No More Foolishness by Beth Smith

pulpit-590750_1280-pixabayReverend Henry Ward Beecher, a clergyman in the late 1800’s, is said to have entered Plymouth Church one Sunday morning, only to find that a letter addressed to him had been left on the pulpit. He opened it and read the single word “Fool.” Quietly, and with great seriousness, he told the congregation about the letter and then said, “I have known many an instance of a man writing a letter and forgetting to sign his name, but this is the only instance I have ever known of a man signing his name but forgetting to write the letter.” I wondered if the Bible had anything to say about fools and foolishness, and was amazed to find 49 references. For example:

  • Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
  • A fool’s heart blurts out folly” (Proverbs 12:23).

The greatest folly that fools blurt out is found in the first verse of Psalm 14 and again in Psalm 53, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

It seems to me that the opposite of foolishness is wisdom. Here’s just a bit of what the Bible says about wisdom.

  • Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him” (Psalm 111:10 NLT).
  • To acquire wisdom is to love yourself; people who cherish understanding will prosper (Proverbs 19:8 NLT).

These verses make me want to be a wise person. The question is, how do we get wisdom instead of becoming fools? James 1:5 tells us that if we are lacking wisdom we should ask God to supply it, because he gives generously to all. He’s already given us his wisdom in his Word, the Bible. How foolish we are when we don’t read it!

How will we recognize Godly wisdom when we get it? James 3:17 (NLT) says, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” Those are real goals to hold up for our lives. If we want to be wise, we must be:

  • peace loving
  • gentle
  • considerate
  • merciful
  • impartial
  • full of good deeds

Of course, we can’t be all those things on our own. We are told by 1 Corinthians 1:24 that, “to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Our only hope for Biblical wisdom lies in our relationship with God through Christ. When we’re seeking wisdom, we’re really seeking to be like Christ. To do that, we have to know him. To know him we must read his Word (his wise instructions) and do what we find there, thus living wisely.

Let’s not be foolish! Let’s get wisdom by following Christ.

Yellow Ribbons (by Beth Smith)

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”Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree” hit number one on the music charts in April 1973. (Perhaps you were just a baby at the time. Maybe you weren’t even born yet. Consider this a history lesson.) The song told the tale of a man who served a three-year prison sentence. When he was about to be released, he wrote a letter to his wife and explained that he would be taking a particular bus through their hometown. If she wanted him to get off the bus and come home, she was to tie a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in the city square.

Imagine the man’s anxiety as the bus got closer and closer. He asked the bus driver to be on the lookout in order to tell him what he saw. When the town came into view, there were yellow ribbons on every branch. He was forgiven. What a wonderful feeling!

We can all have that joy, that release from sin and regret, because God forgives us. We can come home to him, no matter what we’ve done.

  • In Matthew 26:28 (NIV), Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
  • Peter said of Christ in Acts 10:43 (NIV), “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

This is not an exclusive promise. It’s for everyone! We may be tempted to think, “Yeah, right. Sure it is. But nobody knows how bad I am, what evil thoughts I have, what terrible things I do. No way can I be forgiven.”

My answer is a wholehearted, “Yes. Way.” We are promised in 1 John that if we confess our sins, admitting them to God, he will forgive us. Then, we are to forgive others.

Forgiveness isn’t always easy. Sometimes, we think, “I can’t do that. What they did was too horrible.” The truth is, if God tells us in his Word to forgive, then we can forgive. He never tells us to do something without giving us the power to do it. Forgiving isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice.

This very day, if there’s someone we haven’t forgiven, it’s time to get alone with God and do it, perhaps praying, “God, I don’t feel like I want to do this, but as an act of my will, by choice, I obey you. I choose to forgive this person. You can change my feelings. I will no longer rehearse the grievances and bitterness I have. I forgive them as you have forgiven me.”

The next step? When those old bitter feelings rise up, we have to say, “No Way! I have forgiven that person as I have been forgiven.” And when can we stop forgiving others? Never. Because God never stops forgiving us. Jesus has yellow ribbon tied around everything. He tells us, “All is forgiven. I’m waiting for you with open arms.”

