Tuesday, December 18, 2012

For the Love of Money...how stupid!- Ecclesiastes 5:10

I loved Kevin's cartoon in the bulletin last week. If you didn't see it, it was a picture of a little boy on Santa's lap. Santa looked a little confused as the boy was saying, "All I want for Christmas is more than my brother."

That's a cute cartoon and we can chuckle at the thought of the truth of that scenario on Christmas morning. It's also an incredibly sad reminder though, that unfortunately many of us never grow out of that line of thinking. We may not verbalize the words exactly like that, and most of us aren't still crawling into Santa's lap with our selfish requests, but deep down the desire to continually just have more keeps us constantly begging life for more...occasionally we even pretend to be sitting in God's lap as a faithful child when we make our self-centered pleas.

How blessed would we all be if we could let Solomon's advice really sink in!?  How tragic for Solomon that it took most of his life before he came back to the truth that he knew when we started out as a man of God.

I'd like to leave the conversation on this one open because it's an incredibly easy to understand principle...and yet so hard to live and to teach. Tie this statement to Jesus' teaching about a rich man getting into the kingdom of heaven and laying up treasures in heaven as opposed to earth because "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" and we realize that this is a BIG deal!
 "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:10)

Solomon puts it just as bluntly as it can be put. Chasing after riches is absolutely meaningless. We can make every excuse and come up with umpteen million justifications for why we need more money or more stuff, but deep down we know the truth. Those desire are meaningless.

Here's what I'd like to do. I want to open the comments below to suggestions and questions on how to teach ourselves and our children to trust in God instead of in riches. To end the meaningless pursuit of more that begins on Santa's lap and usually doesn't end until the death bed. How do you combat this in yourself? How are you training your children in this? What areas are especially hard that you would like advice about? I won't know many if any of those answers, but there are some incredibly Godly men and women who read this that will. Start that conversation below by clicking the comment button and let's VOW to pursue things that will never be described as "meaningless" !!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to avoid the whole "bad company" talk with my kids- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Oh, how we as parents love this verse! If I had to guess what the most thought about and talked about spiritual subject that crosses parents minds and gets communicated to kids, it would be the importance of choosing friends wisely. I feel quite confident that this subject has been the staple of youth ministry diet since the first century. To be honest, I'm slightly surprised that we don't have a record of Lois and Eunice asking Paul to talk to Timothy about the kind of people he was hanging around as a teenager!

But this isn't the only verse that we think of when approaching the topic. We also quote 1 Corinthians 15:33 tirelessly. "Bad company corrupts good morals." In fact, I'd say that this side of the coin is what gets emphasized the most because the truth of relational influence is rarely emphasized until a child is making poor choices relationally and therefore making poor choices behaviorally and morally.

Don't get me wrong, we minimize the truth contained in these verses to our own detriment. Parents are right to repeat them over and over and over again. They are justified in keeping a close eye on friendships and acquaintances that their children have because we are all incredibly influenced by those we want to spend our time with.

However, I would like to suggest a couple of principles based on these verses that perhaps we don't think about quite as often:
  1. I need good deep, Godly relationships just as much and maybe even more so than my child does. I know that point might be argued based on the fact that children are typically more easily influenced than adults. So let's go with that line of thought. If kids are more easily influenced and you are trying to influence them to be proactive in gaining beneficial relationships instead of falling into harmful ones, will your influence over their choice of friends be more effective simply in words or would they be able to see and hear the message more clearly if they witnessed it in your life while you were saying the words? Without even considering our influence of example over our children, let's just think about us. At what point in your life have you faced the most temptations, pressures, and obstacles to faith-- as a child growing up in a Christian home or when you are out on your own and responsible for yourself? I think we would all agree that while we may not be particularly interested in revisiting the teenage years for one reason or another, in hindsight, the pressures of life as a mid-life parent are probably greater than that of a 16 yr old.
  2. Lectures upon lectures and classes upon classes have been delivered about the negative influence of bad friends...and usually to little or no avail. Maybe we need to spend more time helping our children pursue a life based on Ecclesiastes 4 which encourages actively seeking out Godly helpful relationships. In so doing, perhaps we will be able to avoid at least some of the worry and stress that comes when we see godly morals being corrupted by bad company because our children will already belong to a Godly group of friends who can lift them when they fall instead of contributing to the fall! In other words, we shouldn't be surprised when our children choose ungodly friends and begin to imitate those friends despite our teachings and pleadings at home if we have not and are not actively helping them pursue Godly friendships in the body of Christ.
So how can we give our kids the security and strength of a "cord of three strands?" Here are just a few suggestions:
  • Make meetings with the saints a priority for your family. How can we expect a child to be closer to friends they see once a week than to the guys they hang out with in the locker room and after school every day? Relationships require investment, and the only investment that will give a return is the investment of time.
  • Invest in relationships for yourself and your children at the same time by inviting Godly families of similar ages into your home. Just have someone over for dinner who has kids the same age. After the evening...invite them again later. If there is one thing I've realized, it is that for the most part, teens will be about as involved in the life of the church and about as invested in the family of God as their parents are. If a parent is not actively seeking and prioritizing friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ, then neither will/can the child. Someone will fill that relational void. And too often, that someone is the same someone whom parents ask me down the road to teach a class on 1 Corinthians 15:33  about!
  • Join a life group. Maybe you're not quite ready to invite others into your home. That's ok. Go to theirs. The life groups are an incredible way to share intimate fellowship with like-minded brothers and sisters who, for the most part, are in the same stage of life.
 These are just a few suggestions. If you have others, leave them in the comments below. However it happens, let's VOW to live the truth of this wisdom that we have known and taught for so long.

Oh, and one more thing..."pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." Maybe the relational investment that we need to make most right now is not for us, but for someone else. In a culture that is so consumed by crowded schedules, more and more Christians are trying to walk through life with no one close enough to help them when they fall. Let's keep an eye out for those folks and be ready to catch them...or better yet. Let's take pity on them before they get to the fall and help keep them from falling by coming alongside them whether they invite us or not!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Flip-Side of Discipline: Proverbs 23:13-14

My twin daughters are 2. I've never been a dad before in my life. I can't remember how I was disciplined when I was two. All of these factors add up to one word....


