Remember

Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” (‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭12‬:‭1‬ NLT)

In the final chapter Solomon encourages us to "remember". To not forget what we have learned and the wisdom imparted. But most importantly to remember God and who He is in our lives.

What trinkets or tokens do you keep that remind you of what God has done in your life? What scriptures have you memorized, like photos in your mind, so that you can recall their importance and impact? And in what way do you rehearse and retell Gods blessings as you do your memories from childhood? There are something you should never - EVER - forget.

That is what the writings of Solomon are like; keepsakes of wisdom we don't want to ever forget.

Today marks the end of our journey through the wisdom of Solomon. Throughout these last several weeks we've explored so many areas of life and how to live wisely. As your pastor it is my hope that you return to his wisdom often and I encourage you to read through Proverbs at least once a year if not more often. It will serve, not only to remind you of where you've been, but will take you on new journeys as you reach different stages in your life's quest. 

Like grains of sand through my hands such are the memories in my mind. There are so many that slip away and only a few that I'm able to hold on to. But through the years I'm reminded of those memories through letters and photos and trinkets kept. That's why my shelves are lined with mementos of times gone past because I don't ever want to forget those sweet and meaningful moments. 

Lord, thank you for the words of wisdom that flow from your heart. May we return to them often and experience you more. And may they lead us through the paths of righteousness that lead us to You.

May we Remember this journey. May we Take it again often. 

Certain Uncertaintes

Just the other day I was scrambling out the door with both kids in toe while carrying two bags filled with the necessities for our plans: Grace had swim lessons. I remember clicking the seat belts, handing Josiah the multitude of toys he was requesting through points and grunts, sticking the keys in the ignition, all the while mentally going over everything in the bags to make sure I didn’t miss something.


I put the car in reverse and headed down the driveway (swim diapers, bathing suit, sunscreen)… Put car into drive head down the street (after clothes for her, after clothes for him, snacks)… turn the corner and get onto the highway (back up after clothes, water, towels- SHOOT!)… “I forgot the TOWELS!” I scold myself. Ugh, what am I going to do with soaked kids?


For twenty minutes my mind was trying to find a creative method of drying my damp children before putting them back into my car. I had settled on obscene amount of pull paper towels from the ladies bathroom when we arrived… To find out the lessons were canceled. Thanks mother nature. A vicious Florida Storm (you know, the kind that appears instantaneously and seriously moody) rolled in about the same time that we did.


Have you ever told an almost 4 year old that you are taking her to swim in a pool, dressed her for swimming, showed her the pool for swimming, and then said, “never mind”? It wasn’t a pretty scene leaving that day.


There are certain uncertainties in life. Weather is most certainly one of them. Solomon actually uses this in Ecclesiastes 11. “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”


Did you know God has called you to do great and amazing things? Like, today? He has given you gifts, and talents and dreams in your heart to fulfill. And He wants you to use those to make a difference around you- in your home, family, friends, job, and at PCC. If we are not careful we can find ourselves putting off doing the things God has called us to today because of “possible stormy weather”. We can’t predict the weather and we can’t ensure that the stars will align and produce perfect circumstances for us to be obedient to the things God has called us to do. Being obedient means being brave, being intentional, and making things happen… even when it’s raining overhead.


Besides, that storm meant I didn’t need those towels after all.

Lord help us to hear your voice leading us out into obedience. Help us to be brave enough to follow you and surrender this day and our lives to you fully. 

What Is Honor Really?

Hi friend. Can we talk for a second? To be honest, reading Ecclesiastes 10 was extremely hard for me because it seems so out of place. It seems out of sync. It seems kind of pieced together.

It's not. It just takes some chewing. And I was inspired by this chapter to talk about Honor. 

Honor (v) - 1. regard with great respect.

I know there are many misconceptions about this honoring word floating around.  It’s very easy to be critical of the things we don’t fully understand. People we don't understand. Decisions that are made. Things that are said. 

Misconceptions always appear to be delusional; we’re always inclined to view them through our own filter rather than coming to the table to talk them out. Instead we may go to each other and gossip and complain. This is a form of dishonor. However, I believe, when we learn to value honor, our lives can begin to align with a structure God has set in place through His word. 

It’s obvious that there are leaders and gurus -- books and blogs out there that teach a “one-way” approach to honor.  The motive behind this is seemingly selfish and self–serving.  They want to be honored by "their" people instead of serving their people first and allowing God to bring the people to honor them. 

