a sacrifice to God that did not cost him anything, is now being brought to the point of realizing that what God wanted wasn’t a burnt offering, or an animal sacrifice.

What God wanted from David was the same thing He wants from all of us. God wanted David’s broken heart, for from a broken and a contrite heart comes sacrificial praise. Praise that costs something.

Does your praise come with a price tag?

Be blessed!

Ron

 

When life hands you lemons

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If you’re like most people, life has handed you your share of lemons.

lemons

Funny thing about lemons.They look pretty and smell great but if you bite into one you’ll find they are very sour.They are kind of deceiving if you think about it.Kind of like they aren’t exactly what they appear to be.

Life is like too,that isn’t it?

Things are going along really good and suddenly,out of nowhere,life hands you a bunch of lemons.

  • Disappointments
  • Hurts
  • Illness

All of a sudden you find yourself wondering “what just happened”? Can you relate to that?

The Bible is filled with numerous encounters of God’s servant’s whose live’s were interrupted by being handed a big bowl of lemons. One such example was a king of Judah,King Hezekiah.

Like most kings of old,they fought many battles with the armies that surrounded them.As you read the accounts of Hezekiah’s victorious battles in the book of Isaiah,you begin to understand that this man truly did love his God and sought to live a life that was pleasing to the Lord.

Yet just like all of us the day came when Hezekiah would be dealt a huge bowl of lemons.In chapter 38 of the book of Isaiah we find that the king was very sick,and ready to die.Read along with me….

In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.  Isaiah 38:1

Now,it’s one thing to be sick,even very sick.Maybe you have been there,at death’s door?

I know what that feels like because I was at death’s door when I underwent heart by-pass surgery.And thankfully I did not have anyone come to me telling me to set my affairs in order because I’m not going to make it through this sickness.I can’t imagine how that would feel!

But notice how in the next verse king Hezekiah responded to this bowl of lemons.

2 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord,
And said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.   Isaiah 38: 2,3
The king’s response was to turn immediately to the Lord.  Wouldn’t we all be better off if instead of struggling on our own to understand the “Why’s” we would instead just turn to the Lord? And notice also how that Hezekiah reminded the Lord that he had walked before Him in a perfect heart?
Can we say that of our walk with Him? I only wish I could say that.Many well meaning people today like to tell us that we’re under grace(which we are)and that God understands our failures.Like that’s supposed to somehow take away the sting of failure!
Now look and see what happens next!
4 Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying,
Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.  Isaiah 38: 4,5
Isn’t that amazing? One minute Hezekiah is sick and ready to die. A visit from the prophet Isaiah confirmed to the king that he wasn’t long for this world and he should make sure he had his will made out.This word from the Lord was all it took to get Hezekiah out of his sick bed and to begin calling on the name of the Lord.
Can I share something with you? When life hands us a bowl of lemons our first reaction ought to be to turn to the Lord in prayer and the Word because that’s where our strength to fight will come from!
The prayer of king Hezekiah got God’s attention.And you know what?He hears your prayers too.But we have to PRAY to be heard!So many times the enemy gets us discouraged and we don’t even think to pray,we just want to give up.
Yet God has a more sure word for someone today,and that word is to begin calling upon the Lord for your situation.Do not give up,do not throw in the towel.Pray with an understanding that it ain’t over until He says it’s over!
When life hands you lemons the popular saying is to take them and make lemonade out of them.And that is often good advice because attitude is everything when you’re dealing with difficult circumstances.
Yet when you’re in the battle of your life,lemonade won’t put the enemy to flight.It takes prayer to do that!It takes someone seriously calling upon the name of the Lord to know that He will hear.
The next time life hands you a bowl of lemons and you find yourself out of answers and helpless to figure a way out,do this:
PRAY!!!
Be blessed,
Ron