Thursday, December 27, 2012

More on Errors

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

I don’t like errors, especially the ones that I make. But I have learned to find little errors amusing.Recently I’ve seen the following in newspapers:

• “Milllions” looks funny with the third “l.”

• An article on flooding in Indonesia shouldn’t be headlined, “Floods in India.”

• The mast of “Section C” shouldn’t tell you to look for articles in “Section D” when there is no “Section D.”

I heard a sportscaster read about a player “returning back” to his former team. “Returning” takes care of “back.” I heard a friend ask of someone, “Where is he at?” “Where is he?” works just fine. It’s a bit like the cowboy who said of his hopelessly injured horse, “I shot him dead and killed him.” Twice evidently, and that’s hard to do. In my first draft of this article, I typed “fiend” rather than friend when quoting Proverbs 27:17 in the last paragraph! And I don’t even like the concept of frenemies.

Working with a university and being married to an English teacher, I’m trained to notice errors. That’s not really a problem unless I begin to enjoy noticing them. It’s even OK to help people correct errors, provided that I work on my own first (Matthew 7:1-6) and keep my attitude and motives right (Galatians 6:1-2).

It has been well said, “Only the dead make no errors.” In one sense, errors are evidence of effort. We’d rather make—and correct—errors than to let fear keep us from trying. The infamous “one talent man” of Matthew 25 didn’t fare so well.

Errors provide opportunity for the devil. He will tempt us to pride and defensiveness when others notice our mistakes. He’ll tempt us toward lies and excuses. He’ll invite us to impugn the motives of good people who try to help us improve.

Errors also provide opportunity for the Lord. He corrects/chastens everyone whom He loves (Hebrews 12:3-11). He does so “for our profit.” He does so to move us toward righteousness. And, often, He uses the people around us to point out our need to improve. It wouldn’t be wise to oppose someone who is doing the Lord’s work.

When you try to help me improve, I hope I’ll know that—by your tone and your wisdom (Proverbs 15:1). When you try to help me improve, I hope I’ll appreciate that—and say so—not just with words, but also by doing better. Isn’t that the point of Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend”? Friends help friends improve. It’s spiritually and relationally unwise and off-putting to be difficult to correct (Proverbs 12:15, 15:12, and 17:10). May the Lord bless us to remember that we all need all the help that the Lord sends.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Protected by the Wisdom of God

Good Humor

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking’” (Proverbs 26:18-19).

Perhaps you heard of the Australian radio personalities who impersonated Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles as they called a London hospital to inquire about the health of the Duchess of York. When I heard the recording, even I thought that anyone would recognize them as fakes. But a nurse didn’t, she gave them a bit of information that should have remained private, and a few days later the nurse took her own life.

Now, the radio show is cancelled. I presume that the radio personalities are or soon will be unemployed. Their careers may be over. To their credit, they have issued tearful apologies explaining that they meant no harm and never expected the prank to go this far. And I’m willing to believe them. There’s not a hint of a reason to believe that they thought this prank would have such tragic consequences. But they are forever linked to those consequences.

This brings to mind the famous statement of Deuteronomy 10:13 about the commandments and statues of the Lord “which I command you today for your good.” We are so blessed to be protected by the wisdom of God as we keep His word.

We never know how fragile another person might be, but we won’t be tempted to press that person if we follow Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:39-40, Ephesians, 4:29, and Philippians 2:3-4. Each of those passages would protect us from exposing another person to danger.

We never know when a “joke” based in deception will backfire, but we know Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.” We know this was written to Christians about the treatment of fellow Christians, but we also know that we shouldn’t lie period.

I love good humor—humor that doesn’t endanger others, humor that doesn’t diminish others. I hate evil humor—humor that causes pain, stress, or embarrassment; humor that opens doors for the devil. God has always known the danger and the difference. How blessed we are to access and appreciate His wisdom.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Positive Enabling

Be Blessed to Bless Them

Written by Dr. Bill Bagents

We often hear about the negative side of enabling. There’s a huge amount of literature of codependency that warns against making it easy for people to continue self-destructive behavior. The dangers are acute and pervasive.

Positive enabling is a blessed concept. Some describe it as setting people up for success. There’s a wonderful example in 1 Chronicles 22.

David accepted God’s decision that he would not be allowed to build the temple (22:7-8). Though God owed no explanation, He graciously provided one. David was a man of war. The temple of God would be built by a man of peace.

David chose to welcome the fact that his son would be allowed to build God’s temple (22:9-10). No jealously. No bitterness. No competition. David recognized and accepted God’s blessing.

David chose to help his son in every way that he could, and he found many ways. • He appointed skilled masons to hew stones (22:1). • He prepared iron, bronze, and wood for the construction (22:3-4). • He directly charged Solomon to build an excellent house for the Lord (22:5-6). • He asked God to give his son wisdom and understanding (22:12). • He reminded Solomon that God’s favor depended on Solomon’s faithfulness (22:12). • He commanded the leaders and the workmen to help Solomon (22:17-18). • He reminded everyone of God’s gift of peace and rest (22:18). • He urged all to serve by setting their hearts and souls to seek the Lord (22:19).

David set Solomon up for success. He positively enabled his son. He recognized that Solomon’s task was great. He knew that Solomon was young and inexperienced (22:5). Without undermining or demeaning, David took practical steps to bless his son.

David sets a strong example for us. When others are doing right to the glory of God, we’re blessed to bless them. As we contribute to and encourage their good works, we maximize God’s blessing for all. What a joy to set our hearts and souls to seek the Lord and to build one another up in the name of the Lord.