Sloths, Sluggards, and the Wisdom of Solomon

A three-toed tree sloth hangs from the trunk of a tree in the jungle on the bank of the Panama CanalAccording to research by the National Cancer Institute, they’ve found a link between fannies and fatalities. The hard fact is that your soft recliner can reduce your longevity, and the medical field is encouraging couch potatoes to get up and start exercising.

The NCI research looked at some 70,000 cancer cases and the research supports the thesis that that sitting is detrimental to your health. The harmful effects of sitting is associated with an increased risk of:
• colon cancer (24%)
• endometrial cancer (32%)
• risk of lung cancer(21%)

The research also indicates that sitting leads to obesity and vitamin D deficiency, and the two of these are associated with an elevated risk of colon cancer.

The dangers of inactivity have also been studied by Marc Hamilton (Inactivity Physiology Program at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana): “Skeletal muscles have an electrical activity in them when they’re working which is like the light switch that turns on all these healthy things in the muscles.”

Whenever you sit, your large postural support muscles, like the quadriceps and glutes, are inactive, and they don’t produce their normal “suite of beneficial molecules.” When active, these muscles are involved in the secretion of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase that acts like “a vacuum cleaner for fats in the blood stream.”

Even though he did not have the benefit of all this research, Solomon was well-aware of the dangers of inactivity and laziness, and he gave this advice:
• Proverbs 19:15: Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.
• Proverbs 18:9: He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.
• Proverbs 6:6-11: Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.

In an old song by Hank Williams Sr., he asked: “Are you walkin’ and a-talkin’ with the Lord?” That might prove to be a serious question. Instead of just sitting still, there may be a need to hit the treadmill while you fellowship with God.

The Blabbermouth Blues

bmouthGod, in His wisdom, gave us two ears and one mouth. By design, I believe we are to hear twice as much as we say, and we would probably get in twice as much trouble if we had two mouths and one ear.

To overcome the Blabbermouth Blues, James instructs us to speed up and to slow down: “Everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness (James :19).”

How do you develop the “slow to speak” skill? A good regimen to practice is a three question set. Before you speak, ask yourself:
• Is what I’m about to say the truth the whole and nothing but the truth?
• Is what I’m about to say kind, or is it degrading?
• Is what I’m about to say necessary and beneficial to the person to whom I’m speaking?

The wisdom literature of the Bible speaks about your manner of speech:
• Psalm 19:13-14: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
• Proverbs 16:24: Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
• Proverbs 29:20: Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Solomon draws a contrast in Ecclesiastes 10:11-13, and it show a cause and effect relationship concerning your speech: “A serpent may bite when it is not charmed; the babbler is no different. The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but the lips of a fool shall swallow him up; the words of his mouth begin with foolishness, and the end of his talk is raving madness.”

Here’s a little rhyme to think of the next time you are afflicted with a case of the Blabbermouth Blues:

Be careful of the words that you daily speak,
For you shall give account at the Judgment Seat.
Be careful of the things you say and do,
Or you’ll find your foot in your mouth,
And not in your shoe.

Relationship’s Three R’s

Wheat field sunriseWhen I read the Psalms, I get the idea that many of these believers were get-up-before- the-rooster-crows kind of people. They rarely missed a sun rise and enjoyed the early morning hours.

I see this theme in most of the Psalms and here as well: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days (Psalm 90:14).”

Henry Ward Beecher may have been reflecting on a similar verse when he said: “The first hour of waking is the rudder that guides the whole day.”

I encourage you to set a time to reflect on the three R’s of relationship that are found in the Psalms. These can act as a rudder to help guide your day:

• Relax in His peace: In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (Ps. 4:8).”
• Refresh yourself in His mercies: “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made (Ps. 145:9).”
• Rejoice in His love: “I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (Ps. 13:5).”

I’ll close with two verses that can summarize what I’ve written: “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:2-23)!”

Refocus and Reimagine

What Why When Dice Representing Questions And ChoicesWhen you went to bed last night, did you worry about tomorrow? When you woke up this morning was your mind filled with regrets from yesterday?

When your life is filled with worries and regrets focused on the past or the future, you rob yourself of the necessary strength to live in the present; and, the simple truth is this—your life can be filled with joy and peace?

If you had to rely on just internal resources, living a life of joy and peace could be difficult, but there’s good news— the God of hope will fill you with joy and peace in your faith, and it is by the power of the Holy Spirit, that your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope (Romans 15:13).

Seven words in the verse above give us the key to doing this: “by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you will fail when you try to live in just the power of your might and strength. The secret is to live in the power of the Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).

This is a principle that helped to guide David. In Psalm 16 he said, “I keep the Lord in mind always.” Because David did this:
• He praised the Lord who counseled him
• He could sleep at night because his conscience instructed him instead of worrying him
• His heart was glad, his spirit rejoiced, and his body rested securely
• He knew God would not abandon him and that he had the promise of Heaven
• He found abundant joy and eternal pleasures as he walked the path of life

The next time you find your mind full of worries and regrets, refocus your thoughts on this truth: “Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”

Getting By With Your Words

makephotogallery.net_1375761043-208x300A couple of days ago, I was reading a verse of Scripture, and it reminded me of my time in Palestine, Texas. At the close of the service one Sunday, a wonderful lady with a broken heart asked me to pray for her.

