If you and I had recorded every trial, crisis, and inconvenience that we have ever experienced, and then we were to rank them from the worst to the least what would be the basis of that ranking, that hierarchy of tribulations in our life. Money lost, physical pain experienced, emotional pain experienced, loss of relationships, or just the blocking of a dream. Some people cry, moan, groan, and carry on about a trial that I think is not that big a deal, and I suppose that I do the same.
A major trial that will ruin my day and even my week, and quite possibly even a whole year is a band of golfers and/or moles making my yard and orchard look like a war zone. Those rascals are a direct result of Adam eating the forbidden fruit, “The Fall”, and the curse on the whole earth as a result. During our “Five Day’s of Prayer” a week ago there was 4 or 5 new mounds of dirt each day, mounds so big that I couldn’t jump over them, though I don’t jump very high, and I had thought that maybe if God really loved me he would not let those critters do that to my yard, especially while I was praying for 8 hours each day. Oh well, maybe God is trying to test my character.
I got out my trusty traps and started up my trap line for gophers and moles. I caught one this morning, and I thought about skinning it, tanning the hide, and putting it on the wall of my office for all to see.
Sounds kind of silly talking about gopher and mole mounds in my yard as a trial doesn’t it. I bet when we get to heaven and look back on our life from heavens perspective, all of our fussing will seem silly.
We had the third of five performances of “The Hobbit” tonight at Jefferson Baptist Church, and it was amazing. The acting, the special affects, and the stage were all so good. “The Hobbit” was written as an allegory of a life lived by any person, showing the trials and struggles of our lives that ought to be conquered, and life lived as an adventure. Bilbo Baggins wants only to eat 6 times a day and take a nap, and he gets recruited to go on an adventure, a great adventure, which is really one adventure after another. As an allegory the story is supposed to illustrate life, and right at the start the illustration was right on. People as a whole really just want to live life secure, predictable, and comfortable, let’s just skip the adventures and trials. In choosing what we do through out the day we naturally choose low risk. The problem is low risk causes very little grown in our character, low risk results in very little fruit or accomplishment, and low risk is just plain old boring. Most of us aren’t probably going to have a wizard recruit us to go on a great adventure so we need to plan one for ourselves. The best way to do that is to start with a goal to do something or accomplish something that requires taking a risk or is really hard compared to your normal routine. Run a marathon, climb a mountain, write a book , or take piano lessons. Our life is so much more alive when we get out of our ruts.
Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good.
2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.
Jeremiah 16:17 For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes.
Hebrews 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
We cannot see God, but He sees us. Because we cannot see Him we forget that He sees us. My cell phone retrieves all kinds of information as the result of a few keys touched, I can talk to people around the world, and I can even see them on the screen of my phone while I talk to them, yet my phone is not hooked up to anything, everything just comes through the air. I don’t see anything coming into my phone, and I don’t really understand how it works, but I believe it because I experience it.
God more than sees us, He watches us, and He understands us.
1 Chronicles 28:9 for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.
2 Corinthians 5:9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
Jesus left heaven and became just like me and, was tempted, suffered, and died for my sins so that I could live with Him forever. I love Him and desire to please Him and serve Him with my life, and knowing that He is intimated acquainted with all my ways, thoughts, and emotions is incredibly encouraging and motivating.
One of the things I remember our kids arguing about when they were little was who is right. There debates were not based on any logic or reason just shear volume and meanness so as to intimidate the opposing brother or sister into submission. As humans we seem to have been born with this bent to thinking that we are right or at least that our opinion is important. In many adult discussions people often begin their part by saying, “I think”, or this is my opinion on this matter, and then unlike little kids there is a “presentation” or the reasonableness behind our opinion. Because our self-worth seems to be tied to our opinion counting we can become very strong in our presentation to others, and even mean spirited in the discussion. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” I believe with all my heart in an all knowing, all wise God who has declared what is right and good, and He has communicated that information to us in the Bible. So it doesn’t matter much what I think, what matters is that I know what God thinks, and then live by it.
