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Fight fire with fire?

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1 Peter 3:9 “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”


     One bit of worldly wisdom comes to mind that completely opposes this scripture; “Fight fire with fire!”   If someone goes after you, you must defend yourself and vigorously to discourage repeat attempts.  ‘Street sense’ tells many that if you’re tough and don’t take anything from anybody, nobody will bother you.  Certainly if you have been bullied as a child, there is a lot of satisfaction in defending yourself and showing people that you’re not a person that they can push around.    The only trouble is that when you fight ‘fire with fire’ you tend to get an even bigger fire.  You never get real peace for yourself.  You live in a continual state of readiness for war and all the stress that comes from being aggressive.  Living your entire life being ready to fight fire with fire is a kind of dress rehearsal for hell.


     In this scripture, the Forerunner Bible commentary points out; “Peter is talking about turning the other cheek. Satan is always trying to move, motivate, guide, lead us toward self-satisfaction in every circumstance. If we are in a position or situation in which we are trying to defeat another, it is probable that he has a hold of us.”  Getting back at others, teaching someone not to ‘mess with you’ and being an all around tough guy is based on self-centeredness and fear.  At least it is for me.


     Barnes Notes says; “The hope of eternal life should make your minds calm; and the prospect that you are to be so exalted in heaven should fill your hearts with benignity and love.”  Sadly, in the face of insults and aggressive evil from others I fall short of calm, benignity and love – far, far short!  If you’re like me, you will have to lean on your faith harder than ever in situations like these.  What you can’t do by yourself, He will give you the strength to do; “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” (Phil 4:13).  Jesus said;  “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, … ” (Matthew 5:44)

     When it comes to praying for those who persecute me, I have no faith in my own strength.   I know that in His strength I can do all things including blessing those that curse me.  I can’t do this perfectly but I can practice.   The world will give me lots of opportunities to practice;  “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” (Proverb 19:11)  What Jesus calls us to do isn’t impossible to practice.   Imagine how the world would change if even half of us were successful at it half of the time.   When we fall short, we truly repent and return to His way.  Striving always for spritual progress, leaving perfection to those who would claim it. 

       If we strive to walk as Jesus would have us walk the blessings will be evident; ” . . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Wisdom – you get what you pay for.

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James 3:17  “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

     Are you stuck?  Have you painted yourself into a corner?  Are you between a rock and a hard place?  Do you need some wisdom?  Everybody gets to a point  in their life when they’re in a situation they can’t figure out.  Where do you look for wisdom?  There is no shortage of books, CD’s and self help gurus who will tell you exactly what to do in order to get out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself. 

     The trouble with this kind of  ‘wisdom’ is that all too often it takes you along an easier, shorter route that that brings you to a dead end.  Self help has become big business as one blogger writes;  ” . . ., if you tell people that the road is tough, and there isn’t any easy map or 3-step no-fault guaranteed short-cut to the end goal … that’s harder to sell. Enough of us want so badly to believe that there’s a short-cut, or someone with the answers to give us, that Americans spend a mind-boggling $11 Billion a year on self-help (or self-improvement) books and products that promise “the way.” Or at least a shorter way.”  (Lane Wallace)  There is lots of ‘wisdom’ in the world but can a person find the kind of wisdom that will bring life to a hopeless situation?

     King Solomon was reputed to be the wisest and most learned man on earth. He devoted his life to learning and experiencing all he could; “I applied mine heart to know and to search and to seek out wisdom and the reason for things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness.” (Ecc 7:25) After a life of searching, learning and acquiring wisdom he concluded; “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecc 12:13)  Scripture tells us; “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

     Whatever the wisdom you choose it comes at a price.  Self help books cost money. Wisdom that comes from God can’t be bought with money; “It cannot be gotten for gold; neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.”  (Job 28:15)  The price of God’s wisdom is your self.  Selfish people cannot acquire it nor can they understand it.  People bound up in their own selves are purveyors of worldly wisdom; “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you  … “(2 Peter 2:3)  Jesus told us that by letting go of our selfishness we would gain life;  “He that findeth his life, shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake, shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

     The price of wisdom from heaven is to set aside your prejudices towards faith and the Holy Bible.  The price of wisdom is to read the Word daily and walk in it.  The price of wisdom is to humble yourself enough to take instruction from scripture.  The price of wisdom is to overcome your fear and pride and walk believing the Bible’s truth.  For many that price is too high;  “. . ., that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. ” (John 3:19)

       What is bought for giving up pride in self and fear of man?  A transformation from a living death to abundant life;  “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)  As this transformation progresses God’s wisdom becomes comprehensible and delivers you from the cruel bondage of resentment, pain and fear.  Whatever trouble you may be in, God’s Word provides a way out, not a quick fix, but a way out that gives peace and rest.

