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Archive for August, 2010

“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd.  Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.  Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.  Now all has been heard;   here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,  for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:11-13).”

At the moment I am sitting in the public library surrounded by books, magazines, computers with Internet and DVDs. Information overload.

When I find time to read, I pretty much read history or fiction these days, or I read the news and sports. How to books, especially from Christians, is out.

This is because I believe that most people have very little to say. In some ways, I think we live in an age of arrogance, in which people think they know, and tell others about it.

I suppose I could be accused of that just writing a blog. That’s media today:everyone has access to getting their thoughts out.

I listen to very few people when it comes to practical advice about living. These are people I trust. Listening to anyone else in my view is risky.

There is one other Person I listen to: God.  This probably makes me a crackpot or nut in a lot of people’s eyes in our modern world, but I don’t care.

I thought about how crazy Christians must seem to those who do not believe in Jesus Christ this morning.  This is because I saw a crazy neighbor, who in the end, only looked nuts.

I was sitting in my car waiting for my kids to get in so I could take them to school when a slightly overweight, middle-aged man came walking down my street in the  fog. He was wearing what looked like a pith helmet. He looked like somoene out of the hit flick “Bridge Over the River Kwai.”

I thought to myself,”This man is weird.” I even hoped my children wouldn’t come out of the door as he came by because I feared he would spot them and I feared for their future safety.

Then he passed my driver’s side window. He was singing “This is My Father’s World.” Here are the full lyrics:

“This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres. 
This is my Father’s world: 
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise. 
This is my Father’s world: 
he shines in all that’s fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. 
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet. 
This is my Father’s world: 
why should my heart be sad? 
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! 
God reigns; let the earth be glad!”

Somehow as this man approached, in the recesses of my heart, I knew he was a believer. He was strange. He was different. And that’w what we are.

This man ministered to me. In my miserable state on a Monday morning, He reminded me that there is a loving God who owns this place and is in control.

There are not a lot of wise people out there, but I think this crazy looking dude was one of them. He had understanding out there doing his morning constitutional which at that early hour I did not have.

A wise man of Proverbs knew his own limitations, too.

“I am the most ignorant of men; 
I do not have a man’s understanding.

I have not learned wisdom, 
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.

Who has gone up to heaven and come down? 
Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? 
Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? 
Who has established all the ends of the earth? 
What is his name, and the name of his son? 
 Tell me if you know (Proverbs 30:2-4)!”

This man knew where to get understanding he didn’t have. After the above lament, he wrote  “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him (Proverbs 30:5).”

 The problem today is that too many people are trying to be mini-Gods and Jr. Holy Spirits and tell people how to live. I gather there is nothing wrong with this in principle. We all need advice.

However, a lot of so-called wisdom comes from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. They influence people wrongly, and are dangerous, now and eternally.

 Mr. Proverbs also wrote,”Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar (Proverbs 30:6).” Sounds good to me.

The best thing to do in this day and age is to find a couple people who really know God and His Word, and add a little common sense to the mix. Safety lies there.

If the rest of the world thinks that strange, too bad. They’re the ones in the wrong. Sing on my weirdo brothers

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“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;  someone else, and not your own lips (Proverbs 27:2).”

Newsweek just announced that in their estimation, Finland is the best country in which to live. While these results are debatable, what is even more interesting is the response of the Finns themselves.

In typical fashion,  the Finnish media is doing a lot of handwringing over the label given to them by a popular worldwide media outlet.  One commentary in the international edition of the Helsinki newspaper is titled “The Best or the Happiest”?  The emphasis in this article is that the results in the Finns eyes are indeed questionable.

In another article from the same newspaper, Finns are described as “torn” by the results, even though the main subject of the piece is that immigrants consider Finland to be “something out of a fairy tale”.

The Helsinki paper says the Finns themselves know their own drawbacks.  For example, their citizens are prone to depression and their are cutbacks in social services.

I am amused by the response of the Finns to the praise they are receiving in the worldwide media because I know them so well. I am married to one, and have lived in the country. It is funny to me because we Americans are so different from the Finns. We crave praise and have it for breakfast.

