The Garbage Project was conducted by a researcher convinced we can learn a lot from the trash dumps of the world. He was called a garbologist! What’s it like to be a “garbologist?” When he gives a speech, is it referred to as “trash talk?” Are his business trips called “junkets?” Though I prefer to leave the dirty work to the garbologist, his attitude toward trash intrigues me.
Suppose we changed the way we view the garbage that comes our way? The days that a dumpster couldn’t hold all the garbage we face: hospital bills, divorce papers, pay cuts. What do you do when an entire truck of sorrow is dumped on you? Jesus said, “If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar.” (Matthew 6:22-23 MSG).
How we look at life–even the garbage of life– determines how we live life!
With all the cockiness of a neighborhood bully, the thought swaggers up to the door and says. . .“You’re a loser. All your life you’ve been a loser. You might as well write the word bum on your resume, for that’s what you are.” The average person would throw open the door and let the thought in. “You’re right. I’m a bum. Come on in.”
But as a Christian, you aren’t your average person. You’re led by the Spirit of God. So rather than let the thought in, you take it captive; you present the thought before the judgment seat of Christ. How do you know if Jesus agrees or disagrees? You open your Bible. Romans 8:1 is a good place to check. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
So, give the bully a firm kick in the pants—and watch him run!
You’ve got to admit—anger shows up, and we let him in. Revenge needs a place to stay, so we have him pull up a chair. Pity wants a party, we show him the kitchen.
Don’t we know how to say no? For most of us, thought management is, well, un-thought of. Shouldn’t we be as concerned about managing our thoughts as we are managing anything else?
Jesus stubbornly guarded the gateway of his heart. On one occasion the people determined to make Jesus their king. Most of us would delight in the notion. Not Jesus. When He saw they were about to grab him and make him king, John 6:15 tells us, “Jesus slipped off and went back up the mountain to be by himself.”
Proverbs says, be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life! (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus did, shouldn’t we do the same? Most certainly!
Pretend you’ve come to visit me. I’m working in my greenhouse. (Neither my house nor my thumb is green, but let’s pretend.) It’s the perfect spot for flowers and fruit. You’ve always thought I was a bit crazy, but what I do next removes all doubt. I strip seeds off weeds—crab grass, grass burrs. You can’t believe what you’ve just seen.
“I thought you wanted a greenhouse full of flowers and fruit!” you say.
“I do,” I answer.
You ask, “Then don’t you think you ought to plant flower seeds and fruit seeds?”
My foolish response, “Do you have any idea how much those seeds cost? No thanks, I’m taking the cheap and easy route.”
Think for a moment of your heart as a greenhouse. Consider your thoughts as seed. Some become flowers. Others weeds. Sow seeds of hope and enjoy optimism. Sow seeds of doubt and expect insecurity.
Galatians 6:7 says, “People harvest only what they plant.”
Many years ago a man conned his way into an orchestra although he could not play a note. He would hold his flute against his lips, pretend to play but not make a sound. Then one day the leader requested a solo from each musician. The man was panic stricken. On the day of his solo performance, he took poison and killed himself. The explanation of his suicide led to a phrase that found its way into the English language: “He refused to face the music.”
Face the music! Some of us have buried a marriage, parts of a conscience, and even parts of our faith—all because we won’t face the music…we won’t tell the truth. Ask yourself, am I honest in my dealings? Am I a trustworthy student? An honest taxpayer? Do you tell the truth—always?
Proverbs says, “The Lord hates a lying tongue.” (12:19)
Just tell the truth.
Some of us could state our credo as, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you squirm.”
Our dislike for the truth began at age three when mom walked in our rooms and asked, “Did you hit your little brother?” We knew then and there that honesty had its consequences. “Did I hit baby brother? Well, that all depends on how you interpret the word hit.”
We want our bosses to like us, so we flatter. God calls it a lie. We want people to admire us, so we exaggerate. God calls it a lie. We want people to respect us, so we live in houses we can’t afford and charge bills we can’t pay. God calls it living a lie.
The cure for deceit is simply this: face the music. The ripple of today’s lie is tomorrow’s wave and next year’s flood.
Be just like Jesus. Tell the truth!
For the Christian, deception is never an option. It wasn’t an option for Jesus.
Isaiah 53:9 says, “He had done nothing wrong, and he had never lied.” His every sentence true. No cheating on tests. No altering the accounts. Not once did Jesus stretch the truth. He simply told the truth. No deceit was found in His mouth. And if God has His way with us, none will be found in ours. He longs for us to be just like Jesus.
Proverbs 12:22 says, “The Lord hates those who tell lies but is pleased with those who keep their promises.” Why the hard line? Why the tough stance? One reason is that dishonesty is absolutely contrary to the character of God. God always speaks truth. When He makes a covenant, He keeps it. When He proclaims the truth, we can believe it! Because He cannot be false to Himself.
A woman stands before judge and jury, places one hand on the Bible and the other in the air, and makes a pledge.
For the next few minutes, with God as her helper, she will “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” She is a witness. Her job is to tell the truth. Leave it to legal counsel to interpret. Leave it to the jury to resolve. Leave it to the judge to apply. But the witness? The witness speaks the truth.
