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Aug 26, 2010

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah

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Scriptural Basis:

“These people come near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Isaiah 29:13
“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. Psalm 63:3
“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34


Application:

When we are preparing to give our cat, Coco, a can of wet cat food, she, knowing what is coming, begins meowing like crazy. My wife was saying to her, “Hold your horses! Be patient! It’s coming. And not being able to interpret every meow, I said maybe she is saying, “Oh, thank you, thank, thank you! You take such good care of me. One creative cartoonist said that when we talk to our pets, all they hear is “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! Maybe, maybe not. In any case, since we cannot precisely interpret meows and barks we do not always know what our pets are saying back to us. And though we know a whole lot better the language of humans who speak our language, we do not always accurately interpret what they are really saying, especially if the intent of their heart is not known. We know this because the words that pass our own lips do not always conform to the intent in our heart.
The air of this world which we breathe is filled with a mega-abundance of words, yet the Bible clearly reveals to those willing to listen that God pays particular, in fact, detailed attention to the words that pass our lips, even those words formed in thought but not spoken. And what is more we are told that our words will be judged. We may consider this a trivial measurement to use as a major source of judgment, but the truth is that our words, no matter how few or many, come from what is in our heart; and they reveal the good or evil which is stored there. (Luke 6:45) King David was so profoundly moved by this that he earnestly prayed: “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3) Would that such a prayer be ours daily!
The philosophy and theology of language taught throughout the Bible in verses like Luke 6:45, teaches specifically that what we speak is simply an overflow from what fills our heart. Consequently, your words taken accumulatively are a picture of who you really are, and they become an accurate evaluation of your entire life. If this truth penetrated your mind, David’s prayer would certainly be yours unceasingly. And if such a prayer were sincere, you would become intent on the matter that fills your heart, knowing that its overflow is what you speak. For such matter to be concentrated on the greatest subject in the universe, the only subject that can fully satisfy, the only subject that will never disappoint, and the only subject that will be eternally worthy of judgment, it must be God Himself. And you simply cannot attain this apart from personal, intimate time with Him. The nature of life itself in this fallen world is an all-out war to subvert that very thing. Time alone with God, developing a real conversation and an environment to listen to what He has to say to you necessitates a discipline that defies the world where we live. But this is exactly why David explains, “Because your love is better than life…. Without such an appreciation, it will never happen.
This is the very discipline, at the pinnacle of His earthly ministry, the Lord purposed to convey to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal: “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak. (Matthew 26:40-41) This is the discipline of filling the heart, from which come your words, and your entire life is evaluated.


Encouragement:

“Take time to be holy, the world rushes on; spend much time in secret with Jesus alone. By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be; thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
(2nd verse of William Longstaff’s hymn, “Take Time to Be Holy, 1887)


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Aug 24, 2010

Being A Better Parent

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It is often said that this generation of youth is the lost generation. But if youth today are the lost generation, then what does that say about the generation that raised them? All of us could use some perspective or points of advice.

What does it take to be a better parent? Here are 11 points of perspective as we raise our children:
1. Time

  • Children spell love T-I-M-E
  • Be deliberate…intentional about how you are going to spend time with them
    • This may be any number of things like reading to or attending their school functions. Time is not just a one week vacation to the beach.
    • Work is not more of a priority than your family…it is merely an excuse. Remember that if you succeed at work and fail at home, your failure in one will always impact the success in the other.
  • Take time to see what they see and hear. Not where you want to go and what you want to see. Parenting forces us to lose a lot of “self.”

2. Set an example

  • Be genuine…how you live, how you act, what you do…it matters. Children hear and observe far more than we imagine. They are patterning their lives after something, what pattern are you setting?

3. Let them express how they feel

  • It is okay for your child to be scared. They can be scared of ghosts, school, a new environment, people, getting older, dying, relationships, and any number of things. It is not what you know, but it is what they know. Let them respectfully and freely express those feelings with you.

4. Express how you feel

  • About them
  • How their actions made you feel
    • Remember when you correct your child, that it is their actions you are correcting, not they themselves that you are correcting

5. Listen

  • Respect is earned so earn the right to be heard

6. Stability is safety which comes from

  • Protection and consistency

7. Praise and encourage

  • Offer more positives than negatives. And be optimistic…it’s contagious.

8. Don’t make idle promises or threats:

  • No one can truly ground their child for long periods of time so do not say something you do not or cannot practically keep.

9. Control your own emotions

  • While it may feel this way, it is not about you!

10. Be aware of their age not yours

  • Remember, it is not what you know; it is what they know
    • Don’t expect a 9 year old to act like a 15 year old in their maturity…they simply cannot

11. Appreciate that they are different from you:

  • It is not your goal to create a mini-me. Embrace and encourage your child’s skill sets, even if they do not match up with your own.
  • Sit back and watch them
    • Most of us learn by watching. Watch your child as it will better help you understand their temperament and abilities.

