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!

Free Speech…But to What Degree??

powerofwords1So yesterday was one of those days that was jammed packed from morning til late into the evening. Had I tried to write my post when I finally got home, I would been babbling and not being very coherent. I don’t sweat it. My goal is to write everyday, but I realize that ‘life happens’ and at the end of the day, it’s all good. But I do love setting goals for myself, as it gives me something to aim for. But I’m digressing once again…

We’re now into the part of proverbs where each verse or line is a short nugget of wisdom, and they can vary from topic to topic. My post will just reflect on one of the topics. So on to chapter 11!

With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous.

12 It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.

13 A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.

So I am a supporter of ‘free speech’. What I mean by that is that people should be allowed to state their beliefs, thoughts, opinions and their point of view on a variety of matters. I don’t believe that any one group of people should be policing what others can or cannot say…sort of. Let me explain.

Words are powerful. They can inspire, build ones courage, inform, educate, comfort, and love. Words can also destroy, hurt, annihilate, crush, suck joy, isolate, hate and kill. If you’ve been around this beautiful world of ours for at least a decade, then you have no doubt experienced both healing words and hurting words. You know their power.

Solomon is correct when he says that it’s the ‘godless’ who destroy their friends with their words. To use our words to hurt, belittle, or gossip is, in fact, ‘godless’. It’s godless because God doesn’t kill people with his words. With words, God uses words to build us up, love us, heal us, restore us, and secure us. Humanity is created in God’s image, and so Wisdom knows that to live life as it was meant to be lived means we live as creative beings, not beings of destruction.

Our world longs for peace in our homes, our communities and among our nations, and that all starts with our words, my friends.

I’m all for freedom of speech, just not undisciplined speech.

A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!                   James 3: 5  The Message

“If You Have Nothing Good to Say…”

The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless.

Proverbs 10: 20

A wee confession to make before I share today’s thoughts.  I gave you an incorrect reference to the passages yesterday.  I wrote that it was Proverbs 10, when in fact it was Proverbs 9.

I am choosing this one verse as it represents a few verses in this chapter where Solomon talks about the words that come out of our mouth and what they say about us.

When I was a boy growing up I can remember a few times when my Mom would say to me, “If you have nothing good to say about the person, then don’t say anything at all.”  I’m sure most people have heard that little saying quoted at some point in their life.  Some of the sayings that I remember hearing were easy to remember and yet were chock full of truth.  And this is one of them.

However, another saying that is definitely not true is, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  As the vast majority of the human population can attest to is that in fact, words do hurt, and sometimes to the core.  Now I understand that we are growing up in an age where we defend our ‘right’ to free speech, and I am one who would uphold that.  But I think we flex the ‘rights’ muscle way more than we do the ‘responsibilities’ muscle.  When it comes to the words that we use with others, wisdom recognizes that the onus is on us to choose our words carefully and to choose those words that extend honour and dignity to a person, rather than reducing them as a person.  For example…

The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain (v.11)

Wise words come from the lips of people with understanding (v.13) 

The words of the godly encourage many (v.21)

The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice (v.31)

The lips of the godly speak helpful words (v.32)

What’s interesting as I ponder these words is the truth that I can actually choose how I am going to respond to someone.  Will my words heal, or will they harm?  Will my words feed, or will they starve?  Will my words encourage, or will they tear down? And the list could go on.

Unfortunately, there are times when my emotions get the better of me and my words do more harm than good.  It is then that I need to heed this piece of wisdom from Solomon:
Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. (v.19)  

And that’s just good ol’ fashioned discipline, my friend!  🙂

Selective Correction

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.  So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.

But correct the wise, and they will love you.  Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.               Proverbs 9: 7-9

I’ve never been one to shy away from the yearly performance evaluation.  If it’s done with the right intent, then it is actually helpful and allows you to improve your weak areas.  The key is if it’s done with the right intent.

Correction.  I’m not sure what comes to mind when you hear that word.  Perhaps it brings back memories as a child at home or at your school.  Or maybe it’s the supervisor losing it on you.  Depending on what you experienced in life when it came to correction, you have probably formed your own definition.  If you have negative feelings towards correction, then you may have confused it with punishment, or worse…abuse.  Correction is neither punishment nor abuse.

