Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 21 – Look Up and Work Hard

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“The horse is made ready

for the day of battle,

but the victory rests with the Lord.” 

– Proverbs 21:31 –

 

If you haven’t noticed, our world is quick to take the credit and slow to take the blame.

Perhaps deferring to Michael Scott of The Office at this point makes sense.  In an episode Michael was caught in a “golden ticket” mistake that cost the fine folks of Dunder Mifflen hundred of thousands of dollars. When asked by his boss, David Wallace, what he though he should do about the situation.  Michael says, “Well David I will be honest with you. I do want the credit without any of the blame.”

That’s us!

If we are completely honest with ourselves, we would always prefer to receive the highest reward possible with the most minimal amount of work.  I mean if there was a way that we could somehow sleep until noon, sit on the couch in our underwear, eat Golden Oreos, while watching reruns of 24 and be rich…we’d do it.  However, that isn’t real life…atleast not one that isn’t the target of a TLC special after your weight balloons to 750 pounds and you have to be cut out of your house.

This life involves effort, hard work, and determination.  Yet somehow our society has become more concerned with getting the high score on Halo and living in our parent’s basement than working hard to make a living and becoming a productive member of society. (v 25)  The very fabric of our world is coming undone with every passing braincell wasted on mindless activities.

God designed us to live differently than that.  He desires us to have integrity in what we do and work hard so that in everything we bring Him glory.  A wise person realizes that life is not handed to them.   Instead a wise person sets out to use the gifts God has given them to the highest possible degree knowing that God will honor and bless those efforts.   Granted, this does not mean that every hard working person is a millionaire or the CEO of  Fortune 500 company.  What it does mean is that when we define our success as  giving glory to God through our efforts no matter who is watching or what the circumstance that is a life worth God’s blessing.

Solomon would say it this way, “he who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” (v 21) This prosperity and honor may not be in the form of BMWs or a body that never gets sick, but it is assured that God is pleased in our obedience and our eternal reward will be great.

Here are some practical applications of this found in Proverbs 21:

  • It’s the wife that isn’t constantly nagging her husband, but patient and loving in her words. (v 9, 19)
  • It’s the husband that keeps his eyes pure and only for his wife. (v 6)
  • It’s the student whose motives follow what God says and not what their heart tells them. (v 2)
  • It’s the employee who strives for the truth even when it may not be the most popular choice. (v 28)

Life is short and has an expiration date known only to God.  We can’t assume that we have forever because our very next breath is not promised.  Don’t waste your life pursuing mindless activities with now purpose and putting little to no effort toward what you do.  Refocus your life’s goal to bringing God glory in all that you do so that wherever you are and whatever you do the focus stays the same.  Doing that will give us renewed determination in all areas of our life and cause our spirit to come alive.

As Christians we are to squeeze every ounce of God given opportunity out of this life. When we come to realize that, we start to see that true wisdom seeks God’s glory first and our needs second.  Anything other than that will always lead to temporary happiness and an unsettled soul longing for more.

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4 Things The Flu Taught Me About Sin

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Last week I caught the Influenza A virus that has been crushing every corner of the United States.  I wish I knew the person who spewed their mucous laden, virus infused spit on me so I could “thank them”, but alas I do not.  What I do know is that between bouts of trying to pry the toilet off it’s base while dry heaving my soul into the bowl and having schizophrenic episodes of body shivers and sweats I realized that the flu actually teaches me a lot about sin.

 

Here are Four Things I learned.

1.  The Flu Makes You Look Repulsive…so does Sin

I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but you don’t look good when you have the flu.  Pale, sweaty, and puffy are not part of the next “in” fitness craze.  The reason is that the virus inside you is causing your body to revolt and fight it with every possible means necessary.  It’s not looking for style points.  The same happens with sin in our life.  You look repulsive when you sin.  Your soul is trying to do whatever it can to make things right but the sin just distorts the whole picture.

