Spiritually Street Smart

To give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth.  Proverbs 1:4

It would have been completely safe for a naive person to live in Eden.  There would have been no need for discretion since there was no need to protect yourself from anyone or anything.  No need to discern good from evil.  No need to weigh wisdom and foolishness.  Sin had not yet been introduced into everyday life.

I used to be extremely naive.  If a person claimed to be a Christian, I believed them and instantly considered them trustworthy.  If that person were a pastor, not only were they allowed to define my theology but I gave them the power to dictate how I was to live out my faith.  A pastor was like “God” to me, yet I wouldn’t have admitted that to anyone.  Since my ministry has involved rubbing shoulders with pastors and platform people over the course of 40 years, perhaps you can imagine my shock to discover that Christian leaders have feet of clay.   Discovering my own has been the most painful.

No one person trained me to become street wise.  My parents had many sterling qualities but they didn’t intentionally train their children.  Dad and Mom lived by example and while we learned a lot from their modeling, there was a lot of wisdom that should have come from personalized instruction. In the absence of intimate interaction, the Holy Spirit took up where my parents left off.  Life introduced many painful realities and with a lot of scars to prove it, I have grown to be discerning.  Miraculously, without much cynicism. That is a testament to the healing work of God’s grace and forgiveness.

To be completely naive is to be childish.  Kids under the age of ten possess magical thinking.  They have not learned how the world works yet.  God calls us to be His children; childlike but not childish. Can we be childlike yet discerning?  Can the two traits coexist?  Absolutely.  I am childlike because I trust God completely.  I am prudent because I trust people to be human. I remember John’s words about Jesus. Many people noticed the signs he was displaying and entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them. John 2:23-25

Teach me how to see the best in people without being deceived. Only you can help me navigate the blurred lines, Jesus. Amen

How Others Feel When My Name is Mentioned

The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.  Proverbs 10:7

Positive emotions and rich images flourish when the righteous are mentioned.  Joseph. Abraham. King David. John the Apostle. Martin Luther. D.L. Moody. Billy Graham. Negative images and conflicting emotions rise up when the names of wicked men are spoken.  Jezebel. Ahab. Herod. Judas. Adolf Hitler. Jeffrey Dahmer. Sadam Hussein.

Now to personalize ~ What happens when I speak the names of family members I know well?  The names of good people make me smile.  The names of those who mis-use others, or at the very least, are self-centered, make me roll my eyes.  I count the days until I can see the righteous.  I number the days, with dread, when I’ll have to see their counterpart.

The whole law rests on two simple, scriptural principles.  “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.  And, love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  As I think about legacies, it really does boil down to this greatest commandment.  The people I desire to be around are the ones who walk humbly with God and love others.  Pretty simple.  I have no desire to spend time with those who know a lot.  I do not wish to fellowship with the well-dressed, and self-focused. I recall the years I felt it was most important to impress others.  I obsessed about my looks and my behavior ahead of time; my clothes, my hair, my contribution to conversations, all the while failing to realize that these very obsessions would distance me from others.

How often do I begin my day and ask, “Who can I love today, Lord?”  Perhaps that is the greatest sign of spiritual maturity.

When my name is spoken today, how do others feel?  A sobering question to ask myself but necessary if I wish to leave a righteous legacy for the glory of God.

Jesus, you drew others to Yourself because of Your love.  Show me how others experience me. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Is Pondering Self-serving?

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer.  Proverbs 15:28

Someone who is shy is very hard to get to know.  It takes a long time for them to feel safe in a relationship. They move slowly toward others and intimacy is not quickly achieved. Many hurt deeply from the wounds of past relationships and, as a result, pull inward to prevent more pain. They are hard to read, safely veiled behind a stoic exterior. They rarely express how they feel about an issue for fear of rejection.  Pondering before answering is a way of life but this is not what Solomon describes.  A fearful person does not ponder for the sake of righteousness.  Considering his words carefully is self-protective and has little to do with God.

Someone who is manipulative is also careful with his words.  He ponders before opening his mouth in order to successfully posture himself for an advantage. He endeavors not to be genuine, but to say whatever will benefit him. Most every conversation is self-promoting.  He is ambitious, even to the point of ruthless. Beware. His speech is like butter and the flattery he offers, while it feels wonderful, is calculated and well rehearsed. Manipulative pondering is also not what Solomon describes.

