Meek Christian soldiers?

Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

For Christians in times of conflict, it is sometimes difficult to balance standing up for our faith in God’s Word with Christ’s admonition to turn the other cheek.

Can we be both bold in defending the faith and meek? Jesus was meek, but he was anything but weak or cowardly. His meekness came from his sure knowledge of who he was and is. He was strong enough, fearless enough to be gentle.

As the Apostle Paul instructed, our boldness must be tempered with patience:

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

1 Thessalonians 5:14

Some folks seem to confuse meekness with shyness. But shyness is usually the result of being self-conscious; being focused on one’s self and the impression one is making upon others. True meekness is other-consciousness; being focused on making others feel comfortable.

One of the first attributes of meekness is humility. Genuine humility is a recognition of the self-hood of others, an awareness that each person is as real and as worthy of love and respect as I am. Humility accepts the validity of another person’s thoughts and feelings.

Humility sees our own unworthiness of God’s grace and sacrificial love balanced with the knowledge of our preciousness in God’s eyes. And then we must try to see each person we encounter through God’s perspective.

That is when meekness enters one’s heart. The awe and gratitude you feel when you try to wrap your brain around the magnitude of the love of God for you, becomes meekness and humility when extended to others.

I’ve sometimes joked about being “God’s favorite child”… because I am … but we all are. That’s one of his mysteries. He loves each of us as if there were only one of us. God sees me through the filter of Christ when I accept him as my savior. That’s huge. It makes me humble and proud at the same time. But when I expand that reality to include the people I deal with it makes me meek, as well. I no longer feel that I must insist on my “rights” or take offense at slights.

True meekness is the absence of fear and competition in our relationships. It is trusting God to take care of justice and fairness. Resting on faith in his Word and his unchanging love we are free to live as inheritors of this Earth and citizens of the next.

But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

Psalm 37:11
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Difficult, perilous times, no matter how you say it

Whether you believe the End Times began with the ascension of Christ or that they are still ahead, no one can argue that the following descriptions are apt for the days in which we are currently living.

1-5 Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 MSG

But understand this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, savage, opposed to what is good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, loving pleasure rather than loving God. They will maintain the outward appearance of religion but will have repudiated its power. So avoid people like these.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 NET

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV

In whatever Bible version you read these verses, the warning is clear: we are not to be the kind of people described and we are to avoid, turn away, and stay clear of those who are.

It is too easy to adopt the habits and attitudes of those around us. As believers, we have been forewarned not to be conformed to the world, but to immerse ourselves in God’s Word so we may resist the temptation to merge into the mainstream, especially when the mainstream is so clearly displaying the attitudes and actions of the difficult days described in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

Pick your favorite versions, but take the words to heart. These are perilous times, indeed.

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King of kings

With the passing of their long-time queen, Elizabeth II, the UK is making the transition to their new monarch, Charles III.

In the USA, we are in the throes of mid-term election campaigns.

The Apostle Paul had a few words we should all take to heart at such a time.

11 But you, O man of God,… pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

1 Timothy 6 11-19

The instruction in verses 17 through 19 are especially apt for the wealthy and powerful and for those hoping to reach such positions. When we choose our leaders, these are the qualities we should look for.

In this world there are many who would set themselves up to rule over others, but it is good to remember there is only one King of kings and Lord of lords.

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The Battle is the LORD’s

Throughout Scripture, God’s people are reassured when facing an enemy. The repeated command, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed …, for the battle is not yours but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15),” reminds them and us to take heart.

Although we know our real battles are not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, this spiritual warfare is manifest in our lives in the physical realm.

So we are to be sober-minded; and watchful because our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

With all this in mind, how are we to respond when the enemy attacks? We all struggle against worldly pressures and temptations, but today Bible believing Christians are under siege from a variety of cultural and political forces. We are seen by too many as an enemy to be defeated. How should we respond?

