Let’s Raise a Glass to the Women of the World!

womanThe latter part of Proverbs 31 speaks in honour of wives.  The writer begins with: “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?”, and then he goes on to describe in great detail all of her accomplishments, work ethic and overall character.  The description of this ‘virtuous and capable wife’ is quite phenomenal, actually.  I’m glad he’s not describing the ‘virtuous and capable husband’ because I would fall far short of the mark.  So here are attributes ascribed to the virtuous wife…

Trustworthy

Encourager

Uber DIYer

Provider

Early bird

Servant of all

Entrepreneur

Night owl

Strong character

Dignified

Laughs

No fear of the future

Full of wisdom

Awesome teacher

CEO CFO COO of the home

Industrious

Blessed

Dare I comment?  Sure…here goes. I believe this best describes the character of women in general.  Women reveal a side of God that is rarely talked about, mainly because we ascribe the pronoun ‘he’ to God.  Seriously??  I think so.  So I’m going to let you take a peek inside my mind (I know, scary!).  Imagine with me if from the time the first of the sacred writings of the Bible, the pronoun ‘she’ was used for God.  Would our view of God be the same or different?  I just wonder.  Now I’m not saying we should rewrite Scripture or anything like that.  I’m just asking the question.  The way I see it, if all of humanity is created in the image of God, then the attributes of God include the attributes of women.

By the way, I am firm believer that women have within them a strength that is noble, honourable, and gives humanity hope for the future.  Throughout history, women have lived in a world where it is commonly understood that they are just a little bit less than men, and in some cultures, they are way less then men.  Men may say that women are equal, but actions always speak louder than words.  And then we have the church…

I’m always puzzled by the reality that as I read the gospels, never is Jesus depicted in word or actions that women are anything but equal with men.  But then Jesus saw all of humanity on level ground.  Greatness for Jesus is being the servant of all.  Being great in the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with physical strength or gender.  Greatness is based on a posture of humility.

Here it is, 2017 and believe it or not we have in North America, Evangelical denominations that state that the Bible instructs that women are equal in value to men…however, their roles are different from men, and specifically, the role of pastor is assigned to men.  Huh??  How can you be equal on one hand, but on the other hand, not permitted to serve in a particular role?  And this is the type of ‘stuff’ women live with day in and day out, century after century.

To all the women out there, there is coming a day when…

28 Her children stand and bless her.  Her husband praises her:

29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

31 Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Here, here!!

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phoenix galaxy cluster

The Phoenix Galaxy Cluster

The thirtieth chapter is quite different from the previous ones.  First, the author of these proverbs is Agur, son of Jakeh.  Who’s that, you ask?  Well, scholars don’t really know, other than to say that they do know he wasn’t an Israelite.  Besides that, there are some interesting sayings within this chapter.  If you have time, check it out, and see for yourself.

Here’s the proverb that intrigued me.

Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.

Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.

If there’s one thing I am learning as I grow older, it’s the realization that I don’t know as much as I would like others to believe.  What has particularly intrigued me the vastness of the cosmos.  One of my side interests is astronomy.  I love learning about what astronomers and astrophysicists are discovering day in and day out.  The knowledge that is being gained is phenomenal!  However, even the vast majority of scientists will acknowledge that there is so much more that they don’t know, then what they do know.  I love that humility when I encounter it.  I am reminded again and again of just how little I really do know.  If scientists can make the admission that with what they’re able to see, there is so much they don’t know, then just how much of God, who I can’t see, do I really comprehend?  Like, really!!

I find it odd that us pastors/preachers talk like we know more about God than others. Sometimes I catch myself when I am speaking in that ‘all-knowing’ tone.  If I am honest with myself and with others, then all I can really tell you is what I discern from Scripture and how that speaks to us in the time we live in.  Outside of that, I really don’t know the mind of God.  His mind is infinite…mine is finite.  Sometimes I think it is better if I remain quiet.

And that is the whole point of this proverb.  Every word of God is truth.  Or perhaps another way to put it is, all truth is God’s…and belongs to God.  Most of the time I try to be aware of how I come across when I speak.  I never want to convey that I have the inside scoop…because I know that I don’t!

While there are many things that I don’t know about God, the one thing I do know is that it is always better to be with God, than it is to just talk about him.  As Agur writes, he is a shield from all that comes at us from life.  While we may not know and understand everything about him, the one thing God has made sure we do know is his passionate love for humanity.  At the end of the day, is that not enough?  If so, then let’s speak of that!