My wife and I often look to Suzanne Bobo for advice in parenting. Both of her children are grown Godly adults. She also works as the director of a local Mother's Day Out. In light of my serious lack of expertise and her years of work as a mom and  child-care provider, and all of the different parenting styles she has seen over the years, I thought the wisdom of this Proverb would shine infinitely brighter with her highlighting it than me. Enjoy her great advice below and may we all VOW to raise not just our own children, but also those that we have influence over to know, love, and obey the God who is the only perfect parent.

Thoughts on Discipline by Suzanne Bobo
Who can resist the sweet smile of a child?  Children bring such immense joy to our lives with their innocent nature, bright eyes, and unconditional love.  But as children grow, Proverbs 23: 13 tells us, "Do not not withhold discipline from a child."  Although we often think of discipline as punishment, I feel the following Webster Dictionary definition is more fitting.

Discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. 

Parents are responsible for shaping their children's wills and directing them in the way God would have them live.  Proverbs 22:6 states, "Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it."

Through the years, I have come to believe that disciplining a child is more about my character and behavior than the child's.  What better way to mold a child's behavior than to provide the child an example of the behavior I would like him to achieve.  Proverbs 17: 6 says parents are the pride of their children.  Our children watch us like hawks, and they usually mimic our behavior.

 How can I expect my child or the children I work with to be happy, productive children if I am cranky and making poor choices myself?  

If I expect a child to be obedient to my instruction and respect my authority, I must exert a strong positive, consistent influence.

Due to the everyday distractions, it is often so difficult to be consistent and to follow through when we discipline our child, but it is essential.  If we tell our child to come to us when he is running off but chase him down instead, did he mind our authority?  Did he have a consequence for not minding?  If we just run after the child, grab him up, and go because we are in a hurry, what have we taught him?  The next time, he may be in a dangerous situation where he runs toward the street.  When the instruction we give our child is important enough to say, we must take the time to follow through, otherwise it should have been left unsaid.

Children are so very bright, and they learn quickly how we handle authority.
Exodus 20: 12 was the first commandment with a promise:  Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  What a promise!!  If we have taught our children as they grow to be obedient and disciplined, they will follow this commandment.....and what a blessing will come to their lives.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Friend or Foe? Proverbs 27:5-6

"Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
But an enemy multiplies kisses."

Proverbs 27:5-6

I think this is a concept that we all get and agree with on the surface especially with the obvious stuff. Just think about the last time you had something stuck in your teeth or had a problem with a piece of your wardrobe and went for hours before either someone rudely pointed it out or you finally stole a glance in a mirror and discovered it yourself. Aren't we all just a little perturbed that our "friends" hadn't bothered to let us know that there was something wrong? After all, we could have fixed the problem in a matter of seconds and spared the humiliating thoughts about how many people saw it and were secretly laughing at us. Those situations are easy. In those cases we wholeheartedly agree with this proverb and want our friends to apply it to us. But what about those things that are a little less obvious?

What about when our parents give us an attitude check or tell us to "watch your tone of voice"? What about when our spouses let us know in no uncertain terms that we are behaving or acting childishly? Are we willing to take the criticism of a friend when they confront us with having a smug attitude, secret prejudice, or hidden agenda? I would imagine if any of us thought long enough, we could each think back to past "hurts" that we have received at the hands or mouths of friends. Some of us may even think of a relationship that no longer exists because of a word that was interpreted as an insult. Those times, unfortunately, are not quite so easy to recognize as good "open rebuke" and "wounds from a friend" instead of as lashes from an enemy.

So how do we remind ourselves that someone is looking out for our good and not our bad when it feels like we are taking a beating?

Let me say, first of all, that I am no counselor or therapist and my thoughts on this are nowhere near expert advice; they are simply my thoughts and you are free to use them or dismiss them as you see best. But maybe there are at least a few things we can do to take the sting out of a perceived insult and help us to see the good intended instead of just the pain inflicted.
  1. Memorize this verse. I am convinced that one of the ways the Spirit works in our lives is through the word of God hidden in our hearts. If this nugget of God's wisdom is such a part of your being that you can quote it at the drop of a hat, then there is a good chance that the Spirit will help you remember it at the moment when you need it the most...like when someone says, "we need to talk" and it doesn't appear the topic is sports. 
  2. While talking to the friend, quote the verse silently. If your blood pressure is rising, there is a pretty good chance you're not going to be able to hear their words anyway. Why not just take a breath and spend a fraction of a second even while they are talking to remind yourself of this truth if for not other reason than to help you stay calm so that you can evaluate whether what they are saying is truth or simply meanness.
  3. After the conversation, but before evaluating the criticism , evaluate the friendship. I'm not talking about picking apart the friend and all of their faults. That's pointless. I am talking about evaluating the history of the relationship. Have they tried to hurt you in the past? Have they ever sacrificed for you? Have they been a loyal friend? Do they add to your life or do they usually take from you? Do they typically act selfishly or selflessly? If the relationship is not a new one, you should be able to decide rather quickly if they are in fact a friend or an enemy. 
  • If they are an enemy, then who cares what they said? It's as likely to be untrue as it is to be true even if they were flattering you! However, if the enemy was really trying to get to you, they would probably use something they knew hit close to home. If that's the case, find a real friend and ask them for an honest evaluation of the subject at hand.
  • If you're not entirely sure of the relationship, then maybe whatever the criticism, it is worth your time to do some self-evaluation and also to ask a trusted friend.
  • If you know they are a friend...then the absolute worst thing any of us could do would be to throw up defenses and start insulting them so we don't have to face an ugly truth in ourselves. Not only will we lose a friend, we will also miss a chance for self-improvement, and even go backward because we have allowed our pride to take another foothold in our lives.
Like I said, I'm no counselor, but Solomon was a pretty smart guy from what I've heard. Now I just wish I could apply it in my own life as easily as I can type it!

And by the way, before we end, I think the comparison of an open rebuke to hidden love is worth noting. At that point, he hadn't said where the "open rebuke" is coming from. It might be from a friend or an enemy. Either way, it doesn't matter...it's better than hidden love- i.e. love that never results in action. If that's the case...we need to take note of any love that we feel that we conceal by tamping it down or by ignoring it's plea to help someone. How sad to think that a deceitful enemy "multiplying kisses" could win someone else because of their abundance of false love only because the object of their "kisses" hasn't experienced the sometimes "hidden love" of God that we have for them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Warning for those With Authority- Proverbs 22:8

"Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken."