Jesus Christ addressed our dilemma directly in Matthew 5, saying,  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

This means that while we resist the pressures to abandon our faith, we must also never abandon our commitment to treating others as we would wish to be treated. We can stand firm, speak out, share our faith, and pray constantly, with the assurance that this ages-old battle is in the hands of our gracious and loving Creator God.

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Look out!

It’s a sad fact that many Christians never vote or become informed in even their local politics. Perhaps it is that aloofness and lack of involvement by moral, God fearing folks that has allowed for the current state of affairs in our culture.

When our world seems to be spinning out of control, with fresh disasters and outrages confronting us daily, it is a temptation to withdraw from the news and narrow our focus. We hope that if we ignore the chaos and mind our own business, all the bad stuff will go away.

Christians sometimes support this attitude by saying, “God is in control,” and quoting Romans 8:28 which assures us that God works all things out for good. We also assure ourselves that we are doing all we can do by praying fervently for His will to be done.

Never dismiss the power and efficacy of prayer, but the Scriptures are filled with examples of God working out His will and answering prayers most wonderfully when the one praying is available to be used as part of the answer.

Another Biblical justification for looking away from unpleasant current events is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8

How can we concentrate on truth and loveliness when confronted with corruption and violence? So we put on blinders and limit our vision to our own personal concerns. On the other hand, how can we know what to pray and how to make ourselves available for God’s use in helping others, both near and far, if we don’t become aware of the need?

In order to fulfill our mission as Christ’s body and be salt and light in the world, we must learn what’s going on outside our own homes and church walls. We must lift our eyes and look out beyond ourselves.

In a battle, the soldier who closes his eyes so he can’t see the enemy is no help to his fellows and doesn’t last long. That is true in our spiritual battles, as well.

Open your eyes. Look up and look out and see clearly where you are needed.

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Hula Hoop lessons

When was the last time you treated your hips to the gentle caress of a hula hoop? If it’s been more than a few years you may be under the misapprehension, like I was, that using this classic toy is like a riding a bicycle – you never forget how. 

When some of my friends told me of the fun they were having in a new exercise class using weighted hula hoops, I decided to buy a hoop and get in on the action. I’d had some success with the hula hoop game on my Wii Fit video exercise program, so I expected the skillful technique I had as a child to come back to me quickly. I’ve never forgotten how to ride a bicycle, after all.

My attitude about past accomplishments is that I can still do anything I have ever done…until I try and fail. In my mind I was still the schoolyard hula hoop champ until I pulled that plastic circle over my head, gave it a spin, and caused my sons to collapse in hysterics at my wildly gyrating hips as I failed, time and again, to keep the toy spinning around my middle. Eventually, through dogged persistence, I was able to keep the hoop going long enough to get my daily workout, but the experience was eye-opening; I was reminded of how easy it can be to lose one’s gifts if one fails to exercise them.

There is a theory that says if you want to feel a certain way, you should act “as if” you already do; the deed can come before the motivation and even create it.

In times of personal stress or political tumult it can be difficult to feel like exercising the spiritual gifts at our disposal as Christians.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control…

Galatians 5:22-23

Could it be that exercising these spiritual gifts, whether we feel motivated or not, could not only prevent our losing them (like my flexibility and skill with the hula hoop), but might actually help us to acquire them in the first place?

43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

Matthew 5:43-46
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Suspending Disbelief

When unimaginable things happen it is common to react with disbelief. We are stunned into temporary paralysis, however briefly, before we can begin to respond appropriately to the new reality in our lives. This is the root of the common phenomenon referred to as denial.

People who are called upon to respond quickly to the unexpected, such as firefighters, soldiers, and doctors, spend hours training in order to suppress this completely normal instinctive reaction. They cannot do their jobs unless they can simply accept the situation, however unbelievable it may be, and call upon their training immediately.

In today’s world we are being thrust into ever more unexpected, unprecedented, and unimaginable events. We cannot afford to give in to stunned disbelief. Denial of reality doesn’t do anyone any good.

As Christians we have access to the Holy Spirit to help us through the upheavals, but it is up to us to train everyday for the next onslaught on our faith.