I recently read a popular blog from a very prominent life consultant. He wanted to “expose” how the culture of honor was hurting churches and corporations.  And although I understood his point on the abuse of leaders desiring to be served instead of first serving their people, I think his argument was incomplete.  He said, “Honor is supposed to go both ways.” Although this seems to make sense, it’s not fully accurate.  Honor is not a two-way street, it’s a five-way avenue. Yep I said that. You can tweet it (just be sure to tag me, I need the likes hahahaha).

The culture of honor doesn’t only apply to pastors or leaders serving people and people honoring pastors; it’s way more complex than that.  I’ve narrowed honor to flow in five ways:

Honor God (This is prerequisite)
Honor His Word
Honor His Church
Honor His Leaders
Honor Each Other

If any one of the five is missing, then there’s great disorder and misunderstanding. These five avenues of honor aren’t interdependent of each other, in fact, they actually work mutually and are contingent on one another. It’s the misunderstanding of what honor is that will cause people to think pessimistically about building a culture of honor in churches, in business, in families, in our communities. And it’s this very deception that causes us to build a culture of DISHONOR. It’s all five working collectively and simultaneously or none at all.

This little nugget that Solomon places at the end of the chapter 10 is a subtle but grave warning: 

20 Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts. And don’t make fun of the powerful, even in your own bedroom. For a little bird might deliver your message and tell them what you said.
— Ecclesiastes 10:20

We've spoken in previous blogs about the power of the tongue and in this verse not only are we reminded of it but there is a powerful command hidden deep in the above verse; honor your leaders, honor each other. Have integrity. For sin has a way of permeating everything around it. Dishonor brings disunity. And disunity is the fracture in community. I love how the Message puts it:

20 Don’t bad-mouth your leaders, not even under your breath, And don’t abuse your betters, even in the privacy of your home. Loose talk has a way of getting picked up and spread around. Little birds drop the crumbs of your gossip far and wide.
— Ecclesiastes 10:20 (The MSG)

Jesus, may you quicken our hearts toward honor. May we recognize that fighting to honor is fighting for unity. And fighting for unity is a demonstration of your grace and your love. In jesus name. Amen!

You Only Live Once [YOLO]

We have all been to a funeral at some point in our lives. Most often, it's a funeral of someone you were close to. And amongst the many thoughts you have during the eulogy you can't help but think back to what that person did with their life while they were still alive. They either lived a full life or they seemed to sit back and let life pass them by.

The crazy thing is whether they lived a full life and seized the day to its fullest or just did... nothing...they still died... We all die. We all have the same fate there's no escaping the inevitable. But even though we have the same fate, God says "Everyday is a gift. It's all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one!" Ecclesiastes 9:9 MSG

The application of this biblical passage seems easy but in reality it's not easy. What's easy is doing nothing, not trying and letting life slip by. When God hands you a choice to live a life sold out for Him how will you choose? When you have a situation where you could be a light to someone even though it's going to take work and it's going to be hard, DO IT! Don't let the opportunity pass you by to live a life that's full of promise.

Jesus, I pray that as I live my life that I would seize the opportunities You place in front of me whether they seem hard or easy. I pray that I'll live my life to the fullest and all for Your glory. Amen.

MYOB

M.Y.O.B - a phrase I heard often in elementary school. Do you remember that phrase? Mind Your Own Business. It was actually one of the top rules on the rule poster in my 3rd grade class. I always wondered why it was so important for such a semi harsh statement to be emphasized as much as it was seemingly. I think back to this lesson because its what I am reminded of reading this chapter.


So many times we are so worried about what everybody else is doing. Whether we are comparing our lives to theirs, sizing up injustices, or just being plain and simply put – nosy. It's true like the verse says- It seems as though the worst things happen to the best people, and the worst people get the best out of life. (v.14) But as the writer says – worrying about these things is meaningless. Sometimes we just don't understand why things work out the way they do. Or why good people have to struggle so hard and the wicked walk around scott-free. The thing is we will never understand. We will never discover every little thing God is up to here on Earth, and we're not meant to. We are better when our focus is on the Lord and His purposes for our own lives.


