Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Anger Is"

Anger Is

By: Matthew Hawkins

Anger is fire in a dessert

it will disappoint you.

Anger is a flame in Hell

it tortures you.

Anger is a fight occurring

it will hurt you.

Anger is wearing a winter’s coat in summer

it will make you wish you hadn’t chosen it.

As I was walking down the 4th grade hall at Matthew's school I found this poem on the bulletin board outside his classroom. My first thought was that he had copied it from a book. I did not know that my son wrote poetry. I have always known that he was a deep thinker, but I did not know that those thoughts could come out in the form of poetry. I know I am his mother, but I was very impressed. I admit that when it comes to my children I am easily impressed, but then Matt read the poem. Matt is not easily impressed and this poem blew him away. We were both amazed at the depth of his understanding of anger. Anger does disappoint, it tortures you and those around you. Anger can hurt you. It can hurt others. It can cause bitterness. It can be a stronghold. I have to admit that my favorite line in the poem was the comparison of anger being like a winter's coat in the summer, you wish you hadn't chosen it. The implication here is that anger is something we put on. It is a choice. The wrong choice. To think about wearing a winter's coat in the summer makes me feel heavy, it makes me sweat, it makes me nauseous. It can cause dehydration and heat exhaustion. To be completely is stupid. You wish you hadn't chosen it. The same is true with anger. Anger is usually a choice made in haste. It does not come from sound, controlled, reasonable thinking. We make the choice from our own selfish rights and desires and after the damage is done we too wish we hadn't chosen it. Scripture says, "In your anger do not sin." Which implies that we can be angry as long as we don't sin. We are also told that Jesus was angry, with a righteous anger when he turned over the tables in the temple. Let's be honest, we as believers often use these scripture references to allow ourselves to be angry. If we were honest we would understand that more often than not our anger is not righteous and it is not without sin. It is so hard for us as mortal man to be angry and not sin. The line seems to be so cloudy. It is so much more beneficial for us to allow the fruit of the spirit to reign in our lives as we demonstrate self-control. I love that at the age of ten Matthew recognizes anger as a choice. He knows that it is possible not to choose it. He understands the far reaching repercussions it can have on our lives. He gets that our anger can torture us and hurt us. Wow! I wish I understood anger that well. Easily impressed mommy or profound truth from a ten year old. You decide.

Ephesians 4:31 NIV

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice."

Colossians 3:8 NIV

"But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."

James 1:20 NIV

"for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Has Tired Ever Gotten The Best Of You?"

We spent most of yesterday at the pool. That seems to be our summer routine and we love it. Jacob is learning to swim and our time at the pool is very exhausting for him. We came home to fix supper and Jacob took off his wet bathing suit. I instructed him to put it in the dirty clothes and go and put on some dry clothes. It was taking him a while to come back to the den so we went to check on him. I found that precious little guy completely naked, drawer open, clothes in hand and sound asleep on the floor of his room. He was trying so hard to obey, but tired got the best of him. Has that ever happened to you? It has happened to me. Actually it happens to me often. My heart wants to obey, but my physical body chooses to submit to its own will and the result is actually disobedience. Don't get me wrong, I was not upset with Jacob. He is 3 and he was tired. I am just blessed that he fell asleep while obeying. What God opened my eyes to see however was the fact that "tired" becomes my crutch to justify my own disobedience and I cannot use the excuse of being 3. I want to obey and discipline my children according to God's word, but "I'm tired" so I let their disobedient behavior slide. I want to bless my husband and minister to his needs, but "I'm tired" and I selfishly fall asleep without even a consideration to his plans. I want to be a witness and reach out to my neighbors and to those around me in the community, but "I'm tired" so I quickly move about my busy life and duck back into my house. "I'm tired" seems to be such an easy yet believable excuse. Is it a justifiable excuse? No, not when God requires obedience. Don't get me wrong I know we all get tired and God's design is for us to rest, but tired can never be an excuse not to obey. God requires obedience and even gave us the ultimate example to follow. Jesus was obedient even unto death, death on a cross. I am so thankful that He was not "too tired" to obey that which God had called him to do. He is our example. He is who we follow. We must obey. Pray and ask the Lord Jesus to fill you to overflowing with the desire to obey and the energy to obey. It may require not spending energy on certain things in your life that are selfishly screaming for your attention so that you can do what God requires of you. I don't want to be found holding in my hands the key to my obedience all the while sleeping instead of obeying.

"Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why Do You Have A Good Marriage?

Matt and I are leaving today to teach a marriage conference in Griffin, GA. As I was giving my final instructions to the boys and saying my good byes Joshua ask a very thought provoking question. "Mommy, why do you and Daddy have such a good marriage?" "Well, Joshua, it's because we pray, read our bibles and listen to the Holy Spirit guide us in our marriage." "So if people don't have a good marriage does it mean they don't read and obey their bibles?" WOW! Out of the mouths of babes. First let me say how blessed I am that my 6 year old thinks we have a good marriage. That speaks loudly to me and lets me know that they are watching. His comment also spoke truth to my heart this morning. There is only one way to have a good marriage, the best marriage. We must be obedient to the Word of God. How can we expect our marriages to become good or even better when we are leaving out the glue (Jesus)? So often we know what we need to be doing, but it apparently is not important enough to us that we are willing to die to self. I thought about it this have a headache and you know if you take tylenol your headache will go away, but instead of stopping what you are doing and seeking out the remedy you continue to suffer all the while complaining about "this headache." The same is true in so many marriages, we know that a closer walk with Jesus, spending time in His Word and fellowshipping with Him in prayer is the key to "fix" the problem, but we would rather complain and hold on to the hope that a miracle would come along that would require us to do nothing, than to die to self and actively seek what is the "only" answer. God has been teaching me the trick to never having an argument with my spouse. Matt and I do not fight. We never have. We occasionally have disagreements and get irritated with one another, but they never last more than about an hour or 6. I am fixing to share with you how you can never again fight with your spouse. Are you ready for this? Luke 9:23 NIV "Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Do you see that little four letter word in there...deny....that's it. That's the secret. Fighting in marriage is a result of selfishness. Wanting our way, wanting the last word, wanting to be right, thinking we don't deserve to be treated that way. It's all selfishness. Jesus says that if we really want to come after Him and be known as one of His then we will deny ourselves. How often? DAILY! That means that today it is ok if I don't get my way. It is ok if I don't get the last word. It is ok if my husband makes a decision that I find utterly ridiculous. It is ok because I am following Jesus and denying myself and HE will take care of the rest. In Ephesians we as wives are instructed to respect our husbands and submit to their leadership and husbands are instructed to love their wives just as Christ loved the church (giving up his very life). Hey folks this is not my opinion, this is scripture so take it up with Him. If we are respecting our husbands and submitting (all of which require denying self) and if our husbands are loving us as Christ loved the church (giving up His very life because of his love for her) then where is there room for fighting? The "secret" sounds like an easy solution right? It sounds easy in theory, but the problem is bound up in the foolishness of our hearts. It is so hard for us to die to self and deny what our flesh so desperately longs for. This is where we get back to Joshua's question..."So if people don't have a good marriage, does it mean they don't read their bibles?" My answer to Joshua was this..."It's not actually reading the Bible that produces a good marriage, but it is obeying it and doing what God says to do. He has written it all out for us, but we have to choose to obey what it says. When we are studying the Bible and seeking to obey everything it says, then we can have a good marriage." That's the secret, walking so close to our Savior that we know the truth of His word and we OBEY it. It is not enough to just know, but we must put into practice that which was first knowledge. Our knowledge has to grow feet so that it can become faith. Knowledge alone is a dangerous thing. It puffs us up and can harden our hearts. It's knowledge that leads to obedience and there in that humble obedience we find a heart that is pliable willing to be molded and shaped into all that God desires for it to be. Do you want a good marriage? I do! I want a great marriage. I want the best marriage. You can have it today. Following the secret...DENY yourself, Abide in His word, Obey His word and watch Him pour open the flood gates of blessing in your marriage.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"I Obey On Thursdays"

