Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 28. Path.

Proverbs 12:28
In the way of righteousness there is life;
along that path is immortality.

What a great verse to end this chapter on, but sometimes I forget the truth of this. It is horrible to say, but sometimes I forget that I have found the path that leads to immortality. I have found the path of immortality. I love God. I love Jesus. I love the Holy Spirit, but I get used to them. They become ordinary to me and I don’t share them with other people because I forget that I have not found a hobby or even a life changing bit of wisdom.

I have found a trail that leads to immortality.

I have found the answer, the path, the truth that leads to immortality. But do I believe that? Do my actions indicate that I believe that?

What if we all really did? What if, in depths of our hearts and souls, we believed that we had discovered the path to immortality? What would that change? What would we do differently?

For one, you’d have to look crazy. There is no sane way to tell someone, “Come here, I found something the other day. I know where the path is that leads to immortality.”

And you couldn’t take God casually. It would get really hard to treat him like a part of your life instead of your whole life.

So have you ever forgotten that who we’ve found isn’t just a friendship or a fulfillment of hopes once broken? Have you ever forgotten that God is the path to immortality?

p.s. This marks day 28 of the walk through of Proverbs 12. Can't believe it's already done. Thanks for reading through it with me. I've got two other series planned for this site, one called "Black on Black" but I need to focus on finishing the Stuff Christians Like book in March. Hopefully we can pick things back up on this site this Spring.

Thanks for the support

Friday, February 27, 2009

Day 27. Prize.

Proverbs 12:27
The lazy man does not roast his game,
but the diligent man prizes his possessions.

The other day I wrote a headline for a freelance client. This is what it said, "Killing time should be considered a crime of the highest offense."

I didn't always see things that way. For decades I didn't understand that time is one of, if not the, greatest non renewable possession I have. And I have to be diligent about it, because there is so little of it. I can work more and earn more money. I can spend more money and get more stuff. But I will never, ever be able to add a single hour to my day. Each day will forever contain 24 hours. I am learning to prize that possession. I am learning to be diligent and generous with it, but above all, I think it's critical that we know where our time is going. Sometimes, an action as simple as keeping track of your hours for a week will reveal some surprising things about what you care most about. At times in my life, a time audit would have revealed that TV was my god and God was my hobby.

So the question today is, in what ways are you prizing the possession of time?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Day 26. Trampled.

Proverbs 12:26
A righteous man is cautious in friendship,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait one second, aren't we supposed to love everyone? Aren’t we supposed to be kind to everyone and even pray for our enemies? If we're cautious in friendship, aren't we holding something back? Shouldn't we throw out our friendship to anyone and everyone that needs it like Mrs. Kappopoluos gave out Werther's caramels in seventh grade? She wasn't cautious. If you came into the principal's office you could grab a piece of candy from the bowl on her desk. It was right there for everyone. Shouldn't our friendship be like that?

Those are some of the thoughts that went through my head when I first read this verse, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. It's not encouraging us to be jerks, it's challenging us to be wise in the way we share the gift of friendship. Because friendship is not a one way street. When you become a friend of someone, a true friend, you invite them to shape your life to a degree. You invite them to influence you and challenge you and impact you. And that’s a dangerous gift to be cavalier with. Proverbs 13:20 says that "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." Matthew 7:6 says "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."

Friendship is sacred and if you're not careful with it, you run the risk of being trampled.

Are you being cautious in who you give the gift of friendship to?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 25. Heart.

Proverbs 12:25
An anxious heart weighs a man down,
but a kind word cheers him up.

I love the simplicity of this verse. When I'm stressed out, when I am panicked about something, like say turning in a manuscript to Zondervan for the first book I've ever written, the culmination of a lifelong dream, the content of which holds the potential to either steer people to the beauty of a God that means everything to me or push them away depending on how it's written? When I feel like that, I tend to complicate things. My anxiety is a tangled ball of twine and angst and Salt and Vinegar Pringles. I look at it and I think, I don't even know where to start with all that mess. I don't know what's going on. Why do I feel this way? This whole situation feels impossibly complex, but it’s not really.

An anxious heart weighs you down.

A kind word cheers you up.

Anxiety goes down.

Kindness goes up.

Pretty simple, and the best part of this verse is the subtle charge it gives us to distribute kind words like candy to our friends. Seriously, do hear how powerful a kind word is? Your friends have hearts that are weighing them down. They have hearts that are heavy and burdensome. And you have everything you need to cheer them up. A kind word.