The Candy Cane (By Beth Smith)

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(For the next four weeks, each post will be an abridged excerpt from Every Wednesday Morning, written by my mom, Beth Smith. If you want to read all 64 devotional essays in their full length form, you can grab a copy of her book at Etsy.com. )

Welcome to the Christmas season! Since candy canes are popping up in stores everywhere, I thought I’d share with you a few legends regarding their origin:

  • One story says that in 1670 a choirmaster at the cathedral in Cologne, Germany, handed out sticks of sugar to his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Nativity Ceremony at Christmas, bending them into shepherds’ crooks in honor of the occasion.
  • Another says that in 1847 a German-Swedish immigrant in Wooster, Ohio, decorated a small spruce tree with paper ornaments and white candy sticks.
  • We do know that, around 1920, Bob McCormack began making candy canes as Christmas gifts for his friends and family, twisting and bending each piece by hand. The story goes that in the 1950’s, a relative of Bob’s invented a machine that automated the candy cane’s production and made Bob’s Candies, Inc. one of the world’s largest producers of that Christmas treat.

I thought it would also be interesting to look at some of the Christian symbolism of the candy cane today:

  • Turned with the curve up, the candy does indeed look like a shepherd’s crook. We know that Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for us.
  • The “J” that the candy makes when the curve is down stands for the name of Jesus. And that is the greatest name of all. It calls us to worship and brings power to our prayers.
  • The hardness of the candy is a reminder that that Jesus is the Rock. He is stronger than anything the world can throw at us.
  • The white of the candy points to the purity of Jesus. Christ was without sin, even though he was tempted. Because of this, we can go to him for help with our own temptations.
  • The red stripes on the candy may stand for the blood Christ shed for us on the cross. In the words of an old hymn, “His blood can make the foulest clean.” His death, his blood, covers our sins so that we are made right with God.

Who does Jesus want to believe in Him? All of us. All of us! It is not his will that even one of us be lost. That’s what Christmas is all about.

So maybe it’s not “just a candy cane” any more. It’s a reminder of our Lord and his love for all of us. Merry Christmas!

Beth on Being Happy*

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*By Beth Smith

Is it true that the only difference between a yard sale and a trash pick-up is how close to the road the stuff is placed?

Why don’t we ever hear father-in-law jokes?

If you take NyQuil and NoDoz at the same time, will you dream you couldn’t sleep?

Life is full of questions, some funny and some serious. Here’s a common one. How can we be happy? We can start by being ready to laugh at life and at ourselves, quick to look for the humorous side of things. Laughter doesn’t solve our problems, but it can make them easier to bear for a while.

Most of us think we can be happy only when things are going well, but the Bible tells us how to be happy Christians no matter what. The Amplified Bible uses the word “happy” as a synonym for the word “blessed.” So, in looking to be happy, we can look at how to be blessed. The book of Psalms tell us that blessed or happy is the man (or woman) who:

  • is forgiven of sin (32:1).
  • trusts and takes refuge in the Lord (34:8).
  • helps the poor and weak (41:1).
  • continually sings praises to God (84:4).
  • fears the Lord and delights in obeying him (112:1) .

Proverbs says those are blessed who

  • keep God’s ways (8:32).
  • listen to God (8:34).

And Matthew chapter five lists these qualities of a happy person:

  • aware of a need for God.
  • gentle and lowly.
  • desiring righteousness.
  • merciful.
  • pure in heart.
  • peacemaking.
  • persecuted for following God.

Obviously, God has plenty of advice for us on how to be happy. I want to stress just two ways today. First, we need to be happy and thankful for a heavenly Father who loves us enough to discipline and correct us. Sometimes, when things are hard for me, when I am not getting my own way about things, I can almost hear God saying, “I’m allowing this situation only for your own good, because I love you. You need to change something in your life. I want you to be happy, and you will never be happy or have joy on the path you are following right now. Come on, follow me.”

Hebrews 12:11 tells us that, while discipline is painful, it leads to a rich harvest of right living. So, as odd as it may sound, we need to be happy that God will discipline us.

Here’s a second way the Bible tells us we can be happy and blessed. “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.” (Psalm 128: 1-2).

What does this tell us we should do? Fear and follow. Acknowledge our Lord as the Almighty God. Worship him. Obey him. Emulate Jesus. Will that be hard? Yes, because our flesh is weak and rebellious, and because Satan does not want us to be happy. But Jesus wants us to be happy – to be blessed and full of joy.

