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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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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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