Fashionista or Functionalist

home-juradoNo one has ever accused me of being a fashionista.  I’ve always preferred blue jeans over a three-piece suit; and, instead of wearing patent leather wingtips, I’d rather wear tennis shoes or boots.

This is why you might find it surprising that I took some interest in a fashion slide show: What People Were Wearing the Year You Were Born is geared more to women than it is to me, and it gives a visual history of what has been in style for the last 100 years.

While I do have my Sunday-go-to-meeting-clothes, I also have different sets of clothing that I wear depending on the occasion.  Instead of being a fashionista, I guess I’m a functionalist.  I don’t wear my Muck boots to church, but they’re sure handy when the snow is a foot deep and the temperatures are sub-zero.

When I read the bible, I think Paul was also a functionalist.  Instead of being worried about the fashion and style of his day, he instructed his cohorts to dress for the occasion:

In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray (Ephesians 6 ~JB Phillips).

When he wrote to the Colossians, Paul spoke of functional clothing for the Christian life:

Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do (Colossians 3:12-13).

Before you leave your house today, you might want to look into the mirror to see if your clothing is fitting for your agenda:

The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s law, the law of liberty (or freedom), and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness (James 1:22-25 ~JB Phillips)

Eudemonics: You Da’ Man!

You_Da_Man_Recordable_Greeting_Card_By_Urban_Chakkar_729834You da’ man!  You’ve probably heard this exclamation after someone has done something great or unusual. The only reason I even mention You da man, is to help you with the pronunciation of Eudemonic (yoo-di-mon-ik).

A lot of what I do focuses on the end results of Eudemonics which is behavior that produces happiness and a sense of well-being.  This type of happiness is not associated with the circumstances of the world, but it has more to do with the concept of joy and your relationship with the Lord.

With this in mind, it’s easy to identify a few of the Eudemonic Principles in the Bible.  There is the:

  • Joy of Knowing God:  But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You (Psalm 5:11)
  • Joy of Forgiveness:  Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (Psalm 32:1)
  • Joy of Mercy: Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (Psalm 106:1)
  • Joy of Restoration:  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:12)

I encourage you to give some thought to your relationship with God, and to take the time to mediate on the joy-filled message of Psalm 62:

Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!  Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.  All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.”

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13

Opera Not Opra

opdivaWhen you think of going to the Opera, you may think of classical music and orchestras.  In Norway, people think a bit differently.  To them and a growing number of the computer literate, the meaning of Opera has changed.

Opera is a sweet technological melody that flows from a company that’s based in Norway.  This pioneering developer has introduced a new version of its desktop computer browser that incorporates an enticing feature.

The software engineers at Opera have written their code, so it automatically blocks annoying spam and unwanted advertisements. This allows the web pages to load faster, and it creates a web environment that has increased privacy and security.

The need to turn down unwanted noise and unhealthy distractions is nothing new; and, the root of the problem may be your innate nature that can be as curious as it nosy.  As someone one once warned: Curiosity killed the cat.

A frantic, unfocused, and undisciplined life will eventually lead to a life that is physically fatigued and spiritually exhausted.  This is one reason Moses prescribed a practical solution to the curious needs of the Hebrews:

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. ~Deuteronomy 6

The purpose of frontlets is to prevent a horse from getting spooked or Blinkers.french.6-23-13.BL_distracted and to keep it focused on the road ahead.  Moses said God’s Word will do the same for you.  Godly principles act as Opera’s ad blocker: They filter out the unwanted and unnecessary noise of the world, and they create an environment that is in harmony with His will.  

 

 

Title, Deed, and Ownership

Title-DeedsWhen I woke up this morning, to the rhythm and words of an old gospel hymn.  The four-line chorus reminded me of a precious truth:

Now I belong to Jesus,

Jesus belongs to me,

Not for the years of time alone,

But for eternity.


Of the 19 words in that refrain, the word belong stood out more than the rest.  It occurred to me that when you belong to Jesus, you should be longing for a relationship with Him.

