Wednesday, Mar. 4
Most of us know what a euphemism is. And even if you don’t know the word, you use euphemisms all the time. We say “Grandma passed away” instead of “Grandma died.” You might say we do this to soften the blow. Softening the blow is minimizing reality, making it a little less traumatic. Euphemisms are in all languages, which is to say that the whole human race makes verbal changes to modify harsh reality. Euphemisms serve a good purpose. They lessen the impact of situations that are hard to take. That’s not bad. It reveals a gentle approach to people undergoing trials. We want to show sympathy, to empathize with someone going through a tough time. So euphemisms can be good. They can also be bad. When a euphemism is used to soften the blow for me, it is self serving. If it is to excuse bad behavior or its consequences, or to salvage my reputation, it’s bad. “I made a mistake” replaces “I sinned.” It’s OK to make a mistake. Everyone does. But recognition of sin implies an offense that needs to be dealt with. Euphemisms can also lead to outright lies. “I didn’t feel well so I called in sick”—and went to a football game. “I had trouble sleeping last night so didn’t go to church”—when in reality I stayed up late watching a late movie. It is so easy to fall into this kind of a pattern. You know, I really like the court oath “Will you tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” That’s a principle that we need to live by. The Bible, of course, simply says let your “no” be “no” and your “yes” be “yes.” When we do this we will not need to take an oath. In fact, taking an oath is a tacit admission that we sometimes don’t tell the truth. For the record, I’m not for the abolition of euphemisms. But we need to make sure that we don’t compromise the truth.
Tuesday, Mar. 3
“Teach me to know your ways and walk in them.” There’s a lot in this little crumb. First of all, there is an appeal to God for knowledge about His ways. Anyone who sincerely makes this plea to God is seeking something he doesn’t have, something he needs, something that he cannot do for himself, something of value. It is not a single thing, a temporary need, but a lifetime need, with the implication that life is not what it should be. Obviously, there is trust in God, the expectation that God will fill the need. So there is already some knowledge about God and His ways. Most of us are in this boat. We know God, we know we’re redeemed, we know we’re going to heaven, but there’s still failure, trials, disappointment, frustration, and lack of joy, contentment, peace, and satisfaction. We come to the realization that we need more of God in our lives. The Psalmist was probably going through the same thing. The assumption or goal is that by knowing His ways, the Psalmist would then walk in them. But he’s also asking God to teach him to walk in His ways. Knowing His ways is necessary, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that one will walk in those ways. We are dependent on God to reveal His ways and we are also dependent on Him for the power to walk in them. This would be one terrific way to start out each day—as long as you really mean it. I think God would take delight in answering that prayer.
Monday, Mar. 2
“The degree of your success depends on your degree of commitment.” This is true no matter what your goals are, whether secular goals or spiritual goals. There are two factors here. The first one is having goals. Some people have virtually no worthwhile goals. “I want to be a . . . “ [I hate to put in something like a baby sitter or grocery clerk because anyone can be a witness for Christ no matter what job he has, so plug in anything you like here.] “Some have goals that are self-serving. “I’m willing to do that if it will provide a decent living.” Some have minimum goals. “I’m willing to teach Sunday School in my church, but don’t ask me to go to Mozambique.” Some people have excuses. “I don’t have the gifts needed to do that.” Some don’t want to pay the price. “You mean I would need to go to a Bible School?” I’m talking here about Christians who are supposedly servants of God, soldiers in God’s army, participants in the Great Commission. Because God doesn’t force you to do anything, you can take that route, have no goals and accomplish precisely that—nothing. The second part is achieving the goals and that involves commitment. The Bible has a lot to say about this—putting your hand to the plow and then turning back (John Mark), unwilling to sacrifice (the rich young ruler). Then there are the encouraging passages. “[My word] shall not return to me void but will accomplish what I please (Is. 55:11).” There are promises. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Mt. 28:20.” And there are rewards. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much . .(Mt. 19:29).” I’m talking about Christians, people who are servants of God, who are soldiers in God’s army, who are committed to the Great Commission. Maybe you’re where Mark was on his first trip with Paul. It’s too late to write another gospel, but it’s not to late to emulate John Mark.