Proverbs 22:8

The principle of the harvest is scattered all throughout the Bible. It is an incredibly simple truth that is applied both negatively, as in the case above, and positively, as in "he who sows generously (as in the case of giving) will also reap generously" (2 Cor. 9:6). In the passage above, it is applied to those with authority. I wasn't sure of that until I cross-referenced the word for "injustice" to find the other ways it is used in the Bible because in some translations it is translated as "iniquity" or "perverseness." I think the use of the word "injustice" works much better because in every instance that the word is used in which you can determine the context outright from the text, it is dealing with leaders abusing their powers for their own gain in some form or another. The truth of the proverb is very simple for us today. If we are unjust to those we have authority over or those we try to exert authority over, we will eventually be served what we deserve- calamity.

Just take a minute to look at the picture above. It makes me cringe, doesn't it you? There are very few people in this world who honestly enjoy seeing someone who is helpless being taken advantage of or abused. I think that is because each of us has a moral compass placed in us by God that makes blatant shows of injustice absolutely infuriating. The problem, though, is that each one of us has an easier time seeing the injustices of others than we do of ourselves. I have a theory that people don't think they are actually being unjust. They are simply doing what they think is necessary for the greater good.  
  • If my child refuses to obey, then I need to do what I must to teach them to respect authority so they are not in prison down the road.  
  • If my students don't respect my authority, no one will learn anything. Therefore, I am justified in making an example of one or two students. 
  • I know the most efficient way of doing something and if my employees or coworkers disagree, they might lead us down the wrong track. Therefore, manipulation, threats, deception, and forcefulness is simply what is necessary for all of us to achieve our goals.

In other words, what if we are blind to our own injustices because after all, 

the end justifies the means?

While those in authority (parents, teachers, bosses, managers, etc.) have a Godly duty to discipline, correct, train, and lead and punishment or rebuke is sometimes necessary, may each of us VOW to scrutunize not those over us (bosses, government, parents, leaders), but those under us (children, employees, coworkers, students, servers) and honestly determine whether injustice is or is not occurring at our own hands. After all, God is not one to lie. If we are the source of injustice, eventually the rod (i.e.- authority) with which we are wielding our injustices WILL BE BROKEN and the end that has supposedly justified all of our means, will actually turn out to be calamity. I don't know about you, but I would much rather lay that rod down in obedience to God than to have it taken from me and broken because of my disobedience. And for anyone who is reeling from the rod of someone else's injustice, let me offer one more passage that I stumbled upon today while cross-referencing the word for "injustice."

The scepter of the wicked ["unjust"] will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.

Psalm 125:3

Take comfort in the fact, that whatever it seems like today, God is actually the one in control. We feel injustice so acutely in the moment because it seems like the wrongs will never get righted in our lifetime. But God's reign is much longer than all of our lives put together. He is in control. He always will be. And that remains true even while I, or anyone else, is claiming control by swinging an unjust rod with all of our fury.

Monday, November 5, 2012

That Pesky Conscience- Proverbs 20:27

Do you remember Jimminy Cricket's advice for Pinnochio? "Let your conscience be your guide." On the surface, that seems pretty good, right? After all, our consciences let us know when we are violating our morals. However, what if someone has a different set of morals than I do? Can I follow one set of rules while they follow another and both of us be in the right because we are both being led by our conscience? Obviously, the answer is "no." Either there is an absolute standard of right and wrong or there is not. If the latter is true, then Jimminy shouldn't be giving advice at all because it doesn't matter what we do anyway...there is no standard of right and wrong. However, you and I both know that there is a standard and it is defined by God, Himself. So is Jimminy giving good advice? Well...I'd say the answer is no...and yes.

The answer is no for the reason I've already stated. Each one of our consciences tell us slightly different things depending on our personality, our upbringing, and I'm sure a host of different influences that sociologists might point out that I don't have a clue about. However, the answer is also "yes" because it was God who designed the conscience as a warning system for us.

I've always understood the conscience to be from God simply because He made us and we have it, therefore it's from God. But I have never noticed this Proverb before. The Interpreter's Bible notes that "the word 'spirit' here is from the literal Hebrew word 'breath'; and it refers to that 'breath of life' which God breathed into mankind in the person of Adam (Gen. 2:7). It is the equivalent of conscience, God's lamp, that searches out the innermost recesses of a man's heart." I've talked and written before about my desire to hear God's voice. But according to this verse, what if I already am in the language and accent of my conscience? If the commentator is correct about the "spirit" referring to our conscience, then this is exactly what Solomon was teaching through this Proverb. What an incredible thought about the intimacy that God shares even with those who are not yet Christians and those who, in our minds, are worlds apart from the God of the Bible. I'm not referring to the kind of relationship that God shares with Christians after their sins have been washed away and they can then have access into the Most Holy Place. But we do know that God has "breathed life" into every human that has ever existed- both good and bad. I believe that refers to more than just getting our hearts and lungs pumping. It refers to that part of us that is eternal. We also know that God calls all men to Christ (John 6:44) and that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin (John 16:5-11). Unless I'm completely missing the point of the Proverb, God has placed our "spirit" (whatever that involves) inside of us in order to shine light on the hidden parts of who we are. But obviously, God doesn't need any help revealing to Himself who I am! Therefore, I have to conclude that the light that is being shed is for my benefit.

Why then do all of our consciences alarm in different ways and how are we to use it since there is only one standard of right and wrong?

Well, we know that we can sear our consciences by repeated violating them and thereby deaden them to a particular sin (1 Tim 4:2). I also believe consciences are different based on what children are raised believing, though, so how are we to use them?

Is it possible that we are to use our consciences not  as an absolute authority in itself, but as an alarm system for when we are violating a higher authority? In other words, our conscience is a tool that God uses to shape us and call to us but it is not a standard.

