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His Plan Won’t Fail

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
    that can succeed against the Lord.  Proverbs 21:30

I was listening to a podcast from White Horse Inn the other day featuring Tim Keller as its guest. The host asked Pastor Keller about how he sees the current status and future of the church.  His response?  “While there may be fewer people who profess to be Christians there’s still millions and millions of faithful Christians.  And I know that no plan will ever succeed against God’s plan.”

It’s a message that so many of us need to hear these days.  Faced with religious persecution in places typically seen as stalwarts of religious freedom, the ever encroaching sinful teachings of the world in our schools, and the disdain so many seem to have toward Christians, it may at times feel like this is it.  The one time God’s plan is going to fail.  But like the song says, “It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by You.”  

We humans have such a limited view of the world’s timeline.  What’s happening now can seem like “the worst ever.”  We need to remember the state of the world during Jesus’s life and the years following.  The Jews being persecuted by the Romans.  Christians being persecuted by the Jews, the Romans and so many others.  All but one of the apostles faced terrible deaths. It’s a miracle this thing we call Christianity and the Bible even survived.  Not only did it survive but it has thrived because it is God’s plan.

Friend, our shortsightedness may make us scratch our heads or even worse, fall into despair, when we see evil succeed.  That script needs to be flipped today.  Evil people and their plans that are celebrated are short sighted victories.  Our victory, God’s victory, is eternal.  We need to keep our eyes forward and upward asking Him for help in following His plan, not ours, and definitely not someone else’s.  The Bible is filled with stories of people jumping ahead of Him or worse, leaving God out completely.  Let’s learn from their mistakes and believe that He is the Way, the Truth and the Light.

Victorious Lord, I want to follow your plan, your path to eternal victory.  Guide my steps, my mind and my heart so that I am not following the way of the world but instead your assured plan.  Amen

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Be Prudent with Vows

It is a trap to dedicate something rashly
    and only later to consider one’s vows.  Proverbs 20:25

prudent:  (ˈpruːdənt) adj 1. discreet or cautious in managing one’s activities; circumspect

Years ago, when I was heavily involved in our elementary school PTA, there was one woman who put her hand up for just about every activity for which we needed volunteers.  The first to offer to be a chair for an event, she was well-known at the school.  There was just one problem.  She rarely followed through with what she promised.  Without fail, those events she promised to shepherd fell into chaos.  It’s difficult, when someone steps forward to volunteer, to tell them, “no thanks.”  And so, year after year other volunteers assisted with the clean up behind her wake.

Today’s wise words remind us that making promises we can’t keep leads us into traps.  In the case of the rash volunteer that trap was a destroyed reputation.  For others, it may look like a broken marriage which effects finances, children, livelihoods and more.   A failed promise to pay back a debt that leads to more indebtedness.

Judges 11:31-39 tells of Jephthah who is desperate for victory against the Ammonites.  He promises God that should He give him victory he will sacrifice whomever first walks through the door upon his return from the battlefield.  And, of course, his favorite young daughter dances out the door, being the first to greet him after his victory.  He is devastated realizing too late his vow.

Friend, we make little and large promises all the time.  A promise to make dinner.  Promises to show up on time.  A commitment to the bank to repay your loan.  Those promises we make to ourselves to lose weight, get fit, read our Bible and more.  God wants us to slow down and be more cautious with our word.  There’s only one person who walked this earth who has and will keep every promise He has ever made – Jesus.  We will fail to keep a promise or two.  But we can minimize the destructive results of broken promises by limiting them and being careful with them in the first place.

Heavenly Father, thank you for being a promise keeper.  You show me that making promises is something to be taken seriously.  Help me to step back when facing a situation where a promise may be needed and take the time to evaluate my ability to keep that promise.  Amen

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The Drippy, Leaky Roof

A foolish child is a father’s ruin,
    and a quarrelsome wife is like
    the constant dripping of a leaky roof.  Proverbs 19:13

Last month I finally found the right time and place to open up to my husband about something new that was bothering me in our relationship.  We have always been good about communicating with each other.  However, I’d been sensitive to not bringing him any more discordancy than he was already experiencing in his work life.  My, albeit made in love, approach to the problem didn’t make it go way.  In fact, I found myself pulling back or lashing out in other ways.  I was getting resentful for not feeling like I could present the issue to him.  

According to the wise marriage folks at Marriage 365, communicating our feelings or needs is easier for some people than others.  “The truth is,” they write in a course on Confident Communication in Your Marriage, “no one is born with great communication skills, everyone has to learn them.  Communication is what connects us and in order to have a healthy marriage, you have to learn techniques that work.”

