How to Take Down Jealousy Before It Takes You Out

 

How much are you willing to pay for the luxury of jealousy?  I sacrificed contentment and joy for a few years envying other ministries.  I sinned against God and I robbed myself of enjoying my own backyard because I frequently sighed for the greener grass in other yards.  Somehow, I overlooked the fact that those people battled weeds, weather and rodents too.

God performed wonderful works in the church I served in at that time with salvations, healings, restorations and such. Nevertheless, for a couple of years I managed to maintain this “Oh that IS really great, but….” attitude.   I celebrated the victories each time, but of course ongoing, normal challenges waited to be faced after the victory dances died down.  I’d mutter things like, “I’ll bet pastor So and So doesn’t have to deal with this stuff at his church,” and other jealous, self-pitying comments in that vein.

When we struggle with envy, this is what we do.  We look at other’s lives and decide they are making out much better than we are.  We minimize the wonders God performs in our lives because we are too busy wanting what someone else has. Often, the truth is we know nothing except our limited viewpoint from our backyard. Satan whispers in our ears about the lush beauty of someone else’s grass while covering our eyes to their lawn problems. Also consider that their lawn might indeed be perfect but what we can’t see is that they’ve got black mold inside their house.

In the book of Obadiah, we see generational strife between two peoples who should have been allies and instead became enemies due to the sin of jealousy hundreds of years earlier.  Jacob, the forefather of the Israelites, envied his brother Esau, the forefather of the Edomites, in his position as their father, Isaac’s favorite and due to receive all the blessing and fortunes as the firstborn son.

Jacob’s mother, Rebekah fostered this jealousy and even conceived a devious plan to steal Esau’s birthright. The irony is that God wanted to prosper Jacob and cause him to receive the firstborn blessing, but this is surely not how he planned to do it.  Instead, Jacob and his mother’s deception set in motion events that reverberated evil for many generations to come.

  • The jealousy of Jacob’s youth continued right into his own dysfunctional family unit, with his two wives, Rachel and Leah. Barren Rachel felt tremendous jealousy towards fertile Leah.  Leah envied the love Jacob showered on Rachel and her two sons but only shared with her in smaller measure, even though she presented him with many sons.  And in this messy, emotional stew, Leah’s boys learned jealousy at home.

 

  • Jacob and Leah’s sons, brothers to Joseph, son of Rachel and Jacob, zealously carried the family banner of jealousy. This caused to almost murder Joseph and sell him into slavery. The price they paid with their father’s grief and their own fearful guilt in Egypt years later, is something to see.

 

The Bible shares several other stories of envy ending poorly.  I assure you these people also did not fully consider where they might end up once they started down jealousy road.

  • David envied Urriah for his beautiful wife, Bathsheba. He stole her virtue, caused Urriah’s death and then David and Bathsheba paid a dreadful price through the death of their child.

 

  • Finally, the tragic story of King Saul’s jealousy of David is a cautionary tale to anyone who thinks God is treating someone else a bit better than themselves. In this case, Saul suffered the consequences of his own sin. Instead of being genuinely repentant, he became insanely jealous of God’s new man.  Saul moves from anointed of God to suicidal madman, with jealousy coaxing him on.

 

How can we recognize, repent of and refute jealousy in our lives before we wind up crumpled by our own jealousy?

  • Take note of whom you criticize. Sometimes judgement is rooted in jealousy.  We want to bring people down, so we feel better about ourselves

and not feel jealous of them.  That’s not the way to do it.

 

  • Pay attention to your unguarded daydreams. Are they filled with potential and possibilities from God or are they consistently musing over the trappings of someone else’s life?

 

  • Notice how you feel when someone is living in or receives something for which you are desiring or believing. God wants us to be authentically joyful for them and trustfully peaceful about his process in our lives.

 

  

  • Choose deliberate thanks for every bit of goodness and mercy in your life. Start your prayer times with thanking, not asking. 

 

  • Be honest with yourself and God when jealousy’s fingers start to clench your heart. Everyone is tempted by envy, but we do not need to give way to it.  Ask God to replace your discontent with contentment and hope.

 

  • Memorize Scripture to toss back at Satan when he tempts you this way. Here’s some suggestions:   1 Cor. 13:4, Proverbs 14:30, Gal. 5:22-23, Psalm 37:1-3, James 3:14-16

                                 

 

 

How to Keep a Grace Posture in a Wicked World

Gloating is a sly character who nudges us from righteous victory, into celebrating the destruction of someone under the power of sin.  Well-written stories lead us to root for the hero and applaud the demise of the villain, especially if the punishment fits the crime. Who doesn’t want Robin Hood to bring down the Sheriff of Nottingham or Luke Skywalker to cut Darth Vader in half with that light sabre?  There is a God-given quality in all of us that seeks for balance in the world, for Davids to defeat Goliaths.

