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Joy Killers

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Yesterday, I shared some excerpts from a sermon by Spurgeon on the Joy of the Lord. As I thought about his words, I thought of how often I desire to walk in the joyful sunshine of God’s light but then choose, instead, to walk through the dark, cold shade of my own sinful choices.  What are some of those sinful choices–or what I like to call Joy Killers–that are so effective in leading us to the shady side of the street?  The list is probably endless, but here are a few that came to mind–

 Joy Killers

  1. Holding a grudge
  2. Entertainment that glorifies what God hates
  3. Caring too much about what people think
  4. Loving money
  5. Eating more than your body needs
  6. Wasting time
  7. Gossiping about someone else
  8. Caring more about your physical health than your spiritual health
  9. Watching too much news
  10. Anger and Frustration
  11. Caring too much about what you look like
  12. Focusing only on what’s wrong in the world
  13. Making yourself and your needs your top priority
  14. Complaining
  15. Criticizing
  16. Trying to fix, control, and manipulate people and circumstances
  17. Taking something that isn’t yours
  18. Envy and jealousy
  19. Sex outside of marriage
  20. Hating someone
  21. Putting sports (or anything else) ahead of the spiritual welfare of your family
  22. Language that is filthy and crude
  23. Pretending to be someone you are not (hypocrisy)
  24. Abusing our bodies with substances
  25. Twisting scripture to make it mean what you want instead of what it really does
  26. Living only for today, with no thought for eternity

Many on this list are specific things listed in scripture as sin (see Galatians 5). Others are simply unwise to do if we want to live a life of joy. There are so many others that could be added. We humans have been very creative at concocting ways to steal our own joy!

I have been really convicted lately that we need to pray that we (and those we love) would hate sin. No, we will never be perfect here on this earth, but if we have a heart that is yielded to the Lord and we desire to be pure and holy, it is then, and only then, that we make it possible to have deep, abiding communion with our heavenly Father, thus leading to true and lasting  joy.

Do you have anything to add to my list of Joy Killers?

 

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. 

____________

 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)

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? 

 

Intentional Christmas

Thanksgiving has come and gone and that can only mean one thing–it’s time to enjoy Christmas!  But do we truly enjoy it? Or do we often end up enduring it? And if we are only enduring Christmas, how do we move from endure to enjoy?  I know lots of people have a variety of thoughts on this.  Some will tell you to just stop sending Christmas cards or to only buy three gifts for your children.  Others talk of not making cookies or of cutting down on their decorations.  But what works for someone else may not work for you. Here are five basic ways that will help anyone enjoy– rather than endure– the Christmas season.

1.  Worry most about what God thinks. Family comes second.  Co-workers, cousins, and others come a distant third. This makes a choice between a work dinner and your child’s program so much easier. It also helps to clarify when choosing between Christmas Eve service at church or a get-together with friends. Oh, I know it’s not that simple and sometimes circumstances dictate certain choices. But this principle can be a helpful starting point.

2.  Examine which traditions you enjoy most and keep doing them. Do you love to bake Christmas cookies? Or perhaps you receive tremendous joy from seeing your house lit up on a dark winter’s night? Others enjoy sending out Christmas cards and making homemade ornaments and shopping for others.  Whatever it is, choose what you love and keep doing it!  Some of you are truly energized by doing it all and there is no detriment to your family life. If that’s the case, good for you!  But if there is something that just isn’t important to you or your family–well, then consider not doing it. The world will not end if you don’t bake Christmas cookies or hang Christmas lights outside.

3.  Ignore the voices around you and mind your own business. You will hear people this time of year start complaining about how much money is spent on gifts or how many lights so-and-so put up or how much food Mrs.______ makes or –you name it–people always find things to criticize. The glorious fact is that the there are truly only a couple of opinions that matter. They are God’s and your family’s. When criticism comes your way, contemplate it for just a moment. If it makes sense, do something about it. But if it doesn’t, just ignore it. On the flip side, provide the same courtesy to others around you. If your neighbor chooses to put up the most beautiful, homemade garland around her door, don’t mutter about the waste of time but, instead, be sure to tell her how amazing it looks! And if the neighbor on the other side chooses not to put out one single decoration, then leave them to make that decision without any criticism from you.

