Monkey business…

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Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 9.19.10 AMAre you familiar with the picture of the 3 monkeys covering their eyes, ears and mouth? Do you know the saying that goes with them? It is: “Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil… have no fun.” This was a very popular quote when I was young. The quote is not really  popular now, but the thought still is.

What “evils” tempt us today? Tempt you? Our country as a whole teaches that sex will make you happy, and it is perfectly fine to be in a physical relationship with someone perhaps that you just met or live with someone until you don’t want to anymore. It will make you “happy”. If you are married but realize there is another person who is your “soulmate”-divorce your spouse and be with your soulmate…only then will you be “happy”.

At a more “teenage” level, perhaps you often see that Biblical standards are antiquated and remove a LOT of fun from your life-whether it is the movies we do or don’t watch, the words you can or can not use, or the clothes you should or should not wear.

Newsflash-its a lie. Oh, maybe you will be “happier” with these things for a moment, but that won’t endure. Ask anyone who has really tried it. Ask the person who is divorced and tried the “soulmate” option. Ask a friend who has engaged in sex at your age and that relationship has now ended. Seeking the “god” of “happiness” by these means is empty. From the outside it looks like a good idea (which is Satan’s, the Deceiver, exact purpose to convince you), but the reality doesn’t match up. It is what the Scripture tells us today-these idols of happiness “do not speak”, “ do not hear”, “do not smell”-they look good, but in the end are dead, just like a stone idol back in Biblical times.

Times have not changed. In Psalms, idols were cast promising “blessings” they never fulfilled, in my day- monkeys were created telling me that no evil=no fun, and in your day, memes, tweets and popular thought will try to convince you that you are missing out by seeking God’s ways. But it is all a lie… the same lie spoken of the very first time in the garden-that God was “out to get you”, to “prevent you from having fun.” And we all know what happened when that lie was believed! Let’s make sure we don’t fall for it again!

 

Have no fear…

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Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 8.48.28 AMStandardized testing is this week. I am sure there are some students who worry they won’t do well or just have a general fear of tests all together. Fear is not a good feeling. I think if we could, we would all rather live our lives without ever being scared or fearful of things, wouldn’t we?

Well, according to today’s Scripture, we can-or at least, certain types of people can. What type? According to Psalm 112, it is the righteous. The righteous will “never be moved”. Their hearts are secure in the Lord. As a matter of fact, the first verse of this Psalm says “Happy are those who fear the Lord”. I find it interesting that yesterday’s Psalm told us that those who fear the Lord are the ones who will be wise, and today we are told those who fear the Lord will be happy. Happiness and wisdom? A life with no fear? Who wouldn’t desire those things?

I think we can somewhat grasp wisdom and happiness coming from God as, but NEVER having fear? I have to be honest-I don’t know anyone who is NEVER fearful, do you? Is it possible to “never be moved”. Is it possible to “not be afraid of evil tidings”? So, is this verse a lie, or is there just no one who reaches these standards?

Context counts here as always. The Psalm is speaking of a people who will be “mighty in the land” (v.2). It says “it is well with those who deal generously and lend” (v. 5). Much of this Psalm is referring to people who are kind by anyone’s standards and who have giving hearts-helping others all the time.

Now, think of these type people. Think of a godly person who is extremely kind and giving. Actually, two people come to mind for me: Miss Dolly and Coach Pusey. I think they are good examples. How many enemies do they have? Do they have people chasing them down, talking behind their back, scheming evil for them. I don’t think so.

Perhaps this is a start in understanding this verse. One who is secure in the Lord, who seeks righteousness, who is kind and giving to others will have a firm heart with no room for fear, because they are secure in the Lord. Do you or I fear others? Perhaps this is the time to consider if we are kind, generous and helpful to others? Let me put this in a more “day-to-day” example. Have your or I made fun of someone or spoken badly of them and live with fear in the back of our mind that they might “get us back”. Do we “fear” them finding out what we said or did? Do you fear I might see a text you sent or a friend might see it? When we choose to live our lives righteously in word and deed, by God’s standards, such fears will never exist!

 

Wisdom vs. Knowledge

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Jordan is almost done his first year of college, which is hard to believe. Miriam is looking now at where she will go and will also be attending college before we know it. Why are they going? Are they going just to have fun? Of course not. They are going to learn. They are going to study things they don’t know, that will better equip them for the future and whatever God has in store for them. They will need to study a lot. School and college are hard work. They will come out of college, hopefully, with much more knowledge than they went in with, but will they be wiser? That is a different question, and will depend entirely on them.

