Seeking Peace

seek-peace-and-pursue-it-2Some people live their lives wildly chasing dreams that eventually leave them feeling empty and hollow.  I thought of this yesterday when I read five words from Psalm 34: Seek peace and pursue it.

As I thought about this verse, it occurred to me that a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction is the result of what we pursue in life.  The writings of Paul validate this statement:

  • Romans 14:19: Pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another
  • I Thessalonians 5:15: See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
  • I Timothy 6:11: Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

It’s been said that whatever catches your attention, catches you.  Have you been ensnared by the false hopes of groundless dreams or have you captured the peace of God that is beyond human reasoning?

As you start a new week, I hope the words of Peter will encourage you to focus your thoughts on the peace of God. He said: Seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer (I Peter 3:10-12).

An Adventure in the Land of Why

maliLife is an adventure.  Some people seem to stumble their way through it, while others have the ability and agility to bob and weave their way through its obstacles.  Some people have the knack to fall face first into every mud hole that dots their path in life, while others can transform the sourest moments of life into a sweet experience.

Even though he could float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee, there were a few times Muhammed Ali felt the brute force of a punch that was akin to the kick of a mule. On March 24, 1975, Chuck Wepner introduced Ali to one of the universal laws of life:  Sooner or later you’re going to get hit by a punch you never saw coming!

Suffering is a thread that’s woven into the fabric of life, and it’s the sucker punch that can drop you to your knees.  

Peter said you should not, “be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you (I Peter 4:12).”

Even though suffering is anything but pleasant, James said to, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2–3).” 

It’s important to note that James did not say that the suffering or trial is a joyful experience; instead, he said the joy comes in acknowledging the end result of the trial—steadfastness.  The situations that shake your faith are the ordeals that form a faith that’s unshakable.

Your faith is like your muscle tissue—to get stronger, it must be stressed.

In hindsight, Paul could see the boldly colored thread of hope in the tapestry of heartache.  He could see God’s purpose in the suffering he had endured: “We want you to know, Christian brothers, of the trouble we had in the countries of Asia. The load was so heavy we did not have the strength to keep going. At times we did not think we could live.  We thought we would die. This happened so we would not put our trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).”

“This happened”, so Paul would know that God is able and that He would enable him.

Oniomania:  It’s That Time of Year

Planting-Onions-1861281I remember the first time I saw oniomania in print.  My eyes read the word as onion-mania, and my brain processed it as a strong desire related to onions.

My confusion was the result of the God-designed partnership that exists between the eyes and brain in which they work together to interpret conflicting signals from the outside world. Even though it may not be reality, we see whatever our brains think we should.

Because the brain processes an immense amount of information as fast as it can, it uses any available shortcuts. According to Stuart Anstis, a vision researcher, the brain has “to find a minimum hypothesis to cover a maximum amount of data.”

When my eyes saw the onio prefix of oniomania, my brain took the shortcut of associating onio with onion.  This is the difference between perception and reality or feelings and facts.

Oniomania is an uncontrollable desire to purchase things, and during the gardening season it could influence your seed purchases.   What about onionmania?  Is it an uncontrollable desire to eat, smell, use, or plant onions?

Are you an oniomaniac?  Are you controlled by an overwhelming desire to purchase the goods of this world and fail to invest in the world to come?  This was the mistake that was made by the fool who built on the shifting sand instead of the solid rock:

Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock.  Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!   ~Matthew 67:24-29

What is it that compels you and drives you during this season of your life?  Is it the need to fit in with the world and your group of peers, or to be fit for the world to come and to please the peerless—Jesus Christ?

 

Wisdom: Guidelines and Lifelines For Life

life-preserverI have never thought of myself as one of the smartest people in the world, and my GPA from high school is the evidence that proves it.  This may be why the book of James is a favorite of mine.

Like the book of Proverbs, James provides guidelines for life; and, for those of us who lack wisdom, it extends an invitation: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).”

Later in the book, James lists seven characteristics of wisdom: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical (3:17).”

I find it interesting that when Solomon spoke of wisdom he also listed seven and referred to them as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom: “Wisdom has built her house; she has carved out its seven pillars (9:1).” Solomon’s list is found in Proverbs 8:12-14:

  • Prudence
  • Knowledge
  • Fear of the Lord
  • Counsel
  • Sound Wisdom
  • Understanding
  • Strength

The Message describes these seven attributes:

“I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity; Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street. The Fear-of-God means hating Evil, whose ways I hate with a passion—pride and arrogance and crooked talk. Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics; I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out. With my help, leaders rule, and lawmakers legislate fairly; With my help, governors govern, along with all in legitimate authority. I love those who love me; those who look for me find me.”

Wisdom has been defined as the right use of knowledge, and, in the biblical sense, it’s the ability to judge correctly and to take the best course of action, based on your knowledge and understanding of God’s principles.

This concept of wisdom is in complete harmony with Solomon’s conclusion to Proverbs 8:

“Blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction so that you may be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching at my doors day by day, waiting beside my doorway. For the one who finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But the one who does not find me brings harm to himself; all who hate me love death (32-36).”

