Happy New Year (2017)

2017 in blocksI suspect I was not the only one to start off 2017 staying up way too late, but after about six hours of sleep I began the new year in one of the best ways possible.

Reading Scripture.

Many of us at the Strasburg Church of Christ are taking the blessed trek through all 66 books together in 2017, and today’s reading was Genesis 1-3. Because the kids will be joining us on this journey, I am at least beginning it in the version they are using, the New Revised Standard Version. I am glad I did, because in the first chapter of the Bible there was a very cool pairing that happened frequently.

“God said” and “And that’s exactly what happened.”

If there is one thing that history has proven, it is that when God says that He is going to do something, or that something is going to happen…well…

That’s exactly what is going to happen.

My prayer for you is that you will have faith in the One who is so reliable, even when what He promised was at such great cost to Himself.

That is, when He said He would provide a Savior and sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross so we could spend eternity with Him.

Happy New Year everyone! Grace, peace, and love to you all.

2017 New Year's clock

King Solomon Versus the Hair Band Poison

King Solomon:

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief (Ecclesiastes 1:18, New International Version).

Poison:

Yeah sometimes I wish I didn’t know now
The things I didn’t know then

Yes, the body of Christ is composed from every nation under the sun, and from folks who grew up with all kinds of different music. 🙂

Poison’s “Something to Believe In” (which includes the line at 4:59 in):

May These Sad Words Never Be Said of You

Wooden cross in hand with BibleAs I continue through a very painful part of Scripture (where we generally hear about how unfaithful the kings of Israel and Judah were), I ran into something I hope will never be said of you (or me):

[Jehoram] was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings (2 Chronicles 21:20, English Standard Version, emphasis mine).

May your time on this world cause the opposite reaction, and may you and your loved ones meet together again with Jesus in eternity.

When Your Death Shows God’s Favor

Men carrying casketI’m reading through the Bible again this year and a couple weeks ago I ran into an interesting section. My instinct is to consider God having a person die early is a bad sign…e.g. Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5). Basically, early death by God’s decree = bad.

To quickly catch you up for a clear exception to that rule we’ve got Jeroboam, who, after God made him king of Israel, deciding it would be good to make sure his subjects didn’t head to the Lord’s temple to worship: [Read more…]

Human Fickleness

The fickleness of humans in two verses (Matt 21:9 & 27:22, English Standard Version)…

Scripture snapshot 
And yet…there is nothing He is unwilling to forgive a repentant heart…

Was Joseph (Jesus’ Stepfather) a Good Jew?

Joseph pulling a donkey with Mary on itReading in Matthew today, I ran into this again:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:18-19, English Standard Version).

As I understand it (and confirmed by the ESV Study Bible), if Mary was unfaithful during betrothal, it was considered adultery.

Which leads to this:

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death (Leviticus 20:10).

When modern liberal churches water-down (or downright negate) the clear commandment and teaching of Scripture, we traditionalists condemn it (and rightly so).

How about Joseph? Was he watering-down the clear commandment of Scripture because of his love of Mary and/or wimpishness, and/or…?

If not, why not? [Read more…]

Two Babies, Two Reactions

Mary and GabrielThe “In One Year” Bible reading for today was Luke 1…I didn’t realize it was such a long chapter. 🙂

And in that lengthy chapter two miraculous conceptions were announced. The first was to John the Baptist’s dad-to-be Zechariah:

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John (Luke 1:13, English Standard Version).

The second was even more incredible, since the mother-to-be was a virgin:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).

Now, with both I’ve kept the excerpts short, so you should open up your Bible to get a more complete flavor of the interactions with the angel Gabriel. It’s worth it. 🙂

Who knows how we would react to such an event. Thanks to inspiration, however, we do know how those two first century individuals did. First, the future dad: [Read more…]

Over Our Skis

Man under his skis fallingAlthough I can’t say I was a fan of much of his managerial approach, in a former job one of our parent company’s Cs had an expression, “over their skis,” for people who were in positions they were not qualified for. (I confess that I always worried that he placed me in that category, although he never said he did.)

His statement comes to mind as I continue my trek this year through the entire Bible (now in Ezekiel) and read of the harsh punishments God had for both his chosen nation and nations around them. I will admit I mentally wrestle with how our Lord could use those methods (especially if I allow myself to think about how the young suffered).  Yes, as a whole the destruction He brings is done by the hands of other humans (not directly by Him), but that doesn’t change anything, does it? God still has, at a minimum, allowed rape, pillaging, starvation, murder, etcetera as a form of discipline.

If you had the power to stop that, especially for the innocent, defenseless children…wouldn’t you?!

But God not only didn’t, He leveraged it retributively.

And then I am reminded that even though, no, I was not over my skis in that previous job…

I am over my skis in how a universe should be run and how to effectively deal with sin with an eternal perspective…just as our original parents where over their skis when it came to judging whether God was righteous in telling them not to eat of a single tree.

Who am I to judge God? Nobody. Worse. I am over my skis.

Business Communication Advice from Proverbs

Bible with candleAs I continue this year’s trek through Scripture, today’s reading (Proverbs 17-19) included several verses that aligned with advice I’ve given as a leader. In order:

Don’t allow a conversation to escalate.

