Archive for September, 2011

A couple of months ago I started signing my e-mails using the closing “Enjoy!” I probably meant it somewhat sarcastically the first few times I did it…as in “Here’s the 50 page draft for you to review. Enjoy! Sandy” But after doing it a few times I decided I liked it and I began to use it regularly. Somewhere along the line something changed! I realized that I wasn’t telling them to enjoy their document, I was telling them to enjoy life and I was telling myself to enjoy God. Now almost every time I close a business e-mail I sign off “Enjoy” and I think “Enjoy God, enjoy life!” It makes me smile even when I’ve been at my desk for ten hours and I’ve written twenty e-mails.

My e-mail sign-off is just one of the things I surround myself with that remind me of God. I have a plaque on my desk that says something like “Autograph your work with excellence.” Every time I read it I think “Autograph your work with excellence because you are a reflection of God to those around you.”

Life gets busy and it’s easy to lose our focus. Life gets harried and it’s easy to get frustrated or discouraged. Life gets challenging and it’s easy to become overwhelmed or defeated. Surrounding ourselves with things that help focus our attention on what’s truly important keep us grounded, faithful and joyful.

In Deuteronomy 6 Moses told the people to tie the commandments of the Lord “as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:8-9, NIV)

Wear the Lord’s commands as jewelry so that you are always reminded of what’s important and true and right. Put the Lord’s commands in places where you will see them often so that your focus is on Him, not on the chaos and busyness around you. It’s the same concept. The difference perhaps is that I’m not specifically encouraging you to surround you with Scripture because many of us life and/or work in environments where that’s not advisable. No matter what environment you live and work in, however, you can place things that turn your focus on Christ and what He’s done for you.

Here are just a couple of ideas:

  • Wear some piece of jewelry that reminds you of your covenant with the Lord. We wear wedding rings to remind us (and others) of our covenant with our spouse. Wear a ring, bracelet or necklace that says to you “I belong to Jesus.”
  • Many non-religious photos can turn our thoughts toward the Lord. It could be anything form a beautiful flower or waterfall to a geometric image that reminds you of infinity. The nature photo can remind of how awesome our Creator is. An infinity image can take your thought so the “foreverness” of God or remind you that you will spend eternity with Him.
  • Many motivation posters have biblical themes. We have three in our office that remind me that I my purpose is bigger than the work I do. (Be careful to avoid those that encourage doing it all on your own effort – it’s not about us, it’s about God.)
  • Scents are powerful memory joggers. If there is a scent that reminds you of an encounter with God, use that scent in your environment.

Use props to keep your focus on the Lord throughout the day. It will make a difference in your day. I promise!

What kind of props do you use? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Have a great week!

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16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,

a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,

feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies

and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
Proverbs 6:16-19

God has used this passage more than once to keep me from doing something displeasing to Him. The first verse gets me – The Lord hates, he detests these things. When tempted to do one of them, that verse comes to mind and I think “Do I really want to do something the Lord detests?” I usually decide that I really don’t want to put myself in that camp.

Let’s look at the 7 things He detests?

Haughty eyes. Some versions translate this as “a proud look.” According to the Amplified Bible, this is a “the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others.” Have you looked at others with disdain? If so, you are guilty of this offense. I know that I have. There is plenty in God’s Word that speaks against pride and it is pride that is at the root of this sin.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18

It is to our benefit and the Lord’s glory for us to keep our pride in check. It starts with that haughty look, that “better than thou” attitude that creeps into our thoughts and actions. Lord, give us Your thoughts about each person we meet.

A lying tongue. God detests lies. Even white lies. Even exaggerations that make us look better than we really are. What’s your resume look like? Is it honest? How did you present yourself when discussing a conversation with a third party? Did you make yourself out to be better than you really were as you presented your side? I work hard at being honest, but some situations present challenges. As I write marketing literature for our company, I am challenged to be compelling and honest. When faced with disappointing someone, the temptation is great to make up an excuse when the truth is simply that I want to do something else. Lord, give us such a love for the Truth that we detest lying as much as You do.

