Monday, December 14, 2009

Stick a Bow On It

I've been on one passage in scripture for a couple of days now. At first, its sting caught me off guard. I began to look at different versions, different translations, root words, all in a very vain effort to repackage, reword and take the edge off.
Nope. It's like wrapping a baseball bat for Christmas. No matter what, it's gonna look like a bat. I guess with some things we just need to stick a bow on it, and it is what it is.

Anybody out there got a problem with your tongue? With mouthing off, snapping, flipping your lid, trash talking....gossip? No? How about tearing people down or belittling, maybe swearing? Hold onto your knickers, cause it's a bumpy ride from here...

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
(James 1:26)

There's a harshness about it isn't there? And it just won't be repackaged. I've tried with every translation of the bible that I could find. If we deceive ourselves with an uncontrolled tongue:
KJV-our religion is in vain.
MSG-our religion is hot air, and only hot air.
NIRV-our beliefs are not worth anything at all.
ESV,GWT,NASB,NET,WEB-our religion is worthless.
AMP-our religious service is worthless.
CEV,HCSB-everything you do is useless.
NCV-our 'religion' is worth nothing.
Even the original word meaning is 'empty and profitless'.

Ouch. I had to take a Band-Aid off for my son this morning. He had a huge blistered burn and the bandage mom had put on just wasn't big enough, so it had actually become part of the wound. The skin was stuck to it. No matter what, there was just no easy way to do what had to be done. It had to come off, the wound had to be cleaned. The peroxide had to do it's work, and the Neosporin had to be rubbed in. It was absolutely unpleasant for him, but still necessary, and he'll heal properly for persevering through the sting. So will you and I. Some things you just can't dress up and put a Band-Aid over.

There's no room for misinterpretation, no way to rephrase it.

It's not that the text says our faith is in danger, or that our salvation is in jeopardy, but that our religion, our system of beliefs and practices, is empty, useless, pointless and futile.

But if the definition of faith is trust, to have belief in something of which there is no proof, then isn't it possible for us to lose our faith? To set it down, because our religion, our beliefs have become corroded and useless? If your practice of religion is faulted, then your faith will follow suit.

Is this making you think a little more about your choice of words?

Ahhhh, the tongue. Say "elelelelel" right now out loud... Yeah, that thing flopping around in your mouth. If any closet or corner of your house is missed by the broom, what happens? We've all seen that spot behind the toilet where the mop doesn't man's land. In the same way, if any closet or corner of our souls are left unchecked under the brooming sweep of God's perfect law, we can expect a gathering of filth and cobwebs. And friends, nowhere is that sin more blatantly revealed than in the words we choose to paint with.

'Out of the overflow of our heart the mouths speaks' the bible says. As uncontrollable as vomit. That's why it's a true reflection of what we're feeling inside, and why I think this verse is so stark. But, isn't it good to know that we have this built in thermometer, to check ourselves, to evaluate?

Are the white bubbles fizzing in the wound, pulling the dirt out and cleaning out the gunk?
Praise God for peroxide, amen?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shut it!

Lead with your ears, follow with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear...(James 1:19 from The Message)

Get out a little nail and hammer, because this is a great message to hang on the wall of our hearts, and a perfect gut-check for every relationship, whether it's at home or at work, with the kids or with your somewhat incompetent co-worker...God.
Some verses just really drive it home don't they? That's one of the things I love about the bible. You don't find that kind of honesty in the every day humdrum. Getting hammered with a verse now and then is actually good for the soul, wouldn't you agree? After all, if it was all so agreeable and natural for us, what would be the point?

This verse falls in line with the teaching of Christ. Set in such stark contrast from the worlds ways, the best leaders are the ones who serve, and so of course, the best way to lead would be to....listen?
Yes. Not always whipping out the arsenal of summaries or theologies to be pitched or delivered, giving our 2 cents, but instead to just be still and listen.

To sum it up: Shut it!
Open your ears and make room for patience to persevere, squelching that natural anger and allowing, even yielding the right of way to real wisdom. Even when your light was green. Even when your wheels came to a stop first.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Quarrelsome Wife

Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
(Pro 21:9)
Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.
(Pro 21:19)
Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
(Pro 25:24) (yes, it's in their twice, it's that serious!)
A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day;
(Pro 27:15)

I always got a good laugh out of these verses, and right up to this morning I read them them out loud as I was flipping the pages. Loving it! The words were so choice! Better to live not in a corner of the house, not in another room, but on the roof top, har-har-har, in the farthest possible spot, from the quarrelsome wife... get as far away from that tornado as possible! Whooo-eee, that guy nailed it! Hilarious.....until this morning.

Then after I got my good laugh today, reading that one out loud, the Lord brought the hammer down, pulled away the wool, opened my eyes, humbled me, whatever you want to call dawned on me that the verse wasn't written to give husbands a good chuckle, to use as ammo on their wives... it was written as instruction to the man, to give wisdom to the man. Yes, a quarrelsome wife is a very, very unpleasant experience, but why, WHY, is she quarrelsome? What put her in that position, that mood, that dripping?

Dirty socks two inches away from the hamper, almost there, but not quite.