The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out (Proverbs 17:14, English Standard Version).

When a dialogue starts going awry, it should stop (or move on to another, non-energetic discussion). Almost never must you complete a conversation right then. Let things deescalate, and then deal with it when both parties have cooler heads.

Listen.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2).

This is advice I need myself. Over and over.  It is amazing what I learn when I listen. Not only that, it’s also amazing how it improves your working relationship with others when you listen and can prove it (because you truly were).

The more you feel like saying something, don’t.

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

Kind of Listen part two. Generally, if three seconds into someone speaking you feel an overwhelming desire to respond…well…then you haven’t been listening since three seconds in. 🙂

Now, since we are already in Proverbs…how about a couple of bonus bits of business communication advice?

If you talk a lot, you are probably saying something wrong.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Proverbs 10:19)

Hopefully at work its less that you are sinning then (by babbling) you’ll probably say something dumb (which is what I do). But, there is a decent chance you’ll sin too…

Just be nice.

A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1)

I kind of like the New International Readers Version translation:

A gentle answer turns anger away.
But mean words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1, NIrV).

Sure, this final advice is probably just like my first one, but you can see why I like Proverbs 15:1 in “A Grumpy Person’s Kryptonite.” You can get along with even the most miserable people if you are nice to them…and maybe even more. Don’t be mean. Be gentle.

And now off to veggie dogs for dinner. 🙂

Addendum for July 20, 2014

Not surprisingly, today’s Bible reading continues the good business communication advice:

Stay out of it.

It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
but every fool will be quarreling (Proverbs 20:3).

I don’t think I need to add anything to this one. 🙂

Don’t assume you are right.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the heart (Proverbs 21:2).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in plenty of conversations (at work and otherwise) where I was so sure I was right only to find out how absolutely wrong I was. One sure fire way for this to be true is to assume the worst of your “opponents” and their opinions.

Shut up.

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23).

Now, I have also given advice to my employees about being too quiet (you need to speak and lead when people would expect you to), but I think there are a ton of folks who can join me in confirming the wisdom of Proverbs 21:23.

Don’t make excuses, do something!

The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!
I shall be killed in the streets” (Proverbs 22:13).

One of the blessings I’ve received from my employer is leadership training from DDJ Myers. I will forever thank Peter for forcing me to start asking, “What am I going to do to change it?”

Don’t be a victim of circumstances. Make an impact!

Happy 238th Birthday United States of America

July 4th with flag backgroundHappy Birthday America…

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it (Jeremiah 18:7-10).

Personally I do not know if God has “spoken” of America (outside the generic application of much of Scripture), but assuming He has…maybe we Christians should be today’s Moses, standing in the breach.

20  They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21  They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22  wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23  Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them (Psalm 106:20-23, emphasis mine).

Patriotic man with flagI don’t mean to be a Negative Nelly on this holiday, but I cannot avert my eyes from the ominous clouds on the horizon because…

They are no longer on the horizon.

Celebrate our country at least for what it was (and somewhat still is). Praise God for it and putting you within its borders. Spend time with your family. Hug them. Stand in the breach. Pray for our nation. Prepare for the worst.

We Get What We Really Want

Bible with candleUltimately (and eternally) God gives us what we really want:

But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels (Psalm 81:11-12, English Standard Version).

I can’t help but think this does not bode well for modern nations (including the United States).

Imprecatory Prayers Make Me Cringe

Voodoo dollOkay, I’ll admit it. As much as they are biblical, imprecatory prayers make me cringe. I ran into this one today as I continue to read through all 66 in one year:

Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders (Nehemiah 4:4-5, English Standard Versions.

Just not seeing the “love your neighbors” or “turn the other cheek” stuff going on here.

Your thoughts? Considering the persecution of Christians around the world right now, is it okay if we ask God to give them “what they deserve”?

And He Departed…

Bible with candle and crossWhen I die…and here’s hopin’ it isn’t too soon :-), I hope nothing even close to these words are said of my passing:

[Jehoram] was thirty- two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one’s regret (2 Chronicles 21:20, English Standard Version, emphasis mine).

Not to mention, if you go read a couple verses above in the text (2 Chronicles 21:18-19), I don’t want to go out like Jehoram did either…

“For You, You Only, Know the Hearts…”

Bible with candleRan into this during today’s reading (wise words from Solomon): “…for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind” (2 Ch 6:30, ESV, in part). The “you,” of course, being God. As I’ve often said, including to employees at work, you can comment on what you observe and how it affects you, but you cannot judge what is behind it (the intent). Solomon appears to agree…he thought of it first. 🙂

“A Man After My Heart”

DavidDuring a Sabbath visit to a synagogue in Antioch, the apostle Paul notes of David:

And when he had removed [Saul], he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will’ (Acts 13:22, English Standard Version, emphasis mine).

Considering some of David’s failures, it really seems like God may have misjudged. For instance, take a look at 2 Samuel 11:1–15 and see how David commits adultery topped off by murder in less than a chapter.

Yet, later in that same book we can see a bit of the heart our Lord noticed. Just imagine having a son who rebelled against you and (albeit with a bit of a cooling down period) you show him mercy…only to have him try to dethrone you again (which includes him alpha-dog sleeping with your concubines). Being king is so important to your boy that… [Read more…]