QUARTERLY JOURNAL
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The Proper Response to Cruelty

It is easy to like people that look good, but it is also easy to hate people that do not look good to us. It is also easy to disregard people that do not fall into either category. The Lord says if we treat one person one way and another person a different way just because of the way they look, talk or dress, then we are knowingly and willfully causing pain and distress to a person. In other words, we are being cruel (James 2:2-4). People hated our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because He did not look like people thought he should. Like Jacob’s first wife, Leah, there was nothing special or impressive about the way Jesus looked. Leah was hated because she was not like her sister, Rachel, who was beautiful and well favored (Genesis 29:17). There was nothing about Leah that Jacob could see that would cause him to like her the same as Rachel and there was nothing physically attractive about Jesus that would cause the world to like him; “…He wasn’t some handsome king. Nothing about the way he looked made him attractive to us” (Isaiah 53:2 CEV). People were so cruel to our Savior that people would not even look at him when he came towards them because they would turn away from him in disgust (Isaiah 53:3).

Being attractive pleases the world but being obedient pleases God. Jesus was obedient so he was very attractive to His Father; “… the servant grew up obeying the Lord” (Isaiah 53:2 CEV). Even though he was obedient to God, people still treated him like someone of no importance. The cruelty that people had towards Jesus escalated because He was always there in their way. They could not get rid of God in the flesh. They would turn away from His face because they were disgusted by how He looked but there He was again right in their presence; “People would not even look at [turned their backs on; hid their faces from] him” (Isaiah 53:3 EXB). Our treatment of people in this way says more about our cruel, despicable attitudes than it does about how another person looks. They tried but they could not get rid of Him. They could not get rid of the One that they were disgusted by because He was in God’s will, and He was obedient to God’s Word. Obedience to God’s Word keeps us in God’s will no matter how cruel people are to us. When they turned around, He was right there again, doing His Father’s work. They could not stand to look at Him, but they had no choice because He was right there all the time, healing people, helping people, and saving people from their sins. As a result, their attitudes escalated into physical abuse and violence. They could not stand the way God in the flesh looked, so they spit on God. They mocked God. They slapped our Savior’s face. Their hatred for the way He looked not only escalated into them spitting in Jesus Christ’s face and slapping Him, but they hit Him with their fists (Matthew 26:67). When people are cruel to us, they are also being cruel to the God, who now lives in His children; “I will put my Spirit inside you…” (Ezekiel 36:27 ERV).

Jesus Christ was the perfect example of how to properly respond to cruelty; “He was treated harshly but endured it humbly; he never said a word. Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, like a sheep about to be sheared, he never said a word” (Isaiah 53:7 GNT). God is pleased when we respond properly to cruelty. The Lord says that if we suffer, we need to make sure our suffering is for doing what is right. When we suffer for doing what’s right, then we are behaving like Jesus and when that happens, we will have God’s blessing. The Lord tells us not to be afraid of the people who make us suffer after we do what is right (1 Peter 3:14). Abigail warned David that cruelty is a trap (1 Samuel 25:31). Cruelty is designed to derail us from fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives. If we respond like Jesus did to cruelty, we are promised to receive God’s blessings. Abigail told King David that if he did not fall into the trap of cruelty and responded properly then God would make his family strong. If we respond properly to cruelty, then people will never be able to find anything bad about us. If we respond properly to cruelty, then when we find ourselves in danger God will save our lives and defeat our enemies. If we obey God’s Word and respond like Jesus Christ did to the cruelty of people, then the Lord promises to do many good things for us and the Lord keeps His promises (1 Samuel 25:28-30). When we respond properly to cruelty God blesses our lives and our families. King David told his men; “Maybe the Lord will see the wrong things that are happening to me and give me something good for every bad thing…” (2 Samuel 16:12 ERV).

