Tuesday, July 22 Ignoring Ignorance
“We don’t know what water is. We don’t know what electricity is. We don’t know what heat is. We have a lot of hypotheses about these things, but that is all. But we do not let our ignorance about these things deprive us of their use.”—Thomas Alva Edison. This statement is about a century old. Although you might quibble with some part of it, it is still generally correct. Furthermore, the more we learn about our world, the more we realize how much we don’t know. Trying to understand our universe is just as impossible as knowing everything about God. Not that we should quit trying to fathom the intricacies of our world. In like manner, we should never give up on our quest to know God. The search is rewarding. There’s another comparison, too. We make good use of electricity, for example, though we don’t fully understand it. In like manner, we take advantage of the manifold gifts of God even though we don’t understand it all. Prayer is in this category. So is faith—and the work of the Holy Spirit, and heaven and hell. These are realities, revealed by God, and we need to accept truth while recognizing at the same time that we have only a glimpse of what God is really like. Do not let our ignorance of God deprive us of appropriating His gift of salvation and all the glorious benefits that derive from it.
Tuesday, July 22 Ignoring Ignorance
Monday, July 21
“If you are not closer to the Lord than you were yesterday, guess who moved.” I’ve heard this idea in connection with a man and woman before, but not in our relationship with God. It is just as true here. God doesn’t change. He is the same “yesterday, today and forever.” I think you get the picture OK, but let me add a thought. Every moment of every day, I am making decisions that affect my relationship with God. Which means that every second of my life I’m either moving away from God or toward God. That’s an awesome truth. It puts a different spin on things. I cannot just pass off my short comings—my moments of indulgence, my indifference, my selfish attitude, my negative thoughts, my wrong choices—as irrelevant or “human nature.” Fortunately, there is a flip side to this. God is merciful, loving, forgiving, and gracious. He doesn’t change there, either. But a prayer of contrition and request for forgiveness is not out of order, either. It should be a regular practice. And when you do that you’re moving in the right direction.
Sunday, July 20
“It is not enough to be industrious—so are the ants. What are you industrious about?”—Henry Thoreau. I don’t think Thoreau was a Christian, but he touched a chord with me on this one. He certainly knew nature, so probably has a good take on the ants. When God created this world, He pronounced it good—which might be the understatement of all time. It is a magnificent world, one that we haven’t begun to understand or appreciate. I fully believe that ants were created for a good purpose and now we think of them as invading our houses or ruining a picnic. I guess they eat the eggs of aphids, too, which is fine. But then you have to figure out why God created aphids. We can dispense with all questions having to do with ants and aphids and mosquitos and snakes with one word: SIN. OK, but that’s not the message of this quotation. The ant is known for it’s single minded purpose, which we may not even know. We concentrate on the work ethic, not the end result. And that, of course, is what Thoreau is getting at. The work ethic is fine, but what is accomplished by all the work. As to ants, we would probably just say building nests, which is to say preservation of the species. But for man? If you were to ask any mature specimen of the human race about this, some would scratch their head, the rest would give a variety of answers. Most answers would be in terms of living out our lives on this earth. And for the Christian? The answers would be very interesting. Maybe I should take a poll! Put succinctly, why did God give you life? Why did He give me life? Or, a la Thoreau, “What are you industrious about?”
Saturday, July 19
Shaking hands is a fairly common way of expressing friendship. If true friendship is established, it results in mutual trust, so the handshake can also be enough to seal a deal, to represent a binding commitment. Indiri Gandhi said “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” The point is that we can’t have it both ways. A clenched fist represents antagonism, disagreement, and lack of trust—just the opposite of a handshake. Hostility can exist without going around with clinched fists. Avoiding someone is probably easier than fighting. What’s going on inside is what matters. Jesus made this a core message. What is in the heart is what defiles a man. Outward actions are merely the result of what’s going on inside. So the answer is not to keep your hands in your pockets, nor is it to shake hands when you don’t feel friendship inside. It’s like the little boy who was sent to stand in the corner—“Inside I’m still sitting down.” An attitude can be rather cleverly concealed, but the rift is still there. Joseph Newton made this statement: “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” The clenched fist builds walls, not bridges, and if it becomes a pattern, it surely will bring loneliness; you won’t have any friends. I learned this as a teen-ager. I was so argumentative that I finally realized that people were avoiding me. Not that I have “arrived” but it woke me up and brought about some change in my life. I began to build bridges rather than walls. Recognizing a person’s short comings is one thing: maintaining a critical attitude is quite another. Pride is the core of one and humility epitomizes the other. May I have the discernment to know the difference and the will to act accordingly.
