Travel Light: Bitterness

Let’s be honest. Our world is EXTREMELY negative, polarized, and divisive. Every month that goes by politics, religion, and even sports divide us more and more. From even a cursory glance at social media, it seems that bitterness is the flavor of the day. I can totally understand why bitterness is spreading like an uncontrolled weed. I see so many things on social media, in the news, and with my own eyes that frustrates me, breaks my heart, and even angers me. I see countless unchecked actions and behaviors that I can’t even begin to understand, let alone agree with. Truth be told, I often feel a bitter taste building on the end of my tongue. However, we all need to remember not to let bitterness overcome us and drive our actions. 

Look at what Paul tells us in Hebrews chapter 12: 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15

  1. Strive for peace with everyoneThis can be a bitter pill for us to swallow in this age of divisiveness and polarization. Some of you are likely making a list of exceptions in your heads right now of those you don’t have to show peace to. However, Paul is exceptionally clear here. It does not matter what differences we have with others, our goal should not be to sow more divisiveness, but to sow seeds of love and peace. 
  2. Model holiness: I can’t really blame the secular world for getting so caught up in polarizing issues. But Paul tells us that Christ-followers need to be an example of a better way of living. We need to be models of the holiness of Christ Jesus in the way we live and treat others. When people see Christians in life and social media they should be struck by how radically different we are. They should be amazed at how we love one another, love others, and are seeking to make the world better. They should be so taken by how different we are that they want to stop acting worldly, and instead seek God’s ways. 
  3. We should seek to avoid causing trouble: As Paul puts it, letting bitterness grow unfettered leads to all sorts of trouble. It can lead to broken relationships, arguments, anger, and all sorts of other troubles. Let me be blunt. I have seen both politically liberal and conservative Christians cause a lot of trouble over political opinions. I’ve seen many long-lasting relationships ripped to shreds, which breaks my heart. Don’t let your bitterness cause trouble for yourself or others. 
  4. Seek God’s grace: The focus in our lives should be less on always being right, and more on sharing and modeling God’s grace. Yes, we have a right to our opinions, and yes, we have a right to defend them vigorously. But at the end of the day, God’s grace is more important than anything else. Let’s make sure we never lose that perspective. 

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2 Ears, 1 Mouth

‘When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise. ‘ Proverbs 10:19 (NASB)

More often then not, my mouth gets me in trouble more and faster than any other means.  Have you ever noticed when given enough rope, people will tend to hang themselves?  If you don’t have enough evidence to indict, just sit tight, let them keep talking and they’ll usually convict themselves.  I’ve found this to be true so very often.  

Another aspect of this is simply choose your words carefully and thoughtfully.  When we ramble, things that shouldn’t be said come out and damage gets done.  

Bottom line… God gave us two ears and but one mouth, so that we’d listen twice as much as we talk.  Have a blessed weekend.

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

Generous

How generous are you?  Toward your family, toward your friends, toward strangers?  Often we act in ways that our parents did and that we were taught growing up.  Maybe it is genetic as well, but the way we see those around us acting toward others goes a long way in determining our generosity toward others.  Maybe another question should be how stingy are you toward others?  If someone really needs help and you have a chance to share, how often do you try to justify not doing something?  I have been in both places at different times and I can say I always have more regrets not doing something that I have in acting toward a situation.  What opportunity would you like to have back in being able to act generously? 

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.  A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25

What is your response to someone begging or panhandling on the street?  If you are like me, the first time you see this, your response is to give them something, whether that be some money, or to get them some food.  If you can do this, it is a good chance to share the reason why you give, because of Jesus.  I have done this several times to random strangers I encounter, but don’t always know the result of the interaction.  If you see this several times a day, you may become calloused toward these people, thinking that your giving doesn’t make much of a difference in their lives.  I’ve been in this spot as well.  Even asking God, how should I act toward a career panhandler? 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  1 John 3:1

What has been the most treasured gift you have received?  It may not even be the biggest gift, but for me it is often the unexpected or the most needed thing at that moment.  Its not always the size of the gift that matters, but that you actually cared to give something at all in a given circumstance.  That someone would care to think of me and give something that came from their heart, is often what I value most.  Even a kind word or two written in a card is more valuable than the money they may have put in there. 

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  1 Corinthians 9:6-7

Throughout scripture, there seems to be a theme of blessing toward those that give generously.  That, as followers of Christ, as we have been richly blessed, we ought to bless other in return.  We ought to love others, as God has loved us.  We ought to forgive, as we have been forgiven.  We do this out of a natural response to the great love and mercy God has shown to us.  Is this our response?  Not always, when I let the influence of the World into my heart and mind, but it is my response when the Lord dwells in my heart and mind.  Let us strive to act as generously as Christ has been in all ways toward us!

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Luke 6:37-38

Yours in Christ,
Clark

This isn’t working…

I was at the gym last week, and noticed someone “working out.”  I wish I could emphasized the quotations. They were in the gym, they got on a machine, they touched the weights.  When I looked into their effort, to say it was lacking would be a massive understatement.  They could be there for hours seven days a week and not gain any growth or loose any weight. Why… “this isn’t working”

The equation above: failed system + unmet expectations= frustrated person in the gym

Have you ever been frustrated in your spiritual journey?  Have you ever been frustrated in your spiritual results?  Could it be that you are frustrated by unmet expectations?  Could your unmet expectations be because you have a failed system?

Mark 3:1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” 

We would like the verse to end like this… “and his hand was completely restored, and he stretched it out.” But it is actually in reverse…

Mark 3:5 He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

It was when the man obeyed Jesus command that his hand was completely restored. What if obedience comes from obedience that is done from courage aka faith. What if faith was not a feeling but obeying before what could only be understood or realized after.

Jesus saw a failed religious system.  You could not heal on the sabbath because it was considered work.  Jesus did not pull him to the side to heal him, but had him stand up in front of everyone. This unnamed man was identified only by his issue and not his family name or first name.  Why? His issue was not about him. Your issue is not about you!  Jesus went public with the mans issue so all the people around him could see the issue and the healing. 

Where is God asking you to obey in your issue? Confess it? Let people into it? What if tithing was how God wanted to give you the financial freedom you are looking for?  What if forgiving them was the obedience God is looking for to heal your depression?  What if serving in the midst of your busy schedule was the place where your faith would become real? What if waking up 45 min early was the obedience God wants to have a real relationship with Him?

Where is your issue? What is your next step of obedience?

Helping people live a better story

Brandon

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