The Forgotten Guidelines

Many years ago, a skinny kid with a pickup truck and a riding lawn mower started a lawncare business. (Yes, that is him in the photo above!) A year later he got married (to me) and started a family. All the while, the company was quickly growing and the demands on his time increased exponentially. Summer droughts came and money was tight. But this kid, who soon grew into a man, was committed to two guidelines from scripture that aren’t very popular–

Resting on Sundays and Tithing 10%.

We rarely hear anything about either of these anymore. Oh, every once in awhile we hear about giving–especially if there is building project in the works– but we rarely, if ever, hear about keeping the Lord’s Day.

Are these things something we have to do? Of course not. There is nothing we have to do to be saved. Some cults would teach that if you don’t keep the Sabbath, you aren’t saved. And some groups would imply that giving to their ministry is the paramount command of God. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth! If that is what you are hearing, then you are in a false system.

But I do believe there are reasons to seriously consider making these two things a part of our lives. Here’s why–

Let’s look first at the Sabbath Day. When God created the world, He set a pattern to work six days and to rest on the seventh. The week, set up by God in Genesis 1, comes directly from the Bible. The author of Hebrews also references this week set up by God in Hebrews 4, carrying the idea of this rest over into the New Testament. When God specified the seventh day for rest, we know it wasn’t because He needed it. He doesn’t need to sleep or slumber. So why did He do this? I believe He did this not only for His own glory but because He knew that man would need a pattern of rest. Carm.org puts it this way–

On the seventh day, which is the Sabbath day, the day of rest, Christians cease from their work, just as God did. But where we need to be replenished, God does not.

So let’s go back to that kid for a moment. When Eric started our company, he could have easily worked 24/7. The work was there and plentiful and he was full of energy. But he had been taught that Sunday is a day of rest and chose to abide by this even as a young man going into business. As we look back now, we see how this not only provided him with the rest he so desperately needed, but perhaps even saved our marriage and family during those tough years of building the business.

The other day we were talking to a young man who has ventured out on his own to start the same type of business. As he shared about his summer, he talked about how he was working seven days a week– long days with rarely a break. We encouraged him to consider making Sundays a day of rest. For himself and for his family. Owning a company is demanding. Customers want things and they want them now. Establishing that your trucks will not leave the property on Sundays is a simple–and I believe God-given–way to take a much-needed break after a long week.

Of course, some people have jobs in which this is not possible. I do get that. But if we can do this, perhaps it is time to give this some reconsideration. How kind of God to provide this pattern in Genesis 1 that His people can follow,  providing us one day of rest from the work of the week.

So let’s move on to tithing. This one is so different from what it used to be. Or at least from what I remember it being. Growing up, I was taught that you tithe 10% to your church. Period. Oh, sure, there were some parachurch organizations that you gave to but that wasn’t where your main giving went to. It was your church. Since then, there has been an explosion of parachurch organizations. Many of these ministries are good ones and in need of funds. There is nothing wrong with giving to these. But our churches still need our 10% to function. Our pastors need their salaries, our churches have electric and oil bills and need to buy office supplies and pay their secretarial and janitorial staff. This can’t be done unless its committed members are tithing.

I heard someone once say this– “Give to your church first and then give to other organizations.” This is good advice. I remember hearing it and thinking Yes! That makes a lot of sense! I only wish I could remember who to give the credit to for this statement. Of course, this is not a biblical mandate, by any means, so this is a very personal decision that each person needs to work out on their own.

As an aside, I will add here that in the recent years we have made the choice to give only to charities that are committed to spreading the Gospel. Oh, I can’t say we don’t give $10 or $20 here and there to other charities, but we want the bulk of what we give to go towards spreading the true and unadulterated Gospel. Even many charities labeled “Christian” are not spreading the Gospel but, instead, are focused only on fixing temporal situations. Of course, there is nothing wrong with digging wells and providing medical care, but if we aren’t sharing the Gospel, then all of that work has no eternal value. It is critical to care first and foremost for their souls. We really try to make sure that this is the case for the charities we support.

But some of you are probably thinking something like this: I can’t even give 10%, much less anything over and above that.

I get that. I truly do. When we got married, we started life out with (my) college debt. We lived very meagerly in a small apartment. Every dollar counted. We didn’t have much and giving 10% of what we did have meant real sacrifice. It was difficult to place that check in the offering plate each week, but we had been taught by our parents that you give, no matter what.

