Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Be Your Own Gatekeeper"

2nd Chronicles 23.1, 20 NKJV

 “In the seventh year Jehoiada strengthened himself, and made a covenant with the captains of hundreds:  And he set the gatekeepers at the gates of the house of the Lord, so that no one who was in any way unclean should enter.”

I need to “set the gatekeepers at the gates” of my mind so nothing “unclean should enter” this coming day. It know it will be a struggle. It always is. I must prepare to battle pessimism, resentment, prejudice, and impurity.

I am confident Jesus will help me resist the entrance of these thoughts past the eye and ear gates of my mind. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Some Good"

2nd Chronicles 19.2b-3 NLT

“Because of what you [Jehoshaphat] have done, the Lord is very angry with you. Even so, there is some good in you, for you have removed the Asherah poles throughout the land, and you have committed yourself to seeking God.”

I am encouraged to know that God recognized “some good” in Jehoshaphat even though he sinned. I am not intrinsically good. I am, rather, prone to sin. The prophet's acknowledgement of “some good” in Jehoshaphat gives me hope. 

I am deeply aware of my some of my short-comings. There are probably plenty more I am still learning about. Like the skins of an onion, I am becoming more and more cognizant of my depravity one layer at a time. I know I deserve the wrath of the Lord as penalty for my sin. 

Nevertheless, Jesus speaks reassuringly to my heart, “Even so, there is some good you.” That is the “good” only Jesus can impart which He does so freely. 

Today I am grateful for the hope I have in the redemptive work of Jesus in me.  


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Good Choices are Often Hard Ones"

2nd Chronicles 15.16 “The Message”

“In his clean-up of the country, Asa went so far as to remove his mother, Queen Maacah, from her throne because she had built a shockingly obscene image of the sex goddess Asherah. Asa tore it down, smashed it, and burned it up in the Kidron Valley.”

Sometimes leaders must make hard choices. Asa’s mother[1] had a thing for false gods and even authorized the creation of a forbidden idol. King Asa could honor his mother or condemn idolatry. But he couldn’t do both. It was Mom or God. These were mutually exclusive options yet the Bible commands both…


“You shall not make for yourself an idol…”
“Honor your father and your mother…”
Exodus 20.4, 12

Asa was conflicted. Which commandment of the Law would he prefer? He could take either course of action citing the second or fifth of “Ten Commandments” as his supporting text. The king faced a fork in the road. He had a choice to make, a tough choice. Fifteen years into his reign, he made the right one. Asa honored God and chose to “remove his mother, Queen Maacah, from her throne.”

Leaders must make hard choices. In the face of excellent opposing arguments, real leaders take a stand. Decisions must be made. Men and women of faith seek God for solutions, especially when Scripture may be used to support all sides of an argument. A godly leader is aware that the devil can quote the Bible (see Matthew 4.5-6) and understands that wise application of the Scripture is as important as the text itself. 

Choices are expensive. They cost the leader something personal. Asa could not please God and honor his mother. One of them had to go. Asa made a hard decision. It was clearly the right one. He was a real leader and God honored him for it.

Jesus had something to say about placing loved ones above God...

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother,
his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes,
even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14.27 NIV

Good choices are often hard ones. Good leaders make hard decisions. When a fork appears in the road and take the right path, not necessarily the easy one.
_____________________

[1] Maacah was in fact King Asa’s grandmother having been the wife of Rehoboam and the mother of Asa’s father, Abijah. In the Hebrew scriptures, the terms “mother” or “father” are often used interchangeably with grandparents and, sometimes, even more remote ancestors.

Monday, June 19, 2017

"When You're Not There Anymore"

2nd Chronicles 10.7-9a “The Message”

“They [the elders] said, ‘If you will be a servant to this people, be considerate of their needs and respond with compassion, work things out with them, they'll end up doing anything for you.’

But he [Rehoboam] rejected the counsel of the elders and asked the young men he'd grown up with who were now currying his favor, ‘What do you think?’

After King Solomon died, his young son Rehoboam became the new king of Israel. Unfortunately Solomon did not prepare the boy for weighty regal responsibility. When faced with a difficult question, Rehoboam forsook the counsel of his elders and followed the advice of the bad boys “he’d grown up with.” He asked the right question of the wrong people, “What do you think?” These young men were in no position to advise a king. Rehoboam’s foolish decision to hear and heed the counsel of his buddies spelled disaster and the end of the Israel’s political and military dominance in the middle east.