Let me suggest one other thought before I wrap up. We often consider our consciences only in the matter of a "guilty conscience." But what if we were to include the whole of our self in that. What about our emotions, the things our mind wanders to, our dreams and nightmares, our worries, and our passions? What if we also consider those to be part of our "spirit" that the Proverb refers to? Could God be trying to direct my life by giving me a passion for something? Could God be reminding me to come to Him when I begin to feel the emotion of despair and loneliness? Could God be nudging me to change my perspective when I notice a feeling of contempt for anyone? Could God be fueling a path for ministry by giving me unexplained joy and excitement about something I've participated in? I'm not talking about psychotherapy, but is it possible that God could still use dreams to get us to think about something or reveal an area of worry in our life that we need to turn over to Him?

I guess the challenge today is for us to pay attention to what's going on inside of us...not so we have an unhealthy preoccupation with self, but so that we can evaluate it with the words of God in the Bible and determine if God is trying to reveal something to us that He would like us to quit doing, start doing, or continue doing. Notice I said "doing" in all of those statements because inevitably, faith - trust in God- leads to action. May we continue to have faith that the God who began a good work in us is going to carry it on to completion (Phil 1:6) and may we realize that one of His tools to finish that work is the "lamp" that He put in each one of us if we will only take the time to pay attention to where it is shining...and then determine with the help of God to never "sear our consciences" in that area again. So yes...within reason I say, "let your conscience be your guide."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Good News...I'm rich! Proverbs 19:17

"Whoever is kind to the poor, lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done."

Before we begin to look at the verse for this week, I think it is important for those of us who are reading this to realize just how rich we are. Yes, mentally we understand the fact that most of the world does not live with the luxury that we do...but we are nowhere near the top. In fact, it's easy for us to look at anyone above us with a slight bit of contempt. Even though we might not even vocalize it, some part of us smiles when the rich are brought down. I'm not saying that is right. In fact...it's absolutely wrong and sinful to have an envious spirit like that. However, fight it we must, because the tendency toward that attitude lurks just under the surface.

There's only one problem with that envious line of thinking even if it weren't sinful in and of itself...


Did you know that I am the 242,608,696th richest person in the world!? That puts me in the top 4.04% of the richest people in the world! I'm not sure exactly how accurate that is, but judging by other statistics that I've seen and heard, I feel like it's pretty close. 

Wanna have some fun? Click here to find out where you rank in the world.

Ok, now that we've had a reality check let's deal with this other issue of who we are definitely not no matter how many times we've stated "I'm starving," or "I'm broke." What about those who actually are poor? Those who are struggling to get enough to eat. Look at this statistic from 2010:
Despite years of progress against hunger, in 2010, it is estimated that 925 million people suffer from hunger. This is due to a sudden spike in global food prices and the onset of a world-wide economic crisis. United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization
Do you know what my reaction to a number as big as 925 million is? I can't comprehend it, therefore I don't react to it. We hear about global poverty all of the time. But that's just the problem. It's global. Even if the Gateses and Buffetts and all of the other 1%ers of the US voluntarily shared their wealth with the poor, would it even make a dent in the lives of 925 million? Probably not. So what could I do with only a small fraction of what they have!? For the entire world? I couldn't even cause a ripple. But I could sure change the path of at least one life. I'm absolutely sure of that.

Now let's talk investments. How is your retirement fund? What does your bank account look like? Have you saved enough for a rainy day? This is not a knock on saving, investing, or being prepared. Other Proverbs give instructions to do just those things. However, when we are talking about the safest investment in the world...it's probably not in a 401k. It's by following Jesus' instructions to lend without expecting to receive anything in return and to give to those who ask (Matthew 5:42, Luke 6:35). The inspired writer of this Proverb (just as a refresher- if the writer is "inspired" it is equivalent to saying that God said it) says that whoever is kind to the poor is "lending to the Lord!" Not only that but "He will reward them for what they have done."  
Are we so foolhardy to think that an investment in the stock market which shows about as much consistency as the weather pattern will give a better return than the God of all creation!?
No, I think the actual problem is that we don't really believe it. 
Either we don't actually believe in God, in the power of God, or that the words he had written in the Bible are actually His words. If we did believe that God is real, that He is as powerful as we say He is, and that the Bible is His word to us then giving to the poor would not be such a burden for us. It wouldn't take a guilt trip of realizing how wealthy we actually are because we would willingly give it away in order to become even more wealthy! That's what this passage means. It's what Jesus' statement about laying up treasures in heaven means. Do we believe it?

I probably can't make much of a difference in the world. After all, I'm "just" in the middle class. But there is absolutely no doubt that you and I can both make a significant impact on the life of at least a handful of people. Let's VOW to keep our eyes open this week for an investment opportunity that God puts in front of us. Let's choose to become richer through Godly investments instead of choosing to protect the immense wealth that we already have. And let's look forward to the reward that God has in store for us.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cheer Up:) - Proverbs 17:22

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

I very seriously doubt this is the first time you've heard this. I doubt even more that you haven't already experienced it. So...today's VOW is short and sweet.

Find something to laugh at. Science has proven over and over again the benefits of laughing and being cheerful. God knew it a long time ago and was encouraging his people to be joyful long before the science caught up with it. Just a few thoughts:

  • But don't let Satan co-opt and cheapen what God designed us to do. Look for the real thing. Veer away from the profane, the crude, the ugly. Those things are cheap imitations and lessen the joy that you actually gain because there is the feeling of guilt associated with the laughter. Why mess up such a good gift?
  • Give someone else something to laugh or smile about. I think about Monte Bennett. The man was always armed with corny jokes. I don't know many people who actually thought many of the jokes were all that good...but I know for a fact that the way Monte presented them and played on the cheesiness of it brought a smile to your face even if the humor of the joke never would! I'm sure Monte just enjoyed laughing himself...but I also think, whether he intended it this way or not, that it was an act of service. Put a few jokes in your pocket and pass it on! :)
  • Sometimes the absolute funniest things that happen...happen to you. So open yourself up to laughing at yourself. Too often we get caught in our pride instead of laughing about a mistake or something that we think makes us look foolish in front of others. But think about it...when someone messes up, do you like them better if they pridefully try to cover the accident? Nobody does! But if they begin laughing at themselves and invite you to do it, you walk away from the incident liking that person even more! If you mess up...have a good laugh and endear yourself to the people you think are laughing at you by giving them permission to laugh with you. They'll love you for it and you'll have given them the gift of laughter without even intending to!