During a debate with some skeptics, Jesus spoke of the key to this relationship: The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words. You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God (John 8:47).

When you listen and respond to God’s words it’s evidence that you belong to God, and it’s the first note in a harmonious relationship with Him.  Paul spoke of this relationship, and who you are in Jesus:

  • Ephesians 1:7—In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
  • Ephesians 1:11—In Him also we have obtained an inheritance
  • Ephesians 3:12—We have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
  • Colossians 2:9-10—As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving, and you are complete in Him

When the feelings of doubt and despair try to take root in your heart, remember that you belong to Jesus.  His desire is to have a relationship with you, and He will watch over you as a shepherd does his flock.

 

Psalm 100:2-4

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the Lord, He is God;

It is He who has made us, and we belong to Him;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

Choice Choices and Daunting Decisions

decisionEach day of your life, you are presented with the opportunity to choose to do or not to do. Many of these choices are minor, but there are times when major decisions must be made.  Some of your choices can be as simple as:

  • What clothes will I wear?
  • What should I eat for breakfast?
  • Which brand of toothpaste should I use?

Major decisions can be more taxing and involve questions like:

  • Should I be cremated or have a traditional funeral?
  • Should my money be invested in an IRA or a ROTH?
  • Should I use a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon for back surgery?

On occasion, people will call me when they are facing a perplexing situation that requires a major decision.  They will consult with me and ask for my opinion concerning where they should work, live, or who they should marry.  Their question is often:  How do I know the will of God?

Discovering the will of God is more of a mystery than what it needs to be.  Let me suggest five questions to help guide you.

  1. Is the action you are considering consistent with the principles of the Bible? God will never lead you to do something that is contrary to Scripture.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  2. Have you prayed and asked for guidance? For I know the plans I have for you; plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
  3. Have you discussed your situation with your friends? A nation will fall when there is no direction, but with many advisers there is victory (Proverbs 11:14).
  4. What will the results of your decision look like? If your mother reads about it on the front page of the newspaper, will she be proud of your actions or will she be embarrassed?
  5. Are you depressed, angry, or stressed out? If so, you need to clear your mind and calm your emotions before you try to make a wise decision.

I encourage you take some time to reflect on Psalm 37, and how it relates to your situation.

Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him

Mind Over Mouth

monkey-hand-over-mouth1Socrates once said that, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”  This reminds me of the old adage, mind over matter and the power of the mind to manage or overcome physical obstacles.

Along with mind over matter, I think there is a need to consider mind over mouth.  As a gifted speaker, Paul knew the power of the spoken word, and he encouraged people to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Words are either swords that wound a person and tears him down or seeds that blossom and build him up.

Solomon said:

  • With his mouth the ungodly destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous are rescued (Proverbs 11:9)
  • A soft, gentle, and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, but harsh, painful, and careless words stir up anger . . . the evil plans and thoughts of the wicked are exceedingly vile and offensive to the Lord, but pure words are pleasant words to Him (Proverbs 15:1, 26).

While there are a limited number of words in your vocabulary, each of them are pregnant with the potential to heal or humiliate. It may be an act of labor and pain to do so, but give some thought to what you think and say.

Will you be thoughtless, rude, disrespectful, and angry or will you speak encouraging words of kindness? Make this a mind over mouth day that is full of wholesome thoughts, and deeds of compassion.

To help you mind your mouth, you can use Psalm 19:14 as a prayer: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Life Principles: Square Knots and Loose Ends

aid59208-728px-Tie-a-Square-Knot-Step-1-Version-4Proverbs is the one word suggestion I made last night.  The first Wednesday of each month is a night I have reserved to meet with the Elders of the church, and last night I suggested that we focus on reading through the book of Proverbs during the month of February.

