Something to Think about is a daily (more or less) commentary on life. The Author, Howard Merrell's, goal is to help us think Biblically and Christianly about the issues of life, from the mundane to the sublime.
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I'm not sure exactly what a picture of Proverbs 25:11 looks like. Maybe that's the point. I checked some resources, one said, "gold apples set against a silver sculpture or carving, or like a gold earring or other ornament.* Another, "either real apples of golden color, in a silver network basket, or imitations on silver embroidery."** I don't know Hebrew and so I can't decipher the precise meaning. A look at various translations shows a variety of ideas. Could it be that all of that precision is beside the point? That what we are being confronted with is something of exquisite beauty, something in which the color, the preciousness of the materials, the balance, symmetry and aesthetic appeal are breath-taking? Something that to look at is to feel a pleasure so intense that it approaches pain? Have you heard such a word, a word fitly spoken, advice that is timely, a thought distilled into communication that absolutely hit the spot, and caused you to give an, "Ahh" of satisfaction? Such words are rare. They are to be treasured. That well thought out, carefully considered, properly framed, "I love you," especially if the precious metal of the words has been refined by patience. An, "I'm here," without needless explanation, in particular when the actions in which the words are contained leave no doubt that this is from someone who is there for the long-haul. The words can be wrapped in temporary pain. Their short translation is, "I love you too much to let you do this. You may hate me for saying this, but I love you so much that I'm willing to take that risk."*** In my imagination, I see Solomon in his royal palace, some extravagantly beautiful work of art before him, contemplating a well-chosen word. He thought, meditated, gazed at the thing of beauty, and said, "Yes, that is what it is like." Three thousand years later having heard such a word, I say, "Amen." The well-chosen word that fed, and continues to feed my soul, is a carefully chosen, brief exposition of scripture. It fit the occasion. It was delivered to meet the need of the hearer, not display the ability of the speaker, and it penetrated into my heart to meet the need of the hour in my life.
Lord, as one who dares to speak words on Your behalf, may they be the right words. Guide me Holy Spirit, so that what I say will be valuable not only now, but for eternity. Amen
. . . in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
What an outline for a novel or a movie. How was it that the Apostle Paul managed to stir up and bring on himself so much trouble? Basically, it was because he was doing something. He could have gotten a job as the curator of ancient manuscripts at the University of Tarsus, he could have been a popular blogger on the Parchment-sphere Network, or found a nice quiet synagogue and taught people. The Apostle, though, was driven to do something. In Philippians 3 Paul says he had been apprehended by God, and he had not yet apprehended the reason he had been apprehended. It's not an exaggeration to say he was driven. Some accused him of madness--an accusation that was also leveled at Jesus--Paul replied that he was controlled by love, the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:13-14). The good life isn't a life of leisure. The good life is a life worth living, and a life worth living will have its measure of trouble.
Kathy and I just watched the movie, The Darkest Hour. It is about Winston Churchill. My dad would have been fifteen years old when the Prime Minister of England made some of the speeches depicted in the film. Dad later fought in that war. It was a long time ago. Just this last week, though, a crew of young people was cutting brush and cleaning up some property, here on Guam. In that same war, one of our ships fired a shell in the battle to retake this island. It lay unexploded until this week. The clean-up crew found it, they called the Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit, and more than seventy years after the shell was fired, more than forty years after the lone holdout of the Empire of Japan surrendered, that shell finally exploded. No one was hurt. War lasts a long time. That observation is not only true about wars between nations but about those personal battles we fight with evil without and within. I'm not foolish enough to think that the men and women of that WW2 era were perfect. They clearly weren't. Yet, there was a resolve about them we can learn from. They spoke of "monstrous evil," and days "that will live in infamy." The horrors of war were fresh in their memory, yet they had the wisdom to see the horror of surrender to evil, as well. They left behind more than unexploded ordinance, fields scarred by bombs, cemeteries marked with gleaming white crosses, and ships at the bottom of the sea. They left me a world filled with freedom and opportunity. Lord, as I face the battles before me, may I do so, realizing that I will bless, or curse, those who come after me. Give me the wisdom to choose what is right. Amen.