Hands that shed innocent blood. OK, so I haven’t been tempted to murder anyone lately, but Jesus took murder several steps further:

21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘RacaRaca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:21-22

RacaRaca is a Greek word that means “worthless one.” Have you called anyone (even in your heart) a fool lately? Perhaps the person in front of you at the grocery store or the parents down the block who let their children run wild? Do you see the relationship between this and “haughty eyes.” Both have pride at their root – you know better than the one you are condemning. Lord, help us to value others and the gifts You have placed in them.

A heart that devises wicked schemes. Have you plotted the downfall of your lazy coworker, overbearing boss, church troublemaker or neighborhood gossip lately? I hope not. I’m not saying that these people shouldn’t be dealt with appropriately. They should. The key word is appropriately. Not by devising wicket schemes. Not by devising situations in which they are exposed harmfully. Allow God to bring about situations that render justice. Lord, enable us to turn all situations over to you and not harbor wickedness in our heart.

Feet that are quick to rush into evil. Is there an area in which you are quick to desire and rush into things that do not honor God? I’m convinced that some practical jokes would fall into this category. Some are harmless and funny, but our culture has an edge to it and what would have been considered hurtful in the past is now accepted by many as practical jokes. If you are a practical joker, be careful to keep your pranks on the right side of the line. Lord, help us to bring our fun side under the control of Your Holy Spirit.

A false witness who pours out lies. Isn’t this the same as a lying tongue? It would seem so, but God takes special interest to say that He detests lying about the actions of another person. Whether that person is guilty or innocent, our responsibility is to speak honestly about their actions. When we are a wronged party, that can be pretty challenging. When the person is unpopular, perhaps even because of their own actions, it’s important to speak truthfully. Our sinful nature is tempted to exaggerate the wickedness of people who have not been kind to us. Doing so is the same as being a false witness. Lord, help us to be discerning and to speak only Truth.

A man who stirs up dissension among brothers. When someone has wronged you, are you tempted to tell others about it? That’s stirring up dissension. When church isn’t going as you think it should be or the pastor makes a decision that you disagree with, are you tempted to talk to others about how wrong the Pastor is? That’s stirring up dissension. At work do you join others in complaining about the boss or decisions that management is making? That’s stirring up dissension. We live in such a society of complaining! I hate it, but confess that I am not immune to it. It is sometimes so tempting to answer the “how are you doing” with a list of complaints about life. Sometimes the Lord brings this verse to mind and I wonder what there would be to talk about if we didn’t complain about life as we know it. The Lord brings the answer – the goodness and blessings of God. It doesn’t fit into our culture, but we’re called to be counter-culture. Lord, help me to resist the urge to stir up dissension and to enter conversations where others are complaining with grace. Lord, let me bring You into all situations.

And therein lies the answer to avoiding all the sins: Bringing the Lord into all situations. Asking for His grace to live and act in His ways.

I am confident that you didn’t find yourself in all seven of these sins that the Lord detests, but I suspect you might have found temptation in some of them. I know that I do. By God’s grace, they are all less tempting than they were twenty-five years ago when I first discovered this verse. I had a boss who was asking me to lie to an auditor. I knew it was wrong but I didn’t want to lose my job. The morning after the discussion with my boss I read these verses. I knew I could not lie. Shortly thereafter I chose to quit the job and God gave me a better one. He is faithful to those who follow Him. As we mature in Him, though, the definition of sin takes on a finer edge as He continues to conform us to the image of Christ.

Blessings, friends. May God continue to conform you to the wonderful, truthful image of Christ who is full of grace and mercy.

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I’m watching a Christian worship gathering on television. What a blessing to see the huge variety of people on stage and in the audience. Young white women, thin black men in expensive suits, long-haired middle-aged white men in clothing ranging from suits to biker wear, a portly white man in a bad sports jacket and jeans, older white women with blue or pink-tinted hair wearing fancy pants suits or jeans and a T-shirt, middle-aged black women in smart dresses. All singing rockin’ praises to our God.

I am so blessed to be a part of the same family as this diverse group of people. And I’m blessed to see them participating in their own Summer of Praise.

