“Responding to Difficult People”

 

Responding to Difficult People

Do you have any difficult people in your life? Most of us do. Is there someone that God has not changed (even though you have been praying and praying) … and it’s hard? So, how does God want us to respond to them?

 

Responding to Difficult People

 

This is the second post in a series about what Paul Tripp calls “Living Between the Already and the Not Yet.”

The first post was “5 Ways God Finishes His Work in Us” based on Philippians 1.6:

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

We talked about Jude 24 and how God tells us that one day He will cause us to stand before Him faultless.

But there is a progression to it. By God’s grace we are progressing from what we were on the day of our spiritual birth (the “already”) and what Jude talks about in verse 24 (the “not yet”).

Here between the “already” and the “not yet” God is progressively changing us as we learn to:

1. Count it all joy (James 1.2-5).
2. Accept His discipline (Heb. 12.5-11).
3. Keep the 2 great commandments (Matt. 22.37-40).
4. Overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.17-21).
5. Trust in His sovereignty (Rom. 8.28-29; 1 Cor. 10.13).

Today in the second post in that series, we’ll talk about how we should respond to difficult, even sinful, people.

 

Difficult Relationships

 

Do you have any difficult people in your life? Is there someone that God has not changed (even though you have been praying and praying) … and it’s hard?

It could be a work situation or a family situation. Maybe you’re being mistreated, insulted or falsely accused?

The truth is, most of us have relationships that are challenging!

In counseling much of what we deal with concerns relationship issues:

  • A couple may come because they can’t be in the same room without fighting.
  • A wife may come because her husband is harsh and unloving.
  • Parents come because a child is disrespectful and angry.
  • Someone else comes because they are still struggling with mistreatment or abuse from childhood.
  • Parents come with a child who is being bullied.

 

How do these things fit into God’s plans and purposes for us?

 

Let’s just say for a minute “Lois” comes in. Her husband is harsh and unloving and not even willing to come for counseling.

Mike Wilkerson in his book Redemption says that we are all fellow sufferers AND fellow sinners. Even when we are sinned against, we complicate the situation by our responses.

So Lois finds herself yelling, complaining, gossiping to friends, and even threatening her husband with divorce. Now things are not going well. In fact, life has gotten hard!

I will often draw what we call the “Y- Chart” and share with her this simple phrase “Only 2 choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.”

 

y chart

“Only 2 choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.”

 

Pleasing Self

 

Pleasing self starts out easy. It comes naturally to us. But …

Proverbs 13.15 says “the way of the transgressor is hard.”

What starts out easy gets hard; things don’t go well. Our sin only worsens the situation.

Psalm 32.10 says, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked.”

And Romans 2.9 says:

There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil

Synonyms for those two words “tribulation” and “distress” include depression, shame, guilt, anxiety, affliction, agony, hurt, misery, pain, torment, and woe, just for starters.

Doing evil can involve sins of commission or sins of omission. Sins of commission are things we do that we shouldn’t and sins of omission are our failures to do what we should.

 

 

y chart Pleasing self starts out easy, but, eventually, life gets hard!

 

Pleasing God

 

The other way … pleasing God, starts out hard. It goes against our natural way of thinking.

We have thoughts like: “If I let him get away with that, he’ll think it’s ok” or “Do you expect me to be a doormat?” It’s hard! But … Jesus said in Matthew 11.28-30:

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

 

y chartWhat starts out “hard” gets easier and our burden gets lighter.

 

A minute ago I quoted Romans 2.9:

“There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil …”

But verse 10 says:

“but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good …”

John 13.17 says, now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. And James 1.25 says it’s the doer of the Word who will be blessed.

So back to Lois … life has gotten hard, there’s tribulation and distress, made worse by Continue reading

“How would you fill in the blank?” March 14

 

How would you fill in the blank? - Fill in the blanks: "I won't be happy until ____________." "I must have ___________." What do your answers have to do with your worship?Fill in the blanks: “I won’t be happy until ____________.” “I must have ___________.” What do your answers have to do with your worship?

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 25 & 26
Psalm 34.1-7
Proverbs 11.28
Mark 13.21-37

 

How would you fill in the blank?

 

Numbers 25 & 26:

Modern Day Idolaters

 

As we see God’s swift and strong judgment on sin in the Old Testament, we need to remember a couple of things. First, He was protecting the people and the bloodline through which He was going to bring forth the Messiah.

But second, though God is patient and merciful with us in our sin and idolatry, it doesn’t mean He’s changed His mind about sin! It’s only the blood of Christ that keeps us from a similar fate and it was the mercy and love of God that made provision for our salvation. And how great a salvation it is!

