Confrontation. There are people who can do it and people who shouldn’t. It’s usually those who shouldn’t that do, while those who can are reluctant. Unfortunately, the world is filled with people who believe their calling in life is to straighten out everyone else while ignoring their own glaring issues. Meanwhile, those who possess the character and skill to confront effectively, hesitate. Why does such hesitancy occur?
Fear. We fear rejection. We fear an explosive reaction in anger. We fear the loss of relationships. Yet what does it say about the depth and fragility of our relationships should a single warranted confrontation destroy it? Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God’s Word demands it …. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked.”
Not everyone needs to be confronted about everything. But when we sin and are going astray, we need a truth-teller with the courage to confront us.
Perhaps no confrontation in all of Scripture was as effective as the prophet Nathan’s with King David after he had sinned so egregiously. David’s reaction was immediately contrite and exactly what anyone who has ever confronted someone before could possibly hope for. After Nathan’s masterful indictment in speaking truth to power, David’s response included the only words appropriate for the occasion: “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam 12:13).
Let’s examine the reasons why this confrontation was so successful and follow these principles ourselves when we admonish others.
First, confront with the Lord’s guidance. The Bible says that “the Lord sent Nathan unto David” (2 Sam 12:1). Make sure you are sent. Pray about the situation and ask the Lord to give you the right opportunity.
Second, confront with courage. Knowing that he was sent, Nathan boldly delivered his message, standing face to face with the most powerful man in the world. Once the Lord gives you the opportunity, move forward with courage and pray for the Lord’s help. Also, avoid the temptation to confront in the presence of other people or behind a computer screen or smart phone. Meet face to face as Nathan did with David.
Third, confront with facts. Don’t approach with hearsay or begin making unfounded accusations. Take the time to get the facts. Love for your fellow believer should motivate you to do so.
Fourth, confront with skill. Nathan expertly crafted the story about the little lamb, naturally drawing David, the shepherd, into the story. Nathan did not go in with guns blazing but with measured words and impressive skill. Take the time to think carefully of exactly what you will say and how you will say it before you confront.
Finally, confront with humility. Nathan didn’t arrive with a “holier-than-thou” attitude nor with judgmental words such as, “David, you should be ashamed of yourself.” He spoke the right words in the right spirit. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal 6:1 ESV).
There will never be a lack of people who need rebuked for going astray. But sadly, Nathans are in short supply. While sin is going unchecked and ungodly behavior tolerated, Nathans are desperately needed. Will you be one?
Let it Go
Forgiveness. Everyone needs it but few offer it, which means there are many people moving through life without the peace of being forgiven or the joy of being forgiving. When we forgive we have the privilege of doing something God does every hour of every day, and as forgiven people He expects us to do just that (Eph 4:32).
The most common NT word for forgiveness (Greek aphiemi) means “to let go.” So what exactly are we to let go in extending forgiveness? In order to genuinely forgive someone we must first let go of the demand for repayment. When someone sins against us, we must resist the demand that we receive from the person what we feel we deserve, whether it is a contrite confession (accompanied with the proper amount of tears) or a heartfelt promise to change. Forgiveness is wholly an act of grace. The Lord Jesus absorbed the pain of our sins in order to forgive us, and we must be willing to do the same with one another.
Second, we must let go of the desire for retaliation. Paul wrote, “See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all” (1Th 5:15 NET). Stop entertaining fantasies of exacting revenge on your offender. Give up the crusade to even the score because the score will never be even. By “getting even” we actually multiply the amount of evil in the world, and because everyone has a different scale of justice as well as different pain thresholds, the score just keeps climbing and the world gets uglier.
In addition to letting go of the desire for personal retaliation, we must avoid the expectation that God will retaliate for us. It’s easy to quote, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom 12:19 KJV), and like Jonah, sit and wait for it to happen.