How can we become happy Christians? A full answer to that question would surely fill at least one book. These principles do not cover everything, but they are a great place to start:

  • Worship God.
  • Obey his commands.
  • Receive his discipline.
  • Follow his instructions.
  • And do it all with joy.

Shoelaces

childrens-shoes-687958_640By Beth Smith

I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “If God is your co-pilot, you’re sitting in the wrong seat.” There’s a lot of truth to that, don’t you think? Still, we like control, don’t we? We each want to be the master of our own fate.

Control! When someone comes up with an idea, we often say, “Well, that’s okay, but have you considered …?” When my spouse asks me to do something, I almost always think of a reason not to do it the way he suggests. This type of attitude makes surrendering our lives to God difficult too.

Do you know when we tend to give up our control? When we have needs we cannot meet. When our problems or circumstances require more than our own human ability to resolve them. That’s when God teaches us dependence on him. And that’s a glorious, wonderful thing. Needs are the stuff from which miracles are made. When our needs meet with faith in God and commitment to him, the way is open for God to work. Of course, before we are able to surrender to him, we need to believe what he says is true and that he has the power to accomplish what he promises.

There’s an account of the result of disbelief in the Old Testament (Numbers 14). Having been miraculously brought out of Egypt, the Israelites were led by Moses to the border of Canaan, the land God had promised to them. God told Moses to send in twelve spies to look at the country and to size up the situation. When the twelve returned, all of them praised the country, saying that it was a land flowing with milk and honey. “But,” they reported, “the people of the land are huge and their cities are well fortified.”

Ten of the spies said, “We can’t conquer these people. They’re like giants. We’re like grasshoppers compared to them.” Two of the twelve, Joshua and Caleb, held a different opinion. Caleb said, “Let’s take the land. We’re well able to conquer it because the Lord is with us. Fear not!”

Caleb and Joshua saw the situation differently because they believed God was in control. They remembered God’s promise to give them Canaan. Sadly, though, the Israelites chickened out. They didn’t go into Canaan, so God allowed them to wander around in the desert for forty years until a whole new generation was born and reached adulthood. Of the original group brought out of Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua entered the Promised Land. That speaks volumes to us about believing what God says.

  • When we lean on our own power, thinking we are in control, what blessings we forfeit! We are limited by our own problems and our circumstances.
  • On the other hand, when we surrender to God, when we allow him to be in control, he uses our circumstances for good, to draw us closer to him.

My husband, Bert, had the most deadly type of melanoma removed from his back in 1965. It was a “get your affairs in order” diagnosis, and the doctor’s only comfort to me was that Bert would not suffer long. Death would come quickly. Fortunately, we had become Christians about a year before and belonged to a group of dedicated believers who prayed for and with us. One day, a dear elderly lady said, “Beth, as you pray for Bert, you’re praying like a child who wants her father to tie her shoes for her but won’t let go of the laces. You really must let go and let God be in control.”

When I did surrender Bert and the whole situation to God, I cannot describe the peace that came. What a blessing to release my husband to a loving, heavenly Father, trusting him no matter what the outcome! Fifty years later, Bert is still with me. But, you need to know, had Bert died, once I surrendered control I knew that a different outcome would have been all right too. God’s promise is that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We can let our loving, good Father have control. He is worthy of our trust. What shoelaces are we gripping today? Give them up. Let go. Believe God.

More Power to You

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My husband drives a 15 year old BMW 2-door. Every once in a while he and a favorite neighbor will end up at the same stop sign. They grin at each other, revving their engines as they take off (and then quickly slow back down, of course.) They both like showing off the power under their hoods.

Last week I wrote about getting out of first gear. Welcome back to car analogies. Today I want to flood you with verses about the power under your spiritual hood.

This verse was taped to the wall next to my very first dorm room. It was just what a somewhat timid freshman needed to know: 2 Timothy 1:7: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

God has given us all the power we need. Let me encourage you with five more passages. In each case, if you click on the reference, you’ll be taken to Bible Gateway, where you can read the whole chapter.

Philippians 4: 12b-13: I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Ephesians 6:10-11:  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

2 Corinthians 12:9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Ephesians 1:18-19: I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

And that is my prayer for you today. May you know just how much power is underneath your hood!