Month: December 2023

Today’s Quote

“Deal with the world the way it is, not the way it ought to be.”

Oliver Stone

Matthew 10:16- “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Thought To Ponder

1 Comment

Don’t listen in order to make a response, but listen to understand what is being said.

James 1:19- “Know this my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

Proverbs 18:13- “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Proverbs 18:22- “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

Proverbs 17:27- “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”

Very often I find it difficult to restrain my thoughts while impatiently waiting to speak, especially if I strongly disagree with the other person’s view on the topic. However I need to keep in mind the fact that Scripture clearly instructs me to listen and restrain my hasty response. I have come to believe the key to obedience concerning proper communication is to humbly submit my racing thoughts to the Holy Spirit and carefully listen to everything that is being said; only then can I clarify what I heard by asking questions in an appropriate and respectful manner.

Jesus said on more than one occasion, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear [!]” (Matthew 11:15). These words of Jesus take on even greater significance as I meditate on the aforementioned scriptures—it appears that listening is a virtue, while responding without full understanding is something to be fiercely avoided.

Thorn In the Flesh

Much speculation has been given as to exactly what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was. Regardless of the physical, emotional, or spiritual meaning, the purpose of it was that Paul would remain humbled and dependent on the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry. He was in a position to learn that it was the power of Christ, not his own strength, that would sustain him.

As I speculated on this passage, I was moved to seek for myself the meaning of “thorn in the flesh”, although I knew I would not be able to find a definitive answer. Nevertheless, digging into God’s word is always a good idea and meditating on his word is always productive (Isaiah 55:11); so, I researched other passages for a more complete picture of Paul’s situation. First, Acts 9 records the account of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus: A great light from heaven flashed all around him and Jesus spoke to him. Immediately, Paul was completely blinded for 3 days, after which he was baptized. Secondly, we learn later that Paul’s eyesight had declined, resulting in difficulty writing (Galatians 6:11). Perhaps these earlier incidents resulted in permanently weakened eyesight—the thorn in the flesh(?)

It appears that although Paul experienced some level of impaired vision, spiritually he “saw” more clearly than ever: Immediately after his baptism, he entered the synagogue and proclaimed this truth about Jesus, “He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). With diminished vision, Paul was likely dependent to some extent on others and not able to carry out his own pursuits with his own strength as he had before his conversion. Most importantly, because of this thorn, he remained humble before the Lord throughout his ministry. Undoubtedly he felt much like Job, who declared—“I had heard of Thee by hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see Thee.” (Job 42:5). May we follow Paul’s faithful example when we experience prolonged or permanent “thorns in the flesh” and aspire to genuinely declare as he did, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ might rest upon Me.”

God Is Good

Habakkuk 3: 17-19 is a powerful passage that is always deserving of a second look; in fact, it has become a favorite passage of mine—one I often look to for inspiration:

Habakkuk the prophet, through much questioning, praying, and seeking the Lord reached a level of faith that was unshakable. No matter if every earthy thing that sustained life was removed, he would remain convinced of God’s goodness. He decided to quietly wait for the Lord to address those concerns.

The Bible contains numerous moving accounts of honest, many times intense struggles in the lives of believers as they wrestled with questions concerning the harsh realities they and others were experiencing. Here are just a few examples:

Job 42:2-6 recounts Job’s realization of God’s goodness despite his devastating earthly experiences. As with Habakkuk, Job wrestled with the evils and injustices he encountered, and questioned the Lord concerning them; the Lord—as He had done with Habakkuk—answered him and enabled him to grow in his faith. Job declared: “I know that Thou can do all things and no purpose of thine can be thwarted. I have heard of Thee by hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees Thee.” As long as Job focused on and wrestled against the hardships he experienced, he was unable to see past them until he made a decision: “…therefore…I repent in dust and ashes” (v.6). At that point of decision, he was able to entrust everything to his good God.

