Safe Landing

“When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.”

Proverbs 10:25 (NIV)

Last week when my family flew to Seattle, we had a smooth flight and everything was easy – the shuttle arrived in mere minutes, security check went quickly, our flight was on time, the weather was good, and our luggage made it safely to the Seattle airport. It really could not have been smoother.

Our flight home, however, was a little tougher. While airport check in went well and the flight was on time, we arrived home at midnight in a storm in Nashville. Our runway was changed and the pilot had to circle around a few times before attempting to land. Lightning flashed brightly around us, and turbulence was heavy as we descended into the clouds.

Needless to say, it was a bit harrowing as we made our way down closer and closer to the runway. Everyone on the plane trusted the pilot to get us home, and the minute we landed, perfectly I might add, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and applauded our pilot who did such an amazing job in an uncertain situation.

This experience made me think – like the passengers on the plane did for the pilot, do we applaud God when he guides us safely through the storms in our lives? It’s easy to be tempted to take the credit for ourselves or to give it to someone, or something, else other than God. But Psalm 115:1 tells us, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory because of your love and faithfulness.” (NIV) God is the giver of all good things (James 1:17) and we should thank him and acknowledge him for the things he has done for us.

Even more, do we remember that God should be our pilot in life? Proverbs 10:25 reminds us that the righteous – those who stand firm in God – will make it through times of trouble. The name of the Lord is our strong tower, our place of refuge, in times of crisis (Proverbs 18:10). To put our trust in him means:

We believe what God says. (Proverbs 30:5)

We submit to what God says. (Job 22:21-22)

We patiently wait on God to answer. (Micah 7:7)

Put your full trust in God when the storms of life come. He is your safe landing.

 

 

 

State of the Heart

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 15:13 (NIV)

Do you have a favorite article of clothing that you like to wear? Currently, one of my favorite T-shirts is a green colored one that says, “Happy Heart” across the front. I really love the color of it but I also like what it says and the meaning behind it. The shirt was designed by the daughter of one of my friends. She created the shirt to sell as a fundraiser for Children’s Hospital after she had heart surgery there and noticed that some children had much longer stays than hers. She wanted to encourage them to be brave and to know that God loves them.

Having a happy heart can make all the difference in our lives, despite our circumstances. Solomon shared this truth with his son by contrasting happiness with sadness in Proverbs 15:13. While happiness evokes a smile, heartache can crush the spirit. Life brings both happiness and sadness, but when we seek out and hold onto the positive things around us, we can keep a happy heart.

Even if everything is falling down around you, pray for peace and a happy heart by remembering God’s promises:

I will never leave you: “ The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)

I see you: “For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” (Job 28:24 ESV)

I understand and see your sorrow: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

I am your refuge and shelter: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV)

I love you more than anything: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV)

When you’re feeling down, avoid letting heartache crush your spirit. Instead, remember God’s promises and let them transform the state of your heart.

 

Embrace the Mess

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”

Proverbs 14:4 (NLT)

For several weeks, my family and I have enjoyed watching a television show about the saga of a family who runs a horse ranch in western Canada. Every episode features horse stables, cattle herds and rodeo and cowboy life, all of which require long days of hard work taking care of the animals there on the ranch. Feeding, cleaning, and training horses and herding cattle is messy, really messy, but it is the livelihood of the characters on the show and they find it rewarding. To remove the horses and cattle from their lives would be devastating.

In Proverbs 14:4 Solomon uses agriculture to paint two pictures for us: the first one is a clean stable with no ox, and the second is an abundant crop with an ox. In Biblical times oxen were used to pull carts and plows and to tread corn and grain. These beasts of burden were vital to the operation of a farm. But, as you can imagine, they were messy. Feeding troughs and stalls need to be cleaned and filled with fresh hay daily. Animals don’t go to a restroom like people do. Their restroom is right where they are standing, so it can get smelly and dirty in a barn quickly. But, as Solomon points out, a barn without an ox doesn’t need cleaning, but it also produces no harvest.

This proverb can apply to the potential  “messes” in our own lives. Is there a goal you want to pursue but are afraid that it will be too hard or too painful to achieve and would rather avoid the mess you might have to endure as you pursue that goal?

Oxen symbolize strength and hard labor. Are you willing to work for your particular goal? A harvest does not come on its own. It requires hard work, an idea that is mentioned several times in Proverbs.

“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23 (ESV)

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 13:4 (ESV)

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”  Proverbs 6:10-11 (ESV)

Hard work, despite the messes it can cause, can be rewarding. To get the harvest, you have to be willing to embrace the mess.

Light Spilling Out

“The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.”

Proverbs 13:9 (NIV)

This past Sunday I observed an American couple whose faces beamed as a group of Vietnamese businessmen and women thanked our church for working with them. I did not know this couple but later learned they were missionaries to Vietnam and had made missions their new career just a few years ago.

It was so refreshing and inspiring to see two people who truly love what they do shine the light of Christ for others. Seeing them look so pleased and happy to hear their friend, a businessman from Vietnam, speak heartfelt words of gratitude to the members of our church, was truly a joy. This couple shone brightly, just like the righteous person in Proverbs 13:9.

I’ve always liked any kind of imagery dealing with light – the sun, the moon, the stars, even candles, lamps and Christmas tree lights. There is something special about the brightness and glow of lights of any kind. Light can dispel fear and bring comfort (Psalm 27:1), it can signify a new beginning like the dawn of a new day, and it represents the promise of life and hope through Christ our Savior who is the light of the world (John 8:12).

The righteous shine their light because Christ lives within them and they are obedient to his will. Proverbs 4:18 describes the path of the just as a shining light that begins at dawn and burns increasingly brighter as the day goes on. As we obey God, we are able to see more truth and remain on the light-filled path. Psalm 119:105 tells us God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and a light for our path. Read his word daily and commit it to heart. Psalm 18:28 reminds us that the Lord lights our lamp and illuminates our darkness. His truth is the oil that keeps our lamp burning. We should trust his word and not our own understanding or the ways of the world.

During one of our closing prayers when I was in a college girl’s Bible study many years ago, I heard a girl pray that we would be lights shining for Christ. I always loved that image and have prayed that prayer daily with my daughter at breakfast time before she would go to school.

Shining the light of Christ is our best witness and should come naturally as we confess sin in our lives, seek God’s direction, obey his commands, and attend to the needs of others.

Jesus tells us to shine our light brightly and not hide it (Matthew 5:14-16). We also learn that disobedience will cause our lamp to be snuffed out (Proverbs 13:9, Proverbs 24:20, Job 18:5). Shining our light is a sign of the life of Christ that is within us and it can offer hope to those around us. So let your light spill out all around you!