I remember an elementary bully who tormented my brother relentlessly.  Bruce found creative ways to ruin our neighborhood playground by pushing kids off swings, smearing dog poop on the slide and other nasty stuff. One of his favorite tricks involved sneaking up on kids hanging upside on the monkey bars and pushing their legs off.  I’m positive angelic host guarded that playground because there should have been some serious head injuries.

One day, Bruce and a couple of his buddies hung upside down on a parallel bar right over a generous mud puddle, the kind created by busy children in grassy playgrounds and a good thunderstorm.  While my friends and I watched from the swing sets, a group of kids Bruce’s age, sick of him bothering their younger siblings, dumped he and his friends on their heads, in the puddle.

Possibly, that part of the plan could be deemed kid justice but then, the perpetrators started wailing on Bruce. They kept beating him until he stopped fighting.  Most of the playground cheered and sneered while Bruce and his friends slunk home.  I know that kind of scene comes across great in movies, but even to my child eyes, it reeked of revenge. Bruce came from a family of alcoholics, who beat their children frequently, and everyone on the street knew it.  Yes, Bruce needed some standing up to and consequences, but he also needed someone to recognize that he was trapped in sin, just like his parents.

The people of Edom hated their brother Israelites due to the theft of Esau’s birthright by Jacob.  They  felt that Israel didn’t deserve to live in the fertile promised land, while they carved out their existence in the rough mountains.  Then, when Israel turned to worshipping other Gods, in the promised land, that truly frosted the Edomite’s cookies.  You need to be filled with a good deal of unexpressed anger, hatred and resentment to act the way they did.

First, they blocked the Israelites escape routes from the God-sent judgement of the Assyrian army.  Then, they took their revenge a step further and slaughtered all the fleeing Israelites they came found.  Finally, the Edomites threw themselves a gloating party, celebrating the demise of Israel, and God heard them.

“You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.” Obad. 12

We can transition from righteous rejoicing to gloating over an enemy’s fall, when we forget two things.  First, every perpetrator of evil is themselves a victim of Satan. He’s lied and deceived them to such a point that sin is normalized.  Second, we lose sight of God’s desire that no one should perish. This does not mean that we oppose justice and punishment.  God’s laws and precepts are perfect and designed to benefit humans, not harm them. His design for justice decrees that lawbreakers must face consequences, sometimes severe ones but never with gloating or boasting.

Justice is rolling out in unprecedented ways across the world right now. Human and drug trafficking kingpins, like El Chapo, and their organizations, are being exposed. Millions of people are awakening to the true nature of the abortion industry. Those are just two of many examples.

What about the injustices we experience personally?  Violent crime, sexual abuse,  unjust firings or demotions, theft, fraud, even just plain old bullying can tempt us to sin in so many ways.  When we are in pain, it becomes easy to want revenge and to rejoice in an unhealthy way when our perpetrator is brought to justice or is brought low by their own life choices.  This is a tough, tough place to be and only God can keep our hearts and minds in such a place. He still commands us, in Phillipipians 4:8, to focus our minds on what is true, noble, of good report, pure, lovely admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

How should mature believers respond righteously when we see wickedness exposed and justice administered?  How can we avoid falling into sin ourselves if we or someone we love is the victim of violence or wickedness?

  •  Forgive those who sin against you and yours whether they seek forgiveness or not. This is non-negotiable for your own spiritual health  Mark 11:25
  • Trust God to execute justice rightly, even when it doesn’t seem to be happening. Isaiah 35:4
  • Pray that the wicked are exposed completely, and that they are unable to hide their deeds any longer. Mark 4:22
  • Pray for yourself and other victims they they are redeemed and restored by Jesus Christ. Don’t make a place for thoughts about revenge or retaliation, as these things are pure poison to the soul. Isaiah 61:7,  I Peter 5:10, Psalm 71:20-21
  • Pray for evil doers to come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Like Bruce, many wicked people are raised in sin and know no other way of life.  2 Peter 3:8-10 Although this will not excuse them from judgement by God, recognize that their path to The Light has been thwarted by darkness at every turn.
  • Ask God to keep your heart and mouth pure that you do not gloat about lives crushed by their own sinful choices.  It’s just too easy to slip into a “Good! They got what’s comin’ to them,” posture when we see lawbreakers brought to account.  Psalm 51:10

God seeks righteous, pure hearted people in these last days, people who will pray and stand faithfully for truth. Don’t be placed to the back of the ranks because God catches you dancing on graves.

 

Obadiah- Sowing and Reaping

As a minister of music, I hated being the deliverer of bad news to folks who ached to be on worship team but lacked the right skills. Kristy (not her real name) never made the cut for any vocal group she auditioned for in her high school, yet she and her mother pleaded for an audition.  They both felt certain God “called” her to be on our worship team.  As she sang the same way which I presumed kept her out of school vocal groups, my heart sunk. Her heart clearly burned with passion, but she possessed not a single skill or natural ability to match.