In some ways, the second part of Paul’s exhortation (“always pursue what is good for one another and all”) is more difficult. If our offender is a Christian, remember that we are in the same family; he is my brother in Christ. If the offender is an unbeliever, he is still made in the image of God. Focusing on these realities may make it easier to want what is good for those who have sinned against us. We are well on the way to completely forgiving when we actually desire good for our offender rather than evil.
Third, we must let go of the destructiveness of resentment. Peter spoke about the “gall” or “poison” (ISV) of bitterness (Act 8:23). Centuries later, Saint Augustine would say, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Few things are more destructive to a believer than clinging to the poisonous spirit of unforgiveness.
Even if your offender refuses to acknowledge wrong or has no desire to reconcile with you, there is still an extent to which you can forgive because there are many things you can let go.
So let it go. God did … and does. You’ll be healthier, holier and happier. And the world around you just might be too.
The Role of Faith in Prayer: Jehoshaphat Seeks the Lord
The story of Jehoshaphat is found in 2 Chronicles 20, and the situation was dire. Jehoshaphat was being attacked by three large enemy nations and was paralyzed by fear. What he did was an excellent example of what we need to do in times of crisis: he “set his face to seek the Lord” (2Ch 20:3). With all the nation of Judah before him, he stood in the court of the temple and prayed to his God.
What is our first response when faced with difficult situations? We need to challenge ourselves – is prayer a last resort or a first response? Has prayer become a crutch for us to pick up when it’s difficult to walk or is it a vibrant part of our daily lives?
There is a good reason why Jehoshaphat turned to God in this time of crisis. If we go back a few chapters and explore his life, a number of key factors emerge. In chapter 17 it says the Lord was with him because he walked in the ways of his father, David. He sought God and walked in His commandments. His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord and he removed the false places of worship. Although he was far from perfect, he had a teachable spirit. When he was rebuked by the man of God in chapter 19, he repented and “set his heart to seek the Lord.” He went throughout his kingdom bringing his people back to the Lord and teaching them to fear the Lord.
The reason he “set his face to seek the Lord” was that he had already “set his heart to seek the Lord.” The secret to making prayer a priority and a first response in times of crisis is this very thing – setting our hearts to seek the Lord. If our hearts are right with God and if we are enjoying daily communion and closeness with Him, seeking His face will be the automatic response.
His short, nine-sentence prayer has important lessons for us to learn (2Ch 20:6-12). In verse six, he ascribes rightful greatness to his God. He gives God the credit for being who He is – the God of our fathers, the God of heaven, Ruler of kingdoms, the One with a hand of great power and might. Do we pray little box-sized prayers that reflect a stunted concept of God, or do we approach the throne of grace with “large petitions” that reflect an understanding of the greatness of the God we worship? Faith is deepened as we learn more of the character of our God.
In verse seven, Jehoshaphat takes a look back at past blessings and victories that God brought to His people when He drove out the enemies before them. It is essential in our prayer life to remember and recount to our God how He has worked in days past. I am not advocating living in the past, but it is faith-inducing to recall God’s mighty deeds of days gone by. Imagine those desperate, scared, feeble people remembering the victory of the Red Sea when God rescued them from the looming Egyptian army. What courage it would have inspired in them to recall the day that Jericho’s great fortress walls crumbled to the ground at the command of the Lord. The principle is exactly the same in our lives. Faith is strengthened as we appreciate God’s sovereign power.
Not only did Jehoshaphat remember the past, he reiterated God’s promise made to King Solomon regarding His people who would find themselves in danger (2Ch 7:12-14). In verse nine of our present chapter, he told God, “If … [we] cry out to you in our affliction … you will hear and save.” Based on this promise that God made years before at the dedication of the temple, Jehoshaphat proceeded to state his problem to the Lord, clearly and specifically. As he did this, he acknowledged his utter weakness and absolute dependence upon his God. If we are going to live the life of faith, it is essential that we recognize our own weakness and learn to depend upon the Lord in all things.
