Tag Archives: Will

To Tell the Truth

source: Ashley Rosex via Flickr
source: Ashley Rosex via Flickr

“as long as I have life within me,
    the breath of God in my nostrils,
my lips will not say anything wicked,
    and my tongue will not utter lies.”
Job 27:3-4 (NIV)

I am what is known in general and colloquial psychological terms as a pleaser. It’s always been my nature to desire relational peace with others and to want others to “be pleased” with me. Like all personality bents, being a pleaser has both its strengths and corollary struggles. On the plus side, I tend to be amiable and easy to get along with. I’m not usually given to strong public reaction, rather holding my emotions in check until I can process and thoughtfully respond. I’m generally diplomatic and tend to be sensitive to all sides in a conflict. The downside is that I will sometimes stuff my emotions until they begin eating away at my soul like corrosive acid. I respond to others in the way that will make them happy rather than responding in a way that is true in expressing what I really think, feel, and believe. Throughout my life journey I have been guilty of suppressing and submitting my own thoughts, will, and emotions to the thoughts, will, and emotions of others in order to please and placate. For the record, that that never turns out well¹.

Interestingly enough, I am married to a woman who lies at the opposite end of the personality spectrum. “Holding emotions in check” and “suppressing strong reactions” are not apt descriptors for Wendy, but “emotionally expressive” and “forthright honesty” definitely hit the mark. This, of course, makes for some really interesting conversational choreography when it comes to conflict in our house, but we’ve learned a few steps from one another which has ultimately made us better relational dance partners.

So it is that I really appreciated reading Job’s honesty in today’s chapter. Job reveals the same qualities that I admire and appreciate in Wendy. He will not suppress, submit his thoughts and emotions to please or placate his wife or three friends. He is compelled to be honest and true in expressing his thought and emotion, realizing that it would actually be wicked of him to be dishonest about his anger and frustration with God. It would be a lie to plead guilty to some heinous sin that precipitated his suffering. It would be untrue to say that he’s okay with his lot when he honestly feels that his suffering and circumstances are utterly unjust.

This morning I’m realizing that, if I were in Job’s sandals, I would be tempted just to say to my friends, “Yeah, you’re probably right. Thanks for setting me straight, guys.” I admire Job’s honesty. It challenges me. I appreciate his willingness to tell the truth about what he really thinks and feels, even though it’s not what the others want to hear. That’s a trait that this pleaser has been striving to develop over time.

I think I’ve made progress. I’ve got a good coach! :-)

 

¹See exhibit A: the divorce decree.

An Unorthodox Choice

Michelangelo david solomon
Michelangelo’s David and Solomon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. 1 Chronicles 22:6 (NIV)

When reading the ancient stories in God’s Message, I’ve learned that a big part of the story is often not what is said in the text, but what is left unsaid. I found it interesting last week when we read 1 Chronicles 20 that the scribe left out the naughty bits about David’s sin with Bathsheba and his conspiracy to murder Uriah, her husband. Today, the scribe moves right into the story of David commissioning his son Solomon to build the temple, but why Solomon was chosen as the one to ascend to the throne is never addressed.

Through the millennia, it has been a common practice in monarchies around the world for the throne to be passed to the eldest living son. In the case of King David, there were many children born to him from a handful of wives and several concubines. David’s scandalous dalliance and subsequent marriage to Bathsheba happened relatively late in his life. There were several sons born to David prior to Solomon, but David chooses his young son Solomon, born to him through Bathsheba rather than any of his other children.

Very few families escape the conflicts, machinations, and hard feelings that arise from parental favor and estate. This is true even of simple nuclear families trying to settle  issues of a parent’s last will and testament. Imagine the chaos that ensues when polygamy, the throne, political power, and vast riches are at stake. David’s choice of the young Solomon could not have gone over well with his half-siblings who had been waiting in line for the throne for many years.

I am reminded again this morning what God said to Samuel when David was anointed King as a young boy:

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

We don’t know why David chose young Solomon over his siblings, but David had a long track record of seeking to do the right thing in God’s eyes. I must wonder if David’s choice was based on what he saw in the hearts of his children rather than sticking with human protocol of simply handing the crown to his eldest.

