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Even Michael, the chief angel, didn’t dare to insult the devil, when the two of them were arguing about the body of Moses. All Michael said was, “The Lord will punish you!” Jude 1:9 (CEV)

Mark Twain once said, “Do not argue with an idiot they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

I have to admit I have been reminded of that phrase often…more often, perhaps, than I should admit. At times I’ve refrained from responding to the various barbs thrown my way, all too often, I give in and get drug down into a stupid argument I can’t hope to win and which, in reality isn’t worth the fight.

Tucked away in the little book of Jude is the story of an interesting battle between Michael the Archangel and Satan himself. The dispute was over the final resting place of Moses. Some conjecture that Satan was about to reveal that spot to the Israelites so that they would turn their allegiance to the grave of a dead man and away from the living God.

Whether that is true or not, one thing is certain. Michael took the high road in the argument. The two participants in the discussion represented the two extremes in the angelic world. Satan (the devil) was at one time, God’s right hand man. He was beautiful, powerful and highly esteemed. When pride got the best of him, he rebelled against God, was cast from heaven and became angelic enemy #1.

Michael may have been Satan’s replacement. He was stunning, powerful and faithful to the His creator.

Michael had every right the day of the big argument to accuse Satan harshly, but he didn’t. He realized something each of us should remember. Michael knew who Satan was. He was most likely in the wings when the great heavenly battle took place and Satan was ousted. He remembered the grace, the majesty and power Satan possessed. He remembered that even though Satan was devious, evil and dangerous, he was also God’s creation. Based on that fact alone, he did not accuse or verbally attack his aggressor.

What a stunning lesson for each of us to learn! Like the angels (good and evil ones) we are all creations of a loving, forgiving, merciful God. Our spiritual DNA matches, our actions don’t. Our actions however don’t make us more or less of God’s creation.

As Christ-followers we need to allow God’s Spirit to work through us in such a way that we take the high road when we are attacked. We can argue our point. We can present all of our evidence. But in the end, the important thing isn’t that we win the argument but that we show God’s grace. Life isn’t about winning battles, it’s about winning disciples.

Rather than stoop to the level of Satan, Michael chose to hand him over to the one who never loses. Should we not do the same? Paul, in his letter to Timothy, urges the young pastor to pray for, not argue with, his accusers. In other words, take the high road.

PRAYER: Father God, it’s so easy to get into senseless arguments and become critical of those who oppose me. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to take the high road and let you fight the battle. Amen.

An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins. Proverbs 29:22

Way up in northernMinnesotaa small stream barely 40 feet wide and ankle deep begins its slow meandering south. By the time the mighty Mississippi River reaches the Gulf of Mexico, some 2,500 miles and 90 days later it is 200 feet deep and several miles wide!

The mighty Miss has been the subject of many stories throughout history. Some whimsical and romantic, some terrifying and dangerous.

The river is deceptive. Although the surface can look calm and inviting, just below the glass-like appearance is a churning monster that has taken many lives, destroyed homes and farmland and wreaked havoc in its path.

The Mississippi has a lot of similarities to anger. Anger, like theMississippi, can start relatively small. Little things like waking up late can grow as the kids are slow getting ready for school and miss the bus, the car won’t start, you get cut off on the interstate, stuck in traffic and late to work.

Like tributaries add to the Mighty Miss, life circumstances add to the anger. Co-workers fail to pull their weight, the food delivered at lunch isn’t right, and the trip home from work is every bit as frustrating.

By the time you open the front door you are just like the Mighty Miss. On the outside you may look calm and serene. But just below the surface you are ready to lash out at the smallest infraction.

Anger can be most destructive because it lurks below the surface, ready to strike.  Like a raging river it destroys everything in its path, completely unconcerned about whether its destruction is of innocent or guilty parties. Anger, when unchecked can cripple us internally by leading to frustration, vindictiveness, bitterness and a critical spirit.

Physically anger can affect us too by leading to ulcers, heart problems and a variety of other maladies. Anger is a relationship buster as well.

So what can we do with anger? First of all, don’t let it grow. Take it to the Lord as soon as you sense anger beginning to grow. Jesus understands what frustration is like, He knows what it is like to be mistreated, misunderstood and wrongfully accused. He sees your attempts to do the right thing, and your failure to accomplish your goals.