On the other hand, The Finns are embarrassed when the microscope is put on them.  They don’t like to be singled out. Yes, they are extremely proud of their country, but they’d rather not talk about it, or much of anything else for that matter. They are a very quiet, introspective clan.

While the navel gazing of the Finns is humorous to me , it is also admirable.  These people look for the truth when others assess them.  The Finns don’t just take everything at face value, good or bad. They analyze it.

The wise man of Proverbs says that praise is a form of testing. When others lift us up, our response tells others if we have a good character, or if we are foolish (Proverbs 27:21,22).

Jesus Himself did not go around flaunting His deity.  At his trial before execution, He kept quiet about His true nature, until the Roman governor asked Him directly. At this point, Jesus responded with a truthful, forthright answer (Matthew 27:11).

 We Americans would do well to be a little more like the Finns. We may get passed over for a promotion at work are lose a girlfriend or boyfriend  because we didn’t toot our own horn.

However, in God’s scheme of things, we just aced an exam when we let Him and others single us out for special praise.

With God, a little humility goes a long way.

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“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:12,13).”

This morning I took my two youngest children to the local Christian school for the first time as new students.  I drove into the drop off area and right as my kids opened the door and left the car to leave, my son got yelled, “Dad, wait, I forgot something.”

Suddenly,  a honking horn came from behind me. Obviously, the driver behind me was perturbed at something. I thought,”Great, my first day at a Christian school and another parent gets on my case.”

I parked to let my son get his forgotten lunch, and the man who had honked at me came over to explain to me the error of my ways. He was nice about it and we shook hands.

Still, I was a little stressed and went to the nearby coffee shop to relax a bit.  I sat outside because it was a nice morning.

As I sat there, a middle-aged, overweight gentleman sat down and nearby and began making calls on his cell phone. He was right next to me so I could hear all his business.

This man seemed stressed, and got me even more stressed. Then he said,”Hey, are  you going to church this weekend. Let’s get lunch and talk then.” I thought, “Hmm, another stressed out Christian.”

We believers are not immune to stress, nor are we invincible to sin and failure in our lives. It would be nice if it weren’t so, and we could be perfect in this life, but it ain’t gonna happen.

The best of people are human, and sometimes their weaknesses lead them into hell. Take golfer Tiger Woods for example.

His wife Ellen Norgegren is the cover story in a popular magazine this week, discussing her shock at his betrayal.  The couple recently divorced over his multiple affairs.

Prior to the news of these dalliances, Tiger Woods had a squeaky clean image. He would have been the perfect candidate to do a milk commercial directed at kids. Who knew he was a sex addict?

The New York Daily News, in discussing the contents of the magazine article, quotes a clinical psychologist, who praises Nordegren for saying that she wants to reach the stage where she can forgive her former husband..

“It’s the healthiest road that one can take in this situation,” said pyschologist Diana Kirschner “To work on forgiveness is critical. A lack of forgiveness is shown in research to cause the person who was cheated on more stress and health problems.”

There you have it. It is the victim of the former “good” man who is the the more stressed. The cause: failure to forgive.

We might believe we are like the Psalmist, who writes,”Vindicate me, O LORD,  for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering… I walk continually in your truth. I do not sit with deceitful men, 
nor do I consort with hypocrites. I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O LORD…(Psalm 26:1,4-6).” Perhaps we are –or perhaps not. 

Whether we are righteous or not, when we are betrayed we need to forgive. Otherwise, our righteousness becomes self-righteousness.

In the last meal Jesus ever had with his disciple, famously portrayed in Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting, “The Last Supper”and recorded in Matthew 26, Jesus is discussing betrayal. One of them is going to betray Him.

Prior to his meal, his disciples grumble about an incident in which a woman anoints Him with expensive perfume. Why, this fragrance could have been sold for a lot of money and given to the poor, they complain.

After the supper, in Jesus’s agony over His impending execution, His closest disciples can’t stay awake while praying. Jesus  is turned over to His enemies by his disciple Judas. In addtion, one of his most trusted confidantes, Peter, disowns Him.

It is no coincidence that Jesus offered the first communion in the middle of being failed and deserted by His closest friends. He said during the supper,”This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).” He knew these men were going to need absolution.