All young people pass through phases and wise parents assist in their transitions. Solomon was too busy with his “seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines” (1st Kings 11.3) to pay close attention to Rehoboam. Solomon’s son adopted his identity from the wrong crowd. A boy thrust into a position of authority without a proper role model is a setup for big failure with serious consequences.

Almost every day my young children enter a new phase on their journey toward adulthood. I can only imagine how damaging it would be to our children if my wife and I failed to notice and celebrate each of these small rites of passage…
  • staying dry all night long
  • opening a first savings account
  • good-bye to training wheels
  • losing his last baby tooth
  • writing her name in cursive
  • graduating from first grade
  • obtaining a first library card
  • first piano recital
  • middle school 
  • obtaining a driver’s license
  • high school
  • getting a part-time job
  • going on a first date
  • college
Becoming a real man or a woman is not something that happens on the twenty-first birthday. It’s a gradual process beginning with the celebration of each milestone in a child’s life by loving parents, supportive family, and other important authority figures.

Consistent recognition of your son or daughter’s small achievements through the years will prepare them to make good decisions for themselves when you’re no longer there to help.

Friday, June 16, 2017

"Good Intentions Matter"

2nd Chronicles 6.8-9 NIV
Cartoon by Patrick Rowan (www.pictureworks.ca)
“...the Lord said to my father David, ‘Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, who is your own flesh and blood — he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’ ”

Do you believe “the road to hell is paved with good intentions?” I don’t. It’s not a Bible saying. Nobody knows how this phrase evolved into popular language.[1] Many people dislike the idea of “good intentions” especially if they’re linked to inaction. But I think good intentions matter.

David had the idea to build a temple for the Lord. The building project was “in his heart”. God commended David for his good intention...

“…you did well to have it in your heart.”

By “good intentions” I am not referring to “creative avoidance.” These so-called good intentions are only useless justifications or lousy excuses. The road to hell probably is paved with these type of intentions. These are lies we tell ourselves and others to bolster our sense of worth. But without sincere good intentions, nothing good would ever happen.

God was glad David wanted to build the temple, but God had a different plan. The Lord approved of David’s good intentions but was not thereby bound to help David perform them. It was God’s intention that another man construct His house. In this case, God’s intention and David’s did not match up. But that did not mean David’s intention was pavement on the road to hell.

Good intentions should fill my heart. They should capture my imagination and drive me in the pursuit of excellence. Good intentions matter to God but He is not thereby bound to help me perform them. On occasion, one of my good intentions and God’s plan match up. I love it when that happens!
______________

The "Road to Hell" cartoon was created by Toronto illustrator Patrick Rowan.

[1] The 18th century English poet and essayist, Samuel Johnson, is often thought to be the source of the popular proverb “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” but he may not deserve credit for it. The idiom probably derives from a similar statement by St. Bernard of Clairvaux about 1150, L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs ("Hell is full of good intentions or wishes"). The origin of “The road to…” part is a mystery.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"LOVE THEM"

2nd Chronicles 2.17 NIV, 2.18 NLT
 
Solomon took a census of all the aliens who were in Israel, after the census his father David had taken; and they were found to be 153,600.” 

“He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 as quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 as foremen.”

The problem of undocumented immigrants has been around for a long time. King Solomon dealt decisively with foreigners in Israel about 3,000 years ago. He counted and documented them, legalized them, and gave them jobs. He found 153,600 aliens in the land so he made 70,000 of them common laborers. 80,000 became stone cutters, and 3,600 worked as foremen over the other 150,000 at the Temple construction project in Jerusalem.

Illegal immigration is a bigger problem for the USA now than it was for Solomon then. Estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants within our borders range from 4 to 20 million. Those who advocate ‘sending them all back from where they came from’ should reconsider. Most of these people are law-abiding and productive non-citizens. The immediate deportation of illegals would seriously and adversely affect our economy. Almost all of us are dependent, at least indirectly, upon an alien work force. 

