Archive for the ‘Proverbs’ Category

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RETELLING PROVERBS 7 – Sept. 30

September 30, 2015

“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commands with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”  Proverbs 7:1-3

This is my attempt to retell the advice of Proverbs 7
in the context of this present age.

My son, I have some advice for you.

Pause for a time;

Hear what I have learned,

That you may receive wisdom and not pain;

That you will be guarded by knowledge and not nature.

For all that is shapely is not trim;

And not all that is buxom is natural.

Hear the truth in my words;

Value the understanding of experience.

A day will come when you will doubt the relevance of old men.

And dismiss advice as uninformed.

Therefore, settle the matter in your mind.

Decide if truth will be the foundation of your principles;

Be as familiar with her as of your sister’s image;

Know your principles as well as any intimate friend,

To keep you from the temptation of seduction.

The familiar story, you have heard.

A young man, full of naïve confidence,

Convinced of his own resolutions,

Purposefully pursues an avenue without sense.

Foolish boy who plays with indwelling fire,

Without an ability to extinguish.

He closes the door, beyond the eyes of elders.

A singular face illuminated by a screen;

Fully aware of the call echoing within;

Lying in wait.

Harmless browsing, bannered by advertising;

Images unsought sponsor a search;

Articles of the alluring allure;

Lists of the hottest ignite heat;

News of the attractive attract;

Only the simple ignore the sequence.

A swing of the door leads to a click on something dormant;

A scroll through the dormant germinates to a click on scantily cladded;

A scroll through the scantily cladded sprouts to a click on the claddless;

A scroll through the claddless blossoms to a click on the corrupt.

A slide starts with a solitary swing.

And now, O Son, listen to me,

And be attentive to the words of my mouth.

Do not believe those who claim no harm in pornography;

Do not value the famous who belittle the value of morality;

Do not credit bondage as freedom;

Do not confuse forgiveness with relevance.

This sin is written with a cursor of steel;

With an icon of diamond it carves cravings into the soul.

Cravings create a crack;

Cracks create a cleft;

Clefts keep one from the power of the One.

Everyday, you train your mind to either,

Seek the pleasure of God

Or the pleasure of flesh.

Let not your heart be turned by a door and swing;

Do not illuminate your face in privacy,

For many have been trapped

And their morality harvested;

Countless convictions have yielded to this call and compromise.

Pornography is a house along a path leading from God;

Those who travel it will never find Him.

Do not think that there are no consequences

To actions behind swinging doors.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray for all those caught in pornography.  Father, I ask that your healing and restoration will abide on all those caught in this sin who call upon your name.  Lord, keep me and my son from this hidden sin.  I ask that you will grow in us this fruit of your Spirit, self-control.  Help us to rely upon you in all things.  Help us to be aware of the danger.  Help us to be careful to love you with all of our heart, soul, and strength. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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NO REGERTS! – June 26

June 26, 2014

“The plan of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weights the spirit.  Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:1-3

I cannot resist a laugh at the irony implicit in a “No Regerts” tattoo.regerts-e1336608292682

The irony does not lies in an individual’s declaration of regret freedom becoming yet another regret.

I do not know of anyone who wants to live with regrets. No one starts their day with a desire to fill it with regrets. Being without regrets is not a matter of determination.  A life without regrets is a life never lived.

A statement that you will not feel sad, repentant, or disappointed about circumstances that have not worked out, the loss associated with poor decisions, or the indecision of a missed opportunity, seems naïve. It might seem possible for a twenty-nothing to think that life can be lived without regrets but as a forty-something I cannot imagine a life free of regrets.

The denial of regret simply creates a regert – regret in disguise.

Regrets are an inevitable part of the human experience. A life without regrets requires perfection. I am far from perfect and as a result my life is full of regrets.

I regret responses to criticism…victory…conflict…praise…rejection…
I regret selfish treatment of people.
I regret a failure of leadership in the Church and business.
I regret working too hard and not hard enough.
I regret misplaced trust placed in key people.
I regret starting and never finishing.
I regret never starting.
I regret not being the husband I want to be.
I regret not being the father I want to be.
I regret not being the friend I want to be.

