Jul 28, 2016
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV)
מַֽעֲנֶה־רַּ֭ךְ יָשִׁ֣יב חֵמָ֑ה וּדְבַר־עֶ֝֗צֶב יַעֲלֶה־אָֽף׃
For individuals reared in a home of discord, an environment of bickering and contention has become a family tradition.
A young rabbi faced a serious problem in his congregation. During erev Shabbat service, half the congregation stood for the prayers and the other half remained seated, and each side shouted at the other, insisting theirs was the true tradition.
Nothing the rabbi said or did helped solve the impasse. Finally, in desperation, the young rabbi sought out the synagogue’s 99-year-old founder. He met the old rabbi and poured out his heart. “So,” he pleaded, “was it the tradition for the congregation to stand during the prayers?”
“No,” answered the old rabbi. “Then it was the tradition to sit during the prayers,” responded the younger man. “No,” answered the old rabbi. “Well,” the young rabbi answered, “what we have now is complete chaos! Half the people stand and shout and the other half sit and scream.”
“Ah,” said the old rabbi, “that was the tradition.”
In Proverbs 15:1 Solomon, king of the nation of Israel, demonstrates his awareness of angry conflicts that boil over into our homes. The solution offered by the wise king is not for us to ignore angry words. Rather, he tells us returning harsh words with harsher words is non-productive and can heat up our relationships like a hot air balloon.
As we look at Proverbs 15:1 we are given an “out of the box” way of reacting to potentially heated exchanges and defusing a situation to open a door for God to bring His peace. (more…)
Jul 20, 2016
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34 ESV)
צְדָקָ֥ה תְרֽוֹמֵֽם־גּ֑וֹי וְחֶ֖סֶד לְאֻמִּ֣ים חַטָּֽאת׃
In 2007, the I-35 bridge that crosses the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed suddenly during rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring 145. The investigation revealed the gusset plates, the thick sheets of steels that connect the girders together in the truss system were undersized, resulting in a structural flaw leading to its collapse. A year after the tragedy, The New York Times summarized what went wrong:
The bridge was designed in the 1960s and lasted 40 years. But like most other bridges, it gradually gained weight during that period, as workers installed concrete structures to separate eastbound and westbound lanes and made other changes, adding strain to the weak spot.
The city planners in Minneapolis ignored the design of the bridge and pushed the limitations of the span to hold a weight amount it was not designed to withstand.
Likewise, America was designed by our founders to function within certain parameters of morality and integrity. Our nation was not fashioned to tolerate an unbearable amount of immorality. The more sin we tolerate in our country, the greater the chance our vulnerabilities will collapse our precious nation.
In Proverbs 14:34 Solomon equips us with the prescription to build a strong nation using a support system where righteousness holds all pieces together. This ancient text teaches that a nation’s greatness exists not only in its victory over terrorism, a robust economy, a vibrant foreign policy or lack of racism, but in its observance of justice and morality. To ignore this principle is to dabble with the possibility our country can wind up a moral disgrace.
During this presidential election cycle, it is important we understand from Proverbs 14:34 what really makes our country tick . . . and what will make it great again. (more…)
Jul 12, 2016
The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. (Proverbs 14:20) ESV
גַּם־לְ֭רֵעֵהוּ יִשָּׂ֣נֵא רָ֑שׁ וְאֹהֲבֵ֖י עָשִׁ֣יר רַבִּֽים׃
Ever wonder how two soon-to-be newlyweds can spend a $1 billion on a wedding? One couple in Moscow took the celebration of a lavish wedding ceremony to a whole new level.
The wedding was held at Safisa, a luxury banqueting venue the couple transformed into a fairy-tale setting with walls of freshly-cut flowers and furniture from Paris.
The 600 wedding guests were served sushi and feasted on a full European meal, which ended with the presentation of a cake taller than the couple. Elie Saab designed the bride’s 28-pound custom gown, which is estimated to cost $25,000.
