Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Honor all People," He says...

As I think I related in my last post, the words, "Honor all people" really stuck with me from a memory verse we were assigned from our women's Bible study. It's a short little phrase, which you wouldn't think would mean all that much. You would think it would be so easy as to be automatic.
"Honor all people." That doesn't give a lot of exceptions, does it? I have been mulling this over, what it means, how to do it. In the past I have been struck by the fact that Jesus actually voiced His two greatest commandments, first to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength...which has been my chief focus, but to which this week I am officially adding the one that Jesus said was second, to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Honoring all people has to be a critical, central element to pleasing God by loving my neighbor.
Some people it is easy to honor: the famous, handsome, beautiful, rich, prominent,'s easy to honor them. We want their approval in return. Then there are people we are supposed to honor and yet their very proximity or the emotions that have gotten mixed up in our lives can make honoring them a challenge; we get to know them so well that we treat them in an overly familiar way, or we hold grudges that are stumbling blocks to honor. We dishonor them when we never meant to. That, I think, shows that honor is not a simple thing but can be quite complicated.
What about people who are not seeking honor, who don't live honorable lives? What about people I don't talk to at all, like those walking down the sidewalk when I drive, or those on tv who I'm sure never to meet, who maybe have all the strange hair and strange clothes and metal in strange places, who smoke strange things, have strange drugs coursing through their veins, who get married and divorced as often as I sweep the porch? Maybe it's only a matter then of not dishonoring them. If I don't point out their flaws to everyone I'm with, if I don't criticize them, roll my eyes, shake my head, say what I would do differently...then it's just a matter of "don't." Don't do it. Leave them alone. Let others form their own opinion. They don't have to know mine, how I may disdain the people who just don't know how to live, who haven't yet had the privilege of being saved by I have...
It seems that if I'll never meet them, or that if they'll never see me roll my eyes about them, then it shouldn't matter what I say or do or think about them. But then...there's still always one significant Witness who always has the real scoop on it, and He cares. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place keeping watch over the evil and the good." I can't hide it. I have to dump it. I have to be changed by the renewing of my mind.
In fact, maybe the less my negative opinions are expressed in any way, the less the disdain will even happen in my mind; maybe I'll forget it was there. It might be one step toward loving my neighbor; one step toward even loving him better some day when I add to that applying another of God's qualities, such as kindness...goodness...gentleness... those certainly have their appeal, and I want to have them increase. And I'll focus on whatever is good, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is pure; whatever is righteous, whatever is admirable...and I'll think about such things. Then I will be free indeed!
It's just a thought that I have been pondering.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Focusing the Mind takes Effort!

There was a blurb on the bottom of today's front page of the paper, telling how people tend to be distracted about a third of the time. Alas! (and yet, whew! I'm not alone. Misery indeed loves company.) It doesn't matter what the scene is, whether prayer, Bible reading, Sunday school, sermon time, corporate worship, conversations with friends, book reading...the problem is the same. I think of the many things I have to do, whether my clothes are on straight, how the other person's left eye is a tad higher than their right, that there's a loose hair on their doesn't matter how stupid the thought, how downright useless the observation, the distraction is almost always useless, if not absolutely damaging. If this is the case in church, where my focus would seem most likely to be directed toward God, the struggle is all the greater at home where my thoughts would seem to be my own. I must take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
I remember as a new believer hearing that a friend was not able to attend church--I don't remember why, whether her husband didn't allow it or whatever--but because of my newfound passion for focusing on Christ, I was able to readily tell her maybe 7 or 10 ways to keep getting to know Him better. It wasn't even a struggle, it was stuff at the time that I was doing in my own life. And now I don't seem to do most of those things nearly as much as I did then...why not? I would say I am too busy. There are too many distractions. Whatever. I honestly used to spend absolute hours every day in God's word, reading it, typing it into the computer, doing hundreds of word studies to find out all the different nuances of how a word was used throughout the Scriptures. My house was a mess then. But now I'm too busy doing housekeeping to do that any more. And my house is a mess now. How great it would be to get back to that "first love"! "Nothing will separate me from the love of Christ"...but many things will separate me from showing Him my love.
Now to recall those seven or ten things I recommended in addition to (or--not recommended, not Scriptural--apart from), church will probably be something of a struggle:

