Friday, May 25, 2012

Loose Lips


For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. 

-- Proverbs 26:20
  
During World War I and World War II, enemy submarine attacks cost the United States and its allies thousands of lives and millions of tons-worth of shipping. The ship captains tried to protect their vessels by sailing in convoys guarded by naval escorts. But all too often, the submarines were waiting. And the results were both devastating and deadly.

The U.S. Government placed some of the blame on spies, who could pass along the convoys' sailing schedules to enemy forces. The spies often got their information by overhearing the careless talk of off-duty servicemen, who might be discussing their wartime adventures with family or friends. To help prevent these dangerous disclosures to the enemy, the government established rules of conduct for the military--and civilians alike--that became known by the slogan, Loose Lips Sink Ships.

In wartime, careless overheard words can lead to lost battles, planes and ships...and not to mention deaths and other casualties. And although it's not in the headlines, Christ-followers are at war right now. The Apostle Paul tells us through Ephesians 6:12 that we're facing spiritual "powers and principalities" (also known as the devil and his demons). There are no tanks or machine guns in this real-life combat zone. But loose lips can still cause immense damage and spiritual death when the wrong words are overhead by the wrong person.

Gossip is one of the most destructive weapons on the spiritual battlefield. And as Proverbs 16:28 reminds us, "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and gossip separates friends." So insidious is gossip that it's actually possible to spread it through a seemingly sincere prayer request among well-meaning Christ-followers! Likewise, complaints and criticism are destructive cousins of gossip that can both wear out and cut down their target. The fact is--as innocent as they may seem at the time--our words can either give life or bring death. The same mouth that tells a child, "I'm proud of you" can just as easily utter, "You'll never amount to anything."

It takes more than a Band Aid solution to replace the toxic talk from our loose lips. In fact, it's a heart issue requiring immediate surgery. The first step for Christ-followers is to consistently pray for God's help so our words and actions are a true reflection of His Son, Jesus. Let's first think before we speak. Will our words bring with them life...or death?

"Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord," prayed King David through Psalm 141:3. "Keep watch over the door of my lips."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Duct Tape


Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.

-- Proverbs 4:23


"Duct tape is like The Force: It has a dark side and a light side and it holds the universe together."

That's the keen observation found on the 101 Uses For Duct Tape website, which celebrates the super-strong cloth-backed tape used in millions of businesses and households. Although its origins are disputed, there's no doubt that a division of Johnson & Johnson developed a similar product in 1942, which was used throughout WWII to make quick repairs on everything from weapons to aircraft to jeeps.

The 101 Uses website claims that duct tape can also fix broken automobile fan belts, cracked windshields and split vinyl siding. It's also great for removing lint from clothing. And if you believe duct tape folklore, Peace Corps volunteers often used it as a stop-gap clothesline. But ironically, duct tape--for all its versatility--isn't recommended for use on ductwork!

It's no doubt that duct tape has been a godsend to many in emergencies calling for a quick fix of one type or another. Likewise, we can all face crisis situations in our personal lives that require immediate action. But it's important to note that our good intentions don't always translate into permanent results. For instance, a severely obese person might decide to start drinking unsweetened ice tea at lunch rather than sugary soft drinks....but he continues ordering double cheeseburgers and supersized orders of fries. Another example might be a heavy smoker with chronic chest pain who decides to start exercising to lose a few pounds. In both instances, their choices aren't necessarily bad. It's just that they were quick fixes that failed to address the real heart of the matter.

Blame it on human nature. A carefully-placed strip of duct tape will by definition "repair" a car's broken fender or a cracked pane of glass...at least for a while. But we're only fooling ourselves about the results until we open our eyes and make the hard decision to get the job done right.

The human experience reveals that good intentions and trying our best are only pseudo-solutions to crises that are bound to fail. And the all-too-predictable result is even greater spiritual brokenness that the strongest roll of duct tape can't fix. When we're plagued by internal conflicts like unresolved resentment, anger or jealousy, behavior modification will only work for so long. The permanent solution is a spiritual heart transplant.
  
"Who can say, 'I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?'" asks King Solomon in Proverbs 20:9.

The good news is that Jesus--sometimes called The Great Physician--makes house calls 24 hours a day. And you never need an appointment.

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you," is the God-breathed promise we read in the Book of Ezekiel. "I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." 

Even duct tape can't do that. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wonder Woman


Show her respect--praise her in public
for what she has done. 

