Foolish and Stupid Arguments

Have you ever been in a foolish or stupid argument? I’m guessing you know what I mean — if you’re a human being, that is. I like how Dr. Emerson Eggerichs describes these kinds of disputes in his book Love and Respect. One person reacts to an event without love. This causes the second person to respond with disrespect. And thus “The Crazy Cycle” begins.

Dr. Eggerichs goes on to say, “The point is simple: Craziness happens when we keep doing the same things over and over with the same ill effect. Marriage seems to be fertile ground for this kind of craziness. Ironically, there are more books being published on marriage today than ever before… but with all our knowledge, the craziness continues” (Love and Respect, p. 29).

Intriguingly, when we look in the Bible we find that another fertile field for this kind of craziness also exists. It happens to exist in the church. Maybe that’s because the church is also “family.” We can so easily and inadvertently fall into the crazy cycle with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and keep on having the same foolish arguments over and over with ill effect.

As Paul writes this message, he realizes he is about to be martyred. So when he counsels a much younger pastor Timothy, he is giving him the benefit of his many years of leadership experience in the church. And he is doing this from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have much time left, so it pains him greatly to see anyone investing precious resources in the pursuit of foolishness.

“Don’t waste time and energy on quarreling over dumb things,” he advises Timothy. Paul was always up for a good fight when it involved important matters. He was not one to shy away from conflict by any means. But inane arguments and discussions? Paul tells Timothy: “Have nothing to do with them!”

“Replace an argumentative bent with kindness,” Paul encourages Timothy. “And don’t let anger take root in your heart. Because that will only lead to bitterness and long-term resentment.”

“When someone stands up to oppose you, be a gentle listener — a teacher who keeps his cool. Be firm, but very, very patient with those who refuse to listen to you.”

“After all,” Paul reminds Timothy, “God is intimately involved in all the affairs of his church. He is present. So we should always remember that God might wake them up and turn them around to see that what they are doing and saying is really from the devil. And then, with their eyes opened, they can escape the trap Satan has set for them.”

Great advice for the church in Paul’s day! And it remains wise counsel for us in the church (or the Christian family) of today!

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23-26, NIV).

Lord, I am sorry for all the time I’ve wasted in foolish and stupid arguments. Please forgive me, Jesus. Thank you for shedding your blood to forgive me for wasting valuable time. Help me to rid my heart of all bitterness and resentment. You had every right to stay angry with me forever, but you did not. You forgave me, as the prophet Micah proclaimed long ago: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy” (Micah 7:18, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, October 23, is Jeremiah 49:7 – 50:10, 2 Timothy 2:1-26 and Proverbs 25:21 – 26:2.

Header image based on "Argument" by Kurt Bauschardt, CC By-SA 2.0

Handling Anger

Laurence J. Peter is best known for the formulation of the Peter Principle: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” But he is also well known for helping identify the noblest of all dogs: “The noblest of all dogs is the hot-dog; it feeds the hand that bites it.”

Peter also had something important (and humorous) to say about anger, and you probably haven’t heard this one: “Speak when you are angry — and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

Anger is a volatile emotion, and it has to be handled very carefully. Really, for those of us who are Christ-followers, it has to be handled by Jesus. So what does it look like when Jesus lives inside of an angry person? How do we handle anger when Jesus guides our hearts and minds?

Paul describes that for us in Ephesians, chapter 4:

  • Anger is handled with truth.
  • Anger itself, while not a sin, is handled as a potential trap door easily leading to sin.
  • Anger is handled in a timely fashion. If at all possible, it is resolved daily, so that grudges don’t build.
  • Anger is handled without acts of revenge, like stealing to get back at someone.
  • Anger is handled with speech intended to build up, not rip apart or tear down.
  • Anger is handled by recalling that that the devil is the real enemy.
  • Anger is handled by recalling that the Holy Spirit has identified us as his own.
  • Anger is handled by deleting options like bitterness, rage, brawling, slander and malice.
  • Anger is handled with kindness and compassion.
  • Anger is handled with forgiveness.