The Christian, too, is a witness. We are called to tell the truth. The Bible is present, the watching world is the jury, and we are the primary witnesses. We are called to testify; to tell what we have seen and heard. Our task is not to whitewash or bloat the truth. Our task is to tell the truth. Period.
Years ago, our youngest daughter had a sleepover. When it came time for bed her guest wanted, more than anything, to go home! I can’t blame her. When I travel, the hardest part of the trip is going to sleep. When it comes to resting, there’s no house like your own.
It’s what David asked. He longed to live in the house of God. He asked for his own room—permanently. He longed to retire there in a life-long residence. When David says in Psalm 23: “I will live in the house of the Lord forever,” he’s saying simply that he never wants to step away from God.
Make it your aim never to leave God’s house. And when you find yourself in another house, do what my daughter’s friend did—call home! He won’t mind—in fact, He’ll be waiting.
You can’t run the world, nor are you expected to be all-powerful. You may think you can. But when you face your own grave or your own guilt, your power will not do the trick.
The Bible says “Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.” (Matthew 6:13).
A trio of peaks. Admire them, applaud them, but don’t climb them. You weren’t made to run a kingdom, or to be all-powerful. And you certainly can’t handle all the glory. Mount Applause is the most seductive of the three peaks. More than one person has stood at the top and shouted, “Mine is the glory!”—only to lose their balance and fall.
As you confess that God is in charge, you admit you aren’t. As you proclaim that God has power, you admit you don’t. And as you give God all the applause, there is none left to dizzy your brain!
Every time Satan sets out to score for evil, he ends up scoring a point for good. Consider Paul. Satan hoped prison would silence his pulpit, and it did, but it also unleashed his pen. The letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians were all written in a jail cell.
Satan is the Colonel Klink of the Bible. Remember Klink? He was the fall guy for Hogan on the television series, Hogan’s Heroes. Klink supposedly ran a German POW camp during World War 2. Those inside the camp, however, knew better. They knew who really ran the camp: the prisoners. They listened to Klink’s calls and read his mail. They even gave Klink ideas, all the while using him for their own cause.
Over and over the Bible makes it clear who really runs the earth. Satan may strut and prance, but it is God who calls the shots.
Years ago I was traveling with my daughter, Jenna. When I realized she and I weren’t seated together, I asked the fellow sitting next to her to swap seats with me. Surely he’ll understand, I thought. He didn’t. I was left separated from my 12 year old on a long transatlantic flight.
I began plotting how I’d trip him if he dared walk to the restroom during the flight. I turned to intimidate him with a snarl and saw, much to my surprise, Jenna offering him a pretzel. What? My daughter was fraternizing with the enemy! As if the pretzel were an olive branch, he accepted her gift and they both leaned their seats back and dozed off.
I learned the lesson God had used my daughter to teach me. All of us are here by grace and, at some point, all of us have to share some grace. So the next time you find yourself next to a questionable character, don’t give him a hard time—give him a pretzel!
We are all beggars in need of bread. “Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray. (Matthew 6:11). You may prefer, “We are all hungry, in need of bread.” Such a phrase certainly has more dignity than the word beggar. Who wants to be called a beggar? After all, didn’t you create the ground in which the seed was sown? No? Well at least you made the seed? Right? You didn’t?
What about the sun? Did you provide the heat during the day? Or the rain. Did you send the clouds? No? Then exactly what did you do?
You harvested food you didn’t make from an earth you didn’t create. Let me see if I have this straight. Had God not done His part, you would have no food. Hmmm. . .perhaps we best return to the word beggar. We are all beggars, in need of bread!
When my daughter Jenna was twelve, I took her to Jerusalem. As we were exiting the Jaffa gate, an orthodox Jewish family was in front of us—a father and his three small girls. One of the daughters fell a few steps behind and couldn’t see her father. “Abba!” she called to him. “Abba!” she called again. He spotted her and immediately extended his hand. As they continued, I wanted to see the actions of an abba. He held her hand tightly in his. When he stopped at a busy street, she stepped off the curb, so he pulled her back. When the signal changed, he carried her and led her sisters through the intersection.
Isn’t that what we all need? An abba who’ll hear when we call? An abba who’ll swing us up into his arms and carry us home? Don’t we all need an Abba Father?
Jesus said: “The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.” (Luke 6:38).
It’s as if God sends you to purchase your neighbor’s groceries. “Whatever you get your neighbor, get also for yourself.” I’m crazy about double-chocolate ice cream, so I buy my neighbor double-chocolate ice cream. But suppose your neighbor’s trash blows into your yard. He’s in no rush—says he’ll get to it next week.
You’re just about to have a talk when God reminds you, “Time to go to the market and buy your neighbor’s groceries.” You march right past the double-chocolate ice cream toward the okra and rice. You drive back and drop the sack in the lap of your lazy, good-for-nothing neighbor. “Have a good dinner.”
The next time you go to your pantry, guess what you find? What will you be eating? Chocolate ice cream or okra? It’s up to you.