What Not To Do

There are three things that I’ve learned that God does not want us to operate from. They are: striving, fear and forgetfulness.

Let’s start with forgetfulness. We know the importance of the maxim “Know thyself.” When you make the same mistakes over and over again something is not going right in your learning process. Basically, you are not learning from your mistakes. We all make mistakes. Sin is a mistake. We aren’t expected to not make mistakes but we are expected to learn from them. If you know what your weaknesses are you can make a plan to avoid situations where you will be tempted to sin. For instance, if you are an alcoholic, you might want to avoid that buddy that tells you it’s not going to hurt anything to get loaded again. It does you no good to forget your buddy is also an alcoholic.

We should never forget what God has done for us. We should never forget where we came from and what it felt like when God freed us from sin. Sin is bondage. When you don’t have Christ you are under the curse. Your body is bound for decay and will reap the fruit of sin – death. When you are saved you are no longer under the curse. Your body is not under the bondage of death and decay; you have crossed over from death to eternal life. When Christ took on the cross he took on the curse and nailed it to the cross. He put to death death and ended the curse. There is no longer a curse for those who are in Christ. They are free from bondage. Don’t forget what that feels like. When you forget what God has done for you, you are more likely to sin against Him.

The second thing God doesn’t want us to operate out of is fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear. He’s given us His Spirit. That also means he doesn’t want us to worry. Jesus promised two things that contradict a spirit of fear: peace and joy. If the majority of the time you do not experience peace or joy you should question whether or not you are truly following God’s lead. Our peace and joy should guard our hearts from turmoil and reassure us of the promise of our salvation through Christ Jesus. These two things are evidence that we’ve been given God’s Spirit and that we are sealed for a victorious life in Christ. A spirit of fear causes bad behavior. It can also cause striving, the third element that God wishes to clear from our behavior.

Striving is against God’s will for us. When you strive you risk making what you strive for an idol. Instead of being content with the moment of now you are focused on the future. When you are striving you cannot experience joy because your effort is centered on something that is essentially out of your control in attaining: the future. You don’t know if you will live or die tomorrow, so why focus your efforts on something that you do not know whether or not you will be there to enjoy? You have the present moment and in this moment Christ has guaranteed peace and joy.

To grasp those things in the future is called striving and it doesn’t work. Striving steals our peace and joy in the present because when you strive you are not content with what you’ve been given. God doesn’t say that salvation is something you strive for. It is a free gift. You’ll never be perfect based on your striving or wanting to be like Christ. Wanting to be something is futile. You are not your creator. The best you can do to attain salvation is to believe in Christ’s sacrifice. Even then, faith is also a gift from God. Nothing you do can save you. It’s like a pig bathing to get the mud off in mud. When your thoughts and heart are far from God, no amount of will power or mental energy can clean that up. You have to let a clean God wash your conscience clear. You know deep down you are a sinner. Everyone is. No one can save you but God Himself. Jesus is the only sinless human because He is also God. Lay down your burden and let Christ carry you to the other side. Because of sin and the guilt it brings you are already tainted. Like a dirty pig you can’t wash your mind free of guilt by wanting to be clean. The human condition indicates that you are born into sin. No one can escape fatality on this planet unless they are sinless and only Christ was.

God is the author and perfector of our faith. God’s plan for salvation is good enough for everyone. He did it Himself and He will receive all the glory for it.

The End of Striving

God takes us from glory to glory. This past week I went on a vacation to Italy. In all honesty, I didn’t like it. I am by nature a home body and going out of my element for any more than a day is taxing. I went with my mom and she loves to travel. Her job consists mainly of travel. The trip was exhausting but God helped me through it.

There is a reason God does the things He does. He doesn’t intend to exhaust us. When we do get exhausted due to our own disobedience, he will restore us to our former glory when we ask. He wants to give us rest. He wants us to seek His rest and His face. In fact, that is what the Sabbath is all about. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1). He doesn’t ask for striving, he asks for presence. He is not a God of wanting and striving, He is a God of being. His name is not I will be but I Am. All seeking and striving is for naught. God is within us. He is ever present. There is no need to run to a foreign country to see the beauty inside yourself. You are an entire galaxy. Why seek to visit another galaxy? What is wrong with yours?

When God led the Israelites out of Egypt He taught them how to be content with what God gave them and not to seek other gods or foreign lands for satisfaction. In fact, God kept them in the wilderness for forty years when the journey to the promised land was really only 11 days. They just kept going in circles until they learned how to live out of God’s hand.

