Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gypped by Cash for Gold

By Allen White 

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. Proverbs 17:3

I took an old class ring to a “Cash for Gold” place. It wasn’t worth as much as I’d hoped. After listening to all of those advertisements, I really expected ten times more. Thus, the power of advertising drew me in.

The ring was in good shape. It actually was gold. But, it wasn’t as much gold as I had thought. It was 10 caret gold, which means the ring was actually on 41.7 percent gold. There was actually far more other metal in the ring than gold. They only wanted the gold. Otherwise, it would be called “Cash for Nickel and Zinc.”

Once the ring went to the refinery, it was put through the fire. All of the gold was separated from the other metals.

Have you ever known someone beautiful who thought they were ugly? Have you ever encountered someone rich who thought they were poor? Have you ever experienced another’s brilliance only to discover he thinks he’s dumb? Have you ever met a redeemed person who wallowed in their fallenness? These are the impurities God wants to remove from our hearts.
Our character is forged in the furnace of life. While I don’t have much appreciation for unpleasant circumstances, I do value what God does in me as a result. I’m not running into crises and “counting it all joy” like James, but I do understand how God can use difficult situations and difficult people to change me.

Who are you about to “vote” out of your life like an episode of Survivor? Who would you cause you to look the other way or duck behind the shelves at Wal-mart? While you are probably not going to run up and hug them, God has put that person in your life for a reason.

God loves you too much to leave you with the character you have. He will do whatever it takes to make you more like Him.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Allen White: Perpetual Optimist?

By Allen White 

All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15

Proverbs sort of go back and forth. First we’re told if we’re happy to watch out because it can be replaced by grief (Proverbs 14:13). Now, we’re instructed that a cheerful heart is a continual feast. So, let’s look into a couple of facts about proverbs.

First, proverbs are truths regarding what generally happens. If you start a child on the right path, usually they follow the right path, even if they’ve taken a detour at some point (Proverbs 22:6). It is a general principle, but not a guarantee.

The second fact is proverbs often contrast two statements. “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). A merry heart is compared to a broken spirit. The idea is if you want good medicine, take a dose of merriment. But, a bitter pill is bad medicine.

In this proverb, Solomon contrasts oppression with cheerfulness. Oppression is the key to wretched days. Good days are wretched. Bad days are wretched. Oppression turns blue skies gray. It steals the last slice of chocolate cake. It makes your half full glass sour. A cheerful heart has a continual feast.

Some people are naturally optimistic. I am not one of those people, but I tolerate them. Those of you who know me, just tweeted “Amen!” Even though I tend to see the glass half empty, the project half done, the result as just okay, but not good enough, I do experience a cheerful heart.

While I am not naturally prone to cheer, I can certainly conjure it up. I am cheerful when I take two minutes in the morning in complete silence to embrace the Master and Creator of the Universe who longs to spend time with me. I am cheered by meaningful work and the news of life-change. I find myself outright giddy when I remember Who I belong to and what He has done for me.

I delight in my children’s laughter and expressions of their creativity. I celebrate a new healthy recipe my wife has discovered. My heart cheers when at the end of the day, I can share a moment with my wife, or when she laughs at one of my dumb jokes – not to placate me, but because she finds it truly funny.

I don’t plan on converting to optimism any time soon. But, I do have much to be cheerful and grateful about. When I stop to celebrate the great family I have and the joys around me, I have a continual feast.

When do you feel oppressed? God is not putting that darkness on you. Oppression comes from our enemy who wants to defeat and destroy us. God desires for us to discover abundant living (John 10:10).

Here’s the bottom line, and even I must admit it’s true – no one can steal your joy. No circumstance can remove your blessings. The only potential joy robber in your life is your attitude. You have little control over anything else, but you can control your view of the world. This is the key to your continual feast.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Are You Suffering from Envy Erosion?

By Allen White 

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30

I never really considered peace as the opposite of envy. Strife seems like the counter to peace and satisfaction to envy. But, peace and envy? I’ve honestly never put them together, even though I’ve read this proverb many times.

Envy can’t stand it when others succeed. When someone gets a newer, shinier ________________, do we congratulate them, then begin investigating how to do better? Or do we just assume they are living beyond their means and just putting on for show?

When we envy, we compete. We strive to keep up with the Joneses. Striving leads to, well, strife. Whether the other person is aware or not, we harbor an inner wrestling. Our pride tells us we are better than the other, so we deserve better than they do.

Envy doesn’t bring life to the body. Instead, envy “rots the bones.” How are your bones? No amount of calcium will overcome this envy sickness.

