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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Now What? – The Monday After Easter

day-after-easterSo what now?

What are we supposed to do the day after Easter?

Sure we hit snooze one more time than normal to try and shake off the Cadbury Egg induced coma we are in.  Yes, we will probably step on plastic eggs that the kids left out all over the living room floor as if to catch a would be candy bugler.  Without question your eyes will be a little blurry from all the pastel you had to look at the day before, but what about the bigger stuff?

What are we supposed to do now that we have celebrated that Jesus is alive?  What do we do with this hope that Jesus’ love for us has no limits and because of that our eternity is secure?

I don’t know about you, but when I have questions like these I look to see what Jesus did.  No, this isn’t a plug for the WWJD bracelets, but a plug to seek Scripture to see what Jesus did after His resurrection so that we can know what we should do.

After Jesus appeared to His disciples and encouraged them, the gospel writers give us interesting glimpses into what Jesus did next.

Matthew (written to a primarily a Jewish audience) indicates that Jesus took HIs disciples away commissioning them to the ministry by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Mark (a possible scribe for the words of Peter) notes that Jesus also places a challenge and urgency to the work lying ahead of the disciples. “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

Luke (a theologian/physician and detailed gospel writer) describes Jesus speaking with is disciples prior to His ascension as well.  Luke writes, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)  However, we also see in the book of Acts (written by Luke also) that Jesus taught “until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:2) and over the course of some forty days did “many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3)

John (the disciple closest to Jesus and entrusted with caring for His mother) describes one of Jesus’ miraculous signs when He went fishing with Peter.  After a long night of unsuccessful fishing, Peter and his men were coming in from sea, but Jesus was on the shore.  He shouted to them and told them to try throwing their nets on the other side of the boat.  When they did, they caught such a large catch “they were unable to haut the net because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6)  After tying up the boats and sitting down to eat with Jesus, it is then that Jesus reinstates Peter to ministry from his earlier denial.  Peter’s three headed denial of Christ was covered by an equally powerful three headed command from Jesus to “take care of my sheep” which acted as a commissioning of Peter to his ministry. (John 21:16)

To me the answer to “what do we do now that Easter is over?” is clear.

We get up and start living our lives as Jesus called us to live.

There was an urgency and intentionality with what Jesus did with His time after the resurrection.  He taught, encouraged, ate meals, performed miracles, and made Himself available to hundreds of people so that they might see and believe.  His goal for this was not a farewell tour and “I told you so” type of attitude.  Rather, His reason was so that those He interacted with might go and tell others about what they saw.  That in fact what Jesus had been saying WAS true and that the Kingdom of God was coming.

Our jobs now is to take what we know and do something with it.  In our jobs, homes, hobbies, churches, wherever God has you take the Resurrection message with you and live your life accordingly.  Be the light in the darkness of this world by sharing the love of Jesus Christ and not just wait around until Jesus “beams us up” to heaven.  Take every moment that we have and leverage it for God’s glory sharing the love of Jesus with whomever and however we can.

Oh, and I’d act today if I were you because that chocolate bunny rush you have wears off pretty fast. :)

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Seeking Wisdom – Proverbs 26: Are You An Idiot?


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“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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5 Things To Do After You Get Baptized

baptism-1So you did it!

You were baptized, you took the plunge, you got dunked!!

That is so awesome!  Just know that the party in heaven for you declaring Jesus your Lord and Savior is just getting started.  If you haven’t heard, “there ain’t no party like a Heaven party, cuz the Heaven party don’t stop!

So after you dry off, finish with all the hugs, and feel the adrenaline wear off…now what?  I mean, shouldn’t there be a meet and great with an angel or maybe a lighting bolt tattoo that mysteriously shows up on your left ankle?  There has to be some sort of next step or way to remember this amazing event that happened right?

Sure you will get a super duper awesome certificate in the mail commemorating your day, but I think your soul has bigger questions than what kind of frame should I hang this in?

Well to help you with your next steps of faith, I thought I would outline five tangible steps you can take after your baptism.

#5 – Tell Someone About It

I can’t overstate how important this step is in your journey.  Telling someone what you did and why you did it is vital to making this experience be more than a cheap bath.  It is establishing your testimony.  Calm down, I’m not asking you to stand on a street corner and let it rip at the people passing by.  I’m simply asking you to tell someone you love what God did in you in a very real and honest way.  This may be your mom, dad, brother, coworker, or even child, but telling someone helps to keep the meat on the bones of what you decided to do.  I guess I’m saying that the answer to the question, “How was your weekend?” may need a different answer this week.

#4 – Get A Bible

You may already have one of these at home, but if it’s used to level out your broken coffee table that might not be the way God intended you to use it.  In all seriousness, find a Bible you can understand so you can start your journey.  I recommend to both new and seasoned believers the Life Application Bible.  It is the NIV translation and gives you help reading through the Bible when you hit the stick points.  You can find it wherever you like, but it’s worth the investment to have a good Bible to use and let it speak to you.