And, now, looking back over all of those years, we wouldn’t change a thing. God was so faithful! He always provided for us. Always. We had some lean years but we were always able to pay our employees. We always had enough to eat. We could always pay our bills. Not always on time–but they always got paid!

So why do we tithe? We know that God doesn’t need our money. So what’s the deal? I love how Dave Ramsey puts this

So why does He ask us to give 10% to Him? Tithing was created for our benefit. It is to teach us how to keep God first in our lives and how to be unselfish people. Unselfish people make better husbands, wives, friends, relatives, employees and employers.

Once again, we see that this is a guideline that blesses us. That it was given for our good and our benefit. What a kind God we serve. Something that would seemingly cost us a great deal actually ends up blessing us!

Resting on Sundays and Tithing 10% require something from us, don’t they? They require sacrifice and discipline. But the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice. We have seen this in our own lives and in the lives of others. Don’t despair if you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. You can do this. I believe when we choose to honor God and the patterns He has set before us in scripture, He enables us to follow them. He will walk with us each step of the way.

 

 

Do You Love Money?

Eight Questions to Ask Yourself

2Men

Mr. and Mrs. Smith live in a 6000 sq ft house in a wealthy neighborhood and vacation at their second home on Grand Cayman several times each year. Mr. Smith is a top executive at a major corporation and drives a Jaguar.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones live in a small rancher in an even smaller town. Mr. Jones works at a local factory and drives a Ford truck. Their only vacation each year is to a cabin in the mountains that has no electricity or running water.

Which one of these couples loves money?

Most of us–without any thought at all–would tend to say that of course it is Mr. and Mrs. Smith. There would be no discussion. No thoughtful contemplation. We just assume that if someone is rich they must love money.

Which may be the case.

But isn’t always the case.

Let’s take their vehicles. A new teen driver miscalculates and backs into their vehicle in the driveway. Mr. Jones has a fit! He grows angry,  resentful, and may even let out a few curse words. On the other hand, in the same scenario, Mr. Smith is gracious and kind and tells the neighbor not to worry about it. Now which of these men do you think loves money (and his stuff)?

Or let’s take a look at their homes. What if Mrs. Jones won’t let anyone come to her house because she is obsessed with cleanliness? She doesn’t want anyone to ruin her carpet or to put marks in her cabinets and so she never practices hospitality. She spends all her time cleaning and making sure not a speck of dirt exists anywhere but no one ever gets to enjoy her home because she doesn’t want anyone to mar her perfect masterpiece. Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, while having a beautifully and professionally decorated house, welcomes others to her home regularly. She loves to play hostess and does her own cooking and cleaning. Her home feels lived-in and comfortable. Which of these women loves money (and her stuff) more?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

Having money is not equal to loving money

AND

Loving money is not equal to having money

They are two separate things and we should treat them as such.

Many years ago, my husband and I bought a large SUV for our growing family. It was a nice car, already a few years old, and affordable for us. I was excited about our new vehicle and can vividly remember how awful I felt when someone made a derogatory statement to me about it, implying that we loved money because we had chosen to drive such a car.

I had to really think through that. Did we have an inordinate love of money? That is a question we all should wrestle through, but what vehicle we drive is not generally an indicator.

Instead of judging ourselves and others based on the stuff we have, we’d be better to judge based on our attitudes about the stuff we have. Here are eight questions we can ask ourselves to make sure we are holding on to our material blessings very loosely–

1. Do we use what God has given us to encourage others and to further God’s Kingdom or do we hoard it all to ourselves?

2. Are we quick to let others borrow our things? If someone needs something that we have, do we let them use it? Or are we too worried about it being broken or never returned?

3. Do we grow angry and resentful if someone breaks something of ours? Or do we treat them like we would want to be treated?

Okay–I have to insert a quick story here about this. One evening, our oldest daughter had a group of friends over. They were playing a Wii game in the basement, using our brand new flat-screened TV. After a bit, our daughter came upstairs with one of her friends. Tears ran down the friend’s face as she shared that she had accidentally let the Wii remote fly from her hand and hit the TV. It had damaged the screen pretty badly and she was SO sorry. We all watched to see how my husband would react. And he did not disappoint. It is one of the reasons I love him so much. He kindly told her that it was “just a TV” and not to worry about it and then sent them back downstairs. This wasn’t an act and he didn’t huff and puff about what had happened after she had left that evening. He really took it all in stride. Stuff has never mattered that much to him and this incident was just one more confirmation of that. He has taught me to always love people more than stuff.

