Battery Acid

Car battery, Author Towel401 (PD)

The victims of child abuse often wrestle with the question of forgiveness.  Forgiveness can feel like defeat – another surrender to a predator who has already taken so much from us, including our self-respect.

Strength v. Weakness

But forgiveness is NOT a sign of weakness.  Nor is it a warm and cozy feeling.

Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to put the past behind us [1].  That requires enormous strength on the part of victims.  Most of us cannot accomplish it until we have first mourned our losses (a fact those urging forgiveness upon us must not overlook).

Unforgiveness

Emotionally speaking, unforgiveness is akin to the sulfuric acid used in storage batteries.

Battery acid is a dangerous substance.  It dissolves the skin, causing chemical burns.  Heavy scarring can result.  Contact with the eyes will cause blindness.  Long-term exposure to fumes is toxic.

Like battery acid, unforgiveness eats us up inside, creating scars that further tie us to the past, exacerbating rather than easing our pain.  And the longer our bitterness lasts, the deeper the scars.

Bitterness blinds us to the possibilities before us.  Forgiveness, by contrast, opens our eyes.  It clears our head, and cleanses our heart.  We can once again breathe freely.  The past no longer has power over us.

Release

Forgiveness is NOT salt in the wound, NOT an added stripe from the lash, NOT a final humiliation [2].  Nor is it an argument that predators’ horrendous behavior should be excused away at victims’ expense.

Significantly, forgiveness is not inconsistent with criminal prosecution, should victims choose to pursue that.  Prosecution may prevent others from being victimized.

Instead, forgiveness implies release for the victim…release from bitterness, from anger, from hatred.  From the groundless self-condemnation the abuse to which we were subjected left in its wake [3].

Victims deserve that.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” (Matt. 5: 44).

[1]  Prevention, “How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You – Even When It Feels Impossible” by Cassie Shortsleeve, 12/13/19, https://www.prevention.com/life/a29995725/how-to-forgive-som.eone/

[2]  NPR, “Why Forgiving Someone Else Is Really About You” by Stephanie O’Neill, 7/30/20, https://www.npr.org/2020/07/28/896245305/why-forgiving-someone-else-is-really-about-you.

[3]  This is not to suggest that we were responsible for our abuse.  Children, however, blame themselves for the actions of the adults around them.  Victims carry that misplaced sense of guilt into adulthood.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Jesus and Taxes

Dr. Fred Baltz | May 7, 2021 

The Tribute Money (Le denier de César) by James Tissot

Summary: Jesus’ statement about giving tax money to Caesar is far from a blanket approval of paying all taxes, and carries a more profound meaning than people realize if they don’t know the context of his words. 

The Deadly Trap

…they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. – Luke 20:20-26  (See also: Mark 12:13-17 and Matthew 22:15-22) (ESV)

Anyone who begins to read even one of the four Gospels soon realizes Jesus made enemies. It’s not that he set out to do that; it resulted from his words and actions. Anger and jealousy against Jesus led some of his own countrymen to plot his death. Jewish leaders in Judaea at this time did not have the political authority to put anyone to death for a crime. That is the verdict of the majority of scholars today. Only Roman authority could inflict capital punishment. Knowing this, some Jesus-haters planned a trap for him. In their minds it would accomplish one of two things. It would either cause many of Jesus’ followers to lose confidence in him, or it would bring about his death by Roman law for political subversion.

Is it Lawful…? 

The place to set a trap like this was in public, in full view, where people could see and hear Jesus. The trap itself took the form of a question. “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” Now that’s the kind of question a teacher of the Law should be able to answer. It is an important question yet today. It involves real life, not abstractions. Any question beginning with “Is it lawful” was a question to be taken seriously. Traps work because the prey is unsuspecting and walks into the trap. 

Their plan was this: if Jesus should answer yes, thousands of people who desired to be free from Roman tyranny would see him as a weak-spined Roman sympathizer, a coward who was afraid to speak up against unjust authority as John the Baptist had done. Patriots throughout the land would reconsider all those good things they had heard about Jesus. His reputation would be tarnished to say the least.

If Jesus should say no, he would immediately find himself charged with a capital crime against the Emperor himself. His opponents knew it, and they hoped Jesus wouldn’t realize the malicious intent in asking. Those who asked this question would likely be the very same people who reported Jesus to the Romans immediately after hearing an incriminating answer from him.

Even if Jesus simply refused to answer the question in this lose/lose scenario, there would be a kind of hollow victory for his opponents. They would have silenced Jesus, embarrassed him in public. But Jesus gave them an answer, and it didn’t mean what it is so often taken to mean today. To really hear Jesus’ answer, we have to step into the context of First Century Judaism in the biblical land of Judaea.

The question beginning: Is it lawful… means: Is it lawful according to the Law of Moses, the Torah. All Jews were to honor God and his Law. According to their own Scriptures, could they lawfully participate in paying tribute money to other nations, especially to the Romans who oppressed them and used the money to fund injustice? It would be that same Law that Jesus would now use to confound his opponents.