Don’t we all. We all put our pants and dresses on the same way. No one is exempt from sin and its consequences before heaven.

We ought to cut each other a little slack, and forgive one another a little more. Humans we are.

I can start by forgiving those closest to me when I have something against them, and work at it with complete strangers, like beeping fathers at Christian schools or stressed out believers interrupting my quiet space at a coffee shop.  We’re all in the same boat, bailing until Jesus comes back.

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“Those who sow in tears  will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:5,6).”

I like  other cultures and traveling, which is why I have enjoyed living in several different places the last decade or so. My family and I have been like bees, flitting from place to place.

Now, though, we are living in a beautiful area surrounded by mountains in southwest Virginia. This was the home of my pre-teen years, and I hope never to leave it. Right now I couldn’t if I wanted to; I can’t afford the air fare.

Despite all the moving the last few years, there have been times that I felt as if the sky had a ceiling, as I do now. I just couln’t afford to leave town.

The last stop before returning to America I felt this way.  I hardly left town in three years. While I liked the foreign city I lived in, it was a little too much of a good thing. I wanted to do a little traveling, too, but couldn’t.

There were very few people who could or would come to my aid in this regard, but there was one couple who helped my family and I resettle back in America.  Their aid was invaluable. It would never have happened without them.

I hope to travel more in my life, but I am so grateful to live in this new zip code that I don’t really care if I ever leave. There is a lot of exploring to do around here anyway, including a lot of hiking.

While I am happy to be living here, the initial fervor of returning  wore off quickly. We have had a lot of adjustment problems.

I think the people of Israel who came back from Babylon after having been in captivity for a long time must have felt like us. They were initially excited when they got back and looked forward to the future.  The Psalmist recorded their happiness:

“When the LORD brought back the captives to  Zion, 
      we were like men who dreamed.

  Our mouths were filled with laughter,
       our tongues with songs of joy.
       Then it was said among the nations,
       ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’

  The LORD has done great things for us,
       and we are filled with joy (Psalm 125:1-3).”

Then times got hard, and the pleading with God began: “Restore our fortunes,  O LORD,  like streams in the Negev (Psalm 125:4).”

God has the answers to our new problems, and the old bugaboos, too. Not only does God have the answers, He has given Christian leaders gifts to help us, also. The wise man of Proverbs wrote:   

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
       to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

  As the heavens are high and the earth is deep,
       so the hearts of kings are unsearchable (Proverbs 25:2,3).”

Because God hides Himself and the plethora of Christian counseling makes one want to know whom to believe and follow,  it would be easy to just wear out and give up.

God warns against giving up, however. Jesus told the following story:

 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!'”But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:1-13)”.

The first problem of the foolish virgins was that were unprepared for the big event. The second issue was that they became apathetic and impatient,  and fell asleep waiting for it.

On the other hand, the wise virgins ad gotten the fuel they needed. When the anticipated celebration it occurred, they enjoyed it’s benefits.

God has the fuel we need in our new circumstances. He has given it to  people out there, at our church for example, willing to give it away.  We just need to go and get it.

This isn’t always easy. We become discouraged, afraid of the future and just plain exhausted.  We just don’ think we have the resources.

God doesn’t reward donothingness, however. In fact, He despises it. In one story, Jesus chastized a “lazy, wicked servant” for being fearful and not using what he did have to be successful (Matthew 25:24-28).

In our case, He has provided a unique opportunity in a great fellowship in our town for help and healing. We’d  be foolish not to avail ourselves of it. It may not last and it may not come again.   

The Beatles sang a song to with this theme:

“If you want it, here it is come and get it
Mm, make your mind up fast
If you want it, anytime, I can give it
But you better hurry because it may not last.”

Did I hear you say that there must be a catch?
Will you walk away from a fool and his money?
If you want it, here it is, come and get it
But you better hurry because it’s going fast.”

Our church has a bonanza waiting for us. They’ve got the resources we need. To walk away from their offerings now would be perhaps the biggest mistake of our lives. If we want it,  there it is. We have to go and get it.

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“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (Psalm 51:10-12).”

