February 2011

A prayer at the pump

With the advent of yesterday’s big jump in gas prices and the fear of increasing costs for everything as summer approaches, I offer this prayer and confession of faith:

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of freedom from fear about gas prices; I will say of the Lord He is my transportation provider, My God in Him will I trust. Surely He will save me from snare of lack and from the deadly pestilence of sticker shock. (Psalm 90:1)

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes my car to rest more in the garage and leads me to drive more sensibly. He guides me to the cheapest filling stations. Even though I drive through the valley of $4 and $5 gas marquees, I will fear no evil. He is with me. His wrench and his tire iron keep my car running. He anoints my automobile with oil and my tank runneth over. Surely His goodness and mercy will propel me down the road all the days of my life. (Psalm

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Taking a different track to success

“Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it!” Jeremiah 45:5 (NLT)

Any advice against the pursuit of success is wise counsel. But it is seldom understood by those who aspire to it. These prophetic words from the mouth of Jeremiah to his secretary Baruch are not the kind of words an aspiring assistant wants to hear – nor anyone, for that matter. You will not find this verse highlighted in anyone’s Bible with a date written next to it claimed as a promise from God.

Advice like this is counter intuitive to those of us raised in an “anything is possible,” culture. When I hear a 15 year old contestant on American Idol say “This is my dream, I’ve been working toward this all my life!” I realize that “working” and “all my life” are relative terms. And such “dreams” in our culture-of-success mentality beg for an instant gratification not unlike that of winning a lottery.

Baruch was a godly man who shared Jeremiah’s grief over the backslidden state of the nation. He knew of God’s impending judgments on Jerusalem. Jeremiah assured him that simply escaping with his life from the coming disaster was promise enough and a sign of God’s love for him.

But what about Baruch’s dreams, his aspirations? After all, his brother Seraiah had attained an important position in the court of the ruling king. Why couldn’t Baruch have his day in the sun as well? But God’s watchful care for Baruch wanted to spare

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Why I hesitate to criticize other ministers

“Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” Psalm 105:15 (NIV)

Jesus warned us that we should not judge by external appearances. (John 7:24) That is very good advice when it comes to forming opinions about and criticizing those who purport to serve Him, especially ministers. For one thing God chooses some very unusual people to represent Him. Have you noticed? If not, look in the mirror, you may be one of them.

He makes no apologies about choosing “the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” In fact He delights to use lowly and even despised people so that no one may boast before Him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-19) The genius in all of this is that we cannot put God in box when it comes to profiling His representatives. It forces us to recognize that they are but mere clay vessels through whom His redemptive truth and grace are flowing.

That explains to me why some of the individuals He chose as prophets and the things He asked them to do seemed so weird. Consider Elisha cursing the youth who were ridiculing his baldness, Ezekiel lying on his side for over two years and Hosea marrying a prostitute. (2 Kings 2:23-24, Ezekiel 4:4-8 & Hosea 1:2)

This reality should give all of us pause when it comes to criticizing those who minister on God’s behalf, whether it’s a prophet, an evangelist, pastor or teacher.

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How to deal with an elephant in the room

Why is it so hard to deal with an elephant in the room? The elephant in the room is an idiomatic expression representing a person or truth that is an obvious problem, but never gets addressed. Thus the people in the room with the elephant ignore it because of a reticence to pay the price of confronting and trying to solve the problem.

Elephants are hard to confront because usually their sheer size has an intimidating and controlling effect on people. Their opinion carries a lot of weight. Once they have settled on something they are almost impossible to budge. Or if you get them going on something they may run you over while what ever truths or opinions you have to offer are cast aside. Sad to say they have a thick skin that is hard to penetrate with the truth. Even though they have big ears they often are not open to hearing what others have to say.

And so we try to pretend the elephant is not there. But in the end that does not do the elephant any good and those in the room with the elephant have to go on suffering.

The elephant in the room syndrome has troubled me for some time. Number one, if I were the big guy in the room I would want to know it and hopefully be helped to deal with it. Number two, those affected by the elephant are hindered from bringing their best contribution to the table. The dysfunctional effects of the elephant reverberate throughout the room and beyond, multiplying hidden suspicions, whispered conversations and frustration.

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Why speaking the truth is worth it

“Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.” Proverbs 28:23 (ESV)

One of the reasons it is difficult for us to be open in speaking the truth in love is that it often does not go well. (For an intro to this topic see blog post “Why can’t we speak the truth in love?”) But that should not be the reason we do not speak out. We need to keep the goal in mind and be willing to endure a rocky road to get there.

The goal in such communication according to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is to build one another up in love and grow together in Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-16) And Jesus made it plain in His teaching on corrective confrontations that the goal was always to be the healing of the relationship. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” (Matthew 18:15)

The wisdom of Solomon from the Old Testament regarding truth confrontations provide us with a necessary perspective. “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.” (Proverbs 28:23) The use of the word “afterward” here gives us a clue that initially truth confrontations often do not go well. We have all experienced it. We can go into a sharing the truth in love time with the best of intentions only to have it backfire in our face. And if we are not careful we can come out of it so beat up and discouraged that we vow never to do that again.

But God wants us to approach it in a spirit of faith, do our best to be obedient to the nudging of His Spirit and ultimately trust Him with the results. We can cling firmly to the hope that by God’s grace and the faithfulness of His Word, that what we do in faith will eventually be rewarded with the outworking of His will. And “afterward we will find more favor” than if we had simply cowered behind a flattering tongue. It may take some time to resolve things, but afterward we will be thankful we did what we did.

And I must add, even in situations where we do not see the hoped for “afterward” reward, we must comfort ourselves in the fact that we have done God’s bidding and that is reward enough.

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