King Solomon concluded, after thoroughly and exhaustively exploring the pleasures of the world, that there was no lasting satisfaction to be found in them. As a result, Solomon reverently expressed his view of God’s goodness and holiness at the conclusion of his searching, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments…” (Ecclesiastes 11:13). Solomon reached the decision that no matter what the world offered, only one thing was important—to reverence the Lord and obey Him.

A powerful and unbelieving Babylonian king, King Nebuchadnezzar, was mightily humbled by the Lord and made the decision to, “praise and honor the King of heaven; for all His works are right and His ways are just” (Daniel 4:37).

As with these believers, when the trials of the world begin to overwhelm me, I also desire to make an intentional decision to trust in the love and goodness of our mighty God regardless of my circumstances. Habakkuk referred to the Lord as “the God of my salvation.” With this view in mind, we can always cling to the promises connected with our salvation and eternal destiny; in the strength of the Lord we will be enabled to remain sure-footed through trying times.

Engage the Wise Man

“Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;

reprove a wise man, and he will love you.”

(Proverbs 9: 8)

In this often contentious and quarrelsome world, could this verse be a guide by which we can gain wisdom as to when, with whom, and in what manner we engage in conversation; in particular, conversations that address spiritual, political, or moral issues? A scoffer is one whose attitude toward a person or subject matter is mocking, scornful, or derisive. Therefore, this proverb seems to indicate that you will most likely encounter hostility when attempting to chide a scoffer concerning a view that he is already scornfully set against. On the other hand, if a person is wise; that is, humbly willing to listen to truth, he will appreciate and highly regard you for sharing that truth with him.

Jesus said, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35). While Jesus was specifically talking about sharing the gospel—the most important truth we could ever share—I believe the wisdom of this discerning approach can guide us in most of our conversations. The “fields were ripe”…the people were ready and willing to hear at that time and there was no need to wait; spreading the gospel was an urgent need, and there were many people who were ready to receive it. The message of John 4:35 is that the time for gathering the harvest of souls into the Kingdom of God is always now. It may be that this could apply to other critically important truths—they should be shared in a timely manner, because there are those who are ready to receive those truths who would greatly benefit from knowing them.

Do not try to convince a scoffer…

but engage a wise man.

What Owns You?

–Albert Schweitzer

It is likely that most everyone has experienced a battle when attempting to part with precious possessions; yet, valuing and enjoying material things is not wrong in itself. Our Heavenly Father desires that we enjoy the good and perfect gifts He provides (James 1:17). The question we need to ask is, “Does this thing ‘own’ me—have I made it an idol in my life?” It has been proposed by various scholars and theologians that perhaps every form of sin can ultimately be traced back to idolatry, which can be defined as:

“Idolatry is essentially the worship of that which we make, rather than of our Maker” (Dr. Thomas Constable).

“Idols are…anything that takes our heart’s allegiance away from the One True God” (David Guzik).

It is at this point we would do well to examine our priorities and ask two more questions, “What level of value am I placing on this possession? Can I still be happy and contented if I give it up?” Throughout the decades that I engaged in the primitive antique/craft business, I must admit that there were times I struggled greatly when selling (parting with) one-of-a-kind, valuable antiques. Later on for example, I might discover that the very one I just sold would have been perfect for my newly remodeled kitchen—and it was impossible to find another one like it : ) ! It was evident to me even then that I needed to deal with those types of regrets and desires; always being diligent that none of those things turned into idols.

However, as I matured in my walk with the Lord, I came to realize that other things could more subtly steal a believer’s focus from the Lord, for instance: Comfort; pleasures, education, intelligence, sports, celebrities, vocation, social position, luxuries, appetite, and even family. Yes, any of these could be God-given blessings and enrichment in people’s lives ( Matthew 7:11); however, they must stay in their proper place/priority, and the Lord must remain preeminent. That way, we will truly be able to enjoy the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10).