Life: Infested or Invested

reflection-in-mirrorMy morning routine includes the couple of minutes I spend looking into the mirror.  This is not an exercise in vanity.  It’s just the best way to examine my wrinkled mug; apply the shaving cream; and wield the razor to shave my beard.

As I was checking the stubble on my face, I thought of Paul’s statement to the church at Corinth: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

When you think about it, there are several times each day that you take the time to check the quality of some item:

  • Bananas are checked to see if they are too ripe or too green.
  • Apples are examined to see if they are bruised.
  • When you buy something you check to make sure you have been given the correct amount of change.

How much time do you spend in spiritual self-examination?  The Psalmist said:  “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies (Psalm 119:59).”  When he didn’t like what he saw, the author of the Psalm ironed out the wrinkles in his life by turning to God’s Word.

The methodology of the Psalms was the same message espoused by James (1:21-25):

Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But 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 observing his natural face in a mirror;  for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

You have the freedom to look into the “perfect law of liberty” and to use it as a mirror to examine your life.  When you do this, what do you see?

  • Do you see a reflection of righteousness?
  • Is there an image of personal purity?
  • Do you recognize the features of faithfulness in the face you see?

A good mirror to use is a prayer in Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”spic n span

Let me suggest this prayer as a daily test:  Does this mirror reflect a life that’s infested by the ring-around-the-collar filth of the world or one that is invested in the spic and span principles of God’s Word?

Recycling and Refocusing

recycle_word_peopleIn the Sunday edition of the Washington Post, Chris Mooney wrote:  “We have a problem, people: Even though we’re supposed to put the right stuff in the blue bin, a lot of recyclable material nevertheless winds up crammed into landfills. One of the most noteworthy of these is paper: While 64.6 percent of paper and paperboard got recycled in 2012, that still left 24.26 million tons of the stuff discarded, according to the EPA (Why We Don’t Recycle Crumpled Paper).”

While some things get tossed out simply because people won’t toss them in the recycle bin, research suggests there might be another reason.  The Environment and Behavior journal has reported on research by  Remi Trudel, Jennifer Argo, and Matthew Meng of Boston University and the University of Alberta.

Their research focused on the way your brain categorizes information and then acts on it.  When your brain sees a piece of crumpled paper, it perceives it to be trash and not something to be recycled.

The study found that, “Full sheets of paper were recycled 77.4 percent of the time, whereas crumpled paper was only recycled 7.8 percent of the time.”  The researchers said: “We consistently show that consumers’ decision to recycle the same product depends on whether the product is intact (i.e., whole) or distorted (i.e., crumpled, cut).”

When you meet an individual whose life has been crumpled by the power of sin or the heartache of failure, how do you respond?   Do you see them as trash or someone who can be recycled?

You are probably familiar with the verses that call you to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” but how well do you know and put into practice the scriptural admonition to be a recycler?  In Romans 15:1-2, Paul said:

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

What is Christianity to you?  Is it an experience and relationship of convenience or are you willing to “lend a hand” to those in need?

The Meaning of LIfe

meaning-of-life-37When you first see the word, you may wonder if you will remember how to spell it.  When you try to read it, you may think you will mispronounce it.  The word is Ecclesiastes, and it is one of the Wisdom books of the Old Testament.

Ecclesiastes is a record of Solomon’s attempt to find the meaning of life.  When you get to the last chapter of the book, Solomon makes a summary statement:  “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

There are some places in this book where you will find a phrase is repeated several times.  The fourth chapter is a good example:

  • 4:1: “the oppression that is done under the sun”
  • 4:3: “the evil work that is done under the sun”
  • 4:7: “I saw vanity under the sun”

The three repeated words, “under the sun,” reveal the key to Solomon’s frustration.  His attempt to find meaning in life was difficult.  “Under the sun” places the emphasis on a horizontal perspective at the expense of the vertical dimension.

What Solomon initially failed to grasp, was firmly gripped by Paul.  Notice how he accentuates the vertical perspective of the Christian life: “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth  (Colossians 3).”

Paul’s use of the word “above” calls attention to the vertical perspective and contrasts it to the “things on earth,” or the horizontal realm.  Which one of these orientations guides you?

The answer to this question is found in what you wear:  What have you put off and what have you put on?

  • Paul said you should, “Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.
  • Once you have put off the horizontal, you are ready to put on the vertical: “Put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created you.”

There were times when I was a kid that I would frustrate my parents and they would ask:  “What in the world do you think you’re doing?”  That’s not a question you need to answer; however, you might think about this:  How are you living under the sun, and what have you put off and put on?

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!

What is the Cost of Satisfaction?

images (2)A recent article by Bourree Lam was posted to the Atlantic Journal.  Lam’s article focused on the economics of buffets and asked the question:  “If it costs more, does it taste better?”

To find the answer to the question, three researchers studied 139 diners at an all you can eat (AYCE) buffet:

  • Location of the experiment: Italian AYCE buffet in New York
  • Time Period: Two weeks
  • Criteria: Some of the139 participants were given a flier for an $8 buffet or a $4 buffet with both buffets serving the same food.
  • Results: People who ate from the $8 buffet rated the pizza 11% tastier than those who ate from the $4 buffet.

One of the authors of the study, David Just, said:  “People set their expectation of taste partially based on the price—and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I didn’t pay much it can’t be that good. Moreover, each slice is worse than the last. People really ended up regretting choosing the buffet when it was cheap.”

