The Sin That Springs Up

Bitterness is a terrible sin that afflicts many people. It is the type of sin that seems to  spring up, although in reality it has long lain dormant in our lives. No one grows up wanting to be a bitter old man or a bitter old lady and yet so many people in today’s society are bitter. Teenagers, young adults, senior citizens, both inside and outside of Christendom can become bitter. Warnings in Scripture abound about this insidious sin:

 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; Hebrews 12:14-15

Sometimes guilt is confused with bitterness. Guilt is what we feel when we sin. Bitterness is what we feel when others sin against us. Bitterness is almost always based on someone else’s sin against us, whether that sin was real or imaginary. What do I mean by this? Imaginary sin is when we think someone said or did something against us that they really didn’t do. We get bitter waiting over an apology that will never come because we only thought we were harmed.

Some sins against us are real. Bitterness is not concerned with how big the sin is, it is based on how close it is to you. It does not depend on how great the evil was, it depends on how close the offending person was to you. Bitterness is directly related to those people we are (or were) closest to.

Hebrews 12:15 describes bitterness as a root. Roots are mainly underground. They are rarely seen. The effects of roots though, that can be readily seen. They break up sidewalks, roads, water pipes. They extend deep into the ground and spread out over a wide area. Roots drink in nourishment and eventually a sprout comes up above ground. Later a plant grows and bears fruits or seeds.

The fruit that is born bears a direct relationship to the root producing it. Apple seeds grow apple tree roots that support apple trees which bear apples. A bitter root in your heart will grow deep and wide, supporting, sprouting and producing bitter fruit. We are told that bitterness defiles many people. That word for defile means to make people filthy. Bitterness spreads like a wildfire, consuming families, workplaces, churches and classes of people. The Bible says we have to get rid of it. Why? Because bitterness, is not only defiling and hurtful, it is also unspiritual – straight from the devil. James 3:14-15 says:  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. If not gotten rid of quickly, bitterness will result in evil practices which will defile both you and those around you.

Before you can get rid of bitterness, you must recognize it. How can you tell if you have a root of bitterness in you, waiting to spring up? Bitterness remembers details. You have thousands of conversations in your lifetime. How many of them do you remember in detail, word for word? Not only the words, but the intonation, inflection, gestures and facial expressions of the other party? Most of the ones we recall are those we feel sinned against by. Memory is helped by review, review, review. A constant reviewing of slights, real or imagined, leads to bitterness. I see this over and over in divorce counseling and family counseling. Conversations from years back are replayed in great detail when a party is hurt but positive conversations are fuzzy in the related details.

In order to get rid of bitterness we have to recognize, admit, and confess we have a problem. And the problem is with us – not the other party. Many times, I hear people say, “I’m not bitter. I just get my feelings hurt easily.” Really? Oversensitivity leads to resentment which turns to bitterness very quickly if not dealt with. You see, bitterness is just resentment that has been held on to. It is resentment that has festered and rotted.

We must recognize how insidious bitterness is. How evil it is. Bitterness always wants to blame the other person, the one who has hurt us. We don’t deal with the sin of bitterness so long as we think continue to think it is the others person’s sin. “When he quits lying” or “When she stops doing this” or “When they apologize to me for…” What if the other person never stops, never apologizes, never even recognizes that they have hurt you? Are you going to be resentful and bitter forever? A Christian cannot. He or she must forgive others even as Christ forgave us for sinning against Him.

When bitterness takes root even an apology will not get rid of it. Bitterness is always the sin of the bitter person alone, unrelated to anyone else. You and you alone choose to remain angry at another and withhold forgiveness. Christ went to the cross for us before we repented of any sin. We were unworthy and undeserving of this kindness and we are to show that type of grace and mercy to others.

In order to eradicate bitterness from my life I have to see that it is evil, satanic and that it is my sin and my sin alone. I do not get rid of it through the other person apologizing. I do not get rid of it if the other person stops their actions or if they die. I do not get rid of it any other way except calling it a sin against a holy God, confessing it and receiving His forgiveness.

If this is not done, bitterness will devastate you spiritually. If you have unresolved bitterness in your life then you are not right with God. You are not walking according to His Spirit but according to your flesh. It will devastate those closest to you. It will infect family, friends and your brothers and sisters in the church.