So we MYOB. This does not mean that we exclude people from the gospel. Instead we do what is commanded of us. We love our God with all our mind, body, and spirit, and we love our neighbor as ourselves. Even the wicked one next door who is up to no good. We submit to those who have been given authority over our lives. And we dig deep to find joy in the lives we've been given praising God every second, no matter the circumstance. There is a time and a way for everything (v6) And He who is just will have His way.


God we love you. We admit to being more obsessed at times with the matters and affairs of our neighbors than our own. We ask that you help us to learn how to love those whom are hard to love. And that you help us to trust that you are in control over all things, even when we do not understand. In your name. Amen

Depending on God

24 Wisdom is always distant and difficult to find.
— Ecclesiastes 7:24

It's been said that, "A wise man learns from the mistakes of others. Nobody lives long enough to make them all himself." Despite the depth of Solomon's wisdom, his readers today can even learn from his mistakes. Verses 23-24 paint a picture of a man who doesn't give the impression he's satisfied with his life. In fact, it appears that his search for wisdom ended in failure. I can only imagine that Solomon is crushed by the reality of his human limits. His life long search as the Wise King of Israel concludes with the constraints of being made from flesh and blood more apparent that ever.

I've noticed that there are people who teach me how to live, and there are those who teach me how to not live. Solomon falls into the latter category here. Rather than recognize his broken humanity in a way that furthers his dependence on God, he seems to resign himself to an unfulfilled existence. 

This is not how God wants us to live. Are we broken creatures? Yes, sin devastates our souls. But our brokenness should push us to depend and rely on God like never before. Rather than resignation, the Holy Spirit brings revival to our very being. We are not perfect, but will we depend on the One who is?

God, humble me to accept Your help and make me dependent on You alone. Take my brokenness and bring a refreshing to my spirit. Amen

What's In Your Wallet?

12 In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow. Who can tell what will happen on this earth after we are gone?
— Ecclesiastes 6:12

What's in your wallet? It is almost impossible to turn on the television without hearing Samuel L. Jackson pose this question. Of course, Mr. Jackson is pitching a credit card so we can buy more "things". Then he promises that we can use our points to get even more "things". The book of Ecclesiastes asks essentially the same question. The difference is that the questions posed to us in Ecclesiastes are heart and soul searching questions intended to lead us to the ultimate realization that our existence is utter futility without God. Who knows how our days can be best spent?


Eugene Patterson (author of The Message Bible) describes Ecclesiastes as a "John the Baptist kind of book." It is repentance and purging. It is the raw, unfiltered tour of the life of Solomon- the wisest man on earth who still allowed fame and fortune (and hundreds of concubines) to separate him from God. In his separation, he began to realize that everything, everything was meaningless without God. Nine times he describes life as spitting into the wind! Solomon realized that all of our earthy goals, when sought as an end to themselves and not as a kingdom path, lead only to disillusionment. Eugene Patterson says it this way : " It is an expose and rejection of every arrogant and ignorant expectation that we can live our lives by ourselves on our terms." We can't!! To do so leads to emptiness. It's like spitting in the wind!


Fortunately, if we read to the end of Ecclesiastes, we find that Solomon circles back to truth. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. "


So, what's in your wallet? It really doesn't matter. In fact, it is meaningless! Who is in your heart? That is the question that holds the key to a satisfying life. "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" --Jesus

Father- Help me to live for you and for you only. I pray that my daily pursuits are the pursuit of you and a life that fears and honors your ways. Thank you for salvation and a life that is eternal.  

The Disney World Effect

I remember going to Disney World as a kid. The sights. The sounds. The characters and rides. WOW! It was one of the greatest thrills as a child. Where else as a child can you go to experience something so over the top?

Years later I took my own children. It was fun seeing their wonder and experiencing the same thing I had as a child. But personally, the luster of Disney World was tarnished. It was hot and there were lines. The cost to get in and then eat there was a small fortune. There was the crush of people every where you went. And did I say it was hot? Like a sauna.

After a while even the kids got tired and crabby. As much as we longed to escape from reality to a magical world, the realities of life just kept crashing through the facades of the park. Today, the thought of going there is one of dread.

What happened? I call it the Disney World Effect. It happens when the luster and shine of life begins to wear thin when the realities come knocking at your door

This is exactly what Solomon experienced all throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. Rich beyond his wildest dreams, he had more of everything than any human soul alive. Even the dishes he ate from were made of gold. Yet Solomon reveals that in life, "not all the glitters is gold". And that our pursuit of pleasure and possessions will always lead us to a life of dissatisfaction.  

