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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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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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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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