The majority of my regrets can be traced to the sin that still dwells within me. My life is full of regrets because I am a sinner. To deny my regrets is to deny my sin. The denial of sin will only result in another regret, which makes it a regert.

used-2013-07-18-no-regerts-alkhall-sobriety-recoveryRegrets are not an emotion to deny. Regrets are a reminder of our continuing need of a savior. The acknowledgement of regrets leads us to the gospel.  I trust God; that He has a plan. I trust  He will take all that I regret and make something good out of them. I trust that there will be a day when I will see all my regrets for what they are in God’s plan.

However, that is an act of faith because I currently cannot see His plan.

Therefore, I find freedom from regrets by faith and a refusal to change them into regerts.
I glorify God in my regrets.
I have been forgiven through Christ of the sin associated with my regrets.

I praise God in my regrets.
His plan is not dependent upon my perfection.

I hope in God because of my regrets.
I look forward to the day when I will be truly free of regrets and regerts.

PRAYER: Father, you know all of my regrets.  You know all of my wanderings.  You know all of my sins of omission and commission.  Thank you for forgiving me.  Thank you for freeing me from my past and all that I regret.  Thank you for giving me hope.  Thank you for preparing a day in the future when I will truly be free of all regrets…and regerts. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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DISCOURAGING SHADOWS – May 9

May 9, 2014

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” Proverbs 4:18

I don’t like my shadow!

I have been spending a lot of time running. I am still building up my running miles for the Boise Ironman 70.3. I ran 10.6 miles (17.06 km) last night with two more weeks left to top 13 miles before starting to taper down prior to race day. As a result, my shadow and I have been spending a lot of time together on the lonely rural roads of my running routes.

Running is far more mental than you might think. It is very easy to fall out of form. I try to concentrate on a high cadence, feet landing under me at mid-sole, chest forward, arms pumping like a gun-slinger, and deep breathing. It feels great when it all comes together.

57536-largest_2012KonaTop15run4I feel like an athlete when I hit that rhythm in form. Images of my favorite triathlon videos play in my mind:

Bevan Docherty – Super-human Triathlon Sprint Finish
Crazy sprint finish between Javier Gomez & Jonathan Brownlee

My imagination paints the course of my impending race over the abandoned fields. I can envision myself running with long, fluid strides trailing behind me, speeding me to the finish line.

At a glance, my shadow crushes these delusions. When I look about me, I will catch a sight of my shadow. My shadow does not remind me of the runners in my favorite videos. It reminds me of Forest Gump and not the young Forest Gump but the desert shuffling Forest Gump. My strides look short and my torso looks fat as my shadow mockingly shuffles beside me.

forrest-gump-the-original-ultra-runnerI don’t like my shadow because it conveys a truth that is not helpful to dwell upon – I am sliding to 50 years old; I’ve been running (inconsistently) for less than 3 years; I can still lose another 10 pounds; and I am slow. Dwelling upon what I am, does not deliver me to what I am becoming and does not let me enjoy how far I have come.

surreal-running-shadow-scaledTherefore, I prefer to run into the sun. When I run to the sun, my shadow falls behind me and out of sight. I still am who I am – a middle-aged guy trying to stay in shape.  I know that I will never be an elite athlete,  but that reality does not need to steal the joy of being a triathlete and participating in the race.

Many people don’t realize that we cast a similar spiritual shadow. As Christians, we are being transformed from one degree to another into the image of Christ. We travel down our God-ordained paths of righteousness with the light of Dawn shining upon us; the Son illuminating our lives as we follow Him. However, the enlightenment of the Spirit will cast a shadow from all the areas of our lives that remain sinful and disobedient.

