Wednesday, July 23, 2014

EVIL: Part 1

I was reading through my Bible and I came across a verse that captured my attention.

Now, just to let you know, this is a regular occurrence...  Many verses capture my attention.  But!  There aren't many of them that I decide to do a blog post on because I learn so much from it!  This was just such a verse though.

Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. ~1 Corinthians 14:20

This verse is loaded with so many angles to explore!  I love verses and passages like these that have SO MANY applications for our lives!

As the title of this post suggests, I want to explore the dark side a little bit (and there's more on this!  I'm planning on doing at least one other post!), but I also want to check out the positive aspect as well.

Ok, I'm ready to delve right in!  I hope you are too.  ;)

If you notice, this verse contrasts two things from each other...  twice!  First, there's the contrast between children and maturity - and then there's the contrast between thinking and evil.

When we read contrasts in the Bible, we usually think of one thing as good and one as bad...  something you should do, and something you shouldn't do.  But in the first of the contrasts (between children and maturity), it's interesting to note that it isn't always a bad thing to be like an infant!  In fact, it's good to be an infant in something...  That's where the contrast between evil and thinking comes in to play.

Let's look at the positive aspect of this verse first.  ;)  Paraphrasing, it says "Do not be children in your thinking, but be mature."

We do not want to be like children when it comes to our thinking!  Have you ever noticed that children say the funniest things that totally make no sense?!  It's like God gives us no sense of reason when we're young.  There is no such thing as logic or a mature thought before we hit a certain age...  and the younger a person is, the worse it is!  Thinking is one of those things that gets better with age.  As we mature, we can actually reason about things, and logically figure things out.  That's how it is supposed to be!  We want to have spent so much time thinking that we are mature in it, and know all about it!  One of the more popular teachings among Christian circles is how we are supposed to become like children...  and that's true!  We need to have pure and simple faith in God like a child has...  But that doesn't mean we need to not think about things or use reason!  This verse is a call to use your mind in a way that glorifies God!  God doesn't say that if you believe Him that you'll get a couch to sit on and have a comfortable lifestyle....  NO!  We're called to get out of our comfort zones and go out in the world and work for Christ, be prepared for anything, and think like mature adults!

Ok, so on to the evil side of things...  don't say I didn't warn you it was coming!  Ha!

First off with this category, let's revisit the verse - "In evil be infants."
The contrast...  We want to be mature thinkers - but immature when it comes to evil.
One thing about infants...  they have no clue what's going on!  Haha!  Babies laugh at the strangest things that go on, and cry when you try to help them sometimes!  If they see something, they can't really put together what's really going on.  As they get older, they figure out patterns, and whatever the doctors say...  they develop this and that and the other...  But the thing is, as they get older, they start to know what's going on.  They have a knowledge of things (Please notice how that word is underlined, italicized, and darkened - it's really important!).

So, I have another verse.

I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me.  A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil. ~Psalm 101:3

I like how this verse is so negative!  Find one positive thing in there!  ...There isn't.  :D

The reason I like it is that it shows how EVIL is so bad that there isn't ANYTHING good with it!  We should stay away from worthless things, the work of those who fall away, a perverse heart, and evil!  Don't let it fasten its grip on you!  Another reason I like this verse is that when you say negative things about bad things, it tends to strengthen your resolve to have nothing to do with them!

And then we have it...  "I will KNOW no evil."  !!!  There's that underlined, italicized, and darkened word again!  We not only want to have nothing to do with evil, but we want to have no knowledge of it!

And I'm tired tonight...  I just finished my first day at my new job at a local hospital.  :)  And add to that the fact that it's after 1AM right now.  I'm tired out!  Well, as I said though - there is going to be at least one other post!  It may not be as long as this one...  I think it'll just have some more supporting verses and as many thoughts as I have about them.  ;)  But there is one question that I have been wondering about for a long time...  And which I don't have a good answer for (at the moment!  ...I'm trying to figure it out in the Bible), which is "if we are supposed to have no knowledge about evil and are to stay away from it, how are we supposed to address it when we come in contact with it in the world?  And how will we know what it is if we haven't seen it before?  We could see something evil going on and not even know it's evil!"

So I leave you with that thought...  if you have an answer for that, please shoot me an email!  I'll probably do a post on it when I figure it out (and I'll give a shoutout to you if you help me figure it out!).  ;)

Until next time!

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Friend

A man of too many friends comes to ruin,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

That is from Proverbs 18:24

I'm in a pensive mood right now...  Thinking about this verse and the implications it has.

A man of too many friends comes to ruin...
I can't claim to be an expert on this subject, but if you think about it - if you have "too many" friends, what are you probably doing most of the time?  Trying to keep them, of course!  And how do you do that?  By entertaining them!  If you want to have few and personal relationships, you better be honest, open, and sincere...  But if you want to have many friends all the time, then you won't have time to get to know them all sincerely!  And if you do the math...  keeping "too many" friends around makes a man "come to ruin" - it costs money to entertain people!  But...............  It's more than just financial ruin.  It's emotional ruin.

