Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;
My wife and I enjoy the show “Holmes Makes It Right” on HGTV. If you haven’t seen it, the show stars Mike Holmes, a veteran contractor and home inspector, who helps homeowners fix major issues with their properties.
On many episodes, Mike runs into even greater difficulties than expected. Invariably, it turns out an unqualified person did electrical or plumbing work. The work was not done to code and has been a hazard, hidden inside walls or under floors for years. “Just one spark (or leak),” says a scowling Mike, “and the whole house could have been ruined.”
God has a reality show as well. It’s called, “Unless the Lord Builds the House.” On the show, God, the veteran creator and life inspector helps people fix major issues with their lives. Invariably, His clients find more personal problems than expected. The Lord, however, is not surprised. The work was not done to Biblical code and has been a hazard, hidden inside hearts and minds for years. “Just one prayer,” says a smiling creator, “and your whole house can be saved.”
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Have you ever attempted to bring peace to a difficult situation and failed?
This happened to me once with a room full of squirming kindergarteners.
I was a brand new elementary music teacher determined to prove my worth. Those little guys didn’t know who they were dealing with! Man, was I wrong.
I attempted to quiet down the class room using a call back: “Tootsie Roll. Lollipop. I was talking now I’ll stop.” The children were supposed to repeat after me, ONCE, and then get quiet. The trouble was, several little tykes wanted to be the last one standing. So they just kept saying it over and over.
I spoke peace, but peace did not prevail.
Jesus, however, has a better track record. He not only speaks peace to a situation, He creates it. Awakened once in the back of a boat during a fierce storm, he told the wind to stop and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind died down completely and there was a miraculous calm (Mark 4:39).
The application here is obvious. If the Prince of Peace speaks calm to your situation, He actually has the power to make it happen.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way and me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
I used to get annoyed when my laptop kept telling me it needed a software update, or virus scan, or some other preventive maintenance. Ask me later, I clicked on the screen, “Can’t you see I’m busy!?”
But then, one inevitable day, I got a computer virus that wiped out my entire hard drive. Important documents and hundreds of pictures, which I’d failed to back up, vanished in an instant.
Needless to say, I now keep my computer healthy with regular updates and scans.
The unexamined life is not worth living.
Our wise friend from ancient Greece challenges us to scan our lives for purpose and meaning, or risk losing everything. But King David of ancient Israel has a better idea: ask God to do it.
Search me, O God, and know my heart.
After all, heart surgery is best left to the professional. That’s what God told the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
Are you like me, to busy to scan until it’s almost too late? Well, let’s both not be that way anymore. Agreed?
The most accurate clock on earth is the US Atomic Clock in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I have a little clock at home that is connected to it! Using a low frequency wireless transmission, the US Atomic Clock beams it’s super-accurate time signal straight to my clock’s internal receiver. Viola! Daily updates ensure accuracy to the fraction of a second.
However, something happened recently to shake my faith in the “mother of all clocks:” my little “chip off of the old block” started inexplicably losing time. It was barely noticeable at first, but it was happening surely enough. My supposed super clock no longer agreed with the time on my cell phone, or, more importantly, the microwave.
“Uh oh,” I said to no one in particular, “I guess the subscription to the mother clock ran out.” I took the atomic clock junior off the wall and headed straight for the trash can. Yes, all the clocks in my home must say exactly the same thing. Anyway, just as I was about to drop the clock into oblivion, I saw it–the cover to a tiny compartment containing two AA batteries. You guessed it, I promptly replaced the batteries with fresh ones, and the clock once again keeps perfect time. The problem was on my end, not the source.
Hmm… there’s a life application in here somewhere. King David, of ancient Israel, wrote about it in a prayer to God.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
We know from other texts, that David wrote these words shortly after scandal rocked his kingdom. He had slept with another man’s wife and she was now pregnant. The betrayed husband was one of David’s most loyal military leaders, but the king had him killed to cover up his own sin.
David lost his connection with God. His spiritual batteries ran down and tragedy ensued. He stopped checking in and chose to check out–until he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. He desperately needed to reorient himself to God.
