Monday, June 25, 2012

Two wrongs...

Week 26:

I Thessalonians 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

I have heard it said and have said myself, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” There are so many phrases and truths that we speak in our lives that have such deep rooted Biblical ties. This passage shed light on the “two wrongs” phrase for me. Many times when I read a verse, it sends me to other places as well.

In Matthew, Jesus touches on this philosophy of not repaying evil with evil or wrong with wrong. The first reference is in the passage about “an eye for an eye.” Jesus implies that we do not repay evil with evil. We are to stand strong and be “the better person” so to speak. Furthermore, in the next few verses, Jesus actually tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Wow! What a tough assignment…especially in today’s culture.

Besides raising my own children, I deal with students on a regular basis. I have to regularly refer to this phrase of “two wrongs don’t make a right.” In most cases, the child or student has reacted to someone who has provoked him. When dealing with said child/student, he nearly always makes a comment like, “Well, he did such and such to me.” And my response is typically, “So it makes it right for you to have taken the action you have taken?” Part of his “repay” response is just human nature. It is age-old otherwise Jesus would not have talked about it. The other part of the “repay” response is because we live in such a selfish culture.

I find myself often wanting to go down a “repay” route when dealing with a wrong in my life. I even use religiosity as my motivation to repay a wrong. For example, I will ask God to give the person his or her due. Even though God has told me, “Vengeance is mine…” it does not mean that I am to call the curses of God down on someone who has “wronged” me. In fact, another passage comes to mind that I should follow. Matthew 7:12 says, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” If I am living this way, I am not looking to repay a wrong with wrong. No matter what the person has done, if I am living according to what Jesus has commanded, I am looking at the situation from a different view than repayment. In fact, Proverbs 24:17, tells us not to gloat or rejoice when our enemy stumbles or falls.

As I watch TV these days and as I listen to conversations; I realize that our society is heavy towards revenge, vengeance, and bitterness. We live in an age of litigation. Furthermore, we are more worried about what we get or do not get. I believe this is part of what drives us to repay wrong for wrong.

The challenge is to view wrongs from the eyes of Jesus. When standing before the teachers of the law, he did not repay their wrong. When being beaten, he did not repay their wrong. When hanging on the cross, his only repayment was forgiveness. That is the mindset I must adjust to. I must work toward a Romans 12:2 mindset: “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I must live the words from I Thessalonians 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.


1. Give an example of where you have repaid wrong for wrong. How did that feel initially? How did it feel ultimately?
2. With the shoe on the other foot, how has it felt when being repaid your wrong with wrong? Did it make you want to continue the cycle? Explain.
3. What steps have you taken to avoid repaying wrong with wrong?
4. What steps are you willing to take to improve your view around repaying wrong with wrong?
5. Ask God to point out to you this week where you can improve in this area and jot down some notes when you recognize His revelation to you.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Many advisers...

Week 25:

Proverbs 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

How many times have you made a fairly heavy decision with a “Lone Ranger” mentality? I know I have. Sometimes those decisions work out. Many times they do not. Why is it that we do not ask for advice when making plans? Do you face trouble and counsel yet do not ask? Do you play the tough person and try to muddle through it on prayer and self-help? Why do we do this?

Maybe we are afraid that our ‘advisors’ will talk us out of a want we may have. I know that when I am dead set on a decision around a want, I do not want to hear the devil’s advocate tell me that I may be making a bad decision. Or, I may be making a rash decision and my adviser maybe just helping me wait. Either way, I want what I want when I want it.

Is it possible that when we ask advice or counsel that we may feel that we will be perceived as weak or ignorant? I know that many times I will not ask because some message in my head will say, “He will think you are ignorant, incompetent, a spiritual mess.” This keeps me from asking many times when I need counsel or have a decision to make. Within this thought process would be the chance we have received incorrect or hurtful advice that has left deep scars and bitterness.

Another reason may be that we just do not want to bother the person(s) about our “stuff”. I just do not want to be a burden to anyone. My potential adviser is busy and I do not want to waste his time with my decisions. I may have even run into a person or two in the past who said, “That’s a decision you will have to make on your own.” Or they say, “You just need to toughen up and push through the situation.” I take that challenge and apply it to all my decisions and just do not ask for advice or counsel.

Contrary to all these reasons, the Proverb still tells me to ask for counsel and advice. I believe one of the reasons that we are to ask is because through people, God speaks to us. This is not the only method he uses, but it is one (To understand more about how God speaks today, I suggest working through Henry Blackabay’s Experiencing God Material). By asking others, we hear other perspectives besides our own. If it lands or sticks and it lines up with truth, I believe it comes from God.

Another reason to ask for advice or counsel is because the person(s) we are asking usually are not emotionally tied or close to the situation we are in. Therefore, the adviser is able to give an unbiased view and opinion. When I am in the middle of my “stuff”, all I see is my “stuff”. I cannot see the big picture or past my emotion. My advisers can step back and look at it all and advise me according to how they know me and my character.

A final reason to follow the charge of this Proverb would be to bless others. This is a strange way to look at this so bear with me. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” When we ask for counsel and advice, we allow those who want to carry our burdens to do so. This becomes their blessing to us and in turn it blesses them as well.