I have a wonderful wife and a near perfect marriage. Proverbs 12:4 “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, which means she makes him feel like a king, she fills him with glory, she makes him feel like he is Samson, and can do most anything. On the other hand a wife who criticizes, corrects, especially in front of others, scolds, talks down to, and shames her husband with her words is like “rottenness in his bones”! Which basically means she is killing him with a slow and painful death.
Though our marriage is about as good as they come now it wasn’t that way in the beginning years. There was lots of yelling and tears and silent treatment and hurt feelings and resentment, repeated over and over again. It is hard to know for sure all that caused the change in both of us over the years to bring about what we enjoy today, but it was mostly just working at it and communicating and we gradually grew in character by the work and desire to have a good relationship. The basic disciplines of the Christian life of Bible reading, prayer, examining our own life and confessing our own sins, forgiving each other quickly and not holding grudges or remaining bitter were keys to our personal growth and the growth in our unity and love for each other and for God.
Giving away some of our hard earned money to the Lord’s work, or to people in need is a difficult discipline. There is always something that we could spend that money on, and most of the time it is really important. 😌 Proverbs 11:25 says, “The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered.” God is totally aware of all that we do, and the state of our heart, and He encourages right choices and good behavior by rewarding us when we do what pleases Him. Very few things bring more reward and blessing from God than sacrificial giving does. I think the reason this is true is because worldliness is one of our major enemies, and keeps many people from becoming what they have the potential to become. 1 John in the New Testament says that “if we love money the love of God is not in us”. Sacrificial giving is the key way to stay in love with God.
The more I talk the more apt I am to stick my foot on my mouth! Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” Whenever I enter a room with people or enter any social setting, I say to myself, “don’t talk to much”. I can easily get sucked into conversations where I will argue, complain, slander someone, gossip, say something that is unkind, say something to attract attention to myself, or exaggerate to impress or make a point. Later as I recall the time I groan over my stupidity and lack of self-control. I then confess my sin whichever one of the many possibilities it is, and tell God I won’t do that ever again, and please help me not to be such a blabber mouth. My mouth is my greatest asset and tool as a teacher of the Bible, but it is also the source of most of the sins I commit. How can this be!!??
We can see and hear pride in another person easily, and we don’t like it, but we don’t see or sense the pride that is in our own life very well. Proverbs 16:5. “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” That is a pretty strong statement “is an abomination to the Lord”, it looks like the Lord doesn’t like proud people either. I regularly have thoughts and fairly long thought processes that are clearly prideful. The thoughts are not only very prideful, but also very critical, and pride and critical go together. I want to conquer that character flaw and make it go away. I don’t want God to consider me an abomination and to resist everything I do. This verse and others like it I have memorized and whenever I hear my thoughts moving in the direction of haughtiness I switch over to thinking and meditating on the verses. It is very easy to think prideful thoughts, but it is very hard to conquer and to overcome them. I think about the Consequences if I don’t, “assuredly he will not go unpunished”, and I am motivated to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
This week, Monday through Friday was JBC’s “Five Days of Prayer”, and I have been praying in the prayer room with about 20 other people, usually a different 20 each hour, for 8 hours each day. It has been a very rich time for me, not only the praying but the time with so many different people praying. There is something about praying together that is especially bonding.
But during this five days I still have my normal disciplines and responsibilities to get done so time gets very tight. I regularly say, “anybody can do just about anything for just five days”. So I sleep less, walk faster, work faster, cut short times of doing nothing but relaxing, reduce chit chat times, cut out “honey do’s” 🙂 and read my “to do list” often to stay on task.
Now I wouldn’t want to live like this all the time, but occasionally it is a good exercise of learning how to get more done in the same time, or in this case the same done in less time. I have often said when teaching on “Time Management” that we aren’t managing time, we are managing ourselves.
Self-leadership is a learned skill, and self-control is a character trait which work together. Periodic times in our life where there is an marked increase in pressure because of an added event, an unexpected emergency, or other people needing our attention, are good times to practice self-leadership and self-control. They don’t last forever, usually a week or so, and then back to normal so pretend that the high pressure week is a visit to the gym where you are sweating and doubling your heart rate so that you will be healthier.