I had a similar thing happen to me. I’m glad it didn’t take forty years but it did take seven. I spent years traveling going to parties and looking for something. I lost my license due to a mental breakdown where I was so exhausted I went crazy in 2009. I lived for seven years without a license or a job. I lived in near poverty but I always had enough. I learned to be content with what I had. It was just me and my dog and cat. We were happy. I learned to tend to my needs and take care of my dog. I learned to be present and to listen for God’s leading. I couldn’t do anything else, For some people it takes illness or loss to learn peace. That’s exactly what it took me.

God built us. He knows how to keep us at optimal functioning. We only need to listen. If we won’t listen we have to learn the hard way. The manual way. When I start striving and envying what others have I end up hurting myself. I think, “if I go here or there I will be happy.” I thought if I went on a trip with my mom I could spend more time with her but how stupid is that when we live in the same house? But in the striving I sinned against my own body and disturbed my peace. By the end of the trip my thoughts were angry and hopeless. That is what striving does. It’s worthless. Don’t say tomorrow we will do this or that because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring (James 4:13). Instead, say, if it is the Lord’s will we will do this or that because apart from His will you can do nothing. Look at the Lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin and verily I say to you Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as one of these (Luke 12:17).

On our trip we were walking along a canal in Milan and at the end we ran into a shop with the most delicious looking treats. Just then I was saying how hungry I was. I thought “Thank you, God, for bringing this to me.” Then I was overwhelmed with God’s grace and started crying. I saw a huge graffiti that said “No frontier.” Then I realized that God was there with me. I didn’t need to search for Him. Then a song came on the radio that was Ed Sheeran’s Perfect. If made me so happy. Words don’t describe what my heart felt. Just then a group of boys all started staring at me. God made me beautiful. Peace is beautiful. It’s a placid lake.

Dealing with Hatred

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

My mom taught me a good trick that I learned early that helped me deal with people that don’t like me. As soon as I brought up mention that someone didn’t like me, she would say, “they’re just jealous.” I would then think to myself, “well, that’s not my fault,” then I would pity the person. So, I bandaged my wound while changing the way I felt about the people who had hurt me.

The bible talks about what to do when people don’t like you. When prophets were commissioned for their ministry and they were afraid of their enemies reviling them God told them not to look at their faces. Also, Jesus says that we should rejoice when people criticize and say negative things about us because we know our names are written in heaven and that’s how people treated the prophets while they were on earth (Matthew 5:10-12). Even amongst Christian company we can sometimes experience a bit of sibling rivalry and negative attitudes against us. Sometimes wounds from friends are better than kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:6). But even the devil masquerades as an angel of light so don’t be surprised when people who call themselves Christians talk behind your back or put you down (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Some Christians believe that their forgiveness only should extend to certain people. They believe the ones who don’t deserve forgiveness are not really Christians or what they’ve done is so vile that they shouldn’t be forgiven. If they can’t forgive someone and don’t want to admit it to their “Christian” conscience they will often say things like “I don’t like so-and-so.” They think they are reducing the problem to a preference instead of what it truly is, an unforgivable sin. Why do I go so far as to call it unforgivable? Jesus says that if you don’t forgive others, He will not forgive you (Matthew 6:14-15). The Lord says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” (Romans 12:19). That means it’s not ok to use your Christian identity to condemn other people. Even with spirits, we are supposed to rebuke them by saying things like “may the Lord rebuke you,” instead of condemning them (Luke 9:42, Jude 1:9).

A preference against someone is not even likely. It’s more likely that you felt slighted around that person and your ego won’t get around to letting it go. Your ego likes enemies. It will rile you up and tell you all kinds of negative thoughts that make you feel superior to them. It will try and get you to open your mouth and gossip about them. Why? Because all negativity makes the ego bigger. The worst thing you could do is take their criticism to heart. “Preferences” against people are sometimes coverups for anger and hostility toward a stereotype that likely is just made up of pure ego and not the person’s true self. You have to remember that when you get upset it’s a reflection of yourself that you’re attacking in the other person. It’s not even you attacking, it’s your ego. Why would you attack yourself? You wouldn’t. But your ego would because it’s not you. The fact that it is attacking you makes that evident. That is why people criticize so much about the things they first see in themselves. “It takes one to know one,” right? The people that hate themselves the most are those who are to make the first criticism. And that is why I feel sorry for people that don’t like me.

