Aye-Sight: Seeing Eye to Eye with God

healthy-eyesight-tipsI think you’ll agree that the health of your eyes and good eyesight is of critical importance: Good vision helps you in every aspect of your life.

The same is true when you consider your spiritual life.  Good eyesight is an essential to spiritual health, and poor eyesight can be devastating.  In Psalm 119, there’s a verse that focuses on the object of your vision:

Psalm 119:36-38

Turn my head and my heart to Your decrees

and not to sinful gain.

Keep my eyes from gazing upon worthless things,

and give me true life according to Your plans.

Verify Your word to Your servant,

which will lead me to worship You.

Instead of wasting your time on the worthless, invest it in the precious.  Take a look at these “eyesight” verses:

  • Psalm 19:8: The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
  • Psalm 26:3: For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth.
  • Psalm 33:18: Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, and on those who hope in His mercy.
  • Psalm 34:15: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

I’ll close with Psalm 119:18, and I encourage you to make it your prayer for today: Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.

The Power of Encouragement

words-of-encouragement-900I am a frequent reader of the Psalms.  They are a collection of Scripture that proclaim the faithfulness and goodness of God.

As I read Psalm 34 this morning, I thought of some Scripture in the New Testament that are companion verses:

  • Psalm 34:3: Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
  • Hebrews 10:24-25: Let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.

Did you notice the two words that are repeated in the two verses above?  They are “let us.”  These two words speak of the power of encouragement, and this to be the voice of a choir—not a solo performance.

In Ephesians 5, Paul said you should “Let God fill you with the Holy Spirit.  When you are filled with the Spirit, you are empowered to speak to each other in the soulful words of pious songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; to sing and make music with your hearts attuned to God; and to give thanks to God the Father every day through the name of our Lord Jesus the Anointed for all He has done . . . The Spirit-filled life is not just for a special few; it is the normal Christian life, and it affects everything, including how we live in community and how we treat others at home (~The Voice).

When you reflect on the goodness of God, you can project a refrain of faithfulness by singing and making music in your heart.  I encourage you to call or text a friend and share a Scripture or song with them.  Do this and you will magnify God and exalt His name together.

Someone Is Watching

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When I woke up this morning, I was thinking of God and how He watches over us and cares for us.  I realize there are those times of heartache, and we wonder where He might be, but life is not a Wizard of Oz experience. We can’t peak behind the curtain to see who is pulling the strings that form and fashion our lives.

If you think God is good and God is great in the wonderful moments, how great is your faith when pain causes you to doubt?  In times of trials and temptations,I find comfort in knowing that God is the Someone watching over me:

  • Chronicles 16:9:  For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him
  • Psalm 34:15:  The eyes of the Lord are on those who do what is right and good. His ears are open to their cry.
  • Proverbs 5:21:  For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, And He ponders all his paths.
  • I Peter 3:12:  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Three quick thoughts from the verses above:

  1. God is always watching you.
  2. God is always ready to hear your prayers.
  3. God always has enough power to give you the strength you need to manage your situation.

At times I’ve prayed:  “God I don’t understand the why and what-for of my situation, but I know that you know and I see that you see, so I’ll not fear because you hear–you are attentive to my prayers.”

The Spice of Life

charleston_hot_peppers_white_background2This is the time of year that fresh produce is being grown in the gardens around town.  When the tomatoes ripen and the squash and zucchini are harvested, new recipes are tried as backyard chefs’ fire up their grills. The key ingredient to the success of these culinary endeavors is that special spice you add to the entrée as it simmers on the grill.

Is there a favorite spice you use when you cook?  Spices influence and change the flavor of food.  If you were the spice of life, how would your influence be experienced?

  • Would it be felt as true compassion or random passion?
  • Would you be experienced as a warming fire or dangerous and easily provoked ire?
  • Would your presence be recognized as sweet encouragement or bitter discouragement?

The difference between a good meal and a bad meal can be the difference between the right spice and a bad substitute.  If the recipe calls for sugar, you can’t expect to get good results if you substitute cayenne pepper.

The same is true will a spiritual counterfeit and a genuine servant of God.   The influence of one is positive and the influence of the other is negative.

Jesus said that you should “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned (Matthew 7: The Message).”