This elderly woman lived just around the corner from the church, and she had a reputation for being serious about her faith. Her request left me perplexed. I couldn’t imagine that she would ever commitment such a grievous sin that it would leave her so troubled.

I asked her, “Mrs. B, just what is that you want me to pray about and what have you done?” She replied, “Pastor, I need to repent because I’ve said a “by word.”

Due to my time in the military and working in the oil field, I knew a lot about cuss words, but I was a little mystified about a “by word.” To clarify the issue, I asked Mrs. B: “What is it that you said?” Her eyes filled with tears and she ducked her head and said: “Darn.”
I know it is a play on the words of Jesus, but when I read Matthew 12:37, I’m reminded of Mrs. B—“by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Mrs. B wanted to testify that her “by word” had left her squirming because her words didn’t edify and weren’t affirming. She knew her Bible, and she knew what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers (4:29).”

If you’ve ever read the book of James, it’s easy to see that he agrees with Paul concerning the power of the spoken word. James even says the tongue is the index of the heart, and it reveals your true nature and character:

• James 1:26: If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself.
• James 3:6: The tongue pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.
• James 3:8: No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

I’ve been in rooms where the air was blue because of salty language rolling off the tongues of angry and boisterous people. Sadly, swearing and cussing have become far too fashionable, and most people no longer worry about a “by word.”

Think about it: Can get you really get by with these kind of words, or did Jesus say they carry a high price tag? He said: “by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

More Than The Minimum

Excellence_Logo_resized_250x172-3The motto of some people is “do just enough to get by.” When I read the Bible, I don’t see that as the guiding principle espoused by the leaders of the early church.

When you read the words of Paul in I Corinthians 9, you hear a call to excellence and a charge to go the extra mile: “Do you remember how, on a racing-track, every competitor runs, but only one wins the prize? Well, you ought to run with your minds fixed on winning the prize! Every competitor in athletic events goes into serious training. Athletes will take tremendous pains—for a fading crown of leaves. But our contest is for an eternal crown that will never fade. I run the race then with determination. I am no shadow-boxer, I really fight! I am my body’s sternest master, for fear that when I have preached to others I should myself be disqualified.”

Paul always gave it his all, and he was determined to do more than the minimum. As a scholar of the Old Testament, Paul was familiar with the writings of Solomon, and he lived the principle of Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”

Notice the last 5 words of the verse above—“do it with all your might.” Why not declare this first day of the work week as Mighty Monday? Make a pledge to yourself that you will start the week off by giving it all your might and carry it forward and make this a week of excellence.

Here are five simple things you can do to help you live life above “the minimum”:
• Park your road rage, and yield to someone on your drive to work.
• Open the door and share an encouraging word with someone.
• Refuse to focus on a person’s negatives and lift them up in prayer.
• Express your appreciation and gratitude to someone you know.
• Give someone a “cup of cold water” in Jesus name (Matthew 10:42).

You can approach each of these tasks with confidence because you are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10).”

Mighty Monday is here. Do more than the minimum—Be excellent!

Your 3 Letters For Today

weedsI like a trim, neat, lawn that sports a luscious green carpet. A lawn like this can take a lot of work, so each year I reseed some areas, apply fertilizer to feed the lawn, and I treat it with a herbicide to control the weeds.

There are usually some places around the house where both grass and weeds are about as welcome as unwanted guests. To control their invasive growth, I spray them with an unhealthy dose of Roundup and they droop down and die.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires the manufacturers of these products to give clear directions concerning the correct mixture and application of these toxins. There is also a poison control label if you happen to ingest the product or get it in your eyes.

As Christians, we need to heed the EPA. In this case, EPA means: Exercise Prudence Always. The word prudence is a form of the Latin “prudentia,” and it carries the idea of “seeing ahead.” Prudence, therefore, is the ability to understand the ramifications of your actions and behavior and to impose appropriate self-discipline. Prudence allows you to manage the present so the future does not become a problem.

I don’t know about you, but I know I need prudence. I’ve come to realize that the only consistent thing about my life is my inconsistency. To manage inconsistency, a person needs a heavy dose of prudent self-discipline.

Paul listed some toxic behaviors that requires a person to Exercise Prudence Always:

• Colossians 3:5: Put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry
• Colossians 3:8: Put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth
• 2 Timothy 2:23: Reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels

Notice the strong language that Paul used as instructions for weed control: “ Put to death, put off, and reject.” Without these EPA guidelines, the weeds of life will rob your flower bed of its beauty; steal the nutrients from your garden; and, overrun your lawn.

When you Exercise Prudence Always, you need to do more than just get rid of the weeds. You also need to apply the right fertilizer. Here’s a mixture that will get you growing again: “Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:14-17).”