We can see who we were in our spiritual shadows. We can see all those areas of our lives where the righteousness of Christ has not cast away all darkness. I get discouraged by glimpses of my spiritual shadow – those plaguing sins; those inconsistent disciplines; those worldly loves; the slow pace of my sanctification.  In the past, I have become so discouraged that I questioned my salvation.  Focusing on my spiritual shadow resulted in a joyless religion.  Dwelling upon my sin never delivered me to what Jesus is making me and never raised praise in how much I have been transformed.

businessman-running-to-the-sunrise-with-his-shadowTherefore, I prefer to travel the path of righteousness with my face toward the Son. When I consciously focus my mind on the things of the Spirit, my spiritual shadow falls behind me and out of sight. This is not to minimize sin and the need to faithfully follow Christ, but that work is in front of us. What we have been or who we are, does not dictate who we are transformed into when our lives are illuminated by Christ.  I might never be an elite man of faith.  I know that I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  I also know that I am a Child of God with a seat at His table and that is more than enough to motivate me to continue in the joy of my salvation.

Don’t allow the joy of your salvation to be stolen
by focusing on your spiritual shadow.

Focus on the Son and enjoy the work of the Spirit in your life.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for redeeming.  Thank you for sanctifying me.  Turn my eyes toward you and away from all my continued failings.  Father, keep my face turned towards, you as I walk in the light of your Son as I continue along the path of righteousness that you have laid before me.  Keep me from being discouraged by my spiritual shadow.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“BEING SPECIAL” – Oct 22

October 22, 2013

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

AirmanMagazine / Foter / CC BY-NC

With one last pull of my arm, I glided to the end of the pool, my other arm extended in front of me.  Now, that was a good swim.  I had just completed 2,000 yards of swimming without stopping.  I had considered doing some shorter sets due to how I had started my day.

The days have been getting shorter, which has affected by workout routine.  The sunrise no longer quick enough in chasing the night away for me to squeeze in a morning run before I have to leave for work.  Therefore, my wife and I have returned to Jillian.  We are back to doing the Jillian Michaels 90 day Body Revolution.

Doing an upper body, weight training workout in the morning is not performance enhancing for a lunch hour swim.  My satisfaction in my 2,000 yard swim stemmed from overcoming this new workout schedule.  I felt the effects of Jillian’s super-sets, 5 laps into my swim.  I could feel the energy drain from my shoulders on every pull.  The tightness in my triceps made keeping my elbows high a challenge.  I wanted to quit at 10 laps.  I was very glad that I pushed through for another 30 laps.  I did not have a great time but that was not the point.

I was feeling pretty good about myself as I bobbed at the edge of the pool.  I was the only lap swimmer in the pool.  I shared the pool with a group of intellectually disabled (ID) swimmers who come to enjoy the pool once a week.  After a short recovery, I pulled myself out of the pool.  My upper body was shot but the benefit was that I had a pretty good pump going.

istolethetv / Foter / CC BY

I admit that I was being rather vain as I admired my muscles.  I had pretty good definition in my shoulders.  I could see a distinct diamond in my triceps and I could discern a shadow of a vein in my bicep.  The excavation of my abdominals, while still incomplete was showing the ripple of a couple ribs so that was encouraging.

I probably peacocked a little bit as I headed into the shower.  I had just got all sudded up, still enjoying vainness of my pump, when I noticed someone walking through the shower.  I was in the process of washing the soap off of my head when this interloper spoke.  The water flowing over my head prevented me from hearing him clearly but it sounded like he said something about the Olympics.  “Well that is cool, he must think I’m of Olympic quality”, is what I thought but in my heart I knew that could not be.

I swiped the water from my head with a back of the head to chin motion.  My lack of immediate response motivated my admirer to repeat himself, only louder.  This time his question echoed through the shower, “Are you in the Special Olympics?”

Lost in vanity, my immediate response was a surge of indignation rushing up my spine.  In a flash, my mind raced through all the implications of this obvious insult.  Why would this guy think I was in the Special Olympics?  He must have meant, “Am I WITH the Special Olympics” maybe a coach, but that is not what he said.  He said, “Are you IN the Special Olympics?”  Where is he going with this?  Regardless of his motivation, I squared up to my intruder in a move of unreasonable machismo.

