Three Deep Breaths

PROVERBS 29

Proverbs 29-11

When reading Proverbs 29, I caught onto a theme of how to handle anger and frustration.  Verse 8 says that the wise turn away anger.  Verse 11 reads that the wise bring calm whereas the fool vents his rage.  Verse 20 instructs us not to speak in haste, verse 22 tells us that angry and hot-tempered people stir up conflict and commit many sins, and verse 23 warns against pride, which is often a precursor to anger and argument.

We all encounter trying situations.  We all have tense moments in which we want to scream into a pillow or go for a run or do whatever helps us to cool off.  Proverbs 29 instructs us to keep a cool head and turn away from anger.  I remember a scene from a movie or television show (although for the life of me, I can’t remember the source) in which a character is stressing out.  Another character instructs her to take 3 deep breaths, saying that in the time it takes to complete those 3 breaths, she will stop herself from doing or saying anything she may later regret.

At some point or another, we all get angry.  In these times, it is important to know how God instructs us to handle ourselves.  I had a classmate in college who would pray for the class before every exam.  She always ended her prayers by asking the Lord to keep us calm, cool, and collected during the stress of the exam.  Three deep breaths.  Calm, cool, and collected.  When on the verge of having an outburst, remember to be the wise man and bring calm.  Be wise and turn away anger.  Don’t speak in haste.  Lean on the Lord and His teachings, even in tense moments.  Three deep breaths allows for enough time to reflect back on these verses.

-Megan Bryant

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Praying Hard

James 1-5

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Wednesday, July 12

I have seen several ruined relationships within families, friendships, and significant others due to not taming the tongue. Most of these situations would probably have been avoided if everyone were “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV). It is frowned upon to show favoritism to one person over another because it shows discrimination; instead we should be loving our neighbors as ourselves by showing them mercy and compassion.

Within the community that I live in, there has been a lot of (verbal) fighting via complaining, judgment, swearing, and insults. According to James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” The community dynamic would undoubtedly be a lot better to live in, despite having completely different personalities and interests, if the people involved thought before they spoke avoiding hurt feelings and strained relationships.

As Christians, our faith will be tested numerously throughout our lifetimes. This testing produces endurance and develops perseverance. Through the testing of our faith, it is imperative to follow what God’s word says while facing several trials. To live wisely, we need to show our faith to God and Jesus through our actions because “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17 NIV). We also need to submit ourselves to God and never have doubts when asking for His provision. If we have the right intentions in asking, God will provide. It is important to humble ourselves before the Lord and stop boasting about the future. As a planner—I love making lists, looking at events to attend, and making plans with friends. However, I have no idea if I will even be here tomorrow. James 4:15 says that we should say “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that,” instead of making plans that might not even happen.

Prayer is significant and powerful in every life situation. I know quite a few people who have given up on hope and stopped being patient in waiting for God. As Christians, it is our job to help those who have wandered away from the truth. James 5:20 states that “… whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” So please pray for everyone you know that may need God and Jesus back into their life.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that whoever reads this will ask you for help in whatever situation that they may be facing. I pray that people will stop fighting and instead listen to each other with better understanding. I hope that people turn from their wicked ways and “confess their sins and pray for each other so that they may be healed” (James 5:16). Please help me find a way to aid my friends back to you so that they may be saved. Thank you for sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. I love you, Lord, and cannot wait for your return.

In Jesus’s Glorious Name, I pray, Amen.

-Cynthia Fyfe

(Photo Credit: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/James-1-6_Inspirational_Image/)

Choose Your Battles

Mark 10-13

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Thursday, May 11

What are some of the things that make you mad and how do you react when you are upset?  Do you think Jesus ever got mad or expressed his anger?

We read in Mark 11 of a time where Jesus was anything but quiet and soft spoken. We see Him turning tables and running people out of the temple. This is not to say that we should go flipping tables and chasing people whenever we get upset, that is NOT what was happening here. Jesus reacted in this way not because someone disagreed with Him, in those instances He says to turn the other cheek. He reacted this way because these individuals had taken the temple of His Father and they were using it like a common marketplace. The things they were doing were a disgrace to the sanctuary of God. Jesus was angry with a righteous indignation. He was furious because the temple of God was being defiled!

Do you get more upset and react in a more dramatic way if someone speaks against you or against your God? Hopefully we are faster to defend our God rather than ourselves. We tend to be pretty quick to jump at small things, leaving the big things for someone else to handle. I think of David before He became king, he was willing to fight a giant because of what he had said about our God.

We must pick our battles. It isn’t easy to let someone talk about you or your family. It isn’t easy to let them bad mouth a friend. These things don’t matter as much in the end though. What truly matters is how we defend our faith, how we stand for our God. We MUST stand firm when it comes to the scripture, we MUST share our faith, and we MUST learn to choose our battles as Jesus did.

– Bill Dunn

 

(Photo Credit: 

http://www.thebricktestament.com/the_life_of_jesus/temple_tantrum/jn02_15b.html)

How Do You Handle Things?

Jeremiah 9-11

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Wednesday, March 1

Chapter 9 is moping about how things are. Jeremiah 9:12 And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined, laid waste like a desert, so that no one passes through?