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Aug 19, 2010

The Hound of Heaven

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Scriptural Basis:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7


Application:

The brother of Christopher Hitchens, the well-known atheist who has made fame and fortune in denigrating the God he claims does not exist, has written his own book titled The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. At the age of 15 this younger brother, Peter, set fire to his Bible on the grounds of his Cambridge, England boarding school, and began as his brother a life of rebellion against the God who is there with all the concomitant positions accompanying those who attempt to excise God from their life and thought. The son of the anti-prayer-in-schools warrior, Madelyn Murray-O’Hair, defied his mother’s atheistic crusade, and came to faith himself. It is reported in recent years, with some controversy due to his age, that the famous author-scientist Antony Flew, long a champion of atheists, now admits that God exists. In a more spacious setting than this the examples could go on and on.
The inescapable subject of Francis Thompson’s (1859-1907) haunting lyric, The Hound of Heaven , is tireless in accomplishing His purposes in the lives of men and women upon whom He has set His heart. What has been called “the greatest ode in the English language has captured the feelings and reality of David’s cry above; or the cry of the Eternal Father Himself in Hosea, “O Ephraim, how can I give you up! Thompson encapsulates Paul’s experience in being transformed from enemy to ambassador in a relentless pursuit that reached fruition on a dusty road to Damascus. Perhaps there is something of the telling of the Hound of Heaven in your own conversion, and if not as much there, certainly in your continuing pilgrimage with the One who desires all of you. At times we are insensible to the relentless pursuit, until that something, whatever it is, gets our attention opening our eyes to what was there all along. For some it is the valley of the “big C or some similar physical malady. Christopher Hitchens has just been diagnosed with esophageal C! Whether or not it will get his attention is yet to be seen. We can pray so. But whatever it is in your own life, if you have been unconscious of the pursuit and purpose of His love towards you, perhaps, just perhaps, it is well past time for you to acquaint yourself or reacquaint yourself, as the case may be, with the truths of The Hound of Heaven.
“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes, I sped; And shot , precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.
This first verse only introduces what is true in us; why Paul writes “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13). For others the terrifying thought of Genesis 6, “My Spirit will not strive with man forever, ought to chill the conscience of many a rebellious soul if they were not so dead-like insensible. Yet for those who, as Francis Thompson, recognize the pursuing footsteps in the ears of their spirit.
Halts by me that footfall: Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!


Encouragement:

“I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me; It was not I that found, O Savior true, No, I was found of Thee.
(1st verse of anonymous hymn, “I Sought the Lord, 1904)


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Aug 12, 2010

Living in an Atmosphere of Lies

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Scriptural Basis:

“I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.” (Psalm 116:11)
“Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though everyone were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged. (Romans 3:3-4)


Application:

Forty-one years ago this month I left the comfortable shores of America to fight in the deadly jungles of Viet Nam as an Infantry Platoon Leader. Though given the startling facts about that war and man’s propensity to lie, I have to wonder if everyone will believe that I was actually there. A good friend just sent me a compendium of facts on the war that never see the light of publication, acknowledgment in the media, or instruction in the school/college classroom. Consider the fact that 2.7 million Americans actually served in the Viet Nam Theatre of war, though not nearly that many in actual combat operations; while in the latest census nearly 14 million Americans claimed they served in Viet Nam. 4 out of 5 are actually lying, including the Attorney General of Connecticut who is running for the U.S. Senate this year.
For those who claim they hold truth dear, how many have a general picture in their mind that is actually sheer propaganda foisted on the unwitting public up to the present day by media, professors, Hollywood, and those who have an ax to grind while purposely disregarding the truth? Consider: 97% of Viet Nam veterans were honorably discharged. 91% say they are glad they served. 74% said they would serve again even knowing the outcome. Viet Nam vets have a lower unemployment rate than the same non-vet age group. Their personal income exceeds the non-vet age group by 18%. There is absolutely no difference in drug usage between Viet Nam vets and non-Viet Nam veterans of the same age group. Viet Nam vets are less likely to be in prison—only one half of one percent of these vets has been jailed for crimes. 85% made successful transition to civilian life. Isolated atrocities by American soldiers produced torrents of outrage by anti-war critics and the media, while Communist atrocities which were common practice received no media coverage at all. The few American soldiers involved went to prison, while the Communists who did so received commendations for assassinating 38,725 men, women, and children and abducting 58,499 more civilians.
2/3rds of the American soldiers who served in Viet Nam volunteered compared with 2/3rds who served in World War II being drafted. The media have variously projected suicides among Viet Nam vets to be 50,000 to 100,000. Actual mortality studies by the CDC show that 9,000 is a more accurate estimate. A common belief is that a disproportionate number of African-Americans died in the war. The facts are that 86% of those who died in Viet Nam were Caucasian, while 12% were African-Americans; proportionate to the African-American population in America at the time and slightly lower than the proportion in the Army at the end of the war. The war was not fought primarily by the poor and uneducated. The facts show that there was an elevated risk of dying by those from well-to-do areas. Viet Nam veterans were the best educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat. 79% had a high school education or better. The average infantryman in the South Pacific in WWII saw 40 days of combat in 4 years, while the average infantryman in Viet Nam saw 240 days in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter. The list of researched, validated facts goes on and on. But what is the point of all of this? Just what the Scriptures teach us: man’s propensity to lie and his propensity to believe the lie.
All of us are not only susceptible, we are complicit. In this political season we observe lies being bandied around like ants at a picnic. Some we believe and some we don’t and precious little objective research and facts are sought before judgment. When we personally retell something we have seen or heard in everyday life we are too quick to embellish or detract as the case may be to fit our ego or to excite the attention of our audience. The prophet Ezekiel speaking for God by the Holy Spirit said: “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life. (Ezekiel 13:22)
The disciple of the Lord Jesus must hold the truth dear and seek truth not only in what he says, but in what he hears and receives as truth. Lying and liars are assured of falling, having their mouths eventually stopped and ultimately receiving their just punishment according to the Word of the Lord. With King David may we recommit ourselves to the God of truth in the midst of an atmosphere of lies with his prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)


Encouragement:

“Set up thy standard, Lord, that we who claim a heavenly birth, may march with theeto smite the lies that vex the groaning earth.
“The, God of truth, for whom we long, thou who wilt hear our prayer, do thine own battle in our hearts, and slay the falsehood there.
(2nd and 4th verse of Thomas Hughes hymn, “O God of Truth, “ 1859)


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