And what about the children?
"A new Pew Hispanic Center report reveals a big increase in the number of children born in the United States to at least one illegal alien parent. In 2003, the group found that 2.7 million children had at least one parent who was in the country illegally, but that number is now up to 4 million kids. The report also reveals that 73 percent of all children of illegal aliens are U.S. citizens. 
"According to the report, approximately 8.8 million people live in families with illegal alien parents and 75 percent of them are Hispanic.
"The report also revealed some other key facts...
  • 7 percent of students in public elementary and secondary schools are children of illegal aliens
  • 1/3 of children of illegal aliens live in poverty
  • The median household income for illegal alien families is $36,000 ($50,000 national average)
"In March of 2008, 8.3 million illegal aliens had jobs in the United States."[1]
Get used to the presence and sight of foreigners in our midst. They’re not going away anytime soon. Our country’s leaders need Solomon’s wisdom. He conducted a census. Solomon counted, documented, legalized, and put to work “all the aliens who were in Israel.” I am not suggesting that we do not tighten the borders and or fail to restrict illegal entry into our country, but only that we find an intelligent way to deal with those undocumented immigrants who are already in the USA. 

The Bible is clear in its two-word mandate on how to deal with all people, including strangers and aliens in the land; that is, LOVE THEM...

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you
shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall
be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself;
for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus 19.33-34 NASB

“He [God] executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and
shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show
your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
Deuteronomy 10.18-20 NASB

Some Christians who advocate “kick out the illegals,” generously support missions around the world. Could God be bringing a mission field to their own back yard? Why not learn a little Spanish culture and language and “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” within the borders of our own nation as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28.19?

The Unites States of America will not easily rid itself of 20 million illegal aliens. It wouldn’t be good for our country if it did. Undocumented immigrants are a fact of current American life. The old adage… “If you can’t beat them, join them” was Solomon’s pragmatic approach to the issue of immigration reform.

Christ-followers should go beyond Solomon’s wisdom and embrace God’s command to “show love for the alien.” 
_______________________

[1] From the NumbersUSA for Lower Immigration Levels (http://www.numbersusa.com/content/news/april-15-2009/number-us-citizen-children-illegal-aliens-growing.html) based on an April 14, 2009 New York Times article by Julia Preston at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/us/15immig.html?_r=1.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"We are All Aliens"

1st Chronicles 29.15

We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” NIV

“For we are strangers before You, and sojourners, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope or expectation of remaining.” AMP

We are faced with a national crisis. Immigration reform will happen. If we rise up and deal responsibly with the issues, we may avoid a serious clash of cultures and painful losses to those on every side of the immigration issue. Reform will occur. It cannot be avoided. We can do it peaceably if we act quickly, or suffer tragic consequences if we procrastinate.

Would you commit a crime to save yourself? Would you break the law to feed your starving child? I would. Do I think its right? No. Do I have compassion for the lawbreaker? In this case, yes. Enforcing the law with an illegal alien may be the right thing to do, but will break a compassionate person’s heart.  

“People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; He may have to give up all the substance of his house.”
Proverbs 6.30-31 NKJV

About ten years ago, 160 federal agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted a raid on Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. on North Rivergate Boulevard in Portland, Oregon. They arrested 167 undocumented immigrants most of whom were sent to a federal detention facility to face possible deportation. Imagine the sorrow and fear of Nicolas Siquina whose Guatemalan wife was one of the detainees. “Two months ago, Siquina, a permanent resident, filed documents to begin the process to win her legal status.” “I feel desperate” Siguina was reported saying in Spanish. “She’s all I got.”[1]


According to the Bible, you and I have something in common with Nicolas Siguina’s wife. We are both “aliens and strangers.” Our time on earth is “like a shadow” moving from the dawn of arrival to the dusk of our departure. This world is not my permanent home or possession. I will not forever keep my house, my clothes, or even my family. All of these precious things and people will be stripped away from me one day. I cannot stop the shadow of my life from shifting me towards its final destination. I have “no hope or expectation of remaining” here.

The best I can do is to make friends with Jesus Christ so when that time comes He will bring me safely back across the temporal border, dividing this life from the next, to the land of promise, my eternal home. 

________________

[1] The Oregonian, Sunrise Edition, Wednesday June 13, 2007, “Immigration raid pushes Oregon into thick of fight” and “In raid’s wake: panic, desperation and confusion,” p. A1, A 8-9.