4.  Keep the focus on Jesus. Jesus truly is the reason for the season if we are Christians. But, more and more increasingly, Jesus is not part of the world’s Christmas, where they instead turn their attention to Santa, elves, and occasionally talking animals or angels.  But we have a responsibility to keep Jesus the center of our season.  Whether we are buying gifts or making Christmas cookies or choosing what entertainment to include in our Christmas season, we must remember that we are celebrating because Jesus came to earth to provide a way for us to be saved from our sins. We, of all people, have a true and incredible reason to celebrate!

5. Don’t throw real life routine completely out the window.  We have to be careful we don’t get so busy that we stop having our devotions.  We are not at our best if we are not spending time each day with the Lord. And we need to continue to exercise and eat properly and stick to our budgets. Life doesn’t stop for a month, and if we pretend like it does, we will have consequences to pay on January 1.

So there you have it–a few simple ways to make sure that we enjoy this Christmas season, rather than endure it.  Merry Christmas!

Who Do You Look Like?

When my son was just a little boy, he used to play little league baseball. One day, as I was chatting on the sidelines with one of the moms, she said something like this, “Oh, I know who you look like! I have been trying to think of who you look like and now I have figured it out!” I looked at her, very curious to hear who she thought I resembled. Her next words could have knocked me over with a feather.

“You look just like Cindy Crawford!”

What?? That is the first (and last!) time that anyone has ever compared me to a beautiful model.  But I certainly felt honored. I knew this was a situation where she had no need to flatter or impress me, so I knew she had said it sincerely.

As I remembered this incident the other day, I thought about how my heart’s desire shouldn’t be for people to tell me I look like Cindy Crawford (or any other well-known, gorgeous woman) but, instead, to tell me that I look like Jesus.

Now, while I will never resemble Jesus physically, as he is a man from the middle east, I can resemble him by my actions. As we grow in Christ, we should grow more and more like Him.

Stop and take a minute to think about your life. I know for my own life, there are many areas in which I haven’t resembled Jesus at all.

Here are a few areas for us to think about —

1. Do I look like Jesus in how I love others? Look, anyone can feed orphans or go on a mission trip. I am not talking about the socially acceptable “love for others”, I am talking about the love for others we show in our everyday world.  The reactions and choices we make around our families and in our daily living. When a spouse needs some help and we are lying comfortably on the sofa, do we get up? When there is an interruption to a favorite TV show, do we grow quickly frustrated? When we are in a long line at the store, do we give the clerk an angry look or shower her with frustrated words? If someone criticizes you, do you grow defensive or hold a grudge? All of these are just normal, everyday occurrences, where we have the opportunity to look like Jesus…or not.

2. Do I look like Jesus in what I choose to do with my time? This question covers a lot of ground, doesn’t it? Would Jesus spend so much time on _________? (you fill in the blank with your favorite, time-consuming hobby or pastime). Would Jesus spend so many hours doing this, if there is no eternal value? Of course, there is nothing wrong with hobbies, but we do need to keep it all balanced. It also covers this question: do I spend my precious hours on entertainment that will make others think of Jesus? Or do I waste hours and hours on movies, video games, and listening to music that is against everything my precious Savior stands for?

3. Do I look like Jesus in the area of self-disicpline? This is a challenging question that encompasses two big areas: money and food. I covered the question of food in my recent post entitled The Sin No One Wants to Talk About, so I will move on to the other area– money. This is a challenging one. Money is one of those things where we can hide our true state of affairs. In this age of credit and debt, no one really knows how anyone is doing financially until they completely crash and burn. But, whether we make a little or a lot, we need to ask ourselves if we look like Jesus in how we spend our money. Are we focused on the here and now or are we focused on the eternal? Jesus was very clearly focused on the eternal, which is clear in scripture. So, in order to grow more like Christ, my priorities should be the same.

