Tag Archives: anger

You Get What You Ask For

Be careful what you pray for. You might just get it. 

When we pray, we are encouraged to pray for what we want and to be willing to follow the will of God whatever the outcome. But what if the will of God isn’t what He gives us? What if He gives us what we wanted even if that means he has to work a different outcome?

God had a plan for Israel, but they wanted a king, so he gave them one. It wasn’t exactly pleasant for the Israelites, but they got what they wanted, and eventually God worked out His will for them anyway. 

We just voted in a new president. Many churches prayed for the outcome of his election. Many Christians prayed specifically for Trump to win, but is that what the church needed? 

The American church is weak. The American church largely functions like a 40 year old bible nerd that still lives in his mom’s basement. 

Where is evangelism? Where are wonderful works of the Holy Spirit? Where are those strong in the faith who are able to speak truth without fear of their fellow man? Where are the “greater things than these” that Jesus promised we’d do?

Yes, there are preachers and some Christians who function this way, but this is not the norm. 

If the American church functions largely to put on Sunday morning bible classes and worship assemblies, then she has missed the call of the New Testament. 

The American church is full of people who claim to be Christians but don’t even know what Christ said about how to live. They look just like the world and cower at the concept of being blunt enough to tell others about the dangers of sin and the need for a savior. They don’t want to be seen as religious “nuts” and work hard to be cool according to the world’s standards. 

When has the church been strong? The church was strong under the persecution of the Jews, Pagans, and Romans in the first three centuries. The church is still strong in places where persecution is more than just a hateful glance or derogatory comment. The church is strong where there are threats of prison and death. 

Why? Because if you’re still going to choose the way of Christ in such circumstances, you’re going to have to be truly filled with faith and the Holy Spirit. There are no partial Christians in places like that. There are no “Sunday morning only” Christians in that culture. 

Perhaps what the American church needs is some persecution. Maybe she needs to lose some of her rights in this nation. Maybe her members need to be threatened in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. God has done it before. One day, He will do it again. 

I pray for President-Elect Trump and his staff. I pray for our nation. I pray especially for the church – that she begins to pray prayers more like Acts 4 – prayers of boldness and not protection; prayers of courage in the Spirit of Christ.

It’s well past time for Christians in this nation to come back to the Christ they claim with their lips but deny with their lifestyle. It’s time for the church to be a bastion of love in a world gone mad with fear and hatred. It’s time for the church to stop being “of convenience” and start being actually “of Christ”. 

What are you going to do to help the church be what Jesus calls her to be? Change starts with me, and it starts with you. 


Killing Churches Daily

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There is one thing that tears up churches more than any other thing. In fact this may be the only reason churches split. What is it? It is a lack of conflict resolution skills.

If you are around people for very long then there will come a time when you will disagree with them. They may say or do something you do not like. They may NOT say or do something, and you might think they should. Maybe you think they should have listened to your advice or come to you for help but they didn’t. Now you’re upset.

Why? We usually get upset out of an elevated sense of self-worth. We see our ideas, actions, motives, etc. as being more pure or better than someone around us.

This is not love. This is pride. Pride is the opposite of love because pride has to do with selfishness, and love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13).

So, now you’re upset, and what do you do? You let it simmer inside. You think of all the stupid reasons that other imbecile should have done or said or not done whatever it is that you’re upset about. Then you find another friend and talk with them about this issue. Your friend agrees with you, and now they’re upset with this individual. By the way, that’s gossip and slander (2 Cor. 12:20). Then the rumor-mill starts, and before you know it there is a whole army of people looking for blood from this individual.

Their initial action may or may not have been wrong, but the subsequent actions are sinful and devastating to the church that belongs to Christ.

So what do we do? Jesus tells us what to do if someone sins against us:

Matthew 18:15-17
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Note that this isn’t them offending us. We can be offended, but if they haven’t sinned against us, then we need to check our pride. If we are holding a grudge based on something we are offended by, then we need to drop it and love our brother or sister.

But what if we sinned against them or even cause some strife against them and they aren’t mature enough to come to us first? Jesus addresses that too:

Matthew 5:23-24
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Notice that Jesus wants us to be about the ministry of reconciliation before we are able to come to him in worship.

