Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Week Nine - Exercises for Taming Anger

Beside the Well

            Okay, sometimes I just have to record what I have learned.  No fancy effort to write, but simply share what God has shown me.  So here goes!  Sixteen things you can do to help tame anger from Burroughs on the Beatitudes.

            1.  Value meekness over all attitudes.  Meekness is strength under control!
            2.  Covenant each day to hold anger back for that one day.  Wait until evening to be angry,    then, look at the peace the day held.  Extend it by practicing day-by-day or hour-by-hour if necessary.
            3.  Humble yourself and make right with others by an open apology for your outburst or unkindness or impatience.  Eat that humble pie!
            4.  Notice when smoke appears.  This is the first hint of anger.  Don’t let it smolder.  Pour the water of the Word on it!  1 Corinthians 13:5
            5.  Understand ahead of time that some things will cross your will.  It is a test from God.  Can you bear your cross?
            6.  Remember your own weaknesses.  Bear with all men because they all have flaws, including you.
            7. Labour to keep thy peace with God.  For from within is the source of passion. A heart at peace with God rarely blows up!
            8.  Convince yourself that nothing is done well in anger, but better done out of it.  James 1:20
            9.  Learn to divert your passion.  Go and pray before responding.  Turn anger into love. Don’t nurse it and rehearse it!
            10. Do not multiply words.  Refuse to shout or argue.
            11. Avoid the stress of over-extending yourself.  Burroughs wrote: “when men will have many irons in the fire, more than God calls them to, no marvel though their fingers be burnt.” (p 85)
            12. Mind your own business.  Avoid micromanaging.
            13. Ask yourself before you respond, “Is this a trap of Satan?”
            14. What would Jesus do?  What is His example?  Remember, He is meek and lowly in heart.
            15. Be aware and prepared for the temptation to lose your temper.  Look where you are going.  Leave the situation if necessary.
            16.  Remember your own wretchedness and cut others some slack. Exercise grace and forgiveness to those who incite you.   Ephesians 4:31-32

            So, there you have it.  Wise instruction from the 1600’s that could have been written today.  The secret is to not just read it and agree, but to take it on and start practicing!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Week Eight - The Rollercoaster

Beside The Well

            Prayer sometimes feels like a rollercoaster ride.  We are to pray in faith, believing, nothing wavering, but we feel jerked around wondering how things will work out.  We are instructed to ask what we will and it will be given, but the ride isn’t as smooth as we want.  There are times when burdens and confusion send us on nosedives until we don’t even know what words to say.  Sometimes it feels no one hears our screams for help, while at other times the heavens open and we know we are securely buckled in the throne room. 
            We are warned that being at odds with others will hinder our prayers, but we must continue to pray about our relationships.  We are to pray without ceasing, but how do we find the time?  We can pray and pray about one situation and seemingly see nothing happen, then pray for something else, and see an immediate answer. 
            We pray with one image in mind of how we think things will work out and then God changes the whole dynamic into something we never dreamed of.  We can pray for something and forget we had prayed about it. Then, when God answers that prayer, we are astounded He remembered when we had long forgotten.  It can leave you with your head spinning.
            Personally, I have never figured it out.  It is unlikely that I will!  But here’s the thing I have understood—God wants me to pray.  He has given prayer as a weapon.  Used in obedience and faith, it can move mountains and send the Devil running.  I haven’t moved any mountains lately, have you?  But that does not detract from the possibility!
            Lately, I have come to realise some more things about prayer.  God will always answer according to the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11).  God’s plan is all-encompassing; mine is limited.    And I have come to learn that He doesn’t answer prayer haphazardly; He answers purposefully. 
            It is interesting to meditate on that crazy verse in Proverbs 16:33—“The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.”
            Why do I say it is crazy?  Well, the verse is talking about the manner in which men used to make decisions.  They cast a lot—rolled dice—or drew straws!  But though their method was chance, God was the one directing the draw.  He was in charge of the whole disposing.  Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.”           
            Our God in heaven knows how things are designed to work out. Ours is to come to Him in prayer with our petitions and humble our hearts to accept His answer—His disposing of all matters, and He doesn’t work by chance.
            My prayer life is less stressful since I stopped looking for some lucky charm or set of magic words that will move God to work according to my will. Instead, I am learning to watch my Father work around me, and I am enjoying the ride!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Week Seven - Mad as a Hornet