4. What is driving us? Do we work to supply for the needs of our family (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12) and to glorify God (I Corinthians 10:31)? Or are we working feverishly so that we can buy a nicer car, a bigger home, and the latest gadget?

5. Are we generous? Do we give freely and often and without reserve when we see a need?

6. Do we grow resentful if someone forgets to pay us back? Do we fuss and fret and make assumptions about them? Perhaps we even gossip about them to others?

7. Am I envious of the stuff that my neighbor has? Am I always complaining about how little stuff I have or what I can’t afford? This indicates a heart that is wrapped up in material things and the love of money.

8. If everything I have was taken away tomorrow, would I be okay? Or is my security and happiness wrapped up in material things?

These are tough questions, but if we answer them honestly we will learn the truth about ourselves. The love of money is rooted deep within most of us. It is something for which we need to be on guard always and can never let get the upper hand in our lives. It is not a sin that only affects rich people, but has the potential to affect each and every one one of us that lives in a materialistic, western culture.

Surprisingly, the scripture tells us that the love of money isn’t only sinful but that it also has great potential to cause us much sorrow. I Timothy 6:10 tells us this–

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

“Pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. That is quite a picture, isn’t it? This tells us that loving money could quite possibly destroy our lives. We can see this in a multitude of ways–

►Elderly parents pass away and the kids find out that the will isn’t fair. Adult children fight for their “rights”, hurtful words are said, and the family is fractured beyond repair.

►Mom and Dad want a particular lifestyle. They believe it is their right to have the American Dream, no matter what it costs. Meanwhile, their children are left to their own devices and grow up, lost and lonely, selfish and spoiled, with no boundaries and no moorings. All for the sake of stuff.

►A man is obsessed with making easy money. He buys into a get-rich-quick scheme and loses his family’s life savings.

These are just three examples of a million that could be told. The love of money is a dangerous game and we best make sure we aren’t caught up in it. Let’s be good stewards of whatever God has entrusted to us, whether it be great or small. After all– it isn’t even ours, anyway.

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much;
and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
Luke 16:10

 

Impatience Is Not a Virtue

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Inevitably, we run into the same problem every spring within our landscaping company. Everyone wants their patios and outdoor fireplaces and retaining walls built immediately. They are excited about the upcoming season and want to put their exciting plans for an outdoor living space in motion as soon as possible.

But here’s the problem: hardscaping is a job that requires skill and education, and so we only have a handful of men qualified in this company to take a job from start to finish. We have divided them into two crews. That means that we can only work on two projects at a time. As we are well-known and trusted in the area, we usually end up with a pretty long waiting list for installs. We try to tell people we are worth the wait, but, occasionally, some of them get impatient and won’t wait. I can understand their frustration. But that frustration can lead to a big mistake.

They call a guy who is just getting started (or an old guy who is starting a new business with a new name for the 5th time!) and hire him. These guys do not generally have a waiting list and can often start jobs immediately. Now, let me preface all of this by saying that a few of these guys are good, honest guys who do quality work to the best of their ability. But that is not the norm. Many of them are uneducated without proper insurance at best and complete shysters at worst.

As my husband always says: If someone can be there right away (or even in two weeks) in the springtime, they are probably not a very quality company.

Ironically, this decision has often ended up causing people great stress and, most times, even more frustration than they started with.

Take, for example, two recent situations where Eric was approached for a price to fix the shoddy work of these types of incompetent contractors. In both cases, the customers are also out quite a bit of money and one is looking at a lawsuit to try and retrieve at least some of it. These are not the first jobs that we have entered midstream because of this reason.

You see, patience sometimes is necessary in order to get a beautiful product that will last for a lifetime. There is so much more to hardscaping than throwing down pavers. There is great care needed in laying the proper base, great importance in using the right materials and tools, and careful precision needed in making the right cuts. Does the person you want to hire have specific training for this job and the proper insurances and equipment? These are critical questions before hiring a contractor.