God Is Safe

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.  Proverbs 29: 25

safegirl

Do you fear people?  I think many of us do to one degree or another.  One way to tell is to ask yourself, “If I was having problems with my boss, would I feel comfortable going to her and airing my grievances?”  Or how about this one: your neighbour’s cat continually comes onto your property and does their business on your lawn.  Would you be comfortable in going over and talking to them about the issue?  I’m not saying that either of these situations would be easy, but would you be willing to do it if it’s the right thing to do?  You see, it’s these type of situations where fear can easily slip in and paralyze us.

It’s much like jumping off cliffs into a lake with your buddies or kids.  If you stand at the edge and ‘think’ about it, it actually becomes easier to not do it, than to jump.  And in the end, you walk away.  It’s the same when you need to confront someone, if you overthink it, it becomes easier not to talk to them and just walk away.

Solomon says that fearing people (regardless of the reason) is a dangerous trap.  I love that the word ‘trap’ is used.  One of the definitions given for ‘trap’ states: “…a literal or figurative contrivance for deceiving or catching an animal or person.”  Have you ever considered a trap as a tool used to deceive?  Isn’t that a lot like fear?  Fear makes you believe that it’s better to back away, to stop dead in your tracks, to doubt yourself.

When it comes to people, fear puffs the person up in your head making them look larger and more menacing than they really are…and so we back away.  It’s when we back away that fear bites.  Once we back away, we diminish and dishonour ourselves, and end up not giving the other person the opportunity to grow and mature.

Sure, by retreating I have avoided the difficult situation, but at what cost to myself?  And that’s where the danger lies.  In backing away, I am training my brain to respond to difficult conversations by avoiding them all together.  It’s that practice that is detrimental to my spiritual, mental and emotional growth.

Solomon says that there’s a way better way to deal with all of this.  Rather than putting my energy into fearing people, it is much safer and healthier if I simply trust God.  Trust means seeing myself as God sees me, and seeing you as God sees you.  When I look at myself, and when I look at you, I see the image of God.  It’s in that place where love overtakes all fear.  It’s in that place where honesty and honour rule.  God can be trusted because God is safe.

Soul Slayers

WoodyandgossipProverbs 26

20 Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.

22 Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.

If you’re one who follows the news, then you are probably aware of the tension that is rising with the conflicts between various countries.  At times, it almost seems that if one more thing was to happen, a leader would snap and all out war would break out.  The world is concerned, and rightly so, who wouldn’t be?  However, while the vast majority of the world’s population feels helpless at being able to do anything to avert such a crisis, there are personal wars that rage across our world in homes, offices, factories, community groups and even in churches.  The war I’m talking about is gossip.

Gossip is the act of spreading unverified information about someone to others. It’s generally idle talk about the private affairs of someone else who is not present to defend themselves.

I’m sure most of us have participated in it, listened in, and even been the subject of it at one time or another.  On top of all that, we have magazines that are devoted to ‘celebrity gossip’, ‘entertainment’ shows on TV and on the internet who traffic in it.  We are a gossipy culture.

If you’ve been reading along through the book of Proverbs, then you will have picked up that gossip cuts three ways.

First, gossip is a tantalizing tidbit that when it tickles our ears, there is a natural tendency to take it right into our very souls.  There is just something so attractive about hearing third hand news about YOU!  Somehow, when I hear this juicy tidbit about you, in a way, you have been diminished in my eyes, and the fact that I have this ‘dirt’ on you, makes me feel superior.  When you think about it long and hard, gossip is actually quite insidious.

Now for the one who is passing on this little tidbit, understand that you have now taken part in bringing judgment on someone without any evidence.  If our courts treated people in that manner, we would vote to toss the whole system out.  Because who would want to live in a society where you can be judged without the necessary evidence?

And finally, for the one being gossiped about, it is tantamount to being betrayed and ostracized from the very people you thought you could trust.  That’s the time when divisiveness enters, and loyalty vanishes.  In essence, you have been marginalized…the very thing that God hates.

The wise person recognizes gossip for what it is, and rather than following the crowd and getting caught up in the tantalizing chatter, they douse the ‘fire’ out.  How?  They refuse to participate, and when appropriate, they speak up.  Douse that fire!

Note: I will not be blogging over the Easter holiday, but will resume on Monday.  As you take some time to ponder the suffering, humiliation and death of Jesus, may it lead you to the empty tomb and the glorious joy that death and the grave have been defeated!

