Category Archives: Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs Study

Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 29 – Fear Failures

dtl_17_4_2014_9_41_56When I was little I was afraid of the dark.  This isn’t a huge revelation as most kids and even some adults are afraid of what happens when the lights go out.  Shadows get cast on the wall, GI-Joe action figures seems to look at you, the wind is just a little louder than you remember it, even your dog with sleep apnea can become a little creepy in the still of night you.  Sometimes all you can do is just tuck the covers over your head until the fear subsides or you pass out from lack of oxygen.

Fear is not just relegated to the time when your eyes switch from using cones to rods.  It is much less about physiology as it is with psychology.  Our eyes know that the FatHead sticker on the wall is just Andy Daulton from the Bengals.  But something inside us makes us question that fact and we start to think he may be a red haired, ginger, alien trying to attack us while we sleep.  It’s as if our mind is playing tricks on us and then convinces our heart it’s true so that we freak out…and possibly wet the bed.

Life can seem fearful too.

Difficult things happen to us on a daily basis.  From stressful bosses at work to bullies in the halls to difficult spouses in our homes our lives are in a constant state of adjustment based on what is happening.  Life will often throw you more curveballs than fastballs which always keeps you off balance.  I know so many people that live just waiting for the next bad thing to happen as if it was as inevitable as junk mail.  President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only thing to fear, is fear itself.”   Well if that’s true then it is a miracle we see anyone on the streets at all!  Let’s face it, there are things to be fearful everywhere we turn.  We could easily succumb to these fears, stay in our house, watch The Bachelor, and wait for the police to come and reposes our house, but God didn’t design us that way.

Proverbs 29, although not completely about fear, does have underpinnings of the effects of it.  There are several examples such as dealing with spoiled people (v. 21), an angry person (v 22), fools with rage (v. 11), unfair government officials (v. 4-5), and even concerns about raising chidden (v. 15,17, 21).  Yet as Solomon nears the end of this piece we read these words:

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

Proverbs 29:25

This is the release our souls need.

You see fear is easily one of the “go to” techniques of Satan that keeps us from truly living.  Have you ever noticed that our fear is typically at it’s worst when we are considering doing something for God?  All of a sudden you become acutely aware of your past mistakes, weaknesses, empty bank account, meager abilities, lack of time, and all kinds of things that you normally don’t even think about.  He wants to bring those things up so that you become more focused on them and less about the promises of God.  Promises that tell you that you can do “all things through He who strengthens you”. (Phil. 4:13)  On top of all your shortcomings Satan will bring about fear of man issues too.  He will start to seed your spirit with ideas like, “No one will listen to you”, “They will turn on you if you do that”, or “I’m sure the boss will fire you if he finds out.”  Even though God is the creator of all things including man, we still place what other people say above what God says and we start to let fear choke us.  We start to let it squeeze the life out of us like a Boa Constrictor.  I call this Fear Failure.  This is losing before the game even begins.  We let fear get the best of us and slowly steal our life.

As Believers, we need to shake ourselves loose from this man made fear.  Solomon tells us that man’s fear will be a snare to us, but trusting in God will keep us safe.  That doesn’t mean that life will be easy or that we will never have fear sneak around the corner again.  It means that even if we do start to feel the butterflies rise up we have the reassurance that God is with us. His love for us will quickly smothers any fear flame from growing.  Since Jesus died for our sins and took the sting of eternal death we truly have nothing left to fear.  The rest of life becomes a roller coaster adventure complete with our hands up in the air and smile on our face trusting that God is in control.

There are too many people reading this that fear has taken over your life.  You are keeping yourself from following God’s lead and you are stifling the plan God has for you.  I want to encourage you to take your foot off the brake and let God put the pedal to the metal in your life.  Don’t let the voice of your past keep you from the future God has in store for you.  Dream big!  If God has placed it on your heart he wants you to transfer it to your hands.  Come to love the feeling of being almost out of control for the things of God and see where He takes you.

God has great things stored up in you so throw open the gates and let them rush out for His glory!  Don’t let Fear Failures keep you inside any longer.  Get out there and start living for Him!

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 28: Do You Turn Heads When You Walk In The Room?

dixonwonderbrarestaurantBaseball has been a huge part of my life.  If you’ve read anything of mine it’s most likely you’ve stumbled upon that fact once or twice.  It was such a important part of my life as it helped shape my character, drive, work ethic, integrity, sense of team, and focus.  On top of that God gifted me to play it well enough compete at high levels of competition.  This gift provided me many opportunities I would not have had without the game in my life.  