Isn’t it so often the case though that we think, “If he/she loved me they would just know what I’m feeling (or needing)”?  Or “I’ve told him/her a thousand times and they just aren’t listening!”  The fact is, if there’s some discord going on in a spouse and proper communication isn’t occurring, it will find its way to the surface in destructive ways – like a constantly dripping leaky roof.  

We all need to learn how to communicate effectively with others, whether it’s work partners or life partners.  We can’t assume we are experts at it and we certainly shouldn’t assume they are either.  The Bible tells us to take all our problems to the Lord with prayer and thanksgiving (don’t miss that second part).  I have to think a response back from God when it comes to marital issues is to first remember your commitment to love one another.  Secondly, to respect each other.  And then actively pursue knowledge and wisdom on how to communicate.

Friend, when I took the Lord’s advice and came to my husband in humility, respect and love he was surprised as to what I had been holding back.  And because he loves me as much as I love him, we resolved to work together on our communication.  Because no one wants to be tortured by a leaking roof or a nagging spouse.

Father God, in your Word you have shown us how to be good and loving spouses.  Direct me each day to grow in knowledge and wisdom to reflect your Word.  Amen

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Reliable Friends

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

She is the sweetest person I have ever called “friend.”  A gentle and kind woman who doesn’t have bad things to say about anyone.  And she was always late.  That is, if she didn’t cancel the morning of or an hour before we planned to meet up.  I knew the second we scheduled a lunch date to not be disappointed when she gave me the “oops” text.  Sweet and completely unreliable.  And although I tried not to let it bother me it did.  

When we are younger, automatic friend groups pop up because of school, work, volunteering or your kid’s activities.  As I grew older, I found myself realizing that not all but many, friends were out of convenience.  Many of them weren’t ones I could truly rely upon.  

It all came to a head one day when I was desperate for someone to take me to the doctor.  I had gotten word that my knee injury was in fact a serious fracture and I was urged to get to the orthopedic doctor immediately.  My husband was out of town.  I contacted my mother and was turned down (a longer story for another time).  Then my “best friend” who also turned me down.  I asked yet another friend and was told no.  Instead, I found myself driving home from a doctor’s appointment with a hip to ankle brace and crutches.  To this day I’m not sure how I made it home without crashing.  It was my “ah ha” moment about my lack of reliable friends.

I spent the next few days alternately feeling sorry for myself and evaluating the people in my friend sphere.  I realized there were people around me that were reliable.  I just hadn’t cultivated them as good friends.  After prayer and putting together an action plan I set about changing this situation.  

Friend, since that time I’ve had a number of friends tell me they wish we were friends back during that time of my injury.  They tell me they would’ve dropped everything to help me.  They are my new sisters, most of whom are also sisters in Christ.  Isn’t it time to make sure you have a few reliable friends too?

Holy God, you are my first and foremost reliable guide, friend and helper in my life.  I thank you for the reliable people you have placed around me.  Please always help me be on the lookout for other, earthly friends with whom I can walk through this world together.  Amen

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Prune Strife

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. Proverbs 17:1

I’ve never understood the fascination with the show Real Housewives.  You watch as a group of glamorous women gather week after week to go on vacation together, dine in expensive restaurants, shop for beautiful clothing.  And fight.  And gossip mercilessly about each other.  And cry and scream.  I suppose it’s like rubbernecking.  Watching a disaster unfold seems to hold our attention.  Anytime one of my adult children has turned that show or similar ones on at our house all I can hear is bickering and complaining.  It feels so stressful just watching it.  I have to go to another room and close out the strife.

While we may not all bounce around with the rich and glamorous each week in our real lives, how many of us maintain friend groups that cause similar chaos?  That one friend who always picks a fight with the waiter. The friend who demands to have the group plans change to accommodate them.  The two friends who revel tearing up each other behind backs.  It’s understandable to feel the need to invite a close relative to an all family event who acts this way.  But why do we insist on voluntarily bringing that lack of peace into our lives?

Maybe we worry about our social status, being left out, not being “in the know.”  Or maybe we keep these folks around because we think it helps our children or spouse.  Stepping back however, any strife we purposely allow into our midst will affect the rest of our lives and family.

As I’ve grown and matured, God has pruned out a lot of people from my life.  One’s I called dear friends at the time.  Some of that pruning felt painful.  Now, I look at the beautiful women He has brought into my life because I have learned from His Word about humility, pride, trustworthiness, and sacrificial love.  I ate a lot of “dry crust” for a bit waiting for His work in me to show me what was important in who I choose to spend my valuable time with.