I took one more swipe across my eyes to clear my vision as I blurted out, an incredulous “what?”  In an instant, I felt rather foolish.  Standing across from me was a man in his mid-twenties.  He was over-weight with stooped shoulders that shrunk his 6’-3” frame.  He repeated himself again, “Are you in the Special Olympics?” with an innocent and sincere face that acknowledged that he was intending to compliment me.

I laughed to myself as I said, “no.”  I asked him if he had been in the Special Olympics because I now recognized that he was part of the ID group that I regular shared the pool.  I was quickly awash in his effusion of words explaining that he indeed was a Special Olympian and that he had won several events.  I smiled at his joy of participating in the Special Olympics and realized that, for him, there was no greater accomplishment than to be a Special Olympian.  My vanity vanished in the delight of this Special Olympian as I praised him of his accomplishments.

This little experience reminded me of how much we can miss due to our vanity.  I could have dismissed this young man based on a misunderstanding of an unintended insult.  I would have missed the blessing of his joy.  He would have missed being encouraged.  We both would have lost if my vanity had won.

Vanity emerges in so many aspects of our lives:

Preoccupation with our image,
Demonstrations of strength for the sole purpose of strength,
Bound to the home with the chains of imperfect make-up,
Demanding the fashionable,
Shouting to be heard,
Spewing sarcasm to be witty,
Logging deserved praise and inadvertent slights,
Relegating hospitality to a dust layer.

What are we afraid of?  Are we afraid that someone will view our Olympic caliber efforts as “Special”?  No one can withstand the relentless pressure of public opinion.  Living for the opinions of peers is like sitting in a pressure vessel at the bottom of the ocean.  The slightest crack in our façade allows all of those feared opinions to rush in and crush a fragile and vain self-image.

Everyone will eventually succumb to the pressure.

No matter how hard I work out, age will have its way with my physic.  My hair will eventually gray and fall out.  My skin will wrinkle and sag.  My world will fall apart if it is based upon other people’s opinion of my appearance, intelligence, abilities or anything else.  If I allow people to get too close, they will eventually see that I am not perfect.

Consider what has to be sacrificed to the pressures of vanity and the fear of human opinion.

God’ opinion is so much more important than any man’s.  Therefore, it is God whose opinion we should be concerned about.  Freedom from the pressure of our peers comes when we remember that we don’t need to worry about other people’s vain opinions.

We cannot please God and man.

Everyone must pick who they will live to please.

Everyone must decide whose negative opinion they will fear.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for being so vain.  Forgive me for often letting my vanity keep me from blessing other people.  You are the one whose displeasure I fear.  Help be to remember who I am in You.  Help me to value what you are making me into more than what the world wants me to be.  My hope is in you and not the opinions of my peers.  May all I do be pleasing to you.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“JUST A LITTLE HIATUS” – Sept. 8

September 9, 2013

“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.”  Proverbs 17:3

Summer must be coming to an end since I completed my last triathlon for this year.  It was a sprint distance that had us in the pool the night before the bike and run.  My preparation for this triathlon was the worst that I have ever done.  My hope was that the base that I had built over the summer of training for longer distances would carry me through.

English: Swimming event at an indoor triathlon...

English: Swimming event at an indoor triathlon. Volunteers record the total distance traveled as participants swim laps. The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The swim distance for a sprint triathlon is 500 yards.  I normally swim 500 yards (10 laps) in about 8 minutes and 30 seconds.  I hedged a bit and told the tri-event coordinator that I anticipated doing the swim in 8:40 minutes in order for her to prepare the swimming heats.  I really didn’t want the pressure of being put in with the fast swimmers so I gave her what I thought was a very attainable time. Work and life has gotten rather busy so my training has been irregular.  Irregular does not actually describe my ability to get to the pool.  I made it to the pool the day before my tri-swim for the first time in about two weeks.  It was a disappointing workout.  I swam 500 yards in 9 minutes.  I was way off my normal pace.  My stroke did not feel good.  Muscles were complaining like they were being required to do a completely new motion.  The feel for the water just seemed elusive.  I am surprised at the difference a couple of weeks can make.

