Thursday, December 29, 2016

Self-Devastation


Do you remember the first time you lied and you got away with it?

Do you remember when you were finally convinced that lying just wasn’t worth it?

I do not know whether either of these questions apply to you. However, it is likely that you know someone that lies and seems to get away with it. No conscience. Lying is simply a part of life.

I worked with a man who, just a few days before retirement, advised a young coworker, “Never admit that you are wrong; never admit a mistake.” (Translation: Lie to cover your mistakes.)

What the older man did not realize is that everyone already knew. He could not hide all his mistakes, so everyone knew that he lied. He had no conscience and no integrity. No one really cared that he retired (except, perhaps, his wife).

How foolish we are to think that we will really get away with our lies.

     A false witness will not go unpunished, 
     And he who tells lies will not escape.
     --Proverbs 19:5

We have a number of words in the English language to describe lying. It does not matter what word is used; it does not matter how subtle the lie or how minor its impact. A lie is a lie.

I wonder if the most devastating lie is the one we tell ourselves...that it really does not matter!

Monday, December 26, 2016

One Thing You Really Need to Know about Christmas

The Holiday
Yes, it is true. We really do not know the exact date of Jesus’ birth. One writer has commented that about the only thing we know for sure is that Jesus was not born on December 25th.

The word ‘Christmas’ does not come from the Bible, but from the Catholic Church. It is a shortened form of “Christ’s Mass” a celebration of Christ’s birth from about the 4th century A.D.

Some people are troubled by this information. Many  who do not believe in Jesus think Christians to be fools for celebrating Christmas.

However, in scripture, the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, brought joy to those awaiting the Messiah, and it brought praise to God for fulfilling His promise of salvation. Yet, as joyful a time as it was, first century Christians were not instructed to celebrate His birth. That said, Christians are given the liberty to celebrate as they wish, if they wish, whenever they wish, even in July.

The Wise Men
Yes, it is true. No one really knows how many wise men visited Jesus; and no one knows their names. It is somewhat unclear from scripture whether Joseph and Mary had returned to Nazareth or stayed in Bethlehem when the wise men visited. It is also unclear how old Jesus was when the wise men presented Him gifts. About the only thing we know for sure is that Jesus was not lying in a manger in a stable when the wise men visited. He was inside a house with His mother:

“After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
                                                                                     —Matthew 2:11

There are things we are used to hearing and seeing at Christmastime, things we even expect: trees and stockings, fruitcakes and shopping; fa la la la laa, la la la laaaaa.

Whether you celebrate; in whatever way you celebrate; your Christmas traditions are yours. December 25th, the wise trio, manger & stable scenes; and the jolly, rotund, chimney sweep with a big bag; it is all up to you. But there is one thing you really need to know about Christmas.

Peace on Earth
An angel announced the birth of Jesus to nearby shepherds. Then the heavenly host appeared praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom he is well pleased.
                                                                     —Luke 2:14 (NASB)

This was not a divine greeting, but a declaration. Yet, God never promised ‘everybody’ peace on earth. You need to know that the only ones who will have peace are those ‘with whom He is well pleased.’ And that demands a response, not to the baby in a manger, but the Christ upon the cross.

Jesus, the adult Jesus, the one called Messiah, and Master; the man that God acknowledged as his Son; He said the He had come to bring a sword. (Matthew 10:34). The sword is a sign of judgment.

Jesus did bring peace to earth, but it was peace between God and sinful man. Just read the first two chapters of the gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke. Zacharias, the father of John said it; Mary said it; the old man Simeon said it: Jesus came to bring peace between God and man, to those with whom He is well pleased.

Is God well pleased with your response to Jesus???

Thursday, December 22, 2016

No Excuses


The boys did not know there were shallow places where they were diving. They buried their friend.

The driver did not know that there was a hairpin turn at the bend in the road. Three were lost.

The young boy did not know the gun was loaded, and his mother cried.

The realities of our natural world are often seen as brutal. It is so sad when young people ignore advice or take dangerous risks not knowing the likely consequences. It is not a comforting statement, but real, "Ignorance is no excuse."

We are well aware of this reality because of our own experiences or those we hear and read about. The laws of nature are unforgiving.

It is common, however, for people to look at society and morality and spirituality and think that things are different.

     If you say, "See, we did not know this," 
     Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? 
     And does He not know it who keeps your soul? 
     And will He not render to man according to his work?
     --Proverbs 24:12

There are consequences for actions in society and in the natural world...
and there are spiritual consequences for the choices we make.

Ignorance is no excuse.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Glad Dad


     My son, if your heart is wise, 
     My own heart also will be glad.
     --Proverbs 23:15

That’s not so impressive, is it?
It is not one of those proverbs with a stinger, the kind that sets the reader up in the first line and then surprises them with a sharp and piercing dart of truth in the next.

However, let’s consider what the father did NOT tell his son:


My son, if you have fine clothes
My own heart also will be glad.

My son, if you drive a nice chariot (car)
My own heart also will be glad.

My son, if you marry a beautiful woman
My own heart also will be glad.

My son, if you accumulate wealth
My own heart also will be glad.

My son, if your heart is full of laughter
My own heart also will be glad.

My son, if you have many friends
My own heart also will be glad.

My son, if your life is filled of entertainment,
My own heart also will be glad.
My son, if your career is on track
My own heart also will be glad.

My son, if you are a man of great power
My own heart also will be glad.

Wisdom:
     My son, if your heart is wise
     My own heart also will be glad.