It's simple.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Day 24. Rule.

Proverbs 12:24
Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.

I want that verse to lose the word “will.” When I read that, I want it to say, “Diligent hands rule” as in they’re doing it right now, with absolutely no delay. They did it instantly without any work or effort or sacrifice. They just rule, not “will rule” as in sometime in the future, but right now in the present. But then that wouldn’t be diligence would it?

And in the second half of the verse, Proverbs 12 does what it always does, it states the obvious with inescapable clarity. It doesn’t argue with you about the middle of your story. It won’t debate the exact moment you might end up in slave labor if you’re lazy. It just tells you that’s where you’ll end. “You might love the way the ride starts. You might feel special and rich and well taken care of. You might even enjoy the middle part of your journey, right up until the end. The end is going to be slave labor. Let’s not argue about the specifics, please just know that’s where you are headed.”

So the question today is, which path are you walking, the one that ends in diligence or the one that ends in slavery?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Day 23. Folly

Proverbs 12:23
A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.

One of my favorite prayers before I talk with people is "God, keep my words few and true." Few because I tend to ramble and true because I tend to exaggerate. And by exaggerate I of course mean lie, which is something I wrote about yesterday. The other way I've tried to regulate this fire hose mouth of mine and prevent my heart from blurting out folly is by trying to see how many questions people ask me in a given day. The truth is that on most days, no one asks me a question because I'm so busy rapid fire talking that they never need to ask me anything. I've already told them everything. I've already blurted out every possible thought and detail and idea I have so there's no reason for them to ever ask me a question. Which is foolish.

How many questions a day do people ask you?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Day 22. Camp

Proverbs 12:22
The LORD detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful.

There's no middle ground with God. I feel like I've been saying that same thing all week, but it's true. He's an extreme God. That's one of the many things I love about Him. He's not fuzzy. He doesn't mince words or leave things half said or ever waver on things. He detests lying. He delights in men who are truthful. It's not that He kind of doesn't sort of care for lying lips. It 's not that He probably maybe enjoys the occasional truthful statement.

He detests and delights.

He goes all the way and leaves us with little room for debate about what He feels about the words that come out of our mouths. He sets up two rival groups that are miles and miles away from each other. Detest and delight. So simple. So strong. So clear.

I am often tempted to see "exaggerating" as different from lying. This usually means puffing up my chest or meager accomplishments in life to appear cooler, smarter, more successful etc. when I meet new people. I want them to know right away that I'm special and important and worth something. Exaggerating though is just another form of lying. And I wish when I was tempted to do it, I would ask myself, "I am going to do something right now that God detests or delights in?"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Day 21. Harm

Proverbs 12: 21
No harm befalls the righteous,
but the wicked have their fill of trouble.

How do you not look at that verse and immediately come up with a list of harmful things that have befallen you or people you know that are righteous? How do you not instantly think, “If that’s true, then why did my friend lose her job? Why did my Uncle, the pastor, cheat on his wife? Those are bad thing that happened to good people. Why?”

I think those are really fair questions and to be honest with you I asked some of my own when I read this. What I think though is that sometimes I forget that the Bible is God’s word. We might interpret it and analyze it and study it, but ultimately, it’s God’s word. And the truth of the matter is, that since it’s His word, He gets to define the words the way He wants. Maybe His definition of “harm” is very different from mine. Maybe to Him, harm means “eternal separation from God” and this verse is really about how there is nothing that can separate us from God. Maybe that’s the only form of “harm” that really matters. Maybe this verse is like Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Maybe the promise isn’t that we won’t die early or be hurt often or bruised many times on this earth, but that no true harm, separation from Him, will ever befall us.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Day 20. Sidelines

Proverbs 12:20
There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil,
but joy for those who promote peace.

There is no Switzerland when it comes to Proverbs 12:20. There is no third option, no category of “neutral.” You either plot evil or you promote peace. Both are actions, both are deliberate activities that take forethought and planning and sweat. We don’t get to enjoy the sidelines in life. I wish we did because sometimes I am really lazy and it would be nice to say “not my problem” when we run into patches of life that are not peaceful. But we don’t get to. We are called to promote peace and when we do, we’ll find something far better than comfort or convenience or easy living. We’ll find joy.