Obedience results in our sons becoming strong as trees and our daughters as beautiful as the carved columns of a palace. Obedience results in our homes being filled with foods of all kinds. Our resources become so productive that our homes are full of everything else that we need for our families. People around us will be blessed (Genesis 39:5). If we obey God’s commands and refuse to let Satan derail us with his cruel devices, then the Lord puts a hedge around our homes and no enemy can break through its walls or carry away any of our people. There will be no cries of pain when we obey the Lord. We may suffer for a little while (1 Peter 5:10) but soon joy replaces pain and we can rejoice and shout about how wonderful it is to have such blessings! Yes, great blessings belong to those who obey the Lord their God (Psalm 144:12-15).

 

Submitted By Trustee Stanley Ridley



Why is the Cross…Offensive???

Have you ever walked into a room, and knew immediately that just by your presence, something had changed? If nothing else, there was something about you that stood out or at least drew attention to you in a way that you were not expecting. Do not get me wrong! Sometimes, we walk into a room intending to get the attention of others. It could be a stunning outfit, a new hat; a pair of shoes, or even the fragrance you are wearing, that catches the eye of someone. By design. But then there are those times, when you just “happened” into the room, and got the “side-eye,” from your head down to your feet, unexpectedly. And it is a look that does a double-take, with an implied, but unspoken question. It is like somebody once said, “If looks could kill….” Admittedly, there are times when you cannot control your expression when you see something out of the ordinary. I have that kind of face, i.e., your eyebrows may go up a bit; or your eyes may bulge a little, or maybe it is just a quick glance and a settled, unasked question, that does not require an answer, but beckons for one.

Anyway, for this past Christmas, my underwriting manager [at work] gave me a gift, instead of a gift card, in a small gift bag, much like a gift card. I assumed it was a gift card, so I did not hurry to open it. Honestly, it stayed on my dining room table long after Christmas, before I looked inside and saw that it was a Cross on a beaded necklace. Opening it, I thought how cute, but also noted that I would probably never wear it, so I just put it aside. But one morning on my way out to work, I happened to pick it up from where it had been for a few months now and decided to try it on. “Not bad!” I thought. “Really cute!” and I wore it to work. My underwriting manager knows that I am a Christian, but I did not want to give her too much credit in her selection of the gift for me. I do not know what she gave anybody else, but that she gave me a Cross was indicative that she thought it was an appropriate gift for me. It is well-known in my office that I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But when I walked into the office that day one person, in particular, gave me that “look” that I spoke about earlier. I saw it, but I was not sure what the “look,” meant. So, I quickly addressed myself. Patted my hair to make sure it was okay. My hair often does what it wants, so I have to check it often. Checked my shoes to make sure they were okay. Checked my clothing to make sure I had not worn something stained. My clothes often eat when I do. But as far as I could tell, all was in order. I looked pretty good, and I had not given any thought to the Cross around my neck until I heard a subtle comment about the Cross. It was not spoken to me but was rather an overt statement. He obviously noticed it, and that it was something that I do not always wear to work. It was not quite an insult, but the subtle comment that he made about anti-Semitism let me know that he was offended, by the Cross. I looked it up, and Anti-Semitism is defined as the belief or behavior hostile towards Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them.

It may also include prejudicial or stereotypical views about Jews. I do not know how, but it was apparent to me that I had made a statement, without saying a word. And what I had not said spoke volumes. Flesh & Blood did not reveal that to me, but when I realized it, I pondered it. “Should I take it off?” I actually thought about taking it off, but more importantly, I wondered, “Why is the Cross so offensive?” Here, let me digress, and tell you that later that morning, I went out to the ladies’ room. While there, I passed a gentleman in the hallway, a young man wearing pajama pants. At work. I must admit I gave him the “side-eye.” I may have judged him because it seemed inappropriate wear for the workplace, but I was not offended. Was my Cross inappropriate wear for the office? And, if it was offensive to my Jewish friend, why? Does the declaration of our faith offend others who are not of the same faith? Does it even offend those who are of the same faith? I realize that I can believe what I believe about Jesus Christ; the pure and absolute gospel, that which is preached and taught and not say a word, and maybe no one will be offended. But for sure, no one will hear it or know that I believe it. Especially, if I keep it to myself. But if I express my belief, whether by spoken word, behavior or simply by wearing a piece of costume jewelry, in the form of a cross, I open myself up to the same biases of anti-Semitism. It is really a reversed “prejudice” if you ask me. But I think the cross is offensive because it represents the Righteousness of God and the self-righteousness of man. I think it represents the Power and Ability of God, and the insufficiency and inability of man. But the boldness of the Cross invites persecution, and who among us wants to be persecuted for anything- let alone our faith.