The sole purpose of correction is to bring something into proper alignment.  It’s about fostering health in a person’s character, shaping them to be the person God intended them to be.  Correction never demeans, belittles, denigrates, or maligns.  Correction believes the best about the person and in fact, desires the best for that person.

Solomon calls the wise to be selective in who they correct.  In other words, if a person is known as one who cannot receive correction without being offended, hurt, or angered, then Solomon says to not bother.  It’s better to correct the wise and righteous person.  Why?  They will actually listen, apply what they have learned, and become the better person for it.  They are the ones who will be an influential and positive force to be reckoned with in our world.

If your next performance evaluation comes with a bit of correction, before you take offense and sulk and complain to others about your ‘jerk boss’, pause for a moment and consider the intent behind it.  If the intent was coming from a heart that believes the best about you, then take a few seconds to thank your supervisor for the correction. Seriously…do it!

The Wisdom of Our Universe

BeginningThe Lord formed me [wisdom] from the beginning, before he created anything else.

I [wisdom] was appointed in ages past, at the very first, before the earth began.

I [wisdom] was the architect at his side. I [wisdom] was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence.                                                                                                                                                                                        Proverbs 8: 22-23, 30

Just a reminder to those who are journeying with me through Proverbs, that the words I write are simply my thoughts and insights. Perhaps a different passage from the chapters stands out for you, and no doubt you may have different insights. My desire is that I am whetting your appetite for the richness of Kingdom wisdom. These proverbs really are ‘words to live by’.

If you’ve been reading every chapter from Proverbs, then by now you are feeling like Solomon, or maybe it’s Wisdom, is desperately pleading with us to listen and make these words a part of your life. Wisdom wants to marinate us in these words so that discipline and sound judgment ooze from our pores.

An eye opener for me starts at verse 22 where Wisdom declares that God formed her, or gave birth to her from the beginning before he created anything else! What I take from those words is that ALL of life has been formed and shaped by wisdom. In other words, God didn’t take a bunch of human body parts and throw them against the wall and see what stuck and what didn’t. Just imagine if God had…where would your nose have ended up?  Every part and cell in our body is placed where it’s supposed to be, and designed to do exactly as intended. Thank goodness!

IF that’s the case, then it would stand to reason that to fully get the most out of this brief life that we have on earth is to live in rhythm with creation, and in rhythm with our Creator. In other words, live life the way it was meant to be lived…with wisdom, understanding, sound judgment, discipline, and the fear of the Lord (a healthy fear, that is).

And one thing before I close off – discipline is even found in the creation of planet Earth. Get a load of verse 29 – I was there when he set the limits of the seas, so they would not spread beyond their boundaries. Just imagine living on a planet where the oceans could do what they want and go where they want! Scary, eh?

The Destroying Angel

destroyingAngelMushroom

The Destroying Angel mushroom

So listen to me, my sons, and pay attention to my words.

Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her.

Don’t wander down her wayward path.

For she has been the ruin of many; many men have been her victims.

Her house is the road to the grave. Her bedroom is the den of death.

Proverbs 7: 24-27

I know, these words are not really the cheery type.  But then since when are warning signs supposed to be cheery?  They are there to get your attention…NOW!  

This morning after our worship service I was having small-talk with a couple of guys, and we shifted into mushroom picking (of which I have zero knowledge of). Patrick mentioned about this one mushroom that will literally kill you if you eat it. It’s name is The Destroying Angel. The beauty of giving it a name such as that is there is absolutely nothing appealing about it. There is nothing in that name that would even tempt you to eat it. It’s name says, “I’m out to kill you.” And in fact, if you eat it, within five to twenty-four hours, it will have destroyed your liver and kidneys, and yes, your body!

It’s too bad that the name, immorality, didn’t have the same effect on us. In fact, the name is so innocuous that people just nonchalantly walk right into it. In the seventh chapter, Solomon zeros in on sexual immorality, but let’s not forget that we can find immorality in money and power, as well.

