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Showing posts from February, 2011

Invitation to attend

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)
It has occurred to me that not knowing what God is doing is often the condition of many of our hearts each day - we are "along for the ride", but oblivious to the destination.  One of the questions the pastor asked yesterday was, "What is this Christian experience all about anyway?"  It occurred to me this morning that many of us would have a hard time with that question - not because we aren't enjoying our salvation, but because we really aren't sure what we are doing with our salvation.
Our passage puts it pretty plainly.  We can head out for a destination - not knowing the reason we are travelling the road we are on, oblivious to the traveling companions we have along the way - all the while making forward progress of some sort.  The question we need to ask is if it the "right" progress? …

A two-sided coin

9Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight,a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
17 You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.  (Proverbs 27:9, 17)
I like to go to the Proverbs once in a while to get some insight into life's lessons that the man who was known as the "wisest man in the world" learned in his lifetime.  There is much recorded within the Proverbs related to the type of friends we pick, what it is like to make unwise choices in friends, and what the value of a good friend is.  Today, I'd like to consider the latter - a good friend and their worth.
Lotions and fragrances are merely outward adornments.  They are applied to the surface of our bodies - yet they have a tremendous ability to provide "sensual" delight.  In other words, they create enjoyment just in their application - both to the one wearing the fragrance or enjoying the lotion's application, and to the one who has the joy of experiencing the outcome of …

Cheap words leave us with belly-aches

17 You grab a mad dog by the ears
   when you butt into a quarrel that's none of your business.  (Proverbs 26:17)
Our passage today is pretty plain - stay out of other people's business!  When we butt into where we have no business being, we often find it is like taking hold of a rabid dog - we get bit!  This is a good lesson to learn, but a tough one to learn.  It easy to get caught up in the business of another.  Sometimes we do just because we "want to be in the know".  Other times it is because we "want to rescue" someone who is in the middle of a muddle.  Whatever the reason, we would do well to consider the consequences before we "step in the middle" of what we never belonged in in the first place!
20 When you run out of wood, the fire goes out;     when the gossip ends, the quarrel dies down. (Proverbs 26:20)
The passage goes on to remind us of the power of our words.  When we "stoke" the fires of passionate discourse with the words spo…

Send up the flares!

10Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.  11-12And now, isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you've come out of this with purity of heart.  (2 Corinthians 7:10-12)
Paul knew that his letter to the Corinthian church, encountering their lackadaisical approach to sin in their midst, caused them some "distress".  That is often the case when sin is encountered in our lives - we find some discomfort in the exposure and we feel "distressed".  Distress is often described as that which causes us pain, anxiety, and often sorrow.  For that reason, we all have a dread or sense of &q…

Settling is never God's plan

The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less. (2 Corinthians 5:5)
What a joy it is to realize that what we experience of God today is only a taste of him - we only experience in part what one day we will experience in full.  A taste of what is ahead is often all we have to go on as we step out in our faith walk each day.  We don't know what to expect, but we do know who to expect to be alongside as we take those steps.  
When one "whets" the appetite - it is kind of like eating appetizers.  We could fill up on them, but if we did that we'd miss the good stuff just about to come around the corner!  That which "whets" our spiritual appetite is designed to make us eager, living in anticipation of what will be revealed next.  We learn to yearn when we have learned the purpose of the appetizer!
That which "whets" our appetite will direct our a…

Transition is a fearful thing

4-5 Complain if you must, but don't lash out.
   Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking.
   Build your case before God and wait for his verdict.  (Psalm 4:4-5)
Transition is a time of unrest for all of us.  We like the familiarity of what we have come to know as "constant" and "secure" in our lives.  When transition is called for, we often feel like our "legs are being pulled out from under us".  This might be why we are as apprehensive in transition as we see to be.  We allow fear to guide our thoughts and influence our actions instead of taking the things we fear to God for his guidance in those times of transition.
Transition by definition is simply change - changing from one position to another, a state of "stability" into a state of the "unknown".  When we explore this definition a little further, we also see that it is characterized by times or seasons of transformation.  Transition brings with it transforming o…

Blabber and Chatter really matter

19 The more talk, the less truth;
   the wise measure their words.
20 The speech of a good person is worth waiting for;
   the blabber of the wicked is worthless.
21 The talk of a good person is rich fare for many,
   but chatterboxes die of an empty heart. (Proverbs 10:19-21)
The Book of Proverbs is filled with all kinds of wisdom about our communication - what gets said and what should remain unsaid.  There is more set in motion by one word than most of us realize.  The three verses above give us some insight into the choices we make with our words.  
The more talk, the less truth - in other words, the more we have to say, the greater chances are that we will embellish what is truth within the statement with things that may not be entirely true.  When we "add words" that really don't "belong" in the discussion, we are simply trying to "enhance" the truth.  There is simplicity in the truth - it needs no enhancements.  The wise measure their words - not be…

Strength is for service, not status

1-2 Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?" (Romans 15:1-2)
In the world around us, strength opens doors.  There are opportunities galore for "strong" people - those who possess the ability or talent to carry out the task at hand.  This became quite apparent to me when seeking my first job in the workforce.  There were many "you are under-qualified" responses, even though I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could do the job.  Why?  The one conducting the interview did not view my "qualifications" as those that displayed the "strengths" that the company needed for that position.  Since strength opens doors, it makes it appear that weakness keeps them shut.  
Paul makes it quite clear tha…

My weapon? A donkey's jawbone!