They’re called “The Few”: the pilots who fought the Germans off in the Battle of Britain in World War II, probably saving their country from invasion.

The phrase was coined by Winston Churchill, who during a speech of the period said:

“The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

Three thousand men, most of them from Britain, defended millions of people. Over 500 of these flyers lost their lives doing so.

One hopes that in our modern era, Iraqis will step up and defend their country as American combat troops leave. We’re still there in large numbers, but we won’t fight anymore unless we’re asked to.

That country is still in disarray after years of war. Iraq needs its own version of The Few.

Where does commitment  like that of The Few come from? While others are scurrying for cover, what makes a man or woman commit themselves to a cause, or a person?

As I write this, a family has just come into the coffee shop. A man is carrying his young daughter in his arms, and the mother is quite disabled, in a wheelchair, and talking with slurring tongue. Again, I ask the question: where does a person get dedication like this?

It’s rare, at least in today’s pop culture. What makes headlines are incidents such as a former candidate for high political office  going out on his cancer-ridden wife and fathering a child.

I was drawn to a song about this kind of LACK of commitment yesterday as I sat in another coffee shop. The song is called “Baltimore Oriole.”

As a born and partially bred Baltimorean, and a big fan of their Orioles baseball team, I stopped to listen to the lyrics:

“Baltimore Oriole
Took one look at that mercury, forty below
No life for a lady
To be draggin’ her feathers around in the snow
Leaving me blue, off she flew
To the Tangipaho – down in Louisiana
Where a two – timin’ Jaybird
Met the divine Miss O

I’d like to ruffle his plumage
That Baltimore Oriole
Messed around with that big guy
Till he singed her wings
Forgivin’ is easy – it’s a woman like, now and then
Could happen to thing
Send her back home
Home ain’t home without her warbling
How she can sing
Make a lonely man happy, Baltimore Oriole
Come down from that bough
Fly to your daddy now.”

This lady bird was a fair weather friend, and went looking for greener pastures. She learned the truth of the old proverb that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and finally returned home where she belonged.

There was a committed party in that relationship, though. It was the man who forgave her and took her back.

(One aside: As a Baltimore Oriole fan, I have to be really committed these days. They are one of the worst teams in baseball, and have been for a long time.)

This song was made famous by Hoagy Carmichael, the great songwriter and film star of the first half of the twentieth century. Carmichael himself had something of a restless, undevoted streak .

His biography describes three distinct periods of his life. From reading it, Carmichael seems like a restless, torn man, unable to make a commitment to one thing or person.

He wrote music, but he also worked in law and investments. However, his only real success came in music, when he stuck to it that is.

At the end of his life, Hoagy Carmichael said this:”I’m a bit disappointed in myself. I know I could have accomplished a hell of a lot more… I could write anything any time I wanted to. But I let other things get in the way… I’ve been floating around in the breeze.”

It’s time to answer my earlier rhetorical question.  Where does commitment come from? The answer is that commitment has to come from deep within the soul.

Unfortunately, a lot of us lie to ourselves about the state of our souls. We think we are committed, and we’re not.

The Psalmist asked God to deliver him from “lying lips and a deceitful tongue” -his own, perhaps! He wanted peace, but when he opened his mouth, those around him saw them as fighting words (Psalm 120:1-7).

Could it be that the people he hung with could tell he was uncommitted to his own words?  They didn’t believe him. They could tell by his actions and spirit that his heart wasn’t behind his speech.

The Psalmist knew his own heart and asked God to deliver him from his sinful inner soul. He asked God to wash it clean (Psalm 51:1-3,7).

The Psalmist knew of his own lack of commitment to what he believed, and he asked for God’s help. I think if we are honest, most of will admit we are in the same condition as the Psalmist.

The wise man of Proverbs knew this to be so. He wrote,” Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’? (Proverbs 20:9).”

Jesus doesn’t want us to stay in our uncommitted condition. He told as much to the infamous “Doubting Thomas”.

Thomas had  told his fellow disciples that he wouldn’t believe Jesus had rose from the dead until he saw Him with his wounds from The Crucifixion. When at last Thomas saw  Jesus, the Lord told him,”Stop doubting and believe (John 20:27b).” 