I would like to define what the ego is for people that don’t know. The Google dictionary defines it as: a “person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance,”(Google). I like how Eckhart Tolle describes it when he describes the pain body. The pain body is the remnants of emotional abuse that create a shadow or dark presence in our lives. The pain body often makes up the ego. The definition of pain body is:

“It is an accumulation of painful life experience that was not fully faced and accepted in the moment it arose. It leaves behind an energy form of emotional pain. It comes together with other energy forms from other instances, and so after some years you have a ‘painbody,’ an energy entity consisting of old emotion.” (Google)

Think about infants. How often do infants dislike someone? They don’t because infants don’t have egos yet. So when you encounter dislike, you have likely just had a run in with an ego not a person. Don’t be afraid or upset. Just acknowledge it and move on. If that same person had a mad crush on you would it be any more tolerable? No, because mad crushes are also generated by the ego. When a person is under the grips of the ego, it’s best to maintain your distance because they are looking for ego enhancements which come in the form of “heated discussions,” arguments, compliments to their ego, superiority over you, violence, in short – trouble. Them saying they don’t like you was only meant to inflame your ego so you would in turn get angry and inflame theirs. Thank God they made it obvious they let their ego get the best of them around you (they’re jealous) so that you now know to avoid them. It’s really only a blessing in the end. The best thing you can do is be nice to them so their conscious mind sees the discrepancy and realizes that they are acting in ways that are not godly. Also, you can maintain your integrity and good conscience.

Paul in Romans 12:20 says,

“On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (NIV)

I think about Eckhart Tolle and how he’s a very meek and modest man in demeanor. He doesn’t have much for an ego. The benefit to that is that people rarely challenge him or bother him because he does nothing to ignite their ego. Other people’s egos don’t see anything in him that they can provoke so they don’t and he avoids much suffering. I would like to think Jesus had much in common with Eckhart Tolle.

Matthew 5:43-45 says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The End of Suffering

When I originally was going to write about suffering I had composed a five page document about all the major trials in my life. It was long, tedious and embarrassing. Then I realized that my story about my suffering actually causes more suffering than it alleviates. This was for two reasons: it was boring to read and it focused on negative things. So, I decided to take a different route on this post and put a much-needed positive spin on things. While it’s true that I have suffered a lot in my life, great things came out of it. Also focusing on the sad things in my life is not productive or healthy. It felt good to summarize and enumerate my suffering but I will not subject anyone to it by publishing it online.

In “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, he describes suffering as coming about when we choose to think negatively about our circumstances. It also happens when you focus too much on the past, worry about the future, and don’t allow yourself to enjoy the present. I reviewed his book in another article.

I feel like one of the major benefits of having suffering in my life is that it gave me a very active pain body which I couldn’t stand carrying anymore so I sought to change the way I looked at things. Another huge benefit of suffering is that it gave me experiences that I can write about, learn from, and teach from. Without all the bad things that have happened to me my testimony would be pretty bland and not very compelling. Life on Earth is short and if you don’t enjoy it, what is the point? So for the past year I’ve decided my biggest goal and my running intention is to be happy. It’s that simple.

When I let my life flow and myself be myself, I am happy. Some might accuse me of being a hedonist but I don’t see it that way. I think of myself as what John Piper calls a “Christian hedonist.” It makes me happy when God is happy so naturally, I obey Him. It causes me suffering to struggle and fight with God in order to satisfy my fleshly cravings so I don’t. I do what makes me happy. This website is an example of that. I could choose to see it as a burden but I think of it as a privilege. I love to write. It allows me to get many confusing thoughts out of my mind and reframe and organize them with my proverbial pen (I realize there is no writing utensils used online but it sounds better than keyboard).

When your goal is to be happy you don’t let yourself suffer. You don’t engage in negative thinking because it causes suffering. You don’t beat yourself up when you fail because your goal is not to be some perfect being but to be happy. Criticizing yourself makes you sad. It’s also good to think positive about yourself and other people because then you find yourself treating people better and acting how God would have you act.

I seriously dislike it when people say things like “I want to” or “I’m trying to” please God. Why? Because it doesn’t take effort and it’s not even a struggle to be a Christian. Just do the right thing and make God and yourself happy at the same time. The reason people say “Lord, I want to be more Christlike,” is because in the wanting to be something you’ve already lost the battle. If you really wanted to be Christlike you would be – end of story. It puts off being a Christian in the now and is actually counterproductive. Christ is not hard to emulate. He even says “His yoke is easy and His burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). When he was hungry he ate, he came eating and drinking and people called Him a winebibber (wino) and friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). People won’t like you, they will judge you, criticize you and hurt you no matter what you do. So make it your aim not to be pleasing to people but to be pleasing to God. Christ wasn’t a prude but he was definitely righteous. He didn’t judge people based on their past or future but rather opened His heart and saw them with presence. He gave people room to be themselves and to be happy.

