Archive for the ‘Proverbs’ Category

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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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