So why am I writing about this on a devotional blog? Or do you already see the correlation?

We live in a world that wants everything right away. We do not want to wait for anything. And so we make mistakes.

Sometimes they are home-related –like hiring a shyster who can start right away instead of waiting for a respected and trust-worthy contractor.

Sometimes our mistakes are financial –like wasting hundreds of dollars at a casino or on lottery tickets trying to make quick, easy money instead of working hard and investing wisely.

Sometimes these mistakes are made by young singles –like marrying an unbeliever instead of waiting for a godly spouse.

And sometimes they are made as families –like settling for the first, comfortable {and compromising} church we visit rather than carrying out a thorough search for a church that is teaching sound biblical doctrine.

But all of these mistakes are also spiritual. How come?

I guess what I see as a common thread here is self-centeredness driven by feelings. When we aren’t willing to wait on an outcome, even though that outcome would be better and yield much higher dividends and rewards in the long run, then we are operating on feelings. And feelings are just never good things on which to base decisions.

Don’t get me wrong, feelings hold some weight. But when faced with a decision, it is best to look at all of the possible options with all of the possible outcomes. And then, pushing the impatient feelings aside, we make the wisest decision we can with the information we have.

There is no doubt that decision-making can be excruciatingly hard. But we should never base any decision on our feelings of impatience and frustration.

 

Wednesday Wisdom: The Incompatibility of Faith and Anxiety

SONY DSCIn this current day it is not difficult to find something to worry about. The economy, financial woes, diseases and illnesses, the future of our country and the church, and struggling relationships are just a few things that can cause us to worry. But our generation doesn’t have the corner on the anxiety market. Throughout the ages, people have struggled with anxiety and fear. Thankfully, the Bible speaks to this sin (yes, it is a sin and not a disorder).  In God’s Word we find that not even a sparrow falls unless it is God’s will. When we worry we forget just how big and powerful God is. We forget that His will, His timing, and His ways are not ours.  Of course, this is so much easier to write than to live out. John MacArthur wrote a blog series on this topic on his Grace to You website last fall and I want to share one post here today. You can find a link to the whole series after this post. I hope you are challenged by this as much as I was–

If you worry, what kind of faith do you manifest? “Little faith,” according to Jesus (Matthew 6:30). If you are a child of God, you by definition have a heavenly Father. To act like you don’t, nervously asking, “What will I eat? What will I drink? What will I wear for clothing?” is to act like an unbeliever in God’s eyes (vv. 31-32).

Christians who worry believe God can redeem them, break the shackles of Satan, take them from hell to heaven, put them into His kingdom, transform their nature, and give them eternal life, but just don’t think He can get them through the next couple of days. That is pretty ridiculous. We can believe God for the greater gift and then stumble and not believe Him for the lesser one.

The Worrier Strikes Out at God

Some might say, “Why make a big deal out of worry? It’s just a trivial sin.” No, it is not. I suspect many mental illnesses and some physical illnesses are directly related to worry. Worry is devastating. But more important than what worry does to you is what it does to God. When you give in to worry you are saying, in effect, “God, I just don’t think I can trust You.” Worry strikes a blow at the person and character of God.

The Worrier Disbelieves Scripture

It breaks my heart to hear some Christians say, “I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture,” but then live as perpetual worriers. That’s blatant hypocrisy. It is incongruous to say how much we believe the Bible and then live in doubt and worry that God won’t fulfill what He has said in it.

The Worrier Is Mastered by Circumstances

When you or I worry, we are choosing to be mastered by our circumstances instead of by the truth of God. The uncertainties and trials of life pale in comparison to the greatness of our salvation. Jesus wants us to realize it doesn’t make sense to believe God can save us from eternal hell, but can’t help us in the practical matters of life. The apostle Paul reflects a similar desire in Ephesians 1:18-19.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

When you catch yourself worrying, go back to Scripture and have your eyes opened again.

The Worrier Distrusts God

When we worry, we are not trusting our heavenly Father. That means we don’t know Him well enough. Take heart—there’s an effective remedy: study the Word of God to find out who He really is and how He has supplied the needs of His people in the past. That will build your confidence in Him for the future. Stay fresh in God’s Word every day so that His truth is constantly on your mind. Otherwise Satan is apt to move into the vacuum and tempt you to worry about something. Instead, let God’s track record in Scripture and in your own life assure you that worry is needless because of God’s bounty, senseless because of God’s promise, useless because of its impotence to do anything productive, and faithless because it is characteristic of unbelievers.

