Dousing the Fires that Destroy

We would be in a better frame of mind to remember when someone sets out to attempt to destroy us or assassinate our character because of envy, jealousy, or “perceived” offense, that it is our opportunity to shine. We are the only ones who can actually destroy ourselves by our re-Action to their tactics. They are exposing themselves and their own vulnerability and character by their attacks. They will eventually cause others to look at them more carefully and see their faults, if we keep a positive outlook, by focusing on who Jesus says we are and not others.

Unfortunately, some live a life of attempting to attack those around them who don’t cater to their every whim. We must allow them to self-destruct, however painful it might be. Jealousy, envy, and name-calling are at the root of a very bitter person. These behaviors are antithetical to a life led by the Holy Spirit. When a life is led by Jesus, it is full of the fruits of the Spirit; which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Gossip is the opposite of these and one of the most insidious, because it entraps people and entices people to participate.  There are different forms of gossip also, as explained here: Proverbs 6:16-19 The definition of gossip is idle talk or rumors about the personal affairs of others; hearsay, scandal, and usually gossip isn’t a firsthand account, although there are those who gather evidence to use against you, posing as friends. Psalm 41:6 Many will try to disguise gossip and think it’s innocent to tell of another’s ‘troubles’ in a caring manner, but it isn’t and some don’t stop at caring; they do it out of vindictiveness. Gossip is a wildfire that must be put out – Don’t give an ear to its licking flames, don’t listen! Stop those who want to tell you the latest about others. When we shut our ears; by not listening; we are stopping those who want to share a ‘Bless their heart’ story. We are throwing water on the flames. If all of us did this, there wouldn’t even be a cinder left to ignite the flames.

I am reminded of an incident when I was a child about nine years of age. I grew up on my grandparents’ 80 acre pecan farm, with plenty of room to roam, and I loved it. One crisp, clear, cool fall afternoon, I piled up leaves about 30 feet from the back of our house to make a fort, which I was able to stack a couple of feet high. It was high enough that I could hide behind the walls if I scrunched down. I had plenty of material of twigs and dead leaves. The leaves were damp, so they stacked well. I had an active imagination and I was the youngest of three, much younger than my two older brothers, who usually couldn’t be bothered with a little sister. This allowed me to make up stories and play alone. But after I built the fort, sitting there became a bit boring and I wanted more excitement! I started to pretend an enemy had crossed the moat (our ditch) and set my fort on fire! But even then it wasn’t enough; I wanted to make it realistic. I knew we had matches in the house, because we had a gas range, which my mother needed the matches to light. Although I was forbidden to play with matches, I snuck in the back door, through our utility room, which led to the kitchen and waited patiently for my opportunity. I snatched a few from the box while my mother wasn’t looking. I ran back out and lit one on our concrete cellar and tried to catch my ‘fort’ on fire, but it wouldn’t spark right away, so I kept trying. I was on my last match when my father stuck his head out the back door to tell me dinner was ready. Knowing I shouldn’t be playing with matches, I dropped the match and ran for the house, forgetting the match was lit.
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About 15 minutes into dinner, my father said, “I smell smoke! I wonder who’s burning today?” as he looked at my mother, he asked if any of the other farms had gathered their brushfires yet, and she replied that she didn’t know. Our closest neighbor was a quarter mile away. Suddenly it dawned on me how I’d dropped the match, so I jumped up and peeked through the dining room drapes to look. Just as I was about to be scolded for getting up from the table, I yelled, in a panic stricken voice, “My fort’s on fire!!” and pulled open the drapes. Everyone jumped up from the table to see, and my father barked out orders on what to do to put out the fire. We had to keep from burning all the leaves on the 80 acres, and I stood frozen there staring, then burst into tears. The fire was spreading quickly, even though the leaves were wet. I wasn’t thinking about the farm, I was thinking about all the work I’d done in building that fort for hours. Finally, I went outside and watched — the hose from the front yard was now hooked up to the back spigot, and my fort was almost gone, as I stood watching in horror! Then, I realized I had started this pandemonium with one small careless match. I snapped out of my remorse as I heard my father yelling about the pecan orchard, because I helped my grandfather on the farm all the time and realized the bigger picture. It wasn’t about a fort, it was about an orchard! I pitched in and all five of us worked with water and gunny sacks to put out the fire. Obviously, I was in trouble with my parents for playing with matches and starting a fire, but thankfully, it had only spread about an acre. About the time we had it almost out, my grandparents drove up to see why smoke was coming from our house, because from their vantage point it looked like our house was on fire. I don’t remember what my punishment was, because I was in so much remorse with what could have happened that my parents must have decided I had learned my lesson. But they weren’t easy on chastisement, so I must have had to do or go without something. 