4. Do I look like Jesus in the words I speak? Words are so powerful. They can cut to the core. I have always thought that the old adage “sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me,” to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. Word do hurt– dreadfully. Whether we are talking about someone else behind his back (otherwise known as gossip) or are short-tempered and unkind to someone’s face, words are one of the quickest ways to tell if we resemble Jesus.

 

I don’t know about you, but I see much room for growth in many areas of my own life. In fact, I feel like the older I get, the more work I see ahead of me. But when I look back, I also see that I have come so far. And so, I will keep on going. I know I may not look like Cindy Crawford anymore — it is my guess that, to most people, I never did in the first place — but oh, how I hope I resemble Jesus more and more as I grow older.

I Peter 2:5-11

 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Buzzing Fly

I was reading in my bed.  It was after 10:30 pm and I was comfortably snuggled in for the night with book in hand.  That is, until the fly came around. You know the kind I mean – the kind that buzz around your head loudly and incessantly and move so quickly you can hardly spot them.  At first, I tried to ignore it.  But it was impossible.  It seemed to have some special attraction for my head and would not go away. Irritation set in.  Why now?  Why won’t it just go away? But I got myself out of bed and grabbed a fly swatter and then set up watch.

I am glad no one was watching, because I am sure I looked ridiculous standing there in my pajamas with a fly swatter poised up in the air, just waiting for the annoying fly to land somewhere.  This went on for several minutes but the thing never landed.  It just flew quickly to and fro.

But then I stopped to listen.  I didn’t hear any buzzing.  Perhaps it had left?  I looked around in the light shed by just a single lamp in the room. I couldn’t see it.  I couldn’t hear it.  I sighed and climbed back in bed, the fly swatter within arms’ length, just in case.

I started reading again and enjoyed a few moments of peace and quiet.  A few moments.  Until that crazy fly returned, ruining my peace once again.

This reminds me so much of how it works with problems we don’t want to deal with. We are comfortable…but then our teenager says something worrisome or we hear something disturbing about a family member.  Oh well, perhaps it’s nothing to worry about.  And then we hear something else or perhaps someone even comes to talk to us about a problem they see.  But we don’t want to rock the boat and so the buzzing continues. And then, quite suddenly, the buzzing goes away for awhile and we think the problem has disappeared.  Just about the time we are starting to let our guard down, it shows up again, worse than ever.

You see, most problems won’t just disappear.  If we don’t face them head on, they are not only likely to come back around, they are probably going to get worse.  Unlike a fly that is limited in the damage it can do and is simply an annoyance with a really short life span, problems can blossom into huge things that will change our lives, if we aren’t careful.

A teenager that is interested in an unbeliever can turn into a troubled marriage.

A young adult who gives no care to a budget can turn into a debt-laden adult, struggling to just survive.

A person who gives in to their passion for eating can turn into an obese person who can’t fit in airplane seats or amusement park rides.

A teenager that hangs around with the wrong friends can turn into a pregnant teen or drug user.

A husband that spends too much time online has become the cause of many a divorce.

A wife that flirts with a co-worker becomes the beginning of an affair.

These are just a few of the scenarios that play themselves out if we don’t deal with issues head on.  It is so much easier, in the short-term, to just bury our heads in the sand.  But, oh, the devastating consequences of not dealing with things when they are manageable, instead of waiting until it is almost too late (for nothing is ever “too late” for God).

Of course, there are some times when it is better to wait it out and practice patience while we watch and pray.  And so that is the tricky place we find ourselves in.  But, let’s remember, that watching and praying is doing something, too.

What we don’t want to do is simply ignore problems.

As for that fly, I can’t even remember what happened (isn’t that pathetic?! the sad truth about my 40-something memory) But whatever happened, it did teach me a lesson that evening.

Wednesday Wisdom: What are we striving for?