In summing up the futility of life, Solomon says this: [A man] might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment. And since he must die like everyone else—well, what’s the use? (‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭6‬:‭6‬ NLT)

He's right, what's the use? Our search for more will always end with the Disney World Effect. Empty and dissatisfied.

What Solomon failed to realize, and so do we, is that we were never meant to find true and lasting satisfaction on this side of eternity. This world is not our home. And so God gives us the gift of DIS-satisfaction so that our longing will always be for our home in eternity. He doesn't want us to get comfortable within this world that is temporary and fleeting. We were made for something more.

Are there parts of life you've grown disappointed with? Things or experiences that have lost their luster? Good! Let that growing sense of turmoil drive you into a deeper walk with God. For only He can satisfy the longings of your soul.

Lord, help me to not become enthralled with the glitter of this world but to long for the true riches come in knowing you more. 

Better Than When I Found It

When Simone and I travel somewhere and stay at a relative's house or a friend's house, my wife does something incredible each time. She makes the bed. I know that this doesn't sound remarkable but to me it is. Somehow, she remembers how the bed was made when we arrived and she mimics it and sometimes, I think, makes it better than how we found it. It can get crazy y'all, I've even seen her do it a few times in a hotel room. "Boo, don't you know there are people who come in a do that for you?" I'd ask. She'd do it anyway. It's the Seymour way, in fact. We try to leave things better than we found it.

One of my goals in life is to consistently help people move forward in their lives -- one coffee cup at a time, one meeting at a time, one hangout at a time. I love the idea of investing in someone. Affirming them. Encouraging them in areas where they need it. Bolstering their dreams with a quick, "you can do it". Going to coffee with people or scheduling out time to just spend with someone allows me to step into their world and ask God to use me to make it just a bit better. Maybe it's just a smile, or getting them out of the house, or just saying "you've got a friend in me -- for life". Whatever it is, I want to leave them better than I found them. 

This is what I want to leave the world with. In fact, I want to leave the world better than I found it by my contributions to the human spirit. I love what Solomon says in today's reading:

13 There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. 14 Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. 15We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.
16 And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind.
— Ecclesiastes 5:13-16

In all his gloom and doom, isn't he right. We work so hard storing up riches, buying this and that. Showing off. Hoarding it all for ourselves. But how does that impact our world and those around us? I, personally, want what I do to be impactful, never storing up just to take to the grave with me when I die, but utilizing everything that I have to bring light to the darkness, create spaces where everyone and everything is better than when I found it. 

 

Grandpa Knew What He Was Talking About

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
— Ecclesiastes 4:12

There was very little I loved more as a child than time spent with my grandfather. As I write this his memory is so vivid, so life like. It has been 12 years since he passed, but I see him. I see the Dallas Cowboys cap atop his salt and pepper head. I see the deep lines around his eyes. I can hear the low timber of his voice, and feel his calloused palm in mine. I swear I almost smell a faint lingering of Old Spice in the air.

He would share stories with me. Memories, actually, from his life. From his experience. And when you live that long you see a lot of life. His stories were sacred to me. They brought me to a place in time that I could never see because they took place long before I was born. Stories from the great depression and WWII. Stories of him falling in love with my grandmother, and how his own mother reacted (some things don’t change no matter what year it it).

When I read Ecclesiastes, it feels a lot like sitting with my grandfather. The sage wisdom of this book is brought to us by a king in the twilight of his life.

Depressing…. Meaningless… Nothingness… Like chasing the wind.

Those are the words used over and over in Ecclesiastes 4. He writes that it is those yet to be born that are the most fortunate, not having had to see the misery and tears this life can bring… depressing.

He mentions the meaninglessness of those who rise to political power in a generation only to be replaced by a younger person later, who will eventually be replaced as well… meaningless.

He states that he has seen that most people are motivated to success by envy of their neighbors… chasing the wind.

But, found amidst the nothingness is something of incredible value: companionship, connection, community,

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

When we make the choice to surrender our lives to Christ, we become a child of God. But we are not only made his children. We are also made a brother or sister to an incredibly large family. We can feel that specifically at PCC. We have companionship, connection, community on Sunday mornings and in our small groups and in our areas where we serve. We are all together in this, the children of one heavenly Father. I don’t have to do life alone. I have you and you have me.

Today, I’m incredibly grateful for that. 

