Consider the Ant?!

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Ants!

Once again they have taken over my kitchen. I spray, but they merely change route and continue their work. Hard as it may seem, these tenacious little creatures are not driven by the single purpose of trying to drive me crazy, but rather providing a storehouse for their future. Once again, God takes a moment to make a point. This time it is an important illustration He makes in Proverbs.

Go to the ant, you sluggard; observe its ways and be wise!
It has no commander, overseer, or ruler, yet it prepares its food in the summer;
it gathers at the harvest what it will eat.
Proverbs 6:6-8 NLT

Sluggard? Ouch!

That part hurts a little. I must admit I have spent more than my fair share of time watching House Hunters International, Say Yes to the Dress, and Chopped . And aside from Chopped (I pick up some good cooking techniques there.) I must admit that although entertaining, there is not much useful information found in these programs for a married woman who is rooted deep in US soil.

As I looked farther into the passage, I found the actual word prepares is the Hebrew word kuwn, which means ‘be established, be secure, be enduring’. That takes the little ant’s activity to another level. The single-minded activity these animals have is impressive. Their focus is really like no other, and it has all to do with what the definition states: keeping the colony established and secure, allowing it to endure in the future.

So, how does a study on ants apply to the human condition?

Since we know the author of Proverbs 6 is speaking to us, we should pay attention. If we take time to read through this chapter, we see the very next statement he makes is

How long, you sluggard, will you lie there? When will you arise from your sleep?

Proverbs 6:9

How long do we to plan to put off the things we need to do in order to endure whatever the future holds? But what should we do to prepare? It all comes down to storing up large amounts of God’s word in our heart.

This reminds me of when my mother would preserve all of the extra fruit from our backyard orchard. The kitchen smelled delicious as she stirred steamy pots of goodness. Jars, filled with beautiful color, lined the counter before she was finished. They would eventually find themselves tucked away in the pantry. It was a very beautiful sight to see those jars waiting for a time when we wanted something sweet with our meal.

God’s word is that something sweet we need . . .

when we’ve been served up a healthy portion of discouragement and disappointment found in life. When times are hard, it is good to be able to go to the storehouse and find that God has already given you hope and strength through His promises and instructions. Proverbs 6:21 tells us to bind His word to our hearts continually, because—

When you walk about, they will guide you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; when you wake up, they will talk to you. For the commandments are like a lamp, instruction is like a light, and rebukes of discipline are like the road leading to life. . .
Proverbs 6:22-23

So, consider the ant that doesn’t take NO for an answer.

Practice the ways of the enduring little creature and let nothing get in the way of storing up the Bible and its wisdom.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

God’s Word in My Heart? Check!

God's Word My Heart

 

You want me to do what? Memorize? Ugh!

Whether it is scripture, stories, or ideas found in the Bible, we need a good supply of them in our minds and hearts to live the life God has for us. There is evidence that the best way to maintain the memory of something is to talk about it. It is not enough to merely hear or read it. You must engage in it. When you hear something, you retain about twenty percent, but when you discuss it, you raise that to over three-fold at seventy percent. When you personally experience it you can add another ten percent to bring you up to eighty percent. But here is the exciting thing. When you teach something you remember ninety-five percent. Amazing! Who knew sharing knowledge would be such a benefit to the teacher as well.

God did. In His instructions given to the Israelites on how to maintain a good life, He built it right in. Here’s what He says in Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Fix these words of mine into your mind and being, and tie them as a reminder on your hands and let them be symbols on your forehead. Teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. Inscribe them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates so that your days and those of your descendants may be extended in the land which the LORD promised to give to your ancestors, like the days of heaven itself.

 In this little piece of scripture, there is found a whole memorization plan for your faith. If you like checklists, these verses form a very nice one.

Fix these words of mine into your mind and being.

The Hebrew word of fix is suwn. It means to put, place, set, appoint or make. The English dictionary describes fix in much the same with an additional idea—to direct the eyes, attention, etc. steadily. What the verse is saying: our minds as well as our hearts should be set in God’s words, not our own. Our attention should be on what He has to say, so that we are familiar with His voice.

and tie them as a reminder on your hands and let them be symbols on your forehead.

We must allow God’s words to direct our thoughts and actions. The word tie in the Hebrew literally means to tie or bind, but it also has the idea of conspiring or forming an alliance. I love that idea. Now, we take those words your attention is fixed on and put them to action. This will form a good team. James tells us to be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it. . . [James 1:22] James even knew God’s words were not going to stick with us unless we experienced them first hand. Our activity makes an imprint on us that just reading and hearing do not. It makes it personal, thus we remember. Jesus Himself says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” [Matthew 7:24] Taking God’s word and putting it into action creates something that lasts.

Teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up.

This is the biggie. This is where we get to retain ninety-five percent of what we hear and read. The word teach is lamad in Hebrew means to learn, teach, and exercise in.

