Maybe or Maybe Not

lender-decisionsShould I stay or should I go?  Should my answer be yes or no? Some decisions are easy to make, but there are times when choices leave us baffled and befuddled.

The solutions to some problems are quickly discovered and come as easily and flipping on a light switch.  Frequently though, life can be a perplexing journey filled with head-banging frustration as you seek an elusive answer:

  • Where should I live?
  • Which doctor should I use and which treatment should I try?
  • Should I keep the job I have or should I seek employment elsewhere?
  • Is this the person I should marry?
  • Which college should I choose to pursue my education?

Psalms 25:12:12 offers the assurance that, The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live. And, Proverbs 3:5-6 says, 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.

The question remains: How can you know that you’re making the right decision? Let me suggest a few questions that might help you focus your thoughts:

  • Am I violating any biblical principles?
  • Will my actions be an embarrassment to my parents or grandparents?
  • Is it legal, moral, and ethical?
  • Who will it help and who will it hinder?
  • What is the financial, emotional, and spiritual cost to me and my family?
  • Will my decision lead me to do what’s good, better or best?
  • Have I prayed about my situation?

When you confuse your wants and desires with your needs, making the right choice can be difficult. Your discernment can be hindered due to either wanting too much of the wrong thing or desiring too little of the right thing—both can be obstacles when you pray for guidance:

George Muller, a champion of orphans and an evangelist, once said: Nine-tenths of difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

Here are four steps to consider as you chose your path in life:

  • Yield to God, and be willing to will the will of God for life (Joshua 24:14-15).
  • Spend some time in prayer and meditating on God’s word (Joshua 1:8).
  • Seek the counsel of the wise (Proverbs 19:20).
  • Don’t rush your decision; take the time to think it through (Proverbs 21:5).

In times of indecision, I’ve found comfort in Jeremiah 29:11; and I think you might as well: I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11

Grumpy or Gracious?

grumpyWhenever I read the opening verses of Psalm 92, the number 1,440 flashes through my mind.  1,440 is the number of minutes in a day, and Psalm 92 is a positive motivator on how to manage these precious moments:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and sing praises to Your name, O Most High. It is good to tell of Your loving-kindness in the morning, and of how faithful You are at night, with harps, and with music of praise.  For You have made me glad by what You have done, O Lord. I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands (Psalm 92:1-4).

Think about the words you spoke yesterday; was your vocabulary more grumpy than it was gracious?  How would your life be different if you would spend more time counting your blessings than tallying your slights?  Would you be happier and healthier?

Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, has examined the power of positive and negative thoughts. She has found that positive emotions enhance your sense of personal potential; opens your mind to new possibilities; and, they allow you to develop new skills and resources that add value to your life.

Fredrickson’s premise is a conformation of a principle from the Proverbs: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~Proverbs 16:24

Over the next week, I encourage you to use some of the 1,440 minutes of each day to put Psalm 92 to practice:

  • Focus on the blessing of God, and give thanks.
  • Whistle a tune, hum a favorite hymn, and sing a song of praise to God.
  • When you get up in the morning, start with a God is Able thought, and end your day by rehearsing the history of God’s faithfulness.
  • Begin and end each day with the following prayer:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14

The Beauty of Spring

bartram_trail_pic1My two favorite seasons of the year are Spring and Fall.  In the cycle of life, I think these are the two most refreshing seasons of the year.

Even though Spring doesn’t official begin until March 20th, God blessed us with Spring-like weather this past weekend.  As I was enjoying the day, I thought about the many blessings that God gives His children, and two words from John 3:16 came to mind:  He gave.

As I was tilling the soil in my garden, I thought about several things God has given:

  • He has given the warmth of the sunshine.
  • He infused flowers with their delicate fragrance.
  • He designed your taste buds, so they would be tickled by the flavor of food.
  • He engineered your eyes so they can see the beautiful landscapes of His magnificent creation.
  • He gave you ears, so you can hear the three greatest word that have ever been spoken:  I love you.

The I love you verse of the Bible is John 3:16, and when you read it you discover the greatest gift that God has given: “He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life.”

Take a moment sometime today to give yourself a gift.  The next breath you take, make it a deep one, and then pause to thank God for the beauty and fragrance of life. Then take about 4 more minutes, and listen to this brief and beautiful song.