Have you ever tried to sit out of a situation only to have God call you right back into it?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 19. Half Life

Proverbs 12:19
Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

Lying is exhausting because a lie has such a short lifespan. Sure, the damages of it can last a lifetime but the lie itself is so temporary and paper thin. You have to constantly nourish it and grow it and feed it and protect it and guard it against prying eyes.

The truth on the other hand requires no maintenance.

You don’t have to elaborate it. It’s the truth.

You don’t have to embellish it. It’s the truth.

You don’t have to come back and check on it again and again and again to make sure it’s doing alright. It’s the truth.

It’s a lot easier to maintain and endures forever. Which is one more reason we should all tell it.

Have you ever lied because you thought it would be easier and found out it’s really an exhausting alternative to telling the truth?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 18. Bandages

Proverbs 12:18
Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

I wrote about this verse a few weeks ago on Stuff Christians Like and I love it because it’s so simple.

Reckless words pierce. Wise words heal.

I don’t need some complicated thought to figure out if the words I used in any given day were kind or just or compassionate. I only need to ask myself, “Did what I say today, bring healing or a wound? Were my words a sword or a bandage?” It’s an easy question to ask but sometimes a difficult one to answer.

The other reason I love this verse, the reason that’s hidden a little deeper, is the relationship between a sword and a wound. The truth is that sometimes I wound others with my words because I’m trying to heal a wound I have. I feel insecure about a comment someone left on the site so I cut them down. I feel stupid so I attack someone else’s intelligence. I feel unpopular so I pierce their confidence. The greatest holes I cause in other people often start with the holes I see in my own life.

So that’s the question of the day, are you causing wounds or healing hurts with your words?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Day 17. Witness

Proverbs 12:17
A truthful witness gives honest testimony,
but a false witness tells lies.

At first glance this verse seems like the simplest verse in all of Proverbs 12. Tell the truth. Don’t lie. It’s hard to extract some hidden gem of insight from something so straight forward. But when I spent some time with it, I noticed that it’s not written the way I want to read it. I want to read this verse as “A truthful witness does not lie” or even better, “A truthful witness stays out of situations that don’t involve them.” But that’s not what it says. In fact, I think there is a world of difference between not lying and telling the truth.

A truthful witness gives honest testimony.

We don’t get the convenience of silence.

We don’t get the comfort of inaction.

We don’t get the false safety of minding our own business.

We are called to give honest testimony.

We have a responsibility. There is an action we are called to. We must give honest testimony. You don’t get to stay quiet. Sometimes you won’t get to “stay out of it.” As an honest witness you’ll be called to give honest testimony. Which is different from not lying. A lot different.

If you want to “not lie” you can do that hiding under your bed, avoiding the messiness and tangled nature of most real relationships. But if you want to be a truthful witness. If you want to live the truth, you can’t stay home or ostrich in the sand the things you witness away. You have to give honest testimony.

Have you ever stayed quiet because you thought that silence was more honest than involvement?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Day 16. Insults

Proverbs 12:16
A fool shows his annoyance at once,
but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

If they ever make a blogger’s version of the Bible, this verse should be in there. This is the verse I constantly come back to when someone says something mean or hurtful or tries to make me look dumb on the blog. I want to respond. Right that second I want to fire off a comment or return their hate mail or use the site to launch a full on attack against that person. But that’s what a fool does. A fool responds at once. A fool gives someone that’s throwing a rock an even bigger platform by acknowledging the comment and getting into a conversation about it.

A prudent man, overlooks an insult. A prudent person realizes that an instant response to an insult is probably going to be emotion driven, if not flat out designed for revenge. Whether that’s on a blog or in a conversation with a coworker or at the dinner table with your husband.

I do respond sometimes to people that say hurtful things. Sometimes I’ve made a mistake and have said something that offended them. Sometimes I need to apologize. Sometimes they’re just hurting me because they’re running from their own hurt. Sometimes my wife needs to talk some sense in to me before I hit "send" on an email I'll regret. But above all, I’m learning to overlook an insult. It’s not easy, but I don’t like to be foolish.

How do you respond to insults?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Day 15. Advice

Proverbs 12:15
The way of a fool seems right to him,
but a wise man listens to advice.