Thank you lord for our church family. Help us to grow together, to love one another, to serve each other in a way that would honor you. Help us to always give more than we take and love beyond ourselves. 

Summa Summa Summa Time

I read a text the other day that said, "One month down, two more to go", referring to Summer. Yep, the actual Summer season has only been around for a month. Here, in Florida, we know Summer as basically a year-round season but for most of the country, these fun filled three months of sunshine, warmth, is a time of BBQ's, lakes, beaches, pools, and lazy crazy days.

When I lived in Georgia, I couldn't wait for summer. I hate cold weather (with a ferocious passion). So when I knew the temps were on the rise, a great feeling of joy increased in me. It increased because I knew what the season had to offer. 

Now, this year, being in Florida, this season has been different. This has been a season of growth for me. I've given up fun in the sun, basking on a beach, for nose deep in books to develop my leadership; listening to podcasts to develop other areas of my life. Because the days have been longer and yet the events around the church have slowed down, I've been able to take time developing vision for my area of ministry. I've been taking time to figure out what do I want for my family as we head into the second half of the year. I'm in a planning and preparation season. Summer has become a season of planning for me.

Recognizing and acknowledging the season of life that you are in gives you great self-awareness and can indicate where God is moving you. He may be giving you a season of rest. Or maybe it is a season of hard work. Potentially it is a season of knitting your family closer together. This may be a season of saving money or finally working on a house project. Either way, there is a season for everything. Solomon puts it like this: 

1 For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Whatever your season, I pray that it is one where you are holding tightly to the Lord and no matter what, it will be a season of growing ever more closely in Him. Amen. 

Much To-Do About Nothing.

Solomon was the richest man in the land.  This, according to Ecclesiastes 2, is a list of his possessions:  Houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, slaves, herds, flocks, silver, gold, singers, and concubines.

He really had it all.  He said, “…whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.  I kept my heart from no pleasure.”

I had the unusual experience in my career to work for a man who was very “Solomonesque”.  He was a member of the Young Presidents Organization.  (A group of CEO’s with above a certain number of employees and above a certain minimum gross annual sales.  To be a member, you had to achieve all of this before the age of 45.)

He was an impressive fellow, tall and handsome, with all of the trappings of the elite.  Once, when I was a guest in his home, he told me about some of the trim in the house.  The bar was from an actual bar in Ireland.  It was disassembled, shipped to the US, and re-assembled in his home.  Not exactly Ikea.  The woodwork was from a castle somewhere in Europe.  The marble floors…imported from Italy.  Even the grass was a special type not usually found in that part of the country.

He traveled in a corporate jet with his initials on the tail.  On route in the jet, the fare was filet minion, lobster and Dom Perignon. He made his own schedule, never hampered by waiting for a commercial air liner. He drove up to the airplane in his Mercedes, an employee appeared to load the luggage into the plane, and away he went.  

He drove German and Italian cars not even available in the US at that time. 

He dined at the best restaurants and was greeted by name. 

I must confess, I was a bit envious but felt I was on track to achieve the same…And then it happened.  His wife caught him in an affair and divorced him.  And it occurred to me that he couldn’t be happy with all the possessions and all of the privilege and all of the power.  He was ever on the search for more.

But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
— Ecclesiastes 2:11

I never became a CEO, never owned a private jet, never lived in a 10,000 square foot house.  But God has blessed me with contentment beyond that ever achieved by the rich young CEO. 

Lord, help me to appreciate that things that really matter.  That you that you searched and found me and that I accepted your call.  Thank you for the assurance of an eternity with you.  Help me to be a beacon my lost family members and friends that they might find what I have found…peace.

Solomon's Folly

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”
— Ecclesiastes 1:2

I've accepted for a long time that I am naturally a pessimist. In fact, my disposition is to automatically view people, events, and circumstances in a negative light. It's a terrible habit that I'm working on adjusting in my life. Yet, despite my pessimism, I've found a great hope in the presence of Christ.

Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of an elderly Solomon. My guess is that he, like me, was a natural critic. Verse 2 is especially telling, "Everything is meaningless." Whoa, talk about a Debbie Downer. Either Solomon had not had his coffee when he wrote this, or he is a pessimist haunted by the mistakes of his past. Solomon certainly wasn't perfect (the book of 1 Kings documents his reign), and like us all, held regrets from prior decisions. And those regrets obviously held captive a deep place in his soul, because Solomon's disposition in Ecclesiastes 1 is one of hopelessness. 

