Mature Plants and Pillars

May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace;
(Psalms 144:12)

In this Psalm we see a desire of the people of God to receive blessings from God. Psalm 144 ends with, “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!” (Psalms 144:15). Some of those blessings are material in nature (cattle, grain, prosperity), while others have a spiritual focus. Verse 12 is one of those. Look at what blessings they desired of God when it came to their sons and daughters.

Sons in their youth to be like plants full grown. 

Daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.

Think about that for a bit. What is that saying? What do these parents want for their kids? Maturity and stability! Plants full grown, not seedlings and saplings. Corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace brings to mind something strong and stable that supports other things.

May the Lord bless our children with these qualities. May they develop within them maturity and stability. May we as fathers and mothers have the wisdom, grace and patience to guide them and give them time to develop these qualities. May we as parents remember that God has given us quite a bit of grace, patience and time!

Lessons from Barbara Bush

Today, I wanted to share with you a video of a speech by the former First Lady Barbara Bush. As you know she passed from this life yesterday, and a lot has been shared on various news outlets. This speech is about ten minutes long, and worth your time. She really gives some very good advice, especially about parenting and family.

Barbara Bush – Wellesley College Commencement Speech in 1990.

Corban

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God)– then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
(Mark 7:8-13)

Here in Mark 7, Jesus is having one of many run-ins with the Jewish leadership, and during this encounter He exposes their hypocrisy in how they are using their religion as a convenient excuse to mistreat their parents.

Here are a just a few quick thoughts for today.

One command of God does not offset another. They were to honor God and to give to God, but they were also to honor their parents and give to them. God does not give us contradictory commands. He does not put us in a dilemma where keeping one command would cause us to violate another.

Man’s tradition does not go before God’s commands. The Jewish leadership, not God, came up with the “corban” concept that if something was dedicated to God they could not afterward use that money or property to help mom and dad.

Honoring mom and dad involves our finances, not just our words of support. Maybe these Jews would tell mom and dad they loved them, and maybe these Jews convinced themselves they were doing God’s will, but Jesus said they were dishonoring their parents by not supporting them financially in their time of need.

Pearls and Pigs

When you think of pigs, what do you think of? Well, I’m hungry so I’m thinking bacon. But we see the Bible talking about pigs being the lowest of the low, like dogs. Gentiles were considered to be pigs and dogs. The picture of a pig is not like the cute and cuddly Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web. Pigs stink and roll around in the mud. If you have ever fed hogs you know they don’t have manners. They will knock you over to get to their food.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
(Matthew 7:6)

Jesus told us to have discernment in order to determine when to cease teaching someone. As Christians, we can learn when it is time to move on. As God’s children, we can begin to recognize when we are casting pearls before swine. We have to be careful about it, and pray for God’s love and mercy. We don’t want to move on when God wants us to stick it out and keep teaching. But we also probably have experienced times in our life when we spent way too much time and tears on someone who could have cared less.

The Lord taught us that we must develop discretion and learn when it is time to move on. Sometimes you are just laying down fancy jewelry on the ground for a pig who could care less about pearls. If the pig does happen to swallow the pearl, it will just pass through if you know what I mean.

Here are several passages from Scripture that teach us God’s wisdom about learning to move on. There are some people that will eventually display to you that it is not worth beating your head against the wall for them.

Look at the contrast Jesus gives between his disciples and the crowd. The crowd, for the most part, didn’t really want to learn, nor did they really see Jesus as the source of eternal life. The disciples on the other hand, were always asking and begging to learn and understand more.

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
(Mark 4:10-12)

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
(Mark 4:33-34)

You see, Jesus knew when to take time to explain things. He also knew when it was time to “shake the dust” off His feet.

And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.
(Matthew 10:14)

Some are constantly learning and never coming to the knowlege of the truth (2 Timothy 3:6-10). They get an “A” in book smarts but an “F” in wisdom. The Scriptures warn us that if we focus so much on casting pearls before swine, then we may get trampled by the pigs.

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
(Proverbs 9:7-9)

A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.
(Proverbs 15:12)

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.
(Proverbs 23:9)

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools. Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence. Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool. Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard. Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
(Proverbs 26:1-12)

Meditate upon these things today. There are people around you who are hungering for the word. Teach them. There are others who will fight you on every point. Teach them too, but know there is a time to move on and let the seed that was planted do its work. God’s word will do exactly what He designed it to do in their heart. You could be driving yourself crazy with someone who is acting like the fool of Proverbs while someone else is really hungering for the word and you have not given them the attention and time they need.

Think about it.

Smartphone Addiction

Here is a link to an article about Smartphone Addiction. Listen to what even the people in the world think about what is happening to both kids and adults because of the addiction to technology and social media.

It is certainly something to consider and talk about with your family if you are not already doing so.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Are the Givers Able to Receive?

The teacher doesn’t like to be taught, the fixer doesn’t want to be fixed, the counselor fights against being counseled, and the giver has a very hard time receiving.

At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.
(Romans 15:25-27)

In Romans 15, the apostle Paul wrote of two groups of people that were both givers AND receivers. The brethren from Jerusalem were sharing spiritual blessings and were receiving material blessings. The brethren from Macedonia and Achaia were receiving spiritual blessings from those at Jerusalem and were in turn giving material goods to help them in time of need.

This relationship is how God designed the body. This is how it works. But it only works when the givers receive.

Receiving is tough. It means I don’t have all the answers and resources. It means admitting I need help. It says, “I can’t do it by myself.” It by definition requires vulnerability and transparency. You have to open up to let people into your “safe zone.” Having to receive is having to admit I don’t have it all under control.

