Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Discouraged?

I think this is the street I live on. At least I have spent a lot of time there lately. I’m not sure why, I know I could blame others but that’s probably not the solution and probably not the reason.

I read something the other day that got me thinking about this. The author was talking about discouragement. He pointed out that “discouragement is looking back at what has gone wrong rather than focusing on the destination.” The next thing he said is what caught my attention: “Literally, discouragement means to take the courage out of someone.”

That is how I feel. I have lost my courage. I have lost my courage to be a father and husband amongst other things. In stuff, I felt so strong in before I am now afraid to act or move forward. It may be stupid but it’s where I’m at.

My sin is exposed. I admit that I have lingered at the edge of despair.

When I thought of this, I felt very low. How will I recover? Is there a future or do I slowly let go? I talked to someone at church a few weeks ago who was feeling the same way and was being honest about it. He said he wondered sometimes about checking out and checking into the looney bin for a time. That thought doesn’t appeal to me but I have had others.

I reread the section in the book several times. There was exhortation not to live there. God tells me to be strong and courageous. I have to press on through the valley to the other side. God promises He will be with me. Something I read last night reminded me that I need others to walk along with me too. Together we can make it; being strong for each other. One will have strength while another is weak. We need to be encouraged to counter the discouragement.

I tried to think of Scripture that can help bring courage back. Here are a few I found.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!
Psalms 31:24

They helped every one his neighbor; and every one said to his brother, be of good courage.
Isaiah 41:6

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
1 Thessalonians 5:14

From these I conclude that I need to draw near to and wait on the Lord and I also need others alongside who can help me regain courage.

Something I heard on the radio this morning reminded me of how important it is that I gain courage back. It’s the chorus of the Sara Groves song Generations. Here is how it goes:

Remind me of this with every decision.
Generations will reap what I sow.
I can pass on a curse or a blessing
to those I will never know.
For those who follow, I will strive do what is right.

Philip

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Got Fear?

I heard a sermon the other night that really caught my attention. It was about character, integrity and the fear of God. Part of the message is that as we fear God it will lead to integrity and good character. It was a very challenging message.

So that is the context. What stood out to me was the following passage from Proverbs 1:24-31:

Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.
I have read that passage many times before. What came to mind when I heard it this time is the thought that if we mess around with God and His grace we might find ourselves at the end of our rope with no one including God to help.

Is it possible that we have taken the message of grace too far? We say things like, “God will always forgive.” We talk to people about the need for Christ in their life and then assure them that He will be waiting if they ever decide to follow Him. What if He isn’t?

In Romans 1:28 it talks of the person that God turns over to a reprobate mind. Here is what The People's New Testament says about this verse:
God gave them over to a reprobate mind. A thought is repeated here that has already been hinted, and is often taught in the Scriptures. The man who turns from the truth will be allowed to have his way, will fall deeper and deeper into error, and will reap all the evil consequences of loving darkness rather than light. Those who hate the truth are "given over" to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind is one rejected of God.
Are there two things in play? Can the sinner have his own way and God just lets him go and quits pursuing him? Is there a time where the sinner having rejected God’s wisdom and counsel finally calls out to God and God not only does not answer but also laughs at the horrible predicament the sinner is in? And if these are true, do we find it hard to accept that God could be so cruel and heartless? Or is God’s response grounded in His holiness which we don’t always share?

If this is true, what about the saint? Because we have received Christ, are we exempt? What if we mess around with God? What if we are stubborn and refuse His counsel? What if we hide sin in our heart; What if we indulge in a few small sins?

We should probably think about what it means to fear God. I have heard many explanations that try to soften it. We want to think of God as loving and kind, which he is, but maybe there is a simple message in the word fear. Maybe the above-cited section from Proverbs gives an indication. Maybe the message is, don’t mess with God and don’t presume too much.

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
(2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV)

I would love to hear what you think.

Philip

Monday, July 23, 2007

Deception

From my morning reading.

Stop lying to each other; tell the truth, for we are parts of each other and when we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves. Ephesians 4:25

The essence of lying is in deception, not in words; a lie may be told by silence, by equivocation, by the accent on a syllable, by a glance of the eye attaching a peculiar significance to a sentence; and all these kinds of lies are worse and baser by many degrees than a lie plainly worded; so that no form of blinded conscience is so far sunk as that which comforts itself for having deceived because the deception was by gesture or silence, instead of utterance.
John Ruskin
He that is habituated to deceptions and artificialities in trifles, will try in vain to be true in matters of importance; for truth is a thing of habit rather than of will. You cannot in any given case by any sudden and single effort will to be true, if the habit of your life has been insincerity.
Frederick W. Robertson
As a kid, I was told: “lies have short legs.” Experience showed it to be true. A lie usually doesn’t last for long and it’s hard to maintain.