As the spice of life, are you genuine or a counterfeit?

The Man With The Better Idea

thomas-edisonI have always been amazed at the brilliant and inventive mind of Thomas Edison.   During his lifetime, Edison developed many devices including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and his discoveries were the prototype of the modern day power grid.

To offer some insight into the mind of Edison, I have selected five simple but intriguing quotes that are credited to this wonderful man:

  • The man who doesn’t make up his mind to cultivate the habit of thinking misses the greatest pleasure in life.
  • The world owes nothing to any man, but every man owes something to the world.
  • I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.
  • Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
  • I believe that the science of chemistry alone almost proves the existence of an intelligent creator.

In 1914, Edison’s factory burned to the ground destroying his one-of-a-kind prototypes.  Edison’s response to the catastrophe revealed his character: “Thank goodness all our mistakes were burned up. Now we can start fresh again.”

This remarkable statement by Edison, reminds me of Paul’s assessment of his life.  Notice the value he places on what he lost and what he gained, and how he contrasts the earthly and the eternal:  “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ.  More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith (Philippians 3:7-9).”

What do you value most, the earthly or the eternal?  Paul said: ” For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

When Lions Devour Lambs

misconductThe number is 225, and it involves a group of people in the small Caribbean nation of Haiti.  While a large portion of Haiti is known more for its poverty than anything else, one segment has seen even more oppression and suffering.

A United Nations peacekeeping mission has been accused of sexual misconduct in a scheme that involved the sexual exploitation of 225 Haitian women.  Their sex for shoes shenanigans has robbed these women of the peace they had hoped for, and it throttled their trust in the economic promises of the United Nations.

No one should engage in any form of sexual exploitation or sex trafficking, and this is especially true for a high profile agency like the United Nations.  When abused by those you trust the most, the sanctity of your soul is violated, and you are left empty and hollow.

  • Over 600,000 women and children are bought and sold, across international borders, every year and exploited for forced labor and sex.
  • In the USA alone, multiple thousands of kids under 18 years of age are lured into the sex industry every year.
  • Human trafficking is a $32 billion a year industry.

Any time anyone looks at pornography on a computer or buys a sexually explicit magazine, he is supporting this industry and he is exhibiting despicable and demeaning behavior.  Lust is no companion of pure love, and the two are at the opposite ends of the emotional continuum.

What can you do to help stem the rising tide of moral degradation?  You can get involved with groups like Love 146 and Samaritan’s Purse.  You can also answer the call of Jesus to share His peace with the oppressed:  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God  (Matthew 5:9).”

The Sinister and the Saint

eyeI’m not sure if I should label it progression or regression, but I have gone from wearing no glasses, to bi-focals, and for several years now I have moved into the tri-focal stage.

Each step in this vision process involved a trip to the eye doctor and a prescription for new glasses.  The last time I got a new prescription for eyeglasses, I noticed the abbreviations OS and OD. The OS is for the left eye, and it is a Latin abbreviation that means “oculus sinister.”   The right eye is OD and is the Latin “oculus dextrus.”

The fact that I have a sinister left eye, made me curious, and I looked at the etymology of oculus sinister and dextrus:

  • The Latin meaning of sinister speaks of that which is “contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left.”
  • Dextrus has the meaning of being “right or ready.”

In these two words, we see the struggle that each of us face.  It is the conflict between evil and good or flesh and spirit.  In Romans 8:5, Paul said:  “For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

Since your “outlook” is determined by the flesh or the spirit, you may want to take an “in-look” at what the Bible says about desire:

  • James 1:14-15: Everyone is tempted by his own desires as they lure him away and trap him.  Then desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin. When sin grows up, it gives birth to death.
  • Proverbs 27:20: Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
  • 2 Peter 2:14: Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, they entice unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices.

Which one of your eyes guides you?  Do you see the world through the sinister side or the saintly side?   I encourage you to take a look at your life, and consider using the words of Psalm 119:36-38 as your prayer for today:

“Turn my heart toward Your Law, so I will not earn money in a wrong way.  Turn my eyes away from things that have no worth, and give me new life because of Your ways.  Keep Your promise to Your servant, the promise You made to those who fear and worship You.”

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 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.