I know I need advice. I’ve burned myself enough times in the past that I realize now that I need advice before I make most decisions. But now, what I do when I’ve got something that “seems right” to me and I’m afraid of someone telling me no or wait, I’ll tell them my idea really quickly. I’ll just overwhelm them with a steady stream of words until they’re blubbering on the other end of the phone against my torrent of adjectives and analogies.

Eventually, if you talk fast enough and use enough words, most people will surrender and say, “That seems like a good idea.” But not my friend Dwayne. He makes me repeat myself. Sometimes I think it’s because he wants to be a good listener and really hear what I’m saying, but sometimes I think it’s because he wants me to hear the words coming out of my own mouth. He wants me to say what I just tried to slide by him at rapid speed one more time because it might have seemed right in my head, but on closer inspection it’s a really dumb idea. And if I repeat it, if I slow it down and listen to what I’m saying, I’ll hear the error of my ways. That’s why I love talking to Dwayne. That’s why it’s hard to talk to Dwayne. Because he makes me listen, both to his advice and to my own words.

Who do you listen to?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day 14. Seeds

Proverbs 12:14
From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things
as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.

Farmers are really deliberate. A farmer doesn’t just casually pick out his crop and then scatter the seeds to the wind with the hope that they will blossom into big, strong, fruit bearing trees. A farmer in Cape Cod would never wake up one day and think, “Instead of cranberries, I’m going to try to grow beets in my bog.” They do things on purpose because they want their land to produce the most fruit possible. But have I ever thought of my words that way? I’ve seen the negative consequences before, I’ve been burned by stupid, hurtful things I’ve said, but eliminating the bad is different than planting the good.

If the fruit of my lips is going to fill me with good things, what words do I need to plant today? Who do I need to encourage? Who do I need to challenge? Who do I need to pray for? How can I be as deliberate as a farmer with the words I seed in the conversations I have?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Day 13. Trouble

Proverbs 12:13
An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk,
but a righteous man escapes trouble.

This verse is not written the way I want to read it. I want it to say, “but a righteous man never experiences trouble.” I want a promise that I won’t go through trouble, that I’ll be a million miles away when trouble enters the picture, but alas, that is not what the verse says. It says a “righteous man escapes trouble” and you can only escape something you are close to.

When a house burns down three miles away from you, you don’t throw your television through the second story window to escape. There’s no need to. We don’t have to escape something that is far away. Escape is an activity born from intimacy.

I’d like to think that my status as a Christian means I won’t ever get close to trouble, that hardship will never find my home. But it might, for all of us, it might. Trouble could breathe down your neck it’s so near, but we will escape. If God’s word is true, and I believe it is, we will escape.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day 12. Sexy vs. the Roots

Proverbs 12:12
The wicked desire the plunder of evil men,
but the root of the righteous flourishes.

Roots are pretty boring. At first. You don’t see them. You can’t feel them. You don’t know how strong they are or that they even exist.

Plunder is pretty exciting. At first. It’s shiny and forbidden. It’s free and exotic. You’ve got something new and different and off limits. It’s visually and emotionally intoxicating.

But over time, roots grow big trees. Roots get better and stronger and more important. What is hidden comes to light.

Plunder loses it’s shine. Consequences catch up. What we thought was sexy is now suddenly empty.

Are you living a life of roots or plunder right now?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Day 11. Land

Proverbs 12:11
He who works his land will have abundant food,
but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.

I love this one. We all have land. Opportunities that we are given and asked to work. And when we do, they yield abundant food. But how often do we ignore the land we have? The jobs we have? The friends we have? The situations we have and chase fantasies in far off lands with far off people instead? I struggle with this every time I visit a really interactive blog. I immediately think, “I need to be doing more with video and live chat and graphics and and and.” Suddenly, the land I have, writing, becomes really small and unimportant as I chase fantasies.

What land do you have that you are taking for granted right now?

What fantasies are you chasing?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day 10. Return

Proverbs 12:10
10 A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal,
but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

Having unwittingly participated in the death of our only pet, a beta fish named Baby Neptune, I’m in no position to talk about the first half of this verse. But the second half reminded me of an issue I’ve had with email lately. I realized that sometimes when I send someone an email thanking them for doing something for me, I get frustrated if they don’t email me back. I didn’t realize this at first, but I think that I often send the appreciation more as a way to make them think I am an appreciative person and in turn earn a reply thank you email than to actually show my gratitude. When I don’t get that response, when my thank you email goes unread or unreturned or unnoticed, I get grumpy. That is stupid, but even that small act of kindness carries hidden expectations and unwritten rules.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Day 9. Nobody

Proverbs 12:9
Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant,
than pretend to be somebody and have no food.