Peace certainly relates to an absence of strife. But, in the case of envy, peace succumbs to internal strife.

Someone with a heart at peace knows who they are. A heart at peace believes God has a plan and knows He is working for our good. A peaceful heart knows whether we’re the tortoise or the hare, God is always there.

Think about this – what would you rather have? Meaningful work or material success? Of course, we answer “both.” Yet, we live in the wealthiest country of the world and live far above the rest of the world, but we are not satisfied with material success – especially if other “undeserving” folks are more successful than we are.

If you could choose only one, would you rather have health or wealth? Would you rather have salvation or stuff? Would you rather have a heart at peace or bone rotting envy?

God didn’t create us to be better than other people. God created us to be us. With His power and promise, we are certainly destined to become a better version of us. But, a “better me” is not at the cost of besting others.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are Some People Too Happy?

By Allen White 

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief. Proverbs 14:13

Talk about a wet blanket. What happened to the proverb about cheerful words? We could use that one again after this one.

Happiness at best is temporary. In fact the word happiness is based on the word “happenstance.” Some circumstances promote happiness. Others do not.

We don’t experience complete happiness all of the time. We certainly enjoy happy times or even happy moments. But, no one enjoys perpetual happiness. Think about this – if all we ever experienced was happiness, we would just call it “life.” If we were always happy, we wouldn’t even need the word “happy.”

Every life has ups and downs. This is reality. People who attempt to live a lifetime on mountain tops are a little disconnected from reality. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to rain on your parade. We all need the sun to break through our clouds on gloomy days.
To become disconnected from our pain and solely pursue full-time happiness leads to a condition called denial. We become separated from reality. Our attempts at happiness can lead to ways to numb our pain. The “life of the party” is often crying on the way home.

So should we just abandon happiness and give into impending misery – absolutely not! We serve a God who delights in us. He doesn’t want us to wallow in misery. The Bible tells us “A merry heart does good like a medicine” (REF).

We all could stand to laugh a little more – maybe even laugh until we can’t stand it. In the course of any day, we’re bound to do dumb things – it’s time to laugh at ourselves. We should slow down and enjoy the laughter of our children. We should share funny stories with each other and enjoy our lives.

But, our expectation should be a variety of experiences and emotions. Nothing will keep us happy, and nothing should keep us sad.

What are you pursuing? Constant happiness? Numbing out your pain? Can you experience God in bright moments as well as dark ones? God gives us a variety of experiences, and He’s with us in every one.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Could Obstacles be Part of Our Objective?

By Allen White 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

Rick Warren says, “You can live a week without food. You can live a day without water. You can live five minutes without oxygen. But, you can’t live a second without hope.”

God created each of us for a purpose. I believe Rick Warren also had a few things to say about that. We have all been wired for a specific mission God planned for us long ago.

When we operate in line with that mission, we find a life-giving flow of energy, creativity, excitement and joy. When we operate outside of our mission, we find ourselves tired, unmotivated and certainly not loving every minute of it.

Don’t get me wrong. No one has a problem-free life. Jesus told us, “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33). He wasn’t kidding. But, as Laura Story puts it so well, what if the trials of this life are “His blessings in disguise?”

Our problems are our teachers, and there are some days I want to skip school. But, trouble deepens our dependence on God and strengthens our character as a result.

But, if we don’t hope things will improve or that our present sacrifice will lead to a brighter future, life is rather defeating. If in following our mission we encounter trouble, we might take it a little more in stride. It goes with the territory. But, if we’re uncertain of our purpose, trouble can be devastating.

What do you long for? Do you long to fulfill God’s plan for your life, or do you long for some new toy? What preoccupies your thoughts? Are you hoping another person will change so your life can improve? Good luck with that.

The key to a satisfied life is aligning what you do and how you do it with what God has designed for you to do. If you’re not sure God has a mission for you at all, a course like Network or SHAPE or PLACE is a good way to start.

Please don’t misunderstand me. God isn’t necessarily calling you to quite your day job and move to Africa – but He might be. If you do meaningful work, then you just might have discovered your God-given calling. But, if your work is not a love-to-do and more of a have-to-do, you’re probably not operating in your sweet spot.

I know variety is the spice of life, but monotony pays the bills. But, would life be better while we are doing work we love every day, we also pay the bills? There is no greater feeling than working hard at something that matters far beyond our ability or lifespan. It’s doing God’s work.