When I first began to speak, my tone of voice and my heart emanated kindness and compassion. Unfortunately, Kristy came at me with pride, denial, anger and hurt. I confess, my peace shoes fell off, my cloak of humility slipped off my shoulders and grace fled my heart.  I became defensive and terse once she attacked my authority and judgement and it ended poorly between us.  She and her mother glared at me from the pews for several years after that.

A dozen years later, as a lay person in a large church, I auditioned for a 1st soprano opening on the worship team.  The team informed me that although they enjoyed my voice, the slot would be given to  another sister, whose audition sounded quite out of tune to me.  I struggled to hide my shock. (Turns out, she was a former member of the team who stepped down for a while. The auditions were a bit of a set-up.)

To add further insult the worship leader asked, “There’s a tenor opening? Interested?”  I stammered that I’d think about it and get back to them and beat feet out of there. Angry retorts about my years of training and my previous position as minister of music bubbled in my mind while I fled to my car. Then Kristy’s face popped up in my mind.  It occurred to me that God allowed that humbling moment so that the next time I faced a Kristy (which I did many times in the years to come as a high school vocal teacher) I’d hold onto my peace and kindness regardless of how others behaved.  I’m certain that experience was a lesson in God’s harvesting law class.

I walked back in the building and took the tenor slot, humbly.  Within six weeks, two first sopranos left, and I filled one of the slots joyfully for many years.  I think God used my humbling and my response, as good seed that reaped my desired harvest.

God’s laws of sowing and reaping are irrefutable.  You can find a trail of them all throughout Scripture, from literal laws about crop-growing to spiritual laws about our attitudes and works.   In Obadiah, verse 15, we find an ominous warning.

As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”

All the evil acts of the Edomites towards Israel, from blocking their flight away from Pharaoh, during the Exodus, to cutting them down while they fled Jerusalem from the Assyrians centuries later, eventually rain down on this bitter nation. The law of sowing and reaping finds them, and they are wiped out permanently, as a nation.  There are people who live in their former lands, but they are not descendants.  The history of the Edomites becomes so sketchy that no one can lay claim to this day that they are a direct descendant.  Quite a contrast to Israel’s descendants.  What if the Edomites stood side by side with their brother Israelites, instead of toe to toe?   I expect their history and descendants would be entirely different.

The apostle Paul echoes this warning to sinners in the Galatian church in Galatians 6:7-8.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Then, he flips the equation in verse nine, and speaks to those who are sowing good seed but aren’t seeing their desired harvest.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

To the Corinthian church, Paul speaks about the quality and amount of what we sow in 1 Corinthians 9:6.

“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

Every day, believers sow seed.  Our words and actions go forth to others and into the supernatural fields God has ordained as either good seed or bad seed.  What we do and say will bring a harvest in God’s perfect time.  What kind of harvest are you experiencing right now?  If some of it is bitter, nasty and weak, ask God if you are reaping some seed you’ve forgotten you sowed.  I’m not saying every negative thing that comes our way is our own harvest.  Weed seeds can blow in on the wind or be carried by birds.  We know God allows us to face these trials and challenges, but it is important to our sanctification to discern whether our weed beds are of our own making, like the Edomites.

Additionally, when we do face tribulations, not created out of our own poor choices, we can still reap a harvest of goodness, grace and mercy. How?  When we show compassion and love in action towards others experiencing illness, setbacks, crisis and all manner of evil, we are sowing seeds that will be a much-needed harvest for ourselves in our own day of trouble.  I wonder if the Edomites ever sorted that out?

So, here’s a few general items from my list of deliberate seed that I’m sowing.  How about you?

  • I’m giving generously, out of love and gratitude to God, of my time, money, skills and all other physical resources, with full confidence that my upcoming needs will be met in God’s perfect time.
  • I’ve asked God to put a watch over my mouth and my emotions so that my words and responses reflect Galatians 5:22 and not my flesh. I expect that others will return the same to me, not always, but much of the time.
  • I’m sowing the seeds of the Word of God more deliberately into my own heart such that they are there, growing strong and ready to face the storms of life.
  • Lamp and Sword

****Resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12

 

Read the following Old Testament verses and then reflect on the questions below.

Genesis 26:12, Leviticus 26:3-5,  Isaiah 65:21-22,  Jeremiah 12:13

  1. Is there a relationship between obedience and harvest?
  2. Do these laws for an agrarian society apply to people who aren’t farmers or growers?

