winnie-the-poohFrom Proverbs Twenty-five

16 Do you like honey? Don’t eat too much, or it will make you sick!

17 Don’t visit your neighbors too often, or you will wear out your welcome.

27 It’s not good to eat too much honey, and it’s not good to seek honors for yourself.

Ya have to like Pooh Bear…honey pot and all.  One thing about Pooh, he does make honey look wonderfully yummy.  While Solomon may think Pooh Bear is cute, floating in his honey pot, when it comes down to the reality of life, too much of a good thing is really not a good thing!  And that’s the point that Solomon is trying to make.  I think we can all recall a time when we ate too much of a good thing.  Rather than having the effect we were chasing after, it did quite the opposite, didn’t it?  If you gorged yourself, then you probably ended up hugging the toilet bowl.  Remember the adage…everything in moderation.  EVERYTHING!

Solomon uses two examples throughout this chapter of too much of a good thing.

  1. Wearing a path from your house to your neighbour’s house (or vice versa), does not inspire close relationships. Think of it this way: as you ‘wear’ a path to your neighbour, so you ‘wear’ out your friendship. We know what it feels like when someone begins to wear out their welcome – tiresome!
  2. The proverb in verse 27 goes without saying. Needing to be noticed, applauded, and recognized for this, that and the next thing, ranks right up there with the person who tells you how humble they are. The minute they thought of telling you that they were humble they immediately disqualified themselves. So it is with the person who needs to be recognized and applauded.

So the next time you’re hankering to satisfy that sweet tooth of yours, remember that ‘less is more’.  Too much and you may end up finding yourself embracing the proverbial toilet!

Even Pooh Bear would agree with that nugget of wisdom!

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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

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.

How To Be a Good Wife :)

GoodWifeAnd now from Proverbs 21!

It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.

19 It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.

For all you wives out there, I hope you’re paying attention to Solomon’s words of wisdom. This tidbit of advice is coming from someone who has ‘been there – done that – and bought the t-shirt’! Like c’mon, he had, what is it? A thousand wives and three concubines? Oy vey! I can’t imagine what that must have been like, but surely he must be the expert on the kind of wife you ought not to be! So listen up all you wives.

Now would probably be a good time to crawl into a bunker as you start to lob bombs my way!

Let’s get serious now. We live in the western part of the world in 2017. Things have changed just a wee bit from Solomon’s era in the middle east…just a bit! So when you read something like this, understand that yes, it’s God who is inspiring people to write, but what is being written is coming through a specific mindset, culture, upbringing, and a particular understanding of how life is viewed.

Solomon lived in a patriarchal world where if you were born male, you were the master, superior, stronger, on the top of the heap, etc. The world was viewed through the eyes of men and women with that understanding. So of course Solomon would write something that would grate on the nerves of the majority of women (and probably most men) in 2017 in the western world. Gosh, it doesn’t even sit well with me. Nor should it with you.

Even Paul, in trying to loosen up the religious Christians in the city of Galatia wrote, For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Get it? We (men and women) are ALL one (equal and on level ground). Different? Yes. But not superior.

So now that we have that out of the way…

Simply put, living with a quarrelsome and/or complaining person (man or woman) would drive anybody crazy. You can’t live like that for very long before the attic, the shed, or even the desert starts to look really cozy.

Here’s why. Quarrels are not just disagreements. They are angry disagreements. And where there’s anger, there’s control issues. It’s not that you want or need to share your opinion, it’s that you have this belief that your opinion is the right one, and the other person’s opinion is flat out wrong! In fact you won’t even take to the time to listen and admit that their opinion may be better or even right.

Now when it comes to complaining, the issue there is that it’s gone from simply expressing something that you are dissatisfied with to lamenting about your dissatisfication (right on the heels of whining). We know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that. But for the one who is known for complaining, there is a deep dissatisfication that that person has with their own life. Something is out of whack. Absent from a life of a complainer is gratitude, thankfulness, joy, and the inability to see the good in this world.

So if you begin to notice your spouse eyeing the attic space, or fascinated with documentaries about the Mojave Desert…maybe you should book some time with your therapist.