I can think of so many parallels between gossip, responsibility, and carelessness from this story. I had to sneak into the house to get the matches. I was doing something that I knew I wasn’t supposed to do, but I went ahead, and when I got caught, I didn’t confess, I dropped the tiny lit fire. In starting the fire, I could have destroyed a whole orchard, think how many lives are destroyed by gossip. Also, when the fire caused the smoke, it caused panic and alarm, even bringing my grandparents hightailing through the farm to come to our aid. But some people don’t think of all the consequences of their actions. If I had thought about that lit match, I don’t I would have dropped it, but maybe I would so I wouldn’t get caught. Do you know people who even in the midst of telling gossip in front of the person they’re talking about, will quickly tell the story quietly? Gossip doesn’t stop with telling stories, relating facts, because sometimes the facts you know shouldn’t be shared and become misconstrued. If you ever played the game “Rumors” as a child, where you whisper a sentence in the ear of the person next to you and then it’s repeated and whispered through the ears of even just ten people, by that time it’s a completely different sentence. With gossip, the story is usually embellished, and every person has to add his or her own perception, that’s when the fire starts. Once the fire starts, it’s hard to put out, even if there are wet leaves (those who won’t listen) because there are a few dry leaves (those who will listen), so eventually you get a spark and then a smolder. Sometimes it takes a while for the smolder to linger, before the fire rages, like my fort fire. Then there’s damage and everyone comes running to put out what just one person started by being disobedient. This is why we must control our mouths and control our perceptions, we should never make presumptions or speculate. We cannot read other people’s minds or feel their feelings, those are theirs alone. It is best to contain a fire, by never allowing it to ignite. We should mind our own business and contain the fires. We should stop the fires that others want to start. 

People who shrug off deliberate deceptions,  saying, “I didn’t mean it, I was only joking,” Are worse than careless campers who walk away from smoldering campfires. When you run out of wood, the fire goes out;  when the gossip ends, the quarrel dies down. – Proverbs 26:18-20

A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. – James 3:5-6

 

Grace

The majority of my friends and family members are Awesome and help to maintain my Faith in humanity. Then there are those few that stretch me. At times, they really tttrrrrry my pa-tience and offers of grace, or even desire to show grace! Jonathan, my husband, will sometimes say the latter are the ones who are there for our “perfecting,” meaning that they make our faith grow. And I think, ‘Gee, how much more does my faith need to e-x-p-a-n-d?!!’

He’s right though, because if they are irritating me by the things they do and/or say, it shows I have not reached my own maturity in Faith. If and hopefully when I’ve come to a point that their actions, which are intended to provoke, do not irritate, but bring forth a response of love and compassion, then I’m getting closer to the patterned son, who treated sinner and redeemed alike. What greater love did he show than to give up his life to those who mocked and scorned him? 

What love can face a person who figuratively speaking, spits in their face and turn that anger to repentance without one word? What kind of love can heal? What kind of love, when weary will still minister to those in need? What kind of love is not angered when a close friend doubts their existence and allows them to touch him so they believe he exists? It is love full of grace; it is Perfect Love. I’m not there, but Jesus IS. May I grow to be more like him and exhibit His Grace!