As Jehoshaphat and the nation waited before the Lord, He graciously gave an answer through His spokesman, Jahaziel. Sometimes God uses His more widely recognized and public men, and other times He uses His obscure and unknown servants to deliver His message. Such is the case in this situation. When news came from the Lord of His blessing, abiding presence, and salvation, the reaction of Jehoshaphat was immediate. Even before the victory was physically achieved, he celebrated by bowing before the Lord in worship and praise. Then the Levites began to praise and the singers began to lift their voices to the army, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever” (2Ch 20:21). As they were singing, the Lord began to work and the enemy nations began to fight with one another to their own demise.
While we don’t have enemy nations coming up the street, tearing down our buildings, stabbing us with swords, and shooting us with arrows, we do live in enemy territory and we do have needs that require total faith in our God. I love the words of the psalmist, “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” (Psa 116:2 NLT).
After they collected the spoil, on the fourth day they assembled in the valley of Beracah (2Ch 20:26). I remember speaking a message of encouragement on this to the believers in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, during one of my early gospel series with Albert Hull. The meaning of the name Beracah is significant, for it means “blessing.” They gathered in the “valley of blessing.”
God’s blessing comes in many different forms. For the gospel meetings in Annapolis Valley, it wasn’t in the form of souls being saved, but it was a personal blessing I experienced in my own soul, as God used a mighty man of faith to impact my life. His example and guidance provided spiritual blessing that helped me immeasurably. When we pray, we must be waiting on God for the answer He gives. We must be aware and conscious that sometimes God’s blessings are different from our longings. May God encourage all of us to “set our hearts” and “our faces to seek
Blessing from a Storm?
The words “storm” and “blessing” would not usually be found in the same sentence. Storms leave devastation, despair and even death in their wake. But meteorologists and geologists alike have concluded that thunderstorms, cyclones and hurricanes, although incredibly destructive, do in fact bring benefits.
The Growth-Enabling Effects of a Storm
Storms frequently provide desperately needed rain to areas stricken with drought. Also, lightning in storms can have a fertilizing effect on the soil. Nitrogen is one of fertilizer’s main ingredients. As it splits through the sky, lightning changes nitrogen gas in the air to nitrogen compounds, which fall to the ground and are added to the soil.1 Additionally, the wind of a hurricane just about to make landfall can blow spores and seeds further inland, bringing life to new areas.
The Lord often allows us to experience the storms of life, knowing that although they will bring pain and even sorrow, they also enable needed growth and fruit for our benefit and for the blessing of others.
The Purging Effects of a Storm
During the summer, haze, dust and other pollutants come together in the lower atmosphere. As the air rises, either in thunderstorms or cumulus clouds, these pollutants are spread higher up into the atmosphere and purged out of the air by the falling rain.2 Another purging effect of storms occurs as hurricanes and cyclones move across the ocean. Their winds and waves toss the contents of the water. This mixing breaks up patches of bacteria that lurk in the water.
Storms can often have a purging effect in a believer’s life as self-dependence is necessarily blown away and we find our refuge in God alone (Psa 46; Isa 25:4). During the trials of life, we may often say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psa 91:2 KJV).
The Balancing Effects of a Storm
One of a hurricane’s achievements is to provide a better balance of temperatures between the poles and earth’s equator. The equator receives more solar energy, called insolation, than any other latitude on a yearly average. This resulting insolation warms the ocean temperature, which in turn warms the air above it. The earth is always trying to balance this warmth around the world, and hurricanes are one of the ways this is done.3 Another balancing effect of storms takes place as lightning falls during a thunderstorm, allowing the earth to be recharged and to maintain its proper electrical balance.
There are times when our lives as believers become harmfully imbalanced, and the inevitable storms of life rearrange, with their winds, our priorities in a beneficial way. But to be clear, we may never know why some storms break upon us. Job was never told why a tsunami of suffering was sent his way. But because the sovereign Lord always allows a storm, we can be confident that there must be some blessing in it, for He will do no less for His people than He does for this earth.
