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Planning for the Future With or Without God

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD (Proverbs 16:1 ESV)

לְאָדָ֥ם מַֽעַרְכֵי־לֵ֑ב וּ֝מֵיְהוָ֗ה מַעֲנֵ֥ה לָשֽׁוֹן

One of today’s most popular sports cheers was first chanted in 1999 during the fourth quarter of an Army-Navy football game. The six-word cheer—I believe that we will win!—has been called the “epitome of classic American optimism.” Yet in real life, this overly confident attitude tends to backfire.

For instance, a 2002 study found overly optimistic grad students have a tougher time finding jobs. Students in their last year of grad school were asked to rate how likely they thought they were to land a good job shortly after leaving school.

Two years laterCopyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_ismagilov'>ismagilov / 123RF Stock Photo</a>, those who had admitted to frequent positive fantasies about life after grad school were less likely to succeed in their job search. The daydreamers sent out fewer résumés, and earned less than students who had a more realistic take on their post-university lives.

Positive thinking has its place, but we can mistake daydreaming about achieving our objectives for actually attaining those goals. To make things worse Christians will pull God into our daydreams and assume He’s dreaming the same dreams right along with us.

In Proverbs 16:1 Solomon helps us examine the way we reach decisions for the future. However, the usual interpretation of this proverb is “the Lord will show us what to do and what direction to take without much human effort.”  Why think or plan if God has already done the designing for us?

Christians who fail to grasp the teachings of Solomon in this proverb can spend their lives walking in circles. This is not because they “missed God’s will”, but as the result of failing to follow the directions found in Proverbs 16:1 on how to properly plan for the future. (more…)

Ordering Off God’s Menu of Life’s Choices

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.

Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred Proverbs 15:16-17 (NIV).

טוֹב־מְ֭עַט בְּיִרְאַ֣ת יְהוָ֑ה מֵאוֹצָ֥ר רָ֝֗ב וּמְה֥וּמָה בֽוֹ׃

ט֤וֹב אֲרֻחַ֣ת יָ֭רָק וְאַהֲבָה־שָׁ֑ם מִשּׁ֥וֹר אָ֝ב֗וּס וְשִׂנְאָה־בֽוֹ׃

Having lunch at Subway is an unusual experience.  I am in awe of how much time it takes to order a sandwich. My sandwiches are the same:  meat, lettuce, tomatoes and mustard . . . .  wrap it up.

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_radub85'>radub85 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Hungry people study the choices before them behind the glass case like they are on an archeological dig. We’ll take all the time we need to pick out exactly what we we want to make our gourmet Subway sandwich despite the growing line of impatient people behind us.

We enjoy having choices to make. I think God understands that part of human nature, which is why He lays out many selections regarding the way we can choose to l
ive. However, despite the variety of choices the Lord offers, this does not indicate all options are equal.

In Proverbs 15:16-17 Solomon spreads out two lifestyle  choices – wealth and simplicity – but one is better than the other.  In other words, not all choices have the same results.

Between the options of prosperity and a scaled down life, you would think a person needs to have his head examined to not choose plenty. Yet, we know life is not that simplistic.

Therefore, God sets up these two verses like several combination platters on a Chinese menu.  If you order one item, that option is accompanied by another food choice. Result?  What you assumed what was a blessing on the menu could be attended by a burden you never expected.

You are given an opportunity to pick which meal you want from each proverb.  But before you select, you need to ask the server, Solomon, what ingredients are used to make up these combination platters. (more…)

The Hunt for the White Whale of Anger

“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15:18 NIV)

אִ֣ישׁ חֵ֭מָה יְגָרֶ֣ה מָד֑וֹן וְאֶ֥רֶך אַ֝פַּ֗יִם יַשְׁקִ֥יט רִֽיב׃

Recently I completed reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The novel tells a story of revenge and obsession. Captain Ahab, a whaler, loses a leg to a white sperm whale. A smoldering anger begins to grow in the one-legged captain.

Captain Ahab’s anger grows into a fixation on revenge against the sea monster. As his hatred grows, so does his lack of wisdom. On his final whale-hunting trip, the driving force in his soul begins to override good judgment, putting the man, the crew, and his ship into hazardous situations.

As the captain hurls Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_miro3d'>miro3d / 123RF Stock Photo</a>his ship, the Pequod, into the perilous seas of hate, his opportunity to take vengeance finally arrives. The white whale is within Ahab’s grasp.  His desire for revenge grows deeper, ignoring every danger. In the end, the ship is lost; the crew, is lost; and Ahab loses both his quest and his life. The white whale has won

In Proverbs 15:18 King Solomon once again acknowledges the power of unharnessed anger. In Proverbs 15:1 Solomon previously addressed the power of anger and response of the person on the receiving end,  “A gentle answer turns away wrath . . . ” (15:1).  However, in verse 18 his advice for removing the harpoon out of the hands of an angry person takes a different turn.

In response to my article on Proverbs 15:1, one reader commented the advice of Solomon is unworkable. A fair question. Face it, we all have tried to cool down a heated argument with a calm response,  but the flames rose higher regardless.  

Is there something we can do to convince an angry individual to drop his sharpened missile? (more…)

Make America Good Again

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.

Make America Good AgainLikewise, 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…)

How to Win Friends and Not Lose Self-Respect

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.

16673291 - happy laughing women drinking champagne, singing xmas songKnowing 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…)

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