Are you continuing to observe Summer of Praise? I hope so. If you’re praise muscle is lagging during these final days of summer, here are some ideas for kicking it back into high gear:

  • Attend worship practice of your church’s worship team. If they practice or warm-up before church starts, get there half an hour or an hour early and worship while they get ready to lead. I am often more blessed during worship practice than during the actual worship time during church! I’m not sure why – perhaps it’s because there’s not a crowd around me to be caught up with – it’s just me in the pews and God.
  • Watch Christian artists or worship programs on television as I was doing.
  • YouTube is a wonderful place to be blessed in worship. Enter “worship music” or your favorite Christian artist in the search box. Then click on what catches your interest. Close your eyes and listen or sing with the artist at the top of your lungs! Here’s a great example:

  • Put on a worship CD that hasn’t been in your player for awhile. Stop whatever else you’re doing and worship.
  • Select a psalm or one of those great passages from Paul’s letters that extol the wonders of what God has done for us or Revelation 7. Read it out loud and expand upon it with praises to God.
  • Make a date with God. Take a walk in nature or light some candles at home. Sit at His feet and worship Him.
  • Visit your favorite place in nature and wonder at what the Lord has done. If you can’t get away, watch a nature video that shows the wonder of this world and the things God has made. Again, YouTube can be a great help. Search for videos of Brian Doerksen’s song Creation Calls. Many have put earth videos and/or amazing pictures to the song. Here’s the best one:

  • Don’t go it alone. My husband works two out of every three Friday evenings. We’ve scheduled a Praise Night every third Friday. We get together with a small group of believers from different backgrounds and each Friday have a different kind of worship experience. It’s been wonderful!
  • Pick up an old hymnal and sing through the hymns. There is such a rich heritage in those hold hymns and the doctrine found in them is worth studying.

I have a challenge for you, friend. Don’t just read this blog and wish you could find the time to do one of these things. Make a plan right now to do it. I watched a business webinar this week. To move us to action they quoted Jim Rohn:

“Indecision is the thief of opportunity.”
Jim Rohn

Make a decision. Don’t lose this opportunity to praise God. When and how will you praise Him? Leave me a comment below, on Facebook or on Twitter – reply to me @sandyhov and be sure to include hashtags #lifeofpraise and #appgrace.

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King Solomon spells them out in the first six verses the book:

  1. Attain wisdom (v2)
  2. Acquire discipline (v2 and 3)
  3. Gain understanding (v2)
  4. Develop a prudent lifestyle (v3 and 4)
  5. Learn to do what is right and just and fair (v3)
  6. Receive knowledge (v4)
  7. Develop discretion (v4)
  8. Add to our learning (v5)
  9. Receive guidance (v5)
  10. Learn to understand proverbs and parables (v6)

Do those things excite you? I have to confess that upon reading them this week they left me a little flat.

I looked up the word prudent in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:

1: the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason
2: sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs
3: skill and good judgment in the use of resources
4: caution or circumspection as to danger or risk

Those things, and the other nine in the list above, sound like good qualities to me – practices that will enhance my personal, professional and spiritual life. Why would I not want that? Perhaps because sometimes I want what’s easy and these things take work. Perhaps it’s because living in America in the twenty-first century, I am overwhelmed by television, magazine and online ads that encourage me to “go for the gusto” and “indulge myself.” I’m encouraged again and again to live the good life and to give myself a break because “I deserve it” or “I’m worth it.” Our environment cultivates a self-centered lifestyle that is passionate about enjoyment and rarely encourages discipline and prudence.

When I’m constantly bombarded by messages to the contrary, it can be hard to remember that pursuing discipline and prudence – making them the by-product passion of my passion for pursuing God – is what will bring the most satisfaction. As we look at Proverbs 1, I am reminded of the first three verses of Psalm 1. These verses were written by King Solomon’s father, King David:

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)

King Solomon learned from his earthly father that blessings abound for those who pursue God, His laws and His ways. They are blessings that surpass the “good life” this world wants me to pursue.

The first six verses of Proverbs may not hold the pizzazz of the most recent sixty-second commercial I watched, but they hold the potential for tremendous blessing – both in this life and the next.

Lord, deliver me from my sinful nature that wants what this world is selling. Grow in me that hunger and thirst that only You can fill. Help me develop the discipline that turns to you when I am looking for escape and rest.

As I finished reading Proverbs 1, I found this verse:

For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
Proverbs 1:32 (NIV)

Lord, keep me from my foolishness and complacency.