Show Me a Denarius 

Jesus asked them for a coin so that he might illustrate the point he was about to make. They gladly provided it as they listened for a concrete answer to go with this tangible coin. Notice that Jesus did not have such a coin. He had done what he called his disciples to do as he proclaimed the Kingdom. He gave up wealth. His needs and those of his disciples were provided by others: 2 …some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. Luke 8:2-3. Judas Iscariot was the steward of this contributed money. (John 13:29)

The coin was most probably a Tiberian denarius, a day’s wage. And this is where the Law of Moses comes in….“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them…” (Exodus 20:4) 

On that coin was the raised image of Tiberius Caesar. One could easily believe that the coin itself was an idol in every sense of the word. Even worse, blasphemous lettering around the perimeter of the face of the coin said Caesar was a god.

Front side of a Tiberian denarius with a raised image of Tiberius Caesar
Back side of a Tiberian denarius with  Livia Aureus as Pax personified

Tiberian denarius with the head of Tiberius on the obverse. Notice the letters DIVI near the forehead on the perimeter of the coin. This means that the Emperor was considered a god. The reverse shows Livia Aureus as Pax personified. (Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. http://www.cngcoins.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Should a faithful Jew have such an object in his possession? Every Jew knew that in the outer precinct of the Temple money changers sat at their tables so that no currency like this would enter the holy courts for offerings of any kind. The Roman money would be changed for money that did not bear the marks of idolatry. (See the discovery of a biblical stone weight for paying taxes at the Temple)

The very fact that Jesus’ opponents had such a coin in their possession suddenly reflected upon them negatively. But Jesus hadn’t answered yet. He directed everyone’s attention to the coin: “Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” (v. 24). The coin was currency, and really belonged to Tiberius Caesar. It was a medium of exchange, but it was the property of the emperor. His questioners answered: “Caesar’s” (v. 24). 

Given this context, Jesus’ words “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” really might be paraphrased this way: ‘Send the idolatrous coins back where they came from, and get them out of your hands. Have nothing to do with them.’ That’s the way Jesus was living; he practiced what he preached. This is a very different meaning from: ‘Yes, you should pay your fair share of taxes, because it is your duty.’ That is how many have understood it, but a number of New Testament scholars including N.T. Wright believes there’s more here.

Jesus had more to say, just as the Law had more to say. “…and to God the things that are God’s.” (v. 25). Jesus’ opponents and any bystanders knew what that involved— 

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (ESV)

Jesus moved the focus of this discussion back where it belonged, on the things of God. Now it was for his opponents to give up their attachments to idolatry and find a higher way to live. They were supposed to know that. And loving the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, and might would never involve seeking to destroy a prophet, let alone the Holy One of God now among them.

Jesus had given an answer to their question that could not be taken as politically or legally damning, nor could it be taken as a sell-out of his fellow patriotic Jews. No one could fault Jesus for his answer to this question, not Jew nor Gentile. Instead, his answer had its way of convicting those who heard it. Jesus’ opponents not only failed to get Jesus into their trap, they came out looking insincere themselves, in need of a lesson in Torah priorities. No one could do anything else than respect Jesus for his answer. That’s why the Bible says they were amazed. (Are taxes only a modern burden?)

Golden calf idol on display in the Louvre
Golden calf idol, Louvre. (public domain)

What More Does the Bible say about Taxes?

There’s more to be said about Jesus and taxes. A short, often overlooked story found only in Matthew (17:24-27) is about whether Jesus the Son of Man truly owed taxes, or was like the kings of the earth that are not expected to pay them. Jesus sent Peter to catch a single fish, and in its mouth was a coin. Fish are attracted to shiny objects. Someone in a boat had lost a coin and this fish had found it. But the fish was caught in a miraculous manner, immediately biting on Peter’s hook with tax money inside. So neither Jesus nor Peter toiled for this coin; it was “found money”. The point: Jesus’ followers are not to give unnecessary offense to those in authority by holding back taxes, but make no mistake, the Son of Man is in no sense less of a king than any ruler on earth!

“What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.” – Matthew 17:25-26 (ESV)

In his Letter to the Romans Paul writes that believers in Jesus are to cooperate with the authorities whenever that is possible for them to do. That includes paying taxes. They are to see the authorities as ideally an extension of God’s rule in the world for purposes of good.

Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. – Romans 13:5-7 (ESV) 

Who is Caesar Now? 

There can come times when believers must not support the work of civil government. The practice of hiding Jews before and during WWII is an example of righteous rebellion against evil in the form of government. You know this: Jesus did not simply say to pay all taxes because it is your duty. His words go much deeper than that. Loving God with heart, soul, and might could under some circumstances mean disobedience, rather than obedience to government.

When does that situation arise, where is that line not to cross, when believers cannot comply with the demands of a civil government? We don’t expect it. We hope we never have to see it. But loving God with heart, soul, and might in a changing world requires you to keep on thinking.

TOP PHOTO:  The Tribute Money by James Tissot (1836-1902), Brooklyn Museum. (public domain)
NOTE: Not every view expressed by scholars contributing Thinker articles necessarily reflects the views of Patterns of Evidence. We include perspectives from various sides of debates on biblical matters so that readers can become familiar with the different arguments involved. – Keep Thinking!

Murder for the Rest of Us

How We Break the Sixth Commandment

Article by Afshin Ziafat Pastor, Frisco, Texas

You don’t need to grow up in church to know that murder is a wicked offense. Murder is treated nearly universally as a heinous crime. And it ought to be. God makes plain his hatred of murder the moment it appears in Cain’s slaying of his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). God legislates death as the appropriate punishment for those who unlawfully put others to death (Genesis 9:6).