But it didn't have to be that way. We've all struggled in this life. We've all made terrible decisions. Yet, we can differ from Solomon in how we perceive the world around us. Will our past mistakes create a jaded Scrooge, or will the hope we find in Christ encourage and comfort our souls? Will we become bitter about the world around us, or live a "rich and satisfying life" (John 10:10) that comes through faith in Jesus. How will you live with your mistakes?

For pessimists like me, consider asking Christ to transform our minds by "changing the way you think" (Romans 12:2). Lord, change my attitude, my outlook, and be my hope today!

Being Proverbs 31

A Wife of Noble Character who can find? I love how this chapter opens! “She is worth more than rubies!” What a declaration! Immediately we see how valuable a woman of God truly is, not only to God, but to her family and in her home!

In Genesis, when God was nearing the completion of creation, we read that something just wasn’t quite right after he breathed life into man. We see that man needed a companion, a partner, a helpmate. And thus we (woman) were formed from the rib of man- to walk along side and to complete. This was Gods marvelous design- the crown of creation, the icing on the cake- WOMAN.  And He saw that it was good.

If you struggle with this Proverbs chapter, and you start pulling out your measuring tape as you read the verses of this chapter (like I once used to do) dear brother or sister, let me stop you. Let me remind you that God first created YOU uniquely and He saw that it was good. He says that you are good.  That truth will never change.

The most amazing thing about this chapter, that I think is often misunderstood, is that it describes the God inspired characteristics of a woman of God. We can look at this chapter not as a laundry list of descriptions that we must constantly measure up to, but instead as a guide for the extraordinary character that we can attribute ourselves, both as a single woman and as a married woman.

When we align our hearts with the heart of God, and spend our lives walking in His ways and studying His faithful instruction for our lives, we step into this obedience that produces these characteristics naturally, and the blessings described in this chapter have no choice but to follow.

v.17 She sets about her work vigorously and her arms are strong for her tasks.

Whatever God has gifted us to do, our work, our tasks which we take pride in we set about it, and God gives us the strength to see it through.

v.23 Her husband is respected at the city gate…

We bring our husbands and our families honor, and they are respected.

v.25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come
v.26  She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue

Because we our faith is steadfast we can take heart in the power of God and do not buckle under pressure or succumb to sin. His word is constantly on our hearts and on our lips and wisdom flows from our mouths.

v.30 Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised

Though the world around us may tell us that charm and beauty and sex gain us all the things we are missing we know that these things do not last, they are temporary and in time will lead to pain and spiritual death. But a woman who instead reveres the Lord is alone a silent testimony.

 

God, thank You for Your word. Thank You that in You and You alone we find our strength, our purpose, and our identity. God I pray that your word would pierce our hearts and supersede the ways of the world. In your name we pray! Amen!

 

Living For A Greater Cause

When I live for a lesser cause – I become a lesser person.


Those were the essence of the words spoken by King Lemuel’s mother to him as a young man. While theologians surmise that King Lemuel was a pseudonym for one of the kings of Israel, we do know his words ring true down through history. Searching to satisfy our own desires does not fulfill but leaves us empty. Our true humanity is found only in the pursuit of “satisfying” – helping others.

Contrast that concept to your life. How much of your life is spent in acquiring things compared to acquiring the gratitude of others? What percentage of your resources are consumed on satisfying your own “hungers” versus satisfying the hungry stomachs or needs of others? These are tough questions that often leave us dodging for excuses and deflecting towards those more selfish than ourselves.

For the next couple minutes just think about those question. Not so that you’ll feel the guilt you’re hoping to avoid but so that you can evaluate your life and the blessings God has granted you. Go ahead! The blog will wait.

[Jeopardy music]

When I face these questions honestly, I’m often struck at how little personal satisfaction I receive in the pursuit of my own needs. I’m also reminded how much I receive in return you when I’ve helped someone who desperately needed my assistance.

King Lemuel’s mother concluded her wise words like this:
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. 9 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. Proverbs 31:8-9 (NLT)

There is an undeclared precept in the New Testament called The Law of the Harvest: We reap what we sow. Cast my resources towards myself and they are consumed. But cast my resources towards others and they increase. It is an undeniable reality in the Kingdom of God. And it is the only way we will find true and lasting fulfillment in life.