Saved by grace… what does that mean?

Grace (charis in the Greek) is a free gift; something given without expecting anything in return; an undeserved kindness; a favor given by God through Christ Jesus. The one who gives grace offers a kindness or a favor; their speech is pleasing and courteous. One who bestows grace is not hindered by another’s sin or triggered by another’s good works. They are motivated by the heart of Christ Jesus, manifested in and through them. Grace is actuated by joy and imparts joy.  Grace prompts its possessors to confer benefits to others. Grace sustains and aids the efforts of those who labor for the cause of Christ, assisting those who are devout followers to be strengthened in their troubles. Grace is the ability to love those who don’t love you, to lend to others and expect nothing in return, to do without being asked. The one who receives and accepts grace feels gratefulness, homage (honor and faithfulness towards the giver) and respect (esteem) to the giver.

Divine grace – ‘Status gratiae’ in Latin – is the spiritual condition of someone who is governed (held in check) by the Spirit. Salvation is a gift of divine grace; it is a heart changing reality. Divine grace is also a Corporate Expression of the gifts given by God. 1 Peter 4:10 “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

Jesus is the epitome of grace; he knew how to answer every man, even as a child in the temple, his words were gracious. Luke 4:22 He lived out a life of grace to the very end of his human life. Grace and Truth come from Christ alone. Righteousness is declared by grace to us through Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24 Grace frees us from sin and the penalty of sin. Romans 6:14Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.  Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”

Grace is to be shared with others. When it is shared and received it brings glory to God. 2 Corinthians 4:15

There is victory in grace, even in the midst of trial because there is joy in the acceptance. Grace given is multiplied. Grace is the sufficiency of God in all that we face in our earthly life. Grace replaces the law. Galatians 5:1-4 Grace produces words seasoned with salt–put into fertile ground – healthy people, salt preserves & purifies. Grace produces wisdom. Malachi 2:7 & Colossians 4:6

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (NKJV) “Let us have grace” means let us continue to hold onto grace.

Grace Is inherited. 1 Peter 3:7 & 4:10 Grace can be multiplied through growth. We are encouraged to grow in grace. 2 Peter 1:2-8 The more grace we understand and walk in – the more we copy the pattern of Christ Jesus – the more grace we will be able to show and share with others.

Prayer: Father help me to grow in your grace and use the gifts you have placed within me to serve others. Help me to continue to hold fast to the grace you have shown me that I might grow in the knowledge of you and be able to share your grace with others. Thank you that your grace is Sufficient! In Jesus’ name – Amen

(Note: Words in blue are hyperlinks to some of the verses I based this study on, click on the words to be able to view them.)

A Ready Response

My husband and I have dealt with people who spread lies and were caught in them — even admitted them; sometimes by accident and sometimes by bold disregard of our feelings. They showed no culpability, even though they admitted saying hateful things and gossiping. Many times, we thought we had already dealt with it, only to find out they went back to their old habits. We know as Christians, we face persecution, but when it seems there is no end, it becomes daunting and disheartening. We try to make our response what we feel Jesus would do. We apologize for anything we may have done to make others angry. We give them the benefit of the doubt… But there is one way they and anyone can change, and that is to repent and surrender to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We pray they find a complete relationship with Christ who has the ability to transform. (More about that later.)

How do you respond when someone tells you that they are not willing to accommodate your needs (not wants) because they simply don’t want to; yet you see them accommodate others, without hesitation? How do you react when people gossip about you? What do you say when people don’t listen to anything you say because they’ve formed a bias against you based on lies? How do you treat them when this behavior is a constant pattern? How do you act when others say that you don’t owe them anything for a past kindness or gift, yet they continue to remind you of that ‘kindness’ or gift? You cannot stop others from lying or gossiping. You cannot make anyone forgive you for ‘perceived’ offenses. You cannot make anyone listen and understand. You cannot control what others say. You cannot keep people from maligning you. You cannot repay kindness that is held like a debt over your head… And I think of Jesus and his responses in all of these situations, and I try to emulate him. You go about your business, which is your Father’s business and you forgive, over and over… seventy times seven… but we are human and it isn’t easy.

