change

The Infection of Overreaction

Drive out a mocker, and conflict will leave.

Quarreling and abuse will stop.

Do not be a friend of one who has a bad temper, and never keep company with a hothead,

or you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself. (Proverbs 22:10, 24-25 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 22:1-29 GW)


We live in a world of overreaction. Overreacting is not a new phenomenon. It’s ancient. But social media and the internet provide an environment that superheats overreaction.

The volatility and vitriol spewed out in public view is shocking. Well, it used to be but now it seems to be the norm. I find myself wanting to say, “Ok, everybody…take a deep breath and let’s calm down.” But there would be reactions and overreactions to that too.

Unfortunately, social media provides a platform for expressing opinions and overreaction. It encourages it. It is an outlet for people who might be too timid to say things in other settings. This isn’t an indictment of social media, just an observation.

At first glance, these two verses seem to be admonitions to take action to exclude those who mock and have anger issues. The immediate solution is to eliminate the problem and that is one way to resolve things. But I see something deeper to consider.

What drives the mocker to mock and causes the anger to boil in a person? Why is the influence of the mocker and the person with anger issues so infectious?

These are two different concerns.

First, the influence of those who mock and those with anger issues is infectious. It either pulls us along with its force of emotion or stirs us to react.

The longer we’re exposed to such influences, the more likely we are to be infected by them. This is the warning given—…you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself.

Sometimes, the only solution is to exclude the one who stirs up strife, arguments, and abuse. When one person influences a group in a destructive way and refuses to change their ways—the good of the whole becomes more important.

This is true for a sports team, a work environment, and within a church community or small group. It can be a drastic step to take but a necessity.

When it’s us

But what if you and I are the mocker or the one who has habitual anger issues? What can we do about it? Especially when we see our influence corrupting others and we are excluded because of it.

This goes back to the question of what drives the mocker or what stirs up the boiling cauldron of rage? The possible reasons are myriad but the means to resolve it are pretty basic.

It requires some honest soul searching. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions like—Why am I so angry about this? Why do I feel compelled to blurt things out?

Honest questions such as these should lead us to search our heart with the Lord’s help. This requires honest prayer, reflection, and a willingness to change.

As we begin to understand the core issue—we need to commit to pursuing change.

When I realize what needs to change, I know I need help to do so. My go-to’s are honest prayer, positive and corrective truth to build on, and God’s help.

At the heart of it all—at least my heart—is the need for self-control. I’m intrigued and thankful that self-control is a fruit of God’s Spirit living in me (Gal 5:23). I’m also glad both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding (praying) on my behalf (Rom 8:27, 34).

This is how I can avoid the infection of overreaction—self-control with the help of God.

Reflection—

Honest questions can lead us to search our heart with the Lord’s help. Honest prayer and reflection can lead to a willingness to change. When we begin to understand what needs to change and consciously move towards making it, we need to rely on the Lords help.

Prayer Focus—

When you pursue significant change in your life, be honest with God in prayer and be open to God’s Spirit working in your life—He’s already praying for you.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Resolutions or Resolve?

Moving beyond resolutions to resolve

Interest in physical fitness surges a few times throughout the year. The holiday season when we all tend to eat more than our body needs is a prime example. This carries over to New Year’s resolutions to get physically fit.

Summertime also brings renewed interest in physical fitness for those who go to the beach or lake to catch some sun. Some gyms are even open 24 hours a day for the die-hards, but many of us have difficulty being consistent.

Inconsistency is also an issue for many of us with spiritual fitness. We may know what is needed for spiritual growth and strength but struggle to move beyond the initial experience of making Jesus the Lord of our life.

Resolutions are more like wishes made when blowing out birthday-cake candles. Moving beyond resolutions requires resolve—a choice or decision that results in commitment.

Knowing isn’t doing

Just knowing what we’re supposed to do doesn’t make it happen. I may know a healthy diet and exercise are primary for being physically fit, but if I don’t make changes and act on those changes I won’t become physically fit.

It works the same way with spiritual growth and health. I may know to read the Bible, stay in fellowship, pray, worship, serve, and so on, but if I don’t do these things consistently I can’t expect too much in the way of spiritual fitness.

And yet, there’s more to it than doing things that lead to spiritual growth and fitness. There is an internal struggle we must contend with and overcome. It requires resolve to overcome this struggle more than a mere resolution.

We must contend with and overcome an internal struggle

lightstock.com_notebook-Bible

lightstock.com_notebook-Bible

Hard questions

Because we’re set in our ways, it’s hard to make significant changes in our life. We need to ask some hard but important questions.

