Choose Your Friends Wisely

"Choose your friends wisely." - Your Mom

All of us who have had mothers (this should include most of us) have probably heard some variation of the above quote on many occasions. When we failed to listen to this advise, our poor decision always, always, always came back to haunt us. And, when we actually took this advise, it nearly always resulted in the very pleasant benefit of quality friends.

This advise, however, goes way beyond the people we choose to hang out with. It also goes for the places we frequent - from the schools and social groups we join to the places of entertainment we frequent. Choose wisely in these areas and you can expect to reap rich rewards. Choose poorly and you can expect to pay a heavy penalty.

This advise also applies to the things we put into our minds. Whether we are talking about the type of literature we read or the television and movies we watch or the songs we listen to or the things we view on the internet, these "friends" will surely enhance our minds and lives, or they will pollute them just as surely as toxic sludge pollutes the water supply.

More than anything else, we need to choose our friends wisely when it comes to our souls. We need to choose wisely when it comes to the church we attend - is it a place to worship God, or is it little more than a social club? We need to make sure that we maintain a close relationship with the Bible, for it truly contains the very words of God. And, our very best friends must be our heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ - for if we choose Them for friends, we will have made the wisest decision that a man can make and guarantee ourselves an eternity of joy. On the other hand, should we be so foolish as to choose another friend instead, we will surely pay for that poor decision with an eternity of sorrow. 

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20, NIV 

 

Character Counts

Character without God is not character: It is popular opinion.

Of all the modern day school programs that I appreciate the most are those "character counts" programs that stress the importance of this noble virtue. I admire our administrators and teachers who are attempting to teach character to our kids as something to be sought after and admired. The problem that they are facing, however, is in the fact that character cannot be connected to the One from whom it flows - God.

Because of this, those involved with these programs are reduced to teaching character as defined by popular opinion. The clear difficulty with popular opinion is that it changes with the people who hold these opinions. So, things like sexual immorality cannot be taught as being immoral because immoral people don't like being considered immoral. We often find that the very act of frowning upon immoral behavior is considered to be "immoral". And, this is just one area of changing values in our modern society. Things such as honor, duty, and integrity have been philosophized away to the point where they don't mean the same thing that they used to.

So, we are faced with a very real dilemma: We want character to be taught to our kids, but true character cannot be taught in public schools without being scrubbed, sanitized, politically corrected and perverted. With our hands being tied so securely, is there anything we can do? In fact, there is something that we can and must do - we can teach character at home!

But be cautioned, though. In order to teach character at home you must first know what it is yourself. Character cannot be learned from just any old source: It must be learned from God. So, if we are ever going to return to being a nation with character, we will first have to return to God in our own homes. Then, and only then, can we teach true character. We have been 50 years away from teaching real character in the public schools and it will take some time to get back to it. It starts with a return to the Bible, and a return to church, and a return to God. If you think that character can be obtained in any other way, then it may be that you have forgotten one of the most basic truths this world has ever known: Character without God is not character.

Now the Bereans were of more noble character... for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures everyday... Acts 17:11, NIV  

 

Carpe Diem

 

If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should not grow old.

James A. Garfield

One of the saddest things in life is when people allow themselves to grow old. I'm not talking about the aging of the body - this comes regardless of diets, gym memberships and plastic surgeries. Rather, I am talking about those who permit the spirit within them to deteriorate.

We all dread the aging process to some degree. We worry about whether or not our health will be good and whether or not our money will hold out as long as we do. While only a fool fails to make preparations for his basic needs, for some these necessities become the entire focus of their existence. And sometimes we forget what a tremendous gift that each day really is.

The fact is that, regardless of our current age, each person has the exact same amount of time as the next: we each have today! Since we can only live one day at a time, whether we are nine or ninety-nine, why not seize this day for everything that it is worth? Why not view each day for what it is - a gift from God! Why not open that gift with the same type of breathless anticipation we used to have when opening our gifts at Christmas time - you remember that feeling - it was one of sheer excitement and pure joy!