If we are holding grudges against our brothers and sisters in Christ that isn’t love. We need to repent because we don’t love God if we aren’t loving our brothers and sisters (1 John 4:20-21).

So, let’s be people who practice the art of conflict resolution in love. Let’s keep our anger and pride in check. You are God’s gift to the church but you don’t have to remind the church of it. You are smart and have great ideas, but so do others. You may think a person should do something, but they’ll never know until you tell them in love. You may not like the actions of another, but you cannot control them – you can only control yourself and your reaction to them. Remember that you are all equal in God’s sight and equally loved by Him.

If we can remember that our love for them is more important than our need to be right then we will be able to get along just fine.

Jesus said the world will know that He is the messiah by our love for one another and our unity with one another (John 13, 17). Let’s be a shining example of that to the world around us.


It’s not Weakness; It’s Strength

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Philippians 2:5-8
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

We live in an arrogant age. The race of men have deemed themselves worthy of all that is around them. They continually speak of all that is their right or what they are entitled to. When they are treated harshly, then they are consoled by others who explain that they don’t deserve such treatment.

I cannot simply refer to society as “they”; it is “we” and me as well.

Our children get everything they desire and aren’t taught how to do without. They don’t see what they are being given as being a privilege. They see it as a necessity or right. They deserve it.

I think of times when people drive down the road – if someone cuts them off or drives too slowly they get angry. In fact, people get angry for a lot of things these days. We don’t seem to know how to take it easy anymore – our society is a high stress society.

We are arrogant people who say we are right and everyone else is wrong. We condemn more than the lifestyles that others live, we condemn the people that live them. We get angry and make sure we have the “right” to say our piece or to get them back for what they said or did. This is all arrogance.

Arrogance and selfishness go hand in hand. Every sin ever committed had its roots in selfishness. I can’t think of a single sin that you can’t boil down to selfishness.

Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not pointing fingers at a lot that I’m not involved in. I’m just as guilty, though I’m learning to be more aware each day.

Through our arrogance we bicker and quarrel. We see humility as weakness, or at best we say we desire humility but keep acting in our arrogance. We have a hard time considering others as our equals or even as our superiors, though this is exactly what Jesus did. He put our needs before his own as he went to the cross for us.

Humility, I find, is not weakness. In fact, it takes a strong person to be humble, but those who are truly humble don’t find strength in themselves for we are all frail humans. True strength that sustains humility is found in the confidence that God is sovereign and cares for each of us.

It is because of Jesus that I can take the insult without retaliation. It is through his strength that I feel no need to put myself first. It is only through his wisdom that I can put my wants aside for the sake of others’ needs.

I have a long way to go as I seek the humility of Christ in me, but I desperately want it. Unfortunately, in order for anyone to learn humility God will put them in situations where they must practice it among people who aren’t.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. In fact, there has been a recent study of the most successful businesses in America that showed that the vast majority of those business’s leaders are successful because they are humble people who seek quality in their work without need for praise of others.

Even more so, however, the scripture reminds us over and over that God brings down the arrogant but exalts and gives grace to the humble.

May we become more like Christ as we seek true humility in our lives. May we do more than just say words that sound like humility – may we truly be humble. Then, may we be the catalysts for change in our communities as people see the nature of Christ in us, for if we continue in our arrogance we will only see decline and contempt for the church.

I hope this impacts you like it does me. I want this badly, and I’m going to be pursuing this. I don’t expect it will happen overnight, but I want the nature of Christ to be event in me – Philippians 2 calls me to that.

 


Not An Option

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Our society today has an obsession with fickleness. People only stick with an idea or commitment as long as they sense it pleases them or caters to them. A very evident place in society that we see this attitude is within marriage relationships. So many marriages are failing because sometime during the relationship contentment is gone and the grass is seen as greener somewhere else. We lose sight of commitment and begin to wish for something else.

Our churches see this same thing happening. The divorces are still happening within the members homes, but within the church at large people lack this sense of commitment. Today it is very common for people to hop from church to church or worse – silently leave church altogether because they aren’t satisfied with some aspect of the church’s community life.