Yet for all of our hatred of the murder out there, we can fail to hate the murder in here. But Scripture, and the words of Jesus in particular, will not allow us to hate murder at a safe distance. The sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” exposes a universal problem and a universal need for forgiveness.

Different Kinds of Killing

The word used for “murder” in Exodus 20:13, Hebrew rasah, denotes the unlawful, premeditated, or immoral killing of another human, while also covering the unintentional causing of human death through carelessness or negligence. Of its forty-seven uses in the Old Testament, this verb is never used to describe killing in war, nor is it thought to apply to slaughtering animals or defending one’s home from invasion.

God’s law differentiated between willful and involuntary killing. Exodus 21:12–14 clearly states that the premeditated murder of another person was deemed worthy of capital punishment (see also Numbers 35:17–21).

“Seek to reconcile quickly with others. Replace hate and anger with words that give life and bless others.”

The accidental or involuntary causing of another person’s death, however, carried a slightly lighter penalty. Though it was not grounds for the sentence of death, the guilty party was banished to an appointed place (which later God would reveal as cities of refuge, Deuteronomy 19:1–13). This place offered sanctuary from the vengeful relatives of the deceased, but it was also away from home. The banishment often lasted for life because the guilty party would not be released until the death of the high priest (Numbers 35:2528).

So while discerning between consequences for different killings can be difficult, we all know it is a great evil to unlawfully take another’s life.

Why God Hates Murder

God shows his hatred for murder the moment it appears in Cain (Genesis 4:8). But why does God hate the act of murder so much? Two reasons stand out in Scripture.

1. The act of murder is an assault on God himself.

After God made a covenant with Noah never to destroy mankind by a flood, he set up a system to protect human life. Any man who unlawfully took the life of another would have his own life taken, “for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). Here we see how precious and valuable human life is to God. To murder another human being is to murder what is most like God in creation. It is tantamount to an attack on the Creator of all life. This is why abortion is so grievous to God and Christians.

The Bible is clear that human life begins in the womb and not at birth. David declares that we were fearfully and wonderfully made in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). God says to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). All human life is precious in the sight of God, and it is evil to think of any human life as disposable — whether the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, or the sick.

2. Murder assumes the authority and right reserved for God alone.

Only God has the right to give life and to take away life (Deuteronomy 32:391 Samuel 2:6). Job declared that life belongs to the Lord to give and to take away (Job 1:21). Consequently, the one who murders another human being is guilty of assuming the right and privilege that is God’s alone. He is guilty of rebellion against God and attempting to put himself in the place of God. In this way, murder is the offspring of the very first sin and breaks the first commandment by having a god (self) before the Lord.

A Sin Not So Easily Escaped

Now, one may say, “Well, I have never — nor will I ever — commit murder!” But two considerations give strong reason to take heed to this command and see it as relevant to all of us.

Carelessness or Neglect

As stated earlier, the Hebrew word employed in the sixth commandment would include causing someone’s death from carelessness or neglect. This command would have instigated a holy fear in the community to strive for caution and prudence in the affairs of life so that no one would be guilty of unintentionally taking someone’s life through recklessness.

There is a reason harsh penalties are given to people who drive under the influence of alcohol. Or consider a carelessness closer to home: texting while driving. We may put others’ lives in danger more often than we assume.

And then there is the issue of negligence. The principle of the watchman of Ezekiel 33 comes to mind. The Lord painted a picture through the prophet Ezekiel of a watchman who was put in position to warn the city of the coming sword against it. If the watchman failed to blow the trumpet and was negligent in his duty, then the blood of the people would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:7–9).

We can be negligent in failing to warn others of danger or to speak up on behalf of those who are vulnerable and powerless. It is easy to condemn the silence of so many in Germany who did not speak out against the murderous atrocities of the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. But are we equally vocal against the murdering of so many unborn here in our own country? Are we willing to speak up for the marginalized and the oppressed in our own culture?

Anger as Murder

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges his disciples to live according to the standards of the kingdom of God and not the standards of the world or even of the religious establishment around them. He tells them that their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20), who sought merely outward conformity to the law instead of inward transformation of the heart.

Jesus displays this exceeding righteousness by using the refrain, “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you . . .” He is not saying that what was written in the Old Testament is not true. Rather, he is correcting what they heard the Old Testament saying and giving them the correct interpretation of the Scriptures, especially in the light of his coming.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21–22)

The world understands that murder is a crime. The religious establishment focused on this outward nature of not murdering anyone. But the standard of the kingdom of God is not merely to avoid the shedding of blood. To be focused on the mere act of murder is to miss the heart of the command.

“It is not enough to not murder; you must eradicate hatred from your heart.”

Jesus insists that it is not enough to not murder someone; we must eradicate hatred from our hearts. Murder is not merely an action without any reference to the character of the murderer. Something more fundamental is at stake here. The sinful anger and wrath that lurked behind the deed itself is blameworthy and will be subject to judgment. John writes, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). The stakes could not be higher.

Repenting of Heart Murder

Do you feel the weight of this? Jesus is saying you are not safe from punishment just because you have not shed blood. If you have harbored anger, contempt, or malice toward someone else, you are guilty. Have you ever wished someone harm or, even worse, wished they were dead? Have you ever rejoiced over someone’s misfortune? Have you ever put someone down in your heart? Then your heart has known murder.

