May 25, 2011

“Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
(Proverbs 4:23)

The Webster dictionary defines a “default setting” as a preset value that a computer system assumes or an action that it takes unless otherwise instructed.  Any electronic device you buy today comes with default settings – a television, a DVR, a microwave, a car radio, a computer, and any software you install on your computer.  For instance, when you change the font on your computer, then shut that particular program, the computer reverts back to its default font setting – i.e. Times New Roman. 

What’s your default setting?  Yes, even humans have default settings.  We call it the heart.  All of life flows from your heart – both physically and spiritually.  To determine the default setting of your heart you can ask yourself a couple questions:

  • When not forced to think about other things, what do I naturally think about?
  • What do I find myself daydreaming about?

Now, don’t beat yourself up.  Since we are all born with a human nature, the most common spiritual default setting is “selfishness” in one form or another.

But here’s the good news.  On many electronic devices, you can change some of the default settings.  For instance, on my computer I have changed the default font setting from Times New Roman to Arial.  Likewise, the default settings of your heart can be changed, as well.  When you fall in love with Jesus, He begins to reprogram your heart – i.e. your default language, your default reactions, your default attitudes, etc.  He does so through regular input of God’s Word and reliance on the indwelling Holy Spirit.  

What’s your default setting?  Has Jesus reprogrammed some of your default settings?

Dear Heavenly Father,
I admit that I am naturally selfish.
I am grateful that Jesus Christ has already
changed some of the default settings of my heart.
May He continue to reprogram my heart!
In Jesus’ name, Amen!


March 9, 2011

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”
(James 4:1)

Last Sunday afternoon, Barb & I watched Caleb & Ethan for a few hours while their parents had other obligations.  I was intrigued by their wrestling with each other.  Even though Ethan is just 2 years old, he would still grab his 4-year old brother and wrestle him to the floor.  Then they took turns sitting on each other and they’d roll around the floor for awhile.  When one got up, they’d start all over again.  Of course, this was all in good fun. 

Unfortunately, our “fighting” is not always in good fun.  Even at ages 2 and 4, our grandchildren’s strong wills flare up occasionally; especially when their brother has something they want.  Then, it’s no longer fun “wrestling” – now it’s a serious “fight.”

Many of us never seem to grow out of it.  The world is full of all kinds of fighting today… 

  • International wars
  • Class conflict
  • Office politics
  • Church fights
  • Family feuds
  • Personal battles

Why?  James identifies the root problem very clearly.  Fights and quarrels are inevitably sourced in the desires that rage in our hearts.  In other words, they are rooted in selfishness.  It’s true with kids.  And it’s true as adults.  We never seem to outgrow it. 

The next time you catch yourself fighting with someone, take a minute to step back and examine your own heart.  Ask yourself, “Am I being selfish?”  Then ask God to remove any selfishness and give you a genuine concern for the other person.  See what happens?

Dear Heavenly Father,
I confess that my heart harbors some selfishness.
Keep my eyes focused on Jesus rather than self.
Give me a genuine love & concern for the people in my life.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


February 23, 2011

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father,
and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.
Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.
My brothers, this should not be.”
(James 3:9-10) 

We love to talk.  America is a nation of talkers.  Everybody has something to say.  Maybe that’s why talk shows are so popular today.  Statistics suggest…

  • You have at least 30 conversations per day
  • You spend 20% of your life talking
  • In one year, your conversations could fill 66 books of 800 pages each
  • If you are a man, you speak an average of 15,000 words per day
  • If you are a woman, you speak an average of  30,000 words per day

No wonder James cautions us to guard our tongues.  Since they are so active, they can easily get us in trouble.  Check out what James says about the tongue in James 3:1-12…

  • The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts (v. 5)
  • The tongue is a spark that sets the whole course of one’s life on fire   (v. 6)
  • No man can tame the tongue   (v. 8 )
  • The tongue is full of deadly poison.   (v. 8 )
  • With our tongues, we praise the Lord and we curse men   (v. 9)

Here’s the catch.  Your tongue is simply an extension of your heart.  Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).  So, what do you think the secret is to taming your tongue?