Why do people leave?
There are so many reasons people leave the church they currently attend. You can do a Google search and find article after article speculating the myriad of reasons. Right now, think within yourself why you would leave your current church or why you recently left. It doesn’t matter what the trends are; what matters is your situation, so think about it. The surprising thing is that doctrinal issues are not nearly as often the reason for leaving for most people. So what would or did cause you to leave your current church family?

Church is meant to be a family. You wouldn’t divorce your kids or parents. Many of you would never even divorce your husband or wife, but the church family is treated differently. This should not be.

I would love to see this trend stop. I would love to see people make a commitment to their congregation and live up to that commitment in love.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping your commitment to a church that you see needs to change:

1. Stop Simmering
So many people who leave a congregation are not people who are in the perceived or dedicated leadership of that congregation. They are the silent majority. They aren’t saying anything about their disgruntledness nor are they making suggestions for change. They are the silent majority, and as they continue to encounter things that they don’t like they silently slip away.

STOP!

If there is something going on in the church you worship with that you don’t like or that you wish would change then let the leadership know. If you don’t have elders then let the preacher or other ministry leadership group know. How can they know what to change if they don’t know what’s wrong?

As I’ve said before, many of the things people are disgruntled about are not doctrinal issues – they are matters of family life that can be changed. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. As you do so, I think you may find that there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. But don’t leave. How can’t he church get better at ministry if they can’t see the ministry needs? Your church leadership needs you to be vocal.

One warning: don’t just be a complainer. People who incessantly complain often lose their voice with the leadership of that church. If you want to be heard voice your concern, but also give suggestions on how to fix it, and most importantly volunteer to help with the solution you suggest.

2. Start Serving
Many times people will grumble and complain about an area they aren’t directly involved with.

For example: you wish your children could participate in a better, more organized children’s ministry, but your church hasn’t developed that kind of ministry yet. The solution isn’t to find a church with an already functional children’s ministry. The solution is to get involved and help create that ministry.

There are many things going on in a congregation that people can get involved with. Not being involved with the family life of the church is the same as not being a member of that church. A family functions together – everyone has a certain role to play for the health of the family unit – a church is no different.

Oh, and if you get involved in a real way, then you take ownership. This becomes your family. It is a lot harder to leave a group that you believe in and love because you’ve invested into them.

3. Leaving is not an Option
If your church has doctrinal problems, then you do need to be vocal, and you might have to leave. I really recognize that. You wouldn’t want your children to be taught something that isn’t truth.

However, if your issues aren’t doctrinal in nature, then you need to remove this concept of leaving from your mind. As you think about this concept it plants a seed that grows into a tree. Eventually you can’t help but convince yourself to leave.

Don’t allow leaving to be an option. The bible calls you to make peace with everyone as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). That means you do what it takes to make sure things work out. If you need to put your needs or wants aside to remain united then you do that. If you need to be vocal and involved in order to facilitate change then you do that. However, if you’re being vocal and the leadership knows you are an invested member that won’t leave if things don’t work out your way then you have their respect and often their ears.

These are just a few suggestions. What would you suggest to people thinking about leaving? As a preacher you must know that I take it personally when you leave. It’s not that I want to, and I know it may not even relate to me, but it still hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me; it hurts the whole body. If your church is a family then they truly miss you when you’re gone.

So don’t leave, and if you’ve already left then please come back and get involved and be vocal, but in all things love your brothers and sisters. We love you.


Fear is easy; Love is hard

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You may be reading this article before Valentines Day. You may be reading it on or after Valentines Day. In any case, this article is NOT about Valentines Day. But it is about love.

When we talk about what it means to be a Christian, the most basic answer is love. The two laws of Christianity are love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). When mentioning faith, hope, and love, the apostle, Paul, said that the greatest of these three is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The problem with love is that we aren’t very good at it, and therefore we aren’t very good at the one thing that should define us as Christians. Sure, we love people. We have deep feelings for those we love, but love is not actually those feelings. In fact, you can love without any feeling at all. Love is not an emotion. Love is a choice.