1. Read God's Word. Use whatever resources you can get your hands on, first and foremost a good translation of the Bible, maybe with trustworthy study notes; a good Bible dictionary; a Concordance; trusted, recommended internet sites...and find new ways to study God's Word that make it interesting--such as finding the prophecies of the Old Testament that have been fulfilled in the New Testament, in Christ's birth, in His death, in His resurrection; study His miracles. Maybe study the women of the Bible, or the men, or the children. Learn all about Paul. Look for verses that apply to a particular aspect of life, such as marriage, or parenting, or work. Try to read the whole Bible in a year--or if you can't do that, make it two years. Do a word study on a word that interests you. Follow the references to related texts. There are endless ways to bring new life to your studies! Read through Psalm 119 and see just how passionate a person can be about reading the Scriptures. Of all the psalms, it's the longest, with 176 verses--I think that says something about the writer's passion in this regard!
2. Pray. Pray before you open your eyes in the morning. Pray before you read your Bible (Psalm 119:18). Pray to thank Him before a meal, and/or afterward! Pray at every opportunity. Follow Jesus' pattern for prayer in the Lord's prayer--it's not one to recite so much as an example to believers on the priorities: Addressing who God is, and His holiness; seeking first His kingdom and His will; His provision for our needs, and protection; His forgiveness of our too-daily sins and help in our forgiving others; worship of Him. Pray of course for others, for their salvation, guidance, health and help; for ability to help them. For self-control, lack of anxiety. That we might love Him more and others more every day!
3. Speak of His goodness in your life to anyone who will listen, especially your children. It will encourage and direct them, maybe bringing them to know Him too; it will glorify and please Him. Psalm 78:5-8: For He established a testimony to Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God. You might consider putting together your own blog site so that you can do this for anyone who will come and read it! (I recommend this, personally!)
4. Find good Bible teachers, and don't listen to bad ones (1 Tim 1:3-7; 2 Tim 1:13-14). The good teachers focus on God and His Word, and how to love and please Him, how to live righteously in Him, how to take thoughts captive...not on the human self except its wretchedness and need for Him. You can find a bunch of Bible teachers (some greater than others) at on the internet--and listen to them any time of the day or night! If you need to stop you can pause it, if you need to listen again you can back it up and start over. You can look at their archives of broadcasts and articles. My favorite is John MacArthur. In fact his broadcast today impacted my writing of this, in how to pick out good Bible teachers--he talked about how to choose a good church. There are so many that are worthless, we all need to pay attention and be careful!
5. Read good books: classic books on faith, on prayer, on holiness, on God. Read books about missionaries and heroes of the Christian faith. Read them to your kids to get double duty for your time! Get lists of writers, names of books from Christians you know and whose judgment you trust. Christians who have gone before us provide a great example and also an appreciation of what suffering and effort others have gone through to help us to have access to the Scriptures in our own languages, and of God's power in their lives. There is no adventure, no meaningful story, like that of what God has done through believers throughout history! Learn about the stories behind what inspired composers of hymns, what initiated the Reformation, what the Pilgrims endured to have freedom of worship. Find out why Nate Saint was not afraid of the tribe who speared him and his friends, and how that tribe was reached after all with the gospel.
(Phil 3:17)
6. Memorize Scripture. Get your family, or friends, all memorizing Scripture so that you can all keep one another accountable and it will go much faster. Fill your house with Scripture verses if you can, so that when you do dishes there's a verse in front of you to memorize; when your children walk down the hall there's one on a placque that will become very familiar. Use Scripture in your correction and training of your children. There's nothing like a Scripture verse to clarify what's wrong with a behavior! "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word." Psalm 119:9; and, "Is not My Word like a fire, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" Jeremiah 23:29. I have seen this in my own family--I can talk until my face turns blue; I can spank until I'm spent; but use some Scripture, and it finds its mark like nothing else can do.
(Heb 4:12)
7. Play and sing Scripture songs. There are songs for adults and for children, invaluable for helping with memorization. Mark in your Bible any verse that has been made into a song that you know, by putting a little music note next to that verse. You can then leaf through Psalms and as you see a note, stop there and sing the song in your heart or out loud, and have your own time of musical worship. In fact, when you're in the car, you can adjust the buttons on your radio so that they will access mainly or only Christian stations. Go to a Christian book store and buy Scriptures on tape or CD and play them as you drive. " filled with the Spirit, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Ephesians 5:18b-19.
8. Take one Scripture verse that particularly grabs you and meditate on it during the day. See all the different ways that you can find that it applies in your daily life. Pick a new one the next day.
"O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day." Psalm 119:97.
9. Clean out the worst things from your life, anything that you realize is unholy and evil; anything that distracts and draws you from God and displeases Him--whether it's an item, a hobby, a form of entertainment, an attitude, a habit. "but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am Holy.'" 1 Peter 1:15-16; "Fear the Lord and turn away from evil; it will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones." (Prov 3:7b-8).
10. Increase your love for others. All these previous pretty much focus on increasing your love for God, which is the greatest commandment (Mt 22:38). A reflection or element of that is the next commandment, to love others as you love yourself (Mt 22:39). We are to honor all people and be careful in our speech (1 Peter 2:1, 17). This is impacting me lately, realizing how easily bad habits and attitudes slip in. I need to avoid criticizing others in my heart, in family conversation, in public--whether they're believers or not; whether they're celebrities or legislators who we'll never meet; however they dress; however they lack wisdom--they're people Jesus loves, and part of His creation. He wants them to know Him, wants us to pray for them (Mt 5:44, James 4:11-12, 5:9). Who are we to judge or criticize?
11. (This is hardly least, though I put it near the end--it is actually one of the most important.) Go to church regularly. Find a good church and attend. If you don't like something about the leadership, address it to them in love; if they don't fix it, if it's serious, consider finding another church; if you can't, then stay, pray for them, and focus on the best things otherwise: God and His greatness (Psalm 118:8-9); the godly people who attend, the Scriptures as they're presented, the ways to serve, teach, lead, exhort. Exercise your spiritual gifts in the best way possible. Don't use the issues that bother you as grounds to complain to everyone. Don't be worse yourself by gossiping (Psalm 141:3-4). Don't withdraw from attending church--all the more as you see the Day approaching. We need fellowship of believers all the more as we move more toward end times!
(Hebrews 10:25)
12. Get together with other believers at various times; that is, fellowship. We are to exhort one another and build one another up. Sometimes that is hard to do in the busy and time-constrained church services. If you can't get together with others face to face, at least e-mail; telephone; read their blogs! Otherwise, have each other over for dinner, go for walks together, study the Scriptures together.

