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Showing posts from September, 2010

Lessons Repeated

13-14"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. (Matthew 7:13-14)
As I sit at my computer this morning, I am reminded of the many "shortcuts" I can use to accomplish simple things like making a word underlined, launching a program, or conducting a spell-check to ensure accuracy in my writing.  As I traverse the hospital campus today, I will take "shortcuts" many times to get from point A to point B - the quickest route possible with the fewest steps in between.  As I consider the dinner menu tonight, I will likely want an easier meal since my hours will be long today - so I want the meal that can be made in as quickly as possible.  
We all want to avail ourselves of the "shortcuts" in life.  It is human nature to…

Yesterday and Tomorrow - A Wrong Perspective on Life

34"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:34)
If I were to ask you what God is doing in your life right here and now, would you know?  Or would you be so consumed with worrying about what might happen sometime into the future that you are missing out on the here and now of God's tremendous love?  Worry is a limiting device in our lives - it consumes time and energy that would be best spent in other ways.
Look at Jesus' words here - give your ENTIRE attention to what God is doing RIGHT NOW.  The focus we maintain today determines the response we will have when we face our tomorrow.  That is the key to living strongly rooted lives - focus.  If God has our entire attention, there is no room for worry, anxiety, calculations, and schemes. 
Jesus also reminds us that if our focus is correct today, our pat…

A Behind-the-Scenes Look

1 "Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. 2-4"When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure—'playactors' I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.  (Matthew 6:1-4)
Matthew is pretty straight-forward in his record of Jesus' advice for living.  He takes time to share the things that are reflective of the struggles we have based on our human nature.  It is a frequent struggle with wanting to be noticed…

More room for God

3"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (Matthew 5:3)
There are not many of us that would consider "being at the end of our ropes" as being in a blessed or happy place!  In fact, we'd probably argue that it is both frustrating and discouraging to be at such a place that makes us feel so helpless and without hope.  We would describe the emotional state of such a place as pretty mixed up and in a whirlwind of internal storms.  So, try to have a mindset of "being blessed" in the midst of that!
Yet, as Jesus stood on a hillside that day in Galilee with hundreds of followers sitting around in attention to every word that proceeded from his mouth, he opens with these words.  Maybe there were those in the crowd that were experiencing this kind of "end of the rope" emotional turmoil.  We aren't told, but we are given some insight into how Jesus gets in inroad into our lives.  It i…

Open ears opens hearts

14-17But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That's why Scripture exclaims,
   A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!  But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: "Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?" The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ's Word is preached, there's nothing to listen to. (Romans 10:14-17)
Trust is a big thing in our society today - it is often the focus of attention because of how often it is breached rather than how often it is assured.  Trust is based on the integrity of another - we count on them to do what it is …

Truckloads of Lemons

18 If people can't see what God is doing,
   they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
   they are most blessed.  (Proverbs 29:18)
You have probably heard the saying, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  I think this is probably somebody's way of trying to keep a positive focus on a whole lot of negative stuff that is happening to them.  But even after a while, a steady diet of lemonade gets to taste pretty bitter!  Your physical body can only handle so much "acidic" intake before it starts to rebel with changes internally that you may not fully recognize until they have created a state of imbalance that you cannot easily bounce back from.  Guess what - your spiritual state of "balance" can be equally as disturbed by a steady diet of "bitterness" just as easily.  
Our writer reminds us that not being able to see what God is doing leads to us stumbling all over ourselves.  Sometimes, we even stumble al…

Pit-Dwellers or Wisdom-Walkers?

8 A gang of cynics can upset a whole city;
   a group of sages can calm everyone down.  (Proverbs 29:8)
There are times when it seems like there are a lot of cynical people trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom about the things that life deals us.  It is easy to follow along with their perceptions of gloom, if we allow our minds to drift there.  In order to counteract them, we need to become strategic in our thinking, understanding in our interpretation of life, and dependent on God to give us insight in times of darkness.
A cynic has several characteristics, but the most prevalent is that they believe that selfishness motivates every human action - in other words, nobody does a nice thing for no reason at all - there must be an ulterior motive.  The cynic tends to be bitter about life - interpreting everything through the eyes of pessimism.  They are skeptical - sometimes unwilling to take a chance on life because they don't really trust.
With this in mind, it becomes quite app…

Praise on!