Dishes, stacking up, with dried bits of food that are now concrete sculptures, waiting to be chiseled. Ooh, they were under the sink, directly under the gaze of the faucet, but the lever was never lifted...too heavy to exert the energy to bring the water.

None of this hitting home? Maybe it's because you're not looking at the root like me? What is the cause of the quarrelsome wife? Most of the time, it's us men.

How is it that the car keys are always misplaced, and it's never our fault, but hers? She has to find everything for me.

How about plain exhaustion? She's tired, eyes drooping and just wanting a few minutes of quiet, and we come in and say those lovely, heartfelt words, "What's for dinner?"

Or my #1 quarrelsome wife instigator: "What's your problem?"

What about when they need our help, our pitching in, and we are unavailable, we've drifted off to another room, we're surfing the internet, we're 'busy'. We've been working all day and we think we just deserve to come home and unplug.

Not too funny anymore, not for me anyway. I feel like I'm the puppy that just pooped on the floor and the the Lord is the master, dragging my nose through it so I don't forget. When He decides to humble, it can really be a drag...

As I was laughing about those verses this morning, I felt the knock...and the Lord turned the tables. What can we do to honor and respect them, make them feel loved and cherished, and then what don't we do, to bring about the wife mentioned in these verses? Something to think about, but something that also requires hands and feet. Action. Not just words and thoughts...

I could just erase this blog, instead of posting it, making myself accountable. I could just delete, backspace....never admitting that anything ever dawned on me... I could do that, how many guys are wishing I had?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Iron Sharpens Iron

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
(Pro 27:17)

Ever tried to cut into something with a dull, raggedy old knife, when the edge of the blade is pitted and worn round?
Not only are the results frustrating, but getting the job done is just more work. And getting the job done right just isn't going to happen. You just make do with what you've got.

Christians are the same way. In the ancient days soldiers didn't have the shiny, oily, beautiful works of art strapped to their belts like they do in Hollywood. They had big, meaty, ugly looking weapons that packed a punch, and there was nothing polished about them. But, and this is a big but, they did have great workmanship in keeping sharp edges. A good soldier worked his blade to a sharp edge, because that was his tool, not because it was pretty.

The verse gives us a great visual about how friends can sharpen one anothers countenance. The word means "face". What? Yes. Picture it this way, when you're happy, you smile. When you're mad, your eyebrows and forehead wrinkle up, and when you're tired your eyes droop. Your face, your countenance, shows your mood, your demeanor, at any given time of the day.

So when friends come together, it's biblical. We aren't meant to be islands, isolated from fellowship. It may not always be appealing since by nature even I'm a good hermit, but it is still necessary if I expect to be any kind of a useful tool in the hands of Christ, to keep that sharp edge. To work and rub through the burrs and pits in life.

When you encourage, admonish, lift up or even rebuke out of love for one another, you are in effect, sharpening the demeanor, the mood of your friend, and yourself. Iron sharpens iron.

But it's a two way street.

By sharpening, we grow stronger together, because we show one another that we care.
In contrast, if you do any of those things without love, you may as well be hacking away at your friend. While you're tearing them down you're really tearing yourself down, and you both wind up dull and uninteresting. The tool master finds Himself working harder than He needs to get the job done, and when the results are mediocre at best, how long will it be until that tool gets set off to the side or even thrown out, replaced by another? The job will get done with or without you, Christian. It's up to you to keep yourself in working condition.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Shame of the Cross

Reading Corrie Ten Boom last night in the book The Hiding Place, she gives an account about a routine health inspection that was forced on the prisoners in her concentration camp during WWII. The guards made them all strip naked and it was very shameful. Yet while the guards were smirking and making faces as the women were paraded in front of them, Corrie had the revelation that Jesus had endured that same shame... while hanging on the cross. He met her there, in her agony, in her most awful moment, and reminded her of His love. It was enough to help her endure that pain.

We don't picture Jesus naked on the cross. All of those famous artists renditions always depict Him with a loincloth around his groin, and while they painted with the purpose of showing respect to the sacrifice, I think we lose something in affording Christ the dignity that He didn't really have.

Matthew 27 records the events, in that they stripped Jesus and placed a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns on Him to mock the majesty of who He claimed to be. After they were finished, they then took it off. It goes on to say that they put his own clothes back on Him, but it wouldn't have been for long.

In the days of crucifixion, the Romans made certain to strip the victims down to nothing, to humiliate them and add to their shame. They wanted the visual impact to be as mortifying as possible to the public, and so Jesus, just another Jew to them, wouldn't have been any different.

He truly gave everything for us, right down to His dignity. There was nothing more that could have possibly been snatched away. He was cut, lacerated to the bone, bruised and beaten to the point of being unrecognizable, He was given a sour drink when He was thirsty, and He was ridiculed while He slowly succumbed to the most painful death known to mankind....because He loved You. Could anyone love you more?

One of the verses to a song we're still composing really makes me stop and ponder just how much Jesus really loves us...

"He didn't have to hang there,
But He did.
On rough lumber, carved into the cross.
Splinters ran deep into
already open wounds...
and He still prayed for the lost."