This verse reminded me of something from the movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley. Matt Damon's character, a con artist, says, it’s better to “be a fake somebody than a real nobody." I thought that was such a perfect way to capture our desire to be somebody. To matter. To have a life and a name and a reputation that was important or respected.

But this verse hits hard at the temptation to pretend to be somebody and the emptiness that results when you fake your life. You are left with nothing because no one can really knew you. Even your friends that you might attract by pretending to be somebody can't really love you because the person they're trying to love doesn't actually exist. It's a character. It’s a composite drawing of traits and emotions and words that you've constructed to look well put together. To look like you’ve got it figured out.

But at the end of that journey, at the end of trying to pretend to be somebody, you can't help but be left hungry. For attention. For affection. For companionship. For validation, for all the things you thought you'd get if you were somebody, but instead you just found more hunger.

Let's be nobodies instead of pretending to be somebody.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Day 8. Praise

Proverbs 12:8
A man is praised according to his wisdom,
but men with warped minds are despised.

I think praise and wisdom are often linked together because if you receive praise without wisdom, it can crush you. Proverbs 27:21 says "The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives."

I never saw praise as something dangerous until I read that verse. I never knew how intoxicating it could be or damaging it could be if used in the wrong way, if applied to a life that lacked wisdom. But when wisdom is present, when the praise is given "according" to a person's wisdom, I think it can bring encouragement and hope.

Be careful about how you receive praise. Always make sure that the place you file it away is in a folder named "wisdom." The folder I often try to put praise in is named "Jon is awesome" and that leads me into trouble.

Have you ever found yourself intoxicated by praise?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Day 7. House

Proverbs 12:7
Wicked men are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous stands firm.

What's the opposite of overthrown? Is it thrown? I'm not sure, but to be overthrown means that at some point you were in power. To fall from a great height, you have to have reached a great height first.

This verse doesn't say, "The wicked will be low and continue to be low for all time." It says they will be overthrown. It essentially says they will prosper. They will live large and stand high. For a while. But eventually they will be no more. The challenge is that we might never see the outcome.

God rarely seems to define timeframes the same way we would. So right now you might be watching someone else on a great height. You might be wondering when they will be overthrown. You might never see their "no more" in your lifetime. But that's not what matters. The second half of the verse should be our focus. Building a house that is righteous. Standing firm. I think that's where we need to live in this small passage, in our own house.

Do you ever watch other people instead of building your own house?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Day 6. Words

Proverbs 12:6
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the speech of the upright rescues them.

There are going to be roughly a million verses about speech in Proverbs and I'm pretty happy about that because I tend to run my mouth. The thing that's interesting about this verse is that it doesn't say who the words are lying in wait for.

Did you notice that? It's easy to assume that it's other people. That the words are going to wound others, but then in the second part of the verse, the consequences of speech are assigned to the speaker, not someone else.

So maybe the first person the words of the wicked are lying in wait for is the person speaking them. Maybe the blood my wicked words want the most is my own. Certainly I've wounded people with my gossip, but I think the person that suffers the most when I speak wickedly is me. That's my blood. I do not escape unscathed when I speak wickedly.

Have you ever wounded yourself with your own words?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day 5. Plans

Proverbs 12:5
The plans of the righteous are just,
but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.

This is probably dumb, but sometimes I feel guilty for making plans. I feel like I shouldn't have to make plans, I should just pray more. I feel like my options are to either plan or pray. For instance, I want to write a book and speak at more churches, but if I actually call churches and conferences and make plans to do that, God will be disappointed in me. He'll look down from heaven and grumble, "Why do you keep making plans? I want you to wait at home, on the couch and let me provide you everything you need." And didn't Proverbs 12:2 say that favor comes from the Lord?

But here, the righteous are making plans and the plans are just. They have not failed because they made plans. They are not sinning because they have made plans. I think it’s OK to prepare. To work hard on our dreams and our goals. I don't think making plans means we don't trust God. In fact, it might actually be an act of trust. Because when you plan, you put yourself out there. Planning takes hope and trust in a Lord that knows the outcome of all situations but might not have shared them with you yet.