     Jesus said;  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

You are what you eat!

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 Ezekiel 34: 17-19  “As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.  Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?”


     Will we be held accountable for what we eat and how it is grown?   I get my food at the grocery store and I pay for it with money that I have earned honestly.  There is way more choice than when I was a kid – pineapples, bananas, oranges – all year round; radishes and salad greens in the middle of the winter!  As a child, I remember digging up our garden and hauling potatoes and carrots to the cellar.  Dad hung dozens of cabbages up on the cellar rafters.  We bought apples by the bushel and put them in the basement.  Mom made jams and jellies and pickled cucumbers and beats.  We were a family of seven and we ate what we could grow and store during the winter.  Mom and Dad went grocery shopping for things like yeast, flour, coffee, sugar, salt, some bread, meat and cereals, never salad stuff or pineapples – it wasn’t available in the winter season.  Things have changed.


     Transnational Agri-Food Companies supply the variety and bulk of our food now.  Bad things can happen when agricultural employees rather than farmers produce food;  “Industrialisation in the food industry has greatly increased the production of food calories at the expense of food quality.” (Brady et al, 2007)  Some may think (as I sometimes do); “So what – I shop and pick what is available and pay for it with my honest earned money!”  What’s wrong with with that?   The authors of the previously cited work point out;  “Consumption of starchy staples has decreased and fat consumption has increased. Consequently over the past 200 years average individual consumption of fat in Western society has increased fivefold and of refined sugars 15-fold (Lang 2004, 132). The impact of junk food on children is particularly significant. If a child drinks one sugar-sweetened soft drink of 120 kcals per day for ten years this would turn into 50 kg of excess growth (Lang 2004, 66). Unsurprisingly there has been a rise in obesity, which is not limited to industrialized countries.”  What’s wrong with the way we eat is that its making our children into fat slobs!  Its making us into fat slobs.


     Some people have huge problems with God bringing down judgement.  Usually these same people have huge problems with any kind of authority if it gets in the way of their lifestyle or their gratifications.  But when it comes to careless eating – God simply brings His judgement by leaving us to our own devices – we do this to ourselves;  “Chronic heart disease accounts for 30% of all global deaths and poor diet is a contributing factor. As diets westernize the non-communicable diseases follow.” (Ibid)  We do this to the world!  The same goes for careless consumption;  “For many walk, of whom I have told you often and now tell you even with weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their God is their belly, and their glory is in their shame, [they] mind earthly things.”


    So what can we do?  How can one person go against large transnational agri business?  Don’t eat so much.  Cut down on the sugar.  Look for locally grown produce.  Eat what is available in season.  Plant your own veggie garden.  Imagine how the world would change if we followed God’s word;  “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.‘ ” (Hebrews 13:5 NASB)

Coming of age

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Hebrews 11:24 “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. “

     At some point in time we all have to grow up.  Or do we?  Today, anthropologists and sociologists are among many who point out that adolescence seems to have become quite a drawn out affair in our post modern societies.  One writer points out; “In 2004, a group of sociologists from U. Penn. published a paper comparing attitudes towards these markers of adulthood across the last century; certain markers, such as marriage, were de-emphasised, while the overall trend was, in the words of one reporter, ‘that it takes much longer to make the transition to adulthood today than a few decades ago, and longer than at any time in America’s history. According to traditional benchmarks, 65 percent of males had reached adulthood by the age of 30 in 1960 and only 31 percent had reached adulthood in 2000.’ ”  (the new adulthood

     The Bible tells us we must mature;  “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Cor 13:11)  We are to take nourishment from His Word;  “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; . . . ” (1 Peter 2:2).  And as we grow in His Word we move to ‘adult food’;  “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  (Hebrews 5: 13,14)   Paul makes the connection between carnality and lack of maturity in his letter to the Corinthian church; “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

     The account of Moses’ early life is found in Exodus 2.  He was, in his youth, carnal.  His quick temper led him to kill a man (Exodus 2:12).  He was fearful (Exodus 2: 14) and became a fugitive (Exodus 2: 15) Moses had a disposition to sin.  And why not?  He was raised as a privileged member of the royal family – he was raised by the world with all the advantages and appetites of the world.  He was as much a slave in Egypt as his countrymen were, only the chains of his bondage were golden.  The interplay of their slavery is highlighted in scripture;  “And when he [Moses] went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?  And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.”  (Exodus 2: 13, 14)  Moses ran away from Pharaoh and Moses ran away from his people!