In 1996 my American Legion team from Rapid City, South Dakota made it all the way to the American Legion World Series.  It took over 100 games to get there and I even started college a couple days late just to play in it.  Although the tournament was amazing the keynote speaker they brought into speak to the teams was the best part.

Beyond just being a baseball fan I am a HUGE Cincinnati Reds fan.  Ever since I was a small boy my favorite player was Johnny Bench who was part of the Big Red Machine.  Granted this team was before my birth, but The Big Red Machine was arguably one of the greatest baseball teams of all time.  Between 1970 – 1976 they averaged 98 wins a season, captured 5 National League West Division titles, 4 National League Pennants, and 2 World Series rings.  The were hard nosed players with names such as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey Sr., Tony Perez, and Dave Concepcion.  Although a great group of athletes they were managed by an even greater man.  Sparky Anderson.

Sparky was born in a small town in South Dakota called Bridgewater.  This is part of the reason he is so near to my heart.  He was a small town boy that made it big through hard work, dedication, but most importantly a faith in Christ.  He is legendary Hall of Fame manager, but is respected in the game as one of the greatest human beings to ever put on the uniform.  It was Sparky who was the keynote speaker at the World Series that year, but it was the group from South Dakota that he made a point to spend time with afterwards.  Here is my picture with Sparky.  I’m the one directly to his right with the good looking hair. :)

1996 Sparky Anderson Picture

Part of what amazed me about Sparky was that when he walked into a room (or a dugout) people stopped what they were doing and paid attention.  It wasn’t that he was a loud with a harsh tone because in fact he was the exact opposite.  He was a quiet, mild mannered man, but oozed respect causing you to hang on every word he said.  Whether it was telling stories of the Big Red Machine or talking about baseball as a metaphor for life, every obnoxious, arrogant teenager there sobered up and had the utmost respect.  Sparky was a man whose life and resume spoke for itself, but it was how that life was lived out that spoke the loudest.

I have to imagine that Solomon was that type of man when he entered a room.  Through God’s gifting of wisdom, I would tend to think that people leaned in when he spoke.  His wealth and power were one thing, but his wisdom was worth much more.  Wealth and possessions have a limited shelf life, but wisdom is priceless.  A God fearing, God honoring, God seeking leader will be infectious to those they lead.  The effects of that type of leadership are obvious in Proverbs 28.

  • A Godly leader can stand tall on their decisions because they are rooted in Christ. (v. 1)
  • A Godly leader finds it easy to resist the temptation of the unGodly wicked. (v. 4)
  • A Godly leader knows his definition is not defined by his bank account but by his integrity. (v. 6, 11)
  • A Godly leader will be celebrated with pure joy by those that they lead for leading well. (v. 12, 28)
  • A Godly leader will own up to their mistakes instead of hiding them. (v. 13)
  • A Godly leader will find blessing as they follow God’s will and keep peace. (v. 20, 25)
  • A Godly leader will trust God far more than they trust themselves when making decisions. (v. 26)

I believe that when a Godly leader walks into the room there is a difference.  There is a calmness, peace, and focus that they possess which people who follow their own desires lack.  When your goal in life is to get rich, successful, and popular regardless of the cost there is a glaring weakness to your character.  Just as people recognize the difference of a Godly leader they also recognize the stench of a swindler.  A selfish leader enjoys the scent of their own musk and prefers to wallow in the glistening facade of their “greatness” rather than pursue the peace found in Christ.

Don’t be get sucked into the lies of individualism and success.  Be overwhelmed with the wisdom found in following God’s way for your life.  You may be surprised.  Earthly success may still come to you, but it will pale in the comparison to the reward awaiting you in eternity.   Strive to be the person, father, mother, sister, brother, student, business person, waiter, husband, wife, person that when you walk in the room people see a difference.  A difference that is clearly the light of Christ pouring out of you in every aspect of your life.  Make your goal to be a head turner for Christ.

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 27: What Kind Of FRIEND Are You?

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“Wounds from a friend can be trusted,

but an enemy multiplies kisses

Proverbs 27:6

I am a product of the FRIENDS generation.  You know, the hit TV show with Joey, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, and Rachel that was on NBC for like 10 years.  Yep that one.  In fact my wife and I before we were married would have FRIENDS date nights in college to keep up with all the shows.  The proof that we got fully enmeshed is seen in the fact that my wife and I named our daughter Aniston because we loved Jennifer Aniston’s last name.

