Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Wisdom in an Age of Terror

We are living in an age of terror. Our news reports are filled with violence: school shootings, road rage, mass murders at schools, parades, malls, churches… nowhere seems to be safe.

Proverb 6:17 tells us that “God hates hands that shed innocent blood.” Don’t we all? I know I do.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I supported the voices that called for war. I signed up for the National Guard. We demanded justice for the nearly 3000 lives lost. Ironically, our desire for payback cost the lives of 2500 more Americans in Afghanistan as the longest war in US history dragged on. Twenty years later we would leave, and Afghanistan would quickly revert to Taliban control. Perhaps, war was not the answer.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the world was on our side. Even Yassar Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), denounced the attacks. Democrats and Republicans gathered in front of the Capitol and sang “God Bless America.” That seems like such a long time ago. Partisan politics rules the day once more and we squandered our global good will. Perhaps, war was not the answer.

What if we had responded differently? What if we had not gone to war? Was there a better way? What does God do about hands that shed innocent blood?

Adam and Eve's son, Cain was the first to shed innocent blood. He killed his brother in a jealous rage. God reached out to Cain and offered Cain an opportunity to confess his guilt and show remorse and repent. When Cain rejected God’s grace and therefore received judgment, God still extended the mercy of protection on him.

In 2006 five girls were killed and six injured in a school shooting in an Amish community. The father of one of the girls urged against hatred. He said about the shooter, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God".

An Amish midwife who had helped birth several of the girls murdered by the shooter reported that they were planning to take food over to his family’s house. She said, "This is possible if you have Christ in your heart."

The victim’s families forgave the shooter and invited his wife to their funeral. Resist the thoughts of violence and terror! Let self-control and love for God and the sanctity of life rule in your hearts. Surrender to God and let His power deal with your pain, your bitterness, your thoughts of revenge, your hatred.

Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Come near to God
and He will come near to you.
James 4:7

Monday, May 22, 2023

Wisdom for your tongue

God hates lying: the bold-face lie, the little white lie, flattery, and slander. He hates gossip, excuses, propaganda, and spin. He hates exaggeration, half-truth, and hypocrisy. He hates falsehoods, shading the truth, misrepresentation, perjury, false advertising, and embellishment.

Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us, “These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”

And yet, many people believe that lying is OK in some situations.

Lying is the devil's language. We affiliate ourselves with him when we lie. Jesus says, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”  John 8:44

Lying can be cruel. The worst kind of lie is a deliberate attempt to hurt someone. It can destroy reputations and ruin lives. Potipher’s wife lied, and Joseph was sent to prison for years.

Some will lie to escape consequences (The dog ate my homework.) The motivation for this kind of lying is fear. Abraham lied about Sarah, saying she was his sister and not his wife, so he would not be killed to make her available for marriage.

Others will lie to impress. They puff up resumes or exaggerate accomplishments. Ananias and Sapphira suffered fatal consequences for trying to impress their church with inflated generosity.

Manipulation is another reason for lying. Jacob lied to his blind father so he could steal his brother’s blessing and inheritance.

Jesus said that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45.) If lying comes easy for you, you need a heart cleanse. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10-19

Afterwards, we can follow this teaching, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” Colossians 3:9-10

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Wisdom for your ego

Pride is a principal evil in human nature. It led Eve and Adam to sin in the Garden of Eden. It leads us to sin today. Haughty eyes (a proud look) is first on the list of things God hates (Proverbs 6:19-19.)

We have all seen the “proud look.” The popular athlete looking down at the kid in the band; the rich looking down on the poor; the attractive looking down on the plain. The pride of the heart is evident in the eyes. The prideful look is a look of contempt.

Pride reveals itself in other ways, too. In such actions as rudeness, disrespect, and impatience. The prideful care more about what others think than about being a better person and become defensive when their self-image is challenged. They fail to see their own faults, looking, instead, at others’ faults so they can feel better about themselves. Jesus asked, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

The prideful tend to look after their own needs at the expense of the weak, unattractive, or just plain in the way. The Bible teaches, “Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:4)

Pride separates us from God's power who resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5.) Humility is the cure for pride. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

Jesus set the example. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)