Weighing Your Options

download (1)In a post I made to this blog last week, I wrote about character and reputation.  I cited Romans 5, and I called your attention to a cause and effect link:  “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.”

Over the weekend I reflected again on the words of Paul, and I remembered a story that Billy Graham tells.  It’s a good illustration of how God can use the suffering you encounter in your life.

The incident occurred during the Great Depression, and Graham spoke of a friend who had lived a life of hardship.  The man had lost his job, his wife, his home, and his fortune.  This Christian could not comprehend the purpose of his suffering, but he didn’t let his trials shake his faith.

While walking by a church one day, he stopped to watch some masons as they worked.  One of the men was chiseling a triangle shaped piece of stone, and Graham’s friend asked him: “What are you doing?”  The workman replied:  “See that little opening near the top of the spire? I’m chiseling this stone down here, so it will fit in just right up there.”

As Graham’s friend walked down the street, his eyes filled with tears and he smiled.  He realized that God was using his suffering as a chisel down here, so some day he would fit in up there.

Paul said:  “For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

When your heart aches, I hope you will find some comfort in the promises of Psalm 27:1, 14: The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!

I’ll close with this thought:  When you wait on the Lord, He lifts the weight of the world.

Building Character

“Because I gave him my word” was the answer to the question I had just asked.  The question was, “How does he know you will pay him?” It was an interesting conversation, and one that I’ve remembered for almost 50 years.

Even though the word “reputation”was not used, it was the subject of the discussion.  Pop finished the conversation with this statement:  “A man is only as good as his word.”

I posted a comment about reputation to my Facebook page yesterday:  People wouldn’t have to spend so many minutes protecting their reputation, if they would pause for 60 seconds to guard their character.

You can read the character-focused Scripture I’ve provided below in less than 60 seconds:

  • Proverbs 22:1:  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
  • Ecclesiastes 7:1:  “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.”
  • Hebrews 11:1-2:  “Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see. It was this kind of faith that won their reputation for the saints of old.”

It was Helen Keller who said:  “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

The quote above reminds me of Romans 5:1-5:

Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.  Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Do you see the cause and effect links in the verses above?  “Suffering produces endurance,  and endurance, character, and character, hope.”  



Character_Building (1)
I’m not sure that Paul would agree with Calvin’s dad, but you may have the opportunity to build some character with snow in the forecast for this weekend.

Study to Show: A Lesson on Diligence

shhhhh-quiet-everyone-study-wallpaperAs I was studying last night, my focus turned to 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (KJV).”

The verse begins with the word “study,” and it finds its origin in the Greek word spoudazō. This word is frequently translated with the primary meaning of being “diligent.”

Paul’s instruction to Timothy was “Study to show…”  When I reflected on these three words it occurred to me that a lack of study also shows—diligence and negligence are polar opposites.

There are three different times that Paul used a form of spoudazō in his instructions to Timothy and Titus (2 Timothy 4:9, 21; Titus 3:12).  In each of these three cases, spoudazō is translated, “Do your best.”

When you read 2 Timothy 2:15, you can see three results of doing your best and being diligent in your study of God’s Word:

  • You receive God’s approval.
  • You will not be embarrassed or ashamed.
  • You “rightly divide the word of truth.”

The two words “rightly divide” are also interesting because they come from a Greek word that is only found once in the New Testament, and it is in this verse.  The word is handling or “orthotomeō,” and it means, “to cut straight; to set forth truthfully, without perversion or distortion (Munce).”

It is translated:

  • “Rightly handling the word of truth” in the English Standard Version.
  • “Handling the word of truth with precision” in the International Standard Version
  • “Correctly teaching the word of truth” in the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

To explain this verse I have often used the example of a carpenter making a straight cut through a piece of wood; however, last night I thought of this verse in a different setting. large_2009-06-23-Alliance-Stadium-grass

I think a better illustration of “rightly dividing the word of truth” is the well-manicured and carefully cut outfield of a baseball stadium.  These works of art are the result of a focused and concentrated effort that involves the use of the right equipment and allotting the proper amount of time to finish the task.

I’ll leave you with this thought:  How does your study show?

Is That Kitty A Cat?

When discussing the pros and cons of some item or subject matter, you want to make sure you are not comparing apples to oranges.  I was reminded of this last week when working a crossword puzzle.  The clue was “kitty.”  The answer required a three letter word, so I wrote “cat.”  After working other parts of the puzzle, I came to the conclusion that “cat” was wrong and the correct answer was “pot.”cross-eyed-cat

The synapse in my brain had created a visual image of an animal, but the clue was correlated with gambling:  When you place a bet, you add to the “kitty” or the “pot.”