In Galatians chapter 5 the fruit of the Spirit is listed. Such things as love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and godliness are mentioned. When you are bitter towards someone you withhold love and you don’t feel joy around them. You are in turmoil, no peace. You are not patient with them nor are you gentle with them. You are not walking in the Spirit. Galatians goes on to say we reap what we sow. Bitterness halts spiritual growth altogether.  Remember, if you are not walking in the Spirit then you are not growing in the Spirit either.

Bitterness also destroys you emotionally. Bitterness will lead to discouragement and paranoia. You develop a victim mentality, believing that person is always out to get you. Eventually you may believe that about everyone else as well. You become negative, critical of others, always finding some fault even when they do something well. You become judgmental of their motives and secretly wish them ill, hoping they fail at whatever they try to do.

After admitting our bitterness, confessing it to God and asking His forgiveness, we need to pray for others. Not about them, but for them. To pray that God draws them close to Himself and they become great instruments for Him to use. Think of those people you don’t get along with, those you don’t particularly care for. Can you pray this for them? If not, check your heart. You might have a root of bitterness lurking, waiting to spring up.

 

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Challenging Words of Wisdom

newton

I have been reading in the fascinating book (that my wife gifted me with) and it has been a tremendously challenging read. There are hymns of Newtons that I never knew existed, full of deep and meaningful lyrics. There are excerpts from many of his pastoral letters that resonate with compassion and grace. Above all, there is the ringing theme that we must look to Christ and Christ alone for all that we need.

This is a practical book. It is full of statements and insights that require deep thinking on and much pondering to grasp all that Newton says, but it is practical in application. I would recommend this book to anyone who desires to know more of Christ and His grace. This is a book that I will come back to time and time again to mine more of its depths.

As you read Newton’s letters, hymns and sermons, you will come to a greater appreciation of how sufficient Jesus is for every need and how truly amazing His grace is.

Re-educating the Church

Back in the early ’80’s when I attended high school,  one of our required classes was “AVC”, otherwise known as Americanism vs. Communism. Far more than just a class on governments, the course outlined the philosophical differences between the two ideologies.  One of the stark differences I remember was that in countries like North Korea, Soviet Russia and others, political and religious dissidents and advocates were routinely sent to re-education (through labor) camps. These were a highly effective way of ensuring group think and keeping the powers that be in control.

Fast forward 30 years to present day America.  More and more of our citizens are being sentenced to re-education classes, facing fines and/or jail time for not “evolving” on social issues such as abortion, gay rights, marriage equality and other issues. We have seen heavy handed government enforced re-education philosophies at work in Houston, Idaho and Minnesota recently. Private organizations, churches, even football teams are being pressured to adhere to the new social norm. Anyone who resists must be a Neanderthal in need of re-education to get with the program.

Christians have two choices in froont of them: acquiesce and lose all resemblance to Christ we profess to be like or push back, stand for our beliefs and take any and all punishment meted out by the state as Christ and the Apostles did. America is no longer a safe haven for Christiandom. Declare your allegiance because now it is Americanism vs. Christianity. Teach your children now how to stand in the faith so they can rise up in your place and carry the legacy of the cross forward. Stand and be counted. Now is the time to choose who you will serve.

Quit moaning and wringing your hands wondering what you can do. Live your life according to Biblical principles, engage the culture, vote for moral values – not for party or union dogma and pray for those in power over you that the Holy Spirit would transform their lives. Please, stop lying to yourself that you can just “live your witness” and that will be enough. You must speak, must verbally proclaim the life changing gospel while backing it up with your lifestyle. It isn’t one or the other but both in harmony that provides an effective witness.

When I was young I heard over and over, “When we get together we can talk about anything but religion or politics.” We have reaped what we have sown; masses that cannot think critically about the long term implications of policies and a muddled, confused and impotent church that is irrelevant to mainstream America. Now is the time to declare your true intentions – are you ready to stand up for Jesus no matter the personal cost or are you going to shrink away and continue to compromise? Stand up for Jesus. Stand with your brothers and sisters facing persecution. Get involved and be a force for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Security, not Possibility

One of the most reassuring facets of our Lord  Jesus Christ is, to me, His ability to secure our salvation. We serve a God who not only can save, but who actually does so. The gospels abound with such wonderful statements such as Mt. 1:21, ” And you (Mary) shall bring forth a son and younshall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins” and Mt. 18:4 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost.” How wonderful is the phrase He shall save” – not just He will make salvation possible, but that He is actively going to save His people.

