The Sins of My Youth

I attended a workshop in Newton several years ago. As an ice breaker, the presenter asked: “Please reveal something about yourself that will be a surprise to the rest of the class.” When my turn came, I said: “I am probably the only one here who has been taken to the edge of town by the Newton police and told to never come back, so please don’t tell them I am here.”

I think of that incidence and others when I read Psalm 25:7: Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord are good.”

The surprising thing about this verse is not the possibility of feeling God’s hand of judgment. What I find to be so amazing is the wonder of God’s grace and mercy. In His grace, he gives me what I do not deserve–salvation. In His mercy, he does not give me what I do deserve–judgment.

The grace and mercy of God are the extravagant dimensions of God’s love. When the Apostle Paul contemplated this, he encouraged the Ephesians to: “Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God (The Message, Ephesians 3:14-19).”

So, what is your concept of God? Is he just a God who points a guilty finger at you, or is He the God who wraps you up in his arms of amazing grace?

Hope this thought warms you on this cold February day.

Lettuce and Porcupines

imagesOne day during the worship service a little boy leaned over to his mother and whispered in a loud voice: “I hate lettuce!” The mother was perplexed by the off the cuff comment for just a moment and then she realized her son had heard but misinterpreted what the preacher had said. Her son heard “lettuce,” but the preacher had said “let us.”

In Hebrews 10, Paul uses “let us” three times:
1. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith
2. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering
3. Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works

The verses above are from the old King James Version which can be interesting because it uses the English of 1611. Notice the word “provoke” in #3 above. The usage of this word in 1611 was different than it is in 2013. Today we generally think of provoke as something negative; however, the way it used in this verse is positive. It is the idea of encouraging another person to do what is right.

How do you provoke people? Are you a porcupine who keeps people at a distance or needles them until you get your way? This is the approach that many people take in their relationships.

The preferred means of provoking is more of a golden retriever approach. This is a warm, fuzzy, and affirming relationship that builds people up and encourages them.

Think about it–How do you provoke people?

Hang Out and Hang On

I have a bit of an infatuation with bungee cords, ropes, and ratchets. When I go into a hardware store, I will usually look to see if there is some new gadget to help secure whatever I have bouncing around in the bed of my truck. I look for that special something that is not too long but not too short; high load strength; and, ease of use is critical.

I think I am in good company because even Solomon, who was declared to be the wisest man, said: a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Solomon knew that a single string was not as strong as three strings that are intertwined and woven together. This is a good life principle—don’t let your life hang by a single thread.

Let me share a couple of threads to consider weaving into your life. The first of these is the bible. Paul warned that we should not allow anyone to cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Col 2:8-9). Instead, we should embrace biblical principles: the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

The second thread is authenticity. People who are real and authentic stand in stark contrast with what we usually see in the media today. Reality TV is anything but real—it is staged. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians, he said: there was never a time that we tried to deceive you with the use of flattering words, nor a cloak for covetousness. Paul was effective because he was authentic.

A third thread for your consideration is the concept of grace. A quote out of The Message from Colossians 3 explains this well: chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Give these three threads some thought. Weave them together and find the strength to hangout and hang on.