Even though I was not really ready, I still showed up for the evening swim.  I experienced a sensation that I have never known at any other triathlon.  It was optimism.  After watching everyone warm-up, I thought, “I might actually be able to win this thing”.  It was such a foreign concept that I was not sure how to handle it.

Full Disclosure:  My optimism had more to do with the turn-out than my ability.

The turn-out for the triathlon was very low so there was only one heat.  Two lanes over was a teenage girl who appeared to be on a swim team.  I figured that she would be my main competition.  I have found to my chagrin that teenage swimmers, particularly girls, have this strange ability to skim across the water surface.  I was hoping that she did not know how to do that.  I don’t like to lose but losing to a teenage girl is particularly hard to take.

I was stuck in the outside lane.  I realized by my first lap that I had no idea where everyone else was.  I did not know if they were ahead of me or behind me.  I snuck a peek on one turn and it looked like I was ahead.  A deep breath and another push-off the wall and I was heading in the other direction.  A few laps later I caught a glimpse of swim-team girl.  She had caught me and was slightly ahead as we came to a turn.

After we came off of the wall, she was half a body length ahead of me.  She was just skimming right along.  My optimism of winning this event sunk as I lost sight of swim-team girl.  I pulled with what was left in my arms for the last 100 yards in hopes of salvaging a modicum of dignity in the ineventuality of being beaten by a teenage girl.

I touched the wall and heard my timer shout out, “8:32”.

Wow, that was a personal best.  I have never swam that fast.  The fact that I had swum a personal best eased the realization that not only had I been beaten by swim-team girl but I had been beaten by two other swimmers.  I had sure underestimated this field.  Evidently, they were much better swimmers than I had thought.

The results for the triathlon were posted late on the following day.  I was anxious to see my split times.  I had to double check my posted swim time.  It was not 8:32.  It was 9:32, a full minute off.  All the satisfaction of swimming a personal best was sucked into the vacuum of a personal worst.  I have not swum 500 yards that slow in probably over 6 months.

It is so frustrating to know that if I had swum what I had been consistently swimming, just three weeks ago, then I would have won by over 30 seconds.  My little training hiatus affected me more than I had thought it would.

Dusty Bible

Dusty Bible (Photo credit: Chelsea Flowers)

We often convince ourselves that we can take little spiritual hiatus’ with no measurable effect.  There is the temptation to lay aside our Bibles in an effort to manage the many demands upon our time.  The value of our prayer times seem diminished during those times when all we hear are the ramblings of our mind.  It is so easy to take a seat when obedience becomes a chore and God seems distant.  The temptation of a spiritual hiatus can seem strongest when God seems quiet. I have a tendency to forget about the refining value of tests that involve the quietness of God.  I can quickly recognize a test associated with moral temptations, conflict, or suffering.  I know how to engage in those spiritual trials.  However, I am always slow to recognize the testing of God when my soul feels parched.  I am often inclined toward distraction when the spiritual milk of God is hard to come by.

It is easy for me to slide into a spiritual hiatus when I am just not feeling it.  I feel the draw to set my Bible to the side when nothing comes easily to me through the reading of those precious words.  I wonder why the Spirit seems so far away and fear that He may never return.  In these time, I can become so lackadaisical about my spiritual walk.

I seek reassurance that a lackadaisical period will not really affect me; that a break from God will have no noticeable results.  After all, I have a really good spiritual base.

How foolish is that?

We should treat the quietness of God as a test of the same importance as any other of His refining tests.  The Lord tests our hearts in many ways and the answer to all of those tests is the same – faith.  We are to live by faith through temptations, conflict, suffering and the quietness of God.

A spiritual hiatus is the worst response to the quietness of God because it is the opposite of faith.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)  Our hopes and convictions are being tested as God weans us from the sweetness of His spiritual milk for a period of time.

Faith responds to dryness by returning us to our true hope and conviction.  Dryness forces the child of God to return to the promises of God.  The last thing we should do is drift or stagnate.  Nothing good will come from setting our devotion aside even for a short period.

The quietness of God is a refining that we must embrace through the grace of God even though we don’t feel it.  It is a testing necessary for our sanctification.

PRAYER: Lord, you know that I have not been “feeling it” much as of late.  Forgive me for mailing in so much of my time with You.  Forgive me for once again failing to recognise the test.  Lord, draw me close to You; send the refreshing sweetness of your Spirit.  Father, open my eyes to your word once again.  Feed my hungry soul.  However, if the test is not done, sustain me, O’ Lord.  Show me your promises; keep me on the firm foundation, keep me from wandering and drifting, keep me moving toward You.   Refine my mind, my heart, my soul.  Do your work in me.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“SHOWROOM OR NASCAR FAITH” – May 23

May 23, 2013

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”  Proverbs 14:4

1971 Chevrolet Corvette LT1

1971 Chevrolet Corvette LT1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I once went to a friend of a friend’s house and was shown his treasure.  In his garage, he had a treasure, whose value he was trying to protect from the deterioration of time and use.  A 1971 Corvette was quietly tucked under a car cover.  The car cover was gently pulled up to reveal paint that was unweathered by the sun and unchipped by road debris.  The engine compartment contained a massive powerplant that looked like the factory workers had just placed it in the harness of its engine mounts.  The Corvette looked brand new.

In essence, this car was still new despite its age.  The careful owner had put only 20,000 original miles on the car and it showed.  It was completely original, even down to the tires.  This car was the pride and joy of its owner who would only take his car out for a drive a couple times a year.

While I can appreciate the appreciating value that the lack of use was bringing to this vehicle, I have been a little dubious about the practice.  If I ever own a Corvette, I plan on driving that car.  It is a sports car.  It is meant to go fast.  It was designed to hug the curves of the road at speed.  The designers never intended for such a mechanized beast to sit, covered in a dark garage.  They built the car to be used and enjoyed.

I wonder how many people view their faith in a similar way.

1971 Chevrolet Corvette photographed at Auto c...

1971 Chevrolet Corvette photographed at Auto classique Montréal 2008. Category:Chevrolet Corvette C3 Category:Auto classique Montréal 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They practice their faith in such a manner as to maintain their spiritual piety above all else or they are so fearful of losing their salvation that they never put it to use.  Our faith is a gift to us for a purpose of the production of abundant fruit, to the glory of God.  We were never given our faith so that we could place it in a shrine and fuss over its condition.  It is meant to be used.  It is meant to be seen in action.  It is meant to be felt through compassion and love.  It is meant for the world to see God through us.

The practice of our faith is messy.

It causes us to get involved in other people’s lives.  It requires us to examine our lives and our loves.  It places us in arenas where our beliefs will be challenged.  It separates us from the normal.  A faith that is working drives a person to their Lord for nourishment and sustenance.  The person whose faith is active is a person who will get beaten up a bit.  They will get weathered by criticism and harsh words.  They may get dented by the hardened hearts that they crash into.  They will get chipped by the flying debris of hard landings.  They will get worn down by use.

When their period of service is over, they will not be a pristine showroom piece from the world’s perspective.