Again, the radical righteousness that Jesus demands is not merely a refraining from outward sin but a transformation of the heart by his love and grace. Our only hope is Christ, who fulfilled all righteousness and offers it to us as a free gift to be received by faith. So what must we do?

1. Confess.

Turn to God and confess the sin of anger. Make no excuses for it. The story of Jonah is instructive.

In Jonah 4, Jonah is angry with God because God didn’t destroy Nineveh. The Lord asks him, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). In other words, God is calling Jonah to look at his own life and his own heart. Is his anger justified? Does he not depend on the same mercy from God that God has given to the Ninevites? Does he have the right to decide who receives mercy and who doesn’t?

We too rarely look at our own hearts to see the root of the problem. But it starts here with a confession: I am sinfully angry.

2. Receive the gift of God’s grace in Jesus.

Abel’s blood cried out to God for justice. But Hebrews 12:24 tells us that Jesus’s blood speaks a better word. The blood of Abel speaks a word of condemnation: the murderer deserves death. And we are guilty as charged. We break the sixth commandment with the anger in our heart.

This is why Jesus came. He lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose so that we could have life in him, now and after death. For those who believe in him, the blood of Christ speaks a word of forgiveness and acceptance. By faith, receive this gift of grace!

3. Reconcile specifically.

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. (Matthew 5:23–24)

Jesus calls for a specific action here toward a specific brother. And notice that it isn’t someone that you are angry with. No, this is someone who is offended by you. You have done something to offend him, and God brings it to your mind. The first act of worship is for you to make it right with him.

God calls us to sensitivity in our relationships with others — not a vague sensitivity to imagined offenses, but rather dealing with real offenses that the Holy Spirit brings to mind against specific people. Seek to reconcile quickly with others. Replace hate and anger with words that give life and bless others.

And when we reconcile, we can go forth and resolve, God helping us, to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).

Afshin Ziafat (@afshinziafat) is lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. His passion is to teach the word of God as the authority and guide for life, to preach Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Redeemer of mankind, and to proclaim the love of Christ as the greatest treasure and hope in life. He and his wife, Meredith, currently reside in Frisco with their three children.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/murder-for-the-rest-of-us

Jesus Flipped Tables…But Should We?

By Jessica Lea -April 20, 2021

jesus flipped tables

Jesus flipped tables over in righteous anger during his ministry—but if that’s your favorite thing about him, you’re missing the point. That was VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer’s point in a recent Twitter thread.

“If table-flipping Jesus is our favorite Jesus, we’ve lost the plot,” said Vischer. “If Pharisee-insulting Jesus is our favorite Jesus, we’ve lost the plot.”

Vischer did not by his phrasing mean to imply that there is more than one Jesus we can follow, but rather to indicate the danger of missing the point of who Jesus is and why he came. The Twitter thread generated hundreds of comments and thousands of likes, which Vischer found surprising.

The debate is not too shocking, however. It has not been unusual over the past few months to see people online justify hostile behavior based on the fact that Jesus flipped tables in righteous anger.

Jesus Flipped Tables…And Carried His Cross

All four gospels record Jesus entering the temple in Jerusalem and “cleansing” it. You can find accounts in Luke 19:45-46Mark 11:15-18, and Matthew 21:12-13. The latter passage says:

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The Gospel of John specifically mentions that Jesus made a whip before driving people out. John 2:13-17 says:

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 

For some reason, quite a few people have taken these passages as justification for violent or aggressive behavior. We at ChurchLeaders noticed that multiple people cited Jesus’ cleansing of the temple as a rationale for the violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol earlier this year. Note that the following comments are not debating who was responsible for the violence—rather, they are about the fact that it took place at all.

“The Jesus in the bible would have clean [sic] that house and more,” said one Facebook user in response to this post. Another commented, “The Jesus of the Gospels made a whip, over turned tables and drove out those who abused a sacred house by turning it into a place to make money for themselves!”

Yet another user said, “That [U.S. Capitol] building is a temple and constructed as such. Jesus went into a temple and flipped over tables…Man up and realize that while this may not have been the time …there are times. Stop acting like it is always a bad thing.”

People are also using the fact that Jesus flipped tables to justify aggressive rhetoric. And this phenomenon is not unique to ChurchLeaders, as is clear from Relevant magazine’s decision to publish an article in March entitled, “Jesus’ Flipping Tables Isn’t an Excuse for Your Online Rants.”

“Read through enough Facebook comment threads involving Christians,” writes Jesse Carey, “and you will likely run across it: An angry post-writer using the story of Jesus’ cleansing the temple as an excuse for their unnecessarily strong language.” Carey points that while Jesus did indeed display righteous anger when he cleansed the temple, it seems odd to rely so heavily on this account when the New Testament overwhelmingly emphasizes sacrifice, love, and self-denial. 

For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ statements include, “Blessed are the meek,” “Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit makes no mention of “righteous anger,” but rather includes the qualities of “peace, forbearance, kindness,” as well as “gentleness and self-control.”

It should go without saying that the ultimate example of what it means to follow Jesus is to emulate the self-denial he displayed through dying on the cross. This is something he himself said in Matthew 16:24-25: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Vischer noted that the early church could have chosen any number of symbols to represent what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They could have chosen a whip or an overturned table; instead, they chose a cross. 

Some pushed back on Vischer’s comments. “Had Jesus not flipped tables he wouldn’t have been executed,” said one user. “Flipping tables is part of the Luke 4 message he said he came to preach and practice.”  Another said, “The table-turning Jesus sounds a lot like the Jesus described by John in Rev 19.”