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.

The Insanity of Profanity

watch your languageLearning a new skill can be difficult, but it might be even harder to break a bad habit. Learning how to tame your tongue might be a new skill that also manages a bad habit.

James addressed untidy tongues when he said:  “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body (3:2).”

When James used “word” in the verse above, he chose “logos.” In classical Greek “logos” was more than just the spoken word; it also included the inner thought that gave birth to the spoken word.

We live in a time when too much of our language is mono-syllabic, four letters, and laced with profanity.  James said the tongue is “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  He went on to say that it’s not logical to think that you can bless God in one breath and spit out a steamy tirade of cussing that belittles your fellow man in your next breath:

No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?  Can a fig tree, bear olives? Can a grapevine bear a fig? No, and no spring yields both salt water and fresh (3:8-12).”

The first 6 words in the verses above hold the key to taming the tongue.  You can’t do it by focusing on what you say.  You need to concentrate on the thought that precedes the talk.

If you fail to focus on the thought your talk will continue to conform to the profanity of the world.  It’s when you begin to manage the mental component  of communication that you can begin to experience a transformation of your tongue.

When you read this section of James, the insanity of profanity includes more than just cussing.  The discussion also centers on any communication that’s vulgar, uncouth, and unrefined, and it includes gossip and lies.

Since “logos” takes into consideration both the spoken word and the thought behind the word, you can change your talk by changing your thought.  Here are some tongue-taming thoughts for your consideration:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. . . and the God of peace will be with you. ~Philippians 4:8

The words that spring out of your mouth will be less salty and more pristine if the thoughts that precede them are noble, just, and pure.  Take some time today to meditate on these things.

Hoarding The Holy

 

stack-of-books1Be honest, do you live a “keep-it-just-in-case” life?  If so, you probably think of yourself as thrifty, but this rent-more-storage- mentality can come at a high price.

Because some people are so reluctant to depart with anything, their life is a huge, messy, and disorganized existence.  The International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation calls attention to this troublesome lifestyle by calling it hoarding and listing three criteria that defines it:

  1. A person collects and keeps a lot of items, even things that appear useless or of little value to most people, and
  2. These items clutter the living spaces and keep the person from using their rooms as they were intended, and
  3. These items cause distress or problems in day-to-day activities.

There is a classification of non-typical hoarders who are referred to as Bibliotaphs.  Their compulsion is to cache or hoard books, and they may even keep them under the security of lock and key.

From a Biblical perspective, the Bibliotaph can be thought of as being healthy. This is true in the limited sense of the Bible being memorized or hidden in your heart.  David confessed to being a Bibliotaph, and Joshua encouraged people to practice it as a discipline:

  • Psalm 119:9-11: How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!  Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.
  • Joshua 1:8: This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Clinging to the world’s goods will never fill the void in your soul, so avoid them and add God’s blessings instead.  Solomon gave this piece of advice that’s worth hoarding:

My son, do not forget my teaching. Let your heart keep my words.  For they will add to you many days and years of life and peace.  Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Tie them around your neck. Write them upon your heart.  So you will find favor and good understanding in the eyes of God and man.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not trust in your own understanding.  Agree with Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:1-6 NLV)

The Power of Green

Video_Landing-Page_0007_20131227_093457Before last week, there is a good chance that your roof was not at the top of your list of major concerns.  If it was pelted by hail during the recent storm, your roof may have become a source of worry. Because of the massive damage in the short-lived storm, Butler County has been swarmed by colonies of contractors hoping to make a buck off of you.

Unless you are a roofer by trade, you may given little thought to the decking, shingles, and the other components that are used to build a roof.  A movement underway to change the constitution of roofs, may change that.

Facebook, the social media giant, installed a 9-acre green roof at its office in Menlo Park, California.  “Green roofs can reduce the retention of heat in urban areas, help to cool down buildings and thereby lower their energy use, and even pull some carbon dioxide from the air and feed it back into plant growth (The Washington Post).”

In the June edition of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, a report focuses on the psychological benefit of green roofs: 40-second Green Roof Views Sustain Attention: The Role of Micro-Breaks in Attention Restoration.

