3/26/08

Don’t Be a Fool!

I met my husband-to-be on April Fool’s Day in 1973. I teased that he was my “April Fool,” but Bob is wise in more ways than one, and he excels in practical leadership wisdom.

Although evidence of “jesting” dates to China in terms of acting and entertaining, Roman comic actors were probably the forerunners of Europeans “jesters.” In the Middle Ages, English court jesters trained to be “fools” for the enjoyment of royalty—similar to our modern-day comedians. Also like today’s comedians, they often employed satire to poke fun at people, and with relative immunity. Though we don’t know when April Fool’s Day began, April 1st–coinciding with the nearness of spring—evolved into a frolicking day for pranks and jokes.

I’ve never wanted to be a fool. In fact, I’ve prayed for wisdom since early childhood, but it was only recently that I thought through the sources and implications of foolishness. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” So then, what is the beginning of foolishness? Wouldn’t it be the arrogant, self-sufficient attitude that says, “I don’t need God”? We are training to be fools when we begin to order our lives as if there were no God. We don’t look to him for direction or help. We don’t bother to pray; we just decide. Making choices without God is foolish. In one version of this verse, we read, “Respect and obey the Lord! ... Only a fool rejects wisdom and good advice” (CEV). Proverbs 1:29-30 speaks of the person who spurns (turns away from) God’s reproof and correction. That’s certainly foolish. We are also foolish when we “fear man” rather than God. When we fear man, we exalt and trust the opinions of people, and seek the acceptance of people, more than reverencing and trusting the Lord.

Being a fool, in the biblical sense, is not an occasion for laughter. The Bible says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise … do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:15, 17, NIV).

3/19/08

Easter—Far More than Jelly Beans

Like a former president, Ronald Reagan, I love “Jelly Belly” jelly beans. I have a bowl of soda pop-flavored “beans” on my desk right now! The gourmet jelly beans are famous. More than three tons of them were consumed during Reagan’s inaugural festivities in 1981, and the candies even took a trip into outer space on the 1983 Challenger shuttle.

A derivative of regular jelly beans dates to Biblical times in the form of Turkish Delight—a square, chewy-centered candy mentioned in C.S. Lewis novels. According to candyfavorites.com, the soft, round jelly bean is an offshoot of “Confetti” candy, which we know as Jordan Almonds. It is speculated that the sugar and syrup coating used on almonds was eventually used to coat a chewy center in the late 1800s when William Schraft created an ad for the candies and promoted sending them to Union Soldiers in the Civil War. As the first candy sold by weight, they were the first “bulk candy.” Jelly beans became part of the Easter tradition in the 1930s.

In a confusing metaphor, Easter Bunnies deliver eggs to signal the coming of spring, and also spiritual rebirth. As a child, I thought chocolate bunnies would lay jelly beans … until I got wiser and realized chocolate bunnies would give birth to baby chocolate bunnies!

When I got wiser still, I realized that chocolate bunnies and jelly beans have nothing to do with Easter at all. Rabbits, eggs, egg hunts, and Easter baskets are part of the secular (with pagan roots) traditions of Easter, which can be fun, but are not connected to the biblical celebration in this season of the year, known as Passover (Acts 12:1-4; Exodus 12:12-14; Leviticus 23:5). The word used in Acts is the Greek word pascha, derived from the Hebrew, pesach, or Passover—a ceremony commanded by God to be an annual memorial feast for Israel “forever.” Jesus Christ is the Christian believer’s “Passover” (I Corinthians 5:7-8). His death, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), removed the need to kill a spring lamb.

When my children were young, we had “Easter Egg Day” and entered into the fun of the secular holiday on Saturday—but Sunday was “Resurrection Day,” and we kept that day holy to the Lord. That was my choice then. My children always understood the clear difference. With better wisdom, I think I would modify that considerably, and use the lamb rather than the bunny as an object lesson, and make cross-shaped cookies rather than Easter Eggs. Whether you choose to practice the secularized version of this season or not, be sure that your family understands that Jesus’ resurrection changed everything. The Lamb of God, slain for our sins, arose (I Corinthians 15:3-4), and someday this precious, worthy Lamb will rule over all the earth (Revelation 5:12-13).

3/12/08

Voices of the Heart

There is no real change in our lives without first becoming transparent and honest, which is why I work so hard to teach the ladies in my Sunday school class how to be open-hearted with each other. When we get honest before God and others about the condition of our hearts, then the healing can begin.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” What we are thinking will eventually show up in our belief system, and then our behaviors. In that sense, our choices are the voices of our hearts. Our choices reveal our hearts. I heard someone say that people who are very ill reveal their true character because they don’t have the strength any longer to cover up their flaws. That may or may not be true, but what is in the heart of man eventually rises to the surface.

When I’m old, I want to be
a wise and gracious saint;
but it’s true (and I hate to admit it),
sometimes now, I ain’t!

Bad English aside, that’s the confession of my heart. I’ve often heard Nancy DeMoss of Revive Our Hearts Ministries say that she wants to be a wise old woman someday with true inner beauty (Proverbs 31:30). That’s been a goal of mine, too, so I need to guard my heart every day (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).

God sees my heart (I Samuel 16:7), so it’s foolish to hide. God knows whether you and I truly want to make the choices that will please and honor Him. The truth is, what we will become, we are choosing now. Our everyday choices count.

3/5/08

The ''Eyes'' of March

The “Ides of March” — best known as the date when Julius Caesar was assassinated — is now a metaphor for impending doom. As a child, I heard a newscaster speak of the “Ides,” but I thought he said, “Eyes.” I wondered whether March eyes were different from April eyes or December eyes.

Speaking of “impending doom,” do you get the feeling these days that we are one step away from total disaster? Maybe it’s election-year confusion, or threats of a plunging economy, or the escalating destructiveness of man. I write a monthly prophecy newsletter for World Prophetic Ministry, and two emotions keep rising in my heart — fear and anticipation.

Short of transformation by God’s grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf (Rom. 3:24; 5:19), all of our attempts to clean up our act are like adding bling to a bloated pig! Even our “righteous” acts are like filthy rags (Is. 64:6), so we flee to Jesus for true righteousness (I Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9). I look around at the murders, rapes, kidnappings, thefts, and senseless acts of cruelty today, and my heart grows fearful. When I see the tension in the Middle East, watch the rise of radical Islam around the world, and envision a future for my grandchildren even worse than what I observe on television today, I feel the tightening in my heart — but I also anticipate that something wonderful is moving onto center stage.

Human Yes, human events are indeed plunging toward the Anti-Christ, Armageddon, and all hell breaking loose, but that is not the end. Earth’s groanings increase, and man’s foolishness abounds, but the eternal God is up to something wonderful. Beyond our vision — our “ides” of impending doom — are the loving eyes of a Father who watches over all. His sovereign purposes cannot be thwarted as He brings human time to a close and prepares to usher in eternity future. My choice is to focus on the future with Him and not get mired in the mud of my fears today.