Mind My Own Business? Nope!

GoodSamaritan

Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve.   Proverbs 24: 11-12

I know, this proverb is a bit of a heavy, isn’t it?  Well, not all of it.  There are actually two nuggets of wisdom here that a wise person practices.

The first is that a wise person will put themselves in harms way if they see an innocent person being treated in an unjust manner.  But the question underneath that is “Why would a wise person become involved in matters of injustice?”  It’s a good question.  We are told to mind your own business, don’t talk to strangers, be careful who you associate with, and that it’s better not to trust people you don’t know.  In other words, people are to be feared, and so we have become adept at looking the other way, minding our own business and side-stepping the issue (sometimes literally).  But the wise person knows differently.

The wise person knows that every person has a story, every person comes from a family, and every person has the same needs as we do.  The wise person knows that they simply need to ask themselves, “How would I want someone to treat me if I was in that position?”  The wise person is more interested in others than they are with themselves.  They remember that God’s love extends to everybody, not just a select few.  They know that it could just as well be them that’s in that situation needing help.

Here’s a thought that crossed my mind, which I am currently pondering.  I wonder if just as every human being has the image of God imprinted on them, if also imprinted on every human being is a little piece of me.  I wonder if when I ignore a person in need, if in fact I am ignoring myself, and in turn, ignoring all of humanity and ignoring God.  If so, then that feels like a sin against you, me and God.

The second nugget of wisdom is that the wise person lives with the attitude and belief that for God to be God, then he must know our inner thoughts and motives.  If that’s the case, then it’s best to live accordingly.

“Lord God, help us to be wise and when we see a person suffering the injustices of this world, help us to remember that my fellow human being’s needs are my business.”

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  The Gospel of Matthew 25: 40

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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.

Who Controls Your Life?

Proverbs 16

I really do love and admire the attitude and perspective of young people.  They can be bold, confident, self-assured, and a belief of invincibility when it comes to living life.  Unlike me, they haven’t been banged around too much, nor have they experienced too many failures or disappointments in life.  Now I’m sure if you asked them they would have a different opinion on that.

Whenever I look back on my young adult life, I chuckle at the almost arrogant and brash self-confidence that I had.  I had goals for my life and no one was going to stop me from attaining them.  If I wanted something and believed that I could have it, then I went for it.  But then something has happened over the decades.  By the time I reached twenty-five, I started to experience the bumps and grinds of life.  Not everything was going my way.  There were people that I knew well who died, others who disappointed me by their actions, and no longer was life a sure thing.

As I watched those who were older than me navigate life, my attention was drawn to those who lived life with humility and had this uncanny trust in God.  They didn’t just believe that God would look after and provide for them, they knew that God would!  Somehow life had taught them that in the end, it wasn’t them that was in control of life, rather, it was God who was in control of their life.  Life, age, and experience had taught them that surrendering their lives into his control was the wisest thing they could do.

Now outwardly (homes, jobs, wealth, etc) their life didn’t look like anything spectacular, but something about them oozed peace, contentment, and a deep sense that their life was very secure in God’s hands.  That was the gold that I wanted and continue to long for in my life.  I think I’m getting there, and while I may not have the self-assured confidence of my youth, I find lately that whenever anyone asks me, “How ya doing?”, I can honestly answer that in spite of the stresses of life, and the swirl of activity that goes on from day to day, I’m at peace.  I have learned and am learning that God has and is proving that he can be entrusted with my life.

The proverbs that follow speak to the fact that a life surrendered to God is a life that is secure, stable, and at peace with the world and with God.  Who better to care for and direct the affairs of your life than the One who created you?

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

20 Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful.

33 We may throw the dice,but the Lord determines how they fall.

 the-beloved-disciple

What’s Your Bulls Eye

Bullseye (1)Better to be an ordinary person with a servant than to be self-important but have no food.

A life of wisdom always trumps a life of greatness! Always!

There, I said it.

As I was slowly reading through the 12th chapter of Proverbs, I was intrigued by today’s passage. It was so refreshing to read the words, “Better to be an ordinary person…”. Ya see, that’s what I love about the sacred writings found in the Bible, they speak the truth.  No air-brushing, no glossy images of people, no superstars. Scripture tells it the way it really is. So where am I going with all of this? Let me explain.