The show’s theme song was called “I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts and the chorus has these words.

I’ll be there for you

(When the rain starts to pour)

I’ll be there for you

(Like I’ve been there before)

I’ll be there for you

(‘Cause you’re there for me too)

Although now you have that song stuck in your head for the rest of the day (you’re welcome) the words make a whole lot of sense.  Having a good friend in your life is really important.  Sadly, in today’s world many people don’t have a true friend that will be there for them when the rain starts to pour.  In fact a 2006 study published in American Sociological Review found that people in the U.S. had fewer friends than they’d had 20 years prior. In 1985, the average American claimed to have three close confidants (which could have included spouses or family members, in addition to friends), but by 2004, the average American had only two close confidants. One in four people reported having no one to talk to at all (Discovery Channel Study).

I’ve been lucky in my life to have at least one close friend with whom I truly feel comfortable sharing anything.  In previous posts I’ve mentioned my best friend Robb whose friendship to this day remains one of the dearest things to me.  He truly is closer to me than few people in this world.   But now that I live in Chicago my friend Aaron has become the “I’ll Be There For You” relationship in my life.  That’s not to say that my wife Cherie isn’t my closest relationship, but I believe it’s important to have other people speaking into your life other than your spouse.  Aaron is that for me and I cherish that friendship too.

Nowadays friendship is relegated to cyberspace where people follow sentences you type or pictures you post.  Physical interaction has been squeezed out for mass quantities of impersonalization.  We sugar coat our existence so that people will “like” us and maybe even dream to be like us one day when in reality our world is in as much decay, if not more, than theirs.  True friendship is lost, but it is oh so important that it is found somehow.  In fact, Solomon would go so far as to say that one without friends would be greatly unwise.

  • A friend can wound you in such a way that it actually saves your life. (v. 6)
  • A friend can help protect you and your family not just physically but spiritually. (v. 10)
  • A friend helps you avoid danger, but one without suffers. (v. 12)
  • A friend helps to shape our character against one another so both become sharp. (v. 17)
  • A friend knows the kind of praise that will come at just the right time but not cause you to stumble in pride. (v. 21)

It is a wise person that seeks out a relationship that gives permission to speak into their life.  The 17th century English author John Donne was right when he said “no man is an island. No one is self-sufficient; everyone relies on others.

Solomon tried to create his own island filled with money, women, and power, but in the end he had no one that spoke into his life enough to save it.  Don’t be fooled that you can do it yourself.  Reach out, be vulnerable, be a friend to someone else, and let the words of someone who loves you rush over your life and smooth over the edges.

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 26: Are You An Idiot?


idiot

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly,

or you will be like him yourself.

Proverbs 26:4

 

 

 

 

I recently read “Hidden Worldviews” by Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford. In one of the chapters they were describing the worldview known as individualism.  Individualism is the thought that the center of the universe, both yours and those surrounding you, revolves around your needs and desires.  In other words, for an individualist the entire goal of life is to live your life in such a way that you bring yourself the most joy, comfort, and success regardless of the cost.  They did a terrific job outlining this point of view and in many cases, sadly, I could personally relate to what they were saying.

I thought this particular section was very interesting and fitting for Proverbs 26 so I’d like to share it with you.

“The Greek city-state had an interesting way of calling citizens together when a vote for some type of action was needed.  If, for example, another city-state was marching against them to do battle, a person would walk the streets blowing a horn, announcing that all should gather in the amphitheater just outside of town.  When the citizens of the city heard this, they would close up their shops, head to the amphitheater to get the news and fulfill their civic duty by voicing their response.  However, some shop-owners refused to shut down, hoping to do extra business while the competitors’ businesses were closed.  The Greeks referred to such persons as idiots, which means someone is closed up in their own world who, concerned only with personal goals, ignores the greater good. (Wilkens and Sanford, p 30)

For so many, this ideology is exactly what we do daily to varying degrees.  In some cases this individualism may be seen in shady business dealings like described above, but in most cases they are of a much more subtle nature.  We may not notice them all the time, but as Solomon points out in chapter 26, these fools, dare I say idiots, are all around us masquerading as being wise, but in reality they are the farthest from it.

Now, I’m the chief of idiots sometimes so I in no way am claiming to be perfect, but Solomon’s words strikes at the heart of a lot of areas of our idiotic lives.

