Tag Archives: wisdom

Beware Snap Judgments

One of the things I’ve gotten better at as I’ve gotten older is to be slower to make a judgment call/decision. Don’t get me wrong, when I need to make a snap decision because the situation demands it, I fully understand the consequences of “paralysis by analysis.” There I’ve tended to be just as quick as possible. I ascribe a lot of that to playing sports all my life. However, when there’s time and especially when it’s an important situation, I have gotten better at slowing down and carefully considering my choices before coming to a conclusion:

All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.  – Daniel 6:7-9, ESV

In the commentaries it’s often mentioned that what Darius agreed to here was traditional: that upon taking over new territory the conquering ruler would issue such edicts. It was a method of consolidating power. This situation could also be a warning against blindingly accepting tradition, but that’s another devotional for another time. In any case, many of Daniel’s enemies devised a way, knowing Daniel’s habits, to entrap both him and the king. Therefore, under the guise of a traditional proclamation, they tricked Darius into signing a bad edict. That edict would force him to cast Daniel into a den of lions. Effectively, they had tricked Darius into proclaiming a death sentence on Daniel.

If you know the rest of the story, you know that Daniel didn’t alter his behavior. He prayed as was his practice. He made no measure to hide it. He knew what he was doing was right in the sight of God. As a result, his enemies were able to drag him before Darius and point out the new law. Darius was trapped. Darius carried out the sentence and thankfully God intervened and saved Daniel’s life. God did so to protect Daniel, not to preserve Darius. Even so, when I look at the Scriptures I do not find this to be the norm.

Therefore, we should not expect God to intervene for our every act of foolishness. The Bible is filled with examples where people were foolish and either they or others suffered the consequences of that foolishness. Making a snap judgment when there’s time to consider the choices is foolishness. It was foolish for Darius and it’s foolish when we do it. God has promised us wisdom when we ask for it and are determined to act on it (James 1:5-8). Therefore, we should use His wisdom at every opportunity. We should avoid snap judgments whenever possible. There are plenty of mechanisms out there to help us slow down and not rush a decision. Different things work for different people. If you’re the type who too often acts without thinking things through, do a bit of research and try the different methods. After all, while Christians may look foolish to the world, let it be due to our belief in the truth of Scripture and of a God who intervenes in the life of His people and not in acts of true foolishness. The former glorifies God. The latter glorifies no one.

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Don’t Be Seduced By the “Shiny”

ferrari f50 and enzoAs a geek, I will admit that I used to be fascinated with the latest gadget news. I still follow several technical sites that get excited at the newest and most awesome. For instance, I read about a hardware manufacturer’s new Windows 8 tablet this morning. For the writer, this was the new “shiny” with respect to tablets. I felt like drool was dripping off my computer screen and onto the keyboard. It’s not just technology. We see this in fashion. We see this in firearms. We see this in knives. We see this in college football prospects. We see this in cars. We see it in all areas of life. We are too often focused on what looks good, what the newest, that we don’t check it’s substance. The research shows that we are often wrong on our first impressions yet we still stick by them. How bad can we get? How about this?

  And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.  – 1 Samuel 9:2, ESV

Saul was the new shiny. He was taller than anyone else. He was the best looking guy around. Certainly he was better looking and a more kingly figure than old Samuel and Samuel’s wicked sons. The people wanted a king. Samuel tried to warn them. They still wanted a king. So God was going to give them exactly what they thought they wanted: a guy that looked like a king when you first saw him. That was Saul. You could go point-by-point on how he was a better candidate, just like the write-up on the latest version of a popular smartphone. People loved him when they looked at him. And if you know your Bible history, he did have some good points. However, this new shiny was a very tarnished man indeed.

We can easily be seduced by looks or appearances, especially if we don’t take time to dig deeper. This is true whether we’re talking about a new phone, a new house, a new car, a new job, or a new potential mate. How many times do we have to hear about a husband ditching his wife and kids for a new, younger, supposedly prettier woman? Now it’s not so uncommon to hear the situation in reverse, whn the woman wants to call it quits. Or what about bouncing from job to job looking for that pay increase, meanwhile burning bridges all along the way? It could be a $50,000 car you don’t really need when you’ve got other financial issues, or the $300,000 house you can’t actually afford the mortgage on. It looks so good we just have to have it. He or she is just, wow, that we’re willing to short circuit common sense to be with that person.

We’ve all been guilty of this, whether it’s a tech gadget or a job or a significant other. The key is to take a step back and look at it with God’s perspective. Wait, we’re not God. How is that possible? We have the Holy Spirit. We have a promise from Him that He’ll give us wisdom if we just ask. Maybe I can’t see like God. However, I can ask God what He sees. When you feel your emotions wind up and your heart start thumping for the new shiny, that’s the time to pause. That’s the time when you really need to calm yourself and seek His face. Otherwise, the new shiny will have a strong power over you. It may win you over on pure emotional appeal. And likely if it does, you’ll walk into a mistake.