Photo at top left is by David McNew (Getty Images).

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Everybody Needs at Least One"

1st Chronicles 27.33b NLT

Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.”

This text may appear insignificant until you look closely at the context. At least five chapters of this book of the Bible (1st Chronicles 23-27) are dedicated to roles and responsibilities, designations and duties of various people in the leadership of David’s kingdom. There are priests, Levites, musicians, prophets, gatekeepers, treasurers, officers, judges, army commanders, tribal leaders, property managers, overseers, counselors, tutors, scribes, and a variety of other workers. Many of the leaders found in these 160 verses were mentioned by name... Ladan, Shimei, Jehiel, Zetham, Joel, Shelomoth, Haziel, Haran, Zina, Jeush, Beriah, and about 200 others. All of them were given titles and specific jobs. Yet, only one was called a “friend.”

Hushai the Arkite fulfilled a unique role in King David’s life. He remained loyal to David at the great risk of personal harm. Hushai earned the title “friend” and was the only person so named in the final days of the king’s reign.

A single friend of this caliber was probably all David needed. I know many wonderful people. I could probably mention by name well over 200. Many of them I would call friends, or even good friends. But I have very few truly close friends. There is, of course, Jesus, who is my best friend. (An ancestor of mine, Joseph M. Scriven wrote a song about Him in 1855 which seems appropriate to note here... “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”)

I miss my next best friends, my dad Gil Scriven, who went to be with Jesus about twelve years ago, and my mother Betty, who died seven years ago. My very best friend ever was my loving and faithful wife Adonica, who lost her battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on August 30th, 2015. I’m still trying to figure out how to do life without her. Then there’s Lonnie, Matt, Ryan, Brandon, Kristi, Scott, Ruth, Bill, Heather, Ken, Greg, Eric, Stanford, Robert, Dale, Bob, Josh, Benjamin, Johnny, and a handful of others. 

In the close “friend” department, one is probably enough. Everybody needs at least one. I have more than my fair share. I feel blessed.

Monday, June 12, 2017

"Just Add Water"

1st Chronicles 22.16 NASU

“Of the gold, the silver and the bronze and the iron there is no limit. Arise and work, and may the LORD be with you.”

I am holding in my hand a box of Betty Crocker’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix. Mmmmm. Sounds scrumptious. Here’s the best part. If I want fresh and steaming buttermilk pancakes topped with melting butter and hot syrup… I can have them. All I have to do is... “Just Add Water.”

It’s easy, complete, and ready to go. “Just Add Water” and I will enjoy the fulfillment of Betty’s promise to start my day with a delicious, hot breakfast. Pancakes don’t just appear. Betty Crocker has done all she can. The rest is up to me. If I do not “just add water,” I will have no plate of pancakes. It’s not hard. I know what to do. The question is simple… Will I “just add water?”

“David made ample preparations before his death” (1st Chronicles 22.5). The king provided everything Solomon needed to construct the Temple of the Lord. But Solomon still had to work to make it happen...

“I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to stockpile materials for the sanctuary of God:
100,000 talents (3,775 tons) of gold, a million talents (37,750 tons) of silver, 
tons of bronze and iron — too much to weigh — and all this timber and stone.
You’re all set — get to work!”
1st Chronicles 22.14, 16 “The Message”

Has God made a promise to you? Then He will fulfill His promise through you! Without Him you can’t. Without you He won’t.

You are an essential part of the equation. He boxed the ingredients of your destiny. You have all you need to fulfill His will. “Just Add [the] Water” of passion, hard work, and decisive action.

Arise and work, and may the LORD be with you!”

Friday, June 09, 2017

"Semper Fidelis"

1st Chronicles 19.12-13 NIV

The United States Marine Corps
“Joab said [to his brother Abishai], ‘If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to rescue me; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will rescue you. Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.’ ”

My friend Wayne inadvertently referred to “ex-Marines” in a public address. After the speech a gentleman approached and informed him, “There is no such thing as an ‘ex-Marine’. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

When the honorable title of “U.S. Marine” has been conferred, it is retained. There are active duty Marines, retired Marines, reserve Marines, former (enlisted and commissioned officer) Marines, and Marine veterans but no ex-Marines. According to Col. James Hoke, “The title of Marine is an earned title and never goes away.” If you earned it, you’re a Marine for life. 