I asked myself:  “If the clue had been “pot,” what would I have answered?  I doubt I would have associated it with gambling.  Some people may have thought of marijuana or weed, but since I like to eat, I would have thought of pots and pans for cooking.

When I think of “pot,” I also think of Jesus.  He stirred the theological pot with each one of His “I Am” statements.  Whenever Jesus said “I AM” He was making a Messianic claim, and this angered the Pharisees:

  • “I am the bread of life” (6:35, 41, 48-51)
  • “I am the light of the world” (8:12, 9:5)
  • “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, 9)
  • “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep” (10:11,14)
  • “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25)
  • “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6)
  • “I am the true vine” (15:1,5)

Jesus also brought the pot to a boil when He overruled the powers of nature and performed the following miracles:

  • Jesus changed water into wine at a wedding feast (2:1-12).
  • Jesus healed the son of a royal official (4:43-54).
  • Jesus healed a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years (5:1-15).
  • Jesus multiplied seven loaves and fishes to feed the 5,000 people (John 6:1-5).
  • Jesus walked on water and calmed the waves to rescue his disciples (6:16-24).
  • Jesus healed a man born blind, giving him sight (9:1-12).
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44).

There are people today who will say Jesus was a good man and a religious teacher, but they deny that He is the Son of God and Savior of the world.  There’s a problem with this line of thinking.  A good man and a religious teacher with high morals would not make false claims about the essence of his being.

This leaves three options.  Either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or He is the Lord.  If I had to throw my chips into the “kitty” or the “pot,” I’d go all in on Jesus:  He’s my Lord and Savior!

The Voice is Your Voice

The-VoiceLast night I had my TV tuned in to ESPN, so I could watch the Kansas State Wildcats play the Kansas Jayhawks in a game of basketball.  During a commercial break, I quickly flipped through the channels and found The Voice playing on channel 3.

NBC describes The Voice as “the Emmy Award winning, number one series on NBC, featuring the country’s best unknown artists and four of the biggest names in music as coaches.” Due to the success of the program judges Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, Christiana Aguilera, and Blake Shelton have become household names.

The title of the show, The Voice, reminds me of the words of Psalm 5:1-4: “Listen to my words, O Lord, and consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, for to You I will pray. My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.”

There is a voice that God listens for throughout each and every day of the Earth’s existence, and it is your voice.  God listens to your words, and He considers your concerns.

When you read this Psalm, you can discover several things:

  • The details of the prayer: It was not some haphazard exercise, but there was an appointed time to meet with God—“in the morning.”
  • The determination and discipline of the prayer: “I will pray” not “I might pray.”
  • The direction of the prayer: It was directed towards God (Jeremiah 33:3).

The difference between “The Voice” and “Your Voice” is this:  You have never had to compete to get the Judge to hear you voice and to get His attention.  You can approach Him boldly in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16), and you can have the confidence of knowing He always hears your voice: “The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.  The Lord has heard my appeal for mercy; the Lord has accepted my prayer (Psalm 6).”

…..Please feel free to share this link and this blog with your family and friends…..

An Instrument of God

images (5)When I read John 9 this morning, seven words popped into my mind:  “The absence of Jesus demands my presence.”

When faced with the dilemma of a blind man, Jesus said:  “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (John 9:5).”  Because He is no longer in the world, I am responsible to proclaim the principles of light in a world of darkness.

God has equipped you and me for this ministry.  Peter said:  “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:9 ~Amplified Bible).”

This theme was developed in the life of Noah who Peter referred to as a “preacher of righteousness.”  The world had witnessed wickedness, but God called Noah out of that darkness and into his marvelous light.  Noah was chosen to speak of the excellent qualities of God that were revealed in a single word picture—the rainbow.

In the language of the night and day or light and darkness, The Message emphasizes ythe ministry of those God has chosen:   “You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”

Last week I spoke to a friend that I had not seen in several months.  I said:  “Good to see you.”  He replied:  “Good to hear you.”   He has lost what most of us take for granted—the ability to see.  His blindness gives him the unique perspective to contrast the experiential difference between light and darkness.

In a spiritual sense, the believer also has a unique perspective.  He has been “chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (GWT Version).”

It is difficult to explain the wonderful sweetness of honey to someone who has only tasted the sourness of a lemon. Because you have lived in a sour world and tasted the sweetness of God’s Spirit, you are God’s instrument and you have been chosen to reveal the “night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”

A Radical Life and a Twinkling Star

starry sky at nightRadical is the title of an interesting book written by David Platt. It contains several compelling statements that have a Great Commission orientation:  Platt said, “Jesus has not given us an effortless step-by-step formula for impacting nations for His glory.  He has given us people.”

The closest thing to a formula is found in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8,  but these verses are more of a road map than they are a formula. To have any hope of accomplishing the Commission Christ gave His church, we need to live the life of a disciple.

