Get Your Head Out of Bed!

“As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.”

Proverbs 26:14 (ESV)

I recently heard an inspiring story from an older gentleman who was getting ready to go snow skiing. As it turned out, his greatest challenge wasn’t his age but, rather, the fact that he was completely blind. I always find it amazing when people reach past a “weakness” to do something challenging. This man was not going to let anything prevent him from doing the things he loved, including skiing.

How about you? Do you let your own challenges or fears keep you from trying something new? Proverbs 26:14 gives us a description of a sluggard who will not leave his comfort zone. He stays in his bed, simply turning over every now and then. His movement is appropriately described like a door on a hinge – it moves back and forth but doesn’t go anywhere. While the sluggard’s action –or rather lack of action — is symbolic of laziness, it is also a picture of the inability to move out of one’s comfort zone.

2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (CSB) God created each of us with a purpose – to bring him glory (Isaiah 43:7), and he gives us the ability to do that as we follow his leading. One way we follow him is by using our time wisely, and that sometimes means stepping outside of our safe, comfortable routines.

When I was a teenager, I remember the radio announcers chanting, “Get your head out of bed!” when my alarm clock radio would go off, always well before I wanted to get up. It was a most annoying exclamation to me at the time, but when it comes to the sluggard in me, encouragement of this type is good to hear.

It is easy to become complacent, and make excuses for not stepping out in faith to do new things. When is the last time you attempted something different? Do you feel the Lord calling you to move outside of your comfort zone? If so, pray for wisdom and confidence. Be bold, and do it!

Give Your Bountiful Eye a Workout

“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.”

Proverbs 22:9 (ESV)

There’s Golden Eye, eagle eye, bright eyes, bird’s eye, and watchful eye to name a few “eye phrases,” but have you ever heard of a “bountiful” eye?  The bountiful eye referred to in Proverbs 22:9 signifies generosity. Most translations of this verse use the term “generous person,” but I like the translation that refers to a bountiful eye because it gives us a vivid description of what enables us to be generous: we must use our eyes to look for needs around us.

My daughter Caroline uses her bountiful eye every time we are driving around town. She is constantly on the lookout for a homeless person to whom she can give a goody bag. A couple of years ago, we started putting together bags with bottled water, peanut butter crackers, socks, soap, a washcloth, and a note with an encouraging Bible verse, and we keep these bags in our car to hand out when we see someone who could use them. Any time Caroline sees someone and we are in a place where we can pull up next to them, she scrambles over the back seat, grabs a bag, scrambles back over the seat, rolls down the window, hands out the bag, and says, “God bless you!” This is often the highlight of her day.

I’m convicted that I do not do this more, and I’m thankful for Caroline’s example as a reminder that, many days, I need to slow down and look for those who are hurting, and then actually do something about it.

This idea of looking for those in need and acting on it is repeated throughout the Bible, and the rewards are clear:

Psalm 41:1 tells us the person who has regard for the weak will be blessed and the Lord will save him or her during times of trouble.

Psalm 112:9 tells us that generosity produces eternal righteousness and blesses us with dignity.

Deuteronomy 15:10 clarifies that generosity comes from a compassionate heart and that its reward is blessing over the things for which we work.

Of course, we shouldn’t be generous only for the rewards. Generosity must come from the heart (2 Corinthians 9:7). If we actively look for ways we can help others, we will see the needs around us. But we shouldn’t stop there. We should also be prepared to help the people we see, and this requires sacrifice. The second half of Proverbs 22:9 makes it clear that generosity involves sacrifice, even sharing one’s own bread. In other words, it means giving away food that would have gone into our own belly.

If we don’t utilize a bountiful eye, the Lord warns us that there will be consequences, including poverty (Proverbs 28:27) and scarcity (2 Corinthians 9:6). Jesus commanded us to love others as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27), and this is the core of generosity. When we help those in need, it is as if we are lending to God as well, and the Lord will repay us for our generosity (Proverbs 19:17).

Give your bountiful eye a workout by looking around this week as you go about your daily business to see if there is someone you can help or encourage.

 

“It’s Good Medicine!”