  • Idiots like to curse people out by throwing daggers and then hiding to protect themselves. (vv. 2,10)
  • Idiots will try to provoke you with meaningless things and bait you into arguments. (v. 4)
  • Idiots will take something you’ve said and distort it to make you look bad or make them look good. (v. 6)
  • Wisdom is wasted on an idiot because they will use it improperly and it will only be dead weight to them. (vv. 7,9)
  • An idiot repeats the same mistake over and over and over without ever learning. (v. 11)
  • An idiot thinks he is God’s gift to everyone and everything.  Nothing he says is wrong and everything he says you should listen to. (vv. 12,16,25)
  • Idiots are lazy and do as little as possible regardless of who it may hurt or help (vv. 13-15)
  • Idiots look at gossip about others as vital information for everyone to know when in reality all it is is a distraction from you looking at their foolish life. (vv. 20, 22)
  • Idiots are great at deceiving themselves and others, but in time they are always found out for who they really are. (v. 26)

One would hope that we all would wake up and smell the roses to our mistakes and screw-ups, but we all know that doesn’t always happen.  In most cases if we did decided to take a whiff, we’d just wake up with a nose full of thorns because we sniffed the wrong end!  In fact, Solomon is also very clear about what will naturally happen to an idiot if he keeps doing what he’s doing.

“If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.(v. 27)

What is so frustrating is that so many people, me included, fall into the traps of foolish, idiotic people.  We get sucked in, beat up, and spit out. This only feeds the individualistic cravings of self-worth, which is all at the expense of you and me.   A fool will eventually fall into his own trap, pit, mess, vomit (whatever you want to say) if we just let him be.  But what we often do is fall into the pit with them and end up covered in the same mess they are!  We can try to blame them, but that is truly on us for our foolish decisions.

The relief for all of us idiots (and we all are from time to time) is that God loves us and despite our idiotic ways His grace still covers us, but for our sake God is hoping we choose something different.  Wisdom rooted in God tells us that we should not follow folly but our Father.  His wisdom will leave us feeling strong, not in our ability to make ourselves happy, but be strong in that God has a better plan than we could ever try to manipulate in our favor.  His wisdom will never fail and will never leave us with egg on our face.

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 25: God Want’s To Turn The Heat Up On Your Life!

Molten_1

 

 

“The right word at the right time

is like a custom-made piece of jewelry,”

Proverbs 25:11

 

 

 

At times I can be a bull in a China shop.  I rush into a situations without thinking and ready, fire, aim only to realize I was completely wrong.  I caused damage that didn’t need to happen and even burnt bridges as a result.  Then of course I’m faced with the dreaded dilemma of what to do then?  Do I swallow some pride and apologize or just play it off with an attitude of “if you don’t like it, deal with it” mentality?  We’d rather pretend the issue wasn’t there and live with the elephant in the room instead of tranquilizing him, dragging him outside, and cleaning up the mess he left.  However what we find is that we are missing out on an opportunity to grow in our walk with God.  Part of the process of spiritual formation (fancy words for growing in Christ) is taking the nicks and scrapes we have in life and using them to learn, grow, and teach others.

Tucked in the lines of Proverbs 25 is an interesting verse that Solomon writes.

“Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith.” (Proverbs 25:4)

Now, maybe you reading this have a degree in fine metals so this is verse makes perfect sense, but for me I needed a little help.  I decided to reach out to a friend of mine Rich who is a Purdue graduate, great Christian man, and metallurgist which means his profession is working with metals.  I asked him to explain to me what taking the “dross from the silver” meant and his insight was very helpful.

Rich says, “Metals like silver are embedded in an ore.  Inside the ore, is a precious metal like silver, but there is also many other impurities around that precious metal.  So in order to refine the metal, most of the time you have to heat it up.  In the process of heating it up, things begin to separate.  Usually, the impurities float to the top in the process.  These are called dross and they are carefully skimmed off, making sure the precious metal is left.  Interestingly enough, the way to tell if a metal is truly pure is by looking into the bath, and if you can see your reflection, you know it’s pure and the dross is gone.”

When I heard this, this Proverb started to make perfect sense and my spiritual connection with God came into a much clearer focus.  In our lives, we are constantly covered in impurities that we either roll around in ourselves or have tossed on us by someone else.  In other words, the sin in our lives makes us impure and the precious metal that God designed for us is hid beneath layers and layers of muck.  Jesus came to take that sinful impurity away, but in order for that to happen, we must allow the silversmith to refine us to the precious metal we were meant to be.