What did the digital clock say to the Grandfather clock?

"Look, Grandpa, no hands!"

Alright that's enough reading. Now go find something wholesome to laugh at and when you do, use your laughter as a trigger to thank God...even for something as small as a good joke.

and leave your best joke(s) in the comments by clicking the button below.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Know Exactly Who this Proverb is Talking About...and I'm sure it's not me! - Proverbs 16:18


Pride goes before destruction. A haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18

Most can probably already quote this verse. If you can't then you are at least familiar with it or at least with the more familiar shortened wording, "pride comes before the fall."

There's only one problem with it...it sure is easy to see when someone else has their nose in the air walking toward a tripping hazard. But it is almost impossible to realize when I am the one blinded by pride.




The whole reason a fall generally follows a prideful, haughty spirit is that pride is blind! If I am blind then how am I supposed to see and recognize my blindness!? That thought leads me to one conclusion that I am more and more convinced of every day...and yet I am still hesitant to act on it. The conclusion
That maybe this Proverb is written as much for the friends and family of the prideful person as it is for the prideful person himself. 
 What do I mean by that? Well...when you first read this verse, what face popped into your mind? Each one of us has a gut reaction that absolutely rebels against outright pride and haughtiness in someone else. Why? Possibly because their pride interferes with our own and therefore we have a fine-tuned detection device for it. Whatever the reason, my guess if that it's usually not hard to think of someone that fits the bill for this Proverb. What's more, many times we are just waiting for the moment that they finally hit the open sewer lid and take a fall. My questions is this- if they came to your mind quickly, their is a good chance you have a relationship of some sort with them. Why, for the love of God (literally) and the love of a brother or sister, friend, or just simply a creation of God, have you not at least attempted in a loving way to point out the fall they are headed toward?

While asking the question, I already know a lot of the response. 1. Selfishly, we want to see them endure some of the pain that they have caused others. Just read through the Psalms and you'll see many of God's people longing for divine vengeance to be paid to the prideful. But while we do praise God for His justice, do we not also share in His grace and mercy that is waiting for the sinner to repent and be spared of destruction? 2. We simply lack courage. After all, people blinded by pride tend to walk on other people who are less "important." We have already endured their insults and snubs. Why should we set ourselves up for more abuse by trying to warn them of something that are choosing to close their eyes to? But isn't pride and selfishness really the root of all sin? Isn't someone who is blinded by pride simply a person who is separated from God by their own sin that deludes them? Are they not going to pay for that eternally? Then can we not see them in light of eternity instead of the latest prideful insult and view them with pity instead of animosity? 

And there you have my plea for those who are Christ-followers to follow Christ event to the point of lovingly confronting sin in all of its forms. But how can we attempt to avoid becoming the person who is headed toward destruction ourselves?

I just happened to pick up Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster last night and read a couple of pages. I've been reading it for a while, but haven't looked at it in several weeks. Wouldn't you know, the pageI read last night were about humility. The problem, according to Foster, with trying to discipline one's self toward humility (the opposite of pride) is that the more one tries to do so, the harder it becomes. After all, at the point I think I am finally humble, I am falling dreadfully backward into pride again. So how do we work alongside the Spirit to allow Him to produce this fruit in our lives? Foster wisely points not to the discipline of humility to battle pride and increase true humility, but to the discipline of service. Choose daily to serve in any situation. Serve the great. Serve the weak. Fight the impulse to let others know about your service. Because when I look for appreciation and recognition for my service, I am actually subtly encourging the growth of my pride. But when I choose to put others first by serving them in large or small ways and I purposefully control my tongue so as not to seek recognition for it, I beat down my pride. And in the absence of pride, humility reigns.

I can't think of a better VOW for disciples of Christ to take this week than to seek to serve without recognition in as many ways as possible. If that service includes the service of confronting a prideful attitude and warning the wearer of that attitude of a fall that is around the turn, then perhaps that is precisely where you need to choose to begin your battle against your own pride. And by all means, if someone does come to me or you, may each of us have the courage to see that God is not done working on us. Maybe the next project He has in mind is trimming our pride through the help of someone who loves us enough to tell us our eyes are closed. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Quit Being Angry about Being Angry. Try a New Approach."- Proverbs 15:1

"A truism like this needs no comment. Quiet, unoffensive speech has been effective in preventing many a violent encounter."
That's the only comment made on this verse in the Coffman commentary series. It almost made me feel foolish for even bothering to look it up since the proverb really doesn't need much of an explanation. And yet, the truth contained in this proverb may be one of the most difficult principles to apply even in the most mature Christian life. We can all think of those moments when we absolutely lost it. We can all think of even more moments that happen on a daily basis where we are simply short with our spouses, or our children... the moments where we're not exactly out of control, but we say something in a tone of voice that is just a little more harsh than is beneficial. And the result is to simply stir up the anger that is already in the person we are trying to put in their place. What good does that do!? Well...that's the whole point of the proverb! So how do we begin to exercise this principle and not simply give mental assent to it? How does the Christian finally stop using harsh words and start using gentle words?

Let me say at the very beginning that this is an area I struggle with. I don't have it down, and I'm not speaking from expertise. However, I have noticed a pattern of when I am more and less successful and it coincides exactly with the wisdom written centuries ago by other inspired writers. I've posted Colossians 3:1-17 below. I urge you to take the time to read it, and then pick up your own Bible and read it again, because I'm convinced that the answer to our anger issues and a host of others lies within these words.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Here's the point that I hope you saw as you read through this. When I am more disciplined about my time with God, I can tell a difference in my level of control with my words, emotions, and attitudes. When life has gotten so busy that my times in study, prayer, and quiet have taken a back seat, my family especially suffers for it. Maybe we spend too much time feeling guilty about past "harsh words" and vowing to not use them again, only to get to the next stressful situation...and do it again! Maybe we spend too much time going through that cycle without actually simply spending time with God. Paul wrote in the passage above about the new self that it is being "renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." If we want to start looking more and more like Christ, then we need to start looking more and more at Christ. We have tried long enough to fix ourselves. It doesn't work. Let's instead VOW to go before God in scripture, prayer, meditation, and quiet and let Him start molding us into the image of His son. After all, are we actually silly enough to think that our tools are more efficient than His!?