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Proverbs 17:22 (NIV)

How many prescription medicine tag lines can you recite from memory, like “Prevagen: Remember the name,” or “Once a day Invokana?” If you’ve watched much prime time television in the past several years, you can probably quote a few slogans — or at least name a handful of prescription medications currently on the market. There seems to be a medicine for everything, and while I’m grateful for that, I’m especially thankful that the Bible prescribes a medicine that we do not have to buy: a cheerful heart. We can find the “tagline” for a cheerful heart in Proverbs 17:22: “It’s good medicine!”

When we have the “cheerful” heart described in Proverbs 17:22, it is like good medicine because this kind of heart allows room for the Holy Spirit to produce the life-giving fruit described in Galatians 5:22-23.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  

Gal. 5:22-23 (NIV)

But when we harbor the negative attitudes that are the opposites of the items on the list in Galatians 5:22-23 (such as anger, strife, impatience, doubt, jealousy, and selfish ambition), it’s like taking poison instead of medicine. Acting on these sinful attitudes can stunt the growth of spiritual fruit in our hearts and hurt those around us. We’ve been studying the fruit of the spirit at my church, and through this study I’m coming to realize that the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 consists of the godly attitudes that originate and reside in the heart. When we fill our hearts with negative attitudes, we leave little room for the positive fruit to remain.

The heart is so important because it is the very center of our being – our soul – and that’s why we are told in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our heart. Can you say today that you have a cheerful heart? Circumstances can sometimes get the best of us, but the joy that God offers is not determined by our circumstances, but rather by what we believe and in whom we have placed our ultimate hope. When we place that hope in Christ, we can maintain a joyful heart regardless of the tough times we happen to be facing. The heart filled with hope is the very thing that pulls us through (Proverbs 18:14).

The hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” was written after the composer’s daughters were drowned at sea after their ship sank. Yet, even in this lowest moment, he could still say, “It is well with my soul.” He did not let his overwhelming sorrow and anxiety weigh him down (Proverbs 12:25), but instead chose to keep his focus on Jesus and allow hope and joy to begin to take root in his soul.

Whatever your circumstances today, I pray that you find joy in your heart because Jesus, your Valentine, loves you so and will never let you go. Find your comfort, peace, and joy in Christ and allow those things to settle deep within your soul. When you do, your cheerful heart will make room for beautiful fruit like peace and love to grow. A cheerful heart is good medicine!

 

 

Telling Tales … on Tape

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”

Proverbs 10:9 (NIV)

On an old BASF cassette tape, fondly titled “Christmas 1981,” a great example of a child’s attempt at deception is recorded for posterity. That child was me, and sadly enough, I was the very one who recorded the sneakiness in question.

In 1981, I was in third grade and apparently I was more than a little sneaky and bratty. It’s funny how I don’t remember being that way, but sure enough, the proof is on the infamous cassette. The majority of the tape, recorded mostly on the Christmas Day I received a tape recorder as one of my prized gifts, includes, among other things, me telling my brothers how “not smart” I thought they were, along with a funny discussion between my dad and youngest brother about what we were having for Christmas dinner that evening.

Tucked in among these humorous scenes, however, is a 30-second snippet of a conversation between a deceptive little girl and her mother that goes something like this:

 “Where did you get that blue wrapping paper, Mom?”

“What blue wrapping paper, Cheryl?”

“You know, the blue paper with that stuff on it.”

“Turn it off.”

“Okay.”

“Turn it off, ” my mom said, laughing.

 “It is off!”

“Cheryl!” (with the last half of my name in an uptone)

“It is off.”

“Turn it off. You’re wasting tape.”

Click.

It’s funny how we kids think we’re so clever when we lie to our parents only to find out later that they knew the truth all along. In the above conversation, I not only tried to sneak getting my mom’s voice recorded, but I also told an outright lie that the tape recorder had been turned off. And the funniest part – I incriminated myself by recording the whole thing! Proverbs 10:9 came true – I was walking a crooked path, and, sure enough, I was found out.

Solomon warns us in Proverbs 10:9 that those who practice deception will be caught. This is a great reminder that it’s always best when we walk with integrity. God hates lies (Proverbs 6:16-20) and dishonest practices (Proverbs 11:1), and the consequences we suffer for dishonest words and deeds can be devastating.

So, keep yourself trustworthy. Be honest with others and with yourself. Walk with integrity and avoid crooked paths. Proverbs 12:22 tells us that, when we do these things, we will find the delight of the Lord.

This was my ninth birthday back in 1981, the beginning of a most wonderful decade and just months before I received that awesome tape recorder!