This means that as we grow in Christ, God refines us by taking away the impurities in our life.  When this happens we begin to change and precious metal starts to surface and it’s seen as we lift people up with our words not tear them down (v 11), we choose not to be prideful (v 6), we choose to be patient (v 15), we honor our neighbor (v 9), we take care of our enemy (v 21), wives you honor your husbands (v 24), or we choose to have self-control (v 28).  However, all of these things are identified and purified through the fire of the refinery.  There is bit of discomfort that comes from breaking these sinful things away from ourselves but in the end we have a much deeper relationship with Christ.  Peter says when considering the testing of our faith and the refining of our lives it is for a clear purpose.

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7 (NLT)

My friend Rich again says it so well.  “So let God turn up the heat in your life – whatever that be so that the impurities can be skimmed off.  Then, as you look into the bath of your life and the impurities are taken away you can see a reflection.  No longer your reflection, but the reflection of Jesus.”

This is what God desperately desires.  He wants our life to reflect Jesus, the purest source of anything good, so that our lives begin to resemble Him.   That when we look at our lives start to see less and less of us and more and more of Him.

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 24: Balsa Wood Is For Sissies

IMG_5603bridgeblog2My best friend Robb and I have known each other since we were practically embryos.  I would literally take a bullet for him and he for me. Now a days people talk all about having “besties” and multiple “best friends”, but I don’t get it.  It’s like the bride that has 16 bridesmaids because she doesn’t want to identify any of them as the maid of honor so no one will be mad at her.  Inevitably all of them think they are the maid of honor and an all out brawl is on the verge of ensuing.

Someone has to be closer than the others and for me that is Robb.   Yet, through all of our years growing up together we rarely had any classes together which drove us nuts.  The only exception to this was band and a physics class our junior year.  Now band was always great because…well…we didn’t take it seriously, we were still really good, and had fun doing it.

This will come in handy in just a second.

Now, in physics class we were assigned to build a tower out of wood that would hold the most weight possible while falling within the size parameters.  Robb and I knew that we would kill this project so we got home and Robb’s dad, Dave, helped us out.  We cut and glued a tower that was epic before the word “epic” was cool to say.  We knew that we had a good one but wanted to test it.  So we decided to take the leg off the riser in band class one day and replace it with our tower.  It totally held up the whole section!  Boom this is an “A” for sure…we thought.

It wasn’t until we got to class that we realized we had failed to read a key element of the assignment.  Not only were there size dimensions, but there were weight dimensions too.  So when everyone came in with their balsa wood structures that could have been blown down by a really good sneeze, we knew we were toast.  You see ours was not made out of balsa, but of solid oak.  Balsa is for sissies if you ask me.  Needless to say, neither Robb or I are physicists and we got…well…less than an A on that assignment.

Let me ask you a question, what is your house built on?

I don’t mean you actually physical house but your personal house.  Your family.  Your life.

What is it built on?

Solomon was a man of great wealth, but it failed him.  He was a man with massive power, but it didn’t sustain him.  He was a man with many, many, many wives, but it didn’t satisfy him.  He had many, many, many girlfriends, but the chase was never intense enough.  Solomon had anything and everything a man could want, but he was as empty as any other person on the street.  However, the saddest thing about Solomon’s life was that he had the answer within his grasp, but he never wrapped his hands around it.  Here’s what he says about what was missing,

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;

through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” 

Proverbs 24:3-4

Solomon’s own words of reflection answer the question for what establishes a solid foundation.  Wisdom.  God centered, God focused, God produced wisdom.  He goes on to say that “wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you.” (v 14)  This future hope is beyond what the world says you need to be satisfied.

  • The world says to applaud when your enemy falls.  Wisdom says “do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.”(v 17)
  • The world says to watch your back or someone will cut in on you in life.  Wisdom says, “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of the wicked.” (v 19)
  • The world says the only time to work with someone is if it benefits you more.  Wisdom says, “do not join with the rebellious, for those two will send sudden destruction upon them.” (v 21)
  • The world says that payback is the only way to get even.  Wisdom says, “do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me, I’ll pay that man back for what he did.” (v 29)

Following the world’s ways will leave you with burned bridges, a bloody reputation, and a hardened heart because of the callus that forms from being jaded.  Wisdom creates a far different picture in your life.  In fact Solomon says that “a wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength.” (v 5)  He goes so far as to say that when you follow God’s ways and speak wisdom what you say will be far better received because “an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” (v 26)

We must make the daily choice to not give in to the easy temptations of the world that are always a bait and switch.  Never once has what the world sold you been anywhere near reality when you take the step into the river of sin.  Foolishness is thinking that you will be the exception to the rule.  Please don’t kid yourself because sin will ruin your life too.  Don’t think your balsa wood life will withstand the rigors of this world, but rather believe that you need a strong foundation in God to not only survive but to thrive.