The practical wisdom that is found in this book provides life principles to help guide your life.  Some of them act as “knots” that provide strength and security, while others are “nots” that warn about loose living:

  • Principle 1–Let Not: Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart (Proverbs 3:3).
  • Principe 2—Lean Not: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5–6).
  • Principle 3—Lust Not: Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids (Proverbs 6:25).
  • Principle 4—Love Not: Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread (Proverbs 20:13).
  • Principle 5—Labor Not: Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven (Proverbs 23:4–5).
  • Principle 6—Look Not: Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moves itself aright. At the last it bites like a snake. Your eyes shall behold strange women, and your heart shall utter perverse things (Proverbs 23:31–33).

Proverbs is a gold mine that is rich in principles, and it is worthy of your attention.   Join me in reading through this book during February.

My child, if you receive my words, and store up my commands within you, by making your ear attentive to wisdom, and by turning your heart to understanding, indeed, if you call out for discernment—raise your voice for understanding—if you seek it like silver, and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand how to fear the Lord, and you will discover knowledge about God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up effective counsel for the upright, and is like a shield for those who live with integrity, to guard the paths of the righteous and to protect the way of his pious ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity—every good way. For wisdom will enter your heart, and moral knowledge will be attractive to you.  ~Proverbs 2:1-10

The Real You in 72 Hours

real-meSaturday, Sunday, and Monday—what was your focus over the past 72 hours?  What does your focus say about the real you?  The 5 questions below may help you answer this question:

  1. What did you find to be funny?
  2. On what did you spend your money?
  3. What is it that you were wanting the most?
  4. What thought was the frequent focus of your mind?
  5. What did you do with your leisure time and with whom did you spend it?

After thinking about the questions above, compare your answers to the lifestyle that Paul spoke of in Romans 12:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cleave to what is good.  Be devoted to one another with brotherly love; prefer one another in honor, do not be lazy in diligence, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord, rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless, and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Do not pretend to be wiser than you are.

Repay no one evil for evil. Commend what is honest in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

When you compare your answers to the qualities Paul discussed, is the real you a “doer” of the word or just a “hearer” of the world?

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man viewing his natural face in a mirror.  He views himself, and goes his way, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

 ~James 1:22-24

 

Blueprints and Road Maps

kansasBlueprints and road maps are useful and necessary tools to get you from where you are to where you’re going.  I have the same opinion of the book of James.  It’s a book of divine directives, that will help you negotiate the challenging hairpin curves of life.

There are 5 points of interest that are the keys to everything that James says in this book:  “Submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you (James 4:7-10).”

These words are good advice and principles to be practiced.  To apply them to your life, focus on the 5 points of interest:

  • Insist: Submit to God
  • Resist the Devil
  • Persist: Draw near to God
  • Desist: Cleanse your hands and purify your heart
  • Consist: A life of humility—humble yourself

These 5 points can be summarized by one statement: The life that’s yielded to God is a life that’s shielded by God.

The Pope, Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio.

Pope-FrancisIf the Independent, London’s daily newspaper, is correct Pope Francis may inspire a new version of the Bible:  The Bible According to Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio.

If you’ve forgotten the story line of this mesmerizing fairytale for children, it focuses on a craftsman named Geppetto, the puppet he made and named Pinocchio, and his desire that his creation would be a real boy.millennial-pinocchio

When the Blue Fairy hears the wish of Geppetto, she works her magic and in a mystical moment, she infuses the wooden puppet with the gift of life.  To help him know right from wrong, the Blue Fairy appoints Jiminy Cricket as his conscience: “I dub you Pinocchio’s conscience, lord high keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong, counselor in moments of high temptation, and guide along the straight and narrow path. Arise, Sir Jiminy Cricket.”

In an interview referenced by the Independent, Pope Francis is reported to have said: “Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.” While I have no way of asking the Pope to clarify his statement, it sounds like he’s been dazzled by Disney and wished upon one too many stars.

Are we to believe that as long as a pedophile does not disobey his conscience he is not sinning.  What about a sociopath and his conscience?  With apologies to Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy, when the conscience goes stag a person is left in rags and unconscious of his spiritual failings.

I know it may sound a little old school and politically incorrect, but Jesus didn’t say, “Let your conscience be your guide.”  He said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3).”