Friday, 26 August 2016

I Am So Sorry!

Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

       I'm sorry. I apologize. I was wrong. Please forgive me. These words are some of the hardest to say because the fallen human condition is, by default, fearful of being wrong and fearful of appearing to be weak by saying it. In this era of quick and pithy comebacks or one-upping one another, saying "I'm sorry or I was wrong" does not sound cool or get the shallow gratification that comes from up-staging another human being. 
      Most often those who take pleasure in the downfall of others are full of fear themselves and their antics are masks to cover their cowardice hearts. 2 Tim. 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of self-control. Nonetheless, we are often wrong and need to come to the reality that being wrong is not a shameful thing. As a matter of fact, it is most often the way we learn a new thing in life. 
      One of the freedoms of being in Christ is that Jesus gives us the ability to overcome the fear of being wrong through His redemptive work that is available for each one of us who has excepted Him as Lord. Saying "I'm sorry" to man or God does not sit well with most of the human population because of the fear of appearing weak. This is why pride is so destructive to the human soul. Pride insists on having its own way and will make man do some of the most terrible things to one another.
      We see this pride at work on the battlefield of Israel. David's oldest brother, Eliab, sees David talking with the men about the situation concerning Goliath. Eliab starts to belittle David with hurtful words, then he tries to one-up him through shame and sarcasm. Everything Eliab is accusing David of is the very thing Eliab is acting out of his own heart and soul.
1 Sam. 17:28 When Eliab, David's oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, "Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle." 
      Basically paraphrased, "You're just a small sheepherder of no significance. You're not a super soldier like I am." There definitely is no room for the words "I'm sorry" in Eliab's vocabulary. Why? Because it takes humility and courage to apologize and repent for the hurts we have caused. The Archbishop of Canterbury said, "We sometimes have to crawl into the valley of humility in order to climb the heights of character. Humility is the soil in which pride has difficulty to grow."
      
A few years ago my wife asked me to pick up a couple of things she needed at the grocery store. It was early in the morning and quiet except for the musac that numbs the senses if you actually listen to it. There were three cashiers open and two of them were at one end of the frontage of the store and one was at the far end. As I walked by the one who was alone, I was struck with such aching and crying of heart that I almost collapsed.
      The cashier was the exact duplicate in facial image, hair color, size and age of a girl I had shamefully humiliated in high school. At that moment the truth and understanding of what I had done over forty-five years ago to her wounded soul was palpable and real as if it were yesterday. I said to God, "Oh Lord, I am so sorry for the way I treated her. I want to ask her for forgiveness if I could." Then I felt the Lord say, "Go and ask the cashier if she will stand in proxy for the girl you humiliated."
 Num. 32:23 But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out. 
      There were still no customers around her so I went up to her and said, "This might seem strange but you are the exact duplicate of a girl I went to high-school with." I then went on to confess my sin and explain to the young cashier why I needed forgiveness and I asked her if she would stand in proxy for her and forgive me. She actually said, "I stand in proxy for her and I forgive you for what you did." The weight of the world came off my shoulders at that moment and I thanked the Lord for His goodness.
      I believe what took place in the spirit that morning was twofold. I was set free and I truly believe whatever affect my terrible treatment had on the young lady was also healed in her from the hurt I had caused.
 John 8:36 Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. This feeling of being set free for both of us was a deep knowing in my soul. God is so good. Don't ever be afraid to say, "I am sorry." It truly is liberating. Prov. 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. God bless you all.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Don't Say It!

Proverbs 23:16 My innermost being will cheer when your lips say what is right.