Find this entire post here, and the entire series on attacking anxiety here.

 

January Joy Challenge #2: Finding the Balance

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Balance is very important in the life of a Christian, but most of us have a very, very difficult time finding it. You see, somehow we have to find the balance between —

Accepting where the Lord has placed us

and yet,

Continuing to learn and grow from the trials

And between–

Accepting and resting in the grace of God to cover all of our sins

and yet,

Striving to be more pure and holy with each passing day

And between–

Accepting the way God has made us

and yet,

Never giving up on improving ourselves

This is all especially personal to me, because about this time in life (speaking only for myself, you understand), I am not always accepting with much of anything (just being honest here). My kids are almost grown up and I find myself nearing the end of the only full-time job I ever wanted. I don’t look like I want to look. I often don’t act or react like I think I should. I am frustrated that I haven’t progressed more as a Christian. And, a few years ago, I started to realize that happy endings are mostly in movies. Thankfully, there are a few in real life, but even those take a ton of work. Mostly, you just do the best you can with what you are given.

And, look, I have a great life. I know I do. I am not complaining–not a bit. But, somehow, I have to figure out how to accept who and where I am–right now– without giving in to complacency and apathy. And that’s what is so hard. And that’s where joy comes in.

You see, if I can’t accept the circumstances in which God has placed me or in who God created me to be, then discontent will reign in my heart, pushing out joy (Romans 9:20; Psalm 139:14; Philippians 4:11). But if I am too accepting of myself or of my circumstances, then there is no desire to change for the better, also pushing out joy (Philippians 3:12; I Corinthians 9:24-27; Romans 12:1-2) . And, so, somehow we have to find the balance.

So how exactly do we do this?  I confess I am not totally sure. But maybe we should start with this week’s challenge:

Take some time this week to do an inventory of yourself.  Think about what you don’t like about yourself or circumstances. Are they things you can change or are they outside your control?

Prayerfully, give the things you can’t control to the Lord (you know–things like the scar on your face, your husband’s horrible boss, the wayward adult child). In fact, go a step further, and thank the Lord for these things, for they have probably led you to a deeper walk with the Lord.

And then, look at the things you don’t like that you can control (things like a huge amount of debt, laziness, bad temper, extra pounds) and develop a plan to start working on them, yielding them prayerfully to the Lord.

Of course, sometimes issues get lost in the big black hole between the can control and the can’t control –things like marriages and wayward teens. Okay then, if that is the case, we do what we can do and then submit the outcome to God, praying confidently for His will to be done. After all, we know it is His will that our marriages stay together and that our teens follow hard after Him.

This challenge is a little deeper this week and a little more work, too. But, I truly believe that until we can find the balance, we will either be stuck in the land of discontent or find ourselves in the fields of laziness and apathy. May we always be striving, instead, for the life of balance, which will lead us to deeper joy.

There is room in my heart for…me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were singing the Christmas song Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne in church. I got distracted and wasn’t paying attention to what I was singing. We got to the last line of the song and, instead of the beautiful line “there is room in my heart for Thee”, I sang “there is room in my heart for me.”

What did I just sing? I caught it immediately and grew disgusted with myself. What Christian would ever make such a terrible blunder while singing a song about God?

Well, I am here to tell you — I would. I did.

I sang those words and then, as we went on to the next verse and then the next song, I contemplated about how true those words actually are so many times.

I am ashamed to say that oftentimes there is only room in my heart for myself.

I get so focused on what I want that I forget to leave room in my heart for Jesus and what He wants.

For example, some days I wake up and immediately start thinking of everything that needs to be done that day. I don’t see how I can possibly make time for a quiet time that morning and so I don’t have one. Ironically, I usually do end up having time at the end of my day for a quick game on my ipad or to watch something on TV — something I want. I have room for me.

Or I am short with a family member because there is something I want to do. I know that I would please the Lord by being kind and loving towards them, but I am too busy making room for me at the moment, thank you very much, so they’d better just get out of my way.

Or I am at the store and I see something that I need want and I buy it, making room for me and my desires, before ever contemplating if this is necessary or wise. Leaving no room in my heart for God and what He wants.