You may end up failing the world’s test, but you will pass with the flying colors on God’s.

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 23: How To Be Fat And Happy

Fat Orangutang

“Buy the truth and do not sell it;

get wisdom, discipline and understanding.”

Proverbs 23:23

 

 

My wife and I once went to an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet in Las Vegas with my in-laws.  Next to the birth of our children and our wedding day, this was arguably the greatest day of our lives.  We are such seafood fans that when a restaurant created a buffet seemingly dedicated to us, it would have been rude not to have dove face first into it.

Our favorite seafood delicacy hands down is Crab Legs.  Not “Krab” legs.  Crab with a “c” legs.  I’m tell you that just typing the words crab legs at 6:00 am at my kitchen table makes me drool like a monkey staring down a banana tree.  They are so good, but when Cherie and I get our hands on them, you would have thought we stole them because we devour them quicker than you can put them down.

As “professional” crab eaters, we certainly understand that there are different quality levels of crab legs and some restaurants are far better than others.  But when it comes to buffets we know it’s about quantity not quality and the phrase we live by is “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  In other words don’t worry about breaking your fingers over the skinny, pinky finger kind of legs, just stay focused on the fatties because those bring the most bang for your buck.  I have to say that approach has done us well and rolling out of that Las Vegas buffet with our jeans unbuttoned, ankles swollen, and two chapped smiling face was a great feeling.

However we both know that we can’t do that every day unless we want to weigh 600 pounds a piece and have TV cameras follow us as we go through his and her stomach stapling procedures.  Too much of anything can turn deadly and that’s why we try to pace ourselves on these seafood adventures and do them once every…oh…10 years I guess.  I mean, my hands are just now de-puffing from that glutinous Vegas buffet so I’m just about ready.

Solomon knows a thing or two about indulging and gluttony.  After all, he was considered one of the richest men that every lived and to say he had an addictive personality was an understatement.  Whether it was palaces, animals, gold, land, or even women he had a Vegas buffet’s worth of them at all times.  Yet his words in Proverbs don’t brag about his gluttonous ways, but rather urge us as the reader to be careful and seek moderation.

Here is just a few highlights of what he warns us about

  • Don’t gorge on food: “When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony” (v. 1)
  • Don’t gorge on money:  “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” (v4)
  • Don’t gorge on women: “For a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well.” (v 27)
  • Don’t gorge on alcohol: “Do not gaze at wine when it’s red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!  In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.” (v 31-32)
  • Don’t gorge on foolishness: “Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.” (v 9)

However, through all of these warnings Solomon does encourages us to get fat on one thing…wisdom.

“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” (v 12)

“Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.” (v 19)

“Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.” (v 22)

God is completely fine with us getting fat and happy on wisdom.  In fact, He would be overjoyed if His children were obese with wisdom and using it to live their lives in His ways.  Yet more times that not we get distracted by other things around us and pursue those like a dog chasing it’s tail.  All that leads to is a dizzy and frustrating existence that gains no traction and distances ourselves from God’s design for our life.

Don’t be fooled by a life buffet full of imitation junk.  Hold out until you are able to gorge yourself on things that bring about wisdom and life.  Life is too short to waste days recovering from foolish and unwise decisions.  Value each breath that you have and choose wisely the things that you consume in your life.  Don’t sweat the small stuff in this world, instead hold out for a fatty bite of Godly wisdom because only that will leave you satisfied.

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Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 22 – Are The Rich More Valuable Than The Poor?


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“Rich and poor have this in common;

The Lord is the Maker of them all.”

Proverbs 22:2

 

 

Are rich people more important than poor people?

Does the size of your bank account dictate your worth as a person?

Does more money mean you have a better life?

Should the poor have less influence on the world than the rich?

All of these questions in one form or another swirl in every corner of the globe.  Arguably the divide between the rich and the poor is the greatest humanitarian chasm in our world.  To my US friends, It is important to point out that by the world’s standards even the poor in the United States are rich which should jar us to the core.  However, even within the US the poor and rich live in two different stratospheres it would seem.  We don’t have to look hard to see this truth.