I’ll close with three thoughts, and I hope there enough to keep you thinking:

  • Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who obtains understanding. ~Proverbs 3:13
  • An intelligent man believes only half of what he hears, a wise man knows which half.
  • Knowledge is knowing the difference between a donut and a life preserver. Wisdom is knowing which one to grab when you are drowning.

MLK Day: More Than Monday

 

mlkToday is more than just another Monday.  It’s the day that has been set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King is remembered for his life of dedication, and his speeches that focused on forgiveness, peace, righting wrongs, and loving one another.

Since today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I share a few quotes to honor him:

  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.
  • Only in the darkness can you see the stars.
  • We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  • It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.
  • When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
  • To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

Please give some careful consideration to this last quote.  I suggest that you focus on it, and make it a prayer throughout this week:

Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.

 

A Parade of Champions

kcrIf you know anything about sports, you know that the Kansas City Royals just won a hard fought and entertaining battle on the baseball fields of Kansas City and New York; and, they have been crowned World Series Champions.

With child-like enthusiasm, baseball fans from near and far are descending on Kansas City today to celebrate with the Royals.  They will savor the sweet taste of victory and delight as their team winds its way through the streets of Royals Town USA.

The language of sports has been spoken for thousands of years.  Paul used the competition of the Isthmian Games as means to share spiritual truth.  He also spoke of a parade of champions that features Jesus as the parade Marshall:  “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us spreads and makes evident everywhere the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him (2 Corinthians 2:14).”

The parade route in Kansas City with be lined with thousands of spectators, and it will be a great time for adoring fans to shout out to their favorite players.  The procession that Paul spoke of is one of triumph that calls you to more than a mere spectator.  You are to be a participator and speak up for Jesus.

You are the means through which God spreads the sweet fragrance of His love and mercy.  Wave your banner, and give thanks for the victory you have in Him.

A Life of Mediocrity or Excellence?

rubber stamp in hand marked with excellenceHave you ever considered the difference between I should and I did?  The lives of some people are summarized with statements such as these:

  • I should’ve
  • I could’ve
  • I wish I would’ve

 Statements like these are characteristic of an unfulfilled life of dissatisfaction.

I did, however, speaks of commitment, dedication and resolve.  To live a life of fulfillment and satisfaction we need to be an I did-er like Paul who said:

“I served the Lord with humility and tears, patiently enduring the many trials that came my way through the plots of my Jewish opponents.  I did everything I could to help you; I held nothing back. I taught you publicly, and I taught you in your homes. I told everyone the same message—Jews and Greeks alike—that we must turn toward God and have faith in our Lord Jesus the Anointed (Acts 20:19-21).

As an I did-er, Paul could confidently say:  “I am already being poured out, and the last drops of this drink offering are all that remain; it’s almost time for me to leave.  I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept believing.  I look forward to what’s in store for me: a crown of righteousness that the Lord—the always right and just judge—will give me that day (but it is not only for me, but for all those who love and long for His appearing).” 

Paul lived a life of extraordinary accomplishment because he knew the difference between mediocrity and excellence is found in the enthusiastic pursuit of a life that glorifies God: “I do not consider myself to have ‘arrived’, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honor of being called by God in Christ (Philippians 3:12-14).”

You’ll never find happiness in the empty promises of the could’ve-would’ve-should’ve life, but you will find true joy when you resolve to be an I did-er.

A Heavy Mettle Discussion

867bfc01-5e47-4d5f-a8e9-9a3d2f48f421_zps40643497I heard the sad story of a man who died recently. He had crawled under a house to steal the copper wiring and was electrocuted.

This is sad for a couple of reasons:

  • Copper prices are at historic lows, and this man lost his precious life trying to take something so cheap.
  • His attempt to steal was evidence of a steel less and easily tempted character

This copper incident reminds me of the judgment discussion that Paul had with the Christians at Corinth:

“You are God’s building.  As a skilled and experienced builder, I used the gift that God gave me to lay the foundation for that building. However, someone else is building on it. Each person must be careful how he builds on it.  After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.  People may build on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw.  The day will make what each one does clearly visible because fire will reveal it. That fire will determine what kind of work each person has done.  If what a person has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If his work is burned up, he will suffer the loss. However, he will be saved, though it will be like going through a fire.”               ~I Corinthians 3:9-15

In the verses above Paul offers a  Double M Lesson:

  • The first M is Metal or the gold and silver.
  • The second M is Meddle or the wood, hay, and straw.
  • Paul uses these objects to frame his argument in the context of a quality of life versus a quantity of life perspective.

The metal and meddle aspects of your life will be judged by fire which “will determine what kind of work each person has done.”  The difference between your metal and meddle may be your mettle or the manner in which you confront the challenges of life and faithfully persevere.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he engaged in a little heavy mettle discussion:  “When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.”  ~2 Timothy 2:3-5

I encourage you to do what Paul admonished Timothy to do in the verses above:  “Think it over.”

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.”

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?”