Or…well, you get the idea. Think of all of the times that we spend focused on ourselves–oftentimes, so much so, that we squeeze out Jesus.  There’s just so much of us that there is little room for Him.

But there is a problem.

There really is only room for one on the throne of our hearts. And we have a choice to make. Is it going to be me or is it going to be Him?

There are spiritual ramifications to even the smallest choice. Will this decision put Christ on the throne of my heart or will it put me on the throne of my heart? As we grow as a Christian, the throne room in our hearts should be filled more and more with Christ and less and less with self.

I want to sing the right words: “there is room in my heart for Thee.”  And then I want to follow up my words with a life that matches.

Thy didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown
When Thou camest to earth for me
But in Bethlehem’s home there was found no room
For Thy holy nativity
O come to my heart Lord Jesus
There is room in my heart for Thee

 

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Ms. Kinect isn’t always right

Monday’s weather was terrible. It was foggy and damp and downright ugly. It was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to get my normal walk in so I set up the Your Shape game on XBox Kinect.  My knee has been hurting, but I figured I could modify any exercises as needed. I enthusiastically did a few warm up and cardio routines and then decided to go ahead with a 13 minute toning routine.

3…2…1…begin. Arm up higher. Bend lower. The directions came from a mysterious female voice on the TV (I will call her Ms. Kinect) who could see my every move. I could also see my every move and was trying to match it to the “personal trainer” moving beside me on the screen. If you haven’t experienced seeing yourself on Kinect you are missing out. Well, not really. But the technology is pretty incredible. You can actually see yourself on the screen of your TV. Do you remember the old Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie? If you do, then you will remember Mike TV who ended up shrinking to fit into the TV. Well, that’s what you look like on XBox Kinect. It really is pretty amazing. ANYWAY…

I started doing this toning routine. But it started hurting my knee (and it was a little too hard for me because I’m a bit out of shape, but we’ll just say my knee hurt…!) so I started making up my own modified versions of some of the exercises. I started moving my arms up when the TV trainer’s were down and moving my leg forward when the TV trainer’s leg was behind him. We weren’t in sync at all.

Imagine my surprise when I heard Ms. Kinect say “Bravo!” quite enthusiastically!  She went on to say things like “Good Job!” and “Way to go!” all the while praising me for following my TV trainer so impressively.

It made me laugh because I wasn’t following the trainer at all! To her credit, she did catch my errors a few times.

Oh, my. It made me think. Like usual.

Just because someone says “Bravo!” doesn’t mean it’s true. We can always find someone to say what we want them to say.

If we want to get divorced, we will be able to find someone to say “Absolutely! You deserve to be happy!”

If we want to buy an expensive car or television on credit, we will be able to find someone who says “Yes, what a great idea!”

If we want to involve ourselves in the wrong entertainment, there is always someone saying, “Yes, let’s do it! Let’s go! It will be so much fun!”

So, it would seem to me we’d better seek wise counsel, instead of listening to just anyone. Proverbs contains many verses encouraging us to seek wise and righteous counsel. So how do we know if it’s wise counsel? Here are a few tips to help us–

1. First and foremost, does the counselor’s advice match up with the Word of God? If the counsel is full of just their own opinion without any scripture to back it up, how in the world can we know if it is worthy of following?

2. Is the person counseling us striving to live a holy, righteous life? If they aren’t, then it means they are not walking with God. Notice I didn’t say “perfect life”. It is not about being perfect, but about a desire to walk with God in holiness and purity. If someone is not trying to please God with their life, they will not know how to counsel wisely, because they don’t know Him at all.

3. Let’s be extra cautious if the counselor says exactly what we want them to. There are many people-pleasers who say something just so they will make us happy and no one will be mad at them. These people are not the ones we want to go to for wise counsel. Only those who will tell us the truth are worthy counselors.  Only those brave enough to be honest can be trusted.

These are three things to be on the look-out for when seeking wise counsel for any problem, large or small.

By the way, when I use the term “counsel” I am not necessarily talking about professional counselors. We are all counselors, whether it be to our own kids or our friends or our co-workers. And so, let’s not only seek to find wise counsel, but also to give wise counsel.

This world is full of people-pleasers not willing to tell the truth. It’s full of “counselors” telling others to make themselves happy, no matter the cost.