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Even though we’ve searched our hearts and the Bible, I continue to search for the solution. We don’t want to lash out in anger, we want to give a response that is godly and kind, whether they choose to respond in the same way or not. One thing my husband said to me, while we were discussing these situations, was “How do we respond?” We’ve tried several methods, confronting in person, writing letters, speaking on the phone, but nothing has worked in one particular case. The lack of culpability, the lying, the scheming, and hatefulness has become a way of life for them. They even justify their actions. We all face these situations in our lifetime, whether it is with coworkers, family members, so-called friendships, and sadly with people whom we attend church.

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As I was writing, our dog, who is very territorial, went into one of his barking frenzies. A van had pulled up in our neighbors’ driveway and our blinds were closed. The dog thought (because he couldn’t see and relied only on what he heard – not reality) they were invading “his” territory. He was putting out a warning that they better not get any closer. They better not mess with his space or his treasures, which happens to be me, my husband, his toys, and his food. He was going to protect what is his and what he is comfortable with, even beyond reason! While he was barking at the phantom threat; I had an epiphany! These people who have been attacking us are protecting themselves and their perceived offenses. They don’t want to change their lifestyle, they don’t want anyone “in their business” because no matter how phantom the intrusion, they don’t want to feel uncomfortable by making changes. They are so jealous of our peace, that they’ve decided there must be something wrong with us! They constantly scheme, like our dog who sneaks dirty wash cloths out of the laundry to tear them up, then he hides in a corner… They hide any behavior they know is wrong by repeating their behavior more discreetly. When the phone rings they bark their greeting, because it wasn’t their idea to have communication at that time… 

The question my husband proposed was, “How do we respond?” I started to think of Jesus and what we know of his lifetime. How did Jesus respond to hecklers? How did he react to people who were so blinded they didn’t recognize the truth standing before them? Jesus IS Truth! How did he speak to the Pharisees or those who were non-believers?

When we encounter those who don’t understand the truth or are too blind to see it, we can pray for them. We can also remember a time when we were too blind to see and wouldn’t listen to others in our lives. We remind ourselves that it is only by the grace of God that we are not in their shoes; attacking others, without peace, and unhappy. We can Thank God for the Holy Spirit in our lives and pray they also receive enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, and come to know God intimately, to know His overwhelming love, abundant peace, and joy. If we are given the opportunity to make a difference in their lives, it must be by example. It will only be through a ready response of true love. Does this mean we must constantly be subjected to people’s hateful attitudes? No. I believe sometimes we must stay away from those who attack. Sometimes it is only by staying away that no offense is taken. Jesus didn’t take offense. His intention was to do his Father’s will. His perception was perfect, therefore his response was perfect. I want that perception! Jesus also removed himself from the crowd at times, when they were pressing in and overwhelming him. Luke 5:16 What did he do when he was alone? He prayed. What a lesson for us all, when we are attacked, we should politely remove ourselves from the situation and pray. 

 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

My prayer: Father, I desire to Never be offended. I want to walk constantly in my Father’s will. I want to respond in the same way that Jesus did to the false accusations and the attacks which he encountered. Help the people who are attacking see your ways and have your peace. Thank you for loving me and for loving them. Help me to know how to answer them, when the time comes. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who is our teacher and guide, who will provide us with the correct words at the correct time. Thank you for a ready response.

“When God wants to show you what human nature is like separated from Him, He shows it to you in yourself. If the Spirit of God has ever given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He will only do this when His Spirit is at work in you), then you know that in reality there is no criminal half as bad as you yourself could be without His grace. God’s Spirit continually reveals to His children what human nature is like apart from His grace.” –Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest.