Archive for the ‘Proverbs’ Category

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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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PLAYING WITH KILLER WHALES – Dec. 26th

December 26, 2012

“All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.” Proverbs 7:22-23

I think I need to stop watching the “Frozen Planet” documentary on the Discovery Channel. I watched one of the episodes a couple of days ago and I am still a little disturbed.  The scene that has gotten stuck in my mind was of a seal being caught by an orca (killer whale). This seal had put on a great chase; it had balanced on a chuck of ice that the whales kept spinning in an attempt to toss him off; then the seal made a break for a larger ice pack and safety and he made it. Only, he was not careful and in utter exhaustion had stayed too close to the edge of the ice. The seal had thought he was safe but an orca was still able to raise out of the water and bite the seal’s tail that was still within reach and slowly drag it to its death.  It is the eyes of the seal as it is drug to its death that are so disturbing. frozen-planet-orca-drowns-seal-590x350

There is nature for you. If someone is suffering under the delusion that nature is full of peace and tranquility, then they need to watch one of these nature documentaries. The peace and tranquility that one may experience in nature is a very small slice of that reality. I love to visit nature – hiking in the woods, camping along a lake, climbing to the top of peaks, skiing down a mountain slope.

I have no desire to get back to nature; things get eaten in nature.   My preference is to be at the top of the food chain and in nature that is not guaranteed. A seal is a predator of fish and penguins one day and the prey of a pod of ocras the next.  Our civilized societies protect us from much of the harsher dangers of nature.  I like that protection of suburbia.

It seems to me that we are in a spiritual environment that is more like the Alaskan wilderness than suburbia.  Proverbs warns of a young man becoming prey. This foolish young man wandered too close to the edge of the ice.  He wandered out at night and into a neighborhood where he was prey.  His defense against the woman, wily of heart, was that of a seal against an ocra. He was doomed when he first heard her smooth words – an ox to the slaughter.

It is such a graphic picture. Man caught in the powerful jaws of sin. The majority of the yielding to sin is the slow dragging to the actual act that resulted from wandering too close to the edge of the ice.  It does not matter all that much if it was an inadvertent wandering or a wanton wandering – the difference is between being foolish or naïve.  The result is the same.

So often, we pray, “Lord give me strength to endure this temptation.”  We should be praying, “Lord, keep me from temptation.”  “Lead us not into temptation” – means, “ keep me away from the edge of the ice.”

I am reminded of a tale that I heard when I was young about avoiding temptation:

120529095506-golden-jubilee-horizontal-gallery“A long time ago there was a king in search of a driver for his queen’s carriage. The king and queen lived in a castle high atop the tallest mountain in the land. The road was very dangerous with steep dropoffs and ledges so the king wanted only the best driver to escort the queen. The three best drivers in all the land were brought before the king for interviews. One by one the drivers were brought before the king and asked the same question. “If you were the driver of the queen’s carriage, how close to the edge could you get without the carriage falling off a cliff?” The first driver thought for a minute and answered the king;”I could drive the queen’s carriage twelve inches from the edge without fear of going over.” The king thanked him and asked for another driver. The second man answered, “I could drive the queen’s carriage six inches from the edge without fear of going over.” The king also thanked that man and asked to see the last driver. Upon being asked the same question as the other two, “if you were the driver of the queen’s carriage, how close to the edge could you get without the carriage falling off?” the last driver without hesitation answered: “If I were the driver of the queen’s carriage, I would drive as far away from the edge as possible to ensure the safety of the queen.” Needless to say, that driver became the queen’s driver for years to come. (Unknown) http://www.khkma.com/news/13/a-king-and-his-carriage-a-story-about-character

There are so many out there that think they can play around with sin.  They enjoy the excitement of skirting the edge of the ice. They play games with the orca of sin to see if it will catch them and then they are surprised when it happens. We need to treat our faith and relationship with God as the treasure that it truly is – it is as valuable as the Queen’s life.  The only reasonable course is to stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as possible to ensure your safety.

After all, it is just your faith you’re playing with.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for all the temptation that you have kept me from.  Thank you for keeping me from temptations that you know that I could not resist.  Father – forgive me for dabbling on the edge of temptation.  Forgive me for not valuing you and desiring a taste of what this world is selling.  Forgive me for deceiving myself into think that there is no price to pay for sin.  Lord – lead me not into temptation; rescue me from my foolishness; teach me how to flee to your protection.   Amen

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