Last night as we were preparing to go to bed, Jacob and I were in the kitchen getting what he calls his "bed night drink." I was pouring his juice as he was scaling the cabinets to crawl and perch on the counter top. As I recall I had said maybe twice, "Jacob, get down." Feeling weary from the day and living in apparent parental disobedience I ask a question with great frustration. "Jacob, do you ever obey Mommy?" His reply was priceless. "Yes, ma'am, I obey on Thursdays." Lucky for me today is Thursday right? The more I thought about this the more the Holy Spirit began to speak to me personally through this small voice of truth. In Jacob's mind he does obey. Maybe only on Thursdays, but nevertheless, he would say that he obeys. He wants to be characterized as an obedient child. The same is true for me. I want to be obedient to my Heavenly Father, but it's not enough to just obey on Thursdays. As believers we often fall into this trap as we train our minds to think like Jacob. If I obey in this situation, but tell a "white lie" here (which by the way is code for a big black sin) or allow my mind to wander in this situation, or speak a careless word today, but I still obey most of the time, then can I still be considered obedient? His word is clear that we are to obey His word, follow His precepts, walk in His ways. It's worded in many ways but the meaning is the same. He speaks, we obey. Bottom line! I expect the same from my children. Actually I expect them to obey All the way, Right away and With a Happy Heart. Don't you think our heavenly Father expects no less from us. If we only obey on Thursdays (or in certain areas) but choose to walk in our own ignorant ways the rest of the time, then we are characterized as disobedient. I have hope and faith that Jacob will one day be characterized as obedient. It will take discipline and a mommy who is not lazy, but it will one day happen. I have 3 others that are a testimony of this. Does God have the same faith in me, that I will one day be characterized as obedient? Jacob is able to justify his disobedient behavior, unfortunately so am I. He comes by it honestly. There is however NO way to justify being disobedient to a heavenly Father who gave His very life for me. He deserves COMPLETE obedience. We must choose to walk in total obedience everyday. So the next time a "white lie" will make the situation easier or your tempted to "give that waitress a piece of your mind" or "you don't care that it's wrong because it makes you happy" just remember that these disobedient acts that we have the gift to justify are the very things that held Jesus on that cross. They are the very things that made the nails, the crown of thorns and the flogging necessary. They seem like such little things to us, but the weight of that cross was a really big thing to Jesus and to our Father as He had to turn away and could not even look upon His son. Obedience!! That's my goal. Remember delayed obedience is disobedience so start obeying today, after all it is Thursday.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"I Recognize That Apple"

You've heard the phrase "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." To be quite honest I have never really understood this phrase. Of course it doesn't. Apples fall from the tree and they stay on the ground near the tree. Where else are they going to go? It would seem strange to say, "that apple fell from that tree and ended up way over there." Do you see what I mean? The same is true with our children. When they are raised in our home and with us day and night they are going to resemble us. Good or Bad!!! This week I have had no trouble recognizing my little apple. Matthew is so much like me in so many ways. I see many similarities that are me made over today and some that resemble who I use to be when I was younger. Matthew has a precious heart all the while standing for truth and justice. The first day of school he came home and shared with me that he was having trouble knowing how to minister to a certain young girl in his class. "Mommy, she doesn't believe in Jesus and I don't know how to share with her." Matthew has prayed for this young lady this entire school year. He has taken every opportunity to share the love of Jesus with her even to the point of standing up to a band of bullies that were picking on this friend. Matthew shared with me today after some dramatic circumstances which I will share later, that he has one week left to share Jesus with this friend and he feels like he is failing. Earlier last week Matthew decided to write her a letter as one last attempt to plead with her to accept Christ. Possessing his mother's lack of grace and his father's lack of tact, this is what the letter said, "Please become a christian. I know you believe something else but if you don't after you die you will spend eternity in hell.(i am not cussin) But God has given us a second chance. You see every one (except Jesus) should be in hell. But God sent Jesus to die the most painful death so we could go to heaven. Please become a christian." Don't get me wrong, I am so proud of his boldness and his zeal and love for the Lord Jesus. I love that he prays and hears God speaking to him. He has prayed about how to share with this friend as the year end approached and God told him to "Be Bold." I love that he heard God and he obeyed. He and Matt had a long talk about focusing on the aspect of Heaven and rejoicing with Jesus instead of focusing on the impending doom of hell. Even though we know hell is a real place and we believe in it, we want unbelievers to understand the joy of spending eternity with Jesus. I shared with Matthew that salvation belongs to God. It is not Matthew's mission to save his friend. Only God can do that. Matthew has done what God has called him to do. He has been the light of Jesus this whole school year. He has been her friend and he has stood for truth. He may never see the fruits of his labor. He may merely be the seed planter, but he has been obedient and he has been bold. That is all that God has asked of him. What an awesome learning time for Matthew. Yes, he scared a little girl. Yes, he upset her parents who are of a different religion. Yes, Matt met with the assistant principal to find out about all of this, but oh such a small price to pay to learn how to obey Jesus and then have the faith to the leave the results in His hands. I do not want Matthew to back up, let up or shut up. I want him to continue to share the love of Jesus. We are helping him work adding grace and tact to his presentation and on having the faith and patience to leave the results to God. Matthew has had a defining moment of growth this week, but so have I. I have had to ask myself the question...when was the last time I shared my faith so boldly, not walking in fear of rejection or consequences. Matthew also gave his teacher a letter saying he would receive any punishment that might be coming as a result of his letter, but he had to obey God. He was not punished in any way, but he was willing to face punishment if necessary. His heart was obedience and the focus of his existence this year has been to see this friend come to faith in Christ. He may never know the outcome, but he was obedient. I love him for that. May you and I be as bold and share our faith with as much zeal, passion and persistence as Matthew has this year all the while leaving it in His hands. Salvation belongs to our God, who sits upon throne.
Matthew 28:19 NIV