      Give thy thoughts no tongue. William Shakespeare
      The good advice William Shakespeare was giving seemed to be "Keep your thoughts to yourself; act in a rational way." In this irrational world, that advice might be difficult. There are whole industries given to visual entertainment, scandal sheets and call-in radio shows devoted entirely to spewing one's thoughts and regurgitating them to the point of ad nauseam.
      How often have we said something we wish wholeheartedly we could take the words back. Even after hearing that still small voice in our minds saying, "Don't say it!" But nonetheless, it got said, resulting in everything from divorce to libel court dates. They did not control the impulse in their mind. They gave free rein to their tongues, resulting in irreparable damage. James 3:5 In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest on fire. 
      I was spewing my thoughts in one situation and the lesson literally came home loud and clear. I had driven my wife to the airport and the scanners for boarding passes had just been introduced in the airport. I was having difficulty going through the prompts because the option I needed did not seem to come up. The elderly couple next to me were having a harder time with the scanners when they asked for assistance from an airline agent. With great exasperation and over-dramatic emphasis she blurted out, "Can't you read?" 
      Everyone in the area turned to look at the elderly couple who were paralyzed with embarrassment. I was indignant and red-faced at the discourtesy of this so-called service person. I got up to the counter and voiced my thoughts about this agent and what I said was not kind. What I did not know was that I had leaned on my blue-tooth device in a way that it automatically called the last phone number that had been dialed and everything I had said about this terrible airline agent was being recorded on the answering machine at the other end. Eccl.10:20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say. 
      The saving grace and mercy that came my way in all my poor Christian behavior by lowering myself to the same obnoxiousness as the agent was the answering machine my words had been recorded on was the one at my own house. I was embarrassed at what I heard when I got home and the words of Jesus were without doubt in my mind. Matt. 12:36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.
      Yes, my dear friends, I repented right there on the spot. Yes, there was a voice in my head saying, "Don't say it that way," but I did not listen. Since then, this event has become one of those family stories told once in a while as a life lesson. Chuckles and laughter sometimes come out in the retelling of my embarrassing display of unrighteousness. However, the lesson is clear, we are responsible for what we say and our words will be judged. 

      We will have to give an account of our verbiage given out on a daily basis. Col. 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. There was a proper way to deal with the poor behavior of this airline agent. There are in most cases respectful ways of dealing with people behaving badly. I did not do it with lips saying the right thing. The Lord's heart was not cheered with how I said it. Prov. 23:16 My innermost being will cheer when your lips say what is right.
       As a parent, I have always hoped my sons would be men who speak kindly and respond in the right way toward others. God, the Father, expects the same out of His children who we are in Christ. As children of the most High God, we are ambassadors to the world - speaking the words of the Lord in love. 
      Love does sometimes have a hard word to say, but we can say it with grace, humility, and without being corrosive or argumentative. I am not as eloquent in speech as Mr. Shakespeare, but what he said makes sense. Heeding his advice would be a good thing for most of us on this earth to take on as a personal endeavor. 
      Guarding our tongue and listening to the voice that says, "Don't say it" would be a good habit to develop in our hearts and minds. Prov. 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. It's time to retool the way we say things. May God give us His grace to have lips to say what is right. Amen.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Life Or Lifestyle?

Proverbs 14:22 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

      Living or existing? This is a good question. Modern medicine has allowed many people to live longer but not necessarily giving the person quality of life. Sometimes these individuals end up simply existing and becoming discouraged because they thought the treatment would bring them life. Like any pill or prescription, it does have limitations and people who are looking for the one-hit wonder can become disheartened. 