Dads, what will make you glad?
Give good, godly advice to your son (children).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

OUCH, OOPS, STUPID!


We live in a nation that boasts ‘independence.’ We are free men and women. We own our own lives. We decide our futures.

And yet, we know all too well, from experience...

     The rich rules over the poor, 
     And the borrower becomes the lender's slave.
                                                                         --Proverbs 22:7

If we know this proverbs to be true by our own observation and experience, why are so many of us in debt ‘up to our ears’? We are ‘owned’ (enslaved) by the banks, credit card companies, department stores, and other lenders.

Warning: "That’s hot; you’ll burn yourself."
   "I know" . . . "OUCH!"
Warning: "You are going to break it if you keep doing that."
   "I know" . . . "OOPS!"
Warning: "You’ll be a slave to your lenders if you keep borrowing."
   "I know" . . . "More money, Please."

There is no other way to put it.
When we know the consequences, but act foolishly anyway, we are...
OUCH, OOPS, STUPID.

Get out of debt.
Be wise.

Monday, December 12, 2016

"You Deserve It!"


I cringe just a little when I hear the expression, “Oh, you deserve it.”

I generally hear this sentiment when someone is about to take a few days off for a vacation. “I’m so happy for you; you deserve it.”

There is nothing wrong with taking time off for rest and relaxation. However, our society, in general, has become obsessed with entertainment and pleasure. Is that wise?

     He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; 
     He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.
     --Proverbs 21:17

The pleasure seeker is not really descriptive of the hard working man or woman who is busy throughout the week with job and family, but occasional takes time off. The pleasure seeker fills every weekend and many week nights with pleasure activities. They eat out more often than not. They sit at their TV, go out to movies, concerts, sporting events; they head out to parks, museums, and amusement parks regularly. They are always looking and thinking about the next event or activity. Then they rush off to the big city for more.

None of these things, in and of themselves, are bad or wrong. Look back at the warning in the proverb: “He who loves pleasure” and “He who loves wine and oil” (symbolic of wealth and happiness). Solomon is talking about the pleasure ‘lover.’ Their mind is not oriented toward helping others. Oh, it's a nice thought, but they crave pleasure and entertainment. Their mind is not oriented toward the Lord. They have appetites to satisfy.

Solomon warns that they will become poor, yet he is not focusing on wealth. He is presenting wealth as the result of wisdom, prudence, and discipline.

The pleasure lover is out of touch with reality. He does not really know God.

Our mental image of Jesus does not have him in the fan stands wearing the bright colors of a favorite sports team cheering them on to victory. Our mental image of the Christ does not have him on a party barge at the lake or on a roller coaster at the amusement park.

Jesus: Fasting and praying; preaching and warning about God's judgment; teaching and healing and showing compassion; sacrifice. The cross.

Has our wealth skewed our perception of pleasure, what we deserve, and what is truly important? Has our wealth skewed our perception of God? Of Christ?

Go on vacation. Head out to the ball game. Ride the roller coaster. Enjoy life. But ask yourself; honestly evaluate yourself: "Am I a pleasure lover."

Entertainment and pleasure can truly make you poor, and I’m not just talking about money.

Monday, December 5, 2016

I Know What You're Thinking


Imagine the absurdity...

Everyone in the courtroom stands as the honorable judge is announced. He seats himself, the courtroom is seated; the judge faces the people in the courtroom.

The lawyers are ready to begin the day and the first case is introduced and immediately the gavel strikes and the judge announces, “Guilty. Next case.”

Again, imagine the absurdity.

You know and I know; the judge knows, the lawyers know, everyone knows... that’s not fair! There can be no justice unless the judge ‘hears’ the case. He cannot simply respond to the accusation without listening to the facts.

It seems so elementary, yet, we all sit in the judge’s seat at times in our daily lives. Parents deal with children, husbands interact with wives, wives with husbands; bosses and employees interact; neighbors interact; church members interact; people bump into people in stores, at the park, around town. We are involved in communication everywhere we go.

How often do you ‘decide’ something about a person before you get to know them? How often do you 'decide' how you will respond before listening to the other person?

It cannot work in the courtroom. The judge must first listen, then return a verdict (judgment).

It cannot work at the fast food restaurant. Imagine pulling up to the 'drive through' and just as you begin to order, you hear: “Hello...your order is ready.”

What makes us think it will work in our daily interactions with people. It is so easy to blurt out a response before all the facts are known. It is so easy to ‘jump to conclusions.’

Friendships severed; family members offended; business deals lost; progress stifled. Solomon calls it ‘folly and shame.’

     He who gives an answer before he hears, 
     It is folly and shame to him.
                                                             --Proverbs 18:13

I think 'time' is an important part of the solution. Just pause a little longer, listen a little more carefully, then respond. They say that “time heals all wounds” but perhaps a little extra time could prevent the injury in the first place. After all, I really don't know what you're thinking.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

True Gems


How many times must we be told?
How many ways can it be said?
Will we ever get it?

     There is gold, and an abundance of jewels;
     But the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.
     --Proverbs 20:15

Wealth is not wrong, but let’s not even begin to rationalize all the 'stuff' we own.

A person who has wealth knows quite a lot about material things; knows how to obtain material things; knows how to maintain material things; knows material things.
In the end... * poof * ...gone.
What a waste...of life.

A person who has knowledge, true knowledge, knowledge of God, knowledge of God's ways, knows God. And he knows how to truly live...
so he lives...
and he lives...
forever...
...