 

Clarity To Your Day

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down?
Who holds the wind in his fists?
Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak?
Who has created the whole wide world?
What is his name—and his son’s name?
Tell me if you know!
5 Every word of God proves true.
He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.
— Proverbs 30:4-5

All too often I can relate to the saying of Agur.  At times i feel weary, worn out, incompetent, lacking common sense and in no way wise.  It’s at these times that I’m focused on myself and my own abilities or lack thereof. The more I rely on my own talents or strength the more I wear myself out.  And the more tired I am, the more mistakes I make only adding to my frustrations.  It’s at this point that I have to remind myself that “every word of God proves true”.  

When life is overwhelming and spinning out of control just remember that God is all powerful and ultimately in control.  He is Jehovah Jireh - The Lord who sees and provides.   He is El Shaddai - God all powerful and all sufficient.  He is Jehovah Shalom -The Lord our Peace.  Begin your day in His presence so you can refocus your thoughts on who He is.   God reminded Job that he was not present when God "laid the foundations of the earth” or“commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east”  With your thoughts on His awesomeness you will find that you actually have more energy and can make wiser decisions.  He will bring clarity and focus to your day.   

Lord help me trust the truth of your Word so that I may have the strength to be all you created me to be.

Bill

I once heard this story from one of my best friends:

Bill was an interesting character.  While serving on staff at a different church, the first time he walked in, people noticed him right away.  It was obvious by his clothes. . . and his odor that he had not showered in a number of days.  He sat down about six rows back in our worship center.  My first thought was, “I wonder what he is doing here.”  My second thought was, “I wonder how our church will respond to him.”

I went over to Bill and welcomed him to our fellowship.  What I saw over the next weeks made me proud.  People from our church went over and welcomed Bill and began to help him.  Bill was a little slow, and lived in a low-income housing project.  He didn’t have much, and didn’t really know how to care for what he did have.  Bill didn’t have family in the area who could help him, so our church became his family.  People from the church went to see him two or three times a week.  They provided clothing, and helped him work on his hygiene.  Individuals in the church picked Bill up every time the doors were open so he could attend church, or fellowships, or whatever was going on.  Whenever we had a fellowship, church members would make sure Bill was at the front of the line so he could eat first.  And eat he would!  I’ve never seen a plate so full or stacked so high with food.

I was amazing to hear this story of a man who lived in poverty.  But it shouldn’t have amazed me, because this should be the norm for those who love Jesus Christ.  Our love for God should spill over to the downcast and hurting people in our society.

The godly care about the rights of the poor;
the wicked don’t care at all.
— Proverbs 29:7

Christians throughout the ages have made an incredible impact on the world when they have cared for the poor and needy in society.  Christians have built orphanages, created food pantries, opened clothing giveaways, operated homeless shelters, provided job training, and so much more.

But caring for the poor is a job for every follower of Jesus.  We all should be concerned for the poor and needy.  Our society is filled with people like Bill whose lives could be changed if someone would only care for them and love them.

Is there are Bill in your life?  Maybe there is someone in your neighborhood, near your job, in your family, at your school who is hurting or going through a rough season. Is there a way you might be able to reach out to that person and show you care?  Maybe you could have an impact on someone as my friend's church had on Bill.

Pulling One Over On God

People who conceal their sins will not prosper,
but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.
— Proverbs 28:13

As a freshman in high school, I remember reading the famous short story by Edgar Allan Poe called the Tell Tale Heart.  In the story, a man commits a murder, and to cover up his evil, he cuts the body into pieces and hides them in his basement.  He thinks he has gotten away with his evil, but a problem arises.  The man begins to hear the beating of the heart of the person he has killed in his head.  Of course, no one else can hear it, but the man does not know that.  The beating is so real to him that when the police show up at his door, he just knows they are there because they hear the heart and know what he has done.  The police are there in a matter totally unrelated to the murder and do not even know a murder has taken place.  In the end, the man confesses his crime to the police and is taken away.  In trying to conceal his crime, the man’s soul would not let him prosper.

So many times, we as believers try to pull one over on God.  We allow junk to creep into our lives, and then we try to give God the silent treatment.  We don’t want to be honest with Him or with others about the sin we have in our lives.  So we try to hide it.  We sneak around, and try to cover our tracks. We can get very creative in creating stories that will cover our tracks, and keep us out of trouble.