What do you think is the best class to take to become wise? Philosophy? Biblical Studies? Calculus? The answer: None of the above. Wisdom comes from God-not books, college or anywhere else. Any student could invest all 4 years of college to hard study, get straight A’s and not come out any wiser than when they began. Wisdom is NOT knowledge. Wisdom is what guides a person to make wise decisions and avoid foolish choices. You know where wisdom comes from-God. Specifically, to gain any wisdom at all, there is only one place to start as we can see in the Scripture above: The fear of the Lord.

This is always a difficult concept for us to understand, because we think of “fear” as being “scared” of something. That is not this “fear”. This fear is reverence. Yet again, I love the way the Life Application Bible describes it. It says, “ The foundation for wisdom is to recognize that God is the source of wisdom and that to obey his laws is the path to wisdom.” To know His laws, you have to read His book.

Anyone can go to college and get a degree in something-but that does not guarantee any wisdom will be gained. If no time during college, or for that matter, during life, is spent studying God’s word, and then practicing it (again, as stated above), then no wisdom is gained. This would leave our lives wide open for foolish choices. Will that be profitable in life? Of course not. So, study well, but make sure in all of yours studies, you seek wisdom, and there is only one book needed for that course, no matter where you studying!

 

Ancestors…

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Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 9.22.53 AMCould you describe to me how you are related to Jim and Anne McAbee or Tom and Anne Fieger? How about Marshall Yeatman or Jane Cunningham? These are your relatives, or more specifically, your “ancestors”. They are those from “whom you have descended”. That is the definition of an ancestor.

In the Bible, we see the word ancestor a lot, just like in the verse above. God refers to David’s ancestors or Moses’ or the Jews in general. We hear these ancestors spoken of in good and bad ways. The story of all these people is written for us to read, study and learn from. But, have you ever considered they are in fact, YOUR ancestors as well? Do you think you are related to Moses or David or Peter or Paul?

We don’t generally think that way. We tend to separate Bible people from us. It is a case of “them” and “us”-not the same group of people. The truth is, we are though. I would venture to guess, if we could, we would be able to see that we are related by blood to many of these people. Even though we can’t trace our heritage back that far, we know for sure, we are related in the body of Christ. This being the case, the verse above changes quite a bit, then, doesn’t it? What it really says is; “Both we, the Fiegers, and our ancestors have sinned. We have committed iniquity, have done wickedly”.

When was the last time you or I admitted we have been “wicked”? I didn’t tell dad last week that I had unfortunately done wickedly on a certain day. It is not a common thought or phrase, but it is true.

Today, I just want us to consider our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Bible. We are related. We are similar. We have done some of the same things. Let’s not read the Bible and look at it as if we are reading about others, instead, consider it family history. When we do this, we might be able to stop repeating history, and instead, live out the saving grace we have been given and to make known His mighty power in our lives, as verse 8 clearly states!

 

As a father has compassion…

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Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 8.13.45 AMMiriam and Jordan have had some minor “snafus” driving… whether it was a little bumper to bumper hit or a minor parking ticket, mistakes have been made. Were these things their fault? Absolutely. How did dad react? Do you remember? He gently said it was ok, talked to you about how or why it happened and discussed what steps to take so it doesn’t happen again, right? He could have gotten extremely angry, yelled at you, and forbidden you to ever drive our cars again, couldn’t he? Yes, he could-but he didn’t. Instead of anger, he showed you compassion.

The compassion of a father is precisely what David is talking about today in the Psalms. Our verse above states that God has compassion for those who fear him, “as a father has compassion for his children.” If you weren’t sure what this meant, think about the illustration I just gave. A big part of the reason daddy is so compassionate is because he knows you are children, you are new drivers, accidents happen and that you are not perfect. Of course, this doesn’t mean it is perfectly fine to continue to have accidents and get tickets, but it means he is compassionate WHEN these things happen. Likewise, God is not pleased when we sin. He hates sin. He does not want us to sin, and is transforming us into Christ-likeness which will address those areas of sin in our life-but we are not perfect yet. We will still make mistakes. We will still have “accidents”. But God will be compassionate-knowing we are “dust” or in other words, He really knows us. He knows our weaknesses and what we are “made of”. He is prepared to help us overcome as long as we “fear” and seek to please Him in all things. The end result-this leaves no room for feeling “guilty” but instead for repentance, to seek God’s forgiveness, and to move forward, knowing that in His love and compassion with His strength, God has forgiven us and will help us do better next time!

