Is That Rocky or Sylvester?

Sylvester_StalloneHow many people do you know who are named Sylvester?  I can think of two.  To be truthful, one of them is a cat.   I can only think of one other person named Sylvester, and he disliked his name so much that he never used it.

Thanks to the work of Randal S. Olson, I learned something new about my name last night.    I discovered that in the year I was born, there were 6,286 other people who were also named Stanley.  The good thing is that 4,963 of us are still alive.

There is really no significance to my name; however, there is a name that is incredibly important:

  • Philippians 2:9-11: God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
  • Acts 4:12: There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.

Do you want to learn a little more about your name?  Click here, and you can get started.

Texas-Sized Trauma

dating-scam-traumaOkies and Texans have had more than just a wet spring.  The recent floods have left them soaked, drenched, and thoroughly saturated.  They must feel like Noah retired to their states and God has called him out of retirement for a sequel:  The Flood Part Two.

The residents of these two states are feeling the aftermath of Texas-sized trauma.  At some point in their ordeal, at least a few of them must have wondered:  “Why is this happening to me?”

A truthful answer to such a question is about as easy to digest as a shoe leather tamale. To borrow from the words of Winston Churchill, it is so difficult to understand that it “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Trusting God when times are good, is easy; however, when adversity is knocking at the door it’s much harder.  These are the times when you choose to believe in spite of the heartbreaking circumstances, and your belief is rooted in the truth of the bible.

When a traumatic event buckles your knees, you can find some comfort in three substantial truths about the nature of God:

  • He is complete in His sovereignty
  • He is infinite in His wisdom
  • He is perfect in His love.

These truths are at the heart of what Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:  “God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep that it is impossible to explain his decisions or to understand his ways (Romans 11:33).”

Your reaction to calamity should not be controlled by your feelings.  Instead, your response should be grounded in the truth and promises of God:

  • In Corinthians 12:9, God said to Paul: “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.”
  • In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul said the peace of God is sufficient to sustain you in your anxious moments.

Solomon made an interesting statement that can be applied to this discussion:  “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).”

When your plans go awry, and the Lord’s purpose begins to prevail in some incomprehensible way, will you trust in His truth, love, wisdom, and knowledge?

The Happiness Secret

61rSjSmiZ1LEven though I’ve never watched a full episode of Duck Dynasty, I do know the motto of the main character on the show.  Phil Robertson often says:  “Happy!  Happy! Happy!”

Have you ever given any thought to the source of happiness?  The ancient philosopher, Aristotle tried to answer this question.  He believed the most important factor in an effort to achieve happiness is to have a good moral character:  “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life (Nicomachean Ethics).”

Happiness is not an on-going quest for instant gratification.  It is, however, the product of a disciplined life that has been focused on the practice of the virtues.

To be content, your life needs to be filled with the right content.  A good example of this is seen in a contrast of Abraham and Lot.  After a family feud, Abraham allowed Lot to claim the well-watered and fertile plains of Jordan as his territory. Lot turns his herds and servants in that direction, and after a brief period of time, he has “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”  Genesis 13 describes this city and its inhabitants as exceedingly wicked.

The difference between these Lot and Abraham is seen in the word content.  Lot’s tent (life) was full of conniving desires that led him away from the virtues of God; however, the story of Abraham was much different:  His tent (life) was content as he delighted in the goodness of God.

Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • How happy am I?
  • Does the content of my life help or hinder lasting contentment?

As you think about these questions, read this excerpt from Psalm 1:  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

Is happiness an accident, or is it the result of a life well-lived?

A Simple Prayer

pathways_of_lightOne of my favorite characters in the Old Testament is a man named Samuel.  In I Samuel 12:23, he vowed that he would “. . . not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.”

With this in mind, I offer a simple prayer for you today:

May God guide your feet when you meet a fork in the road; may He give you strength to behave and be brave when you face the enemy; and, may He give you the ability to wait patiently when under the weight of a trial.

May the Lord bless you and watch over you; may He smile on you and be kind to you; and, may the Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

Amen

Please share this prayer with those you know.

Is A Name Just A Name?

Hello_my_name_is_sticker.svgLike many people, Psalm 23 is a favorite of mine.  As I was reading it earlier today, the last four words of  verse 3 caught my attention:  The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

When left to themselves, those last four words, “for His names sake” are just a vanilla phrase.  To really see the beauty of God, it helps to take a quick look at His name.  As written in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, the names of God are colorful and explicit in their terminology, and they emphasize the way He interacts with His creation:

  • Jehovah-rophe (the Lord who heals you)
  • Jehovah-raah (the caring Shepherd)
  • Jehovah-jireh (the will provide)
  • Jehovah-shalom (the Lord is peace)

Take these four names of God and make a personal application to your life:

  • When you are struggling with emotional or physical issues, you can call out to Jevovah-rophe.
  • When you feel like you’re alone and no one cares, Jehovah-raah is present.
  • When you don’t know where to turn or what to do, Jehovah-jireh will provide.
  • When the world seems to be shattered and crumbling beneath your feet, Jehovah-shalom is the peace in the eye of the storm.

I hope a focus on “his name’s sake”  will be at the center of your thoughts today.

Today I Will

tattly_jen_mussari_today_is_the_day_web_design_01_grandeAs I was thumbing through one of my files, I found a quote from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.  In September of 1999 Talk Magazine listed him as one of the 50 best speakers in the United States.

During a lecture on the power and often negative impact of words, Rabbi Telushkin said:  “If you cannot go for 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol.  If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine.  Similarly, if you cannot go for 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you’ve lost control of your tongue.”

