Sunday, July 29, 2012

Trust without Explanation

By Allen White 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (or direct your path). Proverbs 3:6

On Tuesday, November 20, 2001, my wife awoke in her hospital bed with this verse in the form of a song by Sixpence None the Richer in her head. She had been on bed rest in the hospital for 17 days. I was on “cot rest” next to her bed during those days.

This song was actually sung at our wedding just 18 months before. Standing at the altar, we had no idea how these words to trust God would show up throughout our married life in such dramatic ways.

At four minutes after midnight on November 21, our son Samuel was born. His birth defect was confirmed, and our trust in God took us to a much different place.

There was much I didn’t understand. Since I devoted my whole life to God, why did He give us a child with a birth defect? I was taught if I obeyed God, I would be blessed, and if I disobeyed, I would be cursed. I had done my best to obey God, but was feeling cursed as days turned to weeks then months with our newborn in intensive care.

Even going home didn’t change this course. The baby wasn’t completely “fixed.” In fact, over the years, the issues have been like peeling layers of an onion. Each new issue came with a whole new specialist. Each new year has challenged us to trust God in yet another way.

The path hasn’t seemed straight or easy. Anyone who ever expressed the idea that the Christian life was somehow easier needs to apologize for those words. Just a Christian way of life doesn’t bring ease, but our relationship with God makes what seems impossible possible.

Our understanding demands a lot of answers, but answers don’t really make you feel better, do they? In so many ways, life just doesn’t make sense. But, the insecurities we face force us to trust God. Insecurity with a deepening trust in God is far better than security with trust in our own understanding.

What doesn’t make sense in your life? When do you want to shake your first at the sky and demand an answer? When do you want to collapse to your knees and pour out your broken heart?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (or direct your path). Proverbs 3:6

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I'm Speaking at Element Church in Woodruff, SC This Sunday

I am honored to speak for my friend, Josh Bradley at Element Church this Sunday, July 29. Element Church is a two year old church plant that's already grown to 350 in weekly attendance...and, did I mention, it's in Woodruff!

Services are at 9:30 & 11 am. They meet at the Woodruff Leisure Center (leisure suit, not required). For more information: From Greenville, just take Woodruff Road and keep driving.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Before Dave Ramsey…

By Allen White 

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

Years ago, I sat in a budgeting seminar at a summer camp in western Kansas. The speaker gave simple, yet profound advice. “Spend only what you have. Get out of debt and stay out of debt.” It seemed there should really be more to it than that.

I was in college at the time and didn’t have any debt. No credit card. No student loans. I didn’t owe any money to anybody. I really didn’t worry about debt. I actually didn’t have any money to worry about at the time.

In the 25 years since then, I’ve unfortunately been enslaved to debt for the vast majority of those years. No one forced me into it. I was a victim of my own choices, which actually makes me the perpetrator.

Our family is in the process of digging out and is making great progress. Much like weight loss, debt doesn’t all come on at once, and it certainly doesn’t all come off at once either. It’s steady plodding.

The image of being someone’s master or slave seems far removed from where we live, but it certainly exists in this world. Through my involvement with Water of Life, this has become very clear.

In our work in India, Roland Bergeron, our founder, discovered quarries mined by child slaves. The scenario went something like this.

The mine owners would loan a couple more money than he knew they could ever afford to repay (usually in the realm of US$2,000-3,000). After time passed and payment wasn’t made, the mine owner would show up and demand one of the family’s children to satisfy the debt. The child became the slave of the lender.

While slavery is outlawed in the United States, the vast majority are enslaved to debt. (According to the International Justice Mission, slavery exists right here in the United States. In fact, your tomatoes might have been picked by slaves in the U.S.). If we don’t pay our Visa bill, no one is going to submit us to forced labor. But, they can send us to collection or bankruptcy.

Consumer debt really makes no sense. We pay for something many times over in a period of years, when we could have just saved up and bought it when we had the money. Or, we could have just waited for the impulse to pass and just done without it.

Most of us can’t afford to pay cash for a house. We’re probably not going to present an all cash offer on “Selling New York” any time soon – though I would work with Michelle Kleier, if that ever was the case. Enough financial dreaming.

The Bible has more to say about money than love, faith or most other subjects. How we handle our money is a key spiritual indicator in our lives. We can use money and serve God, or we can serve money and become enslaved to it.

Now that I’m not a pastor at a church, I can say exactly what I feel about money. It’s a cruel task master. God loves us. Money demands more. God is generous. Money is stingy. We would all do better giving our money to build God’s Kingdom and help the poor rather than sending it all to South Dakota or Wilmington, Delaware.

How are you handling money? Are you using it or is it using you?

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Secrets of the Heart

By Allen White 

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

The Queen in Snow White inquires, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who’s the fairest of them all?”

Mirror: “Not you.” (Allen White Version)

We can’t see ourselves directly. As I’m sitting here typing, I can see my hands and arms. I can see my legs. I can see the rim of my glasses. But, I can’t see my hair, my eyes, my nose, or my ears. The only way I have any idea of what I look like is from the image in a mirror or in a photo or video.

Truthfully, I often like the idea of what I look like rather than the reality of it. In my mind, I still look much like I did in college. But, the scale reveals I weigh nearly twice as much as I did then. And, the mail reveals my 25th college reunion is approaching. How could this be? I’m so young and fit -- in my mind.

All of us tend to think the best of ourselves, then we get a glimpse revealing we’re not as good as we think we are. I’m not saying we’re all bad, but we’re certainly not all good either.

Just like the mirror reveals the condition of our appearance, our hearts reveal the condition of our souls. Are we jealous? Are we angry? Are we fearful? What are our hearts telling us.