The fact that He not only loved us first, when we did not love Him, coupled with the truth that He saves us precisely because we cannot save ourselves is staggering. Left to ourselves, we would not come to Christ even if we could. Thankfully, He came to seek and save us. He calls us and bids us to come, follow Him just as He called the disciples. He draws us to Himself, saving us from this corrupt generation.

It is not just that He died to secure the possibility of salvation for those who would believe,  but that He died to save those to whom He gives the faith to believe on Him. My eternal destiny is secure because He chose me and for that I thank Him. On my own, I could not have and would not have chosen Him. Truly, our Lord is the God of salvation.

The Christmas Carol that isn’t a Christmas Carol

It is written about a pious duke and doesn’t mention the nativity at all. St. Stephen’s feast day, December 26th is spoken of but not December 25th, Christmas. Yet this carol, set to a springtime dance tune, continues to gain devotees each year. Why is Good King Wenceslas sung at Christmas? One reason is because of the feast of Stephen and the other is because King Wenceslas portrays Christianity at its finest – helping the poor and downtrodden. Jesus came to set the captives free, give sight to the blind, lift up those who were bruised and broken and give them hope. Hope of salvation, hope of a life eternal and hope of a better life here and now. When Christ transforms a soul, they no longer think selfishly but think of others, sacrificing so that they can minister in Christ’s name. Isn’t that what Wenceslas did, in both the carol and real life?

While it is not a Christmas carol in the traditional sense, it does speak of a life that Christ has transformed and isn’t that why Jesus came? He came to transform people from death to life, from selfish to spiritual, from lost to found. Those whose lives have been transformed will seek to do good works so that God is glorified and people are brought to His Son. So sing this sort-of, almost a Christmas carol. Sing it the day after Christmas on the feast of Stephen. Sing it and think of what acts of kindness you can do to reflect the love of God that has transformed your life. Sing it and thank God that He does transform people like you and I, and Wensceslas, into saints.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing 

WORLD | In defense of Richard Dawkins | Marvin Olasky | March 16, 2013

Another cowardly attempt to paint Christianity as evil and never address Islam. If we beheaded those who disparaged Christ would they stop their pathetic efforts to ridicule something they cannot possibly understand?
Why is it okay to slander Judaism and Christianity but not Islam? Dawkins is not only a fool (that’s what the Bible says about those who do not worship God) but an opportunistic coward. If he truly does not believe in a God, then it doesn’t matter what religion’s god is being talked about, Dawkins must show the same lack of belief in any of them to be consistent with his claim of being an atheist.
Of course, a true Muslim would be offended by his slander of the God of the Hebrews anyway – that is, if they read their Qur’an. So how about it Muslim world — any takers on defending God’s name?

WORLD | In defense of Richard Dawkins | Marvin Olasky | March 16, 2013.

Hymn Devotions Day 18 – When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

DAY 18 – WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS

               Of all of Isaac Watts’ hymns, this one is probably my favorite. Great words of truth mixed with a fantastic melody, this hymn is well worth singing regularly.

I particularly love the second stanza. There is nothing any of us have to boast about except our Lord. Are we brilliant? God gave us our intellect. Are we strong? God fashioned our body. Are we successful? God has blessed us.

All we are we owe to our Creator, especially our salvation. In God’s plan, in God’s time, in God’s power, He redeemed us to Himself through His Son. Salvation, as Jonah stated, is from the Lord.

Everything this world has to charm us with is nothing compared to what awaits us in glory. Why should I take my eyes off eternal perfection for temporal things? Truly, no offering I can give is enough. If I had, as the fourth verse states, everything in the world, it still would not be too great an offering to give. But what I do have, my life, I give freely to the One who is worthy of worship, the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Lord, reading again of Your Son’s death on the cross to pay the price for my sins, brings me both great sorrow and gratitude. Sorrow that I, like all other humans, failed to live up to Your holy standards; gratitude that You took it upon Yourself to pay my penalty. I can never repay You. I can only say, “Thank You.” Take my life. You created me, You bought me, take what is rightfully Yours.

 WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS – Isaac Watts

 

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died

My richest gain I count but loss

And pour contempt on all my pride

 

Forbid it Lord, that I should boast

Save in the death of Christ my God

All the vain things that charm me most

I sacrifice them to His blood

 

See, from His head, His hands, His feet

Sorrow and love flow mingled down

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

 

Were the whole realm of nature mine

That were an offering far too small

Love so amazing, so divine

Demands my soul, my life, my all