Now I’m not saying that life is always easy or happy – you have no control over some circumstances in life. What you do have control over is how you think about those circumstances. All the suffering and all the joy lie in your mind. You don’t have to seek outside pleasure or fixes because the kingdom of heaven is within you. Christ gives us peace immutable. If you have peace you can’t easily be unhappy. Why set your thoughts on things that encourage suffering? Why relive your story of being abused or whatever is your pain source again and again when it’s clearly only affecting you in the present because it’s all you let yourself think about? It’s true that many people have very sad backstories but it can only affect your behavior because you focus on it. You are capable of being happy if you just stop reliving your past in your thoughts and eventually actions. It’s pretty short-sighted to only see and relive the misery in your life. Why not remember the good people did to you? If you honestly can’t thank a single person for your miserable experiences you can at least thank God for what you learned from them.

Jesus says to rejoice in our suffering because it only makes us stronger and it’s indicative that we are God’s children because God’s people aren’t of the world and the world doesn’t understand and often persecutes us. He’s basically saying to be positive about your negative experiences. You only suffer needlessly when you rehearse them. Complaining about things whether in your mind or aloud only ages you. Let it go.

Overcoming Addiction

While I currently do not have any addictions I have struggled in the past with prescription anti-anxiety drugs. I used to take Clonapin once a day. It was only .5 to 1 mg daily but it was enough to get me addicted. When I tried to go off it I wanted to give up. I suffered from extreme and intense depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Under normal circumstances, I would never entertain the idea of suicide. I remember riding the bus home from work and having a crying breakdown in front of a whole bunch of people. It was very unusual and when I got home I looked up withdrawal symptoms for that drug and apparently what I went through was not uncommon. The first day when I went off Clonapin I didn’t notice any difference but the second day, whew, there was a huge withdrawal. Needless to say, since I couldn’t handle the withdrawal symptoms, I quickly went back to using the drug on the third day.

About a year ago, I realized that Clonapin was causing some pretty major side effects. I knew I couldn’t get off it on my own. I prayed that God would take away the addiction and help me get off the drug. He did. I made it past the third day of going without it and after that I never took it again. It was amazing because I had no withdrawal symptoms at all. I asked and God delivered because I couldn’t have done it on my own.

Addiction is a form of bondage that the ego uses in order to control a person. It is a form of idolatry because it takes the place of God in our lives. Anything that controls your behavior ultimately can become an idol to you. Addictions range from drugs, to alcohol, to pornography, gambling, smoking, TV watching, Internet usage, shopping, excessive eating, gossiping, etc. In fact there are about as many addictions as there are vices. The bible says in Hosea 4:11 that, “harlotry, wine and new wine enslave the heart.” New wine is juice. The bible is talking about sugar addiction.

Jesus came to set us free from bondage. In Isaiah 42:6-8 it says:

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captive from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.”

God doesn’t want us to be enslaved by anything. Addiction can control a person’s resources – their time, money, mind and physical body. What you give your time to is what you choose to concentrate your energies on. Even work can become an addiction. Under normal circumstances and in their right mind, no one would allow themselves to be enslaved by anything. The ego is a liar but Jesus has not given us a spirit of fear, but one that cries out for our Father and one that is of a sound mind. The ego is very fearful. It says,”if I don’t get my fix, I will go crazy.” The ego, our shadow side, or the evil one, is controlling, manipulative and tricky.

Jesus overcame the world and so can we. As a matter of fact, Christians are all destined to overcome the world and all of its’ ugly incarnations. The only thing we should be slaves to is righteousness. Romans 6:6 says, “for we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin,” (NIV). “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline,” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV). Avoid anything that has the power to control you. God wants to be first in our lives, thoughts and hearts. Only by having the Holy Spirit can we engage in behaviors that please God. Proverbs 16:3 says to “commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans,” (NIV). To me this means that once we are committed to serving God He will help us get rid of our addictions and in the end conquer our own ego and the powers of darkness. Jesus says that all we have to do is ask and it will be given to us (Matthew 7:7).

