Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Beauty of Correction

A wise correction to a receptive ear
is like a gold ring or an ornament of gold.
   Proverbs 25:12


Have you ever had your ears pierced? I haven't but I have seen it done. It stings in the moment, but in the long run your appearance is adorned by a beautiful earring. This proverb tells us that the same is true of wise correction. It stings in the moment but, when heeded, wise correction can make your life and character more beautiful in the long run. 

Listen, no one likes being corrected. It's hard to be confronted with your shortcomings even when it's a loved one speaking to you. It feels even worse when the correction comes from your boss or someone you dislike. But you would do well to listen to correction anyhow. You don't have to accept every criticism that comes your way, but you should do your best to objectively consider them all. Correction is always going to sting. That'll be true either way. Whether you accept it or rage against it, hearing correction is going to hurt your feelings. But if you're willing to listen to the correction and consider if there is any wise counsel in it for you, then that stinging just may be put to good use. If heeded it can make you a better, more beautiful person.

So the next time you are corrected, reprimanded, criticized, or the next time someone offers to help you by giving their unsolicited opinion- ignore the sting. Love yourself enough to stop and listen and see if there is any wisdom in what they are telling you. If not, merely disregard their opinion. But if it rings true, then allow yourself to be corrected and to be made better by it.

Still not convinced? Here are some other proverbs that make the same point. 
  • The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)
  • The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. (Proverbs 15:31-32)
  • Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. (Proverbs 19:20)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Can You Hear Me Now?

O You who hear prayer,
To You all men come.
   Psalm 65:2

He who planted the ear, does He not hear?
He who formed the eye, does He not see?
   Psalm 94:9


Sometimes I wonder why my wife and I even bother paying for cell phones because, inevitably, when one of us really needs to speak to the other, they don't answer their phone. Over the years we've each given a host of excuses. She accidentally left her ringer on silent. I was in a meeting. She was talking to her mom. One of the kids was bleeding. And sometimes, inexplicably, one of our phones just won't ring when the other calls. 

Thank God that prayer isn't the same way! God always hears when His children call out to Him. Every time you pray, He hears. God is never in another room. He's never too busy dealing with something more important (because He has unlimited time, ability and attention). His phone isn't turned off or broken. God hears when believers pray. Now that doesn't mean that you always get an answer right away. But what an encouragement it is to me to know that I have instant access to the Father. He is always ready to hear my requests. What a good God we serve!

Too many of us take this amazing privilege for granted though. We pray very little. So take some time today and pray. Pray prayers of praise. Tell God how good He is. Pray thank you prayers. Confess your sins to God in prayer. Ask God questions in prayer. Pray for other people. Pray for the poor, for the hurting, for the lost, for persecuted Christians, for your family, for your friends, for your government, for your church and its leaders, and pray for your neighbors. Pray for yourself too. Ask God to meet your needs. Pray about the things that stress you out. Pray about money or lack thereof. Pray about your work. 

There's so much to pray about it's a wonder we ever stop. And yet to me it seems that so few Christians hardly ever start. Make a start today. Will you take at least five minutes to pray? Remember believer, when you pray God listens.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Jesus, Mary, & Judas...and the Disciples (W.o.W. Rewind)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
John 12:1-8


Note three responses to Jesus in this passage. Mary shows Jesus extravagant, sacrificial love. Judas responds to Him only with deceit and greed for personal gain. The rest of the disciples recline at the table and maintain "business as usual" little knowing that the time they have left to honor Jesus before His death is slipping away. 

Mary's act of love is extravagant, almost gratuitous. The perfume was worth a year's wages. It was doubtless the most precious thing she owned. In all likelihood it was her life's savings. What's more she used her hair to wipe Jesus' feet! To grasp the power of that act you must understand two things. First, in that culture a woman's glory was her hair. Second, many of their roads were dirt roads and animals were used for transportation that would often leave droppings behind. This meant that people's feet were especially dirty at this time in history. Mary could have chosen to wipe Jesus' feet with a towel. Even this would have been lowering herself to the place of a servant to tend to His needs. But Mary takes her glory, the most treasured and clean part of her body and uses it as a rag to cleanse his feet. It's hard to imagine how shocking this was to those present. It was truly an act of deep commitment and astounding love for her Savior.

Compare that to Judas. He offers up no worship for Christ. Instead he attempts to deceive Him. His aim is not to exalt Jesus but to profit off Him, to steal from Him. Judas hides his greed behind fake piety. He claims to care for the poor, but his true care is lining his pockets. We see in this story the seed that gives sprout to Judas' later betrayal of Jesus. Judas' god is money. Already he was willing to lie to Jesus and steal from Him in order to get more money. Soon enough he will find himself selling Jesus' life for 30 pieces of silver, an amount that was only worth about four months wages. Even in his betrayal Judas sells Jesus short. 

Lastly, consider the rest of the disciples. In John's gospel they are silent. Other gospel records (Matt. 26:6-13 & Mark 14:3-9) indicate that they agreed with Judas (although apparently from pure motives) that this was a wasteful use of resources. They thought more good could have been done by giving this money to the poor. These men are faithful to Jesus. They serve Him every day. They love Him. Indeed, they have left everything for Him. But today is merely "business as usual" for them. Little do they know that Jesus will soon be taken from them. Before long they will wish to be back in Jesus' presence again but be unable to be with Him. There is no sin in their lack of action, just missed opportunity. 

Don't miss your opportunity today. Sure, today is just a normal Wednesday. But Jesus is still our Savior. He is still risen from the dead. He is still worthy of all praise and every honor we can bestow on Him. So let's pull out all of the stops and bless Jesus in a special way today. Who knows? It could be your last opportunity. So take the step of faith to share the gospel with that coworker. Make a big gift to your church or to a missions organization. Dedicate a large chunk of your precious time today to getting alone with God and worshiping Him. Do whatever God leads you to do, whatever is the natural overflow of your heart; but do it extravagantly and do it from love.    

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Mercy

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)


While we tend to be more comfortable excusing or condemning specific actions in our lives, Jesus directs His beatitudes at the condition and orientation of our hearts. In this way He sidesteps all our excuses and justifications and cuts to the core of our struggle with sin. "Am I a merciful person?" Jesus forces me to ask this question not of each action individually but of my general character as revealed by the sum of my actions and attitudes.

Mercy looks with compassion on the needs of others, while judgment questions what the poor souls have done to bring this need upon themselves. In this way judgment most often cuts off any hope for a better tomorrow. It is mercy alone that gives second chances. Mercy observes the need and simply helps. It doesn't question their worthiness to receive the help. For example, a merciful person might well question which way is the best way to help the homeless but she will never generalize that many homeless people are in that condition because of their own choices and choose to turn a blind eye to them all. 

Mercy also looks with compassion on the sins of others, even when their sin has cost you personally. Again we find that mercy is unconcerned with desert, for forgiveness and mercy are by definition undeserved. When mercy is deserved it is simply justice. Only when it is undeserved can it be called mercy. As Christians we have received mercy from God and therefore ought to dole out mercy in our dealings with others. We must never forget our ongoing need for mercy and that God promises to give mercy to those who are merciful. So we who were reconciled to God by His initiative while as yet we were still His enemies, when we find ourselves in an unavoidable conflict with someone else, have no right to be anything but conciliatory in tone (Romans 5:8-11). We should never be hostile if it can be avoided in any way, but should always seek to be peacemakers as much as it is in our ability (Matthew 5:9).