Well, I came up with a good start. I can't say that I've continually done all of these--my latest focus is on increasing my love for others; otherwise, I can also improve in listening to music or teachers when I have the opportunity, and against letting my thoughts wander too much. And how much more I need to pray! I hope that the reason my doing these seems less might in part be because they come more naturally as I've been a Christian so long, and because they've become more an incorporated part of my life; but I know that's not always the case. I need improvement! So, this list is as good a reminder for me as for anyone else.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pushing Coke, and it's a good thing

Well, the latest news for our family is that after 15 months of unemployment, Gary has a new job! I haven't given out specifics on the length of time between jobs on our blog because I didn't care to elicit an excessive impression that we needed help...well, we always need help, as all of us do, in that we need the prayer support and encouragement that others give; but it was at times impossible to fully impress upon others that we were not at the complete end of our finances and that our cupboards were really fully stocked throughout the 15 months. Yes, our savings dwindled--we tapped into retirement pay, which they say is a cardinal rule NOT to do; but I do believe that God intended it for this time and not for some day about 11 years away--which I know isn't as long as it might sound to some. We'll barely inhale and exhale and there it will be. Still, God has provided incredibly through a great many ups and downs, and we have found that bank funds have a way of rising and falling with the tide, and they are, after all, just a number. My main concern about finances is that the number stays black and not red, and it did, praise God. He is good, He is faithful, and He always provides for His own.
So now Gary is working at Coca-Cola. I enjoy the joke that for years (as a pharmaceutical rep, to those who don't know) he sold a great variety of drugs, and now he's pushing Coke. Pharmaceutical companies seem to have determined that their favored population to hire as sales reps are young females. Gary is not so young, nor at all female, so he had two insurmountable hurdles that he tried hard to overcome, but I think that in the long run it was better to go with something else. Surely he will find that though Coke has a totally different culture than pharmaceutical, it is far kinder to its employees--Gary is used to jobs where he works all his waking hours, and now he comes home at 5 p.m. and is done. Done for the night! What a concept!
I am looking forward to seeing what transpires with his newfound time structure. He had all that time off, but much of the time he was ironically looking for work--and he may be less occupied now that he is working than he was when he was unemployed. Today he came home from work, and Tim wanted to go outside with him and play with walkie talkies--so they did, they walked to the park and down to a creek where Tim loves to dig and splash and always comes home with a rock that he is convinced is gold. So good! May it continue such. God is great, life is good. Of course we knew that.