Many times anger happens when we lose sight of who we are in Christ. Focusing on his love for us and his understanding of our frustrations is the first step to dealing with the anger issues. Realizing that we are not responsible for the behavior of others releases us to let God be God in the lives of those who disappoint us. Trust in God to do the right thing in his time can go a long ways to defeating anger and it’s destructive results before they happen.

PRAYER: Father God. I confess to you that I’m angry. I’m disappointed with the way life is treating me. I’m frustrated because I can’t seem to accomplish the things I set out to do. I’m tired of being falsely accused and misunderstood. Empower me with your Spirit to squelch feelings of anger before they start. Protect me from allowing my circumstances to affect my attitude. In Jesus name, Amen.

Think about Jesus’ example. He held on while wicked people were doing evil things to him. So do not get tired and stop trying. Hebrews 12:3 (NCV)

The writer to the Hebrews challenges us to press on in the face of ‘wicked people’ intent on doing evil things to us. The example he uses is the ultimate example of love, grace, patience, mercy and forgiveness, Jesus Christ. Jesus, the writer reminds us, endured attacks by evil people yet he held on to accomplish the task before him in spite of the adversity.

You mind may conjure up visions of these ‘wicked people’ who were a constant thorn in Jesus side throughout his ministry. You may see battles similar to Cowboys and Indians, or Cops and Robbers. Maybe you see some heavenly version of ‘Star Wars’ being played out with Jesus in the center of the battle and enemy warriors surrounding him.

Before you let your imagination run wild, think for a moment of whom the ‘wicked people’ were that the writer is referring to. Maybe you are thinking it was the Romans. After all, they were ruthless warriors whose army ruled the known world with an iron fist. But frankly, the Romans weren’t interested in Jesus. Caesar was perfectly fine letting the Jews have their religion and their prophets as long as they remained in political subjection to the Roman Government by paying taxes and behaving themselves. Jesus was just another religious zealot in a long line of kooks that walked the paths of Palestine.

The ‘wicked people’ probably weren’t women in Galilee and the surrounding area. Jesus’ treatment of women was remarkable compared to society of the day. When Jesus walked the paths of Galilee the top priorities were livestock, children and women, in that order. Jesus elevated women to a place of importance equal to men.

Robbers? Tax Collectors? The poor and destitute? Prostitutes? The wealthy? Were they the wicked people? Not likely. These were the very people that sought Jesus out for comfort and a word of hope and forgiveness. Nor were those who opposed the Roman Government. Even though Jesus never spoke in opposition to the Romans, he certainly spoke a message of freedom and hope. Many mistakenly thought he would become King of Israel.

So, again, just who were the people the writer of Hebrews is referring to? Who were these wicked people that were always a constant thorn in the side of Jesus? Sadly, those who opposed Jesus the most were the religious people of the day. The ones with the status and respect of the people.

As you struggle through the path of life you are on, remember this. Jesus endured the same scoffing you have endured. He saw firsthand how people who ‘failed’ were treated. They are the ones he reached out to.

It doesn’t matter what struggle you are enduring right now, Jesus understands. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t allow those who are intent on reminding you of your failures and weaknesses to pull you down. Jesus knows all about your struggle. He didn’t come to condemn you. He came to encourage, to offer hope and forgiveness. To extend the grace of God to you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you today for the fact that you understand my struggles and love me even though I fail. Empower me with your spirit to stop listening to those who want to pull me down. Help me rise above the attacks so I can live in the freedom a relationship with you offers. Amen.

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Romans 8:33 (NLT)

A friend of mine, I’ll call him John, tells this story:

John was a pastor of a small church in a quaint village out east. This was the type of town where everyone knew everyone and would give a hand when necessary to help those in need. When my friend arrived in town the small church was in its last stages of life. The congregation was small and largely made up of elderly people. It was considered by some to be ministerial suicide because many a pastor had left defeated and maligned by this demanding congregation. My friend was, in a sense, the last ditch effort to keep the struggling ministry alive.

Although the ministry was hard and progress was slow, things began to change in the small church. Word got out that there was a ‘new guy’ at ‘FirstChurch’ and gave it a try. They stayed on and helped with some of the much needed changes and upkeep in the ministry.