Chapter 10 is about recognition that they were wrong. Jeremiah 10:23 

Chapter 11 How do you handle being wrong? What do you do when you hurt someone?  This chapter is about their covenant being broken and the plot to hurt Jeremiah.

The question for these chapters should be how do you handle things?

For many its lying, anger, resentment and shame.  But God has been very clear in spite of how we act, He will not break His covenant.  How you handle that is the real question.

-Andy Cisneros

God’s DETEST List

Proverbs 14-16

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Wednesday, January 25

A phrase that is repeated numerous times in the Proverbs is “The Lord detests…”  It’s not just, “God doesn’t really like it very much when we ….”.   No, The Lord DETESTS!  I for one want to be far, far, far away from God’s DETEST List.  Sounds like we need some more information to know what to avoid.

— 15:8 – The Lord DETESTS the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
— 15:9 – The Lord DETESTS the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue righteousness.
— 15:26 – The Lord DETESTS the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to him.
— 16:5 – The Lord DETESTS all the proud of heart.  Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

My heart sinks.   Wasn’t it just yesterday I said my PRIDE leads me to believe I am usually right.  Perhaps I am inching closer to that Detest List than I would like to admit.  And, the dangers don’t end there – there are numerous other “The Lord DETESTS” throughout the Proverbs: haughty eyes, lying tongue, hands that shed blood, a scheming heart, feet rushing to evil, a false witness, a man stirring up dissension (6:16-19), perverse hearts (11:20), acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent (17:15), and dishonest scales (20:23).  We are so comfortable with the warm and fuzzy “God of Love”, that we sometimes prefer to forget about the Lord DETESTS list.  So, while we are spending some time evaluating our mouth this week, let’s also examine our heart and deeds and attitudes and thoughts.  May we not become like the Pharisees, so proud of our “righteousness” that we lose sight of God and His many-faceted and always right –  love AND judgment.
Dear God – Help me to see myself clearly, as You see me.   Help me to grow in my understanding of You and what You desire of me.   Help me steer clear of ALL that is on your DETEST list and seek to please you always.

And, speaking of pleasing God . . . here’s just a sampling of some more great lessons from these 3 chapters of Proverbs . . .

On our Attitude

  • “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (14:30)
  • “All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.  Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” (15:15,16)

Contentment with what you have and what comes your way.  It is well with my soul – even if I don’t have what others do or what I thought I wanted.  Enjoy the feast before you – whatever it may be.

On Patience vs. Temper  –

  • “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (16:32)
  • “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel” (15:18)
  • “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly” (14:29)
  • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1)

Watching our mouth is so much easier when we learn to think before speaking.  Slow down, simmer down – it will save you, and others, a lot of grief.

On Helping the Needy –

  • “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” (14:21)
  • “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (14:31)

How can you honor God this week with an act of kindness to the needy?
God Bless You as You Seek Him,

Marcia Railton

 

(Photo credit: photo by Bob Smerecki, found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/snapnpiks0304/10636599685)

The Full Gamut

Psalm 79-84

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Sunday, January 8

In one of my favorite books, one character is shocked that someone could feel so much emotion at the same time. This leads him to say “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.” This comment makes his friend (a girl), chidingly reply “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have”.
At certain times or in certain churches, it feels like there is only one acceptable way to come to God, only one emotion that is allowable before the Almighty. There was a Baptist church that I visited in South Carolina that was grim and dark and full of hellfire preaching. It seemed that they believed only sorrow and repentance were acceptable before God. Other churches demand happiness, chipper-ness, cheerfulness; no matter what are your actual day-to-day circumstances, put on a smile (or else).
However, God doesn’t demand that from his people. As you read today’s reading, you will be greeted by the soaring highs of Psalm 81 (v1 “Sing for joy…shout in triumph”) and 84 (v12 “Happy is the person who trusts in You, Lord of Hosts!”). Approaching God with joy and shouting is something God admires and inspires. But this is not the only way the authors write these psalms. Psalm 79:5 reads “How long, Yahweh? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy keep burning like fire?” These words are full of sorrow and pleading. It is what the broken, the hurt, the oppressed cry out to God, and it is in the inspired writing of the Psalms. But the very next verses give us EVEN more emotions, namely anger. “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that don’t acknowledge You,” because they have devastated your people. Normally we think anger is wrong; no ifs, ands, or buts. However, the inspired author is allowing his anger at the unjust system of the world, the anger at the sins that people do to one another, to be expressed to God.
If you are always happy, awesome! I’m usually a pretty happy guy myself. But if you experience emotion like a human, and if you experience some right side-by-side, the psalms provide avenues to express yourself to God and prove that you are not alone. God doesn’t demand that you come to him in only one particular way. Instead, he invites you to come as you are.
-Jake Ballard
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Jake Ballard is a pastor of Pine Grove Bible Church in Brooklyn Park, MN, where he lives with his wife, Amber and daughter, Melody Grace. He is a gamer (board, card, video, etc.), a geek (currently watch Star Trek: Deep Space 9) and a student. He is in his third year studying to receive his Master’s of Divinity at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, which he hopes to complete in May 2018. For questions, comments or game or show recommendations, contact him at  jakea.ballard@yahoo.com.
(Psalm 80 photo credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/psalm-80-reverse-parallelism/)