What are specific ways I can move beyond my present spiritual state?

What can I do to overcome habitual tendencies I’ve held most of my life?

Once I know what needs to change, how do I make these changes?

Just as commitment and discipline are needed to maintain physical fitness, the same is true for spiritual fitness and growth.

But why does it always seem to be such a struggle?

Our struggle

Our internal spiritual struggle exists because of two warring natures — one is old and dead but the other is new and alive. The old nature is more familiar to us, it’s like a long-term ingrained habit. It’s not an old friend!

Habits like biting nails are often done subconsciously. We do it without realizing it. This is the problem we have with our old nature—our old way of life. It’s our go-to, our internal inclination.

How can we break away and break free from this old way of life?

Just quoting Scripture won’t make it go away. It won’t just fade away with time by doing all the right things. Nor is it about modifying our behavior.

It’s a matter of our will. Not to make a resolution to change but choosing to surrender it. Sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true.

The death of us

Previously, I wrote about a life hidden. This hidden life is a Christian’s new life arising from our new nature given to us by God when we enter into a personal relationship with Him.

But this hidden life is like the life contained in a seed or seed pod. The seed pod has to die for the new life contained in the seed to come to life.

Jesus spoke about this saying, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). In another post, I looked at this need to die to self.

The Bible speaks of putting this old way of life, or old self, to death. But is it understood by most Christian believers? Maybe at a basic level of knowing it but knowing how to do it is another thing altogether.

Here’s what the apostle Paul said about it in Colossians —

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices (Col 3:5–9 NIV)

A choice and a commitment

So, how do we put such things to death?

Notice the figurative language used — “since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”The image is that of taking soiled clothes off.

It’s an intentional choice and action. It doesn’t just happen.

What’s the key?

Think of it as a slow burial.

Theologically, we can know we are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) with a new nature (Ezek 11:1936:26), but our struggle is with letting go of the old self and its ways.

It requires a continued choice and commitment on our part.

A slow burial of what’s dead

unsplash.com_TMarshall

unsplash.com_TMarshall

We need to realize the old way of life and its nature is dead to us. It no longer holds life for us. That is, it doesn’t fulfill us but empties us and holds on to us with a death grip.

Putting the things mentioned above to death requires us to acknowledge they only breed death for us spiritually. They are a dead end in themselves and they need to be buried in the past. Buried with Jesus—the visual image of water baptism (Rom 6:3–7).

Jesus died to put such things to death on the cross and He removed their power through His resurrection (Col 2:13–15).

After realizing this, we need to choose to not go back to these old ways of life, these habits of our old self. We do this by choosing not to live that way, be that way, and do such things. This is the way we will bury the old self.

But remember, it’s a slow burial. It requires a resolve that goes beyond mere resolutions. It requires a daily choice to trust in the Lord’s perfect work of redemption on the cross, as it personally applies in our life.

The old way of life and its nature need to be dead to us

I’ve got more thoughts on how to take the next step beyond putting the old self and ways to death. If you’re interested, let me know.

Until then, a few questions…

What seems to hold on to you from your old way of life?

How is it a dead-end for you now?

What are some practical ways you can bury it for good?


This was published earlier in Publishous on Medium as a revision from a previous post

What Are You Thankful For?

Photo by  Libby Penner  on  Unsplash

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Are you thankful?

Each Thanksgiving it’s good to take stock of all we have to be thankful for in the midst of all the hoopla of the weekend—food, family, friends, football, and Black Friday.

Sadly, a holiday set aside for national gratitude and reflection has been usurped. It's typically referred to as Turkey-Day and become an excuse for excessive eating, spending, football watching, and beer drinking. 

It's easy to become cynical and pessimistic about the state of our nation and the world around us. Inevitably, this breeds the same in our heart and mind, permeates our thinking, and leaks out through our words.

The only solution is a resolve to choose to be thankful—grateful for what is good in our life.

A little history

This was the intent of the first national observance by President George Washington and the proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. The observance of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November was set in 1941 by an act of Congress and there’s much more to the history of Thanksgiving in America.

Perhaps it's my 60's-era perception of it, but it seems like the whole weekend has become way too focused on materialistic pursuits.

Black Friday used to start at 5:00 am but now it starts at midnight, maybe even earlier. The weekend bargains are capped-off with Cyber Monday. Sadly, I must admit, I'm not immune to it. But it still bothers me to be so preoccupied and seduced by it all.

I choose to be grateful

Sad, mad, or glad? It's a choice. So, I'll choose to be glad through gratefulness.