Even knowing the futility and harm of lying, there is still temptation to be less than transparent. I think it’s something we have to continually battle against.

Philip

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Questions


The following questions are from The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley. They are directed toward men but anyone could benefit from them.

Perhaps you have several close friends or maybe you have none. Or, more likely, you know many men, but you are not sure just how deep the waters run. Reflect on these questions and see if you have gone far enough to develop some genuine friends.

1. When things go sour and you really feel lousy, do you have a friend you can tell?
___ Yes ___ No

2. Do you have a friend you can express any honest thought to without fear of appearing foolish?
___ Yes ___ No

3. Do you have a friend who will let you talk through a problem without giving you advice? That will just be a sounding board?
___ Yes ___ No

4. Will your friend risk your disapproval to suggest you may be getting off track in your priorities?
___ Yes ___ No

5. Do you have a friend who will take the risk to tell you that you are sinning? Or using poor judgment?
___ Yes ___ No

6. If you had a moral failure, do you know that your friend would stand with you?
___ Yes ___ No

7. Is there a friend with whom you feel you are facing life together? A friend to talk over the struggles of life which are unique to men?
___ Yes ___ No

8. Do you have a friend you believe you can trust, that if you share confidential thoughts, they will stay confidential?
___ Yes ___ No

9. When you are vulnerable and transparent with your friend, are you convinced he will not think less of you?
___ Yes ___ No

Heavy stuff isn't it. I don't find quick answers for many of the questions. I want friends like that but they aren't easy to come by. My biggest problem is believing that I'm not wasting someone else's time. I'm glad when someone presses beyond that and invades my life. I also hope that I can be a good friend to others.

Philip

Click here for The Man in the Mirror

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Differing Gifts and Abilities

If the people about you are carrying on their business or their benevolence at a pace which drains the life out of you, resolutely take a slower pace; be called a laggard, make less money, accomplish less work than they, but be what you were meant to be and can be. You have your natural limit of power as much as an engine,--ten-horse power, or twenty, or a hundred. You are fit to do certain kinds of work, and you need a certain kind and amount of fuel, and a certain kind of handling.
-George S. Merriam
All of us are different. I can do things you can’t and you can do things I can’t. Or maybe I can do certain things but not very good.

I have a handyman business. It is successful partly because I know what I can and can’t do. Many times, I have to turn down jobs because I have to admit that it is beyond my abilities.

I probably work for more women than men. Sometimes I get comments from the women that they wish their husbands could or would fix things. I usually answer that I’m glad they don’t or I would be out of business.

Many times when I hear that kind of comment I am working in a very big and expensive house. It’s obvious to me that the husband certainly has some abilities that translate into making good money. As I was putting up some shelves on Wednesday my customer made the comment that she wished her husband would do things like that. This was in the garage of a million dollar home and fifteen feet away from a Maserati sports car that cost close to $100,000.

Sometimes it is wise that these husbands are not doing the repairs. Some would mess it up and some would spend all day doing something they could pay me an hour of time to do.

So why are we messed up on things like this? What about in the spiritual area? There also, we have different gifts and abilities. It’s easy to get hung up trying to imitate someone else. We waste time and energy doing things we are not equipped to do and end up not doing what comes natural or supernatural.

Conversation with strangers does not come easy to me. I can push myself but I will never be like many others who can walk up to a stranger and converse on spiritual or other matters. Because of this, I will never be very good at what we call “witnessing” in the church.

I know of some things I am good at. That is where I need to spend my time and attention. I need to know and accept my limitations. I can’t let what others are able to do make me feel inadequate and I shouldn’t hold my abilities over their head either. I need to rejoice and be satisfied in the way God has made me.

Philip

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Murderous Mom

It seems that the mother of a gang member drove him and his buddies to a skate park to kill a 13-year-old boy they had a grudge against. In gang life, a grudge can come from being looked at the wrong way. It’s a warped world but the one they live in. Read the story here.

I’m not surprised. We have a gang house across the street and it is the mother who holds the whole thing together. Of course there’s no dad, he’s in jail.

And it’s not just her. There seems no shortage of the motherly type women who shuttle the gang guys around. So it’s not hard to believe that these women are hauling the guys to their graffiti jobs, fights and whatever else gang life requires.