Life is full of choices and decisions. Handling family dynamics with children of diverse personalities, gifts, and capabilities can be difficult for the even the most dutiful parent. It requires, if you’ll forgive the blatant connection, “the wisdom of Solomon.” And, perhaps, that is what David perceived in making his unorthodox choice of successor.

Soar

“they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
    but they have not gained the victory over me.”
Psalm 129:2 (NIV)

Part of the conversation over the dinner table last night was focused on people whose attitudes and behaviors ruin our day. I thought about that discussion into the evening last night and have been thinking about it here in the early morning hours. The truth is, I have a choice in my own attitude and in how I respond to others. Woe unto me when someone’s negative attitude, hurtful words or actions injure my own spirit and attitude, for I have given them the power to do so. I have allowed it. I have surrendered myself to them rather than choosing to rise above it.

Over the past month or so there has been a lot of attention in the media to the passing of Nelson Mandela and of the annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. The more I learn about these men, and I have much to learn, the greater respect I have for them. I am impressed by those who face true oppression in life (not the farcical daily annoyances I dramatically mistake for oppression), yet doggedly choose to maintain a positive spirit and refuse to give in to negativity, despair, hopelessness, or vengeance.

The past few weeks a fellow alumnus of my alma mater, Judson University, has been unjustly languishing in a Philippine prison. I met Tom Randall when I was a student at Judson and he made regular visits to the campus to speak in chapel about his missionary work. Tom is a passionate Jesus follower and has sacrificed himself to do great things for the poor and orphans of the Philippines. When you do great things, you will inevitably face strong (and often unjust) opposition. A few weeks ago, Tom was wrongfully accused and incarcerated in Manila. He is in ill health. This past Sunday, I had a chance to watch the video at the top of this post. One of Tom’s best friends shares the story of Tom’s imprisonment and the amazing way God can turn oppression into a powerful force for good. It’s well worth your time today to watch it.

Tom Randall’s story, Nelson Mandela’s story, and MLK’s story all provide me with needed perspective this morning. Today, I’m choosing to shrug off the minor annoyances of others and the negativity around me. I will not give myself over. Rather than surrendering my mind and spirit to antagonistic people and circumstance, I’m choosing to surrender my mind and spirit to God, who empowers me to soar.

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Letting Go of My Personal Timetable

Agenda
Agenda (Photo credit: Jim Ceballos)

“The Lord has done what he predicted through me.” 1 Samuel 28:17 (NIV)

When I was a young man, I couldn’t wait to grow up. There is a natural progression of time and life, but there was something in me that wanted desperately to push everything forward. My restless, extroverted nature was always pushing the clock. I wanted to got. I wanted to move. I wanted to push things forward. Perhaps this was the result of being the youngest or perhaps there was a spiritual restlessness in me. In any event, I was always pushing the timeline to get to adulthood as quickly as possible. I graduated from high school early. I went to college early. I got married early, and I had chidren early.

Looking back on my life journey (from just over the hill), I can see the natural consequences and difficult life lessons that resulted in me trying to constantly push time and circumstances to acheive my own personal will and desires. As I’ve progressed in my journey I’ve come to a deep appreciation of God’s divine timing. I have increasingly learned the contentment required to wait for to be at peace in the moment and to wait for God to move.

In the story of David and Saul we see another stark contrast between the two men in this regard. David was anointed king as a child, but has patiently refused to push God’s hand by taking Saul’s life and stepping up the timeline to his ascension as monarch. I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy, especially since it resulted in years of being an outlaw and living in exile. Saul, however, was always pushing his own will. It was what got him into hot water in the first place and in today’s chapter we see that he has still not learned the lesson. His decision to consult a medium and conjure up Samuel’s spirit is just another illustration of Saul’s refusal to be content with God’s will and timing.

Today, I’m taking stock of the circumstances of my life in which I feel impatience. There are a number of them. Naming them one by one, I am choosing to let go of my will and timing. Instead, I am handing them over once more to God and entrusting them to His perfect will and divine schedule.