Over the years, so much of discipleship and spiritual growth has focused on “neck up” exercises. The more we know, the more we grow, right? Not necessarily. As one author put it, “Most Christians are already educated well beyond their level of obedience.” Ouch.

Our hearts reveal our condition. But, our hearts speak differently than our minds. For instance, I’m not sure anyone has ever purchased a car as the result of a rational decision. We usually go on the lot and choose a car we will…love. Then, we buy something slightly more expensive than what we intended to. The rationale comes afterward in justifying the purchase and figuring out how we can afford the “low monthly payments.”

What do our hearts “say” about our spiritual condition? What makes us anxious? What threatens us? What irritates us? What excites us? What helps us feel calm? These indicators show us the condition of our soul.

If our hearts only longed for good things, then we would be good people through and through. If our hearts only longed for evil things, then we would be truly evil people. The problem is none of us fits neatly into either category. Sometimes good people harbor evil thoughts in their hearts. Sometimes bad people surprise us and do something good. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which.

The goal is not to live a perfect life, but we must live an informed life. Our information should come from several sources. Certainly our mind and our thoughts make a contribution. But, our heart is quite a blabbermouth in revealing our spiritual condition.

What is your heart telling you? What are you angry about? What are you sad about? What are you afraid of? If you’re not sure, get out a sheet of paper and write one of these questions at the top. Then, start writing the answers. God will help you grow in ways you never realized you needed to grow.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Deception is Reality?

By Allen White 

Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit. Though their speech is charming, do not believe them for seven abominations fill their hearts. Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Proverbs 26:23-26

When I was 12-years-old I spent a week with my Grandma White. She was a remarkable person. Grandma survived her husband by about 40 years, raised 12 children, cared for foster children after her own children were grown, and volunteered to help “senior citizens.” To date, between children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, there are 120 of us and growing annually.

During that summer week, my grandma and I volunteered serving the elderly. It seemed like a fine line between the volunteers and the elderly in some cases. We visited neighbors, and we made ceramics.

I decided to work on a turtle. Now, I didn’t create the turtle myself. I started with the clay greenware. My grandma showed me how to clean it up and smooth out the rough edges. At the end of the process, we had a clay turtle. Then, I applied some magic paint.

The paint went on white, but once the ceramic was fired in the kiln, it came out a mix of green and brown. The clay turtle was now turtle colored - - not through and through, but on the outside.

Now, I wasn’t trying to convince anyone this was a taxidermy version of a real turtle. It was a ceramic turtle. But, in this passage, Solomon points to evil and deceitful people who disguise themselves much like the turtle color  disguised the clay.

These people are experts at manipulation and making everything sound great, even when things aren’t close to great. They work so hard at deceiving others, they often deceive themselves in the process.

Some say, “Perception is reality.” But, in all honesty, “Reality is reality.” Sometimes “Perception is deception.” It’s someone else’s version of reality, even if that someone else is us.

Deceitful people are often broken and insecure. Rather than doing the hard work of growing to health and healing, instead they work hard at covering their tracks and manipulating things to get their way. This behavior receives a rather strong label in Scripture – evil.

It’s not “he’s just a victim and thus victimizes others.” It’s not “bless his heart, this is how he’s always been.” This is “he is choosing to go his own way and refuses to allow God to help him.”

Rather than honestly confessing what needs transformation, he just puts on another coat of shellac. We know people who put it on thick, don’t we? The bigger question is: Are we those people?

What do we feel is easier to cover up than expose? What bad thing are we trying to put a good face on?

It’s okay to be clay. God knows we’re fragile. He remembers we came from dust (Psalm 103:13-14). God loves us the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there. No shellac!

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Right to be Right (Even When You’re Wrong)

By Allen White 

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2

Anybody who’s ever bought a used car or a used house has convinced themselves the situation is better than it actually appears. “The minor engine noise is not that bad.” “The creak in the floor adds to its charm.” If you’ve only ever bought new, then you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Over time those charming, minor flaws we once felt could be easily overlooked are the first thing we notice on a regular basis. There’s a sick feeling in the pit of our stomach. Our “great value” gains another name “lemon.”

We live in a world where we have the right to be right even when we’re wrong. Our political correctness has led to apathy. “Who am I to judge them?” begins to sounds like “Why should I care? They made their choice.”

The bottom line is simply this: I am not “more” right than you, and you aren’t “more” right than me, but God’s Word is always right. This should be a great comfort, even though at times God’s Word can make us uncomfortable.

A lot of people are wrongly “right” about handling their finances. If you’re trying to set a family budget, and especially if you’re trying to live by one, the first principle of money is the first 10 percent belongs to God (Malachi 3:3) – no ifs, ands, or buts.

We think “if I can’t live on 100 percent of my income, then how could I possibly live on 10 percent less?” Here’s the key: if we live in obedience to God, God will bless us. If we live in disobedience to God, God will, um, not bless us.

Over the last six months, I took on a job that I love, but it’s unlike any job I’ve had before. Rather than having a secure, regular paycheck, there’s a base salary, then incentives beyond that. For the salesmen out there, they wouldn’t have it any other way. For me, the thought of not possibly covering basic needs tends to freak me out a little bit. But, all along we’ve tithed to our church.

Every month we’ve had what we needed. We haven’t had to touch our emergency savings. God has provided for all of our needs. Many of my readers have been a part of this with your generosity in supporting these devotionals.

This is one of many examples of how God’s ways are higher than our ways. When we think we know better than God – this is where the trouble begins.

What are you being stubborn about these days? What part of God’s Word are you ignoring to justify something that feels right to you? If you’re not sure, ask God to examine your heart, then humbly surrender the things He points out.

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