A righteous person ponders before he speaks so that God will be glorified.  He knows that if he expresses himself thoughtlessly, his words will be soul-ish, even foolish.  He understands the power of the tongue and, by God’s grace, exercises the discipline of restraint.  He is neither self-protective nor self-promoting.  His passion is to think like Jesus and, therefore, talk like Jesus. The wisdom that flows out of the heart of the righteous child of God is cultivated in secret. It is the result of many hours spent at the Rabbi’s feet.

Search me at the place of my motives.  Let my pondering be a holy thing, not self-promoting or self-protecting. Show me how to think like You as You write Your Word in my heart.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

I Should Second-Guess Myself


There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.  Proverbs 14:12

            A twenty-four hour day is filled with dozens of decisions; some minor, some major.  Most decisions won’t appear to present a challenge.  I will think I know the right thing to do.  I will argue that it’s pretty obvious.

            But, what if my own common sense is leading me astray?  Scripture says it will and I might take the wrong course of action completely unaware.  My ‘take’ on things, though it seems so right, can be flawed and lead me to unpleasant outcomes.

            I face ministry decisions daily that could be made by the laws of marketing.  I tried that on and off for twenty-two years and the success left me void of spiritual confidence and void of a God-connection. In 1997, I made a vow unto God to never do ministry like that again. The difference has been huge.

            Jesus, who was perfect, didn’t move without praying to discern the will of His Father.  If He didn’t do it, how can I pretend to think I can!  He didn’t heal everyone who needed it.  He didn’t go everywhere He was invited. He didn’t spontaneously announce, “I think I’ll go to Capernaum today.”  Everything was guided by a Father’s agenda who saw how all things fit together.

  • Someone today will seek a promotion.  They will assume they need to advocate for themselves or risk getting lost in the lineup.  God may tell them to do nothing and trust Him.  That course will feel disastrous to their flesh and they will need to flex new faith muscles.
  • Some will have grounds to discipline their children.  Without guidance, they will assume they know the right measure of severity.  God may say, “Probe, listen, understand. The root of their disobedience is not what you think.”
  • Someone will be wronged in a close relationship and it will feel like the last straw.  Their first instinct might be to deliver that speech they’ve been saving for just such an occasion.  God may say, “It’s not time to talk.  It’s time to fast for their turnaround and your perseverance.”

Continue reading “I Should Second-Guess Myself”

Why Anger Explodes


A quick tempered man acts foolishly.  Proverbs 14:17

            Take a glass that is mostly full of water, add a little more, and it will spill over.  Take a man or woman who is already full of rage, add one small incident, and their anger will also overflow.  Many who erupt today over the smallest issues aren’t really reacting to the incidents at hand.  They were simply filled to the brim with rage before the episode ever occurred.  The ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ got all the attention because there was no more room left in their container for any more anger.

            Each of us was created with a lot of elasticity in our spirit to withstand the pressures of life.  Many have plenty of stretch left in their elastic in their early twenties but by the time they experience multiple injustices and disappointments, that elastic is stretched to the limit when they reach mid-life.  With no more ‘give’, it’s pulled taut and it snaps easily.

            What is the answer for any angry person?  He must discern what it is he’s really angry about and take the initiative to deal with it.  Living in perpetual rage is not fair to friends and family.  Children live with an angry parent and never know when the lid is going to blow.  It is usually over a gallon of milk left out on the counter or something else equally as insignificant.  Husbands live with an angry wife and tiptoe around the house, not knowing what it will be that will set her off.  The angry one usually holds everyone around him hostage. Continue reading “Why Anger Explodes”

Am I Lazy and What Is The Cost?


The way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns.  Proverbs 15:19

Life happens to the lazy man as opposed to being shaped by him.  He will see challenges come but, because of his slothfulness, he will not massage each one with prayer and problem solving.  He will sit and let his problems slowly overwhelm him.  One challenge is then joined by another, and sooner or later, he is beset by a hedge of thorns too numerous to tackle.  At this point, he usually throws up his hands in defeat.  Inevitably, he lives overwhelmed and with a sense of futility.  He will often give a martyr’s speech.  “I just can’t win! Nothing good ever happens to me.”

The way out of such a mindset is a heart change.  Laziness is a spiritual problem, not a mere character flaw.  The one who is lazy fails to answer Christ’s call to discipleship.  A follower of Jesus redeems the time for he knows the days are evil.  Each moment wasted is time and opportunity lost.  Never do we read that Jesus was prompted by His Father, only to respond, “I don’t feel like doing that today.”  Not that He never rested.  He did.  Not that He was never led into solitude for restoration.  He was.  The point is that rest is for those who work.  Restoration is for those who are poured out for others.  Rest is for those who are weary in obedience. Continue reading “Am I Lazy and What Is The Cost?”