The Internet – Engaged but not Enslaved
At last!” you exclaim. “Someone is finally going to tell us if the Internet is good or bad!” Well, sorry to disappoint you, but the Internet is actually amoral. “What?” “What about all the lewdness on there?” That’s true. Pornography is one of the largest industries that uses the Internet. However, the Internet itself is nothing more than a bunch of computers, cables, and some basic communication protocols that have been around for more than a decade. The reason why this is important is because it takes us away from the question, “Is the Internet (Facebook/Twitter/chatting/etc.) good or bad?” to “How should I as a believer use the Internet?”
In view of this, rather than dissecting the merits or demerits of various Internet sites and services, here are some guidelines for Internet use that are healthy spiritually, relationally, and emotionally.
Use it in Purity
Little did Job know that the promise he made to himself (Job 31:1) would one day become the motto for an Internet monitoring service (www.covenanteyes.com) to help protect against the vice of pornography. Pornography is likely the single greatest threat facing Christian young men and women in 2010 – 2011.
Matthew 5:28 makes it clear that lustful observation equates to adultery in the heart. The biochemical reactions in your mind and body are the same for pornography as they are for a real, legitimate relationship with your (future) marriage partner. Nevertheless, the significance of this is that the adultery in the heart means not only the sin against God and all that this means for the believer, but also that the repeated use of pornography with autoeroticism, forms neural pathways that become the basis for habitual sin. Thus, while you may remain chaste physically throughout your youth, you can secretly intoxicate your heart and mind with the forbidden women (Prov 5:3, 20) of the Internet and end up in a far worse situation than another Christian who might have “fallen” and been publicly disciplined for fornication. The devastating impact of a pornography habit should not be underestimated even if the consequences are not immediately apparent.
Moreover, the habitual perusal of this licentiousness also forms a sadly destructive way of life that will have you constantly spinning through an exhausting cycle of sin, shame, repentance, confession, and then sin again and back into shame and so on. Solomon knew the addictive quality of this sin when he warned that the fornicator would “be held fast in the cords of his sin” (Prov 5:23). Your relationship with the Lord will become both a source of relief as you confess and experience forgiveness and also of constant guilt as you struggle with this sin. It will affect your relationship with Him, your ability to worship, to share the gospel, and to speak genuinely about the freedom that salvation brings from sin. Relationships with your closest friends and family will be impacted and you may even have trouble looking at members of the opposite sex without seeing them as mere objects of physical desire. The impact is devastating; if you yield to the wrong master you may well find yourself in this repetitious tormenting cycle – daily, weekly, or monthly.
Do not be a pushover! You can choose which master you will yield yourself to in every moment in the face of each temptation. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:16-18 ESV). The lesson is clear: What we yield ourselves to will rule in our heart. Each of us makes a hundred choices every day as to what we will click on and what we won’t. For those who have gone down this road, many will face a difficult journey out of it. For those who have not, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1Cor 10:12). A healthy relationship with your Savior, growing in the faith, and building strong, accountable relationships with other believers of the same sex are all strong antidotes against giving the wrong master a foothold in your life.
But purity is about more than just sexual holiness. It extends into other moral domains of Internet use such as integrity and lawfulness. Most of us will have some good ministry on our iPod—but what about the music you have? Did you pay for all the copyrighted songs you have along with the ministry on your portable music device? Hopefully, few Christians have ever stolen any physical property, but for many of us we have to confess that we have been, or are perhaps even presently, thieves of digital property (Eph 4:28). When purity is viewed as one aspect of holiness, the righteous claims of God speak in every part of our lives.
Use it Safely
The words of Proverbs 2:11 are most appropriate: “Discretion shall preserve thee.” Younger teens in particular need to be aware that there are predators on the Internet. This often begins in chat rooms and moves to IM’ing, E-mail, phone, and then into face-to-face meetings. These are skilled and pathological individuals, lending a sympathetic ear to the growing pains of adolescence, often pretending to be the same age or of the opposite sex in order to lure an innocent young person into compromising (and worse) situations. Do not communicate with strangers over the Internet, and, certainly, never arrange to meet an Internet acquaintance without a parent being present. Never give out your personal information (real name, phone number, address, family relationships, photos) to anyone you do not know. Make sure that your privacy settings on social media sites are set correctly and be sure to keep your parents in the loop about your online, as well as offline, relationships.