I have never seen the Academy Awards invites the homeless guy begging for change outside the 7/11 to walk the red carpet ahead of Angelina Jolie.  The fact that I can type “Jolie” without a spell check proves that I have seen and know her name without ever physically seeing or knowing her.  But why do I know her better than I know my neighbor from central South Dakota who is a single dad with two young kids and an ex-wife with a criminal record?  The poor are not summoned to congress to talk about their views on the new tax laws.  The poor don’t get invited onto TV shows to talk about the books they wish they could write. The poor aren’t asked to endorse shoes by Nike as they walk around town pushing their stolen Wal-mart shopping cart.

There clearly is a difference in social equality that goes beyond just the bottom line of your checking account.  However there is equality in the eyes of God.  He tells us that regardless of what we make we are all created equal by our Maker.  However, before you read too far into what I’ve said, this is not a rich people bashing session or a poor people pity party.  It is about the responsibility we have, regardless where God has you on the tax bracket, to live your life with integrity, wisdom, and love for Him.  God doesn’t hate rich people and He doesn’t hate the poor, but He is disappointed when we refuse to follow His wisdom for our life especially towards one another.

In Proverbs 22:7, Solomon says that “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” which, whether we like it or not, is 100% true.  The reality is that the society we live in is mostly driven by the influence of those that have succeeded and have therefore been given a position of power.  The manner in which we reward those people for that influence is in the form of money.  Yes there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part this is the societal norm we’ve ascribed to.  Before this, power was determined by amount of farmland and livestock, but as society progressed money replaced this system and who knows eventually people may be paid in Golden Retriever puppies if that catches on.  However, according to God, with power comes responsibility.

Solomon goes on to say,

“He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich both come to poverty.” Proverbs 22:16

“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor, and do not crush the needy in court.”  Proverbs 22:22

Historically, the abuse of power has resulted in a fall from power eventually and those that try to buy there favor with the rich only degrade their integrity into a counterfeit existence.  They may drive nicer cars, but they are more poor in spirit than they ever have been.  Rather God says, that “a generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor” (v. 9) and “a good name is more desirable than great riches.” (v. 1)

A rich person does not become poor because they share their wealth.  They become poor because they have sold their soul to stuff and the Life within them slowly becomes bankrupt.  Equally as true is that a poor person isn’t poor because they don’t have money.  Yes, sometimes they are poor because they’ve chosen a habit over work, laziness or dedication, or have sold their soul to anyone and anything, but their true poverty comes from not having their eyes focused on the true Ruler of their life.

A wise person seeks God over anything else in this world.  Independent of a checking account balance, they seek His face in any all decisions while not separating their lives into spiritual and not spiritual categories.

For us this means:

  • Parents we should start speaking wisdom to our children at a very young age so it will grow into their lives early. (v. 6).
  • Spouses, speak words of life into your husband or wife to make their spirit rich. (v.11).
  • Christians, make the decision that God is important enough to be number one in our life so we don’t end up spiritually bankrupt.

Wisdom springs from a spirit humbly submitting to God’s will and content with whatever blessing God may bring.  A posture like that brings us into a completely different spiritual tax bracket and one more valuable than gold.  Love each other well and be rich in the love of God.

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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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Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 23 – Why I Don’t Drink

“Buy the truth and do not sell it;

get wisdom, discipline and understanding.”

Proverbs 23:23

I have never had a sip of alcohol in my entire life.

There.

I said it.

Call me a straight edge, brown-noser, goodie two shoes, or whatever other cheese ball line you want to come up with, but it’s true.  If I showed up to a party in High School growing up I was looked at like an undercover ATF agent because everyone thought something had to be up.  I honestly was just there to hang out, but I had this sense I made everyone else uncomfortable as their underaged hands held their red plastic cups filled with warm beer.

I really wasn’t there to bust anyone, but I also wasn’t going to be swayed in my stance by anyone either.  The line I’ve used since I can remember when someone offered me a drink is “I’ve been offered drinks by girls way cuter than you so why do you think you are going to be the one to break me?”

It usually gets a laugh and eases the tension.

However, the reason I don’t drink may be a surprise to you because it’s NOT rooted in a spiritual conviction.  When I read the Bible I don’t see a judgmental stance on drinking that condemns you to hell if you do.  For heaven’s sake Jesus’ first miracle was to turn a bunch of water into wine at a party, so clearly God isn’t looking down on an open bar at a wedding.

Beyond the fact that I have an addictive personality and alcohol would be a bad combination with that personality type there also is something else.