Every time that I read or hear the words, “You too, can discover your destiny!” I feel some joy leak out of me. Here’s why. Those words are telling me that where I currently am in life is not my destiny. What it is telling me is that a life well lived is one of greatness, fame, wealth, brains, beauty, popularity, ad nauseam. Then what gets added to that phrase are examples of people who have made it in one or several of those categories, and more joy leaks out. Throw in a dash of glossy photo’s and then you know that your life is completely boring. This is a bit of a rant because I believe that this is a set up for disappointment and discouragement. I’m ranting because this is not the Kingdom that Jesus taught about.

Secondly, we really don’t want every person in this world to be some stellar superstar, do we? As I’ve said to many people time and time again, when I’m stranded on the side of the highway because my car broke down, I want a tow truck driver. I don’t want a famous brain surgeon, or a pastor. Look… we need servers at restaurants, custodians, hotel clerks, cashiers, truck drivers, sanitation workers, people who empty septic tanks…and the list could go on and on. Yes we need entertainers, CEOs, prime ministers, presidents, rock stars, sports stars, etc., but we also need the people in the background because they are the ones who make it all happen!

What Solomon is saying in this verse and throughout all of Proverbs is that wisdom, character, sound judgment, self-discipline, and the fear of God are the bulls eyes in life that we need to be aiming for. The beauty of making those the bulls eyes is that everyone can aim for it and hit it, not just the top 1% of the population. You see, everyone is created in God’s image and have God’s DNA imprinted on them.  It’s why Jesus recoiled whenever people wanted to make him famous or a superstar. That would have missed the mark.  It’s why he said that if you want to be famous in God’s kingdom, then become a famous servant to all.  And that is everyone’s destiny!

Feeling a Little Tarnisehd?

TarnishedSpoon

This past Saturday, I took part in our church’s community event, Eggstravaganza.  Parents and kids walk our property and buildings playing games and collecting treats.  We have a clown, snacks and then end it off with an Easter egg hunt.  April and I ran one of the stations, and for one hour we let kids show off their skills in carrying a fake egg on a spoon and weaving their way in and out of pylons.

The kids loved it, and it was a genuine ‘high’ for my day.  I think what I got out of it the most was how the smaller kids were able to get so much joy out of such a simple activity.  It wasn’t Xbox, PS4, Wii, or any other hi-tech gadget – just a wooden spoon and a wooden egg.  That’s it!  The prize at the end was a little goodie bag with two or three sweet snacks.

The little kids were thrilled, and so proud of themselves if they only dropped the egg a couple of times.  Their ‘thrill’ factor was comparable to a shiny silver spoon.  As I watched them, I wondered what happened to us ‘mature’ adults, that we had lost the knack of finding ‘thrill’s in the simple things of life.

Sometimes I feel more like a worn and tarnished spoon on the inside, and so I’ve wondered how one goes about getting the ‘tarnish’ off and letting some joy shine through.

It got me thinking about the product my Mom would use to polish her silverware.  It was called Twinkle.  Perhaps you have some stashed away in that junk drawer in your kitchen.  So I was thinking, “What would be the equivalent of Twinkle?”  It’s not like there’s a ‘joy polish’ out there that you can apply to your mind or heart.  (And no, stimulants and the like are a lousy substitute.  That’s not what I’m looking for).

This morning it hit me…the polish that works can be found in every home.  The polish is called, “Just-Go-And-Play”.  What you do is, think of a simple child’s game, and when no one is looking, just go and play.  It’s in the playing and letting the kid inside of you come out that the tarnish and gunk will begin to fade, and once again, the joy will shine.

So whattcha waiting for?

God Needs Friends

I am beginning to think or believe (whatever you want to call it) that God is in need of friends just like any other human being is. God NEEDS friends?? Yep…I think so. Or let me put it another way: As his creation, he loves us, takes pride in us and has amazing dreams for humanity. I think he’s downright grrr-angry that sin polluted everything and basically messed up his plans.

Regardless, friendship, which is a beautiful gift in this rough world of ours, must be birthed or emanate from God…like if I’m created in his image, then friend must have come from him. I think the redemption story is a story of God pursuing us, not so much so that he can get ‘things’ back to the way they were supposed to be, because I don’t think we can ever rewind the tape and go back. Instead, it’s God pursuing us because he loves us – he loves us like a friend who is there through thick and thin.