#3 – Find A Reading Plan

After you get your Bible you may need help deciding where to start and a Bible reading plan can be very, very helpful.  I recommend a plan called the SOAP reading plan which stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, & Prayer.  This approach to reading your Bible provides you a structure to follow when reading.  Our church puts out a regular SOAP Reading Plan based on this model which may be helpful.  Download it, follow it, dive into it.

#2 – Join A Small Group

You may need to stretch yourself a little bit here.  I know that the thought of sitting around talking about the Bible, praying, and meeting a bunch of strangers may sound goofy, but stay with me.  Small groups is the way that you will see your faith grow astronomically because you get to see it in real lives.  I’d encourage you to join a group at your church and if you are a Parkview person you can go to our Group Finder and it will lead you through finding a group.  Getting in community with other believers is one the best ways to keep the fire of your baptism alive and running.

#1 – Keep Going To Church

Finally I would encourage you to stay connected to a church family.  There is a growing number of people in the world that feel church is an “option” in their faith.  They feel they can connect with God anywhere they want and don’t have to attend a church to do it.  I’d agree that God is everywhere, but the fact is that Jesus died FOR the church so I’d say it may be important.  Church is where you go to get fed, encouraged, challenged, grow in community, learn to serve, and so much more, but you need to be there to receive the fullness of that blessing.  I’m not saying you have to go to my church, but go to A Bible believing and Jesus loving church near you and get plugged in.

*For my Parkview readers you also could consider coming to one of our What We Believe Classes coming up.  At the Lockport Campus it is on May 7 and at our Orland Park Campus it is being offered May 18.  This is a great class to learn more about Parkview as a church and also find out what your next steps in your walk can be at Parkview.

I hope you still have a smile on your face remembering your moment under the waters of baptism.  I pray the joy that God gave you through the gift of the Holy Spirit has permanently changed you forever.  I know I’m smiling just thinking of it too.

However, I do know that this type of adrenaline high is impossible to maintain.  You need next steps to grow and to keep following God’s path.  Take a look at these things, ask questions, get plugged in with a good church, and keep following Christ.  Would I also love to see you connect with a seasoned Believer for mentoring, accountability, and to walk through life with?  Yes, but these 5 things are great next steps to start with today.

So, I pray that although the water may be dried on your body, that your soul remains drenched with the love God has for you.

Congratulations!!!

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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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Malaysia Flight #370 and You

Vacuum failureOn March 8, 2014 Malaysia Flight #370 with its 239 passengers disappeared from radar detection and has yet to be found.  A worldwide effort has been made to comb what seems like the entire ocean to find out what happened.  Satellites have been used to look for remnants of the plane. Planes from every nationality have scoured every small lead. Helicopters and boats have attempted to recover what was thought to be leads floating in the ocean, but as of today nothing has been seen. 

While the mystery of this plane’s disappearance has befuddled and frustrated the world, no one has been more affected than the loved ones of the 239 missing people.  Their hopes rise up like exposed nerve endings every time a press conference is held.  In their spirits they cling to a thread of possibility that their loved ones are somehow okay and have been found.  Sadly, with each passing day and each passing empty lead their thread of hope slowly frays causing them to slowly come to grips with the reality that their loved ones are gone.

My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to all that are involved.  I pray that God comforts them in this most desperate of times and gives them a peace that surpasses understanding over time.  Yet through this tragedy I believe we can see a great deal about ourselves.

You see this plane was headed in the right direction and had done so hundreds, if not thousands, of times.  Because of someone’s terrible decision, or perhaps a mechanical error, this plane got dreadfully off course.  A course that led them further and further off track and further and further into the unknown.

Our lives are much the same when we stop and think about it.  I feel that it’s safe to say that no one plans on having a drug addiction.  No one plans on cheating on their husband after 30 years of marriage.  I’m not sure I’ve met anyone that wants to lose their house to gambling debt.  These are never things that are on the flight plan when our lives took off.  Our goals are far different, but as a result of our decisions and our sin we may find ourselves off course.  Now clearly, my analogy deviates away from the Malaysian flight as none of those people on the plane chose the new flight plan they were forced to take, but I think you see my connection.

In Proverbs 4:25-27 King Solomon say it best:

“Let your eyes look straight ahead,

fix your gaze directly before you.

Make level paths for your feet

and take only ways that are firm.

Do not swerve to the right or the left;

keep your foot from evil.”

Without question there are things in this life that were thrust upon us that we didn’t ask for that alter the course of our life.  We are often on the other end of someone’s poor decisions and are forced to pick up pieces of our life that we never dropped.  Yet even in the midst of cleaning up a life mess that someone else made we have a choice on how we react, deal, and redeem those moments.

However, we must realize that a greater part of our life is under our care and responsibility.  We choose far more of the trajectory of our life than others do.  It’s in these moments that we would be wise to flee from sin and run into the arms Jesus. Into His perfect and holy ways that will keep our feet on the solid path and into a life full of purpose, passion, and meaning.

Never let someone else take control of your life by making sinful and bad choices.  They will only lead you down roads you never intended to go and you end up asking yourself, “How did I get here?”  God’s road doesn’t leave you empty. In fact, it leaves you full but craving more!  You may actually say to yourself, “I can’t believe that I get to be here!”  His blessing and the life that is found in following Him are unmatched by what the world can offer.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and your flight plan will be smooth.