We tend to write off the idea that we, too, are idolaters. We may or may not bow down to carved images, but we are frequently guilty of having other things on the throne of our hearts besides God Himself. Things like: I must have a spouse to be happy; I must have a godly husband; I must have a wife who respects me, I must have obedient children; or some other, “I must ..” Even good things can become idols if they are the focal point of our lives in the place of God.

Ask yourself, “Is there something or someone I think I cannot be happy without?”

Our idols can become so important that they blind us (Ezek. 14.1-8). In our blindness we can begin to justify sin or even refuse to see that it exists. We murmur and complain like the children of Israel in the wilderness. We compromise our moral standards, resort to sinful anger, or give in to fear.

When we do, it is sin—pure and simple. No amount of sugar coating will change it, but the answer is just as simple Continue reading

“Is your hope in truth or lies?” December 19

 

Just as in Micah’s day, one of the devil’s oldest tricks is to get men and women to put their hope in a lie. Even though it is often what they want to hear, it leads to despair when they realize their hope was fixed on a lie. How could you be misplacing your hope?

And in our New Testament reading …

In Revelation 9 the fifth and sixth trumpets sound! The fifth releases swarming locust-like demons with tails like scorpions. Their stings will leave people begging to die, but not even able to commit suicide. And the sixth is even worse.

 

Today’s Readings:
Micah 1-3
Psalm 144.9-15
Proverbs 30.10
Revelation 9.1-21

 

Is your hope in truth or lies?

 

Micah 1-3:

Putting Your Hope in a Lie

 

Like many in our culture today, the people in Micah’s time rejected God’s truth (2.6). They dismissed the prophets as “prattlers” or babblers. But God said, the real “babblers” are false prophets who tell people what they want to hear (2.11). Furthermore God warned them of a time when their false prophets would be exposed for the fakes they were and discredited, leaving the people with no hope, because they had put their hope in a lie (3.6-7):

6 “Therefore you shall have night without vision,
And you shall have darkness without divination;
The sun shall go down on the prophets,
And the day shall be dark for them.
7 So the seers shall be ashamed,
And the diviners abashed;
Indeed they shall all cover their lips;
For there is no answer from God.”

Deception is one of Satan’s oldest tricks. Jesus said he is the “father of lies” (Jn. 8.44). Just as he did in the garden where Eve put her hope in his lies, he first plants seeds of doubt by implying, “Did God really say …?”

“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Gen. 3.1).

But sooner or later he simply calls God a liar:

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3.4-5)

There is no end to the lies people place their hope in today. Lies such as: Continue reading

“What goes around comes around?” December 17

 

What goes around comes around?Do you ever take silent pleasure when someone who has criticized or mistreated you falls or suffers a setback? As believers, should we rejoice that “what goes around comes around”? You might be surprised at what God told the Edomites about that!

Also read about the importance of trusting in God’s timing and more about the Tribulation. This time the eerie calm between the time the 6th and 7th seals are opened.

 

Today’s Readings:
Obadiah 1-21
Psalm 143.7-12
Proverbs 30.5
Revelation 7.1-17

 

What goes around comes around?

 

Obadiah 1-21:

Guarding Our Hearts

 

The two verses that really jumped out at me were 12 & 13:

12 “ But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother
In the day of his captivity;
Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah
In the day of their destruction;
Nor should you have spoken proudly
In the day of distress.
13 You should not have entered the gate of My people
In the day of their calamity.
Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction
In the day of their calamity,
Nor laid hands on their substance
In the day of their calamity.

God was rebuking the nation of Edom, the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. These distant cousins took pleasure in the fall of Israel and Judah. They rejoiced in their calamity and even took advantage of the situation, perhaps by pillaging the city after it was deserted.

How much more as believers in Jesus Christ—those who have God’s Holy Spirit resident within us—should we guard our hearts against any such thing, whether with our biological family or our brothers and sisters in Christ! We are told to love, help and pray for even our enemies, to say nothing of those who are part of our family.

And yet, we sometimes take silent pleasure when someone who has criticized us falls, or in thinking “what goes around comes around!” While it is true that there are laws of sowing and reaping, we should be grieved not happy when it happens. We should pray for God to use it for good to turn that unbeliever to Christ or to cause a sinning brother or sister to repent, turn back to God, and live rightly.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 143.7-12:

His Righteousness

 

As the psalmist continues to cry out to God in his distress, remember he does so on the basis of Continue reading

“The Tribulation: Opening the 7 Seals” December 16

 

The Tribulation: God is a God of mercy and grace, but He is also the Righteous Judge and will one day, possibly soon, begin opening the seven seals of Revelation 6 and unleashing final judgment on all who refuse to repent and turn to Him for forgiveness. What will that look like?

