“To know even one life has breathed easier because you lived, this is to have succeeded.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“To know even one life has breathed easier because you lived, this is to have succeeded.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Have you ever hugged someone, who was wearing a nice cologne, and later caught a whiff of their fragrance lingering on you? Mmmmm…. Have you ever hugged someone or been in their presence long enough to have their stench get trapped in your nose? [gag] Whether a person physically smells good or bad, some people have sweet smelling spirits while others have stinky ones. Just as breathing in a pleasant scent can bring a smile to our faces and remind us of a nice hug, so, too, can a sweet spirit linger and cause us to smile.
In the letters to the Ephesians and Corinthians, Paul spoke of the sacrifice and love of Christ being like a fragrant aroma to God, like the incense used by Jewish priests in the tabernacle and temple. When we imitate Him, we, too, are like a sweet aroma to God, but we can also be like a sweet fragrance of life to others. That’s what I want— the sweet spirit of God that leaves a fragrance of life.
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The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. —Psalm 34:18 NLT
I recently bought a colorful, artsy scarf, which I quickly noticed can snag and fray somewhat easily. Even though the fray looks like a mess, the nice thing about the scarf’s design is it seems as easily fixed by stretching the fabric in just the right place and with the right amount of tension. I was reminded of how God designed us in such a way that we are not so easily broken, and when life begins to fray, if we will allow God to stretch us a bit, even when it looks like a mess, our lives can become untangled. He knows just how and where to stretch us, so our lives can look like a beautiful tapestry once again.
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This post is mostly for young people, but since I’m not immune, it’s a good reminder for those of us who are on the other side of the hill, too, especially for those who may be just starting a new stage in life.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” —Proverbs 4:23 NLT
I, and I’m sure many others my age and older, can confirm the validity of Proverbs 4:23, because the course of our lives has been determined by what our hearts have followed. For some, it has been a pretty good road, but for others, it has been hard and filled with regrets. Although some people would say they are grateful for the lessons learned, if they could go back and have a do-over, they would.
“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” —Chinese proverb
“We’re prone to let circumstances fuel our emotions. Then our emotions dictate our responses, and so we become victims of our circumstances and of our emotions…” —Nancy Leigh DeMoss in Trials That Reveal Your Heart
“Look not upon your desires and your heart will not be confused.” —Chinese proverb
Sometimes flattery grabs the attention of our hearts, because it fills the common need of acceptance and love. Compliments and encouragement are one thing, but be careful of flattery that is intended to capture your attention for selfish reasons.
“The ear is the road to the heart.” —French proverb
Sometimes our present circumstances are tough or even bad, and all we want to do is escape, and we go for the first person or circumstance that would appear to rescue us.
“A fleeing person is not choosy about his road.” —Japanese proverb
“Whether you understand the motivations of your heart or not, really what’s driving your actions, and what’s driving your life and how you fill your day, actually comes back to what you believe is actually gonna bring about the most fullness of life possible for you.” —Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Fig Leaves, Lies and the Grace of God
“If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mind goes when it wanders.” —Unknown
“Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.” —Irish proverb
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” —Jesus
“For where your treasure is…”
The deeper meaning of Proverbs 4:23 reveals the value of our hearts. Most other English translations more accurately read similarly to the NKJV, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Our hearts are like a water spring, a source, and everything in our lives flows from it, and that is what determines our course. It is like a life giving spring, but if it becomes polluted, it can mean disease or death, suffering and heartache, so we must guard it well.
I would be the last person to tell you that it’s easy to control the direction and affections of your heart. And changing the course of that direction can be especially difficult when it involves the heart of another as well. Have you ever found yourself involved in a relationship and found it difficult to let go because you didn’t want to hurt the other person? They usually end up getting hurt in the end anyway, so it’s better to guard your heart— and theirs— from the beginning.
“He is most free from danger, who, even when safe, is on his guard.” —Latin proverb
“It’s okay to follow your heart, but take your brain with you.” —Nicole Hill
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“Moderation in all things.”
“Even in adultery?” a response was shot back.
The responder was being facetious in trying to defend his position in a discussion, but even though he used a logical fallacy, his retort does bring up a good point. Moderation in all things obviously does not include immoral things.
“Immoderate desire is the mark of a child, not a man.” —Democritus
“Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things…” —1 Corinthians 9:25a KJV
“If there is one single secret to long life, that secret is moderation.” —George Gallup
Moderation and temperance for one person may be different for another, because the idea of moderating something has to do with measuring it, and temperance has to do with self-control. One person might be able to eat a pint of ice cream without gaining weight, while another person gains weight just by looking at it. One person might be able to have a glass of wine with a meal, while another person cannot stop at just one.