He is risen…He is risen, indeed\

 

The Intimidation Factor

humility

While dining with a ruler, pay attention to what is put before you.  If you are a big eater, put a knife to your throat; don’t desire all the delicacies, for he might be trying to trick you. Proverbs 23: 1-3

Have you ever met someone who comes across as a bit intimidating?  If you have, then you know you know it has the potential to knock you off balance.  This proverb is a warning to dining with ‘rulers’, or folks who have power, because they may have ulterior motives as to why they want to meet with you.  Basically, beware of being dazzled by their wealth or lavish food.  And no, the writer of this proverb isn’t suggesting that you actually put a knife to your throat.  That word picture has to do with – you guessed it – self-restraint.  In other words, keep your wits about you and remember not all that glitters is gold.

Let’s talk about what’s really going on here.  This is the time when you find yourself with someone who brings out that intimidation factor that can be found in all of us.  Now, sometimes, the person is intentionally intimidating for the purpose of compliance.  Think police or military in their uniform.  It’s fashioned that way for a reason ;).  And it works!

But that’s not the issue here.  The issue is when you find yourself with a person who is using intimidation to control you or have the upper hand.  There is something they want from you and one way to get that is for you to feel ‘smaller’.  It works, because we’ve all experienced it.  Let’s dig into this a little more.

For the person doing the intimidating, there is obviously a need to be in control, to communicate or show that they are greater, more powerful, richer, smarter, etc, then you.  However, the fact they need to do this says quite a bit about them.  The need to elevate would suggest to me that there are some inferiority issues at work here, and the only way to overcome that is to make you feel smaller.  Or perhaps they want something from you and they will go to any length to get it, and if intimidation works, they will employ that tactic.

But to be fair, I must consider the other side of the coin.  It’s true that sometimes I sabotage myself when it comes to meeting someone who, in my eyes is ‘more’ than I am.  I immediately feel and believe that I am ‘less than’, and in believing that, I have placed myself at a disadvantage.  That person may not have an intimidating bone in their body, but because of how I see myself, I therefore see them as intimidating.

So what’s the answer to all of this?  It comes down to how I really see myself?  The truth of the matter is that in God’s eyes, we are all created equal.  We are created equal because

It comes down to the application of wisdom.  If you’ve been reading the proverbs over the past three weeks, then you will notice that the wise person leads themselves.  Their desires, other people, and situations do not dictate how they live their lives.  The wise person has learned to walk humbly with their God. And in that statement, lies the answer.  Humility will always trump intimidation.  A humble person is aware, not only of their strengths, but also their weaknesses.  A humble person is not swayed or captivated by money, sex or power.  A humble person is aware that they were created in the image of God, and it’s to God that they owe their life.

A humble posture always triumphs over intimidation.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall…

YourPerceptionOfMe

Proverbs 22…

The rich and poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.

True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.

As I’ve been reading through each chapter of Proverbs, there is one nugget of wisdom that I bump into every now and then.  It goes something like this – There is a way that seems right to a person, but God examines the heart, or looks at the motive.  One of the meanings behind that is we may have moral actions, but God sees what your real motive is behind that.  Ouch!  I don’t know about you, but there are many times when I read something like that I don’t even consider for a second that that could be me.  Moi??  Never!  But yes…my motives are not necessarily the best.  For example…

For the past couple of months, a friend and I go out every Thursday afternoon to prayer-walk throughout a neighbourhood near our church.  About fifty percent of this neighbourhood is lower income, where people live in substandard housing.  Our desire is to interact with the people, not just walk through their ‘hood’.  So today, we purchased fruit, bagged it, and went knocking on doors to bless them with bags of fruit and if they were open, to pray for them.  We had some great encounters with people and that made my day.

We returned to the church after we were finished and spent some time praying.  It was then I had this sense that God had a question for me: “Why are you doing this?”  That was it, but I could tell that the question was more like, “So tell me, why are you REALLY doing this?  Is it because you’re a ‘pastor’ and it’s your job?  Or is it because you want to get more people in the church?  Or it’s one of your programs?  Tell me something…would you do it if you weren’t a pastor and the church you attended didn’t hand out bags of fruit?”  That’s what it sounded like to me.  And yes…I was busted!  So when I prayed, I asked God to help me have a heart that wants to do this simply because they are people just like me, and giving out a little bit of sunshine never hurt anybody.

You see, that’s the point about the two verses for today, all of creation, and especially humanity, is dependent on God to provide for us.  There’s nothing wrong with being rich, unless it causes you to see yourself as better than other people, including those living in subsidized housing, the panhandler at the intersection, or the homeless.  ALL of us are dependent on God for our needs.  There is no such thing as a ‘self-made person’.  Every human bears God’s image.  Every human being stands on level ground.  Every human being is loved by God.

So whether you’re rich or poor, or somewhere in between…and because all of us are dependent on God for the very air we breathe, let us live our lives with humble attitudes and generous hearts towards one another.  Let’s journey together through this life.