Everybody out here in the Pacific knows what snow is. It's like you who are back in our home knowing what the tropics are like, or either of us knowing about a desert. Though my neighbors here understand snow, it's never been seen in these parts. Sometimes I'm struck with the oddity of seeing pictures of my Virginia home covered with ice and snow, while Kathy and I are trying to decide whether to turn the AC on or get by for a while with the windows open. A friend from upstate New York commented on the oddity in reverse. They are covered in white and dealing with low temperatures. She watched a video that one of our colleagues posted. She couldn't help but notice that most of the folk in the video were wearing flip-flops. While we greatly enjoy the ease with which we can communicate around the world, there is an unavoidable dissonance. When I call someone back in the mainland, do I say "Good morning," because it is morning, here, or "Good evening," because it is yesterday evening there? It's no big deal. I'm just glad to be able to talk to a friend or loved one. Let me indulge in a moment of speculation. l don't think there will be time zones in heaven. There will be no need to the sun for light. The presence of the Lord will light the heavenly city. Since He is omnipresent, I figure there won't be any time zones. Like I say, it's just speculation, but it is going to be good.
I was up well before the chickens this morning.I picked up a friend at the airport. He traveled here, to Guam to attend our Ministry Equipping Conference. This year's conference is on disciple-making. My friend has been involved in working with others, especially teens, encouraging them to follow the Lord. Working with people isn't like working with clay. We people aren't nearly as moldable. Nor are we like concrete or plaster. If you can manage to get concrete into the right shape for a few hours, it will hold that form for many years. No, when God created us, He gave us a will. If we exercised our bodies as much as we do our wills, we'd be in much better shape. My friend is broken-hearted. Some of those with whom he has been working have chosen another path. My friend isn't the first to face this problem. The Apostle Paul experienced the same sadness as my friend when he commented to Timothy, "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me" (2 Timothy 4:10).When Jesus asked Peter and the others, "You do not want to go too, do you?" it was an acknowledgment that they could turn away if they chose to. Following the Great Commission of our Lord, is not like cutting out Jesus-followers with a disciple cookie-cutter. It's more like wrestling or trying to get somewhere in a small boat in the midst of a big storm. The outcome, from where we sit, isn't clear. If I start passing on what God has given me to another, do I have any guarantee that they will turn out right? No, absolutely not. But there is likely someone in my sphere of influence whom I can influence. Maybe I'm the only one who can. If I don't teach them, pray with them, do life with them, and encourage them to follow the Lord, then for sure they won't. My friend will be around a few days. I'll probably quote Galatians 6:9 to him. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Some of the news recently reminds me of my daily exercise walk. Besides that, I figure it's about time for an update on the pavement pounders. Kathy and I have walked on the route from the Yigo (jee-go) Fire Station to the "X," where the road is blocked, for over a year now. At 3.2 miles/walk, I figure we've put in over 600 miles.