When the giver is put in a position to receive, the giver is in a very uncomfortable and unfamiliar position. Its like writing with your opposite hand. Writing for me left-handed is like breathing, but attempting to use my right hand is completely awkward and uncomfortable. The giver is completely safe and at home with the giving part, not so safe and secure with being taken care of. There are pride issues to deal with for sure. A lot of humility is needed to receive (of course we should have humility when we’re giving too!).

So, if you are someone who is the do-er, the fixer, the counselor, the teacher and the giver, how do you handle it when others offer you help or advice? Do you receive it well?

The eye needs the hand, and the hand needs the eye. When I have a fleck of dust in my eye, my hand helps my eye. When I have a splinter in my hand, my eye helps my hand. We need each other. We need to learn to receive.

The Father and the Son

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:9-15)

The Father was well pleased with His Son. The next verse says the “Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” He was there for 40 days. No food. Wild animals. Oh, and He went face to face with Satan. It was certainly a hard 40 days. Don’t minimize that. God drove His son into the wilderness to face the worst Satan could throw at Him. God was well pleased with Son, and He led Jesus down a very hard road. His love includes training and adversity.

The Father sent angels to minister to His Son. While Jesus was in the wilderness with wild beasts and Satan, He was not alone, was He? The angels ministered to Him. That same thing is said of all Christians – Angels are ministering spirits sent to help us (Hebrews 1:14). During our times in the wilderness facing wild beasts and the Devil, we are not alone. We are never alone when we walk with God. He sends us help, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible, but He is helping us.

The Father’s message was proclaimed by the Son. At the end of this passage, we see Jesus proclaiming the gospel of God. There is a reason God allows us to be refined through trials and temptations – through that process He is glorified and His message is preached.

Moments

My daughter Jessica wrote this today. One year ago today we had a barn fire that killed our animals, 2 of those animals were Jessica’s horses, Kale and Dublin. I wanted to share with you her thoughts.

Moments… Our lives are made up of millions of little moments. Many of these moments might seem insignificant at the time, but what if they just disappeared? What if in the matter of seconds your whole life was turned upside down; and everything was spun into a downward spiral. How do you prepare for that? When the barn fire took my horses and all of my family’s animals, there was no way to prepare for the devastation that caused. There was no way to be prepared for all of the various after effects of it either. Looking back I cannot even remember summer, it is all just a blur. For those who know me, they know that horses are like breathing to me. I love them, they are a part of me. To work so long and hard for something, and then to have it all gone in the matter of seconds is… there is no word for it. The point I have come to now is that I won’t give up. Even though I have been, and keep getting tested every day, with God all things are possible. Through all of this I have come to lean on Him more, and realize that no matter what happens, I will always have God with me in the storm. God pulls us out of the fire and tells us that He will carry us when we can’t walk, He will give us peace when all around us is chaos, He will give us strength when we want to give up. In Him I have a new hope, a hope for the future. So even though there is all of this pain, God is holding my hand, and I never want to let go of Him again.

Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell

I received my daily email from History.com and today is the anniversary of the telephone being patented by Alexander Graham Bell.

A lot has changed since 1876, hasn’t it? Can we even imagine a world without telephones? I started looking for what people thought about phones a long time ago. Usually when new things come there are people who love it, and people who hate it. The phone was no different.

If you are interested, here are a few articles about it:

When the Telephone Was Dangerous

Social Reaction to the Telephone

The most fun I had was looking at Mark Twain’s views about the telephone.

Here is his Christmas Greeting from 1890:

It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone.

I really like this one from Twain:

It is a time-saving, profanity-breeding, useful invention, and in America to be found in all homes except parsonages.
– “Letters to Satan,” Europe and Elsewhere

See how it was recognized as good and bad, useful and problem-causing all in one sentence? Twain saw the phone as a useful invention that was time saving yet at the same time he called it “profanity breeding.”

It’s just a reminder that many of our inventions in life have the potential to bring great advantages to our lives, but can cause a lot of damage, too.

Think of it this way. Boats and ships are great inventions, and even in the Bible they were used differently. They were used for fishing and trade, but were also used for war. Jonah boarded a ship to avoid preaching to the lost, and Paul used ships to get everywhere preaching to the lost. The ship wasn’t the problem, it was the heart of the person. The same can be said, I believe, about the phone, the computer, television, etc. We can use them in God-glorifying ways, or use them in a way that appeals to our flesh and lusts.

So, pick up your phone today to call someone and encourage them in their walk with Jesus. But also turn it off for awhile and play with the kids. Talk to the people around you without any device distractions.

What’s Your Custom?

Today, please look at the following four verses and look for customs, habits, and consistent patterns of behavior. Jesus and His parents had customs, things they always did. Certain Christians had made it a habit not to assemble with the brethren. Daniel had always prayed 3 times a day, so when he was commanded not to pray, he just kept doing what he had always been doing.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.
(Luke 2:41-42)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.
(Luke 4:16)

…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:25)

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
(Daniel 6:10)

Customs. Ways of life. Habits. What’s yours? My wife Anna has a Lebanese heritage, and there are certain yummy foods that we always eat at Christmas time because that is our custom.  It may be that your family always goes to a certain place or cabin every year for vacation.

Is it “customary” for you to be found praying like Daniel? Has it become habitual for you not to meet with Christians to worship with them? Do your kids know for certain where you will be on Sunday or is it left up to chance, feelings, or what else may be going on? There was no doubt as to what Daniel would be doing 3 times a day, and he didn’t do it out of a ritualistic habit, it was because he truly loved his Lord and sought His favor. And the same goes for our meeting with our Christian brothers and sisters to worship and have studies. It is not out of tradition that we do it, it is out of a heart that really loves God and knows we truly need each other to help us walk closer to God.

What is your custom? What are your habits?