Which is better to do, plan or pray? I think the answer is "yes."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Day 4. Crown

Proverbs 12:4
A wife of noble character is her husband's crown,
but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.

I once heard someone say, "When your wife is for you, it doesn't matter if the rest of the world is against you. When your wife is against you, it doesn't matter if the rest of the world is for you." For some reason that stuck in my head. But this verse is a lot stronger than that simple platitude.

"Decay in his bones" is a pretty graphic description of how invasive marital disharmony is. It's not like you have a bad marriage but can shake it off when you go to work or when you are hanging out with friends or shut the front door of your house and go out into the world.

It gets inside you, it flavors your every thought, tempers your actions and attitude. On the converse, a wife of noble character is to be celebrated. I love that it doesn't say, "A wife of noble character should be treasured forever quietly in your heart."

Relating the wife to a crown feels like a very public declaration of her beauty. The husband isn't hiding the fact that he has a noble wife. If you walked around wearing a crown all day, it would be the first thing people see. You'd be proud of it and vocal about it. So if you have a wife of noble character, shout. Sing. Let your world see your crown.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Day 3. Later

Proverbs 12:3
A man cannot be established through wickedness,
but the righteous cannot be uprooted.

Once I establish myself, once I get my feet on the ground and have a solid foundation and a stable career, then I'll really have the resources I need to give to God. Imagine how much God will be able to do once I've established myself.

No one ever says that out loud, but sometimes it's easy to live. To make God a "later god." I'll live for you later. I'll give to you later. I'll worship you later. First let me take care of this thing called my life.

You won't be established that way. God is a God of now, as in "I want right now. Not later, not someday. I want to love you right now, right here." And when He does, when that's our foundation, we cannot be uprooted.

Have you ever tried to make God a later god?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Day 2. Favor

Proverbs 12:2
A good man obtains favor from the LORD,
but the LORD condemns a crafty man.

If I had the right plans, everything would be OK. Everyone else I know has a carefully laid out vision for the rest of their lives. Especially at the start of a new year. If I could only plan the right way, everything would all work out in my favor.

At least that's what I think most days. I look at all my Christian friends and imagine they’ve got it all figured out. They’ve got purpose and direction and goals. And I’ve got a tangle of raw ideas that never seem to unravel the way I really want them to. So I start worshipping the act of planning. I start making an idol out of this fictional plan in my head that is going to save the day and give me a stress free life.

I forget that favor comes from the Lord and that when I covet something someone else has or I perceive they have, I shift into crafty mode in about 2.2 seconds.

Favor can only come from the Lord but I often look there last.

Where do you look for favor?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Day 1. Stupid

(For the next 28 days, I’m going to walk through Proverbs 12 verse by verse, with short, quick thoughts. I hope you’ll read along with me.)

Proverbs 12:1
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid.

I like this verse for a few reasons. First of all, it comes right out and says that if you hate correction, you're stupid. No wasted words, no soft peddling the truth or hand holding in the delivery. Yeah, you're stupid. Whenever I try to say, "The Bible is so complicated, I can't read it because it’s so difficult to figure out," I need to remember this verse.

Second, it drives home that we're going to be wrong. We're going to make mistakes. I get so stuck, so often on trying to be a perfect Christian. But in this verse, we're not told that the person that needs correction is stupid. We're not told that the person that made a mistake and needs a correction is stupid, we're told that the person that hates it is stupid. Big difference.

Third, it says we're supposed to "love discipline." Before I started getting up at 5:00AM to write Stuff Christians Like each morning I couldn’t stand discipline. At best, I could tolerate it. And I’d say we’re becoming better friends right now, me and discipline, but loving it is a whole different ball game. When is the last time you could honestly say that you "loved" it?

How's your relationship with discipline these days?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two words.

I want to ask you for two words, but the two words I'm talking about won’t make sense unless you read this verse:

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.
Psalm 28:7

That verse ends with the phrase, "in song." That is going to be the author's method of giving thanks. So what is yours? If you rewrote that for your own life, what would it say? Mine would say "in writing." I will give thanks to him in writing.

With the words I write on these blogs, with the words I write in the book and any other books I get to publish, with every word I pen, I am going to give thanks.

What are your two words?

At work?
In meetings?
At school?
During homework?

What are your two words?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hiding in fields.

