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:)