Monthly Archives: October 2016

Patience And Pearls

Be patient, therefore brothers until the coming of the Lord.  See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and latter rains.  You also be patient.                

– James 5:7-8a

 

One of the most annoying things that could ever happen to an oyster, is to have a grain of sand lodged between its shells.   It will work hard to expunge the grain of sand and try various techniques to rid itself of this tiny irritant.  Sometimes it is unable to do so and after a high degree of effort and exasperation, frustration and exhaustion, it does the only thing it knows to do.  It begins to give itself a measure of relief by coating the grain of sand over and over.  It will continue in this process for quite a long time until finally, the tiny grain of sand ends up being something people will pay top dollar to possess.  We know this irritant as another name.  We call it a pearl.

We all need to remember, that a pearl is nothing more than the result of a frustrated oyster.

Here in the book of James, the Apostle tells is we are to be patient.  He says we are to look to the farmer as being a model of patience for us.  Just as farmers plant their seed, then wait until harvest, James seems to be telling his readers that we must wait.  Wait for the LORD’s move, wait for the LORD’s timing and, as he tells us directly, “You also be patient.”

Further, he points us to the prophets and then mentions the patience of Job.  All three examples have the common concept of doing something they know to do, yet wait on Him to work.

Think of this period of time wait and being in God’s Waiting Room.  When someone you love is in surgery or some other procedure, you are ushered into a Waiting Room.   Nobody really wants to be there but it is the place you must go to wait.  You don’t know exactly what is happening but you must sit idle and wait.  Wait for news about what is happening as you wait for the procedure to be completed.

Remember this when you are in God’s Waiting Room.  He is working on a resolution to your issue.  He is working things out and just because you aren’t seeing anything happen, don’t be discouraged.  God is working on something to our benefit.  We too may find the thing we are the most frustrated with, the thing that is causing us great irritation may be the thing that becomes a valuable resource – our own pearl in a sense.  Like the farmer waits for the harvest,  we too must wait on His timing.   Just as the oyster finally produces a beautiful pearl, we too will produce a marvelous work of the Lord in our life if we wait.  Patiently wait on Him.

Blessings my friend!

-jm

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Being Prepared

The late former-President Nixon spent his years out of office writing.  I understand he wrote 10 books in his “retirement” and often was on the public speaking circuit.  As the only President who resigned his office in disgrace, his return to public life was rather impressive.

Richard Nixon was a very intelligent man and his understanding of foreign policy was remarkable.  Few people however, realize he was a great negotiator.  I recently ran across a booked called Richard Nixon’s 10 Commandments of Statecraft written by James Humes back in 1997.

The book’s sub-title is what made me pick up this work.  It reads, His Guiding Principles of Leadership and Negotiation caught my eye. Richard Nixon’s first “commandment” as described in that book is “Always Be Prepared to Negotiate, but Never Negotiate Without Being Prepared.”

Whether you’re buying a car or making a sales presentation, if you are prepared, you have a much better chance of being successful.  Being prepared tilts the scales toward a favorable outcome.

What strikes me is how poorly many of us incorporate this fundamental truth into our spiritual life.  We fail to read, pray, and invest in our spiritual health.  Then wonder why we don’t hear God or don’t see Him working in our life.  We think just appearing at church a couple times a month makes us a strong believer, but we put no effort into reading and understanding His Word.

I think this may be part of what Jesus was teaching in Matthew 7, verses 24 through 26.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. (NKJV)

I know we traditionally teach this as Jesus pointing out that He is the rock and we need to build our foundation on Him.  I totally agree with that point.  But I think this goes much deeper.  What does it mean to have ourselves “founded on the rock” in the context of this verse?  Isn’t this verse also saying how we need to be prepared?  The wind, rain and floods mentioned in these verses come to both the wise and foolish builder.  What is different about the two builders?  It’s their preparation isn’t it?

Preparation takes work.  Am I going to make the necessary effort to prepare for life or am I just going to do enough to get along and hope I do ok?

I close with the words of Richard Nixon, “Always be prepared to negotiate, but never negotiate without being prepared.”

Blessings My Friend

-jm

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of Psalm 96

Many years ago I remember sitting in some grammar class being taught simple lessons about writing a story.  Getting down to the basics, it was presenting these main ingredients:  Who, What, When, Where Why, and How.  After spending some time in Psalm 96, I think it can be looked upon in these same groupings.

Who – verses 1-3

In the first two verses, we are told to “Sing to the LORD” three times.  We are to sing a “new song,” (vs 1a), everyone on earth is supposed to join in (vs 1b), and our song is to “bless His name.”  Then in verse 2 we are to “Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.”  Finally in verse 3, we are to “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.”

There are two “who’s” in these verses.  First, we are a “Who,” as it is us that is to “Sing,” “Proclaim” and “Declare.”  Next we have an unlimited potential audience since we are to speak “among the nations,” the second “who” of this passage.