The writer of Proverbs is giving an eternal truth in this passage.  “He who covers his sins will not prosper.”  We may get away with the sin for a while.  We may snow our family, our Christian friends, our spiritual leaders, our bosses.  But a person who conceals and hides his sin will never prosper.  Why?  Because a person who hides his or her sin is investing a lie into his or her soul, and that lie will cause a person to grow farther and farther from God, which will lead to emptiness.  We never pull a fast one on God.  Unconfessed sin will always bring judgement and discipline from God.

On the other hand, a person, who as a matter of lifestyle will confess and forsake their sin will find the mercy of God.  A person who is honest with God when they fail, will find the forgiveness of God.  

We all blow it.
We all make mistakes.
We all have areas of sin in our lives. 

God’s desire is for us to be honest with Him about our sin, and to turn from that sin.  In doing so, God will make us clean and give us power to live differently.

 

I Am My Brothers Keeper

Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.
— Proverbs 27:6

Many verses in this chapter deal with relationships with others. Once again, I refer to our Small Group. Considering ourselves to be a band of brothers who have each others best interest at heart, we pledge ourselves to tell each other the truth, even if it seem to make us uncomfortable.

Would I prefer a friend's wounds to an enemy's kiss? I believe a friend who has my best interest at heart may have to give me unpleasant advice at times, which I know is for my own good. Now on the other hand, an enemy may tell me what he may think I want to hear, which would help me on my way to ruin.

In our Small Group we champion accountability.

Verse 17 says,  "As Iron sharpens Iron, so a friend sharpens a friend."

Mental sharpness comes can from being around good people. People who can help each other improve by open honest discussions, constructive criticism that's sincere and positive and walking a spiritual journey together that leads to a deeper personal relationship with God. Our friends affect us, sometimes profoundly. We should be encouraged to spend time with people we want to be like.

Father, please continue to fill each one of us with Your Spirit and use us in any way You desire, to bring glory to Your Name. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame

Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth— a stranger, not your own lips.
— Proverbs 27:2

Daddy, watch me do this!"  As a father of four, I heard those words many times when my children were young and vying for my attention.  It was always followed by one of them showing off some new skill or technique they'd perfected, hoping that I'd notice.  As a father, I reminded myself often that though their attempts were clumsy, their fragile egos needed my attention and validation in order to grow.  

We never outgrow the need to be noticed.  

Everywhere you look people are wanting their "15 minutes of fame" in the spotlight.  In fact, I think it's what drives the antics of people like Miley Cyrus and Kanye West; an insatiable desire to be noticed and admired.  And unfortunately what's behind many of the violent acts we see in our world today.  People want their 15 minutes at any cost.

Where do you go or what do you do to get noticed?  

People today want to be seen.  Whether it's in fashion or social media, our culture is attention starved desiring recognition.  Why? Because it's built within us. Hardwired by God into our emotional makeup.  He too wants to be noticed and appreciated.  That's why He longs to be worshipped by you and me.  

The difference between God and what's happening in our culture though is in the places we go to get noticed and the motivation behind it.  God wants to be noticed for relationship.  After all, who doesn't want to be noticed by the ones they love? And since God loves us deeply, He longs to be appreciated and admired by His children.  So He seeks out our attention so that we might know Him, not to find His own self worth. 

However, we want to be noticed, not for relationship but for value. We want to have a sense that we matter in this world. That's why people will use cultural mediums for getting noticed like social media or the 24 hour news cycle.  We are desperate to find our sense of self worth in this world. 

So how do you get to a point where you don't feel it's necessary to "toot your own horn"?  Solomon says it's better to be praised by another than yourself, and that's true. But I've learned that people's admiration is fleeting and short: 15 minutes.  The less I put my value in the hands of others, the better I am. 

The most important admiration in the world comes from our father; our Heavenly Father. His attention isn't fleeting. His praise and love isn't situational.  And He demonstrated the depths of His love for you on the cross.  That's why Wisdom has shown that the more time I spend seeking to be noticed by God, I grow less and less hungry for the praises of man.  

I don't think I'll ever not want to be noticed and appreciated, at least by the people that are most important to me.  But I'm working towards getting my Father God to notice me more and more. Yeah, my clumsy attempts fall far short many times of where I think I should be. But I know my daddy is watching and I want to want to live daily for only His praise. 

Our prayer: God, see me.  Notice me today and help me to long for only you.