I’m sure the California gang mom did plenty of lawless shuttling before she made the decision to participate in murder. Maybe she was like the mom across the street who fawns over the gang guys like they are some kind of heroes, telling everyone to hide in the back when the police come. When necessary she gets into the face of the police telling them “I know my rights.” Her sons know she will always be their advocate, regardless of what they do. Hey, when they get some young teenage girls drunk and bring them into the house for the gang sex initiation, you’ll not get a word of correction from her. This is gang life.

Proverbs 29:15 says: The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. It’s sad that some children are not only left to themselves but also discipled in the ways of evil. May the offenders millstone be heavy (Mark 9:42).

Philip

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dumb and Dumber

For some time I have been amused by a campaign by the Denver Water Board to encourage conservation of water.

Back when we were in a drought, there were restrictions on when and how long you could water the grass, plants, etc. The people of Denver responded, water usage was less and the reward was higher water rates. We cut back and then Denver Water decided they would raise the rates to compensate for less revenue. Thanks a lot!

The campaign I referred to is called Use Only What You Need. As you can see from the pictures, the clever idea is to use only part of a billboard, bus bench or bus ad. The message is that all of the space isn’t necessary to get their message across.

Here is what is dumb about the whole campaign. Do you think because they only used a portion of the available space that they only had to pay for part of the media used? Of course not. You pay for the whole thing even if you only use part.

Now we see that the same principle applied to rewarding conservation with a raise in rates.

Use only what you need but pay as if you used it all.

Philip

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Save Tomorrow for Tomorrow

Let us then think only of the present, and not even permit our minds to wander with curiosity into the future. This future is not yet ours; perhaps it never will be. It is exposing ourselves to temptation to wish to anticipate God, and to prepare ourselves for things which He may not destine for us. If such things should come to pass, He will give us light and strength according to the need. Why should we desire to meet difficulties prematurely, when we have neither strength nor light as yet provided for them? Let us give heed to the present, whose duties are pressing; it is fidelity to the present which prepares us for fidelity in the future.
Francois Fenelon

So what do you think is proper looking to the future? In Proverbs, it speaks of storing up in the summer for the winter. Is that planning wise because it is a known cycle?

Is the wrong thing when you worry or spend energy on things that may never happen?

What do you think?

Philip

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Drug Problem

The other day, someone at a store in our town read that a methamphetamine lab had been found in an old farmhouse in the adjoining county and he asked me a rhetorical question, ''Why didn't we have a drug problem when you and I were growing up?''

I replied: I had a drug problem when I was young:

I was drug to church on Sunday morning.

I was drug to church for weddings and funerals.

I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather. I was drug by my ears when I was disrespectful to adults.

I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or the preacher, or if I didn't put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me.

I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profane four-letter word.

I was drug out to pull weeds in mom's garden and flowerbeds and cockleburs out of dad's field. I was drug to the homes of family, friends, and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair the clothesline, or chop some firewood; and, if my mother had ever known that I took a single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the woodshed.

Those drugs are still in my veins; and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, and think. They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin; and, if today's children had this kind of drug problem, America would be a better place.

—anonymous

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Death Comes Quickly

I live in the neighborhood I was raised in. I'm in the same house as a matter of fact.

When my dad bought this house it was the first one built on the block. That was over 50 years ago. He built a garage some years later. From what I've heard, that caused trouble between he and my mom. She was worried that they couldn't afford it. Of course, that was before credit and the issue was the money coming out of their savings. Money comes easy these days through numerous credit offers. You don't need savings anymore and people have a lot more financial problems.

The neighborhood has changed a lot through the years. Most of the original families are gone. They were hard working people trying to raise good kids. There was only one family on the block where divorce was part of the picture. As kids, all we knew is that their dad was gone. Divorce was a foreign concept.

Gang members and drug dealers now inhabit the house across the street. It's common knowledge among the other neighbors. Some feel there is nothing they can do about it. Others don't want to get involved. And some are finding out what they can do and doing it.

Sometimes I look at the young people that hang around that house and find it hard to believe they are involved in criminal activity. The two older boys in the house have been arrested on gun related charges. The woman of the house is one of those "cool" moms who covers for her kids and makes sure they don't learn from their mistakes.

A week ago, one of their buddies was killed in a drive-by shooting. Things have been a little quieter than normal but you can tell they don't get it. Life goes on and death comes quickly.

In my morning prayers, I pray two things for the people across the street. First, I pray that I would love them. Second, I pray that they would end up in jail. Maybe removed to that place, they would turn to Jesus and their life could be changed.

Philip

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