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God’s ‘Safety Valves’

14 Oct

Passing by the primate area one day, a zoo attendant happened to notice a chimpanzee sitting on a rock with an open book in each hand. He looked first at one book and then the other.

Upon closer examination, the attendant identified the books:  the Bible and Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Curious, the attendant asked the chip, “What’s with the books?”

The chimp replied, “I’m trying to decide whether I’m my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.” * LOL!

With some choices there’s not much difference ~ like choosing between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, a matter of taste. But other times, choices are as clearly different as those two books in the chimps hands. Some choices can change the direction of our lives.

Can you think back to a crucial decision that took you down a different path? Maybe it was a foolish choice. You didn’t anticipate the consequences. Looking back now, you wonder how you ever could have missed the signs, the clues that your choice was destructive or hurtful. It’s a choice you now regret.

Or maybe you made a wise choice that helped you grow, led to success or opened up more opportunities. You’re so glad you made that choice!

What was the difference? Was it just the choices before you? We have options to choose every day, all day long. The choices just are. Just like temptations. You might face one temptation and it’s like water off a duck’s back; face another kind of temptation and you fall head first! What makes the difference is our response. Temptations have no power unless we act on them.

1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us how to respond to temptation:“… God is faithful and he will not let you

A Safety Valve

be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape….” The same is true when faced with a wrong or foolish choice. We can always look for God’s “way of escape.” It is a safety valve that helps us when the pressure to sin or be unwise gets strong.

The way of escape may actually be proactive. All sin starts in the heart and mind, when we want something that is not good for us, something God has declared “off limits” or destructive.  We need to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and mind. We need to be careful what we allow into our thoughts through the media, especially, because they can become a constant source of temptation. God provides mercy when we repent of and forsake any “ways” that are contrary to His ways (Isaiah 55:6-7) ~ wrong desires in our hearts, wrong habits and behaviors.

The way of escape comes when we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within us (Galatians 5:16-25). It is not by our might or power, but by God’s spirit that we accomplish anything (Zechariah 4:6). The Spirit makes us overcomers! (1 John 4:4)

The way of escape also comes as we renew our mind (Romans 12:1-2). What we feed our mind will eventually come out, but we can change the direction of our thinking and refresh “the spirit of our mind” in Christ (Galatians 6:8a; Ephesians 4:17-24) and the Word of God. We study, meditate on, and apply the principles of scripture that help us stand strong against temptations and make wise choices.

The way of escape comes in our commitment to glorify God in purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). While will power can only take us so far (which is why we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit), we can resolve to say “no” to temptations. We can purpose to make choices that lead to holiness.

The way of escape also comes through accountability. The Bible encourages us to exhort (encourage) one another and bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). We can ask Christian friends to help us fight temptation. We can seek God together for wisdom to make wise choices.

Are you facing some tough choices? Is temptation knocking at your door? God wants to give wisdom, and He offers safety valves ~ His way of escape in many forms. How will you respond?

* from CyberSaltDigest.com, 7-7-11

– Dawn

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How to Not Be Spiritually Clueless

7 Oct

A silly woman called “911” on her cell phone to report that her car was broken into. She was hysterical, explaining the situation to the dispatcher.

“They’ve stolen the stereo. They’ve stolen the steering wheel. They’ve even stolen the brake pedal and accelerator!” she yelled into the phone.

“Stay calm,” the dispatcher said. “An officer is on the way.” A few minutes later, the officer radioed in to the dispatcher.

“Disregard the call,” the officer said. “She got in the back seat by mistake.” *

Clueless, right?

Clueless people aren’t necessarily “airheads.” They just have no idea what’s going on.  They haven’t taken time to see the facts that are right in front of them.

The words “spiritually clueless” came to mind recently as I talked to a woman about faith and other spiritual concepts. I had to go back to the basics and explain terms that she should have learned at church. I wondered how this could be, with so many evangelical churches today. Were people just getting pretty stories and no “meat”?

I recently read an article from 1999  ~ and I would imagine that the situation is worse, today. Professor Gary Burge at Wheaton College tests incoming freshmen on their knowledge of the Bible and he says his findings are “alarming,” especially since most of the students at Wheaton come from strong evangelical churches.

For example, one third of students cannot put these in chronological order: Christ, Abraham, Pentecost, and the Old Testament prophets. Half cannot sequence these events: Isaac’s birth, Judah’s exile, Moses in Egypt, Saul’s death. One-third could not identify Matthew as an apostle. Eighty percent of students do not know where to find the Lord’s Prayer.

I recently had a time of Bible study with my middle granddaughter, Jenna. In the midst of our study on fear, we got sidetracked on the word “wisdom.”