Joab and Abishai would have made good Marines. They exemplified the Marine Corps motto: Semper Fidelis. Joab and Abishai were “always faithful” to protect and defend each other in battle.

photo by Jim Mahoney, The Dallas Morning News, November 11, 2004
We all have enemies. They take the form of temptations, addictions, trouble, misfortune, and sometimes people. Do you have a ranger buddy who will come to your “rescue” and carry your wounded body off the battlefield? I hope so. I do. This is a reciprocal commitment of courage and faithfulness. I know I will be protected because people love me as I love them. I am willing to protect, and I am protected. I have friends I can count on. If I falter, men who are “always faithful” will pick me up. If they get hurt, I will be there to help them heal. We are “Joab” and “Abishai” for each other. We are Semper Fidelis, “always faithful” to rescue the other man in trouble...

“If the Arameans are too strong
for me, then you are to rescue me;
but if the Ammonites are too strong
for you, then I will rescue you”.

I thank God for “a few good men” and women who are “always faithful” brothers and sisters in Christ. They are there for me, and I am for them. I would have it no any other way. I could not make it through life without these dear souls by my side.  I wouldn’t even want to try.
_____________________

"Generations of Valor" was taken by The Dallas Morning News staff photographer Jim Mahoney on November 11, 2004. "Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James of Dallas is overcome with emotion as he embraces Marine SSgt Mark Graunke, Jr. of Flower Mound, Texas during the Dallas Veterans Day Commemoration Thursday at Dallas City Hall. SSgt Graunke, Jr., who was a member of a Marine ordnance-disposal team, lost a hand, leg, and eye while defusing a bomb in Iraq in July of last year [2003]." 

Thursday, June 08, 2017

"I've Got an Idea!"

photo by Felipe T. Marques (click image to view Felipe's photostream1st Chronicles 17.1b-2 NASU

“…David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Behold, I am dwelling in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under curtains.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.’

I have no idea where ideas come from. It’s a mystery. They just appear. An idea emerges, swirling around in the back of my head, slows down, gradually comes into focus, and presents itself for my evaluation. Is it a good idea or a passing thought of little worth? If it makes the initial cut I place the fledgling idea on the mental back burner and wait. If the idea continues to pop up as an idea of merit, I may run it by a trusted adviser or friend. A thumbs up at that level will likely prompt a plan of action. A few of my ideas actually become reality.

King David had an idea. It made perfect sense... David’s home was better than the Lord’s. The king lived in a cedar house. The ark of the covenant was stored in a tent. How unfair. David would build a beautiful Temple for the Lord. It seemed like such a great idea.

David shared his plan with Nathan the prophet who concluded that, since God was with David, David’s idea must be from God. Nathan told the king to proceed. 

Later that night the Lord paid Nathan a visit…

“Go and tell David My servant, ‘Thus says the LORD,
“You shall not build a house for Me to dwell in...” ’ ”
1st Chronicles 17.4 NASU

What a surprise! God did not want a Temple. It was a good idea. A Temple would eventually be built. But not now and not by King David.

Not all ideas, even good ones, are in sync with God’s plans. Your good ideas may be right for someone, just not you. They may be right for a future time, just not now. Good ideas are exactly that... good ideas and nothing more. God has ideas of His own
____________________

Black and white photo of a man holding a light bulb over his head is by photographer Felipe T. Marques. I found his image on Flickr. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Men to Emulate

1st Chronicles 11.12-14 NIV

Eleazar...gathered there for battle. At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines.

But they took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.”

Eleazar took a stand in the middle of “a field full of barley.” He “defended” his ground and “the Lord brought about a great victory.” I am inspired! Eleazar’s victory wasn’t free. He risked the loss of life and limb. There was no guarantee Eleazar would walk from the field of barley alive. At first Eleazar and “the troops fled from the Philistines.” But something happened. A switch flipped. Eleazar had the same epiphany Popeye did… “That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more!” This mighty man of God turned around to face his own Brutus. Eleazar and a few brave souls “took their stand” and “defended” their ground. It worked! It always does.