Why – verse 4-6

He is “Great” and “greatly to be praised.”  God is to be praised because He is unlike all other gods.  They are nothing but idols.  I like how the ESV says “worthless idols.”  And just so we understand, we are told the “LORD made the heavens.  Honor, majesty, strength and beauty are all found with Him.  That’s why He is to be praised and why we are to proclaim His greatness among all peoples.

How – verse 7-9

How are we to give praise to God?  We’re given some instructions: We are to give Him “glory and strength.”  I think that means our best, not the left-overs after we have given everywhere else.  Further, told we are to give an offering.  It is to be done in “holiness.”  I don’t think this means sinless perfection, but it does mean I am in submission to His will in my life and I am walking in obedience as best as I know how.  I’m also supposed to “tremble before Him” which means I respect Him to such a high degree that I am approaching Him reverently.

What – verse 10

In one verse we are told what we are to say.  Our message is to have these three elements:

  1. The LORD reigns! – He is sovereign and ruler over all.
  2. The world is established, it will not be moved. – The world will not spin out of control because He is governing it. This is true on the macro level and it is true on the micro level.  Your world may seem chaotic at times, but He still is in control.
  3. He will judge all the peoples of the earth righteously. – At some point, He will right the wrongs, He will correct all the injustices and He will judge all people.

Where – verses 11-12

These two verse may be the most beautiful of this Psalm.  His praise can be found everywhere and even His creation praises Him.  We can look all over nature and see His marvelously works.  While some may discount these verse as hyperbole from an overly emotional poet, the model of praise can be found from His own creation.  Where can we praise Him?  We can take our cue from the heavens and earth being “glad.”  We can see and hear the “sea roar” and the fields being “joyful” along with everything in the sea and fields.  Finally, even the trees of the woods rejoice before Him.  We can find praise and offer Him praise anywhere.

When – verse 13

“He is coming” says the psalmist.  He is coming to judge the earth so the time for praise and declaring His greatness is NOW!  We can’t wait anymore but we must carry out His command and praise His name.

Praise Him.  Find time in your day to incorporate Psalm 96 into your life.  Praise Him and tell of all His marvelous and wondrous works.  Look at the seas, fields and forest and see His beauty there.  And praise the LORD.

Blessings my friend!

-jm

The Ten Commandments of Marriage – Part 2

This is part 2 of the Ten Commandments of Marriage.   Part 1 covered the first five commandments and this post focuses on the last five.

While there are many places in Scripture you can find help and advice on marriage, the 10 Commandments as listed in Exodus 20 offer excellent marriage application for us.  Here are lessons I see from the last 5 Commandments.

  1. “Do not kill” – vs 13

Be gentle.  Actions and words are NOT for hurting each other.

One of the most uncomfortable situations you might find yourself in is to witness someone speaking or acting harshly toward their spouse.  Not only is it hurtful and rude but it violates marriage trust.  When you are tempted to respond harshly to your spouse, ask yourself these three questions before you say something to your spouse about what they did or said:  Is what I am going to say….

  1. Truthful – Be careful of “always”, “never” terms.
  2. Necessary – How big of a deal is this really?
  3. Timely – Is this the right time or place?

Only after you’ve said “yes” to all three of these questions can you respond.  Following this guideline is harder than most would think, but doing so will calm a great many disagreements.

  1. Be faithful – vs 14

Establish personal boundaries.  Not just physical boundaries but emotional ones.

My suggestions:

  1. Do not ride alone in a car with anyone of the opposite sex other than your spouse.
  2. Do not be in an office, classroom or house alone with….
  3. Speak well of your spouse with…..
  4. Exchange each others passwords or use common accounts.
  5. Be very careful about social media conversations/messages. Stay as public as possible.  The instant a problem comes up, un-follow, delete – whatever you have to do.
  1. “Do not steal” – vs 15

Be persons of integrity – especially with each other.  Marriage isn’t 50/50.  It’s 100/100.

  1. “Do not lie” – vs 16

Always look to build trust in what you say verses what you do.  Trust is earned in spoonfuls but lost in buckets.

  1. “Do not covet” – vs 17

Be content.  This is harder than it looks as there are times when the struggle of life make the lives of others look appealing.  This commandment applies in a few different ways:

1. Be content with each other. This is more than just being faithful.  This is being content with your spouse’s failings, faults and shortcomings.  The more you are content with your spouse, the better chance they will be content with your failings.

2. As a couple, you need to learn this. Be content with what you have.  The moment you begin to think “We’ll be happy when we have…….,” you are coveting.

Marriage is honorable before the LORD and sacred.  It isn’t easy but it is rewarding.  Working on our marriages, encouraging couples and honoring successful marriages is an important role many churches seem to ignore.  But I believe, if more of our marriages in our churches were strong, the issues in our society would not be as prominent.

So, take your wife out to dinner.  Blessings my friend!