“How do I get wise?” she asked. After talking about health wisdom, financial wisdom, relationship wisdom, etc., I told Jenna the most important kind of wisdom is Life Wisdom, because that will help us with all other needs for wisdom. When she asked me how to get this life wisdom, I took her to Proverbs 2:6 ~ “The Lord gives wisdom.”

If you want to be wise, I said, you need to ask God (see James 1:5), and then read the Bible, because that is where you will learn about what God thinks and what His plans are for your life and for the world. Jenna asked so many questions about the Bible that day … I pray she will always seek her wisdom from God.

Later that night, as I watched a television show, I heard a man talk about a woman who was “clueless.” I remembered my conversation with Jenna and thought, “Lord, help me cooperate with my grandchildren’s parents to build spiritual truth and values into all of these dear children so they won’t be spiritually clueless about You when they grow up.”

Wisdom is the opposite of being spiritually clueless. It comes from rubbing shoulders with those who speak and model wisdom and from spending time with God and His Word. Psalm 119:99 says, “I have more understanding and deeper insight than all my teachers, because Your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:99 Amplified).  “Understanding and deeper insight” … that sure doesn’t sound a person who is spiritually clueless.

Wisdom is what I want for my life, and the heritage I want to leave my grandchildren. [I wish I had read Carrie Ward’s book, Together: Growing Appetites for God, when my sons were young. It would have inspired me to read more of the Bible to my children. I recommend this book to moms who are serious about reaching their children’s hearts for Christ!]

How do you instill wisdom in your children and grandchildren?

* Adapted from “Missing Car Parts,” CybersaltDigest, 5-19-12

– Dawn

Make the Message Clear

15 Sep

I recently read an entire page of cake inscriptions gone wrong Here are some samples:

  • When my mother-in-law ordered a cake for my wedding anniversary, she made a point of instructing the bakery, “That’s Thompson with a ‘p’.” Later, when she went to pick up her order, she noticed that on the box they had written, “Mrs. Phompson.”
  • For my 40th birthday, my husband decided to surprise me with a birthday cake from our local bakery. “In the middle, please print ‘Happy Birthday Nita,'” he instructed them over the phone. “Then, ‘You’re not getting older’ at the top and ‘you’re getting better’ at the bottom.” When he went to pick it up, he discovered that they had decorated the cake with the words exactly as he had said them: “Happy Birthday Nita. You’re not getting older at the top, you’re getting better a the bottom.”
  • We had a “going away” party for a lady… One of the supervisors called a Wal-Mart and ordered a cake. He told them to write: “Best Wishes Suzanne” and underneath that write, “We will miss you.”  As the picture shows, it didn’t quite turn out right.

Apparently, even floral tributes are not safe.

  • My husband is a mortician. He found an odd card on some flowers sent in honor of the deceased. When the sender of the flowers called to place her order, the florist asked what she wanted written on the card. She said, “Write ‘Rest in Peace’ on both sides. And, if you can fit it in, ‘We’ll see you in eternity..” My husband read the card: “Rest in Peace on both sides. And if you can fit it in, we’ll see you in eternity.”

These cakes  and the flowers point out the risk of trusting others to deliver our heart-felt messages. They might get it wrong!

Remember as a child playing the game “Telephone,” a game where children sit in a circle and one child begins to relay a message that must go around the entire circle. The last child reveals the message ~ and sometimes, what the child is so off from the original message that everyone erupts in laughter.

When a message is important, we need to share it ourselves. We need to be sure people “get it.” Nowhere is this more important than when we share the biblical message of the Gospel.

A child explain the gospel to another young friend, in earshot of his mom. He talked with great passion about Jesus’ death and burial, but left out Jesus’ resurrection. “What about when Jesus rose from the grave?” his mom said. The boy turned around and whispered to his mom, “He’ll never believe that, Mom. I’m just going to tell him about heaven.”

That’s the problem with a lot of messages about the scripture. People (sometimes even pastors) leave parts out, believing the plain truth of the Word of God will be too difficult ~ too strange ~ for people to believe. We can’t help it if people misunderstand, but we need to be sure that the messages we share (especially about the Gospel) are not mis-stated! We can’t make people believe, but we must make the message clear.

The Apostle Paul explained the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. But he also asked the Colossian church to pray for him so his messages would be clear (Colossians 4:3-4). He had the facts straight, but he wanted the wisdom to communicate through the Holy Spirit to the hearts of men and women so they would understand.

That should be our prayer as well:  “Lord, help me make the message of the Gospel clear.”

Note: All of the cake and floral inscriptions appeared on “Cake Talk,” Snopes.com:  (1) http://www.readersdigest.ca, 1997; (2) http://www.readersdigest, ca, 1992; (3) Email to Snopes.com, Oct. 2007; (4) email to Snopes.com, 2007

– Dawn

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