My grandpa and me

 

My grandfather, Charles S. Good, was a pastor for many years.  He was a wonderful, wise man who loved God. He died some years back but before he died, he wrote a series of meditations and thoughts.  I would like to share one of them with you this morning.

GODLY CONTENTMENT

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”.

It would seem following this scriptural directive has never been easy.  Certainly at this time in America it appears to be very difficult.  I need to confess that, with my failing health, it has become increasingly difficult to be content with what I am able to do, as well as with what I have. However, I am finding God’s grace is sufficient.

If we study carefully the biblical context of contentment, we see a very interesting challenge develop. On the one hand, we are to be content with that which relates to the material and the physical. On the other hand, we are to strive for that which relates to the spiritual.

In regards to the physical we need to hear Paul in Philippians 4:11. “…I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.”  I Timothy 6:6-8 “…having food and raiment let us therewith be content.” There are many other verses which speak to the matter of being content with our material and physical condition.

In regards to the spiritual, we need to note verses as in Hebrews 12:1 “…let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” and Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” There are other biblical references which use such words as strive, covet earnestly, etc. that depict what our attitude should be toward our spiritual life.

In looking carefully at our text in Hebrews, it seems to me our trust in God can be measured by the degree of contentment we have towards material things. I am not suggesting it is okay to be lazy in regards to physical labor but to be careful in setting priorities in life. If in our lifetime we had kept a record of time and energy spent to minister to our physical desires, and had done the same in regards to our spiritual life, would we be pleased with what we find?

We need to be well aware of the fact that in our day the presence of peer pressure, media advertising, and easy credit make it very difficult to be contented. In fact, because these things appeal to the flesh, we are very prone to be discontented. In order to conquer this tendency we need to put forth special effort in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters, if we would gain the victory in this regards, let’s keep in perspective James 4:14, “…life is but like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

As Christians may we strive for spiritual health and not for material wealth!

Charles S. Good (July 1994)

Trading for the Trivial

Do you remember Esau?  Yes, the guy in the Bible.  He was the older twin brother of Jacob.  One day he came in from the field weary and hungry.  His brother was in the midst of making a delicious red stew.  When Esau asked for some, Jacob saw his opportunity.  He told him that he would give him some stew in exchange for his birthright. In those days, this was a big deal.  The older son was much more privileged than the younger son and by trading his birthright for a bowl of stew, he was giving up his inheritance. You can read this story for yourself in Genesis 25.

I have always thought of Esau as very foolish!  What man in his right mind would exchange something so important for a bowl of food?  And then it hit me.  I do that almost everyday.  I am in the habit of regularly exchanging self-control and a healthy body for a bowl of ice cream or a serving of french fries.  When I think about it like this, I realize that I am not all that different than Esau.

We also do the same thing when we trade:

–our financial well-being for a car we can’t afford

–our spiritual well-being for 2 hours of ungodly entertainment

–a healthy marriage for a moment of griping and complaining about something trivial

–our children’s well-being for the temporary moment of peace that comes when we don’t discipline them

–our Christian testimony for a glass of beer or an hour at the gambling table

–our integrity for a few bucks on a tax form

–a healthy body for an hour of laziness and tv-watching

Most of us are trading what is most important for what is trivial almost every day.  We wile away our entire lives on the unimportant, never realizing the great sacrifices we are making to do so.

Quite frankly, I can’t even relate to what Esau did because it is not part of our culture.  We couldn’t trade a birthright in our culture, even if we tried.  And so this story has always remained rather an enigma to me.  And, then the other day, as I was reading it once again, it was made so clear to me.  I can see how I am just like an American style Esau.  Trading what is most important to me almost every day for something really stupid.

Some of the things I am trading aren’t even sinful in and of themselves.  A bowl of ice cream or an order of fries isn’t sinful.  Buying a new car isn’t sinful.  But it is the attitude.  It is the habit.  It is the lack of self-control.  It is the desire of self-gratification over the desire for doing what is right.

I don’t know about you, but I will never read that story in the Bible the same way again.

 

 

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