On the other hand, if you pause and ask God and you sense that He’s saying it’s okay, then go for it, so long as you know it’s not in violation of the Scriptures (in which case, you can conclude that what you sensed wasn’t really God). There’s nothing wrong marrying a physically beautiful/handsome spouse if that’s the person God has prepared for you. There’s nothing wrong with getting a new smartphone if other priorities aren’t compromised. There isn’t even anything wrong with that shiny sports car or dream house, again, if other priorities aren’t compromised. The catch is that we should make such decisions calmly and with the guidance of our Lord, not on our emotion. Watch out for the shiny. Don’t let it seduce you.

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What We Do, We Do for Him

At the missions camp this summer, Colossians 3:17 was the key verse. Of course we were asked to memorize it and I did. Not so much because of being asked to do so, but because of what it says:

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. – Colossians 3:17, NASB

These words remind me of some of the words from one of the songs from the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It was a Bryan Adams’ song called “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.” Some of the key stanzas are:

Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for
You know it’s true
Everything I do – I do it for you

Look into your heart – you will find
There’s nothin’ there to hide
Take me as I am – take my life
I would give it all – I would sacrifice

Don’t tell me it’s not worth fightin’ for
I can’t help it – there’s nothin’ I want more
Ya know it’s true
Everything I do – I do it for you

Now the song is a love ballad and it’s supposed to express to what lengths one person will go to for another. It’s all about love and devotion. And you know, that’s how it’s supposed to be between us and Christ. He already loved us this much. His death on the Cross proved that. It should be our goal to love Him this much back. And if you go back to the words in Colossians 3:17, you see that Paul writes, “Whatever you do.” In other words, there’s nothing excluded. Everything is to be in the name of the Lord Jesus. And everything should be about giving thanks to God the Father. If we had that attitude I bet that would change some of our actions. But you know, Paul couldn’t leave us with the one reminder. He repeated himself only a little bit later, expanding upon what he said in verse 17:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. – Colossians 3:23-24, NASB

He points out that what we do should be for the Lord (that “Whatever you do,” is back). We’re not working and serving for our boss. We’re not working and serving for our company. We’re not even working and serving for our family. We should be working and serving for the Lord rather than for anyone else. And Paul reminds us that this work isn’t without reward. So while we may have to go through trial and pain, toil and weariness, the fact of the matter is it’s all worth it because of who it is we are doing it for. Christ is asking us to respond in the words of that Bryan Adams’ song, “Everything I do, I do it for you.”

So applying this to decisions, since that’s been the topic this week, that means we’ve got to ensure the decision we make is truly for God. If it’s for us, and God is neglected, it’s the wrong choice. Even if it’s the right course of action, the question is really about who we’re doing it for. If we’re not doing it for Him, it’s wrong. Likewise, if our course of action does not match up with what God has given us in His Word, it’s not for Him. We can say it is, but it’s really not. That’s like when the teenage son goes up to dad and says, “Dad, I had some spare time this afternoon and I washed the car and cleaned the interior. I wanted to do something for you and it needed doing. I love you.” Dad, being no fool, waits for the rest of it patiently as he looks at his son. Sure enough, his son then asks, “By the way, Dad, I have a date tonight. Do you mind if I borrow the car?” At that point it’s obvious who the son did it for: himself.

So in everything that we do, whether in word or deed, we should do it for Jesus. No matter how hard the decision we face, no matter how uncertain the outcome may be, we do it, because God has called us to it and because we love and serve Him. Whatever the price, there is a reward. Whatever the cost, it’ll be worth it. God is faithful in that manner. He’s asking us to be faithful in loving Him and doing everything that we do for Him.

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Trusting on Faith

Yesterday we looked at seeing the whole picture when we need to make a decision. Given enough time and facts, everyone can make the right decision. However, there is another trap we can fall into and it’s usually known as “paralysis by analysis.” This is where we get so caught up in looking at a situation or decision, waiting to get more facts, thinking them through, that we never actually make a decision. Some folks are this way with respect to accepting Christ. They always need one more piece of evidence. They need one more clincher to believe. For those of us who have a relationship with Jesus, it may apply to other areas of our lives. For instance, we feel a strong calling to jump into a new ministry, but we’re trying to evaluate whether or not we have the skills, whether or not we’ll have the time, whether or not the ministry is viable, whether or not the ministry is showing results, etc. We can get so caught up in this type of analysis that we never make the jump into that ministry or any other ministry. And we can apply that to choosing a new home, looking for a new job, pursuing higher education, looking at how we need to change, and a whole host of other situations we all face. This is no good, either. While we’re not jumping into a bad situation, we’re not moving on to a better one that provides glory and honor to God. Sometimes we have to trust by faith and make the choice.

Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.
– Genesis 12:1-5, NASB

Abram wasn’t given much to go on. He was told to go and that was it. Abram did exactly that: he left. He packed up everything and moved on, just as God had instructed. This was a tremendous leap of faith by Abram and by Sarai and Lot (who are often neglected in talking about the faith it took to go). We don’t know if Abram considered the whole picture. But if he did, he surely saw more unknowns than knowns in the plan. God wasn’t telling him where. God wasn’t telling him how. God wasn’t telling him how long. And God wasn’t telling him what he’d face, what difficulties he’d encounter, and what the cost would be. What he did have to go on is that he knew it was God telling him to go.

Looking at Abram, we can see a lot of cons with the choice he made. He was 75 years old. He had to pick up and move a wife who wasn’t young, either. He had a nephew to look after. And he had to pack up everything he owned and bring along all the people within his camp. That’s a ton of organization and planning and work to move out for a man of his age. But he responded because he knew it was God’s call.

God trumps everything. Even if we don’t have the whole picture, if He says do something, our decision should be to do it. It doesn’t matter how long we spend gathering facts and considering a decision, we’ll never have the vision and knowledge God already has. He can see the true complete picture, far beyond what we’re capable of doing. And therefore we can trust His direction far better than we can trust our own judgment. The catch is to make sure what we’re hearing is from God. We’ll look at that in upcoming devotionals. The key thing to remember is that once we’re sure it’s God setting a direction, we need to trust by faith and follow that direction, even if we can’t see everything we’d want to know. God knows what He’s doing far better than we do. We just have to trust Him.

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Considering the Whole Picture

There are plenty of opportunities in life. Life provides a constant stream of decisions. Some are big, such as where do I go to college, where do I live, who do I marry, or do I take this next job? Others are small such as do I want the red or blue tie or do I want the plaid or stripey socks? One of the things we don’t want to do is rush a decision. Sure, there are times when we have to make snap judgments. For instance, troops in combat often face this situation. But when we have the time we should use it to carefully consider our choice. The more important a decision, the more time we should take, if we can. For instance, when considering between colors of ties, we should consider the relative condition of the ties and which matches up better with our shirt and/our suit. But that shouldn’t take us a whole lot of time because it’s not a really big decision. But considering if we should marry a particular person, that is a huge decision, and one not to be taken lightly. Therefore, we should make sure we take the time to weigh out all the facts. And that’s something else we should try and do: look at all the facts available to us.

One of the traps we can easily get into is looking at only the good aspects of a particular choice. We don’t consider the whole picture. We don’t give valid weight to the cons of a choice. For instance, we look at the tie we’re considering and it has our favorite cartoon character on it. We know it’s a big hit with the kids. And we are always in good spirits when we wear that particular tie. Those are the good aspects. But what we’re not considering are the cons. For instance, we’re wearing that tie to go to a job interview and we’re not thinking about what the likely reaction will be when we show up with it. The tie is a simple, light-hearted example. But it’s easy to make that kind of mistake in significant decisions in our lives, too. For instance:

Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.”

Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere–this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah–like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other.
– Genesis 13:5-11, NASB

Lot had to make a choice. Abram (later Abraham after God renames him) gave Lot first choice as to where he would settle. The current land wouldn’t support both of them and conflicts were erupting. In the interest of peace and family unity, Abram made the hard decision to separate. But he wanted to make sure his nephew was taken care of, so he let Lot choose first. Lot looked up and saw the richness the Jordan River valley. He thought about how his flocks would flourish there. But he was only looking at the good. He didn’t consider the bad. He didn’t consider the people who lived there. He didn’t look at the whole picture. And with only the good as part of his consideration, he made his decision:

Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD. – Genesis 13:12-13, NASB

It was a terrible choice. There was a war in that region and Lot was captured. It took Abram to rescue him (Genesis 14). But that wasn’t the only price Lot paid. God destroyed Sodom and Lot’s home with it (Genesis 19). While fleeing from the city, Lot’s wife turned back and was turned to a pillar of salt. Shortly thereafter, Lot’s daughters got their father drunk and had sexual relations with him. So Lot lost his home, his wife, and entered into sinful relationships with his daughters. And all of this because Lot went where the grass looked greenest, as the old saying goes.

When it comes to our decisions, we’ve got to consider all the facts we have available. And we can’t neglect some of them because they don’t happen to fit with the decision we want to make. Otherwise, we could make a bad choice and suffer the consequences. That’s what happened to Lot. He only saw the lushness of the Jordan River valley. He didn’t consider anything else. And in the end it cost him his home and his family. That was a terrible price to pay. If we don’t consider all the facts, we could find ourselves paying similar prices. So we’ve got to consider the whole picture and make our choices accordingly.

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