Beside the Well
            I was a bit puzzled about what I kept seeing on the news and social media.  The anger and hurling words coming through politics and social attitudes astounded me.  Where is all this hatred coming from?
            I looked back to my journal and saw I had recorded this from Burroughs on the Beatitudes, and things began to fall into place.
            “Righteousness is enough to stir up the hearts of men to oppose it, and to cause them to persecute it.”  Amazing, but true.  Is this not the basis of bullying?  The bully sees someone doing right and attacks?
            Cain and Abel are perfect examples.  Abel had done as God directed.  Cain was mad as a hornet because he had tried to do things his own way and was rejected. Instead of taking responsibility for his failure, Cain blamed his brother and killed him in an attempt to remove the reminder of his own guilt.

            Burroughs gave five reasons why men persecute those who try to do right.

            1.  Because all men’s vices are revealed by righteousness.  The light exposes the blotches of sin.  It creates two sides—good and evil.
            2.  Because the carnal heart sees no reason for righteousness.  To them, law and order are a hindrance, an obstacle they must eradicate or manipulate for their own benefit.
            3.  Because righteousness condemns the world.  It sets a standard they mock.  Noah preached righteousness for over a hundred years, and they all mocked—until the rain came.
            4.  Because righteousness causes men to hold consistently to principle. The world thinks righteous people are stubborn, but righteous people know that principles keep their hearts strong and steady creating a more solid home and society. 
            5.  Because righteousness holds a special claim of interest in God and the world cannot bear that.  They will storm at it.  God has no place in their plan; He is a complete distraction and an unnecessary obstruction.

            The natural man cannot understand, so, he rejects, ridicules, and persecutes what he fears.  For him, a life of righteousness is a reminder of the ultimate judgment of God.  (Romans 1:18,19)
            So what are the righteous to do?  The Bible says we are to stand against evil (Ephesians 6:11-14). We will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), but we will grow stronger (1 Peter 5:10).  And, we will also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). 
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore…” (Ephesians 6:11-14).
            Let the unrighteous be as mad as a hornet, I choose to live a righteous life. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Week Six - Good Sportsmanship

Beside the Well

            The Eagles win the Super Bowl!  The Patriots go away in defeat.  Later the next day a little video popped up on my Facebook feed with the title, New England Patriot haters can celebrate now.  Haters?  What followed was a selection of video clips of people cheering, jumping, and rejoicing.  It was poor sportsmanship.
            That very morning I read Leviticus 19:17-18, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart…thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.”
            I agreed with the Lord’s reminder.  Then, as I moved to read my devotion, the Lord had more to say!  His scriptural prod was, “The key to supernatural power is meekness.  A steadfast look at Jesus instead of at the injury makes a very great difference…Isn’t this the simple explanation for our being so heavy-laden, so tired, so overburdened and confused and bitter?  We drag around such prodigious loads of resentment and self-assertion.  Shall we not rather accept at once the loving invitation:  “Come unto me...for I am meek and lowly, and I will give your rest.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
            Loads of resentment and self-assertion?  Is that the source of bad sportsmanship?  Is that the description of society that would jeer and taunt, even hate, the opposite team?
            I began thinking of the things I see in politics, in schools, and across the broad spectrum of the world in which we live.  Loads of resentment?  Yes, people hate to lose and resentfully wait for the moment of payback.  They are using hate as a basis for decision-making and, yes, they are using self-assertion as a weapon to get their way with claims of prejudice and calls for equality.  Sadly, they are not becoming happier, only angrier, more tired, bitter, and confused.
            I dare say all of us have experienced hurts in our lives.  There have been times when we didn’t win at life’s game and times when relationships have broken down, but if we go through life with a chip on our shoulder, or looking to see someone else fall so we can jeer, we are not creating a happy life.  We are bearing grudges and seeking revenge.
            Jesus’ invitation is to lay those things down, to pick up meekness, and receive rest.  God will be the one who makes all things right in the end.  He will be the winner, and we can share the victory if we get on His team and exercise good sportsmanship!

Elliot, Elisabeth, Keep a Quiet Heart, Revell Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995, page 109.