Friend, your peace should not be up for sale to people who cause strife.  Bring the people in your life to God in prayer and asks Him to show you where you need pruning.

Heavenly Father, reveal to me the people and areas in my life where strife abounds.  Help me to prune those areas, even it means eating dry crust for awhile.  Amen.

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Who Rules Your Day?

All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Proverbs 16:2

We’ve all had the opportunity to be arm-chair decision makers while watching a movie.  You just know that she should not, absolutely not, open that door and peer into Pandora’s Box.  But because their curiosity or desires are so great they ignore every good sense they should have.  The 1988 movie, Indecent Proposal, must have had movie goers at the edge of their seats shaking their heads in exasperation.  A married couple meet a billionaire while in Las Vegas.  He offers $1million to sleep with the wife for one night.  After deliberating, the couple agrees to the proposal.  I mean, it was a million dollars!  That kind of money can paper over any possible issues that might arise, right? 

Even though this scenario was fantasy on the silver screen how many of us make decisions every single day thinking we know better than God?  We see the immediate benefit of our choice.  Our desires and emotions outweigh or even obscure the possible consequences.  This is especially dangerous when the consequences may not be seen for years – say through the actions of our children.

I heard a pastor recently break down how to live at peace – with our decisions, the world swirling around us and more.  First, seek God’s help, advice, and intervention.  Then don’t take it back.  That’s what Abraham’s Sarah did.  She prayed for children then decided she probably could handle the problem better.  She had her husband sleep with Hagar.  And like the results of the decision in Indecent Proposal, people’s lives were ruined and changed forever.

Friend, God doesn’t need you to ask permission for everything in life.  If you stick close to Him, you’ll know the right and wrong in most situations.  But when it comes to the big stuff or situations where emotions and desires are strong we need to submit them to God.  We need our heavenly Counselor to give us better advice than what our flesh is telling us.  And then take it.

Lord, I can get blinded by my explanations for why I need to do things my way.  Please shine a revealing light on those times where I need to fully commit my choices to you.  Amen 

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Spread Good, Wise Words

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word! Proverb 15:23

A few weeks ago, Associate Pastor Myron Wideman Jr. asked his Instagram followers to do something radical.  To spread a rumor.  Yes, you heard that right.  But here was the twist: it had to be about something positive.  We so often are quick to post that negative review on Yelp or comment to others about how bad someone or something is, meanwhile there’s blessings upon blessings going around us each and every day.  

Our sinful, flesh natures do love a good controversy, don’t they?  A little bit of whispering and gossip is all we need to get our juices flowing.  How about today or even all this week you take the time to send a text, email, letter or (gasp) speak directly to someone with a positive comment about them or their works?  If someone asks for your input or feedback start with as many positives that you can come up with.  Avoid the negative unless absolutely necessary.

Friend, God started out this beautiful place called “Earth” with words of great joy – “let there be light!”   And when He, through His words, created man in His likeness, the kindness He showed to us with a beautiful garden and all we would need was immeasurable.  It wasn’t until we were unkind to Him that something negative took place.  So, let’s work harder at a “Kindness First” approach as believers.  Spreading rumors and gossip of His love for all to hear.  Let’s put not only a smile on someone else’s face today but also on our Holy Father’s.

Holy Father, you are so kind to me, first with the gift of salvation, and then through the fruits of the Spirit.  Help me to remember to reflect your kindness through a positive and timely word to others.  Amen

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Cleave From Fools  

Stay away from a fool,
    for you will not find knowledge on their lips. Proverbs 14:7

I imagine today’s wise advice has everyone shaking their heads in agreement.  If a spotlight were pointed at your gaggle of friends, however, would there be that one person you know you should limit your time around?  The one always making bad decisions, dragging you into uncomfortable situations, struggling in their marriage because of their behavior, and the list goes on and on.  

Why do we keep these folks on our Christmas card list or included in our party invitations?  Unfortunately, some are a bit too close to home as relatives.  But those other ones, those are head scratchers.  Maybe you think they are funny, your kids are on the same sports team, you’re in a Bible study group with them, or they are a neighbor.  As Christians aren’t we to show kindness, compassion and grace?  

Yes, to all of the above.  However, nowhere in scripture will you find the Lord advising to bring into your close sphere a fool.  As scripturally well-informed Christians we should be able to spot fools fairly quickly and make wise choices about boundaries.  According to an article in Sharper Iron, look for these traits: arrogance, overconfidence, lacking shame, braggart, reckless with words and choices, self-indulgent, quarrelsome, and insulting.  It doesn’t matter that they also have an amazing talent for scrapbooking, working out, wine collecting, or whatever mirrors some hobby or interest of yours.  Stay clear.  Smile and wave.  Be kind and gracious.  Protect your heart, mind, family and wallet.