For entertainment at the ceremony, the couple enlisted Sting and Enrique Iglesias to warm up the stage for none other than Jennifer Lopez.
An official price tag for the wedding isn’t available, but Harper’s Bazaar estimates it falls within the $1 billion range.
Knowing opportunists who are out to hobnob with the rich and famous, I doubt whether many invited guests declined to attend this unique affair.
As a former pastor I have officiated at countless weddings. Some affairs were exquisitely done. Others were simple–a church fellowship hall with punch and wedding cake for refreshments.
What I remember most about these weddings is not the money spent, but the genuine support and friendship the guests had shown towards the couple.
The value of lasting friendships is the subject of Proverbs 14:20. What is friendship? How can we tell when relationships are real or based on dubious motives?
In this no nonsense proverb, Solomon cautions us against using friendships to get close to people capable of providing something for our benefit.
The King of Israel questions whether we avoid friends going through financial hardships because they may expect us to rush to their aid. In contrast, we may gravitate more towards the well-to-do because of how they may benefit us. (more…)
Jul 6, 2016
“The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.”
Proverbs 14:15 NIV
פֶּ֭תִי יַאֲמִ֣ין לְכָל־דָּבָ֑ר וְ֝עָר֗וּם יָבִ֥ין לַאֲשֻׁרֹֽו׃
Picture a seasoned team of seamen with years of sailing experience making a blunder that practically shipwrecked their vessel. Remarkably, the 19th century polar expedition of the USS Jeannette, commandeered by Lieutenant George De Long ended in complete failure.
Captain De Long and his crew became thoroughly disoriented on their trek—not because of a faulty compass, but because of a mistaken map. De Long’s quest rested on a picture of the North Pole laid out in the maps of Dr. August Heinrich Petermann.
Petermann’s maps proposed a “thermometric gateway” through the ice that opened onto a vast “polar sea” beyond the ice. As it turned out the ship was sailing to a world that didn’t exist.
Rather than an open polar sea, the crew observed the perilous ice surrounding the ship. Immediately, the erroneous maps were scrapped and replaced with a comprehension of the way the Arctic truly is
Most readers conclude from this account Christians need a foolproof map from God to navigate His will.
I share this dramatic story to explain this is NOT how to identify God’s will.
The Lord does not have a hidden, faultless map to lead us to a treasure chest of priceless doubloons, aka His divine plan.
If there isn’t a GPS to steer us to the Lord’s will, what does Solomon in Proverbs 14:15 instruct us to do or not do to remove the mystery attached to “finding the will of God”. (more…)
Jun 26, 2016
By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them. (ESV)
בְּֽפִי־א֭֭וִיל חֹ֣טֶר גַּאֲוָ֑ה וְשִׂפְתֵ֥י ח֝֝כָמִ֗ים תִּשְׁמוּרֵֽם׃
If all our words were put into print, the result would be: a single day’s words would fill a 50-page book, while in a year’s time the average person’s words would fill 132 books of 200 pages each! Among all those words there are bound to be some statements spoken in anger, carelessness, or haste. And someone is sure to get hurt.
Since often I write using my laptop at a variety of Starbuck locations, I am exposed to a myriad of conversations. Loud, obnoxious cell phone calls. Stodgy business conferences. Idle talk meetups. Annoying boardgame banter. I hear it all.
One morning I overheard a young woman on her cell grilling the person on the other end of the line like an CIA operative. Eventually she droned on about her need to “lose fat,” fleshed out every gory details of her recent eye surgery and fished voraciously for every scandalous minutia about some mutual friends. It was painful to witness her unmanaged tongue at work.
To deal with the need to manage our tongues, in Proverbs 14:3 Solomon focuses on the communication of the wise contrasted to the verbiage that pours out of the mouth of a fool.
Speech management is a theme threaded throughout the Book of Proverbs. Solomon continually warns his listeners one area where we demonstrate either wisdom or foolishness is the control of our tongue. (more…)