Here’s why I don’t drink.

When I was around 11 or 12 years old I had a close friend named Heidi.  Heidi and I were very close and she had an older brother Jon and older sister Jenny who I looked up to.  I didn’t spend tons of time with them or go hangout a bunch because they were older than me, but I vividly remember admiring them.  They came from a great family with awesome parents.  John and Jenny were great athletes, good looking, popular, kind, and polite.  A lethal combination of awesomeness if you ask me.

One of the most vivid memories I have of them is watching them cheer Heidi on at her softball games at Timberline Little League fields.  They loved each other and their sister dearly.  To watch them light up when they saw Heidi was something memorable.

Sometime during the late Spring of my 6th grade year, Jon and Jenny went to a concert in North Dakota.  When they were driving home a drunk driver crossed the line and hit them head on killing them both.  It was one of the most painful things I have ever been close to; not just because of how it affected me, but how it affected Heidi and her family.  I remember sitting in the pews at the funeral just feeling this heaviness, sickness, and pain that didn’t make sense.  Even going back to school seemed wrong as we played on the playground.  I remember Heidi retelling how crushed her parents were when the police came to the door and told the family about the accident.

The reason it didn’t make sense was because this haunting question lingered in my mind.  “Would Jenny and Jon still be alive if that guy decided not to drink?”  It was in that moment that I decided that I would never be the reason that someone had to open a door to an officer telling them their son or daughter was dead because of me drinking.

After that moment, not drinking was easy.  In fact you could say that moment sobered up my soul before it ever had the chance to get drunk.

Again, I’m not passing judgment on anyone that drinks. I realize that the person who made the choice to drink and drive killed Jon and Jenny, not alcohol.  I hang out with plenty of people I love and care about that handle drinking in a Godly and mature manner.  Some even drink with me around and don’t look at me like a monster with 9 heads. :)

However, I do know people that alcohol has destroyed their lives.

  • I’ve seen fathers lose their kids because the booze was more important than his babies.
  • I’ve seen women that do, say, and act like anything other than a Godly woman and end up in the arms of men who don’t love, cherish, or care about them.
  • I’ve seen men that perpetuate the cycle of abuse and addiction in their family, but laugh it off by saying “that’s just the way I am!”

As a person with a degree in Biology and Physiology I understand the medical benefits behind a marginal amount of alcohol.  However, I also know that excess alcohol numbs your brain, destroys your liver, discolors your skin, and literally can change your brain chemistry into a total different person.

This isn’t a 21st Century phenomenon though.  Solomon also witnessed this in ancient times and writes about it in the lines of Proverbs 23.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?

    Who has strife? Who has complaints?

    Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?

Those who linger over wine,

    who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.

Do not gaze at wine when it is red,

    when it sparkles in the cup,

    when it goes down smoothly!

In the end it bites like a snake

    and poisons like a viper.

Your eyes will see strange sights,

    and your mind will imagine confusing things.

You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,

    lying on top of the rigging.

“They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!

    They beat me, but I don’t feel it!

When will I wake up

    so I can find another drink?”

- Proverbs 23:29-35

God desires for us to be in the mind He created us to have.  A clear, fully functioning, focused on Him in all things mind.  I’ve found both personally, academically, and spiritually that drinking in excess causes this mind to become cloudy and hard pressed to focus on anything, let alone God.  I’ve never heard anyone barfing their guts out in a musty bar bathroom while singing worship songs as a way of praising God.  :)

I see Solomon’s words as a sobering reminder of what happens when a good thing becomes a God thing.  When we allow something given to us by God to be stewarded responsibly and turn it into a destructive habit that destroys our life.

Paul has a way of giving us some guardrails, if you will, when it comes to things like this.

“Everything is permissible”-but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” - 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

This blog is not about beating people up or telling people not to drink.  This blog is essentially what Paul is trying to say.  Know yourself, know those around you, and know what God is telling you is right.  To do as Solomon says in Proverbs 23:23 “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.”

If you are able to keep alcohol within the guardrails God designed, I say “Have another on me!”, but if you are in a place that alcohol has become your God, please get help.  Consider reaching out to organizations like Celebrate Recovery www.celebraterecovery.com, www.aa.org, or others that can help.

Live your life with a conviction to worship God in all that you do and allow your life to be a reflection of His love.  Don’t live in a haze that risks your life and others.  God never intended for us to live through the lenses of Beer Goggles, but through the perfect 20/20 vision of Christ and His wisdom.

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