Lest you think I am overstating this “issue,” I am reminded of a message from our guest preacher who came all the way from West Virginia not too long ago, and talked about Peter, who declared to Jesus Himself, that he would never forsake him, and then denied him three times. The preacher said Peter repeatedly used the wrong pronoun in declaring his faithfulness to Jesus, with pledged reference more to himself than to Jesus. The preacher said, he used too much “I”, to “Him!” To me, that is a classic example of what we are saying to the world when we do not take a stand for Christ. By not taking a stand for Him, we put ourselves ahead of Him, or at least on the same playing field. When we hide our crosses, we are hiding from persecution. We are hiding from our identity in, and with Christ, and why? for safety’s sake. Christians are persecuted all across this land today, much like in Jesus’ times. Crosses are burned. Bibles are burned. Churches are bombed, but the Word of God will stand forever. We are commanded in the Bible to take up our cross daily and to follow Christ, but instead, are we Christians in hiding? I know lots of people who wear a Cross. And I do not know if it is symbolic of their faith or a declaration of belief in Jesus, or not. But if it is, I wonder what it would take for them to take it off. Would a side-eye look, or a loud proclamation of a non-believer be all that it takes?

 Submitted By Deaconess Irene Gardon



Spiritual Wounds: A Study on Bitterness

“The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”

Proverbs 14:10

In scripture, “Bitterness,” is symbolic of “Affliction,” “Misery,” or “Wickedness,” and most often preceded by “Offense,” either against God, or a person, or a group. “Offense,” is defined as resentment; a sin, or a crime; a feeling of hurt; or something that causes “anger.” Romans 4:25, states that Jesus was delivered up because of our offenses (sins), and was raised because of our justification (our being made right with God). In Christ’s death was the root of “bitterness,” as seen in religious Jewish sect, Roman government, Judas, the Disciple, people who were unbelievers, the World (Satan’s domain), and the Elders, Chief Priest.

Bitterness in the Bible is termed, “Wormwood.” There are more than 120 species of plants known as “wormwood.” These plants have medical value, but are primarily known for their bitter taste. When it rains, the toxins in “Wormwood” dissolve, and drip off the plant, poisoning the ground around it, resulting in death to anything in its path. Like the Dandelion in your lawn, its roots go very deep. Bitterness is toxic. It contaminates; physically, and spiritually. It can cause physical illness and affect our Walk with Christ. It can cause problems and death in our lives. But:

  1. Prayer is an antidote for Bitterness. Psalms 86:7 says, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me”.
  2. Confession is an antidote for Bitterness, according to James 5:16. Ask Christ to come into your heart and change you.
  3. Forgiveness is an antidote for Bitterness (Colossians 3:13)

What should we do? Looking away from all distractions, fix our eyes on Jesus who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. This leaves no room for bitterness to come in (Hebrews 12:2). Remember what God has done for you. Confess. Pray. Meditate on the Word. Forgive for Jesus’ sake, and for yours (James 5:16). In Hebrews 12:15, a warning is given to the Church community, that bitterness can contaminate the congregation. The root of bitterness is a deliberate turning away from God. We must pray for those with this condition and ourselves too. Being bitter is not a sin. It is a spiritual condition caused by Sin. The problem must get treated because the roots are deep. Remember the dandelions!! When the toxicity from the wormwood hit the ground, it brought death to everything around it. When the Blood of Jesus was shed on the Cross, it brought Life to all who believed.

Submitted By Sis. Brenda Perry