Our lack of complete engagement with the Lord is one reason He has to keep after us. He puts a searchlight on our spirits, and when He doesn’t like what He sees, he has to do surgery. It’s painful, but is cleans out the cancer in our souls (Proverbs 20:27,30).

A good place to start in becoming a person of belief in and commitment to Jesus Christ is to stop lying to ourselves . When we admit the truth that we aren’t as fully dedicated as we think we are, the healing can begin.

This is true in any relationship. If want committed marriages, friendships, or even patriotism, we may have to confess we aren’t 100 percent dedicated.

When we do, we can engage in the process of becoming fully committed. Then we can become one of The Few. I know the Lord truly wants to make me part of that club.

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“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice  goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;  nothing is hidden from its heat (Psalm 19:1-6).”

I went out on an early morning walk, before sunrise, around the university campus near my home. As I sat on a swinging bench on a porch, I heard some loud chanting in the distance, in the dark.

Now, my first thought was somewhat negative. It was dark and my mental schematic thought of gangs and criminals. (I grew up in a big city.)

Then, I thought of God, how He could be calling. This idea has precedent in my mind. I walked into my office  last weekend and heard a voice –“Hello”. 

It was a colleague of mind trying to get some quiet time working by herself. She hadn’t expected a visitor. 

I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her. I jokingly said, “Yes, God.”

I knew this morning that it was probably the student Corp of Cadets. I had seen them earlier in the week marching near campus, holding up traffic.

My delay didn’t bother me, though. They are fun to watch, so I went in search of them this morning.

I figured they must be on the university mall, called The Drillfield. I found them out there, eventually. While I was in an adjacent chapel looking around, they came marching onto it.

It was quite a sight and cacaphony of sound. Several hundret cadets were out doing calistenics in the wee hours, and chanting. The chant was in honor of the university. The different units were perfectly synchronized in their counting, and in their chanting.

Had I been walking in Jerusalem on the day Jesus was held before a mob, I would have also heard a chant. I would have heard a huge crowd chanting, “Crucify Him! Crucufy Him!”.

The local government representative, a Roman named Pontius Pilate, saw nothing in Jesus to warrant such a penalty. However, the mob was out for blood, and kept chanting.

This mob told Pilate that this man had proclaimed Himself to be the Son of God, and they thought it blasphemy. This scared the bejeebers out of Pilate, who was probably a superstitious Roman with a large pantheon of gods.

Thus, Pilate asked Jesus, “Where do you come from?”  Jesus didn’t answer, so Pilate said,”Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you know I have the power to free you or crucify you ?” Jesus replied, “You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above (John 19:10,11).”

Pilate was in a pickle. The crowd was persistent.  John writes,”From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar (John 19:12a). ”

Pilate had to determine who had the authority. Was it the mob, who could cause him a lot of problems with his earthly king, or Jesus, who claimed to be his true Lord?

Pilate’s choice in favor of the crowd has gone down in history. His name represents weakness and worldliness to millions of Christians.

My wife’s father used to use the phrase “if you do not do so and so, you will not be the friend of Ceasar” when he wanted obedience from his kids. In his family, he was Ceasar. The kids knew he had authority to reward or punish.

Jesus has even greater authority. He is Lord of heaven an earth, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When He calls, we ought to follow Him over any worldly governance, if we are faced with the kind of choice Pilate encountered (Revelation 17:14).

Pilate had no excuse. He made the wrong choice.

Had Pilate looked up, He would have seen the sun. Had he been listening, he would have heard it speaking to him that there was a God with greater glory than his earthly king, one whom he should listen to and obey.

I couldn’t help but hear the Corp of Cadets this morning. Their several hundred voices resounded throughout my community.

The only way I could not have heard them is if I had a physical impairment which kept me from doing so, or I had purposely closed my ears.

The heavens are there. We can see them. Even if we have a physical problem which prevents that, we can feel the warmth of the sun. We still know it’s there.

God is speaking all the time. He doesn’t seem to speak very loudly with His own voice (I Kings 19:11-12), but it’s in our hearts. And His creation is shouting.