We've recognized the truth of Proverbs 15:1 for a long time now. We've seen the way our rudeness and harshness only makes the situation worse and the relationship gap wider. It's time to move past agreeing with the truth and start acting on it. But maybe...just maybe... the first action step needs to be blocking out a time each morning, afternoon, or evening, to gain a more intimate knowledge of the One we are trying to imitate.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Stinky Stable or Stinky Life?



Where no oxen are, the manger is clean; but much revenue comes from the strength of an ox.

Proverbs 14:4


I thought of another Proverb that could be the next in line.
"Where no babies are, the urine smell is minimal; but much joy comes from the laughter of a child."

Can you imagine the joys that we would miss out on if our primary focus in life was to keep things simply and clean? No home projects would ever be undertaken no matter how badly they are needed because something always has to get torn out or down before it can be built back up. No babies would ever be born for fear of the chaos of the terrible twos, terrible threes, and terrible teens. (Seriously, why do you people have to try to suck the joy out of child rearing by continually saying, "Oh just wait...it gets worse."!?) No teams would ever be put together because wherever there is more than one person working on something, there is bound to be a difference of opinion. And no ministry would EVER get done because ministry is messy! 

What if Jesus had preferred to work solo instead of having to continually bring the apostles up to speed on the meanings of the parables late at night, quiet their bickering over who was the greatest, and tell them the same things over and over and over again (like, "hey guys, being Messiah means they are going to kill me, not crown me.") Sounds a bit like child rearing doesn't it? And yet, that was God's plan for starting the church- 12 very imperfect and very messy guys. Jesus could have led a much simpler life by staying the carpentry shop and teaching people about the kingdom every time they placed an order. But that wasn't God's plan for Him. 

So often we worry about staying safe. Keeping clean. Maintaining control. Keeping up appearances of order and respect. There's only one problem with the safest, cleanest, most controlled and respectfully arranged stable...


No work is being done. No land is being tilled. No harvest is being brought in because the priority of the day is prevention instead of invention and safety instead of success. 

How about you and your family? I am not anywhere close to saying that order and safety and "staying clean" (spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc.) is not important. But is it possible that sometimes we are so cautious that we forget that we have a job to do? A job that the Master of the Harvest Himself has both ordered and enabled us to do?

I want my family to be safe. I want them to have order and to keep up appearances. I want them to be clean in all the different ways that cleanliness can be thought of. But, at least in principle, I would trade all of that in to know that they are fulfilling God's purposes for their lives. Because if they are not, then the most sanitized life in the world will still lead a life that is without meaning and without God. As a father, I pray that God will give me the courage- not just in principle but in actuality- to lead my family to Him and His purposes instead of simply to orderliness and cleanliness. And I am confident that if I do, God's spirit who is working in us will lead us to true cleanliness and safety from the inside out instead of just clean stables that look nice but produce nothing with eternal significance.

How about you? What do you need to quit worrying about because while the work may be messy, the job is getting done? What  work needs to be done that you have avoided so far for fear of getting your stable "dirty?" Let's roll up our sleeves, and quit worrying about having a clean stable and worry instead about having a working stable!

So far, the conversation hasn't started up very much...take a minute to leave a thought below. What does this proverb mean to you? How have you implemented it's truth in your life? Where have you seen this principle at work? Did I miss it completely? Let me know:)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"I Pity the Fool!" - Proverbs 13:20

Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.
- Proverbs 13:20
I have a guess about why the companion of fools suffers harm.  GENERALLY SPEAKING, THOSE WHO HAVE FOOLS AS COMPANIONS ARE FOOLS THEMSELVES!                                         I mean, think about it. We spend an awful lot of time in the church and as parents talking to our kids and preaching to them about the importance of picking friends wisely. And we should. Proverbs is full to the brim (not to mention the rest of the Bible!) of that instruction through both statements and examples. But why is it that it never occurs to us that if someone- even our kids!- continually chooses to surround themselves with fools...there is a good chance that the "foolish crowd" is the place they feel most comfortable because it's where they belong! So why the instruction from the wisest man that ever lived?

I can't help but think about how foolishly Solomon neglected his own wisdom by having 1,000 foolish idol-worshipping women around him the way he did! Just think about all the harm that came to him because of these relationships! I don't know when he wrote this or other similar proverbs. Maybe it was at the end of his life when he had found the error of his ways. Or maybe he, like us, knew the truth of the statement he was making but failed to live it. Do we talk to our kids about the power of their companions, but then cozy up to the TV for a good couple of hours a night. Wanna know the biggest difference between real live companions and the characters we choose on TV and in movies? We might actually have a small impact on the fools we live with;


Here's the point. This proverb doesn't begin with telling us to not hang out with foolish people. It simply states that hanging out with fools will endanger us. It's a fact, not a "thou shalt not." What difference does that make? What if instead of focusing so much with ourselves or with our children about who not to hang out with, we spent more time actually teaching wisdom? What if we believed the principle we preach so much that we actually pursue relationships with people who are beyond us in some area? Need to be wiser at disciplining? Find a parent who has been through it and done well and start eating breakfast with them...and maybe even let the reason for your breakfast date slip to your kids. Not a good student of the word? Pick someone who is and make a point to engage them in conversation. I guarantee that if you hang out with them long enough they will begin lighting a fire in you to know God and know His word. Model for your kids the way to become more wise...by spending more time with wise people.

If all they ever hear from us is "your friends are going to pull you down" then we have completely failed to show them the path to growing...and going...up. Do we harp on "bad company corrupts good morals" but never actually teach them good morals? When they get into trouble, do we throw up our hands and shout that they should have known better? Really? Who has taught them the actual "better" that they should have known? If you are assuming they've gotten it in Bible class, through sermons, or through school...well then, maybe they did and maybe they didn't. But it's not fair to hold them accountable for something unless you actually are sure they should have known it because you are the one that has taught and modeled the principle for them.