I spent about fifteen years educating my own girls, plus a fair of amount of time teaching other children as well as adults. I have to say out of all the students I’ve taught over the years, I have learned the most. Teaching requires the teacher to absorb the subject. Time is spent mulling over information and ideas, strengthening the knowledge they already possess. Teaching also places value on the possessed information. The more value assigned to the knowledge, the more we will treasure it in our hearts.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 NET

Inscribe them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

Plaques and pictures loaded with Christian images and sayings are not what I think God is talking about here. Although they can enhance the beauty of our homes and serve as reminders of what we believe, it will be what’s written on our hearts that will tell the world who we are. If we have taken time to store up God’s word, the people we encounter will see it all over our faces and in the works of our hands. They will hear it in our speech. It will spill out into the way we live life.

The payback? Your days and those of your descendants may be . . .like the days of heaven itself. It is saying that if you do these things living a life according to God’s plan can be maintained on into eternity. It will last forever if we just put into practice these simple instructions that will maintain our focus on God while writing His words in our hearts.

My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for they will provide a long and full life, and they will add well-being to you.

Proverbs 3:1-2 NET

Happy Camper

“How happy are those whose way is blameless, who live according to the Lord’s instruction!

Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart.

They do nothing wrong; they follow His ways.”

Psalms 119:1-3 HCSB

 

I was one happy girl when it came time to start school. It was a wonderful world filled with lots of playmates and exciting things to do. Our teacher, Miss Williams, was not only beautiful but oh, so smart. I hung on to her every word, and tried my hardest to comply with her instructions. It was my daily mission to make Miss Williams proud of me.

Being a firstborn of five uniquely formed me to be a rule-follower. After all, there were all those others coming behind me that needed to be reined in. I sometimes see the same behavior in my granddaughter who at age nine is the oldest of six. It’s an important job, keeping those other kids in line.

It makes me laugh when I think of those days that probably drove my mother crazy with all the tattling. The reality was, I was more concerned about whether the others were doing the right thing than I was about my own behavior. Today, however, I see the value of rule-following as a way of having a happy life.

Happy = Blessed

Some translations use blessed in the place of the word happy found in the HCSB version of our Psalm 119 verse. According to the Hebrew lexicon this word blessed is used as an interjection at the beginning of the chapter to set the mood for what follows. With blessed to set the stage, what comes next is a list of benefits connected to following the Word.  Things like dignity, purity, joy and freedom, just to name a few, are attained by following the rules laid out in the Bible.

But the blessedness doesn’t stop there. Webster’s definition of blessed is having a sacred nature connected with God. This connection is fostered through knowing God through His Word and then putting it into action in our lives. Yes, you know what I’m talking about. It’s obedience. This very act allows us to experience God’s character firsthand. When we love, we become loving. When we forgive, we become forgiving. Etc. We become more like God. As we walk in His ways we know Him, intimately.

So, I guess I am here to tell you that rule-following isn’t such a bad thing at all. It will lead you to a very happy existence. Oh, and forget the tattling. God knows everything.

 

How blessed are those whose actions are blameless, who obey the law of the LORD.

 How blessed are those who observe his rules, and seek him with all their heart,

who, moreover, do no wrong, but follow in his footsteps. 

Psalm 119:1-3 NET

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Legs to Stand On

arthropod-346190_1920This morning while on a walk, I noticed a small millipede crossing the road. All of his legs were working in unison to move him along his way.  What a lucky little creature to have so many limbs to rely on. He seemed to glide along its pathway without hindrance or hesitation. We bipeds are not so fortunate. Only two legs to stand on, and if one is injured we are pretty much stranded and unable to move without help of some kind.

This visual brings a new perspective to the verses from Ecclesiastes 4 that say, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” [4:9-10 NLT] Solomon, the writer of this saying, sees the benefit of having a friend to help—If you fall you have “another to lift [you] up!” [AMP]

Let’s take this idea of helping one another to a new level. What if we were like that tiny creature the millipede, and our legs numbered anywhere between 36 and 400? That kind of support would certainly make an impact on our lives as we move along life’s path. This is where friends, small groups, ministry partners, and church fellowships come in. They are the multiplication factor when it comes to having others to share the joys and struggles of daily living. The writer of Hebrews urges us to “… not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” in order to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:25, 24 NIV

Paul also spoke of this idea of supporting each other in his second letter to the Corinthian church–

“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God. . . And you are helping us by praying for us. Then, many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.”  

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

 “Helping us by praying. . ..” is a factor in “leg multiplication”. These people literally came alongside and carried Paul and Timothy with their prayers. In addition, the words encourage, build up, serve, do good, share with and love found in the New Testament speak of how we should relate to each other. When we come to help one another and put these words into action, everyone benefits. And these benefits are not just added to individuals, they are multiplied throughout the whole group.

Another thing I observed about the millipede was more legs also means more stability and ease as he went along his way. As I watched this little creature whose legs work so well in unison scurry off, I could picture a life that can seem to glide along when we work together and watch out for one another. Life seems a little easier, we feel encouraged, and the even the joy we share is multiplied.  What a wondrous thing it is to have each other’s legs to stand on as we move along the path of life!

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement [waiting for his promises to be fulfilled], help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God,  the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 15:5-6