Heart of Mine

Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

Along my life’s journey I have many times been led astray by my heart which, evidence suggests, has a mind and will of its own. Prone to wander, my heart will easily lead me astray if I am not careful:

  • Enticing relationships that spiral life into chaos
  • Unnecessary acquisitions that end up acquiring me
  • “Sure things” that sure leave me on the short end of the deal
  • Frivolous pursuits which create fruitless waste of time and life
  • Treasure hunts that lead me far astray and leave me empty handed

Jesus said, “Wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I have discovered that when my heart leads me astray it is because my spirit is at that moment treasuring foolish things. When my spirit is focused on following Jesus, it is easier to keep my heart in step.

I was reminded of the lyrics of this Dylan tune this morning:

Heart of mine so malicious and so full of guile
Give you an inch and you’ll take a mile
Don’t let yourself fall
Don’t let yourself stumble
If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime
Heart of mine
Heart of Mine lyrics by Bob Dylan (1982) from the album “Shot of Love“)

Chapter-a-Day Esther 9

dice
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews, had plotted to crush and destroy them on the date determined by casting lots (the lots were called purim). Esther 9:24 (NLT)

The casting of lots was a common practice in ancient times. It was a form of what we would call today “rolling the dice” and letting the future be determined by fate. It’s a practice from which our modern lottery is based. When Jonah was running from God and his ship was being threatened by the storm, the crew cast lots to determine who was to blame for God being so angry. When Jesus’ disciples needed to pick a replacement for Judas Iscariot, they cast lots to decide between the candidates.

While we still have lotteries as a form of gambling and money-making, our culture long ago moved away from trusting in the practice as way of divining God’s will. Today we put our trust more in reason and discernment than to chance.

Nevertheless, I find in the story of Esther and the festival of Purim a reminder that God is not confined to using only the means of our human design and prescription to work His will. I hear in my head some of my stuffy college professors eschewing the idea that God would use anything other than human reason to divine a proper choice. You can’t deny, however, that God worked through both Haman and Esther’s gambles. God used the casting of Haman’s lot to turn the tables on his heinous motives. Esther rolled the dice when she presented herself to the king without being summoned and God used her bet to work His good and perfect will.

Despite our reliance upon knowledge, intellect, and reason, I find that we all face distinct crossroads at different waypoints of our life’s journey. Two paths diverge from our single one and we must make a choice. Sometimes we make reasoned decisions. Sometimes, we roll the dice.  In either case, I believe there is a divine orchestration at work. As it says in Proverbs: “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (16:9) and “We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall” (16:33). Like me, you may have a hard time wrapping your head completely around how that works exactly. There is a divine mystery to it. Proverbs addresses that too: “The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” (20:24).

 

Chapter-a-Day Acts 26

by pigliapost via Flickr

Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” Acts 26:32 (NLT)

There is mysterious union of our choices and God’s divine purposes. We make decisions that determine our steps. God weaves His plan in, through and around those decisions to direct our ultimate path. I don’t pretend to understand it, but marvel to see it at work in my own journey and those with whom I share it.

In 2004 amidst the throes of a long-troubled marriage and two daughters entering adolescence I chose to take the step of uprooting the family and moving to Pella. The thought of moving to and living in Pella had never been on my radar. It was not my idea, but I chose in. It was my decision. Within a few years I would find my marriage over. I would meet and marry Wendy. The girls would graduate and step out onto their own individual paths. I made choices without any comprehension just where the path would lead. I can play the “what if” game as long as I want to, but it is a waste of time and mental energy. Those who know me best and have journeyed with me the longest will testify to witnessing God’s divine purpose in the circuitous trail on which my choices led. I look back on the past eight years and scratch my head as I perceive the eternal mystery of the intersection of my temporal choices and God’s divine purposes.

In today’s chapter we learn that Paul could have been free had he not appealed to Caesar, but he did appeal to Caesar. Paul will go to Rome in chains and continue to proclaim God’s Message there. Did God want Paul free, or did God want Paul in Rome? How does God’s omniscience and eternal purposes intersect with Paul’s finite thought, human emotions and earthbound motivations?

Today, I’m praying for wisdom in choosing my steps, and gratefully trusting God with the direction of my path.