“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” —Epicurus
“Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.” —Proverbs 25:16 KJV
“Even nectar is poison if taken to excess.” —Hindu proverb
“Enough is as good as a feast.” —English proverb
Moderation and temperance are not just about food and drink, it’s about every area of life— work, recreation, relationships, hobbies, sleep…
“Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?” —Ecclesiastes 7:16 NASV
“Nothing brings more pain than too much pleasure; nothing more bondage than too much liberty.” —Poor Richard aka Benjamin Franklin
“Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home.” —Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid
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While attending a friend’s high school graduation, the commencement speaker gave an excellent speech, one that Christian graduates don’t often hear. While telling the graduates that God doesn’t care which college or career path they choose, he also balanced it out by encouraging them to seek God in fellowship and prayer, to use the wisdom God has given in His Word, and to pursue godliness. He said if Jesus were to give a commencement speech, He might simply say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Preachers and teachers have often said, “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” as if each step is mapped out, which has led to a lot of confusion, not only in trying to find the elusive plan but in dealing with the subject of evil. Although I understand that some will say His plan starts after a person accepts Christ, which may answer someone’s question, “Was it part of God’s plan for me to be abused as a child?”, making the answer, “No,” it still falls short. And some would say, “Yes, it was a part of God’s plan for your life.” Sure God can turn what was meant for evil into something good, as in the case of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, but how does it make sense to anyone, much less a child to imply that his or her suffering under the hands of abusive parents was all a part of a good God’s plan? That’s where the long debated subject of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility comes in.
“It’s interesting that while many of us will reject Calvinist theology in matters of salvation, we embrace the idea of a predestined personal life.” —Jennifer Taylor in “God Does Not Have a Plan for Your Life”
Does God have a plan for our lives? Yes. He has provided a plan of salvation and reconciliation, and that plan includes the plan of conforming us into the image of His Son. He is not a puppet master pulling all the strings. He has given us a Book of wisdom and the responsibility to study it, apply it, and seek Him and His counsel… or the freedom to not. Just as He had an overall plan for the Israelites and gave them promises with conditions to choose or reject them, although He was very patient, He did allow them to suffer the consequences when they continually rejected His commandments and wisdom. Both the promises and the consequences were a part of His plan, but He gave them the freedom to choose. He also gives us the freedom to choose. That was His plan all along.
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” —Psalm 119:105
Although God does have a very serious side, it’s good to be reminded that part of reflecting His image means reflecting His winsome, loving, creative side, too! My daughter shared an excellent article with me yesterday called Lighten Up, Christians: God Loves a Good Time.
Have you ever considered the wisdom of some things that seem old-fashioned? Although the concept of young men preparing themselves to support a wife and family can be found and is encouraged among the homeschool community, long before they even start dating, so many young people, especially outside of the homeschooling community struggle financially after being newly married, because they were not really prepared. I have been to many bridal showers at which the bride-to-be has confessed to not even knowing how to cook. It is time to recall and revive some old-fashioned things.
When I first read Proverbs 24:27, I thought, “What?? Don’t you need a house to live in, to come home to after working in the field? Why would you prepare your fields first and then build your house?”
Ok, so I’m a little slow sometimes.
There was a time when young people learned life skills and saved money while living with their parents, so they would be ready to raise a family of their own. Young men sought to have a good job and a place of their own before they would even consider proposing marriage. Although the economy has forced kids to move back in with parents after having been on their own for a time, this generation seems to be more concerned with having fun in college and becoming independent than in preparing to become parents themselves. In fact, some shows portray having children as a negative thing, a fun and freedom stealer rather than the many joys and blessings children can bring. The word house in ancient times was also used to mean ‘family’, so the principle of preparing your fields, i.e. getting a job and being established before building your house, can apply to both your literal house and your family.
“In life, those who think about the future tend to do better than those who think only in the present. Yet those who think only in the present still do much better than those who think only in the past.” —Joe Beam
“The one who is not prepared today will be less prepared tomorrow.” —Latin proverb
The #1 reason for strife in marriages is money, although it generally isn’t the root cause but a symptom of something deeper. Men need respect and women need to feel secure and loved. Just think how much that reason can be diminished when young men are better prepared to support a wife and family financially and emotionally. I’m not saying women shouldn’t work, too, but ask any man, and even if they are failing to provide, they still feel that weight of responsibility.
“The better prepared, the more secure.” —Latin proverb
“Before you marry, have a house to live in, fields to till, and vines to cut.” —Spanish proverb
“An empty purse and a finished house, make a man wise, but too late.” —Portuguese proverb
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” —Vincent Van Gogh
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” —Karen Lamb
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