Sunday, Mar. 1
Paul starts his letters with a doctrinal section and then follows with an exhortation section. In Ephesians, the doctrinal section is chapters 1-3 and the exhortation section the rest of the epistle. He starts the exhortation section by naming four traits (4:2) that should characterize an adult Christian—humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance. All of these are critical in the process of growing into Christian adulthood, which is addressed earlier. It will produce unity, a characteristic that is essential in reaching the goals of the church, which Paul addresses a little later. Humility is to accept the position one is in rather than a higher one. The Greek word is a military term. Put bluntly, if you’re a private, don’t act like a General. Gentleness means to be considerate of others. Patience is to avoid avenging a wrong and is linked with forbearance, which is lovingly putting up with the faults of others. All of these represent the opposite of pride. When these four traits become dominant characteristics in a person, it is so different from the world that it draws attention and provides opportunities for a verbal presentation of the gospel, or as Paul put it, prepares God’s people for works of service (Eph. 4:12).
Saturday, Feb. 28
“The Bible never once says ‘Figure it out’ but over and over it says ‘Trust God.’ He’s already got it figured out.”—Melissa L. Hunter-Moen. Thank you for this, Melissa. [Melissa is my cousin, twice removed, a delightful young lady.] I guess this is not something we don’t already know, but it is nicely put and a good reminder. We don’t have to have it all figured out and a lot of the time when we think we have it figured out, it turns out to be wrong. We all like to be in control. Imagine me walking up to Einstein and questioning his understanding of Physics. Dumb! And Einstein is a long way from being God. Yet we question God’s ability to control our lives. It is a marvelous relief to not have to figure things out. I should say it would be a marvelous relief if we lived by this truth. Every minute of my life should reflect this reality. The peace that comes from this trust should be a constant witness to God’s grace. We have absolutely nothing to worry about. Everything is under the control of a loving and caring God, even when things seem to be all wrong. The real problem is keeping this truth in mind and living it as we go through the day. We’re in good hands, people!
Friday, Feb. 27
Here’s a quotation that relates to humility. “Rather than step on others to gain position, I need to be willing to be stepped on.” This goes the extra mile. Not only do we not seek a higher position, we need to accept a position below our rightful position. Jesus did that and Paul encourages us to do the same in Phil. 2. When we are abused, misunderstood or criticized unjustly, our immediate response is “It’s not fair.” Fairness is not the issue. Of all the men who have ever lived, Jesus was the least deserving of blame. He was, after all, perfect. And He suffered more unjustly than any man who has ever lived. Whenever Jesus defended Himself, it was not because He was offended, but only that people would believe that He was the Messiah. His love for lost sinners was His concern, not the defense of His character. He deliberately kept quiet during His trial because He was embracing the role laid out for Him, the sacrifice on the cross that would be the answer to the sin problem. That’s role modeling at its highest level! Peter also speaks of suffering unjustly in 1 Pet. 4:12-16. In 1 Pet. 3:8-9, we are told that we are called to suffer unjustly. So next time you are treated unfairly (probably today), do what Paul advised, let Jesus be your role model.
Thursday, Feb. 26
Is God humble? The Bible tells us to be humble. Humility is a common trait expected of all Christians. Normally, we think of God being a role model. Is He a role model for humility? Most of Scripture speaks of how God is to be exalted, praised, and worshiped. When a human being wants praise or worship, we certainly would not call it humility. Jesus humbled himself when he left his lofty position in heaven to come to earth, but that is a temporary thing associated with the incarnation, so let’s leave that one alone. The answer to the question of God’s humility is in the definition of the word. We get a better picture of humility if we think of it’s opposite, pride. Pride is claiming a higher position than we really have. Humility is taking a rightful position in terms of our position or status. Since God is infinite and perfect in every category, He cannot elevate Himself to a higher position. Therefore there is no pride involved. He is humble because He has not claimed anything above His position or nature. In that sense He is our role model. But it still doesn’t fully answer the question as to why He expects and encourages us to praise and worship Him. This might help. His desire to be worshiped and praised is not for His good; it’s for ours. He doesn’t need praise, but we need to praise Him. We are fulfilled when we acknowledge our dependence on Him, His loving care for us, His provision of salvation—at a staggering cost. The free gift of redemption calls for praise and worship and we are the beneficiaries when we worship Him. There is something missing in our lives when we do not respond to His goodness by worship and praise. Does this answer the question?