The Ego’s Struggle

Yesterday I got a good glimpse of the workings of the devil. I don’t want this post to be negative so I’ll keep his mention to a minimum and I might intertwine the words ego and devil. They can be one in the same. So sometimes I like to look up song lyrics when I hear a new song and find out what they’re all about. I love music but I tend to err on the side of paranoia because if I find a song I can relate to I get trippy about it and see connections where there may not be one. Anyway I looked this certain song up and it had my name in it like eight times. I thought, OK, maybe I’m supposed to pay attention to this one. As I read, the song was threatening, offensive and dispiriting. At first, I thought, OK this is from someone who knows me. Then as I read I realized that, no, this was from the devil.

In the entertainment industry the devil is very active. I don’t know why he chooses this route but it probably has to do with the fact that he can hide under many different personas without mainstream society ever suspecting anything. When I say “he” and I refer to the evil one, I don’t for sure know if “he” is male or female but I say he because it’s a little better than “it.” You see, because of the way the ego works, the devil can use pretty much anyone as a mouthpiece. Remember when Jesus rebuked his disciple Peter and called him “Satan?” (Matthew 16:23) It’s very common for the evil one to cause people to act badly when they are in the grips of the ego.

God looks for worshippers to “worship Him in Spirit and truth,” because only when you have the Spirit of God can you please God (John 4:23 NIV). If you let your ego take over you can’t please God. If you argue, quarrel, put down, and backbite other people you can’t please God either. As soon as you start to feel yourself slipping into negative behaviors you have to catch yourself and go back to the Spirit of God, which is forgiving, loving, positive, optimistic, and healthy. Pray and ask God to fill you with the Spirit as soon as you feel yourself start to get negative. Why is this so crucial? Sometimes when you act badly you can’t take back what you say. You end up looking like a fake to anyone that has eyes and critical thinking skills. When this happens you are ripe pickings for condemnation, fear, guilt, and fault-finding.

God hates what He calls the “pointing finger,” which is the problem of fault-finding and blaming in order to vindicate oneself. The pharisees of Jesus’ day were very good at this. They brought a woman before Jesus who was “caught in the [very] act of adultery” (John 8). They didn’t bother to accuse the man who was the other active participant and by their behavior, it was clear that they were shifting blame to the woman because she was an easy target.

People still do this today. It is easy to blame black people for crime, poverty, and unwanted pregnancy because our society marginalizes black people. It’s the same for women in Jesus day. Women were considered unclean for a good quarter of their adult life because they were under the “curse” of the natural biological function of menstruation. Society blamed women for much of the evils of society and it still does. During the inquisition millions of innocent women were killed and persecuted for witchcraft. The devil is a blame shifter. If he can distract people from the real enemy he can get away with much more.

I’m reading a book currently called “A New Earth,” by Eckhart Tolle. He talks about how during the inquisition the balance of power which contains male and female energy on earth was tipped in favor of male energy. Because men are more cerebral “thinkers” and women are more intuitive “feelers” and because the ego comes about from the use of the thinking mind, the ego or devil is able to have more influence in our society. This is largely the reason for the violent, destructive nature of the order of things in today’s society.

At this point in time, it is essential to remember the verse in the bible that says “no weapon formed against you shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17). As God’s people, Christians have protection in that they have the eyes and ears of God through the workings of the Holy Spirit. God created the blacksmith to destroy and although He created a worthy adversary (because He’s God) He did not create someone greater than Himself (Isaiah 54:16). The very nature of God defies any logic that says He can be outwitted. Again, when I refer to spiritual entities like God, I use the pronoun “He” simply for the underpinnings of tradition. I don’t really believe God has a sex and I don’t really believe that he favors a sex as many traditionalists would have you believe. Like I said, the planetary equilibrium has been tipped in favor of male energy and it’s implications go to deep to the root of even our religious and spiritual understanding. This is even clear with Paul’s writings. Although Paul was a good writer and definitely had the Spirit of God he still had some sexist beliefs that keep women from fulfilling their calling today if interpreted unwisely. I look at spiritual giants like Joyce Meyer and think, wow, we’ve come a long way.

You can very clearly see the devil in today’s popular media. All of it is unspiritual nonsense meant to confuse and brainwash society. When you watch TV you allow the devil or ego to think for you. It requires no effort to be brainwashed. It can even feel good if you like to indulge in perversity. Personally, I do not watch TV because I know how big of an influence it can have over the mind. It’s even hard to look away. Just remember to examine carefully at your behaviors so that you leave no room for the devil to use you as a mouthpiece.