Jesus tells this very interesting parable where a man prepares a great feast and sends out invites to various people. When the banquet is ready, he sends his servants to tell the invited guests that everything is ready…come now! And no one comes! They give the usual excuses like, “I’m too busy figuring out my investments”, “I just bought a new car”, “I just got married”…etc.

It’s not like they really had some pressing issue that needed attending too right this very minute. It was the fact that they couldn’t be bothered, no time to offer their friendship to one who desires to be their friend. And then it says that the master was mean-angry.

I’ve wondered why Jesus didn’t portray a God that is calm and understanding…an unruffled God. No, instead, he portrays a God who is pissed off! He’s hurt, and I get it. We all get it.

Everyone of us knows what it’s like to go out of your way for someone who is your friend, but for whatever reason your friend is too busy or has other things that need tending to. We know that feeling.

But it goes even deeper than that. It’s when a friend goes out of their way to do something so special, like this man in Jesus’ story who painstakingly poured his heart into creating this sumptuous feast. It was like when he created it he had those specific guests in mind. He made it for them…and they couldn’t be bothered. And I think it broke it his heart!

Or maybe it’s like the little 5 year old girl who does an abstract finger painting at school for her mom. She let’s it dry. Then carefully puts it in a grocery bag and goes directly home because she’s so excited to give it to her.

Mom comes home with so many things on her mind, appointments to attend to that evening, supper to put on. Her mind totally focused on other things…except her little girl. And so with her heart all puffed up from excitement, the little girl gives the bag to her mom. As mom takes the bag, her phone rings, and of course she must answer it because it’s so important. It’s classic multi-tasking taking place: while talking on the phone she pulls the painting from the bag, a quick glance, and brief smile to her daughter…and the painting is laid on the table as the mom goes about her important work.

The little girl’s heart plunges like a rock into deep, dark waters. She had poured herself into this for one reason only: she loves her mom dearly and through this painting is saying to her mom – I LOVE YOU!

As Advent approaches, I like to think that God had us in mind as he poured himself into his gift of Jesus, saying to us – I LOVE YOU!

Same Sex and the Real Issue At Hand

Every month I meet with a couple handfuls of pastors from our fair city, mostly to hang out and eat lunch and chat. Which is great and just the way I like it. I enjoy just ‘being’ and not having an agenda or a ‘to do’ list. Perfect.

Last month when we met we decided to add a ‘spice’ to the mix. It was suggested that we should discuss things that are relevant for us, some ‘meaty’ topics. I threw into the mix the idea not to avoid any challenging topics, such as…same sex issues that is sorta on the front burner for many churches/denominations.

It was only a suggestion.

However, by the end of the day, an email had been sent out with the details of the next lunch and that ‘Scott will lead the discussion on same sex issue.’

Yay.

I’m actually expecting a good discussion with these guys. But to say that I’m a little bit nervous would be an understatement.

If I was a betting man, I would hedge my bets that they are coming knowing very clearly where they stand on the issue. And to be quite honest, I really don’t want to know where they stand. In fact, I don’t even think that is the issue here. I believe the issue is: Can we have a conversation and ask any and all questions, and even think through or allow to be questioned what we believe is the ‘right answer’?

I say all this because I find that if I try to have a conversation with anyone who thinks they ‘know the answer’, defences go up, stances are defended, and cliche answers get tossed around. I realize that much of this reaction comes from fear, insecurity, and ingrained beliefs (whether accurate or not). I also wonder if that fear reaction speaks more to our lack of faith/trust/belief in God, than it does to any ‘strong faith’ we think we have.

This past month I’ve been reading and listening to various opinions on the same sex issue, and not because I don’t know where I stand, either. I just want to be able to sit down with anybody and just listen to them, and ask some non-threatening questions for the sole purpose of being able to better understand them. As well, I am trying not to have a reply waiting in the wings, but to acknowledge that their thoughts and opinions are just as legitimate as my own.

Here’s what I’ve learned this past month…

  • I don’t have it all figured out
  • there is freedom in choosing not to judge
  • it takes effort to listen and not spout off
  • it actually does enhance your understanding of the subject matter
  • I am trusting more
  • people are easier to love
  • Christ’s yoke really is easier, and his burden is definitely lighter!

Oh yeh…my meeting with the pastors is in three hours!