As any good carpenter will tell you, even a few degrees off level is a no go. The fact is, it doesn’t take long to become out of plumb with God. Listen to Amos, the Old Testament prophet:
“This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” Amos 7:7-8
The world has a battery draining effect on our spiritual senses; losing our fellowship connection with God adversely affects the mind, will, and heart. However, we may not even be aware of this–until God asks, “What time is it?”
So what is the solution? The daily check-in and the weekly recharge! Spend time alone with God at least once a day and observe the sabbath each week to recharge your spiritual batteries.
Staying in sync with God means maintaining a good connection, just like my little clock does with the US Atomic Clock. That is, now that I replaced the batteries.
“In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust is your strength.”
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging.” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Romans 12:17-19 The Message
It’s a privilege to spend most of my days teaching four and five-year olds. The miraculous mix of wonder, authenticity, and innocence found in young children is indeed a balm for the soul.
What a pre-kindergartener feels is right on the surface-there is no mask. Such an, “always keeping it REAL” approach to life is inspiring.
Take, for instance, my most recent encounter with a pint-sized Italian girl who speaks almost no English. Twice during class she abruptly stood up, put her little hands on her hips, and bellowed,”Non e giusto!” in her native tongue. A quick check with Google Translate solved the mystery. She was saying, “That’s not fair!”
Of course, it was something relatively insignificant–to an adult. Someone took her place in line; she didn’t get a turn. “Calma per favore,” I said in a pleasant voice–“Calm down, please.”
The next morning, I read the scripture above during my devotional time. Then God whispered, “You know, David, you act like a preschooler sometimes; you let people push your, “That’s not fair!’ button.” I have to admit, He’s right.
I often judge myself by my intentions but judge others by their actions. I take offense and contemplate vengeance without knowing all the facts. I presume to be wiser than God.
According to Jesus, our response to an offense should be forgiveness (Luke 6:37). We are to desire justice, (Micah 6:8) not revenge.
“Calma per favore,” says the Almighty. “I’ll take care of it.”
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19
A recent devotional from Our Daily Bread tells the story of a recovering addict named Elizabeth who leaves encouraging notes on the car windshields of strangers. She often closes these with the words, “Much love. Hope sent.”
However, a query into the definition of hope reveals a fickle and fragile relationship between “Happy Days are Here Again” and mankind.
Hope (n.) the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. (Source: dictionary.com)
Sounds straightforward to me. A quick synonym check reveals a delicate situation, however. Confidence, expectation, and optimism make the list, but so do day dream, fool’s paradise, and castles in the air.
Clearly, the world sees hope as less of an “anchor for the soul” and more like wishful thinking. To Madison Avenue, the future is a wind up toy with an ever-weakening spring; expectation has an expiration date.
Thankfully, God doesn’t deal in pipe dreams. The hope He offers has no shelf life, it’s a perpetual spring.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4
I’d like to meet the note leaving hope-giver Elizabeth someday. She used to look for signs of hope, but now she leaves them for others.
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Martin Luther
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
“What is your name?”, I asked a patient in the Alzheimer’s unit where I visit once a month. “My name is *Ellen,” she replied, “but it will change.”
Apparently, there are those who know they have dementia and those who do not. Ellen is in the first category, but seems to take it in stride.
I decided to leave the conversation at that, but wondered what this kindly woman had once done for a living. Judging by her answer, she could have been a famous philosopher.
The scripture above says life is GUARANTEED to change–just like the seasons. It’s beyond our control; Summer turns to Fall and Winter is next. All one can do is prepare for the inevitable.
Is it just me, or does the free acceptance of fate sound a little depressing? Maybe that’s why, in this age of social media, there aren’t many “Ellen’s” posting about themselves with brutal honesty on FaceBook or sharing unvarnished self-truths on Twitter.
Who wants to be vulnerable?
Yet, in my new friend at the Alzheimer’s unit, there seemed to be no fear of embarrassing exposure. Ellen, even in her present condition, is keeping it REAL.
Going forward, I intend to do likewise.
God, you know the way I feel, You knew it from the start.
Show me what’s really REAL; guide and guard my heart. AMEN
*Not the same name she said–to protect her privacy.