Also read about praying when you’re discouraged and God’s wisdom.

 

Today’s Readings:
Amos 8 & 9
Psalm 143.1-6
Proverbs 30.1-4
Revelation 6.1-17

 

The Tribulation: Opening the 7 Seals

 

Revelation 6.1-17:

Opening the Seven Seals

 

seven seals

Well, we’re getting into the heart of the book of Revelation—today chapter 6.

In this chapter we see God’s wrath, being poured out in the events of the Tribulation period. His wrath is represented by the seven seals on the scroll. Chapter 6 briefly describes the opening of the first six seals.

The first seal reveals a white horse, on it a rider with a bow who goes out “conquering and to conquer.” Although there is a bow, there are no arrows, so this conquering will be done through peaceful means—lies and deception. So, at first, there will appear to be a time of peace, but it will be short lived.

The second seal reveals another horse and rider. This time the horse is red representing bloodshed—war and wholesale killing. The killing will not just be during warfare, but murder will become commonplace.

The third seal reveals a black horse and rider. The black horse speaks of famine and shortages. This will lead to rationing, food lines, and price gouging.

When the fourth seal is opened we see a pale horse and his rider—Death, followed by Hades. This pale or ashen color is the color of a corpse when it is decaying. This horseman will be given the power to kill one-fourth of the world’s population.  Continue reading

“The Right Bait & the Process of Sin” November 23

 

The Right Bait & the Process of Sin - What is the process of sin in your life? God has clearly explained it so we can avoid its pitfalls, but would you recognize it, if it was happening to you?What is the process of sin in your life? God has clearly explained it so we can avoid its pitfalls, but would you recognize it, if it was happening to you?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 37 & 38
Psalm 132.1-9
Proverbs 29.4
James 4.1-17

 

The Right Bait & the Process of Sin

 

James 4.1-17:

The Process of Sin

 

There is so much in the book of James and this chapter is no exception. Verse 4.1 coupled with chapter 1.13-15 give us great insight into the process of sin in our lives.

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? (4.1).

We often point outside ourselves to other people and circumstances as the reasons for our problems and conflicts. But James clearly tells us they come from our own sinful desires. We do what we do because we want what we want; the problem is not outside of us, but within us!

Sometimes we even attempt to put the blame on God for our sinful behavior. “I prayed and prayed for God to help me (deliver me, remove this sinful desire, etc.), but He just hasn’t.” Chapter 1.13-15:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

The Process of SinVerse 14 uses a fishing analogy. Each of us is lured or enticed by our own desires just as a fish is enticed to “take the bait.” And like the fish, we often fail to believe the bait has a hook in it! Once we take the bait we are “drawn away” or we might say, reeled in.

Next James uses a birth analogy: “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

First, there is the sinful desire. We start thinking about that man or woman at work. We justify it by saying, “There’s no harm in it. I’m not going to do anything about it!” Pretty soon we start telling ourselves things like, “Well, if my spouse paid more attention to me …,” “He makes me feel desirable,” “At least she respects me,” or a million other variations of the lie.

The desire has been conceived. It’s not full grown yet, but it’s taking shape in the womb of our sinful hearts. And when it’s full grown it gives birth to sin. If we don’t stop it in its tracks, it will be followed by death: guilt, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, destruction, even divorce!

Of course, lust and sexual immorality are not the only areas where sin can entice us. It might be just one drink, lying to make ourselves look better, cheating, gossiping, or a million other things.

God included this passage in His Word to reveal the process of sin so we can recognize and avoid it. And if we are already nibbling the devil’s bait … or worse … so we would repent and cry out for His help.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezekiel 37 & 38:

Dry Bones & Resurrection Life

 

In chapter 37 Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. God tells him He is going to bring the dry bones back together, cover them with flesh, and breathe His Spirit into them. (I can’t read this passage without humming the old song “Dry Bones” that many of us sang as children. Anyone else?)

The dry bones represent the Israelites who had been dispersed among other nations. God promised He would restore them to their land and give them His Holy Spirit.

God also brings resurrection life to our sinful, dry lives. He redeems our pasts, restores where there is death and devastation and breathes life into marriages and relationships that have fallen into disrepair. Continue reading

“Words & Attitudes Matter!” October 19

 

Attitudes MatterWords and attitudes matter! Whether we’re nagging or encouraging, praising or criticizing, they matter in our relationships with people.

Words and attitudes also matter in our relationship with God. Will we be patient and faithful in times of tribulation, as well as blessing, or will our praise quickly turn to anger and bitterness?