The reason we aren’t very good at love is that we are raised in a culture that teaches us that the world really should revolve around us. Every thing should cater to our whim, so we invent microwaves and fast food restaurants because we deserve to have what we want when we want it. As children we are given things we want because others love us, but the constant showering of love creates a type of narcissism that places us at the center of our own universe. We aren’t very good at love because we are selfish.

We also aren’t very good at love because we are afraid. There is much hurt and betrayal in our culture, and we don’t want to fall victim to that hurt. Maybe you’ve been hurt in your past so you’ve built up walls of protection out of fear of being hurt again. Jason Gray sings a song with the lyrics “Fear is easy. Love is hard.” I tend to agree.

So, we are supposed to love, but we find that love is difficult. How can we overcome that? It begins with an understanding of what love is and isn’t. Love is a choice. It is not an emotion. 1 Corinthians 13 says love is patient, kind, not envious, not proud, doesn’t boast, not rude, not hot tempered, doesn’t hold a grudge, doesn’t gloat, looks for truth, is long suffering, is trusting, finds hope in all circumstances, and is not fleeting or fickle.

Oh, and I forgot one. Love isn’t selfish.

I’m selfish, and so until I die to the idea that my desires come first I cannot love anyone – not even my wife. When we are afraid it is because of our self focus. That is what causes us to retaliate and feel the need for anger and frustration. Love is none of those things because love has no needs for itself. Love is selfless.

Look at Jesus. He is the perfect example of love. What did he ever do that was self-seeking? Nothing. He took the role of a servant though he was ruler and creator of all. He died for you although you had done nothing for him. He offers you sinless perfection while all you can offer in return is broken sinfulness. His love for you is not dependent on you. His love for you comes from a choice, as your creator, to love you selflessly despite all you have done to reject him.

If we love like that we will be hurt. We will be cheated. We will be taken advantage of. But if we love like that non of it will matter because we will have died to self, so there’s nothing left for them to kill.

Fear is easy. Love is hard. But it is totally worth it. Love is how we will change the world. Love is how God intends to bring us peace and joy and hope and forgiveness and all the things we truly long for in ourselves.

Choose love.


Filling a Full Cup

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Several years ago I watched a movie titled “The Forbidden Kingdom”. It didn’t look like much of a movie, but there was one scene where Jet Li was set to fight Jackie Chan. I watched it solely because I wanted to see that spectacular event, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The story is about a geeky American teenager – a huge fan of Kung Fu movies – who is transported to an ancient Chinese culture where he is the chosen one to fight the evil lord. It’s a pretty common story. Jackie Chan and Jet Li (their characters) are his trainers who are set to teach this boy true Kung Fu.

The problem is that the boy has filled his mind with all the moves from the movies he’s watched. He wants to do all these super cool moves, but they are just stunts from movies and not real Kung Fu.

When they realize this, his teachers get frustrated. They tell him it is impossible to fill a cup that is already full.

We are full people. We all have things and ideas and attitudes that fill our minds and lives each day. Walking the walk of a Christian is difficult because we are weighed down by what we have allowed to fill our lives.

Beginning next week we will begin a series at Aztec church of Christ where we will be talking about dying to self. But what does that mean? Death is such an intimidating concept.

Dying to self is dying to all the things that fill us that aren’t from God and don’t emulate Jesus. It is an emptying of rue cup so that the nature of Jesus can fill it.

Greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, frustration, impatience, un-forgiveness, busy-ness, addiction, selfishness, sin. All of these things fill our lives and hinder us from living free as God intends for us. The struggles we face in this life come because we are selfish beings who have yet to die to self.

Not all events are in our control, but our reaction to those events are shaped by how much of ourself we have allowed to die and be transformed into Christ’s likeness. Imagine a marriage where both people didn’t seek their own interests but only what God wills – only the love of the other. This can only happen when we die to self.

It’s not easy, and sometimes it’s painful, but then again those ideas only make us afraid because we are consumed with self.

It’s time to die young – to die before your physical death comes. It’s time to put yourself aside and be so focused on God that your life reflects the image of His Son, Jesus. If you die to yourself beforehand, the physical death we all encounter won’t be nearly so intimidating. It’s time to empty your cup so Christ can fill it.