However, many thanked Vischer for his observations. One Twitter user suggested we should also consider the fact that Jesus’ anger was not directed at the government of his day—but at what was being done in a house of worship.

Vischer’s overall point was not that there is no place for righteous anger, but that we should never lose sight of the broader context of who Jesus is. He said, “Every day when I walk out the door, or log onto social media, I need to remember the plot. ‘Christian’ doesn’t mean ‘little Rambo.’  It means ‘little Christ.’ I’m on the cross w/Christ. I die w/Christ. I have the power to love my enemies w/Christ. Remember the plot.”

Never Be The First One To Get Angry

By Rev. Paul N. Papas II

April 2, 2012

Instead of being the “fastest gun in the West” with your anger, strive to be the first to work at resolution and reconciliation. Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife, but those who are slow to anger calm contention. The title of peacemaker is much nobler!

Conflict has been with us since the beginning and it is not going away. The question is how do you handle it?

The problem just might be simply the result of poor communication.

Recently a mother got into a heated debate with her three-year-old daughter while discussing an upcoming road trip. The daughter seemed to be insisting that she did not want to be buckled into her car seat. “Stand” she kept saying. The mother told her firmly, “You will have to sit!” The daughter responded in frustration, “Stand” The argument escalated until the mother suddenly realized that the little girt was trying to say, “I don’t understand!”

Sometimes people struggle to find the right words to express a deeply felt need or emotion. They may not even quite understand what they are feeling inside. It may be up to you to ask thoughtful, probing questions and then listen intently for the real message behind your beloved’s words.

If you are too quick on the draw with your temper, you’ll miss this opportunity for constructive communication and deepening your relationship – and you better take cover, because things are going to fly!

A conflict can occur between individuals, groups, or among members of the same group. It can occur when you’re at home, at work or in a social setting.

This usually means each person or group: sees a situation in a different way; wants a different outcome; or has different ideas about what to do. It does not mean that one person’s ideas are better; it does mean they are different.

Individuals or groups may have strong feelings about the problem or situation. For example, they may feel: angry, jealous, lonely, cheated, scared, frustrated, and/or disappointed.

We often experience misunderstandings when dealing with: difficult people, broken relationships, jealously, diversity, and/or gossip.

Conflict can be hard to deal with. A person faced with conflict may: try to avoid the other person (unresolved conflicts can have negative physical, emotional and mental health affects on the people involved); or even attack the other person with criticism, insults, name-calling or even violence.  The stress level involved in unresolved conflict can lead to serious medical issues, including mental illness, stroke, or heart attack.

Again, communication is the key to successful conflict resolution.

Sometimes you will need to disengage, take a moment, and take deep breaths to continue.

Be a good listener. Avoid interrupting. Ask questions when the person has finished speaking. Also, sit up, face the person and relax. Let body language tell him or her that you are paying attention.

Restate what the person is saying in order that you may understand the other person’s position.

Say what is on your mind without being hostile. Criticism, threats or name-calling won’t help solve the issue. You should be assertive, expressing what you think and feel without attacking the other person.

Focus on the problem, not the people. Look for common ground.

Sometimes you’ll need a mediator to resolve the issues.

It really is okay to disagree with people; you just don’t need to be disagreeable.

There are people who would rather have a root canal than deal with conflict.

There are those who internalize conflict causing several medical conditions such a mental illness of depression or become paranoid, or suffer a stroke or heart attack or suicide.  PTSD, a well known medical condition of a mental illness starts with conflict that has not been fully dealt with.

The main reason why people don’t seek help in the beginning is because of the Stigma attached to asking for and getting the help. Yet, if they had a broken leg they would rush to the Emergency Room.

Be a friend to someone in need of a listening ear, you may save a life. A long time ago I heard that we have two ears and one mouth, which means we should listen twice as much as we talk.

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/never-be-the-first-one-to-get-angry/

‘Grinch’ group bullies elementary school into canceling live Nativity

Judge: Artistic performances don’t ‘establish’ a religion

December 11, 2019

A live Nativity scene in Stuart, Florida (Photo by Joe Kovacs, used with permission)

A “grinch” organization that flexes its influence each year during the holiday season, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, has “bullied” a school district in Oklahoma into canceling a live Nativity scene that had been part of the school’s annual Christmas celebration.

Liberty Counsel said it’s prepared to represent the school if officials decide they want to restore the holiday display.

LC said FFRF not only was wrong to insist such displays aren’t allowed, it mischaracterized a court ruling on the dispute.

FFRF wrote to Supt. Bret Towne of Edmond Public Schools in Edmond, Oklahoma, declaring “the Chisholm Elementary School Christmas program may not include a live Nativity scene in the performance.”

Liberty Counsel, which has handled many such disputes, said that while FFRF cited a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, the atheist organization failed “to accurately describe” the decision.

“The 7th Circuit simply did not make the sweeping ruling claimed by FFRF. FFRF has once again selectively related what actually happened in a suit, in order to frighten a school district into compliance,” Liberty Counsel explained.

The ruling stated clearly, “We are not prepared to say that a nativity scene in a school performance automatically constitutes an Establishment Clause violation.”

FFRF had said, “While a public school can hold holiday concerts, religious performances and instruction that emphasize the religious aspects of a holiday are prohibited.”