What work has God called you to? If you don’t know, then ask Him. If you are in a difficult work situation, then ask God if you’re there for His purpose. He will give you insight into why you are there. And, don’t be surprised if He uses a little trouble to motivate you in the right direction.

God has a purpose for your life. You may never be a pastor or preacher. You may never work at a church. But, God has a plan uniquely suited to the gifts and abilities He has given you. Aligning with your purpose will bring joy and hope to your life.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Anxiety Cure

By Allen White 

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25 

Why do we feel so anxious? Anxiety is tied to the future. We’re not anxious about our past. After all, if we are anxious someone might find out something about our past, that’s actually a future concern. Past is past.

Anxiety is a problem with our future. “I don’t know if I can get all of my work done.” “I don’t know if my kids will turn out well.” “I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now.” “I don’t know if I’ll still have my job.” Anxiety weighs us down.

Research shows by rehearsing these anxious thoughts, we actually put ourselves through the same physiological process as if we’re actually experiencing the problem. If we worry about getting fired, we go through the same stress, emotions, and physical symptoms as if we just received our pink slip. In fact, getting fired might actually come as a relief!

No one has exact certainty regarding his/her future. We can plan. We can work. We can hope, and we can worry. But, worry doesn’t promise a positive outcome. In fact, worry might take us the other direction. Now, there’s one more thing to worry about.

If anxiety weighs down, then a kind word cheers up. Here’s the kind word: there is Someone who knows your entire future – God. Before you were born, God knew you and the path you would take. God is never surprised or worried about what happens to you. He already knows.

Not only does God know our future, He has a plan for us. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God has got things under control, and He is leading us toward a positive result.

Above all else, God loves us. He loves us enough to not leave us with poor character or a defeating circumstance. What He won’t deliver us from He will walk us through, and it will develop our character in the process.

Cheer up. God is on your side. And, if God is for us, then who can be against us?

God knows the future. He knows everything planned for today, and tomorrow, and every day after that. Once the issue you face is resolved, God also knows the peace you will experience. And, here’s the great thing about God, if we follow His instructions in Philippians 4:6-7, we can have that peace now. We don’t have to wait.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Follow these words to cheer your heart and lift your burden.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shortcuts to the Long Way

By Allen White
Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy. Proverbs 12:20

Ever taken a short cut? One day I was driving back from having my lawn mower repaired. The mower was sticking out of the trunk of my car with the trunk lid tied down the best I could. I may very well be the only man in the South without a truck.

I didn’t want to take the highway, so I took a smaller street that would get me and the mower home safely. As I drove, traffic became slower and slower until it came to a crawl. I looked over at the highway and thought it might have been a better choice. Then, I found a shortcut on my GPS.

A great side street moved all of the way off of the map. I had found a winner and would no longer be stuck behind all of the mess.

I made a right turn and drove for several miles only to discover what the GPS failed to show me. The street was a dead end. As I made a uturn and headed back to the surface street and the traffic jam, I realized my shortcut was not short. My trip actually grew longer. Now, I was stuck behind more cars than ever. I had been deceived.

Evil seems like a shortcut. Lucifer, the most beautiful archangel in Heaven, decided to compete with God rather than bask in God’s glory. The pride in his heart made him God’s enemy and ours. Now, the deception continues.

As we are tempted by evil, sometimes we eye the shortcuts in life. This proverb tell us the hearts of people set on evil are filed with deceit. Deceit is not just a weapon against others. Deceit is self-destructive. People who do evil are not just deceivers, but are also deceived.

Whatever they think will bring them happiness brings them far less. The contrast to deceit in this passage is peace. Rather than manipulating someone to follow your way, folks who promote peace achieve unity which results in joy.

Most of us wouldn’t categorize ourselves in the ranks of Satan. That’s a bit extreme. We’re not evil. We’re not anti-God. We just want things our way – which happens to be anti-God and thus evil. Oops.

Promoting peace doesn't mean passively smoothing things over and ignoring others' bad behavior. It also doesn’t mean never getting our way.

Here’s a simple truth: you and I are not the Holy Spirit. We do not need to talk about others' faults and failures. We don’t need to tattle on them like little children. Their deeds will be found out soon enough. We don’t even have to say a word to another person. But, we should direct all of our words to God.

We should tell God our fears over a situation. We should report to God the misdeeds of others. We should ask God to make things right. Then, we should ask God to give us His peace that passes all understanding.

One of my favorite passages from Scripture says this, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phiiippians 4:6-7). Practicing this verse will lead to peace and joy.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Where is Your Heart Leading You?