Immorality is seductive, plays on our insecurities, our weaknesses, and couldn’t give a rip about us afterwards. And so Solomon implores us to not just stay away, but to run from immorality, because much like The Destroying Angel mushroom, in the end it will kill you.

His advice is straightforward:

RUN!

And like the Destroying Angel…in the end, it will kill you.

I suggest we rename immorality for what it is…The Destroying Angel!

Do not eat it…don’t even lick it!

Dear Lazybones…

LazyAntTake a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!  Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.  Proverbs 6: 6-11

Tax season is here and the commercials for RRSPs can be heard on most radio stations. So do you save for a rainy day? Are you someone who has squirreled away an emergency fund (‘they’ say you should save anywhere from 3 to 6 months salary)? How about that nasty ‘B’ word…and no, not that one. I’m talking about having a budget. Do you have one? What about saving for retirement, or have you resigned yourself to working right up until the day you leave this fine world of ours?

The ‘winter seasons’ of life. Some call these the ‘golden years’, or the ‘twilight years’, or as my Mom called them, the ‘rusty years’. If you’re planning on living a full life, then you need to factor in that at some point, those ‘winter years’ are going to come. Will you be prepared for those years, or is your idea of a retirement fund, moving in with your kids? If so, I would suggest you check with them to see if they share your future vision.

Now on this note, I need to add that I have spoken to some Christians who question the whole concept of saving for retirement…that’s it’s not a very ‘Christian’ thing to do. Their perspective is that you could give that money to the poor, to a good cause, to missions, etc. Their argument is that Jesus will provide for us, therefore, a retirement fund is not necessary. I get why one could have that perspective, and I know that Jesus instructed his followers to store up treasures in heaven. But alas, I digress…this post is not about that.

In these six verses you have wisdom Scripture instructing people that it is most wise to consider the humble ant. The ant diligently works at preparing for the winter season that is about to come, otherwise, that ant will wake up one day to find that it’s too late.

Scripture is not telling us to hoard, nor is it instructing us to just think of ourselves, but it is telling us that when it comes to the money that we do have, we would be most wise to exercise self-discipline.

Yes, provide for yourself today and trust Jesus, but remember that winter IS coming.

On Your Mark…Get Set

runnerFrom the 5th!

23 He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.

Have you ever wished you could hop in a slick sports car, throw the top down, forget the seat belt, no brakes, and with unlimited speed?  Oh to cruise down the road, blasting through intersections ignoring the colour of the lights, pass when you felt like passing, drive on any side of the road of your choosing.  Talk about freedom, right?  NOT!!!  Who in their right mind would even consider driving in such a careless manner?  Talk about a terrifying nightmare.  Not just for you, but for every other person using the road!  We would applaud the courts for permanently revoking the drivers licence for life!  Who would want such a person on the road?  Not me, that’s for sure!

But there are so many people who live their lives like that, day in and day out.  Which is what the wise old king talking about in the fifth chapter of Proverbs.  Now he is speaking specifically to those who choose to live sexually immoral lives, and if we could put it into today’s language, it would be comparable to driving a car with no brakes at an insane speed down a roadway with other motorists and pedestrians using that road.

People actually choose to live this way, completely unaware of the risk they are putting their life at, but other lives that are being put at risk.  When that car goes out of control (and it will), mayhem will ensue, and oh the regrets that that crazy driver is going to have.  The interesting thing is, we hear about these things happening all the time, and it’s been happening since the beginning of human history, and it continues to this day.

What’s at the root of the problem?  If you’re a good ol Bible-believin’ Christian, then you would say ‘sin’.  And that’s true…sort of.  You see, when we say it’s ‘sin’, I think there’s a wee part of us that feels it’s not totally our fault – “It’s SIN’S fault!!”

Solomon calls it what it is – a lack of self-control.  In other words…we lack self-discipline.  It’s that common thread that runs through all of the book of Proverbs.  It’s the people who have learned the value of self-control that are the wise ones!  Think about it…

Ignore the Squirrel!!

25 Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.

26 Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.