It continued, “Please note that including a live nativity performance in a school’s holiday concert remains illegal even if participation in the nativity scene is ‘voluntary.'”

FFRF cited a previous dispute in which it wanted to ban a 20-minute Nativity within a program that covered about 90 minutes.

The appeals court said: “The district court found that the Christmas Spectacular program. … A program in which cultural, pedagogical, and entertainment value took center stage – did not violate the Establishment Clause.

One judge wrote: “It is not sound, as a matter of history or constitutional text, to say that a unit of state or local government ‘establishes’ a religion through an artistic performance that favorable depicts one or more aspects of that religion’s theology or iconography. [The school] would not violate the Constitution by performing Bach’s Mass in B Minor or Handel’s Mesiah, although both are deeply religious works and run far longer than the nativity portion of the ‘Christmas Spectacular.’ Performing a work of art does not establish that work, or its composer, as the state song or the state composer; no more does it establish a state religion.”

“Liberty Counsel therefore stands ready, along with our affiliate attorneys in Oklahoma, to provide assistance at no charge to Edmond Public Schools, if the district desires to resume a live Nativity in a school Christmas program,” the organization promised.

 

Original here

How you Can Become a Better Person Starting Now

Can you Really Change?

Most people wonder if it’s possible to become a better person after maturity. The answer is a resounding yes. There’s actually room for change at every stage of our life. With a willing spirit, you can transform your personality. Once you figure out the best and easiest approach to take, you can decide the most important personal aspects to work on. Taking into account the best interest of others and your well being, below are some of the most important things you’ll need to work on, in order to make the changes.

Photo by Freshh Connection on unsplash

Help Others:

Good people support and encourage others to do and become their best selves. I believe one of the greatest responsibilities we have is to support ourselves and others to live as close to their unique potential as possible. Because everything we say and do has a negative or positive influence on others. We should always take into consideration the words we speak to and about others.

How you can show Support?

  • Have some faith in others.
  • Hold high expectations.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Be honest.
  • Share yourself.
  • Set the best example.
  • Challenge them.
  • Be mindful of your questions.
  • Invest your time in them.
  • Acknowledge them.

Let go of Anger:

Your relationships can create a haven from stress as well as help you become a better person. But if you walk away from unresolved conflicts, they can become a significant source of stress. Let’s face it, conflicts are common in our society. They happen with our families, neighbors, friends or colleagues. You have to face them in the right manner and come up with a fair solution. The best way to improve in this area is to learn conflict resolution strategies. Let’s take a look at 5 of this tools that are more effective:

Conflict Resolution Strategies:

  • Recognize that all of us have biased fairness perception.
  • Avoid escalating tensions with threats and provocative move
  • Overcome an “us versus them” mentality.
  • Look beneath the surface to identify deeper issues.
  • Separate sacred from pseudo-sacred issues.

You can also identify what your anger triggers and eliminate them as much as possible. Also learn to let go of any grudge and residual anger.

Be a good Listener:

Listening to others and is one of the best things you can do for another person and yourself. It shows them that you value their opinion and allows you to develop closer connection with others. You also get to hear perspectives you might otherwise dismiss. It is important to engage in active listening with the people in our lives. Being an active listener can change your life for the better. It fosters deeper relationships and exposes you to thoughts, ideas world wide views beyond your own experience. You never know what you might learn from someone.

Self Care:

Self care is vital for building resilience when facing life’s unavoidable stressors. Making sure that you get enough sleep is important for your physical and emotional wellbeing. Less sleep can make you less able to brainstorm solutions to problems you come across. I don’t know about you, but when l don’t sleep enough, it makes me very edgy the next day.

Eating a proper diet is also essential in keeping your body and mind healthy. When you eat healthy, problems like bloating and constipation are never going to be on your worry list. That means you will be in optimum shape for handling stress – which gives you added resilience to manage those challenges that come up unexpectedly.

Be Polite:

Being polite is an act of kindness. We can show politeness to everyone we come across. It is not a trivial thing. This little act instill positive feelings in the people around you. Maintaining a certain level of politeness and civility is appreciated because it shows thoughtfulness, considerations, and kindness.

Live with Integrity:

Personal integrity is a cornerstone of whom we really are. It also shows what we stand for. Integrity is part of our mortal foundation. Integrity shapes the person you become with time. Living with integrity means being true to your ideas. It means that your outward actions reflect your inner beliefs and values. It means making necessary changes to live up to your standards. Take time to understand what integrity means to you and how your decisions align with your values. These things can help propel you towards becoming a better person.

Original here

 

Are You A Bully Or Bystander For Christ

by Benham Brothers | March 24th, 2019

When we were kids, our dad used to say, “Boys, we are called to walk the narrow road for Christ – and that means there are ditches on both sides.” He learned this lesson well over the years.

So for followers of Christ today, if we are going to get in the game and be a bridge for the Lord, then we’ve got to walk the narrow way that leads to life – not just for our own sake, but for others’ as well.

One thing we’ve found through the years is the way for us to stay on the narrow path is to walk in love. But the ditches of anger and fear are always one step away on either side – especially in today’s polarized and often paralyzed culture.

We’ve discovered that boldness apart from brokenness leads to anger. Yet brokenness apart from boldness leads to fear. To faithfully be a bridge today requires both boldness and brokenness – to have one without the other lands us in a ditch off the path of the narrow way, rendering us ineffective for God.