 

Who do I hear?

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Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.27.52 AMSometimes when Aaron is talking, I can’t tell if it is him, Daddy or Jordan. When Jordan is home, it is especially difficult since Aaron uses his expressions! I can’t determine whose voice it is.

I had trouble today with Psalm 101 figuring out “whose voice” it was as well. The Psalm has verses like, “I hate the work of those who fall away”(v.3b), “I will look with favor on the faithful in the land” (v.6a) as well as the verses above. They sound to me like God himself speaking, but it is actually David. David is the author and he is expressing his own thoughts. Apparently, he is writing down how he wants to live his life. He is writing what his standards will be, and as king, what he wants to strive to enforce. He has VERY lofty goals-verse 4 says to know NOTHING of evil? Verse 3a says, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes”. Nothing? That would be really hard to do, wouldn’t it?

David did not fully achieve all of these things, but it was his desire and prayer to lead a godly life, by godly standards, and he even wrote it down so it was clear to himself. He desired to be a man of integrity, and in fact, the Bible calls him a man after God’s own heart. He sought to be this. It was a goal. It was defined and he prayed God would transform him into this type of person. If we aren’t praying and seeking to please God and live by his standards, we can be certain we will not!

What are our standards? What are we asking God to transform in us? What areas of sin have we been convicted of and repented for? Do any of the verses above strike a chord? I know they do for me. May we too, like David, strive to be men and women of integrity. Remember, we don’t have to be king to have these standards-we just have to be The King’s kid!

 

God is good…all the time

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Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 10.02.59 AMDo you remember the missionary in the movie “God’s Not Dead”? Do you remember what he kept saying to the pastor? It was, “God is good” to which the pastor would respond, “All the time”.  Clearly the writer of the movie was familiar with the truth found in the Psalm above. Here is the thing-do we really believe it? Does it make a difference? Will it “help” in anyway?

I think so. I was thinking this morning driving back from dropping you off at school how nice it is out. How uplifting the sunny day is and it just makes me feel better. It has been a VERY long winter to say the least. One thing though, that did help me through the winter was that I knew at some point… even though I did not know when… there would be a day like today. I knew we would eventually open the pool. I knew I would be warm again at some point. I was not warm when it was snowing or in mid-February, but in my head, I knew I would be. I didn’t feel warm, but I trusted I would feel warm eventually. I couldn’t see the sun, couldn’t look out the window and “see” spring, but I knew it was coming. This is how I feel the truth that “God is good” should be to us too.

It is true- all the time. It is true when we don’t feel it. It is true when we don’t see it. It is true when we can’t change our current circumstances. It is true. Period. When we face days that we would not define as “good”-we need to remind ourselves of this truth. It doesn’t change. When we don’t feel “good”-remind yourself, God is good and loving-and while it doesn’t feel like it, we can still trust it. He is good. He love endures forever. He is faithful. All the time!

 

Pick your MVP, and extol him!

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Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 9.56.31 AMThe final championship game of March Madness was played last night between UConn’s Huskies and the Kentucky Wildcats. UConn won. The win is top news in most papers and sports sites. I see headlines referring to what fueled UConn’s run to the top, notes about UConn’s senior, Shabazz Napier who earned Most Outstanding Player and the outstanding effort by other players, Ryan Boatright  and Niels Giffey who played critical roles in the games. Together, they won-unexpectedly. It is the first time a No. 7 seed has ever won the National Championship. The news is “extolling” the team, their effort and the players. We can read anywhere what they did, how they played, and how awesome their performance was.

To “extol” is not a common word for us to use, but that doesn’t mean we don’t “extol” things, as noted above. To extol means to “magnify”,”to exalt”, “to highly honor”. We are told to extol the Lord above in Psalm 99.