27 Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

As I read through Proverbs I get this distinct feeling that one of the main threads coursing throughout Solomon’s mind is the principle of self-leadership. The question that seems is being asked is: “Who leads your life?” Now naturally most of us would say, “I do, of course?” But as I think more deeply about this, I don’t think that’s always the case. Whenever I take the time to review my day, I tend to find that ‘circumstances’ have been leading my life, or other people have been leading me(their opinions, words, actions, needs, etc), my feelings play a part in this, my ‘smart phone’ (most definitely!), emails…I think you see where I’m coming from.

Squirrel

The idea of self-discipline is the same thing as leading ones self. If I don’t lead myself, someone or something else will. Think about it? What leads your life? Do you determine what you are going to focus on today, or is it other people, situations, or feelings? I think that Solomon is saying, “I can choose to lead myself.”

I love these words in Proverbs, and they are so relevant in todays age! Are we not a distracted people?? The ‘noise’ of life is so loud anymore, with everything clamouring for our attention, that the second you bound out of bed something is demanding your attention! And how many people do you hear about that are struggling with ADD, and other various disorders that cripple their ability to focus on a task. We tend to call those interruptions, SQUIRRELS. If you’re chuckling to yourself right now, then you know what I’m talking about. These SQUIRRELS (or distractions) are everywhere and can happen at anytime.

Squirrel

I’m having a conversation with someone and my phone buzzes…SQUIRREL!

I’m preparing for a teaching that I have to give and a thought goes through my mind…SQUIRREL!

I’m having a date night at a pub (poor choice) and a sports game is on the TV that’s posted above my spouse’s head. My team scores! SQUIRREL!

Squirrel

Solomon says to look straight ahead and fix your eyes…mark out a straight path…don’t get sidetracked. In other words, focus, and lead yourself.

Sin is much like a SQUIRREL…it’s everywhere trying to distract me from what’s important in life. Sure I can pray, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” But I must also fix my eyes on Jesus, because after all, I am supposed to following him, not the SQUIRRELS!

Easier Said Than Done

And onto the 3rd chapter we go…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

If you’ve been around the church for as long as I have, then you probably have heard this passage either spoken, read, or have read it yourself, oh…well over a hundred times.  So easy to say, but doing it??  That’s another story.  The stream of Christianity I grew up in reduced ‘faith in Christ’ to saying the ‘sinners prayer’, reading my Bible, and attending church on a regular basis.  But that really isn’t the nitty-gritty meaning of faith!  Faith and trust go hand in hand. To trust or ‘believe in’ something means you place your full weight on it. Here’s a true story that brings the full intent of what it means to ‘trust’.

DDblondin1

Near the end of July, 1859, tightrope walker, Charles Blondin walked across the Niagara gorge, and on his back was his manager, Harry Colcord (see the actual photo).  That summer, Blondin did several crossings wowing the crowds that gathered, and when I say crowds, at times there were upwards of 25,000 people on both sides of the river to watch.  Blondin would cross blindfolded, once with a sack over his body, and another time he cooked an omelette halfway across.

In that same month, he crossed pushing a wheelbarrow full of bricks.  When he got to the other side the people cheered him.  He asked the crowd if they believed he could carry a person across in the wheelbarrow.  They roared back ‘YES!’  He asked for a volunteer, and there was silence.  No kidding, eh?  Apparently, that night his manager, Harry Colcord, realized that if he was going to promote Blondin, then he needed to be convinced himself, so the two of them decided that the next day Blondin would take Harry across on his back.

Now here’s what I find amazing.  That next day before Harry climbed onto Blondin’s back, Blondin said these words to Harry, and I quote: ““Look up, Harry.… you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do we will both go to our death.”  Harry followed the instructions and they crossed the gorge together.  No doubt a white-knuckle piggy-back!

So when Solomon says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”, he means to put your full weight in the Lord and be one with him!  The challenge is, you only learn this in the midst of the hard stuff of life.  However, once you’ve crossed that first ‘gorge’ forced to lean on God, you will know, without any doubt, that God can be trusted!

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-daredevil-of-niagara-falls-110492884/#8wIxOHxubdOc732s.99
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