But just because they are saying it, doesn’t mean it is true. When I heard Ms. Kinect’s words, it was easy. I knew that her words were false praise. I obviously wasn’t doing the right thing. It’s not always so easy in life. But we are called to be discerning and to have a heart ready to listen to wise counsel, whether we like the advice or not. Let’s keep our focus on God’s Word and listen to those who also make it a priority in their lives. And let’s be people who are qualified to give wise counsel– walking with God and willing to tell the truth.

Proverbs 1:5  A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.

Proverbs 12:5  The thoughts of the righteous are right, But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.

Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.

Proverbs 19:20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: For the Man Who Hated Christmas

This is the second installment of short stories for December’s Wednesday Wisdom. Many of us desire a better way to celebrate this season. Something that goes beyond the commercialization and self-indulgence that is so popular. This family thought of a great way. I thought it worth presenting here. I don’t know for sure if this is a true story, although my guess is that it is. 

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 It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma – the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was on the wrestling team at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids – all kids. He so enjoyed coaching little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed a small, white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and that this was his gift from me.

Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition – one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The white envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children – ignoring their new toys – would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the small, white envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children had for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down that special envelope. Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.

 Christmas Stories: For the Man Who Hated Christmas By Nancy W. Gavin (found here)

Keeping My Eye on Polaris

Polaris is the North Star. It has been incredibly helpful through the ages because it doesn’t move. While the rest of the northern sky is filled with stars that move constantly, Polaris is consistently in the same place. Through the centuries, sailors and travelers of all kinds would use this star to find their way home.

Did you know we Christians have our own “North Star”? It is the Word of God. People change, cultures change, but the Word of God is always the same, providing us desperately needed direction in a world full of moving morals and vacillating values.

Sometimes, I just can’t believe how different my world is than when I grew up. Oh, not so much the worldly world–that’s always been bad, but I am referring to the Christian world. Christianity today has become much more about what makes me happy than what makes God happy. It amazes me what has become the norm in the church today.  There is blanket permission on sin of almost every sort within the church.  Gambling and cursing aren’t only allowed, they are actually promoted by some pastors. And I am amazed at the violent and sex-filled DVDs that fill the shelves of Christians.  Be gay, have an abortion, get divorced. Do what you need to do to make you happy. And it is all okay.

But the Word of God tells us it is not okay. The Word of God still says that we are to put good things before our eyes (Psalm 101:3), to be good stewards (Matthew 25:19-29), to value children (Matthew 18:6; Psalm 139:13-16),  to stay married, if at all possible (Matthew 19), and that homosexuality is not normal (Romans 1:26-27). We are still to keep our Christian brothers from stumbling (I Corinthians 8:9-13) and to please God by living a pure and holy life (I Peter 1:13-16), separate from the world (James 1:27). Yes, we are to be in the world to share the good news, but we are not to be part of the world.  In fact, John 15:18-25 tells us in no uncertain terms that we should quite expect to be hated by the world.

This hasn’t changed through the ages, no matter what the modern day church is telling us.

I remember seeing John MacArthur on Larry King Live after 911, the terrible tragedy of 2001.  While the New Ager and the Muslim and the Jewish rabbi kept giving their “learned opinions”, John did one thing and one thing only. He humbly pointed people to what the Word of God says.  You see, it doesn’t really matter what you and I think. It only matters what the Bible says. And, contrary to modern day opinion, the interpretation does not lay in a puddle of ambiguity and uncertainty. But that’s a topic for another day.

And so I am so very thankful for God’s Word. It has and will continue to be my North Star in a world full of chaos, hypocrisy, and deception. It is the only thing that truly remains consistent. And I thank God for His foreknowledge and wisdom in providing the Bible for us. He knew we would need it!

Read more about Polaris here. It’s actually quite interesting!

Wednesday Wisdom: The Power of a Habit

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me,
and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.

I am the servant of all great men.
And, alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine.
Plus, the intelligence of a man.
You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet.
Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.
Who am I?

I am a HABIT!

I could not find the author of this profound bit of writing, but when I heard it the other day it struck a chord with me. How many consequences could we avoid by simply changing a habit?  It is so simple, but yet it is so difficult. I can think of several small habits that, if I could change them, would yield tremendous rewards in my life. How about you?