If we are bold for God’s truth but not broken over our sin, we’ll operate out of a spirit of anger. This makes us bullies, which leaves others disconnected from God – because the truth we’re speaking can’t get past the angry look on our faces.

Boldness apart from brokenness makes a bully. This is what anger produces.

If we’re broken over our sin but not bold for God’s truth, we’ll operate out of a spirit of fear. This makes us bystanders, which also leaves people disconnected from God – because we’re too afraid to share the truth that can set them free.

Brokenness apart from boldness makes a bystander. This is what fear produces.

But if we’re both bold and broken we’ll operate out of a spirit of love. This is what gives us the power to faithfully stand in the gap in today’s culture and bring divine connection to divinely disconnected people.

Boldness and brokenness make us a bridge connecting Heaven to earth for those around us. This is what love produces.

We see this balance played out in the life of Peter, a man who fell into the ditch on both sides of the narrow road but finally found his way back onto the path and was used powerfully by God.

Think of ol’ Pete in the Garden on the night Jesus was betrayed. When he was awakened and saw the mob coming to take Jesus how did he engage?

He boldly grabbed his sword and cut off a man’s ear.

Not good – he was a bully.

But then we see him following Jesus at a distance into the city. His boldness was out the window. And when a young girl claimed he had been with Jesus he denied it three times.

Not good either – he was a bystander.

But thankfully, Jesus didn’t leave him in either ditch but, rather, restored him. And on the day of Pentecost it was Peter who boldly stood to his feet and proclaimed the message of the Gospel to the thousands gathered in Jerusalem, knowing full well it could cost him dearly.

And he did it with a heart full of love for the Savior he had failed but Who forgave him, set him back on his feet, and enlisted him in His kingdom-building effort here on earth.

That day, heaven touched earth for over three thousand people.

This was Peter, the bridge. He was both bold and broken. Operating out of a spirit of love, he was ready to stand. When the crowd showed up, he didn’t run after them or run from them; he stood for them.

This is what walking the narrow road for Christ looks like today. He wants to use us, but we must be both bold and broken to be useful.

 

Original here

Where is my peace?

6th Jul 2019

pexels-photo-1161268This week started off pretty horrendously. I was managing a little stress after a disagreement with someone, the kind of stress which usually I can manage quite well, but, combined with what I believed to be a friend disrespecting me with careless words, throw in a couple of bickering kids, a house that is upside down, and a washing pile that looks like it belongs to old mother Hubbard, an unexpected bill and an overwhelming urge to run away from home at thirty-eight.  And that’s only the first week of the summer. I was feeling completely overwhelmed by not really an awful lot.  A flick through social media seemed enough to tip me over the edge. Seeing that perfect family holiday, another perfect relationship, a mum who has just crafted something beautiful with her well-behaved children while sitting peacefully around the table, a family much bigger than mine that has a super tidy house. Why, oh why is my life such a shambles? Why am I so crap at parenting? Why can’t I manage my home like that? The questions mount up.

So I have hurt, anger, comparison, inadequacy, stress all piling up in a big heap on my shoulders. And this presented itself as verbal diarrhea when I took (yip that gross) swipe at a friend in the most ungodly fashion, practically biting their face off over a very unimportant matter (sorry DB & thank you for your grace), followed by a whole lot of tears, a stop at the garage for an extra large bar of chocolate and home to sulk in my room. Well because I’m six and that’s what you do when you’re six. Please, if nothing else, please let me know I’m not alone here! We all have these little mishaps, yeah???

I did the only thing that was left to do in my sorry state, which probably should have been my first move but a killer headache and sleep in had left me rushing out the door like a maniac. I came home, went to my room, grabbed my notebook and Bible and lay on my bed and spent some quiet time with God. I lay there and talked to God about all the trouble on my heart. Immediately, and with the added help of two paracetamol, my throbbing headache and aching heart started to ease.

In Philippines, it tells us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

My Bible’s footnotes say prayer and peace are closely connected. The one who entrusts cares to Christ instead of fretting over them will experience the peace of God to guard him from nagging anxiety.

So often we try to create our own peace with the quick fixes, the chocolate or the Netflix marathon, or the other activities that help us switch off from our stressful circumstances, when the Bible tells us that we can find peace through simply spending time in prayer. So when we feel the need to unplug from the world, that probably means what we really need is to disconnect with the world and connect with God. From there we will find our peace.

It’s not that my situation changed. I still had that unsettling disagreement to sort out. My kids were still squabbling, my house was still a bit of a mess. The magic fairy hadn’t turned up to pay the bills and do the laundry. All these things still felt bigger than me. But I know my God is bigger than even my biggest problem.

But rather than running away from my stress I need to chose to run to God with my stress.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”

Psalms 46:1 NLT

I looked up the meaning of refuge and the definition says the state of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or difficulty. That doesn’t mean I get to escape from everything, that just means I get to rest from it while strength to continue I get from the Lord. So often I try to depend on myself for that strength; I try to do it all on my own and leave God out, but this verse reminds me to go to God and he is my refuge and MY STRENGTH.

While I’m finding my rest and strength with God then I’m reminded that all these things that are causing my strife are all manageable. Because God has given me everything I need to deal with these situations and, from him, I can get wisdom guidance and help.