Platt said Jesus has given us people, and we are to: “Live for them. Love them, serve them, and lead them.  Lead them to follow me, and lead them to lead others to follow me.  In the process you will multiply the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

Because we are living in the age of “me, myself, and nobody else,” this concept is contrary to what many people practice.  With this mindset, it is no wonder that society does not comprehend principled New Testament living.

Is there a glaring omission of the Commission and its principles in your life?

  • Are you living a selfish or selfless lifestyle?
  • How is God’s love for the world seen in your ministry to others?
  • Does your example impede, or does it lead people to Jesus?
  • What about your conversation? Does it deny or multiply the power of the gospel?

If you live, love, and lead people with a servant’s heart, you can identify with the words of Daniel 12:2-3:  “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Does your life brightly shine for God’s glory?

29 More Days

2010_01_21_blog_seed_catalogs-008With the foul weather, frigid temperatures, and bone-chilling wind, it’s hard to believe that the first day of Spring is about a month way.  Proof of this is the frequent appearance of seed catalogues in my daily mail.

Bright red roses and other fragrant flowers will soon be in full blossom.  As the buds of these plant begin to form, gardeners will sniff about them in anticipation of their pleasing aroma.

The scent of a flowering plant is designed to attract insects for the purpose of pollination.  In 1953 chemists could only recognize 20 of the chemicals in a rose’s fragrant bouquet, but now they can identify 1,700 different scent compounds.

The sweet fragrance of flowers reminds me of a couple of verses in the Bible:

  • In Revelation 5:8, John speaks of “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
  • In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul encourages us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children, and to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

I’ll leave you with a question to consider:  Are you know for raising a stink or for a life that is “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God?”

What KitKat Learned From Adam and Eve

kit kat bigThe Washington Post ran an article titled CRISIS IN CHOCOLATELAND.  The article discusses the 5 “power” sectors of the grocery store checkout line.  These areas are lined with “grab-and-go items that account for 4% of a stores profit.

Because the checkout process has been sped up. Shoppers are not lingering-longer.  The result is the average shopper is not buying as many of the grab-and-go items, and this has decreased the sales of companies like Hershey’s.

Evidently Frank Jimenez, Hershey’s senior director of retail evolution, has been reading the Bible.  Some of the comments made by Jimenez sound suspiciously like the temptation of Adam and Eve.

Jimenez uses the “Eight Human Truths of Impulse” to explain why people succumb to checkout-aisle-urges. The goodies can delight, indulge, recharge or “rescue”; they can spoil (“I worked hard today”) or charm (“That’s a great idea”) . . .”

The key metric that determines whether or not a shopper purchases the sweet delight is called “dwell time.”  The longer the shopper waits in line and looks at the goodies, the more likely she is to indulge

If you’ve read the story of Adam and Eve, you know that when it comes to temptation, “dwell time” is don’t-do-well-time.  The longer Eve dwelled and listened to the sales pitch, the more attractive the forbidden fruit became:  She could smell its fragrance and imagine its flavor.

The moral of the story is this:  When temptation comes your way, don’t abide—run and hide.  Paul stated this moral in these words:  “No temptation has come your way that is too hard for flesh and blood to bear. But God can be trusted not to allow you to suffer any temptation beyond your powers of endurance. He will see to it that every temptation has a way out, so that it will never be impossible for you to bear it (I Corinthians 10:13).”

A One Second Lesson On Birds and Bees

Honeybee_landing_on_milkthistle02One second of your life will pass into history in the time it takes you to say: “One thousand one.”  Interesting and amazing things can happen in a brief moment of one second:  A beekeeper will tell you that a bee flaps his wings 230 times every second that he is hovering over a flower.  This is much faster than the hummingbird that flaps its wings about 70 times a second and a little faster than the tongue-flapping town gossip.

Take another second or two to read these one second statistics.  Every second:

  • 8,613 tweets are posted on Twitter
  • 1,771 photos are uploaded to Instagram
  • 1,669 “phone” calls are made on Skype
  • 46,610 searches are made on Google
  • 96,225 videos are watched on YouTube
  • 2,372,740 emails are sent

Time is a frequent topic of discussion in the Bible:

  • Psalm 144:4: “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”
  • Psalm 90:10: “The days of our lives are seventy years; and, if by reason of strength they are eighty years; yet, their boast is only labor and sorrow.”

These verses speak of the brevity of life, and the Bible as a whole challenges you to live a full life that honors God.  Perhaps it’s time to take a second to do a firsthand review of your life, and compare your perspective to Paul’s:

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] ~Philippians 3:10 ~Amplified Version

How many seconds of your life do you devote to “progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with” Jesus?