If we realize our words and attitudes need to change, where do we start?

 

Today’s Readings:
Jeremiah 23 & 24
Psalm 119.17-24
Proverbs 27.15-16
2 Thessalonians 1.1-12

 

Words & Attitudes Matter!

 

Proverbs 27.15-16:

It Starts with the Heart

dripping faucet“A continual dripping … and a contentious woman are alike …”

Ladies, we need to understand what God is saying here about the power of our words and attitudes.

None of us lives in a perfect world. We have spouses and children, bosses and co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors who are imperfect. But we can choose how we’ll respond.

Will we be the women Peter encouraged us to be?

¹ In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives. Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. (1 Pet. 3.1-4 NLT).

Will we choose to live the kind of lives that win others even without words (v. 1)? And when we do speak, will they be impacted by the purity and reverence of our lives (v. 2) or will they see a harsh, prideful heart?

Proverbs has a lot to say about the power of our words:

A gentle answer deflects anger,
    but harsh words make tempers flare.
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing,
    but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. (Prov. 15.1-2 NLT).

Those who control their tongue will have a long life;
    opening your mouth can ruin everything (Prov. 13.3 NLT).

Some people make cutting remarks,
    but the words of the wise bring healing (12.18 NLT).

He who has knowledge spares his words,
And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit (Prov. 17.27 NKJV).

Kind words are like honey—
    sweet to the soul and healthy for the body (Prov. 16.24 NLT).

The tongue can bring death or life;
    those who love to talk will reap the consequences (Prov. 18.21 NLT).

And what about our attitudes? As Peter reminded us in the passage we just read (v. 1), we communicate even when we’re not speaking.

Mockers are proud and haughty;
    they act with boundless arrogance (Prov. 21.24 NLT).

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov. 16.18).

Ladies, how do we want our husbands and others to think of us? We have a choice. But if we want to reflect a godly attitude, if we want kind words to fill our mouths, we’ve got to start with our hearts. Jesus said:

“It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness” (Mk. 7.20-22).

What are you putting into your heart? God’s truth or worldly ideas?

On what do you meditate? On slights and hurts, things you wish you had, on all your husbands faults? Or do you cultivate gratitude, contentment, forgiveness, and grace?

It’s your choice and mine.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Jeremiah 23 & 24:

The Father’s Plan

As I read chapter 23, verses 5 & 6, I was reminded of Genesis 3 where right in the middle of pronouncing the curse that would come on Adam and Eve as a result of their sin, God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3.15). Right there in the garden, God gave them, and us, a glimpse of His plan to restore His creation to right standing with Him.

And here in Jeremiah 23, as He is pronouncing the consequences of Judah’s repeated disobedience, He promises to bring them back:

5 “ Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,

“ That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
6 In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:

THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Another reminder of the coming of the promised Messiah—what a good and awesome God we serve! “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5.8) and that was the Father’s plan from the beginning.

Another passage that is full of hope is 24.4-7: Continue reading

“Will you experience the Rapture or the Tribulation?” September 16

 

tribulation

There will be a day when, “… the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout … we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air …” (1 Thess. 4.16-17). There will also be those who think they’re OK with God because of all the things they have done. They may be religious, but will realize too late that they were not truly saved and that they have been left behind. What about you? Will you experience the Rapture or the Tribulation?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 23 & 24
Psalm 107.10-22
Proverbs 25.17
2 Corinthians 8.1-24

 

Will you see the Rapture or the Tribulation?

 

Isaiah 23 & 24:

God will one day judge the world!

 

Chapter 24 changes the pattern in this book. Instead of talking about God’s judgment on specific nations, the prophet begins to speak to the inhabitants of the earth. This prophecy is more general in nature.

It certainly had near future meaning, possibly either the devastation brought about by Sennacherib and his Assyrian army or by Nebuchadnezzar and his armies from Babylon.

But it also has yet future application concerning the period of history called the Tribulation. The book of Revelation talks about the incredible destruction that will take place during those horrible, terrifying seven years: fires, earthquakes like the world has never seen, pestilence and wars, among other things.

The next few chapters of Isaiah will continue talking about God’s judgment on the world, but there is also comfort contained in many of the passages for God’s people. Even in the worst of times, God cares for His own! And as for the Great Tribulation to come, I don’t believe those of us who have made a decision for Christ now will be around to see that time. I believe that time will be proceeded by the Rapture of the church:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4.16-17).

But there will also be those who attend church, but who have never made a personal commitment to Christ and who will realize too late that they were not truly saved. Continue reading