Use it Redemptively
Ephesians 5:16 is the text behind this heading: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil,” or as the ESV puts it, “Making the best use of the time.” Even respectable use of the Internet can result in many wasted hours. A recent piece of research showed that when 200 students were asked to abstain from all media use for 24 hours, they showed signs of withdrawal, craving, and anxiety. Internet addiction is a real problem – so much so that treatment centers for this are now appearing in some parts of the world. What is going on? With so much information and so much possibility for interaction, the Internet has become a huge time sink. It’s nice to share photos with our friends on Facebook and it is good to keep up with the news to some extent, but let’s get back to basics: how is God working in your life right now? Is your Internet use facilitating that or getting in the way?
Beyond just the profitable use of our time, have you considered how you can use the Internet for God? This generation is tech-savy; you are better equipped to initiate creative ways of bringing the gospel message to the unsaved. Seek the advice and direction of your overseers on this; they will be interested to see how the Internet can be used as a tool to reach people for Christ.
Use it Genuinely
One of the greatest appeals (and risks) of the Internet is that it can be used as a means to express to others an ideal version of our selves. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games and virtual worlds are saturated with millions of individuals who express an idealized version of themselves. Mind you, this is not unique to the Internet. Paul confronted the same issue when some accusers claimed that he was strong in his letters (think virtual identity), but weak and insignificant in person. What was his reply? “What we say by letter when absent, we do when present” (see 2Cor 10:11). There was a definite congruence between his presentation in absentia and his presentation when he was there in body.
“Oh, I don’t struggle with that at all,” you say. Really? Your profile picture on Facebook: did you Photoshop it at all? OK, maybe not—but how much time did you spend choosing the best picture of yourself? In real life we have to work hard to present the best version of self to others, but for those who know us best we might as well not even bother trying. Online, however, is a different story: we can (almost subconsciously) craft a very stylized and idealized version of who we are so that others think more highly of us.
What is at the root of all this? It is just sin. In our pride we want to always put our best face on things. But what has God called us to? He has called us not to put on our ideal self, but “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph 4:24-25 ESV). This genuine living is marked by the absence of falsehood, even when we can pretend to be something, we are not to do so. Rather, we are to allow God to work in us to produce the divine characteristics of righteousness and holiness.
Use it Wisely
In the 1990s and prior, the Internet was more like traditional media where content was created by “them” and given to “us” to read. Now, with what is loosely called Web 2.0 and social media, the power to create Internet content has been given to the masses. In a few minutes, you can create a blog, tweet a group of followers, or update your profile status by adding pictures, videos, and other information. You can become the source, not just the consumer, of content.
We need to be cautious with this. The Internet is the new megaphone for narcissism. You could tweet the endless details of your day, but should anyone really care about that? “Be not wise in thine own eyes” (Prov 3:7) is a good cue for us as we use the Internet. The Biblical principles written to guide our speech are also most relevant to guide our contributions to online discussions, our tweeting, texting, IM’ing, status updates, and whatever other ways we might be posting content to the Internet. Our contributions are to be holy (Eph 5:3-4), gracious (Col 4:6), exempt from evil (Jas 4:11-12), void of slander or hostility (2Cor 12:20). Perhaps an Internet version of Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians might read, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your keyboard, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the web surfers.”
May God give us wisdom in this new world. The Internet is not evil, but it is used for much evil. How can we use it for the glory of God? Can you encourage a distant friend with a message on Facebook? Can you tweet a thought you enjoyed about Christ? Would you text a friend a verse that God has laid on your heart? With wisdom and caution let us be engaged but not enslaved, following the counsel of 2 Peter 3:17-18. “Beware lest ye … fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”