None of us want our sons and daughters to be fools...or even companions of fools. What are we doing to live the first half of the proverb in order to avoid the second? Is fellowship with other believers (the wise) a priority for your family or simply an option if there is enough energy after the priorities of homework, sports, work, and play? Is the source of wisdom, God's word, an actual source for your family or just a textbook to be used in classes and sermons? Do we spend more time listening to the foolishness of mind-numbing TV than we do to the life-giving words of God? Have we worked long hours to provide them with the most powerful technology the world has ever seen only to leave them to their own devises to figure out how to use them? They have the world at their fingertips...literally. That can be a damning thing for them or a saving thing for the world...literally. Have they been taught the difference?

I wonder how often we have quoted proverbs about fools with a condescending look on our faces while God looks down on us saying, "I pity the fool."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Arghhh! She calls me "Dosh!"

Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.

- Proverbs 12:16
Recognize this face? I do. I feel like I've worn it constantly for the past couple of days at home. Let me explain. I'm a fool. That's all there is to it. I've taught teens and adults alike about the importance of not giving someone the power to "make you mad." But I have recently found something that gets under my skin just about worse than almost anything I've faced up till now. I'm only telling you this because it is in type and you can't laugh directly at me, so please be gentle when you actually do see me and I'll spill the reason for my face looking similar to the picture.
Sophie has learned something new. Everytime she disagrees with me or refuses to do something that I am asking her to do, she decides to change my name. Instead of saying "daddy" while arguing and refusing to obey, she has stared saying "Dosh" which is her version of my name . Now this wouldn't bother me quite so badly if she also called me "Dosh" at other times. She doesn't. It is only when she is being defiant that she- as a 2 yr old!- refers to me in a rather condescending and beliggerant way as "Dosh." It may sound like a silly thing, but my blood boils. It's not so much the word as the specific reason she does it...she does it because she has seen me act like a fool.
Unfortunately, when it first began, I let her know very clearly that "Dosh" was not my name for her. She was to call me "daddy." When she did it again, I let her know that I did not like for her to call me that at all...and I'm pretty sure I let my frustration show...which was very foolish. Because now, AS A 2-YR OLD, she has a weapon that she knows she can use if she wants to get under my skin.

Here's the point. If a 2-yr old can recognize and utilize (and for those of you who think I'm making this up or exagerating, ask my wife!) something that I have shown annoys me, how much more capable of wrecking my emotions is someone that is emotionally, mentally, and socially equal to me and has a real reason to want to manipulate me other than simply not wanting to go to sleep!

Whether you believe the Bible is God's words for living or not, you cannot argue with the wisdom of this proverb. People who give full vent to their anger and carry their emotions and annoyances on their sleeves for all to see leave themselves in a position to constantly look like a fool because all the world knows exactly how to get to them. And the world, as you well know, is probably not as loving as my sweet little Sophie! I am working now to completely ignore it when she calls me "Dosh." But the damage is already done. It is going to take a while for her to unlearn that little trick of defiance. And what I'm more ashamed of is that she has already learned that her daddy is a fool that didn't control his annoyances. I am confident, though, that God will continue to work on me to make me more prudent, to enable me to not show my frustrations quite so quickly, and to give me the peace to hear an intended insult and overlook it. And I am confident that she will grow knowing the difference between her imperfect dad that loves her tremendously even while loving her imperfectly, and her perfect Abba who both knows how to, and actually does love her the way a dad should.
May we all seek this week to be the "prudent" people that we are called to be because we are no longer slaves to our emotions and pride; we have been called to be slaves to righteousness. And the righteousness that comes from God is quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19). In a word, God's wisdom is love. Maybe our growth this week simply needs to be a focus on slowing down enough when we feel our cheeks redden to remember God's love and then respond in light of that love knowing that whatever someone else (child, co-worker, friend, enemy) may have meant, it does not change who I am in Christ.

Questions for discussion:

  • What "tricks" or methods have you found to help you control your emotions?
  • When is the right time to display your anger visibly as opposed to the wrong time?
  • If anger is from God, then it is a good thing. What is the Godly purpose of anger and how can we as Christians use it in a Godly way as opposed to the destructive self-serving way that we usually do?
Post your comments or answer(s) to one or more of these questions by clicking the comment button below to encourage others in their walk and further the discussion.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pig Jewelry and Silly Women- Proverbs 11:22

Occasionally I come to a verse in my pre-determined list of VOW suggestions from people that my first inclination is to skip over it. Today was one of those days for a couple of reasons: 1. I feel like this one narrows my reading audience by about half as far as application goes. 2. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna rile a few feathers as a guy talking about a comparison of beautiful women to pigs with bling.

On the other hand, I've thought several times that maybe girls would hear modesty talks (FYI- that's not all this verse is talking about, but I'm sure it's included) with more open ears if they heard it from the perspective of a guy who is typically both the reason for and thevictim of immodesty at the same time. So...here we go. And guys, keep reading anyway, because when it comes down to it, this applies to you to.

First of all, why in the world put a ring in a pig's nose? Because I am pretty ignorant in the ways of pig farming, I had to look that one up. You may already know, but I'll share what I've learned from the scholarly source of Wikipedia:) anyway.

Pigs dig or "root" with their snouts, and such digging may be undesirable in some circumstances. Nose rings make digging uncomfortable for the animal, although a rung pig is still able to forage freely through leaf litter and surface vegetation. Pig ringing may sometimes be required by local regulations, as when pigs are turned out for pannage in public woods