      Living is a choice and not just a thing absorbed through osmosis because it is around us. Living must be acted upon and lived out of one's soul and being. Deut. 30:19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
      Another good question is are you just looking for lifestyle or life? We are bombarded with lifestyle ads and television channels pushing lifestyle to the point of excess. Every home and garden show has people looking for lifestyle to the point of neurotic breakdowns if granite countertops are not in the deal. There is nothing wrong with a good, nice, and even extravagant lifestyle but it should not come at the cost of actually living in the presence of God. 
      Jesus said that He was the life. He did not say He was a lifestyle to build one's personal agenda or belief system around. John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. The same thing goes for choosing life rather than just existing. The Lord said that He had come to give us life and abundant life at that. John 10:10b I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
      The Scribes and Pharisees had turned the laws and oracles of God into a lifestyle rather than an opportunity for a relational life with God. As God said on different occasions, the people were not for Him in their hearts but only in what they could get out of Him. Isa. 29:13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught." Existing in a religious lifestyle had become more important than a life in God. 
      Jesus was encountering the same thing with the Scribes and Pharisees. They were choosing a religious lifestyle of many man-made ordinances in order to earn the love and affirmation of God in their lives. At the same time, they questioned any other lifestyle outside of their own, even if God was making the argument for life. Matt. 15:2 Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat. 
      Jesus had a way of disrupting the traditional lifestyle the Pharisees and Scribes had invented through the arduous implementation of the laws. Jesus, with righteousness and the life of God, changed the way things were seen by properly interpreting the same laws. Matt. 15:3 Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? In this same bible chapter, Jesus goes on to point out the laws of God are corrupted for the sake of their own lifestyle.
      Have you found yourself in the position of an argument with God over lifestyle rather than life He has declared? If you are insisting on a particular lifestyle and it is causing a corrosiveness in the relationship between you and God, then it might be time to give it up. What on earth is worth the damage of your soul? 
      In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon spends a monetary fortune looking through every type of lifestyle imaginable for the answers of eternal life. He knows there is a need for a rebirth, so to speak, but cannot find it in anything under the sun. He comes to the conclusion that under the sun all is vanity, but the answer is in what God says. Eccl. 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. 
      What does Solomon conclude? Chose a life with and in the Lord rather than the lifestyles offered by the world system with no real answers. Chose life, because Jesus is the life. Amen!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Becoming Subversive

Proverbs 31:9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

      After listening to different interviews of the radically changed people who have chosen to join a religious movement that justifies the slaughter of whoever seems to be in their way, I can see a pattern taking place. What these so-called self-proclaimed subversives seem to be is DUMB: disillusioned, unemployed, manipulated, and bereft of compassion. There is nothing subversive about them. They are just lost in mind and heart. 
      They claim to be a new movement that will change the world by making it uninhabitable. Go figure, a mob mentality breaking everything that does not meet their shallow criteria. Isa. 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. We have heard it all before throughout history and will hear it again in the future. Eccl. 1:9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. There is nothing subversive here. There is only a lonely hearts club looking for some kind of identity through a tantrum and ignorant violence.
      If you want subversive look no farther then Jesus who taught us to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, and do good to our neighbors who sometimes hate us. Now that is subversive. Totally contrary to what the world system says is normal. Matt. 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. 
      Anybody can hurt another person, but it takes fortitude and faith to do good to those who are doing what is wrong to our loved ones and ourselves. Anyone can lash out at another person and break their hearts, but it takes true character to reach out and heal the brokenhearted. 
      The bible teaches us to be a life force in this world. As Christians, we are challenged to be different and do things like intercede in prayer for our government members. 1 Tim. 2:2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 
      We are exhorted to pay our taxes and take care of the less fortunate in life. Rom. 13:7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. We are asked to fight for the rights of the downtrodden. Prov. 31:8  Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Now that is a subversive revolution.
      Jesus and His apostles, plus Paul and the leaders he raised, were under Roman occupation and the harsh rules that came from that empire. This was a brutal time in history and yet with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they were able to change the known world by being a loving voice and a positive action of real change. They were all at some point accused of being a subversive group and yet they changed history and civilization with grace and love. 
      God's ways are not the ways of humanity or its methods. Isa. 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. We are different and righteous in Christ. This allows us to lead a subversive life that brings a blessing to a fallen world. 1 Pet. 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
      If you want to be different, denounce the wrongs perpetrated on a daily basis in your own town. You do not need a megaphone or ten foot high placards with hateful slogans. You just have to decide in your heart that you are going to change a few things in your own life and see where it goes from there. 
      You might want to do a few subversive things like grow your own food or collect your own seeds. Create your own electricity. Volunteer at the hospital, school, or church. Pray for your mayor and council members. Pray for your pastor and for the emergency first-responders. Don't say these things are too small and will not make much of a difference. It will make all the difference in your life and their lives. Zech. 4:10a Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. Who knows, becoming subversive in the world system might be fun. Give it a try. Blessings to you in Jesus name.