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 28:31 NIV

Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"The Secret of Contentment"

Contentment has always been a word that I have struggled with. When I was a little girl I wanted to be older, to have more responsibilities, to have more privileges. When I was in high school I wanted to be in college. In college I wanted to be married. After we were married I wanted to have a baby. There has always been something else. Some next thing that I long for. I have wanted a bigger house, a better car, a newer computer. Want, want, want!!! In recent years I have thought that my heart was more content than it ever had been before. I am so blessed and so happy and so filled to overflowing with joy. I really began to think that I had this contentment thing down pat. God has used some recent events in my life to show me that I have not yet conquered the obedience of contentment. My contentment has been very dependent on circumstances. Our circumstances have just been very good and calm for a while. Don't get me wrong, I don't want a bigger house or anything material, but I have been allowing my joy and excitement to come from the "good" circumstances in my life. So when the unexpected disappointments come along then what? Crying, sulking, bad attitudes, the desire to give up, are all things I have struggled with this week. That is not the fruit of a heart that has learned to be content in any and every circumstance. This is a heart whose contentment is controlled by circumstances. Philippians 4:12 NIV "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Paul said that he had learned the "secret" of being content in every circumstance. Why was it a secret? Because people can tell you how to be content, you can read books on contentment and still struggle with being content. The secret is learned as you seek God's word and listen to His voice. As we listen to that quiet whisper that screams so loudly in our souls we learn the secret of contentment. You see learning to be content is something that is spiritually discerned. If you look at Paul's life you see the journey to contentment. You see the growth and you see God's hand at work in his life. He says that he has learned to be content and he boldly proclaims "I can do EVERYTHING through Him who gives me strength." It is the strength of God that comes and walks us through those difficult times. Through His strength we can be content. We must be walking with Him moment by moment. Earlier in Philippians 4 Paul was explaining how we can have the peace of God in our lives, how we can not be anxious and how we should think to accomplish all these things. "Finally brothers whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." Contentment begins with a right relationship with Jesus, relying on His strength and with a disciplined life of living according to His Word. I am still "learning" the secret of being content in any and every situation. I look forward to one day saying with Paul "I have LEARNED the secret of being content." How about you?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"How do you dance?"