Friday, July 18
We’ve all heard the expression “Go look in the mirror.” The idea is that when we start pointing fingers at someone else, it might be well to take a look at ourselves. How much easier it would be if I were to deal with my faults myself and therefore avoid having someone point out my faults and making them public. I guess that would render Prov. 27:6 meaningless. No more friendly wounds. Too bad. I like that proverb. Not to worry. Looking in the mirror is a last resort for most of us. Although it’s a good way to see ourselves as others see us, we are more inclined to cover up than deal with the problem. So we still need our friends—and we still need to be friends. The risk is worth it. Nikoli Gogol said “Don’t blame the mirror if your face is faulty.” I may not like the image I see in my mirror, but shattering the mirror won’t solve the problem. Neither will walking away from the mirror and doing nothing. James 1:23-24 addresses this. James pictures looking into the mirror as checking ourselves out against the Word of God. Knowing that we do not measure up and doing nothing about it is tragic. We are doomed to spiritual mediocrity. Not good!
Thursday, July 17
“Only your friends will tell you when your face is dirty.”–Sicilian proverb. Obviously, this has more to do with faults and failures than having egg on your face. And when it comes to touchy things most of your friends will back off, too. You probably know the reason for this. We don’t like making mistakes, and we like it even less when they’re pointed out to us. This is pride and it comes with the package that we call “sin.” Several of the Biblical proverbs deal with this. Proverbs 27:6 says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Pride will label this “meddling.” But what a truth is packed into those few words. Proverbs are eye catching and thought provoking; they are fodder for meditation. But living by them is something else. It’s easy to apply them to the other guy. We are all susceptible to being hurt when criticized and for that exact reason we are careful not to “wound” a friend by criticizing him. A true friend, however, will take the risk. If his desire is really for your good, he will mention the egg even though he might suffer some kind of reproof. We now have three elders functioning in our little church. As we meet, we find ourselves feeling each other out when it comes to mentioning sensitive and personal issues. We are careful not to offend, yet we want to be faithful to each other. Little by little we are becoming more vulnerable to each other and can talk more openly about our weaker points. This is still in the growing stage, but we are more and more comfortable with it. The net result is progress—progress in our individual lives, progress in our respect and love for one another, and no doubt beneficial as we seek to be role models for the flock that we are responsible for. God is doing His thing! I just need to cooperate.
Wednesday, July 16
“If we don’t change direction, we will arrive where we are going.”—Richard L. Evans. This is probably not a new thought for you, but Ipm reminded of another maxim. “Everything has been said that needs to be said—but since no one was listening it has to be said again.” And one of the most important principles of education is repetition. So a reminder is OK. For a moment, think where you are in your life today. What are your aspirations? Are you content with your spiritual life? What would you like to change? Now, project this into the rest of your life. What will you be like at the end of your life if you continue on the path that you’re on right now? Then think about how you will feel at the end of your life. Will it be contentment? Satisfaction? Success? Or will it be regret, disappointment, or a sense of failure. We are often told not to look back or look ahead; today is what counts. True, but we do need to take stock of our lives as we proceed through life. Life is full of change; it’s inevitable. But change can be positive or negative. If we make no real effort to change, the change will be down hill. Floating takes you down river; going up river takes effort. Change for the good doesn’t just happen. It takes awareness of our current condition, effort to change, and dependence on God to bring about the change. I just applied the above questions to myself. It was humbling. I have some changes to make. I definitely need to get out of my comfot zone.