Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wise in the Eyes of Others

By Brenda Black

Do people come to you for advice or run from your foolishness? Truly, it does not matter how clever you deem yourself. What matters is how wise you are in the eyes of others, and especially the Lord. Better take a hard listen to what you profess, because whether bright or dim, folks are going to hear about it and God already knows your thought before you ever speak it.

Sometimes word travels farther than we might think and the influence we wield as Christians can make a difference to people we least expect. Even before the era of internet, word of King Solomon's wisdom spread like a virus. It happened to a king; it can happen to us as well.

“When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions...she came to Solomon and talked with him about all she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for him to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw the wisdom of Solomon, as well as the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, the cupbearers in their robes and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.

“She said to the king, 'The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the Lord your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.'

“Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. There had never been such spices as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.” (2 Chronicles 9:1-9)

What can we learn about wisdom from Solomon's session with Sheba?

One: The litmus test for wisdom is accuracy. When asked hard questions, do you speak the truth? Honest words are honorable. "Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth." (Proverbs 16:13) In the book of Matthew alone, Jesus uses the phrase "I tell you the truth" 30 times! Yes, it seems apparent that the King of Kings considers truthfulness of utmost importance. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the first One we need to consult is His Holy Highness and the teaching of His Word so we're equipped to speak real truth.

Two: Seeing is believing. If you want someone to trust your wisdom, the talk better match the walk. Consistency begets credibility. Queen Sheba saw it with her own eyes before she completely believed the reports of Solomon's great wisdom and wealth. If accuracy is the litmus strip, then consistency is proof positive. Does your life line up hearsay with reality? Wisdom says in order to be respected, remain reliable.

Three: Give credit where credit is due. When Queen Sheba rolled into town with her lavish entourage, she was looking for the greatest of all men. She met the man and praised his God. Solomon's wisdom relinquished the right to claim credit for all his knowledge and blessings. He did not beg for Sheba's compliments nor steal God's deserved thunder, for Solomon surely had learned what God considered worthy. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) Wisdom and humility go hand in hand.

If you heed the lesson, then you'll find wisdom has its rewards. A regal queen may not always bring exotic gifts to acknowledge your wise ways. You may not be ranked among Fortune 500's rich and famous. But the premium for wisdom is always abundant and gratifying. One final word from the wisdom of the Word to the wise willing to listen: "Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life." (Prov. 22:4)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

By the Numbers

By Brenda Black

“This reading was composed for you personally. It is based on your full name at birth, your date of birth, and the name you now use to introduce yourself...Your Personal Numerology Reading describes all aspects of your chart as they are understood in numerology, accurately and in-depth.”

I naively succumbed to the invitation to have “my numbers run.” I had no idea what numbers or what they were running from, so I stepped up to a very safe looking man and answered three simple questions. His little laptop then spewed out an eight page run down of my life! The soft-spoken facilitator neatly assembled the report between polypropylene sheet protectors, complete with red plastic binder. I shoved them into my satchel and decided I'd read it later when I needed something to put me to sleep.

Jammie clad and ready for bed later that night, I pulled the slightly crinkled notebook out for inspection. The first section summarized my “Life Path” and declared that even at the moment of birth, I came with my own unique character, as unique as my DNA. All my potential was already in place. Next it outlined my “Expression.” My number of destiny intended to reveal my physical and mental constitution, representing my lifelong target. This is where the talent and abilities and shortcomings were detailed. Finally, this little road map of my life claimed to know my “Heart's Desire.” With three trivial pieces of information, I was supposed to believe that my abilities, my direction in life and my innermost longings would be spilled onto a page.

I read the report and was astonished! Every little detail described me with shocking accuracy! My first thought: That's uncanny. My second was a rapid, memorized rundown of promises from Psalm 139: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know are familiar with all my knit me together...All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

As the report clearly predicted I would do, I immediately began to analyze the unbelievable accuracy based on such little input I had provided this algorithmic computer program that nailed me! All I could come up with was God. I had no urge to suddenly put all my trust into some new age philosophy and build my life around predictions and hocus-pocus meditations. I didn't want to start searching the stars for direction. I simply stopped and worshiped the amazing, all-knowing Creator who “knit me together.” How cool that He designs us, then calls us to tasks in life for which we are artistically crafted and equipped! How comforting that He knows our deepest longings, long before we even know them ourselves.