One Sunday morning a new couple came through the doors. The pastor was informed of this and warned. “They are nothing but trouble pastor. He is a drunk and has made quite a spectacle of himself on several occasions. She is suspected of beating the children and their oldest claims to worship Satan! We can’t let them stay. They’ll destroy the reputation of our church!”

John tucked the information away in his mind but did nothing. The couple attended off and on for a time but soon became more regular. The kids rarely came and rumors had it that the kids were threatening evil to the church. There was evidence of an attempted break-in one night, but nothing could be proven. John continued to accept the couple in and often smelled alcohol on their breath as they left Sunday mornings.

One day the husband came to John and asked if he could be the listener for the Bible Club on Wednesday night. His job would simply be to listen to children recite verses. Against the warning of some of the people in his church, John accepted the offer. About six months after this story began both the husband and wife accepted Christ as Savior.

John was at that small church for seven years before moving on. The ministry was growing spiritually and physically when John was called to another ministry in another state. It was a tough decision to leave, but one that John knew was right.

Fifteen years after he left he happened to run into the man who’d taken his place. In the course of conversation he asked about this man and woman. A smile came to the face of the pastor as he told John that even though they had moved out of town, their legacy of faith and caring lived on. Just the week before the couple’s daughter had returned to the small church and asked forgiveness for things she’d done as a youth. She had accepted Jesus as her savior and wanted to be restored to fellowship!

John had tears in his eyes as he told this story. Then he looked at me and said, “What would have happened if I’d listened to those who’d so quickly judged?”

Every day you and I rub shoulders with people who have already been judged because of their economic standing, addictions, sexual orientation or a whole list of standards. As Christ-followers we stand at a crossroad. Will we accept them and risk our reputations in order to offer Christ’s forgiveness or will we stand on ‘principle’ and send them away? John reached out to others in the same way that Jesus did and the results were lives changed for eternity. Many people don’t feel like they measure up because of past or present circumstances. As Christ-followers we are called to reach out to all people with his love.

PRAYER: Father God, it’s so hard to accept people who are different than me. Especially those who drag your name in the mud, and mock my faith. I find myself avoiding the very situations and people that your Son sought out. Empower me by your Spirit to reach out to those who need you the most and not judge them. In your name, Amen.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 (NLT)

One of my favorite past times is to watch people. You have to be discreet in this process because there’s a fine line between watching people and staring at people. People tend to get a bit uncomfortable if they sense some stranger is staring at them…but I digress.

Sometimes when you are watching a group of people it’s pretty easy to see the family resemblances.

‘That group over there? The father and mother are with their son and daughter-in-law. It’s obvious that the young man is the son. He’s the image of his father! And the young lady? Obviously part of the group, but not by blood. She looks nothing like the rest of the group. Accepted? Yep. Blood relative? Not a chance’

Jesus tells us that people will know we, as Christ-followers, will know we are family. They’ll know we are the children of our Heavenly Father. How? Not by hair color or color of the eyes. Not by the protruding chin or obnoxious laugh. Nope, people will know we are children of our heavenly father because our love for one another will be obvious. Our love for each other is the defining characteristic of being a Christ-follower.

That love isn’t bound by denominational lines, theological persuasions, past experiences or relational stability. It’s not controlled by a particular eschatological view point, race, gender or political party. It’s not determined by our ability (or inability) to drive properly, sing on key or practice some particular spiritual gift. Our love for one another supersedes anything we see here on earth.

So the question each of us must answer today is this: “Do others see that I’m a child of my Heavenly Father by the way I love others who are different than me?”  Think about that answer before you blurt it out. Is there someone you haven’t forgiven yet? Is there someone you’ve offended that you haven’t made it right? Have you spoken evil of someone or sarcastically joked about them?

How can you show the love of the Father to someone you don’t particularly agree with? How can you show patience and acceptance to people who live a life-style that goes against your personal convictions? In a word, how will you show God’s grace to those around you today? That’s what love is really about. Showing God’s Grace to those who deserve it the least.

PRAYER: Father there are so many times I let my personal feelings get in the way of how I treat other people. So many times when I can rationalize my critical spirit and judgmental nature. Please forgive me for the lack of love and grace in relationships with others, especially my brothers and sisters in Christ. Empower me by your Spirit to let others see your image of love in my life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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