-- Proverbs 31:31

He's considered by many historians to be one of our nation's greatest presidents. He led America through the dark days of the Great Depression, defeated the Axis powers in World War II and won a remarkable four presidential elections.

He was Franklin Delano Roosevelt ("FDR"). By the time of his death in 1945, he was the most powerful leader of the world's greatest military machine. And he was also a bit of a mama's boy.

FDR's mother was Sara Roosevelt, described as a "strong-willed widow who wasn't about to give up her hold on her only child." She made the future president wear a dress until he was five years old. When young Franklin left home to attend Harvard, his mother followed him to college and moved to Boston. And after FDR's marriage to his fourth cousin, his mother bought the newlyweds a fine home in New York City...and then moved in to run the household! It was years later that FDR's wife, Eleanor, wrote, ''...you were never quite sure when (my mother-in-law) would appear, day or night.''

OK...Maybe Sara Roosevelt took motherhood a bit too far. But FDR obviously would do (and did) almost anything for her. When she died in 1941, the president wore a black armband to symbolize his deep mourning and affection. Perhaps FDR's old-fashioned attitudes can teach us a thing or two about appreciating our mothers and their irreplaceable roles in our lives.

But is that wishful thinking? With the traditional family under constant attack from "progressive" thinkers, Hollywood celebrities and the so-called cultural elite, it's God's Word--the Bible--that once again proves to be the source of truth about the strength and value of motherhood and the qualities God holds in esteem for women. Where would our society be without strong mothers teaching the next generation to walk in God's ways? It's through the examples of good mothers that we learn about compassion, character, work ethic and faith.

We can read King Lemuel's observations about the topic in the Old Testament book of Proverbs:

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

Centuries ago--and still today--Proverbs exalts the ideal woman who conveys strength, dignity, wisdom, faithfulness, generosity and trustworthiness through her life's example. It's these priceless qualities that the Scriptures proclaim are more valuable than rubies.

Yes, FDR let his mother play an oversize role in his adult years. But from a biblical perspective, maybe there are at least a few times when being a mama's boy (or girl) isn't such a bad thing.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

You Can Look It Up


Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

-- Proverbs 22:6

It's almost too easy these days.

When you need parts for a 1957 Chevy, a great recipe for chocolate mousse or World Series box scores from 1928, we simply reach for our laptop, tablet or smartphone...and then Google it for the answer. But as recently as 20 years ago, printed almanacs--like Information, Please!--were many households' primary source of information on a variety of topics. The Old Farmer's Almanac, published continuously since 1792, features articles about gardening, recipes, sports, and planting charts...plus predictions for the coming year related to home d├ęcor, food, fashion, and technology. Whitaker's Almanack has published since 1868. And the Farmer's Almanac (without the "Old") sold its first copy in 1818.

Although you can still buy these venerable publications the old-fashioned way (in a bookstore or pharmacy), they've adapted to modern times by offering their wisdom, advice and trivia through companion websites like almanac.com and infoplease.com. But as good and reliable as they are, there's a much better source of wisdom that's guided households around the world with timeless truths and principles covering topics ranging from money management to clothing to business ethics. It made the best seller list centuries before Robert B. Thomas published the first issue of The Old Farmer's Almanac. And you can (and should) live you life by it.

It's called Proverbs. And in the pages of this Old Testament masterpiece you'll find 31 chapters of practicality comprising what some have called the greatest how-to book ever written. Most of Proverbs was written by King Solomon about 900 years before Jesus' birth. But the timeless wisdom it conveys--micro-lessons like "The borrower is the servant to the lender"--is as relevant in today's uncertain economy as it was in pre-Roman times. Even way back then, Solomon knew that maxing out his credit cards can lead to ruin.

Although Proverbs is filled with timeless truths with broad applications, it's important to note that it also contains general principles rather than guaranteed promises. Its words are also glimpses into the mind of God and how He expects us to live and treat one another. But as with all wisdom and knowledge, it's one thing to read about it. And then it's quite another to actually apply it in our everyday lives. Even the writer himself--King Solomon--admitted through the chapters of Ecclesiastes that he had failed to heed his own advice on living a prudent, God-centered life. Indeed, Solomon wasted much of his incredible wealth on nearly every excess imaginable. And he purposely ignored the wisdom and discernment that God had blessed him with years earlier.

"Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense," the dejected king warns us through the pages of Ecclesiastes. "I have seen it all--nothing makes sense!"

It's a timeless lesson that complements the stark wisdom of Proverbs 20:30: "Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways."

You can even Google it.