Humble Yourselves

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2 NIV

Where I work this is not an option. I am a caregiver and I work with a woman who is cognitively disabled and has autism. I also have a sister with autism who is physically and cognitively disabled. Because neither one can talk, if I am not compassionate and aware, I could miss something potentially serious like a seizure or an infection. For me, being humble has saved my life many times because God only listens to the prayers of those who humble themselves before Him.

I think people today are stressed and angry. I notice this when I’m on the road. I like to go the speed limit when I drive. Sometimes I speed but it’s usually only when I’m not paying attention to it. Almost every time I drive, someone will ride my bumper and try to push me into going faster. I really don’t understand this behavior. It’s very intimidating and disturbing to see that someone is willing to rear-end me in an accident just because I won’t speed. It doesn’t make me go any faster and if I do slam on my brakes and we get in an accident they will be at fault for riding my bumper.

When you’re stressed or angry you push God away. You push everyone away for that matter. Did you ever wonder how you get stressed and angry? It all starts with self talk. When you focus on things that make you mad like unfairness or any situation where you feel slighted your mind will wander into negative moods and stress. If you meditate on ways people have hurt you you will get in a bad mood. So don’t do that. Stay positive and meditate on ways you can resolve the situation; if it can’t be resolved think about something that makes you happy. You are in charge of your thoughts. Don’t let your mind be hijacked by the devil so that you lose your peace. Animals are really good at this. When they get mad they rebuke their attacker then shake it off. They don’t sit there and stew over something then bite off the first head that comes near them. They don’t pass aggression onto unrelated events or people.

I think it is important to focus on the gentle component of the above bible verse. It is not OK to think about ways to get revenge on someone or something through violence. Jesus never used violence and I believe he wants us to follow in his example. When the military came to seize Jesus and one of the disciples cut off someone’s ear, Jesus healed it. If you like violent video games and aggressive, violent television consider changing your habits. Humans tend to mimic what they see on TV or video games. Children are especially vulnerable to picking up violent behavior from watching TV. Violence is never OK. By watching it on TV you are allowing it into your paradigm of acceptable behavior. Non-violence is the only way to change anything. For instance, look at Ghandi who changed so much through peaceful protest and hunger strikes.

Jesus also wants us to be humble and to maintain a soft heart that is responsive to God’s leading. The bible verses about humility are plentiful. Here are a couple:

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up,” (James 4:10 NIV). 2 Samuel 28:22 says, “You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.” Why does God value humility so much? He is an awesome and mighty God. Humility is the only posture we can assume that is proper and fitting in His presence. Jesus although equal to God humbled himself to be lower than the angels in order to save us. In order to save us, God became like us, fully God yet fully human and faced all the temptations we are prone to yet did not sin. In this way He overcame the world (Philippians 2:8).

A Word On Fear

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24

Some churches don’t focus on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I think this is a great tragedy. The church is the embodiment of the Holy Spirit – not the building but the people. People make God’s temple not bricks. God’s temple should always be filled with the Holy Spirit or it’s not even God’s temple. Right? Because if God’s not in it, it’s not His temple. The difference between God’s people and regular people is that God’s people have the Holy Spirit in them.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, “for God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and a sound mind,” (NIV). Jesus promised His Spirit to His disciples when He left them. When you don’t have God’s Spirit you cannot please God.

If God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear we need to recognize the implications. For one, worry is a form of fear. If you are given to worry you might want to pray about getting rid of it. In the bible there is a lot said about worry because it is a primary means for the devil to attack. Here’s what Jesus had to say about worry in Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV):

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It is a very good argument against worry. Again in Psalm 37:8, the bible says not to worry because it leads only to evil. The devil is the spirit of fear. Anytime you lose your peace you can pretty much guarantee the devil’s been at it again. God wants us to come to Him without fear or worry and cast our cares on Him because He cares for us. 1 John 4:8, says

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

If something scares you, call on God to give you support. The bible says that God gives His Spirit freely to His children and Jesus says that whoever comes to the Father through the Son will never be turned away (John 6:37). Jesus says here that “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

The Holy Spirit carries with it gifts. How do you know if you have the Spirit? There are a couple of ways of telling. One way is through your words. If you curse or speak negatively about Jesus you do not have the Holy Spirit. If you can say aloud that Jesus is blessed in front of people then you probably have it. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart you will be saved and Jesus will confess your name in the presence of His angels. Another way to tell if you have the Holy Spirit is that you would have gifts of the Spirit. The bible talks about those here (1 Corinthians 12:1-11 NIV):

“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

Another way to tell if you have the Holy Spirit is by your actions. Are you walking in love and obeying God’s commands? Do you have peace? Is the Word written on your heart? All of these are signs that you have the Holy Spirit. If you don’t have it and you want it, ask God to give it to you. Maybe get baptized and start attending a Spirit-filled church.

