...be ye stedfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labour is
not in vain in the Lord.

24 October 2014

walK with THE Wise ~ How Dare We?!!

Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the Lord will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.
(Proverbs 24.17,18)

I'll never forget how physically sick I felt... the day a dangerous individual who had harmed others and sinned greatly died and my Facebook feed was littered with celebration that said individual deserved even worse than the consequences already received.

True enough. I really can't argue that.

Justice had been served.

But the celebration? It broke my heart to know that a soul, one most likely not prepared to stand before God, had entered eternity. No longer did any opportunity exist for a change of heart for that individual. And people who I believe love Jesus with abandon felt no sorrow that, as best as I know, was condemned to hell.

Actions have consequences... Absolutely! 

The consequences of my actions make hell a just destination for me... but for God's mercy and grace.

Sometimes I forget that. I get all caught up in the hating of an antagonistic adversary and despicable foe; I totally lose sight of the fact that the only reason I only look any different in God's eyes is because He sees me clothed in Christ's righteousness. Somehow, I've started wondering, maybe even suspecting, that my own righteousness and efforts are impressing the Almighty... just a little bit.

When that mindset creeps in, when I'm glad, rejoicing with great celebration
  • the tottering
  • the wavering and weakness of what was once strong,
  • the stumbling and falling,
  • the fainting,
  • the bereavement, 
  • the casting down, 
  • the decaying, 
  • the failure, 
  • the falling into feebleness... 
  • the ruin?
I do not please God.

The only think I can think of that begins to compare in my own life is when I see one of my children delighting in the needed comeuppance of a sibling. Discipline is necessary and so critical as parents disciple children, but it pains to see one I love so much suffering through shame, guilt, conviction and/or consequences. It pains just as deeply, though, to see another one of my children enjoying their sibling's sadness by making merry as another reaps the aftermath they've brought on themselves... A more godly response would be sober sorrow.

That sober sorrow, however, must be the evidence of God's grace. This proverb warns, "Do not let..." which indicates that rejoicing is the natural, worldly, fleshly, sinful response. It is God's unfettered grace that enables His own to control, to "not let" rejoicing ensue.

1st photo credit: adedip via photopin cc
2nd photo credit: Amarand Agasi via photopin cc

23 October 2014

walK with THE Wise ~ Danger! Looks that Longingly Linger...

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!
In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange sights,
and your mind will imagine confusing things.
You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.
“They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up
so I can find another drink?”

Gaze... Look... See...

The eye is a pretty remarkable organ.

I was reminded of that recently as we took our Jonathan in to the eye doctor for a follow-up after an eye injury a few years back. He'd been playing in the trees (obviously, you can make a monkey out of Jonathan!) with his buddies when a branch snapped back and poked him in the eye. He had several splinters embedded in the cornea. The ophthalmologist in Niger said one splinter had completely pierced the cornea and had started to enter into the globe of his eye (sorry if my "English" vocabulary for this is all wrong). His eye doctor had said surgery was the next step when, miraculously we believe, those last two splinters worked their way out of the cornea. At this recent check, his vision is still 20/20 in that eye. He has two scars, one the doctor said was very deep, on his cornea; both are right on edge of his field of vision. If either of those scars were even the tiniest fraction closer to the center of his eye, his vision would have been significantly impacted - as in reduced.

These remarkable eyes, physically and metaphorically speaking, can be used for remarkable bad, or remarkable good.

These verses in Proverbs, demonstrate how lust and desire for something can grow wrong when we allow our look to longingly linger... when we gaze.

Here, the look lands on wine... it lingers... it desires... it partakes... it forgets moderation... it sins resulting in drunkenness. But this story doesn't have to be about wine. It can be about a person... a job... an outfit... a home... a song... a movie... a pet... anything that can begin to consume our thoughts, take over our affections, and direct our worship away from God. I just read a very thought provoking blog post by Francis Chan (Remember him - those of you who were in Bible study with me our last home assignment?) discussing how marriage can become a dangerous obsession. Chan's own words here: "Remember that the Bible is not a book about marriage; it is a book about God... remember that the goal is to be completely devoted to God. Marriage can be used as a means of improving our devotion to Jesus. Let’s not get it backwards and think of him as the means of improving our marriages."

In our church culture, in our fight to value marriage and to keep it defined as God defined it... has it become somewhat like that wine where we gaze too longingly, too long... and become "drunk," or consumed, with something that lasts only this lifetime when we have an eternity to consider?

Don't misunderstand me. Marriage is important,wonderful, God-ordained, a mystery and a picture of Christ and His bride - but a good marriage is not the end all or even the most important goal. It is temporal. When it... or anything else... supersedes God and becomes the end all, an idol, a wine we imbibe so ravenously and uncontrollably and immoderately that we become drunk on it, losing the ability to reason and think wisely, then we need to cry out just as Solomon does at the beginning of these verses.

His cry? Well, I love how Mathew Henry puts it:
Verse 29 begins "Who hath woe? who hath sorrow?" In the Hebrew, that is rendered, "lemi oi, lemi aboi" where oi and aboi are interjections of pain or grief. In other words, it reads like this:] Who hath Oh? who hath Alas?"
That will be the cry... some day, some time... when we allow those looks that longingly linger... at whatever...  desiring something else more than God.

photo credit: jenny downing via photopin cc

Longevity in Ministry ~ of rest and rescue

A few months back I began a series that I'm hoping will be both a challenge and encouragement - it has definitely been a challenge for me. The information I'm discussing is based off of a sermon by the senior pastor at my sending churchMy notes started off with these words: "Like longevity in life, some basic things are needed - right genes, right diet, right exercise, and right environment." The same principle applies to longevity in ministry on the mission field.

In the first few posts of the series, I shared the foundation my pastor laid out:t to "start, run and finish well," includes two key components. First, we must trust in the sovereignty and sufficiency of God which includes praying like everything depends on God. At the same time we must be obedient, working daily as though everything depends on us in God's strength and for God's glory.

What does the practical outworking of that look like:

I've identified seven priorities that are absolutely essential - ones that protect me from burnout and the temptation of sin, ones that give me direction and hope for the future, ones that remind me from whence comes any and all measure of progress and success.

Those priorities are:
  1. Growing an increasingly intimate relationship with the Lord by consistently, daily and throughout the day, seeking Him
  2. Praying without ceasing (steadfastly, continuously, patiently, powerfully); 
  3. Striving to maintain a good balance between personal growth and service or ministry
  4. Welcoming accountability; 
  5. Committing to marriage and family; 
  6. Choosing to be teachable even in difficult circumstances; and 
  7. Determining to be a genuine team player.
Today, I'm considering that third priority....


22 October 2014

walK with THE Wise ~ So... What then Can I Expect?

Have you ever thought about this before?
Expectations and promises aren't necessarily one and the same.

I'll type that again.

EXPECTATIONS and PROMISES are NOT one and the same.

We like to think they are.

What do I mean?

The book of Proverbs is full of all sorts of expectations... we can expect this and thus to happen to the wise, to the foolish, to the humble, to the proud, to the son who listens, to the son who chooses folly... and so on and so forth. Just take Proverbs 22, for example.
  • A humble fear of the Lord results in riches, honor and live.
  • If you stay away from the wicked, you will preserve your life.
  • Start off parenting your kids right and they will turn out alright as they get older.
  • The generous will be blessed.
  • Get rid of mockers and all strife, quarrels and insulting will be ended.
  • Corporal discipline will drive foolish behavior away from our children.
  • If you oppress the poor to get rich, you will become poor.
  • If you give gifts to the rich to incur favor and get rich, you will become poor.
  • If you exploit the poor because they are poor, if you crush the needy in court, the Lord will require life for life.
  • If you go into debt, your very bed will be taken from you.
Proverbs is full of many principles - identifying what is likely to happen if as a result of certain behaviors - both good and bad. Proverbs contains a few promises. Principles are a general operating idea. Promises are what we can count on.

It feels like betrayal when an expectation I'd been counting on, one that I had been treating as a promise, doesn't happen. In this sense, an expectation is simply the logical, reasonable, expected outcome of following a certain path.

God's promises, on the other hand and at least from my experience, are miraculous and are undeserved, unexpected and totally unreasonable from the perspective of human logic... Like a promised son to an infertile couple already mostly beyond the age of child-bearing... Like God giving me what I deserve instead of His grace and mercy...

21 October 2014

walK with THE Wise ~ Hasty? Don't waste those seconds!

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
Proverbs 21:5

I tend to make snap decisions. I'm very intuitive so I assess situations quickly - not always gathering the facts and based more on a gut level reaction, rapidly choosing a course of action and then moving right along with a significant measure of resolve.

And much of the time, this serves me well... at least humanly speaking.

Therein lies the problem... humanly speaking. What about spiritually speaking? Matthew Henry reminds us that Solomon gives us a context for this verse: "we are partial in judging ourselves and our own actions."

According to Strong's the word translated diligent, charuts (khaw-roots') properly means incised or incisive, a trench (as dug), gold (as mined), a threshing-sledge (having sharp teeth). It can also mean decisive - sharply determining, precisely and categorically what is substantive... real... actual and factual... or absolute. When I'm in a season of godliness (and let's be honest - that often comes in seasons and stretches when I'm consistently in His Word, studying and searching and praying and encountering the Almighty through His Word), those quick, pressed decisions are likely to be totally guided and inspired by Him because of the due diligence already done. 

When I'm in a season of ungodliness, where He's not often in my thoughts, rarely my primary concern and I'm in His Word on Sundays and some Wednesdays just because those happen to be church days (and let's be honest again - as much as I hate to acknowledge it, ungodliness happens and not just because of life, but mostly because of my poor choices and consistently wrong priorities), then those snap decisions are selfish and arrogant and demonstrate faulty thinking and understanding. They not only lead to poverty but reveal the poverty of my soul. And they reveal a huge lack in my life... I'm found wanting... desperately wanting.

photo credit: xTrish via photopin cc

20 October 2014

walK with THE Wise ~ of fear and terror and lions ~

Proverbs 20:2
New International Version
A king's wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion; 
those who anger him forfeit their lives.

New Living Translation
The king's fury is like a lion's roar; 
to rouse his anger is to risk your life.

English Standard Version
The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; 
whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.

New American Standard Bible 
The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; 
He who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life.

King James Bible
The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: 
whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul.

The Easy English Bible says: "An angry king is like a roaring lion. If you make the king angry, then you will die." The thing I get from this is when you make a king angry, you should be afraid. You should have the same sort of fear you'd have if you heard a lion roar or growl, see that it is headed rapidly your way and realize there is nothing between you and the animal.

I've had three or four thoughts floating around in my mind as I've meditated on these words and that thought today:
  1. It isn't wise to needlessly anger your authorities. On the occasion where you cannot compromise (i.e. your faith compels you to act differently than required by the authorities... thinking Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego since I just heard a sermon about those three guys), don't be surprised or afraid to face consequences.
  2. God is my ultimate authority... the most important monarch in my life. If I know there are certain thoughts, behaviors and attitudes that anger Him (ungodliness, unthankfulness, arrogance are certainly on that list), why would I even contemplate those sorts of actions... or nonactions?
  3. Satan wants to be my king and is compared to a prowling, roaring lion. When I obey God, I'm not doing what the evil one wants. In those situations, my Good Shepherd, His Word... they are my only defense. And God has given me His Spirit of power, love and sound mind... NOT a spirit of fear. But there will be attacks and scary moments.
  4. I've heard it said that the nomadic shepherds of West Africa faced down lions with nothing more than a staff or rod. When the lion charged, they'd stand their ground. As it would made its final leap/pounce toward the shepherd, the lion would roar and at that moment, the shepherd shoved the staff as far down the lion's throat as possible, causing the lion to gag, stunning it and most often, it would run away. As hard as that is to believe, Into the Pride's (Animal Planet) David Salmoni interacted with lion prides with nothing more than a staff in hand (and a four-wheeler as a quick mode of escape). I also believe, vaguely, that I heard him make a similar statement when I watched the series with my kiddos several years ago. An internet search, however, could not confirm that claim.
So... nothing profound or even super practical. I don't expect anyone reading this will ever have to face down a real live charging lion...

But since I'm curious, what thoughts go through your mind as you read the above verses?

I went to university at Penn State... home of the Nittany Lion.


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