God is our strong refuge;
he is truly our helper in times of trouble.

Psalm 46:1

We must drill ourselves to react immediately by turning to God in prayer and the Word, not by wringing our hands and bemoaning the situation.

Crying out to God should be instinctive if we have a daily prayer life. Turning to Scripture in moments of distress calls for a more focused approach.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

However, every Bible verse is not necessarily applicable to every situation. Simply waiting until we panic and flipping the pages at random and then stabbing a finger onto the page is less than helpful. While dealing with grief, for example, reading several verses of “begats” may not ease your pain. It is important to become familiar with God’s Word and to be able to recall the words of comfort, encouragement, or direction your situation may call for.

There are a number of unbelievable events swirling around us these days. In order to respond as Christ wants us to, we cannot deny the realities. With His help, we can face each new day, each new outrage, with confidence knowing that God, our refuge and strength, is with us through it all.

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Belt-tightening days ahead

I workout daily with an online trainer. Something he constantly emphasizes is the need for a strong core. Having firm support from the transverse abdominal muscles keeps us balanced and even helps us to feel powerful, confident, and strong.

 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins…

1 Kings 18:46

When we read in the Bible of Elijah “girding his loins” it actually means he tightened his belt, but it sounds very much like a description of the sort of activity that might produce six-pack abs.

I’ve sometimes thought that Gird Your Loins would be a terrific name for a Christian exercise club where people would come to work out to Scripture and tone their bodies while building up their faith.

Being a Christian in today’s culture requires strength: moral strength, strength in Bible knowledge, and also physical strength so that we do not falter or grow weary in doing good.

When facing the battles between good and evil, we must tighten our belts. Strengthen our abs. Gird ourselves for the days ahead.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ

1 Peter 1:13
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Will we ever recover?

“For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Luke 1:37

It’s more than two years since our world was shaken by the arrival of the Covid-19 virus and the chaos began. Despite treatments, new information, and an improving survival rate, we remain mired in fear and uncertainty.

Unfortunately, the pandemic was seized upon as an opportunity to turn the crisis into a political tool and here we are today, still wondering what’s going on. We don’t know what information to believe and whether we are being protected or manipulated.

Many of us feel confused and overwhelmed by all the conflicting reports and opinions.

What we can agree upon, though, is that we want this all to go away, but we can’t see how we are ever going to return to the life we knew. Perhaps we never will.

I cling to God’s promises and know that He is in control, even in this. It is possible for the Lord to turn the tables on those seeking to destroy us, and instead to bring about great blessings; we may even grow stronger and better from this turmoil, individually and as a nation.

While I can’t conceive of how that could happen, I remember what is written:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

Isaiah 55:8

How grateful I am that the God of the Universe is not limited to what I can imagine.

The old hymn, Nothing is Impossible with God reminds us that nothing is impossible when we trust in His word.

In Luke 1:37 the angel was speaking to Mary, reassuring her that whether a woman was well past childbearing or an untouched virgin, God was in control of all of life. The same thing applies to us today.

Cling to possibilities

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We’re all in this together

Wars, pestilence, political turmoil, and the increased lawlessness in the world today are frightening. Every day we hear about people dying from disease or violence. Circumstances like these tend to make us more aware of our own mortality.

In the past two years several of my close relatives have died. When some of my family members were dying, hospice workers came in and helped to ease the final days for my loved ones. Their gentle, compassionate care was a real blessing to our whole family.

It occurred to me that we shouldn’t need to experience a fatal illness in order to be treated with such tender, loving care.

Perhaps if we took the same care of one another’s comfort and dignity on a day-to-day basis as the hospice care people do for their clients this would be a much nicer world.

In today’s atmosphere of hostility and uncertainty, such consideration is needed more than ever.

In one respect the family of God is in the hospice care business, helping people live the most beautiful, fulfilling lives they can as they journey toward inevitable death … only we have an extra benefit to offer: eternal life with Jesus.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35 (NIV)
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