Friend, a fool is no friend.  In the end, you will most likely look the fool along with them.  Take what they say with a discerning ear.  Surround yourself with people you can trust and help you on your sanctification journey.  God will cleave the fools.  You just need to let them go.  He will place the people you need in your path.

Holy Father, open my eyes to the foolish people I have held on to in my life.  Help me to be discerning with my time and boundaries concerning them.  Bring me wise mentors into my life.  Amen

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Stop Pretending

One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
    another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. Proverbs 13:7

According to an article in Psychology Today the advent of social media brought about a terrible case of lying.  Lying about our weight, our age, our financial status, social standing, looks, and well, just about everything about ourselves.   In a study that reviewed 80 online daters, researchers found that two thirds of participants lied about their weight by five pounds or more. In a large sample of over 2,000 people in England 43 percent of men admitted to making up facts about themselves and their lives that were not true.  Most commonly, participants said that they only shared “non-boring” aspects of their lives (32 percent) and were not as “active” as their social media accounts appeared (14 percent).

Some might say, eh, what’s the big deal?  While we humans like to think we are individually responsible for our own health and well-being we actually are in a giant social contract with each other.  When a young teen looks at people online having the time of their lives 24/7 they may think, “why is my life so boring?”  Unhappiness, dissatisfaction, loneliness, or worse, thoughts of harming themselves are paths many may take when evaluating their own “normal” lives.

I remember having this very conversation with my youngest daughter her first year of college.  “Everyone else that went off to school seems to be so happy.  Why am I struggling?” she once said.  I reminded her that very, very few people post the other 12 or 18 hours of their day when they are studying for a test, sitting alone having lunch, or crying from homesickness.  

Our wise words today speak to how we show our wealth or lack thereof.  But in the larger scheme of things, it’s about pretending to be something we are not.  I can’t help but think this comes from a place of looking for love and affirmation in the wrong places. God loves you when you have money and when you don’t.  He loves you when you are doing boring things like taking out the trash.  He loves you when you are on a fabulous vacation or quietly reading a book on the couch.

Friend, God loves you when you are being true to your situation.  You don’t need to pretend to be something you aren’t.  So stop trying to keep up with the influencers who stood in line for three hours to get that perfect shot in Malta.  If all you can do for a vacation is take a hike in your nearby woods, enjoy every single minute of it.  God is with you and loves you right where you are.

Lord, help me shine for the person you made me to be right now.  I want to be thankful for the blessings you have given me.  I know you love me whether rich or poor.  Whatever you have blessed me with help me to bless others by being genuine and true.  Amen

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Taking Offense

Fools show their annoyance at once,
    but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs 12:16

This is the second rendition of today’s post.  When I started this blog over two years ago, I asked the Holy Spirit to speak through me.  If writing a particular post felt like I was pulling teeth I knew it wasn’t coming from the right source.  As a result, the post I wrote earlier went into the “delete” pile.  Each sentence I wrote was interrupted either by texts, my husband, timers going off, etc.  I now realize every time my mind wandered to one of those interruptions it was a tap on my shoulder to re-focus and re-write.

You see what was happening in the background of my original text was this very proverb.  I was getting annoyed and offended by problems surrounding an event I am hosting.  It only took me about a half a day to finally figure it out.  The Holy Spirit giving me a real life example of practicing what I preach!  

Being offended has risen to an artform these days. We are offended by other drivers, cashiers, politicians, neighbors, strangers, businesses, faceless people in our social media threads, our friends, our family, our spouses and on and on.  If “they” don’t conform to our wants and needs, it might ruin our day.  If “they” don’t act how we think they should we are hurt and insulted.  No grace and definitely no mercy.  

We take for granted that God won’t do the same to us.  Thank goodness because we all probably offend Him multiple times a day.  While He may allow our sinful actions to suffer the corresponding consequences, He isn’t sending down bolts of lightning to smote us each time we mess up.  He hasn’t washed His hands of us because He’s had it for the last time.

Friends, it’s time to step back and control our emotions.  We have in Jesus the perfect example for us today.  He was whipped, beaten, stabbed, spit on, forsaken by friends, and hung on a cross yet He still loved.  He still asked God to grant mercy.  Today, can’t we do the same with the brothers and sisters around us who are probably doing their best to make it through this day just like you?  I, for one, got this message loud and clear today.

Gracious God, thank you for your mercy.  Help me to deliver that same mercy and grace to those around me who might insult me or cause offense.  I thank you for teaching me how to seek peace throughout my days.  Amen