My dad was a trainer and fighter pilot for the United States Air Force. In his business, failure meant death. He taught me life was no game. It was win or die, succeed or die, do or die. Failure was not an option. Death? Maybe. Failure? Never! At a certain point Eleazar quit running. He astounded and inspired his companions. Eleazar stopped and turned to face the Philistines. He faced his death and ‘took a stand.’

I cannot succeed in marriage, parenting, business, ministry, or any other noble endeavor without facing the possibility of my own death... death of my income, image, reputation, or friendships. I must quit running, take a stand, and defend some ground. Running is slow death. Death of the spirit. It would be better to die valiantly attempting something great than to wither up and die from the shame of knowing I never had the guts to face my nemesis.

What’s the difference? Either way I die; and if die I must, then why not die with glory? A decision to defend some ground gives the Lord an opportunity to bring about “a great victory.” This Bible verse reminds me of William Wallace’s speech to an army of Scottish farmers on the threshold of battle with England in the movie “Braveheart”...

“Aye. Fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live. At least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance — just one chance — to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”.

Our 16th president had the guts to face his personal demons [1]…

  • failed in business in 1831
  • defeated for legislature in 1832
  • second failure in business in 1833
  • suffered a nervous breakdown in 1836
  • defeated for Speaker in 1838
  • defeated for Elector in 1840
  • defeated for congress in 1843
  • defeated for congress in 1848
  • defeated for senate in 1855
  • defeated for vice president in 1856
  • defeated for senate in 1858
  • elected president in 1860

Eleazar, Popeye, Wallace, Lincoln... all men to emulate.

_______________________

[1] To be fair and add a little balance to this popular Abraham Lincoln story, check out
http://www.snopes.com/glurge/lincoln.asp. This site will give you another perspective on the claim that Abe Lincoln suffered a steady stream of defeats before being elected president of the United States. The Lincoln myth probably contains an element of ‘glurge.’ Regardless of the exact truth or sequence of events in his life, I am still inspired by Lincoln’s example of perseverance.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

"What You Think May Matter More Than You Think"

1st Chronicles 9.1b NLT

The people of Judah were exiled to Babylon because they were unfaithful to the Lord.”

What is smaller than a fleeting thought? Not much. According to research conducted by “Google Answers”[1], the number of thoughts passing daily through a person’s mind ranges from 12,000 to 65,000. That’s a lot of thinking; another thought every single waking second! If “a penny for your thoughts” came true, it’s an easy $500.00 per day or over $180,000 per year. Plenty for most folks to retire on. Unfortunately our thoughts aren’t worth “a penny.”

Realistically, most thoughts are probably worth nothing at all. Dr. Deepak Chopra once quoted a study that concluded of the approximately 65,000 thoughts per day, about 95% of them are exactly the same thoughts that passed through our minds the day before. This would  indicate our thoughts are worth less than nothing. In fact, some of our thoughts may have a minus, negative value or destructive impact. They cost us something to have them!

Jesus said, “Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones” (Luke 16.10 TEV). A thought is a small thing and yet Jesus claimed there was a connection between that which is small and that which is large.

The connection is our faithfulness. Are we faithful to think good thoughts or do we allow ourselves the luxury of negative thinking? People with negative thoughts are easy to spot. Their face and words normally betray their negativism. 

People with negative thoughts talk about them. Jesus warned, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12.34 NASU). They can’t help themselves. Negative thinkers seek and always find someone to spew to. What’s inside of them eventually surfaces.

Start thinking God thoughts, as the Apostle Paul said... 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is
right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
Philippians 4.8 NIV

Thoughts, as small as they are individually, will accumulate and can easily mount up to something large over the course of a decade, a year, a week, or even a single day. If we are “unfaithful to the Lord” in the small matter of our thought life, we may end up like “the people of Judah... exiled to [the] Babylon” of our own making.

What you think may matter more than you think.
____________________

[1] http://answers.google.com/answers/main?cmd=threadview&id=149262

Monday, June 05, 2017

"Letting Go of Kids is Hard to Do"

1st Chronicles 7:20a, 21b-22 NKJV

The sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah,… Ezer and Elead. The men of Gath who were born in that land killed them because they came down to take away their cattle. Then Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him.”