True Riches

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” Mark 9:35 NIV

Hollywood glamorizes a luxurious and rich lifestyle. I see youtube videos advertised all the time that talk about manifesting money and whatever you want through meditation. The earth is God’s and everything in it (1 Corinthians 10:26). Of course in this world we need to have food, clothes, shelter and otherwise but God has promised to provide that (Matthew 5:25-26). Our primary concern needs to be, “how can I please God today?”

In Jeremiah 9:23-24 the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me,that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight…” (NIV)

Wealth does not elevate anyone to God’s level. Humility brings us closer to God. John 3:27 says that “a man can receive nothing unless its been given to him from heaven.” If we seek to please God we will have our needs met. Matthew 6:25-26 says,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (NIV)

We need to start realizing that God’s love is precious. He is life. He is beauty. He is abundance. He is intelligence. The love of the world offers only lust and pride. God offers peace, protection, guidance, healing, love, serenity, a sound mind. He offers a living relationship with the God of the universe. What are humans even doing on this planet to try and replace God with wealth? To be great in God’s presence we have to be servants. Worldly greatness doesn’t impress God because He knows what’s underneath all that wealth – a trembling piece of flesh. We all are vulnerable and very small compared to God. Wealth can’t help you if you don’t have a sound body and mind to enjoy it with. Proverbs 11:4 says that “wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” However, “the blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it,” (Proverbs 10:22 NIV).

But what good is wealth if you don’t honor God and help others with it? You should use your money to gain friends and win others to the faith. Solomon was a man with great wealth. He wrote in Ecclesiastes,

“There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth’For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless— a miserable business!” (Ecclesiastes 4:8 NIV)

I used to be very materialistic. I didn’t think anything about dropping one hundred dollars in a day on clothes. I wanted badly to impress people. I didn’t think much of money, to be honest. I was very wasteful. God didn’t like it. I was spending more time shopping than I was working or even studying. After about three years living like I was wealthy, God brought me down a notch. I lost my job, my license and my sanity. In our town, if you don’t have a car or a license you cannot work because there isn’t much for public transportation. Without a job, license or car I was stuck in poverty for about ten years. Every month, after paying bills I had about $50 left over to buy food with. It wasn’t easy, but God sustained me during that time and taught me how to trust Him.

James 2:5-7 talks about those in poverty inheriting the kingdom. It says:

“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”

Matthew 5:5 quotes Jesus as saying, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” When you serve others you please God. The world doesn’t offer much congratulations when you work in food service, trash disposal, caregiving, lawn maintenance, and other service professions. They are hard and dirty jobs that few people are willing to do. But God notices that we are swallowing our pride when we take a lower position in the world and he will exalt us in His kingdom. Don’t be discouraged. God sees your service to others and will reward you. The professions I listed were just ones that I thought of and not necessarily a comprehensive list.

A Word About Slander

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:12-13 NIV

Back in October my family had someone working for us to take care of my sister who is physically disabled. We’ve had a hard time hiring people because there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of people willing to do the job who are dedicated and trustworthy. We had a woman working for us for about ten years. She was close to our family, she knew the routine and we trusted her. She had good work ethic.

I just recently moved in with my parents in order to cut costs and help them out. My living quarters in their home are in the basement, a doorway away from my disabled sister’s apartment. I was particularly close to the woman who worked here. We would often talk and lean on each other for emotional support. We even went to church together.

In a period of about a month her elderly parents health began to deteriorate. She had to drive an hour one way every day to get to their house and take care of them. In this time she pulled her shoulder and had to take some time off. Things got really overwhelming for her. One day when she came to work I had just let the dogs out. One of them had a urinary tract infection as I would find out later so she peed on accident on the bathroom floor. I didn’t know about it until the caregiver stepped in it. We thought it was just moisture on the floor from the humidity.  She cleaned it up.