2.  The Flu Isolates You…so does Sin

My room became my cave for 3 days and no one wanted to come in.  My wife would only come into check to make sure I was alive and maybe thrown a Lysol grenade in from time to time, but other than that it was me, my pillows, and my misery.  Sin will cause you to do the same thing.  Sin wants you to isolate yourself and build up a cocoon of selfishness that no one can penetrate.  Sin wants you weak, alone, and dependent on only it to survive.

3.  The Flu Hits When You Are Weak…so does Sin

The easiest time for you to get the flu is when you are stressed, tired, and not eating the right things.  When your body is weakened it’s defenses are compromised which is a playground for viruses.  Why in the world do you think so many college students get mono around finals time?  It’s because they are stressed out and their bodies are more worried about their calc final than fighting off a bug.  Sin loves when we are weak too.  In fact what it loves to do is attack you when you are down and out because it can get it’s best claws in then.  If you are wondering why you seem to be sinning more maybe check how you are taking care of yourself and your soul.

4.  The Flu Is Easily Spread To Others…so is Sin

The worst part about the flu I just had was that I spread it to my staff.  Yep, we had an all staff retreat the day I started to feel crummy and it wasn’t until after the retreat was over that I went to the doctor.  Sure enough about a day later, one by one my staff was texting me and saying they had it too.  The flu was now having a field day with my crew, but you could trace it back to this guy right here.  I felt doubly terrible.  I’m not sure if you knew this, but your sin effects other people too.  There is collateral damage to the decisions we make when we sin.  It effects those we love and care about even when we think it’s only effecting us.  That’s part of the evil of sin.  It sprays like a shotgun not like the sniper’s bullet we want it to be.

There is not doubt that the flu sucks the life out of you.

Don’t kid yourself, sin is sucking the life out of you too.

The difference is that the flu will usually pass after a few days, but sin may last an eternity if you don’t deal with it.  Jesus is the answer to your sin virus.

He says “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

Let me let you in on a little secret.

You and I make really crummy sin doctors.  In fact we are literally the worst, but Jesus is the Surgeon General of sin annihilation.  Let Him do what he does best and run like the wind from the sin in your life.  Believe me, living a life with Jesus Christ MD as your personal physician is way better than self diagnosing and being in the fetal position rocking back in forth in a warm shower the rest of your life.

 

 

 

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Doing The Right Thing Sometimes Means Wearing A Tie

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In the world today, doing the right thing can be hard.  Granted, the line between what is right and wrong is quickly graying in the minds of society on a daily basis. Yet, I still believe at our core we know what is truly right and truly wrong even if we lie to ourselves from time to time for our own selfish gain.

 

The reason I can say that’s true is because of what I see around Christmas. Without fail, every year people become more generous, more kind, and more selfless. People will give to charities, donate toys for underprivileged kids, volunteer at homeless shelters, and even set aside grudges to hang out with family they dislike.

What baffles me though is the goodwill we show in December doesn’t have to stop when the New Year’s ball drops.  In fact, those organizations we all serve and support don’t freeze in time until next year when they unthaw to let us back into their worlds again.  They keep going and could still use our help.  This is true with our fellow man as well.  Those around us still need our help and support even after the candy canes are off the light poles downtown.

Yet it always happens that when the credit card bills come rolling in or the stress of our job hits a fever pitch we curl back into a selfish fetal position and worry only about our needs. The human condition is innately focused on protecting the self.  It makes sense to be that way if you are in the middle of an alley surrounded by ninjas with throwing stars, but not so much when you’re simple lying about being sick so you don’t have to help a friend change their tire when it’s snowing outside.

Occasionally, I hear of stories where this selfish shell is bucked off and the true human spirit peaks through. This is one of those stories: a group of 5th grade boys did the right thing for their 6-year old friend Danny.