But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother...
This part starts out with a "BUT".  Meaning that you just heard a description of what will happen to you if you live a certain way, BUT there is a different way to go that won't have the same consequences!
I've found out that having a friend who sticks closer than a brother definitely doesn't cost as much as partying all the time would.  And not only does it save you from financial ruin, but also from emotional ruin.  Something has to be said here about talking with people and letting out your feelings and emotions.  I am not completely sure why, but it seems like most all of us humans are wired to want to let someone (or something) know what we feel...  We write in journals and diaries, we talk to friends and pray to God, and we blow up if we don't have an outlet to let our thoughts out with!  I think that's where close friends come in.  I know that my closest friends let me talk to them about the things I'm concerned about or going through, and I do the same for them!  It not only helps to get it out, but your closest friends know you and how that gearbox you call a brain works inside your head.  So when you start churning out your thoughts, they can see the bigger picture and it might not be as bad as you thought!  Friends are not only there as an outlet...  otherwise your teddy bear could be your best friend...  Friends are there to see the things you can't and tell you when you need it.  I could go on and on about close friends and what it looks like, but I think that most of you know what it looks like already.  :)

A friend who sticks closer than a brother?
There is a time when you realize that brothers are here for a season...  but they get married and move away.  Your family may not always be there for you.  But when you start out, there's nothing like having a brother by your side as you're growing up (I don't have any brothers, but I have several friends who have been like brothers to me...  And I've tried to be the best brother to my sisters).  But I think this verse is trying to make the point that we can find a friend who will stick with us closer than a brother does.  God may place them in your life through the work you do, or through the activities you attend, your church, or even your community.  But these relationships don't just pop out of the ground overnight...  you have to work on them - that's what makes it different than having "many friends" - the time and effort spent is way more than that, but the rewards are way greater as well.  ;)

Take time to build your relationships.  It's not a piece of cake...  it's probably more like 100 cups of coffee and as many afternoons of talking with someone to make a relationship last.
But if there's one thing I've learned in my first 20 years of living...  it's that no matter how many friends I have, I only know of a handful that I would trust my life to.  And the first and foremost among them is Christ.

I just got done talking with my good friend - the closest friend I have.  And I have been missing him since I moved up here to IL.  I think that's why I posted this...  but whatever the reason, it's something that I've thought about for several years.  This verse first captured my attention when I wrote out the book of proverbs about 7 years ago.

I am thankful to God that I have found a friend that sticks to me closer than a brother.  :)  And I hope you are in the same boat.  If not, I surely encourage you to sit down and think about your relationships!  If you are walking with God, you are headed in the right direction.  God should be first on your friends list.  ;)  He'll bring more to you as He finds fit.


P.S.  When someone else reads Proverbs 18:24, do they think of you?  Chew on that for a while...  And then go and try to be that close friend to someone else.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fix Your Gaze...

I was just reading some Western short stories...  you know - the type with rustlers, thieves, and a good guy who ties all the bad guys up at the end.  ;)  Anyways, I was reading and at one point in the story it was describing the good guy...  and he was NERVOUS!  I mean - this guy didn't know what was going to happen, and there was so much stuff to worry about.  So when he saw a person come out of the saloon, he didn't gaze directly at the figure, and he kept moving his eyes, scanning the country, so that his gaze didn't become fixed on the man standing down there.


If the man had nothing to worry about, if he knew what was happening - then he wouldn't have had a need to keep shifting his eyes.

"Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
26 Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.
27 Do not turn to the right nor to the left;
Turn your foot from evil."  ~Proverbs 4:25-27

Something needs to be said about a scientific fact we all know - When you fix your gaze on something for long enough, your eyes start blocking out everything in its peripheral sight.  And not only that, but if you temporarily take your eyes away from what you had them fixed on, you can still see the object!

What if our lives are supposed to be lived like that?  Where we know the path that we are taking, and we've seen it so much (with our minds), that we are able to still see the bigger picture even when we get bogged down in the little details of life.  When we have to take our eyes off our vision for a moment to do things in the here and now, we actually never lose sight of that vision!  Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.  :)  And while you're at it, don't turn away from that path.  Keep your feet away from doing evil.

"The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord 
forever."  ~Psalm 23

"The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?"  ~Psalm 27:1

What do these verses have to do with fixing our gaze on the path in front of us?  Just this - The Lord, our shepherd, guides us in those paths - so what do we need to fear that may be off the path on the side???  I have always imagined the "Valley of the shadow of death" was a straight valley, with a narrow path to walk on with many things off on the side, distracting us and turning some of us off the path.  But here's the first fact about fixing our gaze that I stated earlier - if our gaze becomes fixed on something, then it blocks out the peripheral stuff - no distractions calling us to death on either side of the path God is guiding us down!

God is the defense of our life - whom shall we fear?  It's a rhetorical question.  If you don't know the answer, I suggest you read a book - The Bible.  ;)

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  ~Hebrews 12:1,2

So, in conclusion, we need to remember some things:
  • We're running in a race, going down a path mapped out for our lives.
  • God is protecting us, so we don't need to worry about the people/things that distract us and turn us off the path and into evil.
  • We need to have the vision of the path in our minds so that we can still "see" it even though we need to stop and do something at the moment that means taking our eyes off the path.
  • And last, but certainly not least, We need to have our eyes fixed on Jesus!  If you look at Hebrews 12:2 closely, you'll see that it's telling us to have our eyes on Jesus, because He finished the race!
I completed my first obstacle race this past Saturday, and let me tell you, it encouraged me to run my best because I heard of (and saw) people running the race quickly and efficiently!  And if I had someone guiding me on the race, you better believe that I'd be better off with someone who knows the path so well because they've endured it before.  Doesn't it say something in the Bible about the blind leading the blind?  Well - trust me, the person you want to guide you through your path in life isn't someone here on earth (thinking of the Joel Osteens of this world), it is Jesus Himself!

So give control of your path through life to the One who can guide you through it.  :)