Your three letters for today are EPA—Exercise Prudence Always.

Pedal Power and Praise

hotternhellhundred-wheatfieldsOver the last couple of days, the streets and roads through Kansas have been dotted with bicycles and the support vehicles that follow them. This annual two-wheel pilgrimage of pedal-power has been made more difficult due to the high winds and the oppressive humidity.

Undaunted by the repressive forces of nature, these marathoners press on towards the finish line, refusing to quit. Their commitment to complete the course laid out for them, reminds me of the faithfulness of God—He is no quitter.

When David paused to consider the faithfulness of God, and His commitment to His people, he proclaimed that, “No one can fathom his greatness! One generation will praise your deeds to another, and tell about your mighty acts! I will focus on your honor and majestic splendor, and your amazing deeds! They will proclaim the power of your awesome acts! I will declare your great deeds!” ~Psalm 145:3-6

“Declaring the great deeds of God” can be a difficult task when you are distracted by an on-going situation. It might be a problem from yesterday that is still on your mind today; it could be that you overslept and got up late and are hurrying through your morning ritual; or, it could be that your wonderful little pet left you a surprise on the floor and you stepped in it as soon as your feet hit the floor.

Any event like the ones I mentioned will influence the way you start your day, but they do not have to determine how you will finish it. Even though David’s life was filled with heartaches, and trials, he did not allow them to skew his perception of God. David would look for God’s hand at work in his life, and praise Him for His faithfulness.

In Psalm 66 you hear David expressing this, and it is not done with a feeble voice, but with one that echoes across the sheep-filled valleys: “Shout out praise to God, all the earth! Sing praises about the majesty of his reputation! Give him the honor he deserves! Say to God: How awesome are your deeds!”

Why not give it a try today? Don’t succumb to a “woe is me” mental mindset. Instead, take a “wow is God” approach to your life today. Talk about His awesome deeds; give Him the honor He deserves; and, think of the majesty of His reputation.

Frazzled and Frayed

???????????????????????????????????????I hate it when I have to retire a favorite shirt. It’s the shirt that fits best, is the most comfortable, and just has a good feel whenever I wear it.

There comes a point when the shirt is moved from the wear on Sunday and to the office section of my wardrobe to the yard work section. When I notice a slight fray on the inside of the shirt collar, it signals a warning—prepare to retire this shirt.

The subtle but powerful culprit that eats away at the collar is my beard stubble. Even though my neck and the collar are well-acquainted, there is no affinity between the two because of the abrasive and constant presence of the beard stubble.

It’s a simple truth that beard stubble and shirt collars cannot coexist. They are like water and oil. You can stir them up and mix them together, but they will eventually separate; and, I know that, over time, the wear and tear of the coarse stubble will fray and tatter the soft collar of my shirt.

When I put my well-worn and favorite shirt on the other day, I noticed the frayed collar and said to myself: “What my beard did to this collar is the same thing sin does to my relationship with God.” Sin slowly eats away at the fellowship you have God, and it will wear you down and wear you out. Think about these relationship contrasts:

• As a Christian, you are formed and fashioned to walk in the light and not in the darkness ( I John 1:5-7).
• You are to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world (John 17:6-19).
• You are to focus your affections on the things above and not on the things below (Colossians 3:1-4).
• You are to “abhor” what is evil and “cling” to what is good (Romans 12:21).
• You are to “cast off” the darkness and wear “the armor of light (Romans 13:12).”

While it’s true that beard stubble can turn a shirt collar to rubble, it’s also true that when you’ve strayed from the path God has laid, you end up frazzled and frayed. You only have to read Psalm 1 to see a contrast that will confirm this.

The Perfect Pitch

Ted-Williams-Quotes-3Over the weekend, which happened to include Father’s Day, I listened to an interview that focused on a book written about Ted Williams. The book, written by Williams’ daughter, looks at one of the greatest hitters who ever played the game of baseball, and highlights some of the lessons this daughter learned from her father.

Williams spoke one time of his relationship with Rogers Hornsby who was also one of baseball’s greats. Williams said: Hornsby “treated me like a son, couldn’t have been nicer. And he gave me the greatest single piece of advice on hitting that I ever got: Wait for a good pitch to hit.”

To an impatient person like me, “wait” is a four letter word. It is, however, an important principle in a person’s relationship with God. Notice what the Bible says about waiting:

• Psalm 27:14: Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
• Isaiah 40:31: those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
• Romans 5:1-5: Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces patient endurance, patient endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Even though “wait” is a four letter word, it is one tht should be in your vocabulary, and the acrostic below helps to explain why:

Wisdom that is greater than yours: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).

Acknowledge there is strength that you need: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

Insight from Scripture that will guide you: I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path (psalm 119:1-4-105).

Trust in the goodness of Good: Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things (Psalm 107:8-9).

Waiting is difficult when there is no obvious reason for the delay, and being patient can appear to be a waste of time when no purpose is in sight; however, when something better is promised, and hope is just beyond the horizon, waiting on God might be the best use of your time.