God has good reason to place this Proverb into our life. He knows that we need many advisers to get through this life here on earth. By practicing this verse, it allows us to live stronger in community with one another as well.


1. In what ways have you shunned or not asked for advice or counsel? Explain.
2. Why have you chosen the route of not asking?
3. What are some areas of your life where you really could have used someone’s viewpoint?
4. Where is an area where you can begin to receive counsel or advice now?
5. This week, what commitment are you willing to make around asking counsel or advice? Make that commitment and ask God to guide you around that this week.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Daniel's prayer of praise...

Week 24:

Daniel 2:20-23 …20”Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 23I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel has just had his first vision in order to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. God has revealed to Daniel what the dream was and what is was about. Now Daniel is giving praise to God for the revelation.


Notice how Daniel begins with giving God the glory. What an example for us to begin our praise a prayer with God. Give God the glory that is His due. He is almighty God who is more than deserving of our praise.

As the praise continues, Daniel becomes more specific about the power of God. He gives some general examples of how God is powerful around the seasons and earthly authorities. Daniel gives credit for man’s wisdom by acknowledging God’s gift of such.

Now notice Daniel honing in on the wisdom granted. He points out that God is the source of revelation for hidden things. By pointing out that God sees into the darkness is a testament to the fact that nothing is hidden from God. It is God who decides to reveal deeply hidden things.

Finally, Daniel gives thanks for the specific answer to his prayer for interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. What is interesting is that Nebuchadnezzar is not one of God’s people, yet God allows Daniel to help him. Just a side story of how God can use anything and anyone to reveal himself and his glory.

What can we learn from this prayer of praise? First, we are to acknowledge God as the almighty and all-powerful creator. We are to point out where we see his mighty hand at work. Second, we are to notice where he has worked more specifically in our lives…where we have seen his hand at work before. Third, we are to be thankful for the specific answer of yes. Gratefulness should be a part of the praise we have for God. He showers his blessing on us regularly.

I caution readers not to take this outline and make it into some kind of formula for praise. This is only a model as are many examples of great prayers and songs throughout the Bible. My challenge for me is to incorporate this model into my life in a way that is real. What I do not want it to become is just another routine that has no meaning and true heartfelt praise for God.


1. What came up for you as you read this passage of praise?
2. What can you learn from Daniel and his praise of God?
3. Where are you lacking praise for God in your life?
4. Spend time this week assessing areas of your life where you need to give God the praise for His revelation and gift. Spend some quiet time praising God for those areas.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Thoughts and ways...

Week 23:

Isaiah 55:8-9 8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

What a strong reminder of who is God! I know that in my life, I make many decisions without first inquiring of God. When my plans go awry, I question God as to why the plans did not work. Is this an experience you have had as well?

Idolatry still occurs today. However, in our western culture, as a whole, we do not have a statue type idol that we set up as a god to worship. Now, we have some of what I call “distractive” idols like money, sex, power, worldly goods, influential people, etc. But, as a whole, I believe our main idol that we worship is ourselves. In this “me” generation and this “me” culture, we set ourselves up as gods. We rely on our own understanding. We feed our egos and desires. We have decided to rely on nothing, no one, only ourselves. We rely on our own knowledge and our own power. We deny the spiritual realm in many cases and believe that if it cannot be seen, touched, felt, or measured…it does not exist. If we cannot do it ourselves, then it cannot be done. The sad part is…we sprinkle in a little God here and a dash of Jesus there and call it good.

One of the great revelations in our “me” mentality is that God is still God, and we cannot explain everything. No matter how hard we try. God knows the master plan. As educated as we can become, there are still too many things we cannot know and/or figure out. Only God can know the answer. His thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways. This passage is powerful, comforting, and disconcerting.

One, it is powerful because it is a reminder of how big God is and how small I am. He is still God and I am not. He chooses how things are and will be. He has the power to do that. No matter how hard I may try, His will is His will. Second, it is comforting to me to know that God is in control. He has my greater good in mind, no matter how bad my circumstances may be. That actually takes some pressure off of me. God is in control, I just need to follow. Third, it is disconcerting because I think I have the answers and I think I know how this life is supposed to play out. God has other plans and many times they do not match mine. My ego struggles with that, because I have set myself up as a god in my life. It is very hard at times to wrap my mind around what God has planned because…His thoughts are not my thoughts and my ways are not His ways.

As a side note here, I do believe that God empowers us to use our mind and experiences to guide us. In fact we have quite a bit of power due to receiving the Holy Spirit when we accepted Jesus as our savior. However, we must remember from where the power comes.

Next time you are feeling way too smart for your own good, remember that His thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways. When you are feeling that you are overwhelmed with your circumstances take comfort that His thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways. God is still the ultimate power and we are His creation, created for His bidding.


1. In what ways have you set yourself up as a god?
2. Describe any modern day idolatry you have witnessed?
3. What comes to mind for you when you read; “His thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways.”?
4. Spend some time each day this week meditating on this passage and see what message God has for you around this passage.

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