Each of us is born for a purpose! Each comes into the world with tendencies and natural gifts intended to glorify God. But you don't need anyone to run your numbers to discover God's will for your life. The One who authors life itself has all the answers; He formed your inmost being. You are invaluable to Him. “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30)

Chances are, you already know yourself pretty well. But are you living in such a way that your strengths glorify God and your weaknesses are surrendered to His authority? Are you tapping into the great possibilities He placed within you? Are you asking God which way to go and what to do? Praise God for His patent on your life. You are fearfully and wonderfully made to live up to your God-given potential!

Appropriately, it is in Numbers 6:24-26 where the Lord teaches Moses how to bless His children. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” From the beginning, and forevermore, the Lord just wants to shine in your life and bless you.

If you are still counting, there is a singularly important fact upon which you can base your life and know true peace. It is that there is only ONE Christ! “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Live by that number and you'll know everything you need to know to reach your full potential!
George Beverly Shea - He will be missed and never forgotten. I'm so thankful for his composition of one of my all-time favorite hymns.  I rocked my babies to sleep by singing "I'd Rather Have Jesus." I remember many times, when I would think Austin was finally out. I'd stop singing and he would raise up, clap his tiny hands and say "Do again, Mommy." From the time they were born, I sang into their hearts the message that Jesus is worth more than anything this world has to offer. As I sang it to them, God sowed that truth deep into the soil of my own heart.  "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I'd rather be His than have riches untold. I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands. I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Cleaning

By Brenda Black

Spring – what a temptress you are! Longer days, sweeter songs from the birds, a variegated yard of green and budding trees beckon me outdoors. Something innately wants to crawl out from under the trapped-inside seasonal routines and escape to a clean, green spring! I'm worse than a sixth grader itching to hear the 3 p.m. bell and bolt for the fishing hole. I still daydream about skipping a college class and slipping out for a little sunshine behind the dorm room. Then I look at the work list and bite my lip and dig in. When the tunnel is complete, I'll make my great escape. I just hope spring hasn't sprung by the time I am free.

First I have to deal with the cobwebs, clutter and chaos -- three enemies to my lovely spring. Hidden in corners up high and down low, they go unnoticed during wintry, shadowed days. Then a splash of sunlight makes an airy cobweb float and dance conspicuously. How on earth did I not see that! I scold internally. I was probably buried under the clutter! You know of which I speak -- those piles you never quite sort or the drop and run heap in a handy chair. There are the magazines and month-old papers molding a mountain near the recliner where you've nested under granny's afghan night after long winter night. Finally, although the season of shut-in is coming to an end, there seems to be no finality to the chaos that crowds our brains year round. The telephone and computer and the constant urge to be tapped into everything has my head spinning.

Spring is the permission for sweet release! Onward and outward to fresh air, fruitful living and freedom! As you embark on your great escape that's good for the mind and body, don't forget to clear the cobwebs, clutter and chaos in your soul.

Some overlooked cobwebs may need to come to light. “He [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.” (Daniel 2:22)

Next, clear out some of the clutter over which you are stumbling. “Jesus answered, 'Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this worlds' light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.'” (John 11:9-10) Shed some God light and start living right! Otherwise, Satan is going to messy up your life. “Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Out of my sight, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'” (Matthew 16:23)

If we can't de-clutter our own lives by seeking the clear way with God, we become clutter to others. And there's a high price to pay for being so careless. “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.” (Romans 14:13) Grace from God, grace for yourself and grace for others certainly cleans out a lot of unnecessary clutter!

