Archive for August, 2010

31
Aug
10

i have learned

I recently preached from a text in Philippians 4 where Paul made the statement, “I have learned”. I sit here now contemplating that phrase “I have learned”.

The first thought that comes to my mind is in the form of a question – What have I learned? What have I allowed the Spirit of God to teach me? What have I learned from decades of Bible reading and study? What truths have made it from my head to my heart and affected the way I thought and conducted myself? Where have I changed because of the revelation of scripture? Where have my eyes been opened to the realities of discipled living because of acknowledgement of God’s truth made known in my life?

I think that’s what learning is all about. It is not the memorization of mere facts – It must be the acknowledgement of, and acquisition of, truth that will produce change in our lives.

When I think about that I begin to wonder what it is that God is wanting me to learn next? What life changing truth lies just around the corner? What will I learn from my present circumstances, no matter how difficult they may appear, that will soften me, sweeten me, strengthen me? What truth is the Spirit about to open my eyes to so that I might see others as God sees them, and serve them as such?

Perhaps the greatest waste, and maybe even sin, is to finish this life the same way we started. Never changing. Never improving. Never learning. Never coming to an understanding of all “God has prepared for those who love him.” The first part of that Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:9) says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived” those things. The next verse says that it is God’s Spirit that reveals all of them to us.

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25
Aug
10

that guy

Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t want to be that guy”? What do they mean when they say that? They are usually referring to someone who displays some characteristic that is out of sync with contemporary, mature or polite society. What they are communicating is that they recognize how the questionable behavior they have noticed in others is offensive, ignorant or downright unacceptable and they don’t want to come across in that way through their own actions.

Basically, it’s called introspection. Taking the time occasionally to assess ourselves. Taking note of behavioral patterns in our life and the effects those behaviors have on others around us. It also entails taking stock of our lives to see if we are accomplishing what we set out to do in life. It means taking the time to ask the tough questions of ourselves like…

“What question am I most afraid to ask myself?”

“Why have I not achieved the goals that I had for myself?”

“What will it take to achieve those goals?”

“Where am I and why am I here?”

“What will I do and how will I do it?”

That’s what successful people do. I’m not talking about being harsh or overly critical of ourselves – just taking an honest assessment and deciding what we’re going to do to make improvements.

We have to do the same spiritually. Paul admonishes us to, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!”
(2 Corinthians 13:5) Spiritual growth, like any personal development, doesn’t happen by accident. We don’t just fall into it. To grow consistently we must be intentional. We must have a plan. We must do some personal evaluation from time to time. That’s why James calls the Bible a “mirror” in the first chapter of his New Testament letter. He says that we are to look into it regularly and see if we are developing into what God has called us to be so that we won’t be “that guy.”

17
Aug
10

promises, promises, promises

When was the last time someone broke their promise to you? How did it make you feel? For most of us the feelings can begin with anger and then, as we accept the fact that the person has let us down, we migrate to feelings of disappointment. Then there is the whole broken trust issue. We wonder if we can ever again believe anything this person tells us. The wise sage of Proverbs, in his typical poetic style, described the feeling this way: “Like billowing clouds that bring no rain is the person who talks big but never produces.” (Proverbs 25:14) Pretty descriptive considering the humid weather we’ve been experiencing. There have been a number of days in the past week when I watched the sky cloud up and thought how refreshing a rain shower would be only to be disappointed as the humidity level rose.

On the other hand, the writer of Proverbs says this: “Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat—refreshing!” (Proverbs 25:13) That’s the kind of person I want to be-Always faithful, always true to my word, always consistent… If only that were possible. The truth is, as well meaning as I intend to be, the fact remains that: there are some things that are beyond my control; I don’t always have all the information needed to make the commitments I do; and, I am human, therefore, inconsistent in my attitude and behavior due to my not yet perfect nature. The same applies to you. No matter how well intentioned and pure of motive you might be, this fact remains-sometimes you and I are the aforementioned cloud that looks impressive but fails to produce. (Which is why we are constantly encouraged in Scripture to overlook one another’s failures due to sins of omission and forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us.)

The good news is that there is one who is always consistent in everything he says and does. We can have the same confidence Abraham had of whom Paul wrote in Romans 4:21, “He (Abraham) was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything he promised,” and He can!

10
Aug
10

clouds

My wife is convinced that I suffer from a mild case of “Light Depravation Syndrome”. For those unfamiliar, this disorder causes a mood change in those who are deprived of natural light. It can be mild or it can be manifested as full-blown depression. The symptoms begin in late autumn and last through the winter season.

It is true, I love the sunshine. I remember the first time I recognized this problem was my first semester of college in Tennessee. I went for what seemed like a whole month without seeing the sun. Being from South Florida, that was a bit strange.

You might be wondering why I am thinking about these things in the middle of summer when sunshine has been abundant. It is because I read something in Oswald Chambers devotional guide, My Utmost For His Highest, that started me thinking about it. Chambers cited Revelation 1:7: “Behold, He is coming with clouds.” He went on to say:

“In the Bible clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. ‘The clouds are the dust of His feet’ (Nahum 1:3). They are a sign that God is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow, bereavement and suffering are actually the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near us without clouds— He does not come in clear-shining brightness.”

What a contradiction to what we have so often been told and so desperately want to believe! We want everything to be perfect, painless and pretty all the time. If you don’t mind me continuing the alliteration, that produces puny and putrid believers.

God gives us the sunny days to enjoy, but it is while we walk with him in the clouds that we learn to know him and become useful in the Kingdom.

04
Aug
10

Sidetracked

Have you ever felt like the guy in this picture? I just returned from a weeklong conference in Orlando, so I know exactly how he feels. (By the way, it was fun walking around in a suit and tie while everyone else there had on shorts, flip flops and Mickey Mouse ears!) I always wonder for the first couple of days when I return home from a trip if it was worth all the preparation beforehand and make-up work after I get back. (I sometimes envy those who simply go on vacation. They don’t have to do anything at work to prepare, they just don’t show up. They don’t get any work related emergency phone calls while they’re away. I wonder what that would be like? Oh well, I digress.)

In the midst of all this catch-up work I once again realize how many distractions there are in life. Little inconveniences designed to slow us down or prevent us all together from accomplishing those things that are of worth. Distractions are aimed at all parts of our life-family, finances, self-improvement and, of course, our spiritual development.

The wise man of Proverbs counsels us not to “get sidetracked” in Proverbs 4:27 (NLT). Easy for him to say! How is that even possible in the busyness of 21st Century western culture?

He gives the answer in the preceding verses (25, 26): “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe.”

Once again, no magic bullet. No secret formula. Just diligence, hard work and determination are what it takes to be successful, accomplish your goals and live well.