Thursday, May 31, 2012

Secure in God

How important is our self-esteem? Pretty important when you consider that many people we meet on a daily basis are very insecure. Maybe you remember the man who kept piling on his exploits so everyone would be impressed or the woman who never let anyone else talk. They were both trying to earn approval from people because of their insecurities. We get most of our security in the first three years of our lives from the loving bond with mom and dad. Something wonderful happens in a child’s life when she realizes that she is loved unconditionally. However, we can only get another part from God. He is our creator, and we long for his affirmation until we are secure in him.

As secure and unconditional as the love we received from our parents is, it can never hold a light to God’s unconditional love for each of us. He loves us despite our faults and shortcomings, and he never changes his love. He loves us even when we are unworthy of his love. When we come to God, no matter what the occasion, he is ready and willing to embrace us with his love.

I play this little game with one of my two-year-old granddaughters: I say, “Are you grandpa’s girl?” She usually answers, “No, I’m grandma’s girl or mommy’s girl.” I respond by saying, “What!” and she giggles. The other night, however, at an outside barbecue she came up to me said, “Grandpa, can I hold you?” I, of course, picked her up and sat her down on my lap, and we had some Cheez-Its together. I asked her, “Whose girl are you?” She responded, “Grandpa’s girl.” I very well knew that the next time grandma or mommy appeared I would be outclassed, but that never kept me from loving my little granddaughter when she asked to be held. Likewise, when we come to God, regardless of the reason, he never questions the motive but extends his loving arms to us. In fact, that is what Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28-30
28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Living Life With No Regrets

Many years ago while living in Argentina, I flew to a city and took a taxi to some friends’ house where I would be staying while I conducted business there. They weren’t home, so I sat outside along the fence waiting for them. I found myself watching some little children across the street play children’s games. They were having a ball. Suddenly, a pickup truck screeched to a halt, raising a cloud of dust. It was their father. They greeted him warmly, “Hola, Papi.” Despite the excitement of his little children to see him, he never returned their greeting. Instead, he yelled at them to get out of the way while he raced toward the front door kicking toys out of his path. He entered the house and immediately started yelling at his wife. In a few minutes he raced back outside, got into the truck and sped off. The quiet, fun-loving house had been transformed in a matter of minutes into a home filled with anxiety, sadness, confusion and anger. There were cries and sobs coming from the inside and outside of the house—all because of the actions of a careless father. I watched the dust settle as the cloud his truck had stirred up from the dirt road came slowly down. I couldn’t help but wonder what life would be like for this man in 20 or 30 years after the dust of his influence had really settled. Would there be any regrets of how he treated his family? If this is the way he treated his family on a day-to-day basis, I wonder how his children will treat him in his old age?

Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” expresses the idea of living life with no regrets. The traveler was faced with a decision of which road to take—he chose the one less traveled. He knew the importance of his choice because he doubted that he should have that same choice again, and he was right. Gratefully, the poem ends this way:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.[i]

Life is too important to waste and too valuable to neglect. For that reason, our choices today affect what life will be for us tomorrow.

[i] Selected Poems of Robert Frost, Barns & Noble, New York, 1993, P. 72.

[i] Selected Poems of Robert Frost, Barns & Noble, New York, 1993, P. 72.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Simple or Smart

Are we simple or smart? That is the question that Proverbs asks each of us. According to this book, by nature, we are simple and prone to make mistakes. These proverbs are directed to us as a way of helping us. They beckon us to listen so that we can learn.

Proverbs 9:4 “‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment.”

We each have a destination even if we don’t realize it. We are on our way to somewhere. We are also involved in a journey—it’s life’s journey. Both our destination and our journey are so important. The destination refers to the direction of our life. Where are we headed? Where will we eventually end up? What will our life look like in twenty years? The journey is important because it refers to what is going on now, in the meantime. What are we like? How much are we learning as we make this journey? How well do we relate with the people around us? How much do we enjoy life? We are either wise or foolish in our choice of destination, and we are either wise or foolish in our journey.

A few minutes ago I pulled a folder off my shelf. The folder contains my original notes from the very first study I gave of the book of Proverbs over thirty years ago. Just the sight of the folder brings back a flood of memories. While we were in ministry in Tucuman, Argentina, I noticed the behavior of a couple of the young men in the church as being a little inappropriate. I knew as I observed their attitudes and behavior that they would benefit from knowing the timeless principles of the Word of God. These young students lacked understanding in simple things about life. I remember the day I started writing down my thoughts about this future class. I was in the city of Salta, some two hundred miles from my home, where I was sitting at a restaurant waiting for my bus departure. I used the napkins to write my thoughts down. Over the next few weeks, I continued to jot down every topic I thought would be appropriate for them. Then some time later, I started teaching this class using Proverbs as a guide. The year and a half that followed was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. God so anointed and blessed that class that all of us had our eyes opened, and we saw things that we had never seen before in the book of Proverbs. Many times that class ended with all of us in tears. As I prepared, it was a lot of work, especially since I was still learning the Spanish language, but I prepared with delight. The class grew as the students learned with enthusiasm. Undoubtedly, it was an extraordinary privilege for me which has given me a great memory.

I am beginning a study of Proverbs with my congregation here in People’s Church tonight. It is my desire that as we make this journey through the book, we listen to Wisdom as she calls to each of us.