Come to church this Sunday and learn the TGiF principle for taming your tongue!

Dear Heavenly Father,
I confess that my tongue is often unruly.
I want to be a good testimony for you. Help me to tame my tongue.
May Your Holy Spirit guard the thoughts and motives of my heart.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


January 12, 2011

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds…”
(James 1:2) 

When my own children were young, one of my favorite stories to read to them was entitled, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  It starts off like this…

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth, and now there’s gum in my hair.  And when I got out of bed this morning, I tripped on the skateboard, and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running.  And I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

At breakfast Anthony found a Corvette Stingray car kit in his breakfast cereal box.  And Nick found a junior undercover agent code ring in his breakfast cereal box.  But in my breakfast cereal box all I found was breakfast cereal.  I think I’ll move to Australia.

And it only gets worse from there.  It was definitely a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Do you ever have days like Alexander’s?  Does Australia sound pretty good to you at times?  But wait!  Australia is having horrible floods right now.  If you move there, your problems might go from bad to worse.  In fact, no matter where you go, you can’t escape trouble & trials.  

Here are a few facts of life from James 1:2-5…

  • Troubles are inevitable – You can’t escape them.  They’re a part of life!
  • Troubles are unpredictable – You never know when they’re going to sneak up on you!
  • Troubles are diverse – They come in all sizes and shapes.
  • Troubles are purposeful – God uses troubles & trials to build character!
  • Troubles are navigable – God promises help you navigate through them.

So, when you find yourself having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day; instead of moving to Australia, try calling on the resources of heaven.  God promises to give you His wisdom and His strength to face whatever comes your way!  

Dear Heavenly Father,
Life is tough.  Sometimes, Australia sounds pretty good.
Lord, I need your wisdom & your strength every day!
May your grace sustain me – even through the tough stuff!
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


January 28, 2010

“Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
(Ephesians 4:2)

Forbearance.  It’s not a word we use in everyday conversation.  But if you have a loan and are having trouble making payments, it’s a great word.  In the banking world, “forbearance” is an agreement between the lender and the borrower to suspend or reduce payments for a period of time.  If you have a student loan the payments may be suspended for a period of time while still in school, but the loan continues to accrue interest which is later capitalized into the loan.  If you have a home loan, “forbearance” means that the lender suspends judgment (foreclosure) on the loan for a period of time to give the borrower an opportunity to catch up on his payments.

That’s similar to the meaning of “forbearance” in the Christian’s life.  It basically means that we “suspend judgment” on others.  It suggests an attitude of patience and tolerance toward people who may rub us the wrong way.  Sometimes it’s just best to grin and bear it.  Forbearance means…

  • I grin & bear other people’s idiosyncrasies, foibles, and quirks.
  • I grin & bear it when a fellow Christian slights me.
  • I grin & bear put-downs, insults, and offenses by my brothers.
  • I refuse to retaliate, lose my temper, or hold grudges.
  • I am quick to forgive those who wrong me.

In these tough economic days many of us would love a little “forbearance” on our loans. Right?  So let’s practice forbearance in our personal relationships, as well.  It’s the last of four attitudes that are essential to unity in the church – humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance.  May all four reign in our hearts and lives as children of God!

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the unity we have in Jesus Christ.
May that unity be evident in the family of God!
May You continue to nurture in my heart the attitudes of
humility, patience, gentleness, and forbearance.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


January 20, 2010

“Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
(Ephesians 4

Have you ever noticed how much time we spend waiting? 

  • We wait in line at the grocery store.  We wait in line at the department store.
  • We wait in the security line at the airport.  We wait to board the airplane. 
  • We wait in line to buy tickets for the movie; then we wait for the movie to start. 
  • We wait at red lights.  We wait in rush-hour traffic. 
  • We wait for the waitress to take our order; we wait for our food; and we wait for the bill. 
  • We wait at the doctor’s office.  We wait in the Emergency Room.  We wait at the DMV.
  • We wait on the phone to talk to a live person.
  • We wait for our computer to warm-up.  We wait for the printer to warm-up.
  • We wait for Christmas.  We wait for New Year.  We wait for our birthday!