However, the world’s perspective is not what matters.  It is God who we are serving.  His perspective is all that matters.  He will see every one of our dents, our sun-bleached finish, our worn tires, our blown engine.  He will see these “blemishes” as brush strokes of His grace and mercy.  He will remember when He crafted each and every unique “imperfect” into His master plan.  He will know how His gift of faith was consumed to produce the abundant harvest that He has drawn to Himself.

racing at the spring NASCAR race at Bristol, #...

racing at the spring NASCAR race at Bristol, #49 Brent Sherman #48 Jimmie Johnson #95 Stanton Barrett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Consider a NASCAR race car. Those cars get all beat up in the course of a race; after all “rubbin’s racin'”. They will cross the finish line, almost out of fuel, with worn tires, and quarter panels smashed in.  A race is not about preserving the car for a showroom.  It is about winning the race.  Therefore, the racecar drivers push it to the limits.  They get into tight spots.  They rub up against their competitors.  They draft off of one another.  They use up their car.

God is not impressed with the pristine original quality of our faith.  God is impressed with winning the race and running well and hard.

Faith was given to us to take out of the security of the garage.  Our faith is meant to be used.  Our faith is meant to race.  I want to cross the finish line of my life, out of fuel, tires worn off, every quarter panel dented in, grill smashed, windshield broken, and engine blown.  I want my Lord to look at me and say, “I see you have been racing; well done good and faithful servant.  Enter your rest.”

May we hit the street and run hard through this life so that we are  ready for the junk heap when the number of our days are ended.  We will then have served the greatest purpose for which we were created; the reason for which we were give our faith – to glorify our Lord.

 Boggity, Boggity, Boggity, Lets go racing boys and girls!

 If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.
Thomas Aquinas

PRAYER: Lord, teach me to know your purposes.  Help me to value what you value.  Lord, use me.  Father, I want to bring to you a ten-fold harvest; force me out of the garage and into service for your glory.  Help me to walk every step of my life in your Spirit, to produce abundant fruit.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“THICK SKIN – FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT” – Mar. 2

March 2, 2013

“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.”  Proverbs 12:16

“You are going to have to grow some thicker skin.”

That is a saying that I have made to younger, discouraged, engineers on many occasions.  It was a statement that was made to me.  We usually receive this bit of wisdom after someone in our office has experienced a particularly harsh exposure to the public, delivered the bad news to a short-tempered contractor, or had to eat the fruit of a client’s bad day.

Unfortunately, rude and insulting people are not limited to the work environment.  The world seems to have an endless supply of rude and insulting people.  They are in stores, restaurants, automobiles, sporting venues, the internet, family trees, and the Church.  We have all clashed with that person.  If you have not, then you might be that person, which is a blog for another time.

“Thicker skin” is a universal need for everyone.

However, “thicker skin” is a misnomer.  It does not mean that if you have “thicker skin” you will not feel the intended sting of a particular insult.   “Thicker skin” means that we have the self-control to adapt, understand, and respond to the negative.

Just as we can get a bruise in our skin, we all can be bruised emotionally.  There are some who bruise easier than others.

Your day may be ruined mulling over the meaning of a snarky remark;

A nasty email may be pondered upon for weeks;

 A negative assessment may make you want to give up;

The critical opinion of one person may bankrupt your self-worth.

If you have ever felt anything like that, then you have been bruised emotionally.  Those are all examples of letting a bruise go too deep.  We all need to learn how to minimize the bruising.

The reality is that everyone knows when a “thin-skinned” person has been bruised because they let everyone know about it.  The Bible calls such a person a fool.  The fool is the person who immediately over-reacts to an insult and leaves a wake of destroyed relationships.  That is not the type of person we want to be.  We want to be the prudent person who has the ability to ignore an insult.

There are some who have developed the ability to ignore insults by not caring.  They don’t care what other people think about them so what they say doesn’t matter.  I have a difficult time squaring that attitude with the second greatest commandment.  I don’t know how I can “love my neighbor as myself” and not care about what they think of me.  We are to love people.

Others ignore insults by being so very confident in their own opinions that the negative opinions of others can simply be discarded.  The problem with that attitude is Proverbs 12:15, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

How can you ignore an insult without being unloving or arrogant?