Stay focused my friends.

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


rich_poor

“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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True Confessions Of A First Time Dad: Sometimes You Just Have To Ride In The Cart

Speedy BabyMy son and I went to Target the other day (shocking I know) to get a few things.  It was a typical Thursday outing for us with Aniston at school and 2 hours of times to kill in the wintery Chicago weather.  Normally, we would have gone outside, but since hypothermia didn’t seem to be an attractive option we stayed inside.  Lil’ E was being so good that he didn’t even try to arm rake any of the glass spaghetti jars off the shelves for once!

Let me tell you that is a huge deal.

We had just finished shopping and it was time for check out.  This is a good thing because Easton knows it means we are almost out the door and that he gets to “help me” put the things on the conveyor belt.

Side Note: Doesn’t it always seems when you put things on that belt that they multiply in your cart.  I feel like Mary Poppins pulling stuff out of her bag as I unload.  It just keeps coming!

Anyway, this day we got in line and wouldn’t you know it we got stuck behind Coupony Couperson and her 35 boxes of mac and cheese to go with her 17 cases of Tic Tacs.  We were in for a long haul since Target only opens up 1.5 lanes out of their possibly 71 in the morning.  We were stuck.  It didn’t take long for Easton to be “done” with sitting in cart and started to fuss.  Before it got out of hand I decided to try something.

The fine folks at Target now have front facing, double seated carts for the kids.  Granted it makes you feel like you are pushing a “67 El Camino around the store, but they do drive like butter and the kids love it.  So when Easton started to get antsy I just decided to grab a seat right by him.  Yep, I popped a squat in the little toddler sized booty holder and we chatted.

You should have seen his face…he LOVED it!  He instantly went from fussing to talking about everything on his mind that no one understood but him.  His hands started making signs that made more sense than that weird dude at the Nelson Mandela funeral.  But what was so cool was that he totally relaxed!  We had a great daddy moment while the woman ahead of us checked out the last of her items so she could scurry back home to her Apocalypse bomb shelter and put away her rations.

This spoke to me on a couple different levels and no I’m not becoming a couponer.

First, it showed me how important it is to be present with your kids.  We all see parents that will ignore their kids while they text their girlfriends important things like their high score on Candy Crush.  Some parents will just simply endure their time with their kids until they can get home and turn on the Disney Channel.  Still others will look at their kids as if they are a nuisance and hindrance to their entire existence…as if they were the ones that chose to be born and now have inconvenienced them.

Our kids need us to engage with them and constantly reiterate that they matter.  This doesn’t mean that letting them watch a show from time to time is bad or that communicating with your friends is sinful, but when your kids have to beg for your attention something is wrong.  I have heard it said time and time again by older parents that they ”wish they would have soaked up the earlier years more because now that they are all grown up it’s different.”  I simply don’t want to be that regretful parent.  To do this we must realize it takes time, energy, and patience, but I believe it will make a world of difference in our kids futures.  The call can wait, but a moment with your kids will fly by never to be had again.

The other thing that this cart conversation did for me was remind me that this is exactly what Jesus did.  No, he didn’t conquer the Target challenge and spend less than $100 dollars, although that may have been a cool miracle to see happen!  It was much more powerful than even that.

Even though He was God Jesus often would get down on the level of the people he was ministering to so that He could relate.  Even beyond being the obvious incarnate God-Man, Jesus,  who become man to live amongst His creation, He went further time and time again to know us.  We see this in places such as when He hung out with kids, dined with sinners, stooped down to help the adulterous women, but one that stands out to me is when He chose his disciples.

One day Jesus ascends a mountain to pray about who He was going to choose to join Him in his close circle of disciples.   After finishing, He calls the 12 together together and then descends the mountain.  It’s here in Luke 6:17 where the good stuff happens as Luke says“He went down with them and stood on a level place.”  Jesus chose not to preach, teach, and minister from a platform, but from the bottom floor.  He chose to see them eyeball to eyeball instead of over the bridge of his elevated nose.  Jesus got on their level so He could know their level and He still does that today.

Our kids need this too.

They need us to hangout with them in the cart and they need us to tell them about God in a way they can understand.  Heck, they need us to tell them about God period!  After all, what good will it do if they know their math facts by they time the reach 4 years old by playing a Fisher Price game on the iPad if they don’t know who the Son of God is!?  Our kids need to see that God is important to us and worth our time to tell them about Him.  We can’t expect the Sunday school teachers or the pastors to do it all.  We are the most influential people in our kid’s lives so  we need to use that influence to tell them about who God is and what He’s done for us.

On their level…eye to eye…life to life.

So give yourself permission to sit in the cart from time to time.  Your kids will love the time with you and it will give you chance to be on their level.  Who knows what you might see and what opportunities God may give you to tell them about Him.

Don’t be afraid of hanging out with your kids…be afraid of the coupon lady that just bought the last case of bottled water.

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