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Avoiding Personal Earthquakes

1971 – The Biggest Earthquake I Experienced

“Whoever does these things will never be shaken.” (Psalm 15:5) I stopped when I read these words this morning. I live in Southern California where earthquakes are a regular part of our conversations. To be honest, they don’t happen very often. I have lived in the state for decades and have only experienced 3 that are worth talking about. Compared to tornadoes, torrential rain and subzero temperatures that occur every year in other parts of the world, these earth tremors are rare. When a big earthquake hits, however, it gets your attention in a hurry and it can do a lot of damage in a short period of time. In a minute, life can go from calm and peaceful to rattled and falling apart.
The same is true of my personal life. If I live carelessly or proud, I am setting myself up for the sudden onset of a personal earthquake that has the potential to destroy everything I have worked hard to establish. The news is replete with these stories from Dominique Straus-Kahn to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Anthony Weiner. And there will be more this week because the media loves stories of destruction. We all get caught up in these stories because the possibility of making similar choices resides in all of us. That is why the statement “they will never be shaken,” jumped out at me. So what are “these things?”

  • Live with conviction. “The one whose walk is blameless.” (v. 2) This doesn’t mean we never make mistakes. It does mean, however, that we are committed to live according to our value system and we have the courage to ask if that value system is true. It has been the habit of the human race to make up values as we go and to collect teachers who tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear. Solid living looks for the truth that produces righteousness not just rules that give freedom to our passions.
  • Speak with honor. “. . . whose tongue utters no slander.” (v. 3) Our words always reveal what is in our hearts. If you truly love God and love people, you will speak about them with honor, respect, and compassion. You will certainly fight for what is best in people’s lives but you will do so with a dignity that communicates the value of life. You will avoid abusive words, insults, and fabrications that extend your position. It is amazing the hatred that gets expressed by people toward those they disagree with. It is also amazing the peace God can give that guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7) in the midst of a trembling world.
  • Take a moral stand. “. . . who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the LORD.” (v. 4) There is a right and wrong. There is evil and good. People’s choices do matter and we will all give an account for our lives someday before a righteous and compassionate God. These are truths that stand even though people try to explain them away. We are moral creatures and every choice we make changes the condition of our hearts. Those who choose to live with moral excellence will experience circumstantial trouble in an immoral world but internally they will be like a tree firmly planted who can withstand any storm. (Psalm 1)
  • Keep commitments. “ . . . who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their minds.” (v. 4) This one almost needs no explanation. Sometimes our commitments feel good and offer great personal satisfaction. Sometimes they are hard and personally painful. They are not conveniences, however, they are commitments. They are not vacations, they are vows. Rock solid people never settle for flimsy agreements, we make pledges we intend to keep regardless of the cost involved.
  •  Remain compassionate. “. . . who lends money to the poor without interest.” (v. 5) We recognize there are legitimate needs in our world and there are oppressed people who are taken advantage of by the system. We certainly do not want to feed the selfish who use the system to avoid personal responsibility but we also don’t ever want to lose concern for those in our world who truly need what we can provide.

This list is so simple, straightforward, and sensible it is a wonder it is even under dispute. Jesus said some people would build on sand while others build on solid ground. I for one would rather build on the rock.

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