Right now, the US and basketball sports fans are definitely “extolling” UConn-and rightfully so. They are speaking frequently of the awesome things they did. Are we doing the same for God. Is that the “headline” of our conversation? Do we talk about what He is doing in the world today as a whole? In our own life? Does He win “most valuable person” in our lives? Did he do some “awesome moves” that we have never seen that made huge impacts on our life? Did anyone see it? Do we talk about it?

We should be extolling God. I have a friend whose daughter had very serious brain surgery yesterday. It went incredibly well, and she is not experiencing half the pain expected. I would say that is clearly God’s amazing hand at work. As I type, Mr. Bill is here installing the new faucet and disposal. We have talked numerous times of what an “angel” he has been to our family. I try often to attribute God’s hand to all of our amazing, wonderful neighbors. (You can pick your house, but not your neighbors!) What can you extol God for today? This week? Look for opportunities to make Him the “headline” of our conversation. What makes God the “MVP” in our life? He is holy-and good to us-everyday. Let us extol Him!

 

Let the light shine in!

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Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 9.29.14 AMYesterday was a pretty nice day-the sunlight was bright. We finally got a glimpse that spring was coming. You all were able to go outside and have a lacrosse catch and eventually dad went out to join you. I saw joy and smiles on your faces. It was nice-and a great change from winter snow. Spring, sun, light-all bring their own type of joy just because we inherently like that.

God tells us that light itself “dawns” for the righteous. Other translations phrase the first part of the verse above as “light is sown…” (KJV), “light shines on…” (ESV), or even “the light of his favor…”(NIRV). Think of how nice it is to wake up to a sunny day and know you can go outside and be in the sun. It is a good feeling, isn’t it? Now, take that idea of “light” and how it just lifts the spirit-and apply it to the truth God tells us that light dawns for the righteous. It is sown, the favor of God is like light on us-which can’t help but bring joy in our hearts.

Who doesn’t want joy in their heart? The second half of verse 11 tell us that there is joy for the upright in heart. Upright in heart would be those who obey God. It is difficult to obey God at times when we “want” to do something different, but perhaps if we could better understand that if we make that choice, we will experience joy, it might help us choose right over wrong. It will help us choose God’s ways over the world’s advice. The outcome will be verse 12-we will then have cause to give thanks. It will be a natural reaction.

What opportunity today might you have to choose “right”, that goes against what you “want”?  Only you know the answer to this question. Does God bring anything to mind? While I don’t want us to live with a mindset of “testing” God, I encourage you to live out His truth set forth here. See if you don’t experience God’s light dawning and joy that you never expected by choosing His way instead of ours. Then, give Him thanks for it!

 

Do not go astray!

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Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 9.09.39 AMWhat is something you “loathe”?  There is “dislike” and then there is to “loathe”. I “loathe” worms. I would put the word loathe almost beyond hate. It is extreme. Would you ever want  your teacher to loathe you? How well do you think that class would go? What might your grade be if he/she did loathe you? Not so good, I imagine!

Now, would you or I like God to loathe us? I don’t think so. What might the ramifications of that be? What would cause God to loathe us? Does He loathe you or I?

Psalm 95 gives us insight into this very question. First, just from the verse above we can see it is possible for God to loathe someone or a people.  Interestingly enough, other translations of the Bible translate that word to “angry”, “to be grieved by”, “to be disgusted”. Whether we see it as hate or one of the other words-regardless, I am certain I wouldn’t want God to feel this way about me! So, what caused this reaction or “feeling”?
Earlier in this Psalm, God warns his people to not “harden their hearts” (v. 8). Verse 9 says they  tried God’s patience and tested Him. Ultimately, verse 10 makes it very clear: “They do not regard my ways.” The people KNEW God’s ways, His statutes, what was right and wrong in God’s eyes, what was pleasing to Him and they willingly chose NOT to regard them. Not to do them. Not to follow His guidance. Not to obey God. This choice caused God to loathe them. (As you will recall, He also punished them, because He certainly wasn’t going to let HIS people stay in this state!)

Now that we know what God loathes, let’s examine our lives. Have we “hardened” our hearts in any area? Is there something we know is wrong, and we are willingly doing it anyway? Are we mean or harsh to someone? That is wrong. Are we saying things that are gossip or slander? That is wrong. Is there an area in our life that is not pleasing to God? Stop for at least 1 minute, and just think-what area might God want us to correct so that our own hearts do not go astray? We certainly don’t want God to loathe us and/or have to discipline us to get us back on track!