9-10 We pondered your love-in-action, God,
      waiting in your temple:
   Your name, God, evokes a train
      of Hallelujahs wherever
   It is spoken, near and far;
      your arms are heaped with goodness-in-action.  (Psalm 48:9-10)
God actually commends those who spend time "pondering" his love in action.  When we "ponder", we are considering something so carefully, weighing all the details, with an attention to the details so that we don't miss a thing.  That is how God wants us to be considering his actions on our behalf.  There is nothing more rewarding than to truly begin to consider God's love in action - it has a  way of refocusing our attention and directing our attitude away from "me, me, me".
This is not a psalm of David, but a psalm of the sons of Korah.  In the book of I Chronicles, we find an account of five sons of Korah that joined David as expert warriors.  We also know from the record of the lineage of Korah, that his family line…

Reality show drop-outs

26 If you think you know it all, you're a fool for sure;
   real survivors learn wisdom from others.  (Proverbs 28:26)
Reality television is all the rage right now.  No matter the day of the week, you can capture some version of "watch me make a fool of myself" programming.  People were drawn to the latest wave of "reality" programming because it gave them a chance to see the "true nature" of how people respond under pressure.  It has the game show appeal of some prize at the end, but it also puts people in the "vice" of all kinds of pressure and then let's us see exactly how they respond to competition, disappointment, desire, and a whole plethora of pretty serious emotions.
Why are we drawn to this type of programming?  It is simple - we want to see the "raw truth" of how human nature responds.  We are curious, in a kind of sick way, to see if someone will "crack under pressure".  We might even compare ourselves with t…

No boot licking here!

23 In the end, serious reprimand is appreciated
   far more than bootlicking flattery.  (Proverbs 28:23)
The last thing most of us want is any kind of reprimand - let alone a serious one.  On a scale of 1-10, most of us would say a reprimand ranks as a 1-3.  Not too many of us would even give it higher than a 5 because we really don't enjoy being reprimanded.  A reprimand is always associated with behavior that just did not measure up.  It carries with it the idea of rebuke or reproof.
A rebuke is often coupled with the admonition to change one's ways or endure the consequences.  To be reproved is to have your behavior corrected - to provide direction as to how we should be acting or responding.  Realizing that a reprimand carries with it the idea of both, how many of us would line up for a reprimand now?  
Having our behavior "pointed out" or "called out" is often quite uncomfortable for us.  We get very self-conscious - when this happens, we want to "pre…

To whitewash or not

13 You can't whitewash your sins and get by with it;
   you find mercy by admitting and leaving them.  (Proverbs 28:13)
Whitewash was a common thing when I was growing up.  We had tons of trees in our yard and every so often, Dad would bust out a can of whitewash to coat the bottom 3-4 feet of the tree trunks with a fresh coat.  I always admired his handiwork when he was all finished because each tree just gleamed with the stark white trunks.  Along with the white picket fence circling the front yard, it was a sight to behold.  
It looked "pretty", but I never really understood the rationale for his doing that to the trees until I was much older.  He was minimizing the sun's effect on the trees in the cold months of winter when the trees were supposed to be dormant for a while.  The sun could get to the trees easier since the leaves had fallen off or were thinner, and the warm Arizona sun would stir the trees into "false" growth if left uncoated.  
So, he coate…

Each one reach one

9 God has no use for the prayers
   of the people who won't listen to him.  (Proverbs 28:9)
Ever wonder why our country is in such a state of financial, spiritual, moral, or emotional crisis?  We have embellished the truth a little, in my estimation, by calling ourselves a nation guided and directed by God.  We have a National Day of Prayer, we allow kids to gather at the flagpole in September each year for the "See You At the Pole" rallies, but do we really seek our God as the primary basis upon which we make our decisions?  Do we daily lift our leaders before the Lord, asking him to give them wisdom in their decisions?  I know that I am not one of those that "regularly" prays for our country's leadership - I almost have to be reminded of the issues, then I remember to pray!
Earlier in this same Proverb, it says:
2 When the country is in chaos,     everybody has a plan to fix it— But it takes a leader of real understanding     to straighten things out. 
Well, if y…