The next day when she was working she accused me of trying to make her fall. Obviously, that wasn’t my intention so I apologized for the incident. The next day she came in she was in pain for an injury (I didn’t make her fall) and taking meds and she blew up at me while my mom was sitting on the couch. She called me all sorts of names and my mom and I were shocked. She told me to never come in my sister’s apartment while she was there again. I didn’t want to make waves so I said “fine,” and basically stayed away from her for the week. She came in to work about a week later with her mom and apologized to me. I forgave her but it was awkward. About a week after that she came into work and my mom asked her to clean something in the kitchen. She took offense and wrote my mom a rude text message when she got home. To make a long story short my mom let her go.

I used to talk to her a lot about common friends. There were certain people she hated and when she talked about them I would get angry at them. I didn’t see the problem until after she left and I realized how many friends and relatives I was angry at as a result of the negativity. The thing about gossip is that it spreads like fire. Slander is very serious. Whether true or not, “a gossip separates close friends,” (Proverbs 16:28 NIV). It muddies the water. The tongue is hard to tame (James 3:8). The problem with slander is that you can’t take it back. Once you’ve said something it might never be undone. It can ruin someone’s reputation and ultimately, it can ruin their lives. What happened was very easy to see in hindsight and it all started with self-talk. Instead of taking a positive outlook about the situation she took a negative stance. She chose to see the bad instead of the good and then she meditated on what she perceived as bad intentions. This riled her anger until she could no longer contain it and she blew up at me.

The devil is tricky. If he can get you to accept his negative viewpoint about something he pretty much has you under his control. If you don’t change your thinking you are a willing participant in the negativity. You’ve crossed over from light to darkness. The war we wage is not against each other. It’s against strongholds in our thought systems that the devil puts in place through lying to us (Ephesians 6:12-13). If we believe what he says we are going to act on it. Even Jesus says not to judge other people and Paul the Apostle took it a step further and said not to even judge yourself (Matthew 7:1, 1 Corinthians 4:3). We don’t have the mind for it. God does. His mind is infinite and he sees the motives of our hearts. When we choose to let God do the judging we are less likely to offend others, ourselves and God.

Eckhart Tolle explained the mechanism of gossip well in his book “A New Earth.” In it he says that the ego is strengthened when you gossip because “you feel superior in that moment because you know more.” The ego is like the bane of humanity that is our shadow side. Christians would probably describe the ego as the evil one.

Tolle goes on to say,

“Many people are addicted to gossiping partly for this reason. In addition, gossiping often carries an element of malicious criticism and judgment of others, and so it strengthens the ego through the implied but imagined more superiority that is there whenever you apply a negative judgment to anyone.” (Tolle 82)

When someone gossips to you shut your ears. If you can’t get away from the situation try to stay positive about it and remember that the person who offended you is not your enemy. The devil is your enemy. He knows if he can suck you into believing his lies, your behavior will be negative. Don’t accept lies. Don’t accept slander either. When someone uses slander they are obviously using it for malicious reasons – whether theirs or or the devil’s. It’s good to allow people room to make mistakes. If someone offends you you need to approach them yourself and discuss the problem and resolution so that you don’t fall into sin.

Slander tries to make people look bad. When you listen to it it causes you to hate the person being gossiped about even though you were not even the one originally offended. You could be a third party but now in your mind is this juicy piece of gossip that has just condemned another person for something they may or may not have said or done (Proverbs 18:8). Leviticus 19:16 says,

“Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.” (NIV)

Slander defiles the person who utters it. Jesus says in Matthew 15:18-20,

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (NIV)

We all sin and judging someone else’s sin is not appropriate if we don’t want God to judge us negatively. Luke 6:37 admonishes,

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (NIV)

As Christians we need to take into consideration that Christ paid for our sin and theirs. To point out another person’s flaws is not necessary or productive because we all have them. It’s all ugly and to meditate on someone’s flaws is a willful act of disobedience because we’ve been told to think about good things. It’s good to be honest with yourself and aware of your and other people’s flaws but to mull over negative aspects of people’s personality in your mind will only cause you to get angry and step into realms of hate. Love always sees the best in people. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes what love is. It says,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

To think about things that make you angry only causes you to sin. You have control over what you put into your mind. Fill it with positive things like scripture and thanksgiving. Think about things you are thankful for. Write them down if you need to physically manifest the words and fix your mind on them. Phillipians 4:8 says,”Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,” (NIV).

Because you can’t take back things that come out of your mouth, be careful. Don’t let the devil poison your mind with gossip or hatred. In this case it separated close friends and someone lost their job. It’s unfortunate but at least we learned something from it.

Works Cited

Tolle, Eckhart. A New Earth: Create a Better Life. A New Earth: Create a Better Life, Penguin, 2009, p. 82.