A few weeks ago I went to eat lunch with Joshua at his kindergarten. Lunch is the last main event of the day. After lunch they play outside, have rest time and then pack up to go home. This particular day it was raining so instead of recess the class was having a "dance party." This sounded like fun to me so I asked Joshua if he wanted to stay for the party. He said "No ma'am, I want to check out." As we pulled away in the van I asked Joshua why he did not want to stay for the dance party. "Because it's no fun. We have to dance like you would at a wedding. We can't boogie or break dance or anything fun. I don't like to wedding dance." First of all I did not know he knew how to boogie and I certainly didn't know he knew about break dancing. I had to ask this question..."How do you dance at a wedding?" "You know mommy, like a butterfly. We have to sway, float and twirl. I like to dance!" This precious 6 year old who was raised "southern baptist" likes to dance. Can you believe it? I can!! We dance a lot here at home. We don't boogie and we don't break dance, but turn on some awesome praise music and we have been known to worship the night away with our feet. After all, David danced before the Lord. For David it was a form of worship. How do you dance? How do you worship? The other day I was in my bedroom singing "No Sweeter Name" at the top of my lungs with both hands raised in praise to the Lord. Caleb walked in and said, "Who are you waving to? When you do that it looks like you are waving to someone. Hey Jesus, what's up? How you doing up there?" Caleb can always make me laugh. I explained to him that it was kind of like waving to Jesus. That it was a symbol of lifting Him up, giving Him all glory and honor and acknowledging that it's ALL about Him. It is worshipping Him with reckless abandonment. The same is true for dancing before the Lord. Now I have never been known to break dance before the Lord or even do a Holy boogie, but when I am worshipping my Savior I just can't stand still. I get so excited! He gave His life for me! It is ALL because of Him that I am alive and blessed. It is ALL about Him. Knowing that, how could I possibly sing or even say His name with stirring something deep within. The very mention of His name brings comfort, joy, excitement and causes my soul to bubble over. We dance at wedding celebrations, we scream and do the wave at football games, we applaud and hold our arms up at concerts, we laugh and cry at movies and television programs, but we enter the presence of the Lord with very little excitement, emotion or acknowledgement. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ nothing should move us like the mention of His name. God has been impressing upon my heart more and more the meaning of the verse John 12:32 NIV "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Jesus says that we are to lift Him up and He will draw all men unto Himself. He doesn't need out help drawing them. He alone is enough. We are to lift Him up, to proclaim His name, to worship Him and He will do the rest. "Lord Jesus, may we worship you with reckless abandonment. May we proclaim your name to all the nations and watch with great rejoicing as you draw all men unto yourself. You alone are worthy to be praised."

"You May Have Lost The Game, But You're A Winner To Me!"

Caleb is 8 and was asked to play on Auburn's "Thunder Team." Thunder is a travel team made up of the best of the best. Ok so I'm a proud Momma! This weekend we traveled to a tournament and he played in four games. We came out strong and won the first game. We played a really tough team in the second game and lost. We should have won the third game, but we played at 8:00 in the morning and the boys were still asleep. I heard one young man say he couldn't feel his legs yet. In the last game of the day they were on fire. Caleb had actually scored 2 goals in the first 5 minutes of the game. If you are a soccer lover then you will understand this incredible goal. His teammate made a corner kick, Caleb jumped in the air towards the waste high ball and popped it backwards with the sole of his shoe. SCORE!! The other goal was not quite so dramatic, but it was a goal. We were winning 2-0 and the boys were playing harder than I have ever seen them. We had about 15 minutes to go in the game and somehow the other team had managed to equal the score. Caleb was exhausted. He looked at me and with tears streaming down his face he said, "Mom, I just can't run anymore. I'm so tired." I told him to press on, to pray and ask the Lord for endurance and to give it his ALL. He replied with "Yes ma'am" and he finished strong. According to the score board and the books they lost, but in my book Caleb was a winner. As we stood on the sidelines trying to cheer up our exhausted, deflated team I was approached by three moms from the other team. "Who does #3 belong to?" (I was a little concerned because I had noticed a few trips and an elbow or two, but knowing I needed to claim him I said,) "He's mine." These moms began to brag on Caleb. Never had they seen a player run and play with such determination. They could not believe his endurance, his skill and his determination. But then they said something that I will never forget. "We were most impressed with his manners even in the midst of exhaustion and defeat." You see as the coach would yell instruction from across the field Caleb would respond with "Yes, Sir." As I was doing the unthinkable and coaching from the sidelines Caleb would say, "Yes, ma'am." These moms noticed his manners and they were impressed. In my book, Caleb is a winner. He played hard, he gave it his all, but more importantly he had an attitude that was honoring to the Lord Jesus. I would love to tell you that this was always the case, but Caleb has struggled with his attitude on the field this year so this was an even greater victory for him. I was so blessed to hear these moms recognize that Caleb was a wonderful soccer player, but I was even more blessed that they saw a respectful young man who had an attitude that honored Christ. So often we are concerned about the score and winning and losing that we forget about our attitude during the game. I'm not talking about soccer now. I am talking about me and you in everyday life. We are concerned about being right, about the end result, about how it will affect us that we forget to WIN in the process. We need to honor Christ with the fruits of our lips and the attitude of our hearts. Caleb put his all into that game today and the score says they lost, but I say Caleb was a winner today. One day those scores will be nowhere to be found, but Caleb's attitude and testimony will forever be etched into my heart, it honored his Savior who will never pass away and hopefully it will be remembered by those who witnessed this Christ honoring attitude. Remember that it's not the game but the attitude that makes you a winner.