Read Revelation 14:15-19.  What do you think the phrase, “the harvest of the earth,” means?  Feel free to use commentaries if you are entirely stuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obadiah-A Feud on Steroids

Family feuds can create ripples of waves, which keep relationships turbulent for generations.  The infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud began in Kentucky in 1865 when Asa Harmon McCoy, brother to Randolph McCoy died at the hands of the “Logan Wildcats,” a local militia group which included William Anderson Hatfield, known as “Devil Anse” (There’s a clue!). Asa served in the Union Army, so Anderson and his militia felt within their rights to shoot him as an enemy combatant.  As years passed the bitter seed grew, and land disputes, stolen livestock and other criminal activities resulted in murders and retaliatory murders. Young and old Hatfields and McCoys perished due to unresolved anger and misplaced pride passed from generation to generation like an heirloom quilt.

God inspired Obadiah to deliver a rebuke and warning to the people of Edom because of a generational feud between them and Israel.  Edomites, the descendants of Esau, carried hatred about his stolen birthright for centuries and acted towards Jacob’s descendants accordingly. Since Obadiah shares no point of reference about his credentials or origins, scholars can make a best guess that he lived during Elisha’s time and served as one of the earliest prophets around 840 B.C.  His economy of words is a message itself as to the intensity of God’s anger.

The sins Edom committed are recounted in this short book. Obadiah tells us that the mildest behavior they demonstrated was to turn their backs on their brothers when Israel faced enemy invasions. Their worst sins are far more egregious. When Philistines and Arabians attacked Jerusalem, not only did the Edomites not offer refuge to the Israelites fleeing the city, they murdered them on the roads and pathways where they fled to escape the conquering armies.

God is blunt throughout Scripture about how he will deal with those who mess with his people.

            “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse…”

 Genesis 12:3

“… when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land…” Joel 1

“And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” Zechariah 12:9

For the Edomites, their judgments are specific and harsh:

But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged!  All your allies will force you to the border; your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it. In that day, declares the Lord, will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, men of understanding in the mountains of Esau? Your warriors O Teman will be terrified, and everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter.  Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever.”

Why does God laser in on the “wise men of Edom?”   The answer lies in verse 3.

“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’”

The Edomites carried a grudge for centuries. They took pride in it along with their geographic positioning in the mountains. In every way, they felt themselves to be superior to Israel, yet Israel inhabited the promised land, not them, and they couldn’t abide that.  They obviously rejoiced and felt justified in murdering fleeing Israelites just like the Hatfields and McCoys.

Pride is usually at the root of unresolved feuds.  I knew a church in which battles erupted over a stained-glass window that needed to be moved for a building project.  The church designated a new home for the window, in the addition, but some in the congregation who opposed the project, weaponized the window’s history.  Without consulting the church, these folks lodged a complaint with the town’s historical society. Their move never gained traction but did generate uproar and divisions in the church.

I know families whose holidays and special occasions are marred consistently by unresolved hurts between members.  This one can’t sit by that one, and we will purchase gifts for this one’s children but not for that one and blah, blah, blah.  There may be valid reasons why some of these feuds start. Jacob performed a wicked, deceitful act when he tricked Esau out of his birthright.  That is not the way God wanted to convey the promised blessing to Jacob.  Esau’s feelings of anger and betrayal were valid.  One wonders if he rehearsed them over and over to his family before he eventually forgave Jacob and reconciled with him. (Genesis 33) Although Esau forgave Jacob, his legacy of bitterness remained unresolved in his family and many murders and other sinful acts occurred because of it.

I see several key lessons for us in this first portion of Obadiah:

  • The bitterness you harbor today will sow seeds that can reap a terrible harvest for generations to come.
  • When God blesses someone else with something we’ve longed for, we need to trust him to know what is best for us and not poison our souls with jealousy or anger. We can always choose righteous reactions in response to sinful behaviors against us.
  • Pride is rebellion in God’s eyes but cherishing pride as a trophy sin and passing it on to others, is going to produce dire consequences.

The division between the Edomites and Israelites resulted in death, slavery and captivity for many descendants and rendered Israel a powerless nation for centuries.  I wonder how many churches and families are unable to move in kingdom authority and power for the same reason?

 

Lamp and Sword

****Resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12

Read the following verses and then ponder these questions:

  1. Does God still feel this way about the Jews even though many rejected and still reject the Messiah?
  2. Do his judgements against their enemies still hold?
  3. Where does God land on all this concerning the bride of Christ and her enemies? (These verses you’ll need to search out for yourself.)

God’s love for Israel – I Kings 10:9, Deut. 7:6-8, Deut. 14:2, 2 Samuel 7:23-24, Psalm 105:8-15, Zech. 2:8

God’s judgement on her enemies – Genesis 12:1-3, Joel 3:1-2, Ezekiel 38:1-23, Zech. 12:9, Romans 11:1-36