I think there are a few things I'm supposed to be doing right now, one of which is writing more. I feel that 97secondswithGod, prodigaljon and stuffchristianslike, are what God wants me to focus on right now. But for a variety of reasons, all three of those sites only constitute a thin sliver of my week.

It's easy to get frustrated about that. To think, "Ugh, I have a call, I have an idea of the direction I'm supposed to be going, why am I not going at the speed I want to?" Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever thought, "I'm not were I'm supposed to be right now. I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I have more to give."

Maybe not, but that's where I'm at this morning. And while praying through that I felt like God reminded me that He's still in the business of hiding people in fields.

Which is a weird kind of reminder, but when I looked at the story of David in 1 Samuel it made sense. David didn't just receive a call or a suggestion or a "what if" from God, he was anointed King of Israel. In 1 Samuel 16:13, after he's anointed, it says, "from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. And then he went back to tend some sheep."

It doesn't say that last line but it should, because that's what happened. The rightful king of Israel returned to the field. Even when David becomes a member of Saul's court, it says in 1 Samuel 17:15 "but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father's sheep in Bethlehem."

It's easy to look at our lives and think, "Why am I working here God? Why am I a part of this church or this ministry or this whatever? I should be doing great things for you! I should be starting a new, all consuming adventure with you. Right this second!"

But I think that sometimes, out of His infinite love and wisdom, God chooses to hide us in fields. Why? I don't know. Maybe he wants us to wrestle more bears before we face Goliath. Maybe He's got a really important message He wants to whisper to us and it can only be heard in the loneliness of a field. Maybe Job 23:9-10 answers this question better than I ever could:

"When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold."

Maybe God has you in a field because He wants to introduce you to the world as gold.

I don't know, but I rest in the fact that I serve a God that does. I rest in the fact that I serve a God that knows exactly where I am and has a purpose for that unique spot, whether it's a field or a kingdom, a mission field or a corporate meeting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ah snap, hate mail!

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11

If I truly believed that verse, I would respond to hate mail with a thank you note. I would receive criticism that was meant to wound, as a gift. A confirmation that I was doing the right thing and was in fact blessed. But I don’t right now. Most of the time I just get mad. I act surprised that God would allow something like that to happen as I try my best to do the work I feel like He’s laid out for me. Maybe, just maybe, instead of reacting to hate with hate, I need to believe what Jesus said in Matthew and react with thanksgiving.

How would the way you react to persecution be different if you really lived Matthew 5:11?

p.s. please remind me of this post when the book I'm writing comes out.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


We might take the Bible casually, but you know who doesn’t? satan.

He knows God’s word inside and out and loves nothing more than to use it as a tool of condemnation and attack. That’s why he’s the father of lies. He tries to wound us with our own weapons. Even Christ experienced that in the desert when satan quoted the Bible as a temptation in Matthew 4:5-6.

What does that mean? We shouldn’t take the Bible casually. We shouldn’t assume that the verses pressed upon our hearts are always going to be gifts. satan will use anything against us, even the Bible.

(And yes, I lowercased the s on purpose.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The cause and the source.

When I feel weary, as I do this morning, my first inclination is spin my heart and my head trying to identify the cause of my discomfort. But I wonder if it would be better for me to focus less on the cause of my sorrow and more on the source of my joy, Christ?

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:2.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This is 5:09 AM.

I've written about Isaiah 30:18 a million times, but a few minutes ago, while doing my quiet time I was struck by a picture it paints. Here is what the verse says:

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!

What struck me is the line, "he rises to show you compassion."

I know God never sleeps, but when I get up at 5:09 every morning to start my day, I feel like I might be the only one awake in the world. When I come into a dark office building and turn on the lights at work, it feels like I'm the only one up. But in this verse we get the picture of God rising. He is awakening. He is getting up. And the question on His lips, the thought for the day is "How can I show compassion to Jon today? How can I be gracious to him?"

I feel heretical just typing that. That is too good to be true. As I scribbled that idea down in my five star notebook this morning I couldn't help but hear the voice of doubt repeating, "No way. No way. No way."

But maybe doubt is wrong this time. Maybe when verses like this say "the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion," I shouldn't read them as "sometimes the Lord longs to be gracious to you. If you're good, he might show you compassion."

Maybe, just maybe, this God of ours really does love us as much as He keeps trying to tell us.