By Allen White 
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23 

Our hearts are far more powerful than our heads. Case in point, how many things do we know we should do, yet we don’t because we don’t feel like it. The opposite is also true – how many things do we know to avoid, yet plunge into over and over?

The Bible tells us the heart has an inclination toward wickedness (Jeremiah 17:9). It’s part of our brokenness – part of human nature. Yet, our hearts can also be directed.

How many times have we had our hearts “set” on something? The question comes to whether we are setting our hearts on the right things.

Please understand – this doesn’t follow the anything-you-want-is-wrong line of thinking. God actually wants to bless us with things we want. Solomon desired wisdom, so God gave Solomon wisdom with wealth to boot (1 Kings 3:1-15).

But, our hearts can be deceived. We can desire someone or something to the point this replaces God in our lives. If only we had _______________, we would be happy.

These out of control desires lead to flawed thinking. “If I were with another person instead of with my spouse, my life would be better.” If you put the energy into your marriage instead of into a fantasy, your marriage might be a lot better.

Our hearts need guidance or else they are prone to lead us astray. Fortunately, God have us a Guide Book, the Bible. If our hearts ever direct us away from the Truth of God’s Word, then the course needs correction.

But, what if we just don’t feel like it? Ever been there? When our hearts and our heads are playing tug-a-war, we need more power than our own will power to resist. We need God’s power.

If you feel God is requiring you to do something you’re not capable of, or your heart is drifting away from God’s way, then cry out to God. Make him aware of the seeming impossibility of your situation. Let Him know – if His path is meant to be, then it’s NOT up to me. It’s up to Him!

Cry out to God. He will answer your desperate prayer. God will give you the power you need – unless you persist. He won’t violate your will, but He will put up a roadblock.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Churning Up Anger: How to Free Yourself

By Allen White

For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife. Proverbs 30:33

The Slow Food Movement is gaining momentum across the U.S. and around the world. People are making the connection -- treating plants with poison leads to eating poison, and giving antibiotics and hormones to animals leads to people eating the same. Our food is making us sick.

Now, if you have some great argument in favor of Food Inc, please send your comments to eatmorepoison@galatians419.com. (This is not a real email address, but please feel free to send your complaints there.)

The Slow Food folks believe what we put into our bodies affects our bodies. They prefer organic, grass-fed, free range, cage free, hormone free and overall more natural foods. Don’t be mistaken. They don’t advocate eating cardboard – those are the weight loss people. (Please send your complaints to the email address above).

When it comes to food, we are what we eat. If we put the right things into our bodies, we tend to be healthy. If we put the wrong things in, we can become unhealthy. It’s simple cause and effect.

Solomon applied this principle to other common practices. If you churn milk, you get butter. While we may be eating healthier, few of us are back to churning butter…yet. If you can get milk worked up enough, it will produce butter – not margarine, not fake butter, but the real thing.

If you twist your nose, it will bleed. If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and try this at home. Have a towel handy and maybe some ice. If you try this on another person, then you’ll end up with two effects from this verse – blood and strife.

Anger produces strife. According to the dictionary, strife is “vigorous or bitter conflict, discord, or antagonism.” Strife is getting someone stirred up for sure.

Now, milk is not volatile. If you stir chocolate syrup into milk, you get chocolate milk, not chocolate butter. If you twist your nose slightly, you might look funny, but you probably won’t bleed. But, keep the towel handy. When you continually activate anger, you antagonize the other person and cause on-going conflict.

I say “active” anger, because I learned from Dr. Archibald Hart years ago that anger is only a present emotion. We don’t store anger up in some vast reserve to be released. If that was the case, we would feel better after we lashed out at someone. That just doesn’t happen.

The Bible tells us, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26) and when we do get angry we need to resolve things before sunset. We shouldn’t carry the results of anger over into the next day.

Anger isn’t sinful. Anger is an emotion just like happiness, sadness or any other emotion. How we use anger can result in sin.

If we continually keep ourselves worked up over something that happened long ago, we are probably entering into sin. If we can’t get past an issue or forgive someone, we’ve also violated some Scriptural principles like Colossians 4:32.

Much of our anger comes from fear. We become upset when we’re afraid. So, here’s the exercise for today. Set aside a few minutes and ask yourself these two questions:

1.       What am I angry about?
2.       What am I afraid of?

If you can’t come up with a few answers right off the bat, then pray and ask God to reveal these answers to you.

After you have the answers, then begin to ask God to help you work through these issues. Read Scripture to give you a truthful perspective on your anger and fears. It can be transforming.

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