The cobwebs are cleared. The clutter is under control. Now be still. Step away from everything man-made and breathe in something far more magnificent – the sights and sounds and smells of spring! Go ahead. Do it right now. When you come back inside, you are sure to feel better.

Fresh air from an open window and the fresh breath of God washing over you are designed to renew. Spacious, sunny skies and rolling green meadows are a healthy contrast to cluttered desks and chaotic lives. Sometimes we just need to walk away and get alone where it's quiet. Down time produces up turned attitudes. We were not created from cobwebs, out of clutter or for chaos. We were designed for fellowship.

Time spent with the Lord in His creation might just be the best spring cleaning you ever did.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Little Girl Within

By Brenda Black

Just what I didn't need to hear: “You are no spring chicken.” For the record, I never wanted to be a chicken. I'd much rather be a frisky filly or a bouncing bunny or a frolicking puppy. So what if I'm not as young as I used to be. Nobody is! As a victim of chronic pain for the past two decades, I've gotten used to the aches of aging quite prematurely. But, even as the body and mind tally signs of wear and tear that come with chronology, my spirit remains eternally childlike.

Several of my much younger friends have lately begrudged the idea of crossing thresholds into adulthood that leave childhood privileges out of reach from that day forward. Big people responsibilities and careers have taken the place of youthful fun and games. As a consolation, I penned some words of encouragement to one such morphing young adult.

“I've been at this grown-up thing far longer and I still see myself as a little girl many days. Never lose that inner child -- the joy over simple things in life, the fascination and curiosity about anything new, the innocence, the faith, the creativity. We were designed from the beginning to be daughters of a King and that doesn't change with time or grey hair. I still want to run and dance and climb and sing and hold a tadpole or wade in the creek. I still love kittens and puppies and butterflies. I love the smell of a new box of crayons and given the chance will use them. I giggle with my girlfriends, sometimes think boys are the weirdest thing, feel insecure, frightened, left out. On the other extreme, sometimes I'm invincible, completely abandoned and leader of the pack. God grows us and life changes, but the great things from every phase in this life should be cherished and continued. And someday -- as grandmas, we have all the makings of being some child's best friend because we never lost sight of the little girl within.”

My own counsel got me thinking that I spend entirely too much energy on being grown up and far too little on being child like. It actually may have hit me a little before I doled out this sage old advice. Yeah, pretty sure it crossed my mind when I was jumping up and down, pumping my fist heavenward at a Winter Jam concert last week. Seated among friends in like stations of life and next to my 20-year-old son, I rocked the house with the youngest in attendance! If we would have had more room, my gal pals and I would have shown them just how much fun adults can muster! I waltzed in the house at 2:00 a.m., still singing TobyMac songs, albeit in a whisper, since my husband was sleeping like other normal adults at that hour.

Oh the joy that comes from being carefree like a child. It's the pleasure of getting closer to God than you ever can know as a rigid, guarded, prim and proper adult. One of the reasons Jesus likes children, I believe, is because they don't care what anybody else thinks. When Jesus walked this earth, they just crawled up in His lap and laughed and loved on the King of Kings. I wonder if the Lord wouldn't be thrilled if, as lumbering, weary adults, we crawled up in that lap again – spiritually speaking – and laughed and loved like Jesus and the children.

Seeing the world through a child's eye has tremendous benefits. Seeing the Lord through a child's eye brings superior pleasure. It is when we are most vulnerable, we are most teachable. We trust more completely, we love more honestly, we dance and grin and move more freely. And that makes God and us more happy.

“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.'” (Luke 10:21)

I love that! I want to live in such a child-like way that I make my God and my Savior smile. I want to live more like a spring chick than an old, molting hen. And I have good reason to set such goals. Being a child of God is a gift. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a-1b)

No matter how old I get, I want to always nurture the little girl within. I want to keep her innocence as much as possible, encourage her creativity, bolster her faith and keep her young heart forever in love with the Lord. For, one day, I will see Jesus. I plan on perching this little girl right in His lap and hugging Him. And then, we're going to get up and dance!