“Thick-skin” is a fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Galatians 5:22

It is the Spirit that enables us to respond to rude and insulting people in the “prudent” manner.  It is a work of the Spirit in our lives to be able to love the snarky, to be patient with the aggressive, to be kind to the rude, to be gentle with the rough, to control ourselves when attacked.  Responding as Christ would respond is a gift from God.  It does not mean that we don’t feel the bruising but it means that our response is coming from God’s new creation within us.

I don’t have this down.  I do not demonstrate the fruit of “thick-skin” like I know I should.  Therefore, we need to be intentional about what we build into our lives that enhances our walking in the Spirit.

Know Where Your Worth Is

We need to keep the big picture in mind. Our worth lies in our relationship with God that comes through Jesus Christ. We can be called all sorts of things but that does not change how God sees us. It is when we start allowing people to assign our worth that we get bruised deeply. I do not seek my worth from any man. I am a wretched person. I know myself. My worth does not come from myself or other people. It is because of what Christ has done for me while I was yet a sinner that allows me not to be overly concerned with the detractors. Our worth is not of this world.

A Nurturing Core

We must not be a lone Christian.  We need other mature believers in our lives who love us and are there to support and encourage us.  These are not a group of “yes” men.  They are people who we know are for us and want the best for us.  They are persevering with us.  They are the ones who can tell us whether a criticism has merit or not.  They are advisors who can speak truth and wisdom into our lives.  The reality is that some of the insults that we receive may be true.  We need to have people in our lives who we know love us, agonize over potentially hurting us, and will still tell us the truth.  The wise person will have this core group.

Know Your Path

 We can so easily focus on the negative.  Our memories have an affinity for failures and stumbles.  We need to learn how to battle our own inner critic.  We need to preach to ourselves the faithfulness of our Lord.  We need to refresh our minds with the blessings that have been shown to us; those past victories and affirmations that our Lord has provided through us.  We need to treasure the assurances of our faith.  We are all imperfect and being sanctified.  We need to reassure ourselves of God working in our lives by acknowledging how far he has taken us.

Forgive Quickly and Completely

There are times when a bruise goes deep because it is simply piling onto a hurt that was never dealt with.  I have never found that time has helped me forgive.  The longer I wait the more opportunity there is for misunderstandings and bitterness.  The best medicine is forgiveness quickly applied.  Jesus forgave those who were crucifying him while He was being crucified.  Stephen forgave those who were stoning him while he was being stoned.  It is when we hold onto hurt and forgive partly, that we are quick to associate the negative and suddenly we are feeling something so much larger than the particular issue.

Know Yourself

We all need to be nourishing our souls and our bodies.  We need to know our spiritual well-being.  Since responding appropriately is a fruit of the Spirit, how are you doing in your walk with Lord?  If you have ground to a halt in your Bible reading, prayer life, worship, fellowship, then you are probably not going to be showing the fruit that you want.

We need to know our physical well-being.  Are you getting enough sleep, are you eating nutritious foods, are you exercising, are you sick?  We never respond well when we are worn down physically.

We need to know our personalities.  If you are not a quick thinker, then don’t put yourself into a debate.  If you have a tendency to be blunt, then don’t put yourself into a situation that requires an immediate response (sleep on it before shooting off that email).  If a particular person has a way of bruising you deeply, then position yourself so that they don’t have a clean shot at you.

This life is full of rude and insulting people who have the ability to bruise us.  It is inevitable that we will be bruised while we are out being faithful to the second greatest commandment – loving our neighbors as ourselves.  We will take some shots.

However, those bruises will not go deep enough to really hurt if we are walking in the Spirit, have the fruit of the  Spirit, and are wise about the paths that we take.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for those times where I have not responded as I should.  Forgive me for all of those time where I have allowed myself to be discouraged by an unkind or insensitive word.  Lord, I know that my worth is found in You.  I know that You love me.  I know that You are doing wonderful and good things through this life that I am in.  Lord, please continue your work of sanctification in my life.  Lord, I pray that all the fruit of your Spirit will be evident in my life.  Give me the “thick-skin” of  a child of God who is filled by your Spirit.     Amen

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