However, we humans have great skill in trying to gag God. Joni Mitchell wrote a song after seeing what mankind had done to His creation in the beautiful island of Hawaii:

I wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart… this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.

Joni wrote these lyrics:

“They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Hey farmer farmer
Put away the D.D.T. now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees
Please!
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Late last night
I heard my screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.”

We humans keep wanting to put be the authority. We put God in a big yellow taxi, or police car, and send Him away.

Every day, though, He keeps coming back. His creation doesn’t go away. Neither does His still small voice.

One day, though, we might individually send Jesus away and He won’t come back. He’ll accede to our wishes.

On that day, we will have truly paved paradise and put up a parking lot, and we’ll regret it. God will be gone.

However, it doesn’t have to happen. We can listen to God through His nature and His voice.

If we do, we might not he a friend of Ceasar, but we will be His, forever. Now that will be Paradise. 

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 Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer—
it does not rise from deceitful lips.  May my vindication come from you;      may your eyes see what is right… My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped. I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer (Psalm 17:1-2,4-6).”

I recently thought that I should start a Neville Chamberlain fan club. Chamberlain is the British prime minister known for his policy of appeasement toward Adolph Hitler.

The Merriam Webster dictionary says  appeasement is “to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles.” This is what Chamberlain did.

He allowed Hitler to take over a part of Czechoslovakia that had a large German population.  Chamberlain’s appeasement was well intentioned. He believed that Germany had been harshly treated after World War I and was trying to right some of this wrong.

When Hitler grabbed the rest of Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain realized that Hitler could not be trusted. He ended his policy of appeasement. However, it was too little too late. Hitler kept grabbing territory, and Britain had no choice but to declare war.

By all accounts, Chamberlain was a good man. He was quite popular with the British people. However, his name has become synonymous with appeasement. Chamberlain is its poster child.

Appeasement didn’t have to happen. The warning signs were there. Hitler had written a treatise in the 1920s called “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) which stated precisely what he intended. He began to carry out his program in the 1930s when he gained power.

The reason I thought I should start a Neville Chamberlain fan club was because I thought that perhaps “going along to get along” wasn’t such a bad idea. After all, even the Bible values peace and quiet (Proverbs 17:1).

Thankfully, I quickly  realized when I implemented my appeasing approach that destructive behavior needs to be opposed. A leopard doesn’t change its spots, at least without outside help (like a human with a bucket of paint!).

The wise man of Proverbs says that an evil man is inclined ONLY on rebellion. He also writes that it is better to meet a Mama bear whose cubs have been stolen than to run up against a fool, either one who purposely lacks judgment or a person who is just lacking understanding through no fault of their own (Proverbs 17:11,12).

It’s easier to ignore ruinous behavior than to confront it. My generation is particularly good at it. We are supposed to be “tolerant”. Frankly, letting people go to their own destruction, perhaps taking other people with them along the way, is cowardly. In many ways men of my age are a bunch of wimps, influenced negatively by our culture.

Not only is getting out of the way of catastrophic people “yellow”, our proverbial friend says that God hates it. He writes,”Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the LORD detests them both (Proverbs 17:15).”

I’m in no position to judge anyone. However, I have been smart enough to accept the rebukes of close counselors and take steps to correct my own devastating actions. In  that respect, I have joined the ranks of the discerning (Proverbs 17:10).

My counselors have also been telling me to be a man, to “man up”. The Urban dictionary says this term means “to fulfill your responsibilites as a man, despite your insecurities and constant ability to place yourself in embarrassing and un-manly scenarios.”

 I certainly have the ability to do that.  That’s why I’m grateful I didn’t take a permanent action toward forming my own Neville Chamberlain fan club.

It’s not going to be easy to man up, but I have to stop being a man of my time, a “wuss.” I’m not talking about some form of “macho” or “he man” behavior here. I’m also not talking about going to the mat over every little thing. I’m talking about fulfilling my responsibilities as a man by protecting my loved ones from irreparable damaging actions.

I can do it patiently. It’s part of the art of manliness. I can also do it without whining. That is quite unmanly.

With God’s help in answer to my pleas, it’s time to rise to the occasion and take control of my situation. It’s time to strap on a pair and cowboy up.

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