Life is 3 Dimensional

Three-Dimensional-Spheres

I’m not a fan of ‘black and white’ thinking, simply because it leads to seeing life two dimensionally.  Life isn’t two dimensional, my friend!  If you’ve had any life experience then you know that life is more gray, then anything else.  In reality we don’t want to go for gray, either.  Gray is simply mixing black and white together…a compromise.  I would suggest that rather than aiming for black, white or gray, let’s aim for wisdom.  Wisdom is thinking three dimensionally.  Below are some examples from the 20th chapter of Proverbs.  If you’re a black and white thinker, then you’ll probably understand these incorrectly.  So here we go…

Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.

This is not saying that you shouldn’t consume alcohol.  Remember one of the predominant themes running through Proverbs is ‘self-discipline’.  The same applies for alcohol consumption: without self-discipline, here’s what you can expect!

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?

Loyal friends are out there.  Generally I think we expect too much from a friendship with others.  There’s a tendency to have too high expectations, and when we do that, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.  Unfortunately too many friendships have crashed and burned because of that.  As with any relationship, we need to put into practice the prayer of St. Francis. Make me an instrument of your peace…

16 Get security from someone who guarantees a stranger’s debt. Get a deposit if he does it for foreigners.

Someone who would guarantee a strangers debt is not to be considered as someone who lives wisely.  Lack of wisdom bleeds into every area of a person’s life.  Buyer beware!

19 A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.

Wanna kill a relationship?  Hop on the gossip train and you will definitely derail any relationship.  RUN from gossip.  It’s deadly.

29 The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.

Those gray hairs that you’re seeing in the mirror are a blessing…seriously!  The fact that you have lived long enough to have gray hair says that you have experience, and with experience comes wisdom!  C’mon gray hair!!

30 Physical punishment cleanses away evil; such discipline purifies the heart.

This has nothing to do with strapping or hitting your kids.  So don’t even go there.  This is about physical punishment meted out by king’s officers for a criminal offence.  However…this approach was seen as wisdom from that time and that culture.  We know differently today because humanity learns and develops over the centuries.

Let’s choose to live 3 dimensionally!  Enjoy your day 😉

A Club or an Umbrella?

umbrellaKeep the commandments and keep your life; despising them leads to death.  Proverbs 19: 16

So here’s an experiment you can try at home. Find the Ten Commandments, Levitical laws, Jesus’ commandments, or any of the commandments in the Bible, for that matter. But to keep it simple, let’s stick with Exodus 20 (Here’s a link to the 10Cs – http://tinyurl.com/m7zxmbv).  Now close your eyes and think of a person who loved you and had a positive influence in your life. Now read the 10 Cs as if you were hearing it coming from that person. Read it again, but this time, close your eyes and think of someone in your life who was very strict and stern. Now read the 10 Cs as if hearing it from that voice.

Did you find that ‘hearing’ it from a different ‘voice’ changed how you received it? If so, realize that we subconsciously read everything, including Scripture, from that ‘little voice’ that’s inside our head. That little voice has been formed over a number of years or decades as a result of our personality makeup, the people in our lives, and the various situations that we have experienced. Just sayin’…

I try to the best of my ability when I am reading scripture to be cognizant of the voice that I am using. So, I tend to read Scripture from the lens that the central core of who God is, is love. I’ve never heard an angry voice, with a wagging finger threatening me, at least almost never. And so when I read the 10 Cs, I picture a God who has provided us with an umbrella of protection, to help us enjoy the best life that we can. If I step out from underneath that umbrella, then I am vulnerable and an easy prey just waiting to be picked off by the enemy.

Now I get that rule and commandments can be seen as restrictive – that I’m not ‘free’ to do whatever I please. It’s funny how some think that they should just be able to do whatever seems ‘right’ to them. It’s as if freedom to do what you want, when you want, and how you want equals a happy and fulfilled life. But that’s just nonsense, and here’s why.

The universe we live in is designed to work in harmony with everything else. Individual things thrive when they are in sync with the rest of life. When something goes awry, chaos, destruction and ultimately, death are sure to follow. Our solar system moves together and is held into place because everything is dependent on its neighbouring planet/moons doing their thing. We would be doomed if Earth didn’t follow the path at the speed it’s set to follow, or if the it decided to tilt ten more degrees, or spin just a wee bit faster.

Wisdom is telling us that God has even set in place a trajectory for us to follow, and if we go awry (or out from under the umbrella), then chaos, destruction, and ultimately death are sure to follow.

Next time your driving through a city, just imagine the drive with all the laws, signs and lane markings removed. Welcome to the dystopian world of Mad Max!