An edge in an edgy world

The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one's after them;
Honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions.  (Proverbs 28:1)
Guilt has a way of making us "edgy" - nervously irritable, impatient, anxious.  One of the most "telling" characteristics of someone who is feeling a sense of guilt is that sharp edge that they get to their tone whenever they feel they need to defend themselves in their present state.  It is human nature to either want to defend our actions, or to run ashamedly from the scene in an attempt to escape the emotional upset guilt brings.
God's kids have a unique opportunity to touch "edgy" people with the grace of a forgiving God.  In our women's Bible Study this week, I spoke of the two-fold call of the disciples - in involved preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  We are not exempt from this call today.  It is our duty to point guilt-ridden people to the only thing that can really set th…

The cover story

Just as water mirrors your face,
   so your face mirrors your heart.  (Proverbs 27:19)
Ever try to judge the contents of a book simply by looking at the cover?  I have, and in turn, have been very disappointed in my initial "assessment" of the book. Once I get into the "heart" of the book, I find what I hoped was contained there is missing, or falls short of what I expected.  What I hoped was a "good read" leaves me a little disillusioned.
Human beings are definitely not "books", but we "reflect" a certain image to the world by how we conduct ourselves and what appears on our face.  I am often called on the carpet because my face betrays my REAL feelings toward some decision or situation that is evolving.  So many people today have become proficient in "putting on a happy face", but deep underneath, they seethe in anger, wallow in disappointment, or are bubbling with absolute discontent.  
I am a people-watcher.  I like to observ…

Tomorrow, tomorrow, is only a day away!

Don't brashly announce what you're going to do tomorrow; you don't know the first thing about tomorrow.  (Proverbs 27:1)
I don't imagine that many of us actually take this scripture seriously - most of us spend an inordinate amount of time planning, organizing, and generally creating a vision for our future without any evidence that implies we are guaranteed that future!  The writer of our Proverb is quite wise - yet I imagine he even struggled with the tendency to do just the same.  It is human nature to count on the unseen, the unknown, to come to pass.
The idea expressed in this passage is not that we aren't supposed to have a well-thought out plan or a vision for our future, but simply that we are not to brashly just expect that we have the guarantee that it will come or that things will work out exactly as we plan.  When we approach our tomorrows as though they will always be there and somehow we control the events of our tomorrows, the idea of trusting God for t…

Angry, hotheaded people

Don't hang out with angry people;
   don't keep company with hotheads.
Bad temper is contagious—
   don't get infected. (Proverbs 22:24-25)
The writer of Proverbs prefaces this section in the book of Proverbs with a challenge to both listen carefully to the wisdom being laid out and to take it to heart.  Then he spends time enumerating thirty "sterling principles" by which to live.  In turn, he promises that these are tested guidelines to live by - guidelines that will hold us accountable in our daily walk.  The passage above is taken from this set of guidelines.
There is a stern warning to avoid hanging out with the wrong company - angry people and hotheads.  Angry people are generally miserable people to be around.  Their entire disposition emanates the intense desire to respond to life with outbursts of injuring behaviors.  Hotheads just don't think before they respond - they simply allow the emotions to guide their response.
Both present a challenge in relati…

Seven things God has strong opinions about - Part VI

Here are six things God hates,
    and one more that he loathes with a passion:
      eyes that are arrogant,
      a tongue that lies,
      hands that murder the innocent,
      a heart that hatches evil plots,
      feet that race down a wicked track,
      a mouth that lies under oath,
      a troublemaker in the family. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
We have two final characteristics that we will examine today.  The first is the mouth that lies under oath.  This differs from the tongue that lies in that it is associated with the giving of a testimony or acting as a witness.  Scripture also reminds us in other places that God hates a false scale (in other words, being dishonest in business affairs).  God expects his kids to live as model citizens in a society that may not have very many good role models.  
In our culture today, we equate being "under oath" with having sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  We used to add the words, "so help me God", as we h…