How about you, friends? Do you find yourself pulled by this culture into a leisure-focused lifestyle? Do the words discipline and prudence sometimes cause you to turn and walk (or run) in the opposite direction? May the Lord encourage you (as He has me) to put aside your complacency and your foolishness and run hard – with all you’ve got in you – toward Him. We do that by following His plans for our lives, not the world’s.

I pray that as we read the book of Proverbs, the Lord draws us into discipline and prudence while giving us wisdom and understanding. May He bless our reading this month.

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God’s arms certainly are.

Here’s a an excerpt from a blog that will challenge you to be God’s Hands extended to the sinner and sinned-against written by Thom Hunter at Signs of a Struggle.

It stands to reason to me that if we, as Christians, can embrace the idea that bad things happen to good people . . . then we would be able to wrap our arms around the idea that good people  — even Christians — do a fair amount of those bad things.  And then we could wrap our good Christian arms around those that did it and those that hid it at the same time we comfort those that got pummeled by it.  “It” being sin.  Surely our arms are bigger than we let on.  Surely, there is mercy and forgiveness and grace abounding.  Surely we can restore the sinner with the same hope we rescue the sinned-against.  Surely God’s love — which is to be in us — is enough to cover all.

God’s call to love one another is no place for cowards, as Thom writes. It takes great courage and God’s compassion. Take a few minutes and be challenged by this blog today.

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Jeremiah hasn’t been the easiest book to read through, but as I’ve read, I’ve seen the emotional side of God more clearly. I’ve seen both His anger and His compassion. I’ve seen His patience and His enduring love. And seeing those things make reading the book worthwhile – even if it is hard work sometimes.

You can read my reflections from the middle chapters of Jeremiah here.

Upon finishing the book, I thought it appropriate to add my reflections from the latter chapters. Here’s what struck me as I read the latter half of Jeremiah:

  • God sends people to warn us before He brings judgment.
    • Sometimes we’ll be the ones sent to warn others. Do I take that responsibility seriously? Am I obedient when I am confident God wants me to give a warning to others or do I shy back? Do I handle the responsibility with love? Jeremiah didn’t want to spend his life bringing news of impending doom. (Likewise, Jonah didn’t want to bring news of repentance to Ninevah.)
    • Sometimes, others will be sent to warn us. Do I listen to the warnings or do I take offense and ridicule the person God has sent to save me? The first two verses of Jeremiah 43 caught my attention:

1When Jeremiah finished telling the people all the words of the LORD their God—everything the LORD had sent him to tell them—2Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are lying! The LORD our God has not sent you to say…’
Jeremiah 43:1-2

It is arrogance – pride – that causes us to reject God’s Word when it’s not what we want to hear. We think we know better. We think that God will not bring His judgment. We’re wrong on both those accounts.

  • When we sin, we encourage those around us to sin. Notice in the verses above that it was the gang of men that accused Jeremiah of lying. Sinning doesn’t just affect us, it also affects those around us. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “Misery loves company.” I would say that “Sinning loves company.” (We’ll see that lesson repeated quite a bit when we read Proverbs next week.)
  • Even in the midst of our sin God pursues us – always with the intent of helping us turn to Him in repentance and living a life that He blesses.
  • There is always a remnant of people who follow God. And we always have a choice of whether to align ourselves with those who are sinning or those who are following God.
  • In the midst of God’s judgment, He reassures us of His love:

“Do not fear, O Jacob my servant;
do not be dismayed, O Israel.
I will surely save you out of a distant place,
your descendants from the land of their exile.
Jacob will again have peace and security,
and no one will make him afraid.
Jeremiah 46:27

Remember to look for God’s love. It’s always there.

After reading through all of Jeremiah, then, it seems to me, that God’s compassion takes three forms:

  • Warnings given so that we might repent and live the life He has designed us to live.
  • Punishment or judgment sent to get our attention when warnings have failed. They are designed to bring us to repentance and/or mitigate our sabotaging influence over others.
  • His constant, always-present love for sinners. He graciously reassures us during judgment and rescues us when we cry out to Him.

What a gracious and compassionate God we serve! I can’t help but love Him more and more as I learn more and more about Him.

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