So there we have it. It's not that there is absolutely no reason to put a ring in a pig's snout; it's that
What a colossal waste of something so precious! Wikipedia goes on to say that usually copper rings are used and I assume in Solomon's day they also used some similar metal that did not have much value other than its usefulness for mingling with pig snot!
What's the point?
Girls and women who show a lack of discretion in their words, their extravagances, their wardrobe and how it affects men, their civility toward other girls and their civility toward guys...Girls and women who show a lack of restraint in their advances toward the opposite sex, who play the "ditsy girl" card to get attention from boys even if it is negative attention, girls who do not make good choices in who they become emotionally intimate (I'm not even talking about differing levels of physical intimacy, but that is a conversation in and of itself!) with in dating relationships....
Ladies you have so much to offer to each other because of your God-given abilities to think before you act (unlike boys), to have uncanny abilities to sniff out impostors with your "woman's intuition" (unlike boys), to show compassion and gentleness (unlike boys before Christ!), and so many other things that only you can do! Please don't waste all of those beautiful things and shove them into the pig's snout of crude talk, impulsive shopping, clothing that is designed to make boys drool, and "dumbing down" your intellect for attention!
Lest I spend all of my time on the ladies, gentlemen, here is where you come into this proverb. Stop asking the ladies in your life to do this by letting Satan distract you by counterfeit "prettiness" and start showing appreciation for the real and lasting beauty of a true woman of God. We all know the type of woman we want to marry. What makes us think she is still going to be around if we give our attention today to the girls that are simply fun to be amused with by their looks or "dumbed down" flattery and flirtations that they give in exchange for companionship and security? Girls I hope you hear this loud and clear: if you do win over the man of your dreams by pretending to be someone you are not or by flaunting beauty that is supposed to be saved for your husband whether that means parading it simply through visibility or through physicality, ONE OR BOTH OF YOU ARE GOING TO BE MISERABLE IN YOUR MARRIAGE! You will have to keep pretending to be someon you are not. Or he will have to find out that he did not marry a wild child like he thought he was and will therefore be tempted to look elsewhere. Guys, hear this loud and clear: if you keep looking for and at girls today based solely on the physical pleasure that they can bring your, YOU WILL BE MISERABLE YOUR WHOLE LIFE! because you will train your taste buds to only be satisfied by food that brings absolutely no nourishment to your soul.
Parents, what are you actively doing to instill in your daughter a true sense of self-worth and understanding of who they are in God's eyes? That knowledge will allow them to realize the absurdity of sticking their gold in a pig's snout. Wouldn't you rather have fewer fights about what they can and can't wear and more conversations about how beautiful they are and ways to let their true beauty shine for all the world to see?
What are you actively doing to help your son see the real beauty of a lady as opposed to the cheap imitation of beauty that Satan parades in front of us so often? If they are exposed to the counterfeit too often, it will be harder and harder for them to distinguish and appreciate the real thing when they finally do see it. Wouldn't it be easier to fight the battle of limiting Internet access and denying smart phones to your son today than to see their marriages fall apart years down the road due to a pornography addiction that began in middle school or before?

We need to stop overlooking gold in pig noses simply because we've gotten used to seeing that strange phenomenon. I don't care how many pig's have gold in their noses. It's dumb. And a woman who lacks discretion is just as silly as shoving 14kt gold into the nose of an animal that is smelly, dirty, and really only good for two things: garbage disposal and bacon.

Click the comment button below to start the conversation:
  • What are some ways you've been helped in the past to realize the truth and value in this proverb?
  • What are some practical ways we can help our children learn the value of this proverb?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To Fear or To Desire...That is the Question- Proverbs 10:24

Why do people choose wickedness over righteousness? When I say "people" I hope you understand that I am including myself in that category. Why do we do it? The people of the Old Testament were warned continually that if they continued to choose wickedness God would destroy them as a people. The New Testament goes so far as to say that if the people of old were not spared, then "how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3) They had the Law and the Prophets; we have the One the Law and the Prophets pointed to...Jesus the Christ! Therefore, God's revelation to us has been even greater than it was to them! Why do we continue to choose wickedness!? If we believe this stuff is real, then it makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever for us to ever choose sin over righteousness again for the rest of lives!
And yet we do.
Add to those warnings the warning that even our secular scientists and clinicians offer about substance abuse, divorce, lying, and any number of "moral" issues and the question becomes painfully louder even for those who do not believe the Bible is the inspired word of God.

I would sound utterly prideful to say that I've figured it out. So I won't say that. But I will say that I believe God has spoken that answer through the writer of the book of Hebrews. And while I am all too often still choosing wrong over right in spite of the overwhelming reasons for choosing righteousness, I think I am on a path toward letting God slowly root out that slavery that holds me captive to choosing wrong.

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."

- Hebrews 2:14-15

Our proverb for today says that the wicked will be overtaken by the very thing that they dread. I am sure that this can apply in more specific ways than I am applying it today, but what does anyone fear more than death!? Yes I know someone might say that people fear losing relationships more than death. They might fear losing honor more than death. They might fear plenty of things more than death...directly. But that is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that if the time that we have here on this earth is all that we have and when we die, that's it!, then every one of us has to hold on for dear life to anything that brings us pleasure! Every one of us needs to actively pursue as much pleasure as physically possible before we die because we only get one shot to squeeze every ounce out of life before death finally steals all sources of joy from us! Who cares who gets in my way or what I have to do to achieve what I want to achieve. You take care of yourself, and I'll take care of myself. With that mentality,
I am a slave to my selfish passions---i.e. a slave to sin.
But the Hebrews writer joyfully tells us that Jesus lived a life like ours that was bound by the time limits of flesh and blood...AND HE BEAT DEATH! When he rose from the dead, Satan lost all power to keep people enslaved to selfishness because no longer can he keep people under the impression that this life is all there is.

Why do we we choose wickedness? Because we are ultimately afraid of death. And the catch 22 is that no matter how much we try to really "live" and avoid death, "what we dread will overtake us."

But aren't you glad that proverbs tend to have a second contrasting line in them.

"What the righteous desire will be granted."

Do you know what the righteous desire more than anything else? It's not righteousness in and of itself. It's not reward. It's not a good name. It's not even the mansion over the hilltop that we sing about with such gusto.  The righteous simply desire God. In fact scripture teaches us in many places that the righteous are actually made righteous by  God through faith. In other words, their faith in the fact that they will one day see God is what God uses to clean them from the inside out. Go through a checklist of heroes of faith from the Bible and from your life that you know are not simply outwardly righteous and have a wrotten attitude, but who are truly righteous. Ask them what they desire more than anything else. Whatever the words, I feel safe in guaranteeing that the underlying meaning will be similar to Paul's statement, "I want to know Christ."

The choice is simple. We can go through life fearing a loss of reputation to the point that we guard it pridefully and lose it anyway. We can fear losing the love of a spouse or child and work tirelessly to manipulate and control them into loving us back and push them away because of those efforts. We can fear losing friends to the point that we are willing to sacrifice morals and principles in order to maintain those friendships and by that very act lose all relationships that really matter to us. We can fear death and therefore be subjected to slavery...and die anyway.

Or we can desire to know Christ and let life be given to us freely.

To fear or to desire...that is the question.