The Ten Commandments of Marriage – Part 1

The 10 Commandments are something you are saying ‘no’ to in a moment for a ‘yes’ in the future. – James MacDonald

Marriage is under assault in our culture and even in our churches, many couples struggle with their marriage.  While no one who has been married for any length of time will say marriage is “simple” or “easy,” you can learn from successful couples about this unique and ordained relationship.

There are many places in Scripture you can find help and advice on marriage, the Ten Commandments as listed in Exodus 20 offer excellent marriage application for us.  I will not make any claim to being a marriage expert I do see lessons from Exodus 20 that may help your marriage.

Exodus 20: 2-12

  1. “You shall have no other gods before me.” – vs 3

God is to be the first and final authority in your life as individuals and as a couple.

This listed first because everything is built upon this concept.  God must be the final authority and He is the foundation of the relationship.  Not your compatibility, your mutual interests etc.  While these are important elements, understanding that as a couple, you both are under the authority of God almighty.

  1. “ Do not make idols” – vs 4-6

There is to be no substitute for God.  You should not worship anything other than Him.

Too often couples make the mistake of substituting God with something else.  These are almost always “good” things, but when anything pulls us away from God, we’ve created an idol.  Work is often an idol, so can your home (making it look “perfect”), recreation and a big one….family.  Of course family is a good and Godly thing, but when family become first in the relationship, we violate this command.

  1. “Do not take the LORD’s name in vain” – 7

We must speak well of God AND we must speak well of our spouse.

While this may not seem like this command has anything to do with a successful marriage, I maintain that to speak of well of God must include speaking well of your spouse.  You are not a model witness for Jesus when you talk negatively about your mate.   Just as our love and devotion to God must be public, so too must our devotion to our spouse be obvious.  Complaining about them publicly destroys that testimony.

  1. Sabbath Day – vs 8-11 (this command gets the most verses of the 10)

Just as individual time with God is important, so too is setting aside “exclusive” couple time with each other.

Time set aside with your spouse is an investment in your marriage and that time must be guarded.   I don’t think it has to be a rigid thing as there can be a degree of flexibility on frequency of your set aside time with each other.  But making a point to say “no” to other events for the sake of saying “yes” to your spouse must be a high priority for a successful marriage.

  1. “Honor your father and mother” – vs 12

Honor means “respecting, caring for, or helping” and now includes BOTH sets of parents.

You have married more than just a person.  There is another set of parents involved and how you treat the in-laws reveals much about your character.  This doesn’t mean agreeing on everything with each set of parents, but you are to honor, respect and care for them.

I know there are difficult situations and people suffering under years of physical and/or emotional abuse may find this type of advice too simple, but I believe most marriages can be salvaged if both partners are committed to following the LORD.  These first five of the Ten Commandments of Marriage may be part of a new way of thinking that can help your relationship.

Blessings my friend!

-jm

Lessons From Martha

And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” – John 11:28 NKJV

In the Gospel of John, we read a familiar story.  Mary and Martha have just experienced the loss of their brother, Lazarus.  Their close friend, Jesus, was not there and in fact we know from earlier in this chapter that he actually delayed His visit.  It was during this delay that Lazarus died.   But like a well written play, a new character enters the stage as Jesus arrives to the area.

As noted in verse 20, the two sisters have very different reactions.  Mary chose to stay a home with her grief, while Martha went to Jesus.  While the text does not say Martha ran to Jesus, I tend to think she very well may have done so.  Martha and Jesus have a conversation in which He very clearly states, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.  And whoever who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”  This short conversation with Jesus was the comfort Martha needed.

Mary on the other hand, chose to stay at her house.  A house filled with grief.

When facing grief, we have a choice.  We can remain in our state of grief, refusing to find comfort and solace in the One who has overcome death, or we can run to Him.  Many, who are terribly hurt, wounded and disappointed, never or rarely, move beyond their grief.  But others make the choice Martha did.  They go to Jesus.

Jesus was right there for Martha.  His words to her gently reminded her that He is the single vehicle of redemption from death.  He isn’t ignoring the reality of physical death, but He is saying there is much more to life than suffering, death and dying.  Martha, while still struggling with her grief, was not going to let that keep her from the One who could comfort her during this crisis.  That is the first lesson from Martha I glean from this passage.

However, there is a second lesson I see in this story.  It is found in Martha’s response in verse 28.  She goes to her sister and gently encourages her to go to Jesus.  She tells her, “The Teacher, (Jesus) is calling for you.”  Martha doesn’t scold her sister for her grief or even try to explain anything to her.  She merely encourages her sister to go to Jesus.  Mary then rose “quickly” and went to Jesus.  Martha models for us a role we can perform when we are surrounded by grief.  We can gently but confidently, encourage people to go to Jesus.

Don’t chose to exist in a permanent state of grief away from Jesus.  But run to Him, taking your grief to Him and allow Him to the source of your comfort.  By doing so, you can encourage others to do the same.  Pointing them to the One who has defeated death!

Blessings my friend!

 

Jeff Millslagle