Jesus helps us to realize that when we are doing the right thing, helping one another, looking out for the good of not just ourselves we are actually interacting with God himself.  Jesus says these words in Matthew which contrast what happens or doesn’t happen when we are confronted with doing the right thing.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.-Matthew 25:40 (emphasis mine)

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.– Matthew 25:45 (emphasis mine)

Our responsibility as Christians is to be men and women of faith that look beyond our self to the needs of others.  We are to see our lives not as joy rides focused on emptying our bucket list of fun things, but as ambassadors for the least of these by how we love them.  Of course God wants us to live our life to the full and enjoy the families, resources, and experiences he brings across our paths, but he doesn’t want us to do those things in spite of loving our neighbor.

Don’t make it harder than it has to be!

  • Buy a single mom a meal at the restaurant
  • Shovel the driveway of your neighbors
  • Put some cash in an envelope for a friend that needs it
  • Sit by the tough coworker at lunch
  • Be honest about your expense report
  • Go back in the grocery store when you forget to pay for something
  • Apologize to your kids when you are wrong
  • Or any other number of no brainer “right” things to do.

Finding “the least of these” or the “right thing to do”  is not difficult if we open our eyes.  Heck, sometimes it’s as easy as putting on a tie and standing in the gap for friend.

So don’t wait for next year’s Christmas to do what God wants you to do today.  Just do it! 

 

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A Las Vegas Winter Coat

sweat-skin-1So there I was in Las Vegas wearing a full winter coat.

I had gloves in my jacket pockets and a stocking hat in my backpack.

Tucked away was an ice scraper and some hand warmers just in case.

Now one would think that wearing a snow coat in the middle of the desert would be at best not advised.  After all the average temperature in Las Vegas in the middle of December is still 65 degrees.  I mean wearing that amount of clothing in those temperatures makes about as much sense as the president of PETA being the keynote speaker at a hunting convention.  It just doesn’t end well.

But, what if I told you Las Vegas wasn’t my final destination.

See, I wasn’t in the middle of the Las Vegas strip doing push-ups, I was in the airport.  I was getting ready to connect to a flight to Chicago.  A city where the current temperature was literally colder than the North Pole at the time.  I had a car buried in snow and my family to get into it so that coat and thermals was crucial to me surviving and getting my family safely home.

Now think about this.  What if I had given in to the awkwardness of being in Vegas with my winter gear and planned for Vegas instead of Chicago?

What if I had planned on shorts, t-shirt, and maybe a sweatshirt at night for my time in Las Vegas?  After all, I would have fit right in when I was there, but I would have been in trouble when I got to my final destination.  Real.  Trouble.

As Christians I think we sometimes get tired of wearing our spiritual winter coats in this world.  It would seem that we are being held back to all that this world has to offer because of this Christian coat

  • Why can’t I sleep with whomever I want?  Oh, the coat.
  • Why can’t I spend my money however I want?  Oh yeah, the coat.
  • Why can’t I talk, think, and act however I please?  Of course, the COAT.

Why do I need to wear this stupid Christian coat all the time!?

The reason is that you aren’t dressing for this world but for the next.  This isn’t our final destination, but rather a stop until the eternity plane makes it’s final descent.

The writer of Hebrews says it this way, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” – Hebrews 13:14 (NLT)

Peter would say, “Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” – 1 Peter 2:11 (NLT)

The problem with shedding our spiritual coat for the fashionable clothing of the world is that we may create comfort in this life, but we have lost sight that this isn’t our final destination.  At some point our worldly Visa will expire and we will be forced to head to our home country.

Let me break away from my analogy and talk straight.

The life we live now as Christians is not for waste or a period of “waiting around” until we die.  It has purpose and meaning that should bring God glory.  However, this life is not the end either, but just the beginning of the life God has called us to.  We are aliens in this world in that we live contrary to the way the world says we ought to live.  In doing so we may feel strange, look strange, and act strange, but we are living not for the approval of here and now, but of the yet to come.  We are living for an audience of One who we will one day spend our eternity.

If we are able to keep that perspective then we will learn to be comfortable being out of fashion in this life so we are on the cutting edge in the next.   So bundle up and smile because the best is yet to come on the next leg of this flight.

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