After reading this article, I wondered about the value of “cheap” faith compared to costly faith:

  • Are Christians more satisfied, fulfilled, and happy, when their faith costs them something?
  • Is this one reason Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”
  • Is this the secret to the saints of Hebrews 11 who lived vigorous faith-filled lives?

As you prepare to say good-bye to 2014, and enter 2015, let me suggest a New Year’s Resolution:  “I resolve to invest more in my life as a Christian, and I will do this by spending more time in prayer, reading my bible, and sharing my faith.”

Communication: Do You WiFi or Wee-Fee?

3-golden-rules-for-team-communicationDo you pay a Wee-Fee for your WiFi, or do you hee-hee when some people say Wee-Fee?  Most people reading this blog know that WiFi  is the wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed connection to the internet.

What you may not know is that about 7% of the people living in Arkansas pronounce WiFi as Wee-Fee; however, they are not alone.  In fact, there are several countries that have a significant number of people who opt for the Wee-Fee pronunciation of the word:

  • Spain 49.3%
  • France 46.1%
  • Hungary 41%
  • Belgium 34.4%
  • Netherlands 33.7%

The meaning of WiFi does not change if it is pronounced Wee-Fee, but in some situations a mispronounced word can lead to heated circumstances.

I clearly remember an unclearly spoken word that created a state of confusion.  I was 18, and was asleep on the top floor of an old Air Force barracks when a backwoods sergeant ran down the hall shouting, “Far! Far!”  I thought:  “Far?  How far am I supposed to go and in which direction?”

“Far” took on new meaning and significance when the smell of burning wood began to find its way into my room.  I realized the sergeant with the hick-accent had not been shouting “far,” but was yelling “FIRE!”

One of the basic rules of communication is found in the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).  The Apostle Paul could be profoundly simple in the way he stated truth, and he kept it simple and clear in Romans 6:23:  “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The wages of your sin cost God more than just a wee-fee, it cost Him the death of His son on the cross of Calvary.

Your WiFi might be what directs you to the internet, but it’s Jesus who connects you to Heaven.  Jesus said:  “I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me.”



A Quick Lesson For A Slow Learner

1171053_show_ART_POS_defaultWell, I did it again! I engaged in one of my annual rites of Spring—I’ve suffered through my first case of poison ivy.

I guess I’m a slow learner. When I was a child I had a fascination with fans which resulted in bloody fingers. It took me a long time before Mom convinced me that if I played with fire I’d get burned; and, it seems like it takes the first dose of poison ivy to remind me to wear a long sleeved shirt and gloves while trimming the bushes.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a string around my finger or some form of a note to remind me to do the things I need to do. Without the reminders of Google Calendar, I would have trouble keeping my schedule straight.

Both Paul and Peter realized there is a need to stir up a person’s memory and to provide motivators for godly living:
• I Timothy 1:6: I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you
• Hebrews 10:24: let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works
• 2 Peter 1:12-214: For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 1 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent (body), to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.

With this in mind, remember to remind yourself to be mindful of the things of God.

Strange Teachers–Wonderful Lessons

Chalk boardThirty some years ago, I was in a conference in Chicago where the presenter made a statement that I have never forgotten: I look at every man as my teacher, and I try to discover the lesson he has for me.

I have learned many lessons in my life. Some of these lessons have been easily learned; however, I also have a graduate degree from the School of Hard Knocks.

As I look back on my life, I am aware that I have gleaned some gems through an unconscious assimilation of life principles. Kahil Gabran spoke of this when he said: I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.

I would add to Gabran’s quote by saying: I have learned love from the gift of God’s grace and mercy. The words of Paul in Ephesians 2, shed some light on this: It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin, but God in His immense in mercy and with an incredible love, embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ (The Message).

It didn’t take me long to learn that God’s love, His grace, and His mercy, are much different than the Elvis-impersonator love of the world. There may be the alluring image of dazzling sequins, the glistening black hair, the deep resonating voice, but in the end, well, you’re just “all shook up, a-uh-huh!”

When I stumble and fall flat on my face, God doesn’t toss me overboard; instead, He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. This is quite a contrast from the world, isn’t it?

Are there some wonderful lessons that you have learned from strange teachers? If so, I’d like to hear from you.

Marriage and the Middle Class

I received my copy of Propositions in the mail today, and the title caught my attention:  What’s Missing From Our Middle Class Debate?  The author, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, has a long list of credentials, including her 9 year stint as co-director of Rutger’s National Marriage Project.

In her discussion of the dwindling middle class, Whitehead cites a recent study by the Pew Research Center.  The data from this study suggests that a decline in marriage is directly correlated to the decline in the middle class.

Whitehead also speaks of the relationship between unwed motherhood and moderately educated mothers:  “As fewer moderately educated Americans are able to form lasting marriages, their family lives become more difficult.”

The author refers to marriage as the “prudential institution” of our nation’s long history, and she sees it as “the means by which individuals who are not born to great fortune or favor can form a cooperative union to share responsibilities of a family household and especially the tasks of nurturing and educating children.”

Whitehead concludes her essay with two questions that are worthy of our consideration: (1)  Can we realistically hope to rebuild the middle class while accepting the continuing decline of marriage, the very institution on which our middle class most clearly depends? (2)  Can we Americans realistically hope for a middle class majority if we no longer hope and strive for a married majority?

I have always believed that the family is the load-bearing pillar of American society.  As such, we should give some contemplation as to what we can do to strengthen it.