Spurgeon, the absolute legend, said this:

“If indeed the Lord is our refuge and strength, we are entitled to seek after a spirit that will bear us above the dreads of common men. Not everyone can sing the psalm of peace amid commotion and clarity. We must belong to the believing company, we must have the Lord as our God, and we must learn the art of prevailing in prayer.”

But I guess in these situations in life we can all be wise to reduce the build-up of these stressful situations. We have to be willing to help ourselves and, as appealing as it may be, I can’t just take to my bed with a giant whole nut bar and hope that everything is better by the time I get up again. I need to find time to spend with God, like proper intentional time carved out every day, and for me this needs to be a discipline that I will not waver on, even if it means saying no to other things or maybe it means going to bed an hour earlier and not sitting scrolling through social media. But actually setting my phone down and pulling out my Bible, like the real paper version, not the electronic version, reading scripture and talking to God.

I also need to wise up and be a better steward of my money. Get wise and budget for unexpected bills. Plan a holiday allowance, stop impulse buying, save for a rainy day and then I wouldn’t have the unexpected bill stress

Battles for me, I guess I need to chose when to fight battles and with whom. I realised a while ago that I actually have a choice to be offended or not. I will tell my boys when they so often come telling tales of what this one said or whatever and I will ask them if it’s true. Usually, they will answer no. So I will say, then it doesn’t matter (mama needs to practice what she preaches). Choosing not to allow other people’s poor choice of words or bad manners to offend you is a great decision and, in turn, that can cut down on any unpleasant, heated discussion because, well, it probably won’t even affect you what they say because you know the truth.

AND FINALLY

The biggest for me! Don’t fall into the comparison trap. I can just picture the devil, pitchfork in hand, giving even the most secure Christians the poke over the edge into the hellfire of comparison, and social media is his fuel to the fire. See all that stuff on social media, that’s the highlight. However, even knowing that doesn’t seem to stop us. And I do it too. I put the best version of me on display for all to see. It’s not that I pretend that my life is all peachy perfect but I’m not going to post a makeup free selfie of my freshly squeezed face sitting in amongst all the clutter of my home. Noooooo I’m not. But stupidly, I will look at others’ lives through their hi-light reel and feel so inadequate. So this is where I need to be careful about how much of what I see on social media I allow to influence my life. Sometimes that’s gonna look like a media fast or social media free days to guard against that.

So today I want to encourage you to ask yourself if my peace is lost. what do I need to give up?

is it that busy schedule that needs to change?

is it the novel needs set down and the Bible picked up?

does the FB/Insta app need deleting off your phone?

Do you need to put some boundaries in place with that friend overstepping the mark?

Do you need to let go of pride and ask for help?

where is my peace?

Growing numbers of parents are taking a stand against moves to impose lessons on LGBT issues on primary school children

by Godinterest

Parkfield Community School

Parkfield Community School

Protesters against LGBT teaching at a primary school have been banned from gathering outside the gates of Anderton Park Primary School by a High Court injunction which was granted on the basis that the risk to children became “too serious to tolerate”. Birmingham City Council said the behaviour of demonstrators was “increasingly unacceptable” and that they pursued the injunction in order to protect staff and pupils when they return from their half-term break on Monday.

After months of demonstrations outside Anderton Park Primary School Birmingham City Council decided to pursue the legal action. The Council leader Ian Ward said “common sense had prevailed”.

The school had to close early before half-term due to escalating action.

The council said it sought the urgent injunction after the risk to children became “too serious to tolerate”.

Birmingham City Council

Protests have been held outside Anderton Park School for several weeks

Nazir Afzal who is in charge of steering talks between the council, parents and teachers, told Sky News that six weeks of discussions have been unsuccessful.

Protests have been held outside Anderton Park School for several weeks

Protesters were not made aware of the High Court application but told the BBC they still intended to gather next week on a street further away from the school.

How did it all begin?

No outsiders in Our School Teaching the Equality Act In Primary Schools, by Andrew Moffat

The No Outsiders project was the brainchild of Andrew Moffat, assistant head teacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham and based on a book written by headteacher Andrew Moffat.

In an attempt to teach equality amongst children in school irrespective of gender, sex, race or religion. The project aim was to change attitudes towards South Asian and Muslim homosexuality by teaching children about the Equality Act 2010 and British values. He also wanted pupils to “be proud of who they are while recognising and celebrating difference and diversity”.

When did controversy begin to unfold?

The Government intends to introduce compulsory Relationships Education at primary school level from 2020, which will teach children as young as five about “different types” of families.

Parents at seven primary schools in Greater Manchester have contacted school management to complain about proposed LGBT lessons.

In January this year a parent whose child attends Parkfield school raised a petition, claiming the teaching contradicted the Islamic faith.

How did the school respond to the growing anger?

The No Outsiders lessons were paused to allow teachers to “re-engage with our parents”, Mr Moffat said.

What do education chiefs say?

Ofsted has backed the No Outsiders programme, with its chief inspector Amanda Spielman saying all children must learn about same-sex couples regardless of their religious background.

Respecting parents

The Christian Institute’s Education Officer John Denning said respecting parents is “essential”.

“The protests reflect the lack of confidence parents have that schools are observing the proper boundaries of their role.

“The law is clear that teachers must respect the range of views amongst parents and not undermine them with one-sided propaganda.”

“It is being justified by claiming that it is required by the Equality Act, but the Act is explicit that it does not apply to the school curriculum.”

 

Original here