There are two rules that Kathy and I maintain as we walk. We walk fast, and we greet everyone we meet. We meet some famous and glamorous folk who, like us, are out for some exercise in the morning. Famous or not we speak to all of them. Unlike us, Sean Penn is a runner. We see him a couple of times a week. He has never introduced himself, but as I look at him through my sweat impaired eyes, as he is running one way and I am walking the other, I'm sure it is him. Even though he generally wears a hoodie, the nose is a giveaway. He's exactly what you would expect. He always looks like he's puzzling through some deep existential crisis. He never smiles, but on occasion, he breaks his runners-high trance long enough to grunt a reply to our greeting. I'm not holding my breath for an invitation to his gated villa surrounded by Guamian jungle and few hundred guards. I've never heard anyone say anything about Penn living here. No doubt it's because he has sworn them to secrecy. Some of you are under the mistaken notion that Mr. Miyagi, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita is dead. No, he's alive and walking, and looking pretty good I might add. I always resist greeting him with "Wax on. Wax off," but he looks to me like he is still into catching flies. Though I resist the line from the movie, we always tell him hello. He is as friendly as he used to be in the movies. It's not as hard for him to blend in as it is for poor Sean. A Hafa Adai tee-shirt is all it takes for Miyagi-san to blend in with the island's Asian culture. There are a bunch of other regular greetees that I don't know as well. There is a guy who is either an Asian stock trader or a spy. I figure he has a hidden earphone he is listening to. He doesn't have time for us; he's either saving the world or becoming its richest man, so I understand. It's always a pleasure to see the world's best-dressed walker, bright, perky, hair well-groomed, and perfectly color coordinated. She, her less colorful companion, and the man they drag along, always return our greeting. Those we know well, some even by name, we begin to greet when we are about ten yards apart. That way we can have time for a brief exchange. For some, like Lily and Hector, an older couple who stroll along like they wouldn't mind spending all day on the little dead-end road, we'll often stop and chat for fifteen or twenty seconds. Two things are true about all our companions. None of the walkers pass us, and we greet them all, even the Asian sage, no doubt a descendant of Confucius, who is even less talkative than Sean.
Recently the news has been full of reports that President Trump said some unfortunate things about some of the people in the world. He and his spokesmen deny it. Me? I'm following the lead of Penn and the Sage. Whether he said what others say he said or not, is beside my point. The news gives us opportunity to ask:
Why should we show respect and kindness to everyone we meet on life's walk?
Some don't return our kindness, some even treat us badly, though we treat them well. James confronts his far-flung congregation, folk who had met more than their share of ill-treatment, with a basic reality.
James 3:9–10 (NASB95) With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
The Apostle Paul says that our speech should be that which builds up, not tears down. Why? Because people are created in God's image. They should be treated as such. The next time I walk down that road in Yigo, indeed, wherever I walk for the rest of my days, I will never meet a human being who is not worthy of respect and kindness, because everyone I meet is a bearer of the image of the God of the universe.
My friend, Liann Stae, lives in Hawaii. She gave me permission to share her thoughts about this morning's false alarm, warning of missile attack.
It’s amazing how God is speaking to me this morning. Hawaii awoke to very alarming news. The official warning was that a bomb was heading our way...many people panicked, even stores were getting ready to close, and some did CLOSE as soon as they heard the news. To many, including me, it all seemed real... That is exactly how real Gods calling is for us all. I opened up my phone to do my daily devotion, and the first thing that came up was this verse from Ephesians 5:14 which states, “...Awake O Sleeper and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” This verse sounds so much, like when Jesus told Lazarus to rise, and Lazarus obeyed the command and walked out of his tomb. Are we seeing our calling from Christ, to be as real as the frightened Hawaiians saw the threat of a nuclear attack, which turned out to be a mistake by the way. Thank the Lord! Because for sure, we were not all ready at all for this. Question is, are we gonna OBEY God’s calling? And do what wakeful people do in the face of danger? This is an awakening for many and a reminder to others...JESUS thank you for this reminder!
If I had been in Hawaii, I would have sought to get my family to safety and would have done everything I could to see that neighbors and loved ones would have a chance to survive the disaster that appeared to be coming from the sky. I claim to believe in the reality of heaven, hell, and eternity. I believe that Jesus deserves to be worshipped in every nation and language on earth. Am I willing to give that reality the priority it deserves in my life?
Liann is a 2017 graduate of Pacific Islands University, where Kathy and I are privileged to serve. She works as a teacher's aide in Hawaii, and was just accepted into a Masters in Counseling program at Liberty University. If you'd like to find out you can help give a good, Biblically based education to more people like Liann, click here.