Kate Lee, the lead researcher of the study (University of Melbourne) has concluded that “Modern work drains attention throughout the day, so providing boosted ‘green micro-breaks’ may provide mental top-ups to offset declining attention.” If a person can look outside his office window and see a flowering meadow green roof instead of a bare concrete roof, he will experience cognitive benefits.

This new research, reminds me of a very old peace in the Bible.  This piece of peace is found in Psalm 23 where David spoke of God leading him to the “green pastures” and “still waters” to “restore his soul.”

To help you have a “green” moment, take just a second or two to read Psalm 23 from  The Message:

God, my shepherd!

    I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows,

    you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word,

    you let me catch my breath

    and send me in the right direction.

Whatever your concern might be today, remember God is able!

The Mental Marks of Maturity

images (1)Some people think maturity comes with age; however, being a certain age does not make you a wise old sage.  You really have no choice when it comes to aging; however, it takes some effort to wisely mature.

Growth of this kind is a common topic in the Bible:

  • Peter reminded Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).”
  • In what he thought would be his last communication with the elders from Ephesus, Paul said: “I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified (Acts 20:32).”
  • Solomon offered this word of advice in the Proverbs: “You gullible people, learn how to be sensible. You fools, get a heart that has understanding (8:5).”

While I was reading in Philippians yesterday, I noticed something interesting.  Paul gives a clear indicator of maturity:  “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, all who are mature should think this way (Philippians 3:13-15).”

According to this verse, you show signs of maturity when:

  • You are not bound by the chains of the past.
  • You choose to invest in the future
  • You pursue a relationship with Jesus.
  • You discipline yourself to control your thoughts so you can “think this way.”

I hope this mature thought from Paul will keep you thinking:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

Philippians 4:8-9 ~The Message

From Yesterday to Tomorrow

kenyan_aaMaybe it’s the Kenyan AA, the Costa Rica by the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Company, the Three Continent, or perhaps it’s Tully’s Hawaiian Blend, that does it to me.  I’m not sure if it is the coffee or something, but there are some mornings that I become acutely curious about the mental path my mind travels.

When I find myself wondering about the wandering of my mind, and I question the wisdom of the words that travel from my neural pathways to the tip of my keyboard, I may need to think about my drink:  Does the blend of coffee influence my thoughts?

My first cup of coffee this morning was Kenyan AA.  As I was sipping it, I thought about the Beatles and the resurrection.  Did this best blend of coffee from Kenya ingest a strange correlation between England’s Fab Four and Jesus?

Yesterday is one of the better-known songs by the Beatles, and a line in the song says:  “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far way . . .” As I thought of those lyrics, I thought they might have been the exact words of Jesus’ disciples immediately following His arrest.

I took another sip and “yesterday” was my thought in a little different context.  I wondered about a couple of things:

  • How did the disciples think about “yesterday” the day after the resurrection of Jesus?
  • I wondered about Paul McCartney’s words: “I’m not half the man I used to be . . .”

Because of the resurrection I’m not half the man I used to be: I’m a whole person due to the fullness of Jesus.  This relationship is clarified by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!

Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!

Glory down all the generations!

Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

I’m not sure how your “yesterday” was, but I do know the hope you can have tomorrow through the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.

Thoughtless Thinking and Random Reasoning

Cloud computing conceptSome people find solitude in silence, and they give deep reflection to their thoughts.  There are others who negotiate life at a harried and hurried pace that allows no time for deep thought.

Have you ever stopped to think about how you think?  Please understand the question:  I asked “how” you think—not “what” you think.

When you start to think about your thinking, you can begin to reframe and reorder your life in a more positive context.  There are several places in the Psalms that indicate the writers were more than thoughtless thinkers:

  • Psalm 77:6: I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search.
  • Psalm 119:15: I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.
  • Psalm 119:27-29: I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold! Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things, I consider to be right; I hate every false way. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

When you read these verses, did you notice the due diligence that was exercised?  You can see it in words like:

  • Meditate
  • Diligent search
  • Contemplate
  • Consider

Solomon encouraged people to weigh the wisdom of words, before believing them: The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps (Proverbs 14:15.)”

Before you leave on a trip, you probably spend some time mapping your route.  How much thought do you give to your spiritual destination?  Do take just some random route or do you know where you are going?

Are you living your life in the blink of a second, or are you taking time to think and reckon?