Some of my favorite verses in the Bible on thankfulness are found in Colossians 3:15-17. I’m intrigued how within each admonition of these three verses (in most versions) is the exhortation to be thankful. And a practical element of these verses speaks to how we are made.

In the margin of my Bible I wrote three words— heart, mind, and body.

Thankfulness in Heart, Mind, and Body

  • Heart— The encouragement of verse 15 is to let the Lord's peace rule—like a football referee—in our heart and be thankful.

  • Mind— The next verse admonishes us to let God's Word dwell—live in and permeate—our thoughts in a full and deep way. And don't forget—with thankfulness!

  • Body— And finally, whatever you do—words, deeds, actions—do it so God is honored in your life example. Again, do it with thankfulness.

This isn't a self-help formula. It says "let…"—allow this attitude to govern and prevail in your heart, mind, and actions. It's a choice. You can choose to be thankful every day not just one day out of the year!

What input do you choose for what rules your heart, mind, and actions? The kingdom of the world around you or God's kingdom? Cynicism or thankfulness?

I know what I choose, especially when I find myself drifting into the prison of pessimism—I choose the prism of praise. It's healthier and much more fun.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:15-17 NIV84)

More Than a Holiday

Thanksgiving holiday is an American tradition. It's been set aside as a national holiday by a few presidents as a time of reflection and gratitude. 

Of course, as with other things, the significance of Thanksgiving is lost for many.

Many times it's referred to as "Turkey Day," and for some, it's an excuse to eat and drink excessively while sitting in front of a TV.

It's also become a great marketing season that changes the focus of giving thanks to getting things.

What's the Point?

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

Cynicism is easy to cultivate. It's a defiant mindset somewhat like a self-preservation tactic. It's not hopelessness, but a sense that life is pointless. That's my take on it.

I'm prone to become cynical until I realize where it leads me. Personally, I see cynicism as an attitude of pride—I know better than others, but I don't care. Perhaps I'm overstating it, but that's how I see it.

Nihilist philosophy is like cerebral cynicism. Its answer to the question of the meaning of life is another question, "What's the point?" This may seem like an oversimplification, but this is the tone of Ecclesiastes—King Solomon's philosophical lament. But hold on! Some valuable insights can be drawn from this apparently cynical observation of life.

Scripture

Neither the wise person nor the fool will be remembered for long, since both will be forgotten in the days to come. Both the wise person and the fool will die. So I came to hate life because everything done under the sun seemed wrong to me. Everything was pointless. [It was like] trying to catch the wind. I came to hate everything for which I had worked so hard under the sun, because I will have to leave it to the person who replaces me. Who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? He will still have control over everything under the sun for which I worked so hard and used my wisdom. Even this is pointless. [vss 16-19]

Then I fell into despair over everything for which I had worked so hard under the sun. Here is someone who had worked hard with wisdom, knowledge, and skill. Yet, he must turn over his estate to someone else, who didn’t work for it. Even this is pointless and a terrible tragedy. What do people get from all of their hard work and struggles under the sun? Their entire life is filled with pain, and their work is unbearable. Even at night their minds don’t rest. Even this is pointless. [vss 20-23]

There is nothing better for people to do than to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in their work. I saw that even this comes from the hand of God. Who can eat or enjoy themselves without God? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to anyone who pleases him. But to the person who continues to sin, he gives the job of gathering and collecting [wealth]. The sinner must turn his wealth over to the person who pleases God. Even this is pointless. [It’s like] trying to catch the wind. [vss 24-26]

(Ecclesiastes 2:16-26 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 2]

Key phrase— Who can eat or enjoy themselves without God?

[bctt tweet="Who can eat or enjoy themselves without God?"]

Digging Deeper...

What is the life situation that causes King Solomon to view life as pointless?

Why does he come to this conclusion, and how does this effect his outlook on life?

What conclusion does all of this thinking bring Solomon to realize?

How does this realization bring a better perspective and value to life?

Reflection...

The problem of cynicism is what it leads to—a dead end. Why? Because pride—self-exaltation—leads us into an isolated and introspective mindset. In other words, we can't see beyond our self.

Every human being—all life on earth—has a time-limited life span. Even the time we think we have can be cut short. So, if our whole world revolves around ourself as the central most important thing in the world, then life can appear pointless.

Solomon's realization of what brings satisfaction—the existence and presence of God—changed his view of life. It brought him to view life from a different perspective. He saw a continuity to life beyond himself.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What are the things that cause you to lose sight of the value of life?

What (or who) is most important in your life? Does it help you see beyond yourself, or make you more self-focused?

How does acknowledging God's existence help you have a better outlook on life?

What are specific ways you can view life beyond yourself?