And since God has every right to be angry with us because of our sins, the most important thing to remember is that we are sorely in need of forgiveness too. It is much easier to forgive and handle anger positively when we recall that we have hurt and angered God many times, and he has always forgiven us. And he always will forgive us.

Because forgiven people forgive others.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2, NIV).

Lord Jesus, thank you for forgiving me for all my sins. You have every reason to be angry with me. I have sinned against you in my thoughts, my words and my actions. And yet, you have forgiven me time and time again. Please help me to handle my anger with grace and mercy, and to show the same forgiveness and love to others who have hurt and angered me. Live in me so that you can handle my anger for me.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, September 26, is Isaiah 63:1 – 65:16, Ephesians 4:17 – 5:7 and Psalm 112:1-10.

Header image based on "Gazed and confused" by jazbeck, CC By 2.0

Short Fuse or Long?

The disciples were ready to “go off” on the people of a village they were passing through. The villagers were completely unwelcoming toward them.

“Let’s rain down fire,” the disciples proposed to Jesus.

But, doing some “real-time coaching,” Jesus corrected them immediately. He reminded them what his heart is toward people who reject him and insult him.

He is patient. Forgiving. Willing to turn the other cheek. Just as he had once preached in his Sermon on the Mount as the way to respond to those who hate and hurt.

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village” (Luke 9:51-56, NIV).

Do you find that when others hurt you, you hope for immediate justice — like the disciples? Do you expect God to have a short fuse in those situations?

How about when you hurt others? Are you still wishing for speedy retribution? Do you hope that God will have a short fuse with you?

Or do you hope that God will be patient and forgiving?

Remember, Jesus wants us to use the same measure with others that we would want to be used with us. How glad I am that Jesus is patient with me. And I will pray for the Holy Spirit to help me be just as patient with others!

Join me in that prayer?

Lord, today we are celebrating Good Friday. What a great reminder of your patience, forgiveness and love! You paid the ultimate price to earn my forgiveness. Please give me the same patience toward those who sin against me as you have toward me when I sin against you.

Our Bible reading for Friday, April 3 is Numbers 35:1 – 36:13, Luke 9:28-56 and Psalm 40:9-17.

Header image based on "Burning Fuse Macro" by p.Gordon, CC By 2.0

A Single Beam of Hope

Sometimes it’s all just too much. One thing stacks on another. You feel like you can’t take one more thing. But here it comes anyway.

All of a sudden, your senses seem to halt. You can’t hear. And you can’t speak either.

The stress has gotten to the point where you’re just completely overwhelmed. Even if it’s just momentary, it feels like the whole world is arrayed against you.

And in your heart? Perhaps it’s anger. Maybe it’s grief. Or worry. And it could just be a deep, deep hurt. Whatever it is, it feels crushing.

And yet, somewhere deep down inside, underneath layers and layers of all that dark, heavy emotion, there still lies just a tiny glimmer. A single itsy, bitsy beam of light — for your soul.

That little beam? It’s hope. The world may be caving in on top of you, but somehow all is not yet lost.

Because God is real. He does know you. And you matter to him.

After all, he gave you his one and only Son’s life to rescue you from sin and eternal death — from darkness that lasts forever.

King David knew that darkness. He also knew that beam of hope… and he knew that God hears and answers prayer.

“I am like the deaf, who cannot hear, like the mute, who cannot speak; I have become like one who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God” (Psalm 38:13-15, NIV).

Lord, you are real. You know me, and I matter to you because in Christ, I’m your child. I am burdened and weighed down. Please hear my prayers and answer them.

Our Bible reading for Monday, March 30, is Numbers 27:12 – 29:11, Luke 8:1-18 and Psalm 38:13-22.

Header image based on "hope" by Forest Wander, CC By-SA 2.0