     Carnality always moves a person (or a church) to apathy, confusion, strife, fearfulness, prideful violence (physical or emotional) and retreat.  We see this in the early life of Moses, Paul saw it in the church at Corinth and we see this in our society. And when a church retreats, it is divisive, fearful or mistrustful of God’s provisioning;  Sadly we see carnality in the church today.  When Moses, with great difficulty and a lot of convincing by God, finally took up his calling, he led God’s people out of bondage.  The psalmist knew what Moses finally came to experience –  that strength comes from trust – from faith;  “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24)

     Paul exhorts us; “Watch ye; stand fast in the faith; acquit yourselves like men; be strong.”  (1 Corinthians 16:13)  Maturity isn’t what you say you are;  it is what you do.  Looking at it that way, we quickly see that none of us are mature all the time.  If you are like me you are quite capable of being very spiritually immature from time to time.  OK – carnality is a constant battle.   Brian Knowles in his article about spiritual maturity writes;  “In rare moments of introspection we may wonder, ‘what have I done with all of these years? I seem as carnal today as when I started.’ We may even question the validity of our own conversion.  In a way, the very willingness to ask such questions is itself an indicator of at least some spiritual growth. It takes a degree of maturity and humility to recognize and acknowledge one’s spiritual shortcomings. If you find yourself thinking this way from time to time, you’re probably on the right path. None of us should ever be satisfied with the state of our spirituality.”

     Jesus gave us a new commandment;  “A new commandment I give unto you: that ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)  Moses came to experience this sort of love (he was faithful to his people), King Saul couldn’t seem to overcome his carnality.  King David had great moments of this kind of love as he struggled with his own carnality  Jesus loves perfectly.   Jesus is telling us to grow up so that we can love one another in His way not any carnal adolescent self-centered(self-righteous) way.  What does perfect love look like? 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, IT IS NOT SELF-SEEKING, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. LOVE NEVER FAILS . . . ” (1Corinthians 13:4-8).

     Let us all practice this kind of spiritual maturity! Praise the Lord!!!

Exposed by The Word of God

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Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

     Young men who come the drug and alcohol rehab center that I work at, who have children always claim that they ‘love’ them.   When they have a few months of sobriety under their belt some start to feel that they are ‘OK’; they can make it on their own.  They feel they no longer need to stay and work their program in our community.  They say things like; “I want to  help take care of my kids, I love them, I want to be a Dad to them.”  Forgetting that before they came to treatment they had little or nothing to do with their kids when they were on the streets or in jail.  Their ‘baby mothers’ were left to take care of the kids.

     They deceive themselves with magical thinking and the denial of their disease of addiction.  Yet, when I ask them to compare their chance of staying sober on their own with their chance of staying sober by sticking with their program, they often say that they have a far better chance if they stay;  “I’ve never made it on my own before.  Here, I don’t have the chance to get in with the wrong crowd and use.”  These young men choose to leave, freely admitting that they are exposing themselves to a severe risk of relapse by doing so.

     I ask them how their choice to leave – knowing that they will likely get back into dope – shows any great ‘love’ for their children.  I ask;  “If you love your kids wouldn’t you do what you had to do to stay clean and sober so you can be their Dad?”  One young man upon some reflection said;  “Well, maybe I don’t love my kids enough to stay here but I’m pretty fond of them!”

     The Word of God describes this perverse behaviour; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)  These young men lie so often that they believe their own lies.  They blindly accept their false sentiments towards their children wanting so badly to believe that they are ‘good loving dads’.   Yet in the cold sober light of day their actions expose them for what they are – sick and in the grip of addiction to the point that they risk their children.  They are NOT ‘OK’.

     How easy it is to see the flawed behaviour of dope addicts.  How easy it is to judge them! How easy it is for me to believe that I’m OK and they’re NOT! Have you ever nursed resentment or held a grudge against someone you claim to ‘love’.  If you’re like me, a lot of the time your ‘love’ for your ‘loved ones’ has been conditional.  How close have you come to the fine line between ‘tough love’ and rejection?   Have you turned your back on your brother, sister, son or daughter and called it ‘tough love’?  Have you failed to honour your father or mother because of past hurts and resentments that you still nurse in your heart?  Have you walked away from  a friend over a difference of opinion blown all out of proportion?  My sins are not as obvious as a dope addict’s but they wreak havoc in my life; “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” (1 Timothy 5:24)

     If you’re like me these questions convict you.  What ever rationalizations I choose to cover my shortcomings, no matter what lies I cling to in order to deceive myself, my heart is desperately wicked and fully exposed by the Word of God!  Jesus calls Christians to a far higher standard; “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45)  I have no strength in myself to do this, I can barely love my ‘loved ones’ in the way that honours God.  I have nothing to stand on but His strength (Phil 4:13).

     Jesus can save us all!  Praise the Lord!

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