14-16 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came to meet him, shouting in triumph. And then the Spirit of God came on him with great power. The ropes on his arms fell apart like flax on fire; the thongs slipped off his hands. He spotted a fresh donkey jawbone, reached down and grabbed it, and with it killed the whole company. And Samson said, "With a donkey's jawbone I made heaps of donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I killed an entire company." (Judges 15:14-16)
Israel is in a time of punishment - being attacked by the Philistines.  They have wandered into compromising sin and God is allowing the Philistines to be used as his means of judgment on their sin.  Samson was born of a woman unable to bear children - a miracle in those days that neither involved artificial means, nor test tubes!  As an angel of the Lord reveals that she will have a son, he also instructs her to set him aside (dedicate him) to the Lord's work of delivering the Israelites from the h…

Grave clothes and tomb living

Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living.  John 12:1
It would be easy to read over this passage and just miss entirely what John recorded for us about Jesus' entry into Bethany.  One very special event had transpired there that made Bethany a notorious place - Lazarus had been raised from the dead.  Not just the dead, but the tomb.  Already wrapped in burial clothes and scented with the herbs of burial, he laid there for three days.  His sisters were grief-stricken at the loss of their brother - the male head of their home.  Now, we'd miss the intention of these opening words if we were to just gloss by them on our way to learning about how Judas would betray Jesus.  
No words are recorded for us by accident.  They aren't in the Bible just to give the story some sense of "plot" or to "add character" to the passage.  They are each there by intention.  Therefore, when we see the words, "…

Faith - what is it?

1-2The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. (Hebrews 11:1-2)
Lots of people have sought to define faith.  The philosophers, theologians, and word-smiths will define faith as the confidence someone puts in another or any thing.  In the King James version of the Bible, the above passage begins with the words:  "Now, faith is..."  Therefore, I am inclined to take this as my definition of faith.  In Bible College, I was given the assignment of writing a paper on "What is faith?"  That was a struggle for me because I kept trying to find some really deep, philosophical meaning to faith.  When it came down to it, I did not get a good grade on the paper because the Dean said I did not "know" the subject - my head knowledge had not made the c…

Consuming fire is a byproduct of a desperate heart

1-3 Listen, God! Please, pay attention! Can you make sense of these ramblings, my groans and cries? King-God, I need your help. Every morning you'll hear me at it again. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar and watch for fire to descend. (Psalm 5:1-3)
A bold cry from a desperate heart - Listen!  Pay attention!  Why?  I need your help!  There is no other acknowledgement that God needs more than the simple admittance that we "need his help".  I honestly believe that those very words set in motion countless things way beyond our comprehension - things meant to protect us, provide for us, and powerfully intervene in the turmoil of our life experiences.  David was desperate - desperation moves the heart of God.  
Think about it - if you had two kids sitting side by side on the couch, each making a plea for your attention, which one would you be most inclined to turn to?  One is sitting passively there, holding up a sign with crudely written words, "W…

Equally yoked

20 Walk with the wise and become wise,
   for a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
There is much to be said about the wisdom we exhibit in the company we keep.  Companions are often the first line of defense against stumbling when we are not paying attention to our journey - they can also be the first line of affording the opportunity to stumble!  Mom always used to tell me to choose my friends wisely.  At the time, I really never knew the purpose of that statement - but looking back at some of the choices I've made, I see the wisdom in her words.  
Our passage today reveals two truths: Those we associate with influence us - good or bad, they influence us.  There is much that brings influence into our lives, but there are times when we turn to the influence of a trusted friend, a faithful companion, quicker than we turn to anything or anyone else.  Therefore, choosing who we allow into our lives determines the influence we allow.  Influence is simply the effect of one p…

An acrostic to consider

8-10If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we've never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. (I John 1:8-10)
This morning, please consider this acrostic: C onsiderationO fN eededF orgivenessE ffectivelyS ubmittingS elflesslyE verythingN owKinda corny, I know, but it came to me this morning as I opened my eyes to my wake up call from the worship music playing on the clock radio.  One of the first things I do in the morning is to ask God where he wants me to focus my study that day - this is what he gave me.  Confession is often a poorly understood concept - partly because it is hard for so many people to admit their need, and partly becaus…

Peanut Butter and Honey

14-16The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can't receive the gifts of God's Spirit. There's no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God's Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God's Spirit is doing, and can't be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah's question, "Is there anyone around who knows God's Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?" has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ's Spirit. (I Corinthians 2:14-16)
Capacity is determined by what is attempting to enter the vessel and the vessel's "space" to hold what is entering.  For example, if we have a used jar of peanut butter that has not been scraped clean and washed out, there are remnants of peanut butter in there.  For all intends and purposes, we'd say the peanut butter jar was empty.  No matter how much we attempt to fill that "empty&q…