Have you lost control of your tongue?  Compare your verbal interactions with others to the verses below:

  • James 3:10 “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
  • Proverbs 8:7-8”For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them.”
  • Psalm 10:7 “His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.”
  • Psalm 71:8 “Let my mouth be filled with Your praise And with Your glory all the day.”
  • Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

As you think about what the good Rabbi said, and as you consider the Scripture above, I hope you’ll say:  “Today I will . . .

  • Slow down enough to consider how I speak to my precious family.  I will remember to thank God for each one of them. I will not curse them.  I will bless them.
  • Reflect the goodness of God and determine to be a conduit of His grace and love.
  • See the needs of others, and help bear the burden of those who are overloaded with grief, sorrow, or some trial.

Let me suggest that you use the words of the following Psalm as a prayer for today:  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”

Versions and Perversions

images (4)After listening to some of the comments from the presidential hopefuls in the recent Iowa Straw Poll, I think a name change is in order.  Because the brief speeches revealed some weaknesses, it might be more accurate to call it the Flaw Poll.

Sometimes political speeches disintegrate into a form of mindless banter, and the candidate’s version of the facts is a perversion of what is true.  Winston Churchill said: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

Truth is not created. It is discovered.  Whenever you find someone trying to fabricate the truth, you have discovered a lie.

The difference between the truth and a lie is as simple as the letters “d” and “i.”  When you add them to version, you get a di-version from the truth.  You allow your emotions, wants and desires to turn you aside from the correct course or you yield to the biased opinion and false argument of another you are misdirected.

This was the problem that Paul was addressing when he wrote to the Christians at Galatia (1:6-9):

I can’t believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message! It is not a minor variation, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God. Those who are provoking this agitation among you are turning the Message of Christ on its head. Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven!—were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed. I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.  ~The Message

There is a close connection to the degeneration of society and the proliferation of lies.  This is one reason Paul warned the Galatians: Any diversion from the principles of God is a perversion of the truth.

Before you yield to the new and ideal, you might want to compare it to the tried and true: “We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy of every chance wind of teaching and the jockeying of men who are expert in the craft presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ (Ephesians 4:14 Phillips).”

In God We Trust

In-God-We-TrustIt jingles and jangles in a jar, and it rattles around in your pocket or coin purse.  It bears the message, “In God We Trust.”

While you are well-aware of the inscription on your coins, is that motto your life theme?  Do you trust in God?

Let me rephrase the question:  “Can you trust in God?”  Is the character of God worthy of your trust?

When you read the Psalms, it is very clear that the writers of Scripture believed in the trustworthiness of God:

  • Psalm 9:10: Those who know your name trust you, O Lord, because you have never deserted those who seek your help.
  • Psalm 13:5: But I trust your mercy. My heart finds joy in your salvation.
  • Psalm 37:3,5: Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness . . . Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
  • Psalm 56:4: In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?

After you have given some consideration to the verses above, the next question for you is, “Will I trust in God?”

Solomon said that you are to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).”

When the wise sage said you are to “lean not” he was saying that you are not to prop yourself up with you own wisdom.  Instead you are to “acknowledge” or trust God and allow Him to “direct your paths.”

The next time you pull a coin out of your pocket, take the time to read the inscription: “In God We Trust.”  Then examine your life and ask yourself:  “Am I trusting God?”

A Better Way

images (3)I recently made the comment that, “Sometimes we sacrifice the best because we are content with just the good.”  I think it was Saint Jerome who said:  “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.”

If my memory serves me well, it was Ernest Hemingway who said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

The business of being better is discussed in several places in the Wisdom Books of the Bible.  My Top 10 list of verses follows below:

  1. Psalm 37:16: A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.
  2. Psalm 118:8: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
  3. Proverbs 15:16: Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble.
  4. Proverbs 15:17: Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.
  5. Proverbs 16:8: Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice.
  6. Proverbs 16:16: How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
  7. Proverbs 16:19: Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
  8. Proverbs 16:32: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  9. Proverbs 17:1: Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.
  10. Proverbs 19:1: Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

I hope these verses serve as a motivator to get you started in the pursuit of betterness.  Once you get started, you can develop the habits that will keep you going.

Indexing The Heart

images (2)Many years ago, I was told that good speakers have at least three characteristics in common:  They stand up, speak out, and sit down.

The book of Proverbs is full of good principles for you and the way you speak.  Proverbs 4:24 is a good example:  “Remove dishonesty from your mouth. Put deceptive speech far away from your lips.”

When you consider the underlying principles of this verse, you see that:

  • Dishonesty needs to be removed: Whenever it moves in you need to move it out.
  • Dishonesty is a nasty dish of lies that should never be allowed to nest in your mouth.
  • You should never be receptive to deceptive speech: Put it far away from your lips.

In Proverbs 10, Solomon highlights the benefit of wholesome speech:

  • The mouth of a righteous person is a fountain of life (verse 11).
  • The tongue of a righteous person is pure silver (verse 20).
  • The lips of a righteous person feed many (verse 21).

If you’ll take the time to compare the words of Solomon to the teachings of James, you’ll see a well-defined contrast:

  • Solomon likened the tongue of the righteous to pure silver.
  • James said the unrighteous use of the tongue will “defile the whole body.”

Listen to the manner in which you speak and the tenor of your conversation.  When you become more aware of what you say and how you say it, you get a better idea of the real you.  This is because your speech or your tongue is the index of your heart.