An even more important fact to keep in mind is that we all have the exact same amount of time left - eternity. It is true that our time here on earth is uncertain, but our eternity is quite definite: It is forever! And, the place of our eternity is going to be entirely the one of our choosing. You don't believe that? Consider this: God has extended his grace and Christ has paid the price for our sins. Still, God created both Heaven and Hell so each individual will decide which place that he will reside in for eternity. We do so by choosing to serve God in His way, or by living in any old way that we want to live. Why not then choose to live for Christ? Why not choose Heaven? Instead of growing a little older each day, why not grow up to your salvation, and truly enjoy each day along the journey? You can, you know, if you choose to.

The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone and we fly away... So, teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalms 90:10&12, RSV

 

Can You See In the Dark?

I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world. Helen Keller

I believe that one of the reasons for unhappiness, is that men focus too much on the man-made world. We see all of the bad things that go on around us and we become distressed. Now, there are many bad things that require our attention, to be sure, but they do not require our obsession. 

All too often, we dwell on the negative aspects of this world. Whether it be politics, the economy, or just the state of man in general, we focus on what bad people are doing to the point that it diminishes our joy. That's when it is important to remember Helen Keller's advice.

The reason that Helen Keller could be happy in the dark was because she saw the light. She was blind, but she saw the power and beauty of God in her mind's eye. Isn't it sad that we who have 20-20 vision often fail to see the beauty of God's world that is plainly before us. We are in a dark world, at times - it's true, but we are also in the world created by the Father of Lights. So happiness (or more accurately, joy) comes from that which we choose to focus on. We cannot ignore our responsibility to see and react to evil, but we don't have to become consumed in our every thought by evil men.

I discovered a long time ago that we can either let others control our daily mood, or we can allow God to. If you and I will give a bit more thought to our daily walk with God, we can still see clearly that which we must do to combat evil, while at the same time enjoying the beauty of God's blessings that are ever before us. There is tremendous evil in this man-made world, and that evil will require a certain amount of our attention if we are to leave our children a better world. But, there is a great amount of good in this world that God has made, and it is our greatest asset in overcoming the evil that so often dominates our minds and hearts. 

Which world... will you live in?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set you hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:1-2, NIV

 

But... How Can We Be Thankful?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6, NIV

 

The man who influenced me more than anyone else to become a preacher was Jack Carter. It was not only his words  that made such an impression upon me, but also the way he lived. Jack is gone now, but he was a preacher for over 50 years. He had what seemed on the surface to be the perfect life, marrying his childhood sweetheart and raising a family of five beautiful children.

 

His life, however, was not without sorrow. One of his daughters contracted polio at a young age. His wife, Nancy, was stricken with a harsh variety of cancer and suffered for some time before yielding her life to that disease. A few years later, Jack was fishing at Yellowstone with his son Dave and two grandsons. A sudden squall came up, capsizing their boat. Jack and his son dove and dove under the icy water trying to find the boys, but to no avail. Then, Jack met Dave's eyes across the water and helplessly watched as his son sank beneath the waves.

 

I heard Jack speak of these trials some years later. He then, with humility, described how he prayed to his heavenly Father each day. He said that the only thing he could think to say some mornings was "Thank you! Thank you, Holy Father, thank you so much for all that you have done for me in my life."

 

You might be wondering how can anyone be thankful during such times.

 

A more appropriate question might be how can anyone not be thankful, whose hope is in Christ? How can anyone whose sins are forgiven (and whose penalty for those sins having been taken away) not be thankful to the One who paid the penalty? We are going to Heaven, if we will remain faithful - not because we deserve to, but because Jesus paid our penalty. And our loved ones will be there too, if they will but be faithful. Knowing all of this, how can we not be thankful? 

 

In America, at this time of year, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a time to remember just what we have been given - and to be thankful for those blessings. Things may not always go the exact way that we would choose, but when you think about it, how can we who have been given so much not start off each day with a prayer that says, "Thank you, thank you, thank you Father, thank you for all that you have done for me... thank you!"

 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 4:7, NIV