Some experts have suggested we spend five years of our life just waiting.  I never would have guessed that Americans were so patient.

There are actually two words in the New Testament for patience.  One relates to the patience we need with the circumstances of life – like all the waiting mentioned above.  But the other word emphasizes patience with people.  Perhaps one reason we do so much waiting in life is because God is teaching us to be patient.  I believe He wants us to translate our “waiting” into “patience” with people, too!  Here’s what that kind of patience looks like…

  • Patience bears the foolishness of men without irritation.
  • Patience bears insult and injury without bitterness or complaint.
  • Patience refuses to retaliate or seek revenge when wronged.
  • Patience is slow to anger.
  • Patience doesn’t hold grudges.

Do you have a hard time being patient with other people?  It may help to remember how patient God is with you.

 Heavenly Father,
Thank you for Your patience!
You are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
I want to be more like You!  Help me, O Lord!
In Jesus’ name, Amen.


July 22, 2009

“A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
(Proverbs 29:11) 

Alexander the Great, in a fit of rage, struck his favorite general one day and killed his best friend.  He cried out, “I’ve conquered the world, but I can’t even conquer my own soul.”  An uncontrolled temper has brought down many great people throughout history.

The average man loses his temper 6 times per week; the average woman loses her temper 3 times per week.  Men tend to be more physical with their anger; while women tend to be more verbal.

So, is anger a sin?  In Ephesians 4:26 Paul instructs us, “In your anger, do not sin…”  Apparently, anger is not necessarily sinful.  In fact, Jesus got angry a couple times.  He even made a whip and threw some money-changers out of the Temple courts.  But, how you express your anger can be very hurtful or sinful.

Some authors have suggested that everybody tends to be a skunk or a turtle.  If you’re a skunk, when you get angry, you just blow up and spray your anger all over the room.  If you’re a turtle, when you get upset, you withdraw into your shell and stuff all your feelings in.  Both responses are unhealthy and hurtful.  Skunks tend to blow up and hurt other people, while turtles internalize their feelings and hurt themselves.  So a wise person learns how to tame his temper and manage his anger.  Here are five tips from Solomon on anger management from the book of Proverbs… 

  • Resolve to control your anger  (29:11)
  • Remember the cost  (29:22)
  • Reflect before reacting  (17:27)
  • Restrain your remarks  (21:23)
  • Release your anger appropriately  (15:1) 

Which is better?  Conquering the world or conquering my own soul? 

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for creating me in Your image.
You gave me an intellect with which to know You,
emotions with which to love You,
and a will with which I can choose to follow You.
Give me the desire to know You and love You more and more
and the courage to follow You wholeheartedly.
In Jesus name, Amen.


July 16, 2009

“He who guards his lips guards his life,
but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”
(Proverbs 13:3)

Did you know that the average individual speaks enough words in one year to fill 66 books, 800 pages long?  The average man speaks about 15,000 words a day; the average woman speaks about 30,000 words a day.  On an average Sunday, 55 million Americans listen to 400,000 preachers deliver over 1 billion words.  We are a nation of talkers – talk shows, talk-radio, wireless phones, cell pones, chat lines, etc.  Is it any wonder our mouths get us into so much trouble?  We love to talk!

Proverbs has a lot to say about our mouths.  In fact, there are over 120 verses in Proverbs that address some aspect of our speech.  Here are a few examples…

  • 12:18 – “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  • 12:19 – “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.”
  • 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
  • 15:2 – “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”
  • 20:19 – “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”
  • 21:23 – “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.”

How many different ways can you identify that your mouth can get you in trouble?  If we want to avoid the pitfalls that accompany our mouths, we must learn to manage our mouths.  Fortunately, Solomon gives some advice on how to manage my mouth.  Here are four suggestions…

  • Think before you speak  (engage your mind before putting your mouth in gear)
  • Speak the truth
  • Speak in love
  • Reprogram your heart

I believe that last suggestion is the most important, because your mouth is only a reflection of your heart.  Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).   The best way to manage your mouth is to reprogram your heart with God’s Word.  

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the Bible.  Your Word is truth!
“May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
In Jesus name, Amen.”