Join us for “Die Young” beginning April 21. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about this concept of dying to yourself then I recommend you read the book “Die Young” by Michael and Hailey DiMarco.

God bless you as your life is transformed because you chose to die to yourself and live for Christ.


The Cure For “One of Those Days”

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Have you ever had one of those days? You know the kind I mean.

Maybe your car broke down after spending a couple thousand dollars to get it working just two months before. Maybe you’re out of a job, and the company you want to call you for an interview just turned you down. Maybe you can’t even get an interview at all? Maybe you studied really hard for that test only to fail. Maybe the person you love most of all treats you poorly without remorse. Maybe you’re out to lunch before a big, important meeting and you spill marinara sauce all over your blouse, and there’s no time to run home and change before meeting these priority clients. Maybe you just got fired. Maybe someone you loved just died.

Some days are definitely better than others.

As in all things we have a choice how we approach days like this. I’ll admit that some days you just get blindsided and no matter how prepared you think you are, you really aren’t ready for this kind of day. Yet, even when blindsided we have a choice.

Some people, when dealing with trying times such as these, choose to retreat back into their shell and succumb to depression. Some people become high stress and blow up at any given moment. Some people can’t move forward or back because they are dumbfounded as to what to do next. Yet some people deal with life’s unexpected dilemmas with ease.

How do they do that? I’ll admit it…the first scenario in the list of possibilities happened to me this week. My first instinct was to tense up and be hot-headed about the situation. How do people keep calm in all things?

When I had the issue with my vehicle I had a choice. On a normal day I wouldn’t have been ready, and I would probably have snapped at my wife and kids because of my immediate stress. That particular morning, however, I woke up early, and before I ever got out of bed I did my daily reading in the bible and in another book I’m engaged in. I spent some time in prayer, then I got up to fix breakfast and start my day.

I started the day in the word of God and with prayer. I really think that is what kept everything in perspective for me. It wasn’t nearly as hard to keep calm and not react. Through the day I prayed over the problem and looked at my engine. I didn’t fret about it. I just prayed. The prayer I prayed was that it would be an easy fix (I should have prayed for a cheap one too), and when I identified the problem it was extremely easy to replace the part that had malfunctioned.

You see, starting my day in the word and in prayer put me in a place of different perspective. I am constantly thinking about God and how to serve Him, but it is when I pray and read His word that I truly come into connection with Him. It is then that I can go through my day trusting Him to be my guide.

Face it. When you are frustrated or anxious about something, it is because you don’t trust that God will really come through for you. I know because I have been there too. Let me tell you a secret. It never gets any easier. I don’t know anyone who finds it easy to trust God. Oh, sure, they get better at it, but it is difficult to trust someone whom you cannot see face to face like you see your sister or friend. Yet, when we trust God fully we come into a perspective that will change our lives – literally. And the more we choose that perspective and see how He works in our lives, the more evidence we get that He really is working and will continue to do so.

When we trust God to guide us – when we trust that Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 are true – then we can be confident that it doesn’t matter what happens in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

When we trust Him we can know that either way it works out in the end, He is still working things out for our good.

Do you trust Him? Can you believe that it really doesn’t matter whether or not things work out the way you want them to? Can you believe that He has your best interests in mind no matter what?

You may not have experienced His workings in your life like that. Maybe you prayed for something and the opposite happened. Does that mean He doesn’t care about you, or He isn’t the good God that I make Him out to be? No! Again, it means our perspective is off.

Jesus said that when we pray God is the one who gives the gifts, and when He gives these gifts He always gives what is best for us. We may not understand it or even like it at the time, but it is what is best. If our focus is to look for how God is making things better for us, then we don’t have time to get down in the dumps over a situation. We don’t have time for anxiety. We have no reason for stress and anger.

This week I challenge you to start your day in the word of God and with prayer. YouVersion.com (which also has a mobile app for all platforms) has some great reading programs to spur on your commitment to being in the word. I challenge you to be persistent in prayer about everything. And may God show you just how good He is to you.

If you’d like to discuss this further, I invite you to comment on my blog at http://www.mrdobbs.org or shoot me an email at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you as you look for His guidance each day!


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