Nemo and Dory appear clueless. Bruce looks hungry. www.disney.com

Six of children obtained driver’s licenses, and one has a learner’s permit. I am barking orders at Rachel from the front passenger seat, just like I did with every other teenage driver in my family. It was very scary for me, and still is! My older children eventually earned the privilege to drive all by themselves. I handed over the keys and watched nervously as each new driver backed out of the driveway alone for the first time alone. I thought the same thing all six times: “That’s the last time I’ll see her [or him] alive.” Letting go of kids is hard for me to do.

In the 2003 Disney-Pixar movie “Finding Nemo”, Marlin, a clown fish, loses his wife and children to a hungry barracuda. Only Marlin and his unborn son Nemo survived the attack. Nemo hatches to become a wonderful, adventure-seeking young fish but his father Marlin suffers as an overprotective single parent. He unwittingly drives Nemo to take chances he shouldn’t. Letting go of Nemo was hard for Marlin to do.

Marlin looks worried. www.disney.comAbout a decade or so ago, I wrote down a conversation I had with God. I entitled it “The Daily Prayers of a Selfish Man.” There were nine mini-prayers, some of which I am too embarrassed to publicly record. Top on the prayer list was a request that “all of my children outlive me.” Nothing strikes terror in my heart like the possibility of losing one of my kids. This fear is not diminished by the fact that most of them have grown to adulthood and have children of their own. I have several friends who have lost children. I cannot imagine their pain. I hope I never have to.

Ephraim lost two of his sons, Ezer and Elead. They behaved like most young men do… stupidly. Other than to prove their manhood, there was no reason for Ezer and Elead to go down to Gath on a mission to rustle cattle from the Philistines. Machismo cost them their lives and caused unimaginable grief for their father. Ephraim let go of his sons and lost them. Terrible things like this can happen.

Marlin nearly lost Nemo but learned his lesson. After they were reunited, Marlin encouraged his only son to “go have an adventure.” He eventually learned to let go. 

Letting go of our children as they grow to adulthood is risky. They can be lost. Left on their own, they might take chances you and I would certainly discourage. They could even hurt themselves and cause us serious suffering and grief. Letting go of our children is hard to do... and right to do. 

Friday, June 02, 2017

"Formula Prayers Don't Work"


1st Chronicles 4.9a, 10
The Amplified Bible

Jabez was honorable above his brothers...

Jabez cried to the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and You would keep me from evil so it might not hurt me!’

“And God granted his request.”


God approved the simple request of an honorable and passionate man. The prayer of Jabez is not a magical incantation guaranteeing prosperity and life without pain to those who memorize and often repeat the verse. Jesus warned against that mentality…


“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant.
Theyre full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques
for getting what you want from God. Dont fall for that nonsense.”
Matthew 6.7-8 “The Message”

There’s something more here than religious prayer. Listen to Dan Allender’s take…

“ ‘Let’s pray.’ When you hear these words, do they invite you or irritate you? Praying is the right thing to do before preaching, teaching, or eating, but how about during lovemaking, playing poker, or shopping at Wal-Mart? We are impoverished if we consider prayer to be a religious activity.”[1]

There are two things we know about Jabez from the text: “Jabez was honorable” and “Jabez cried.” He had integrity and he had passion. I suspect life was not always easy for Jabez. That’s probably why he went to God in the first place. He treated God with respect by telling the truth. Jabez refused to gloss over his needs. He wept before the Lord from a soul filled with the anguish. Jabez struggled in prayer. God honored that.

More from Dan Allender…

“…we must enter prayer as a struggle. We do not merely utter a string of sweet words according to a prescribed sequence, such as adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Of course, prayer can be orderly and organized. But the prayer that pleads for exposure and engagement throws our desperation at God’s feet and wrestles naked with him for the blessing of a new name.”[2]

We cannot expect Jesus to answer our prayers just because we ‘put in our time’ and followed a clever ACTS acrostic.[3] Jabez did not pray that way. Nor should we. God is very big and very secure. He can handle your perception and version of the truth. Give it to Him straight in all its uncensored and raw un-glory. He can take it. Cry out to God. He may even bless you for it.


__________________________

[1] To Be Told – God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future, Dan B. Allender, PhD, Waterbook Press, 2005, pp. 167-168.

[2] Ibid., p. 170. 

[3] The ACTS prayer formula: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.