Monday, April 24, 2017

Don't Be A Birdbrain

Perhaps you have heard the expression; perhaps you have used it: "You are such a birdbrain."

Most everyone understands this expression. Even with some rather interesting research on the intelligence of certain kinds of birds, we recognize that, in general, birds have small heads, so they have small brains. So, we tend to equate the small brains to stupidity. Our generation was not the first.

Solomon observed:

   Indeed, it is useless to spread the net
   In the eyes of any bird.
   --Proverbs 1:17

A translation of the same verse from the Tanakh, a modern Jewish translation of the Old Testament, seems a little clearer.

   In the eyes of every winged creature
   The outspread net means nothing.
   --Proverbs 1:17 (Tanakh)

The simple idea is that a net is spread in full view of a bird, yet the bird is so stupid, it is still caught in the net. It cannot understand the danger of the net; the net means nothing. The wise Solomon was using this illustration to warn his son against running with friends who were involved in evil things. Those involved in evil are no better off than the birds.

But they [those who run to evil]  lie in wait for their own blood; 
They ambush their own lives.
--Proverbs 1:18

The evil person has the stupidity of a bird. He might even take stupidity to its extreme: He is not only caught in a trap that he can see, he set the trap for himself through his pursuit of evil! This is the crowning jewel of stupidity; the pinnacle of stupidity; stupidity's most glorious moment, shining as bright as the sun!

The Book of Proverbs was written for the purpose of keeping people from the 'birdbrained' stupidity of self-entrapment by their involvement in evil. Don't pass over the word 'evil' as some sort of abstract gray haze. Evil has many faces: disrespect toward parents, lying, cheating, laziness, anger, lust, pornography, disobedience, fighting (with fists or words), gossip, intoxication (drugs or alcohol), dishonesty, pride, chasing money, hatred, jealousy, intentionally being unfair (unjust), sexual sin, and so on....

Avoid evil.
Avoid those who do evil things.
Don't be a 'birdbrain.'

Monday, April 17, 2017

Are You Ready for Wisdom?

From the time I was quite young I was taught that wisdom could be defined as “knowledge applied.” I accepted this brief definition without reservation. Now, I am quite sure it is too brief and easily misunderstood.

  • “Knowledge applied” easily focuses too much on man’s intellect.
  • “Knowledge applied” easily focuses too much on man.
  • “Knowledge applied” easily gives the impression that just about anybody can possess wisdom.
Yet Solomon wrote:

   He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; 
   He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.
   --Proverbs 2:7

A lot of folks pursue wisdom in one way or another. However, wisdom is not given to everyone. God gives to the upright person, that is, the one who lives according to His instruction.

Drawing from Proverbs 2, consider wisdom from God’s perspective. The first few verses identifies the kind of individual that will receive His wisdom.

God looks for those who will listen, who have a willing attitude of the heart:
   Make your ear attentive to wisdom, 
   Incline your heart to understanding. (v. 2)

God listens for those who call out for wisdom:
   For if you cry for discernment, 
   Lift your voice for understanding. (v. 3)

God looks for those who make a diligent search for the treasure of wisdom:
   If you seek her as silver, 
   And search for her as for hidden treasures. (v. 4)

The search for wisdom results in reverence toward God and the knowledge of God:
   Then you will discern the fear of the LORD,
   And discover the knowledge of God. (v. 5)

God himself is the source of wisdom; man is not able to obtain or attain true wisdom on his own:
   For the LORD gives wisdom; 
   From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (v. 6)

So, God does not give his wisdom to just anyone, but only to those who strive to live according to His instruction:
   He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; 
   He is a shield to those who walk in integrity. (v. 7)

  • Do not think that you can gain God’s wisdom by your efforts alone.
  • Do not think that by merely reading the scripture wisdom will be poured into your mind.
  • Do not think that by merely applying biblical knowledge that you are wise.
  • Do not think that you have or will gain the true wisdom of  God if you are not living according to God's love and holiness.
Do you truly desire God’s wisdom?
Then ask yourself, "Have I prepared myself for wisdom?"

Monday, April 10, 2017

Who Are YOU???

Everyone knew Scrooge, in fact, just about everyone ‘knows’ Scrooge. Over 150 years ago Charles Dickens brought to life the character Ebenezer Scrooge in his beloved “A Christmas Carol.” Today the nickname ’Scrooge’ is often pinned on those who lack Christmas spirit.

Scrooge was a money-hungry, miserly old grouch. So, was it his attitude toward money, his harsh business dealings and grouchiness that defined him? Or was it rather that these undesirable traits and behaviors emerged from who he already was?

Dicken’s Scrooge is fictitious, so I'll not argue the point. However, the question is relevant for each one of us. Is it our behaviors and words and moods that make us who we are, or is it who we are that really defines our behaviors and speech and moods?

Think back to a funeral you have attended, not just any funeral, not necessarily the last funeral, but a very specific funeral. Recall a funeral in which the good deeds and kind attitudes and encouraging words of the deceased were remembered and then the speaker added, "That's just the way she (he) was."

Do you see the beauty of that statement? The good deeds and acts of service were not what defined the deceased, they were a natural outcome of who she was already. Her goodness produced good behavior, good attitudes, and kind and encouraging words.

The simple point is that she was defined by her good character; her good behavior was a natural outgrowth of her character, her inner identity.

People in our day are still ‘trying to find themselves.’ People are still dealing with ‘mid-life crises.’ You have known people who ‘do’ good things, admirable things, even great things, then you see their lives in turmoil because of addictions, immorality, or criminal behavior. Someone quips, “I guess you never really know a person.” All the good is just a lot of ‘doing’ by actors who have no idea who they really are. Lost identity.

I think most people in our culture see themselves (and others) as the sum total of all they have done. One's identity is defined by a set of accomplishments, a kind of resume’ of life. The longer the resume’, the more significance...or so we think.

Does your resume’ define you, or do you define your resume’? Who are YOU?

Did you know that your fellowship with God is based on your identity? God does not ask for a resume’, a list of accomplishments, but rather a relationship. He identifies you by your relationship to Him.

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
                                                                                            --Colossians 3:3

The Christian has died and therefore lost his identity, but he is hidden with Christ in God. So, he has not lost his identity.

Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son;
and if a son, then an heir through God.
                                                                --Galatians 4:7

The Christian has changed identities, no longer living for himself, but losing his identity in Christ, he is a son of God.

The Apostle Paul challenged Christians to not turn back to their old lives because they had “...come to know God, or rather to be known by God….” (Galatians 4:9)

Do you know who you are?
Are you a child of God,
       known by God,
              awaiting your inheritance?

Who are YOU???

Monday, April 3, 2017

Are You Fit to Lead?

   It is not for kings, O Lemuel, 
   It is not for kings to drink wine, 
   Or for rulers to desire strong drink...
                                        --Proverbs 31:4

So, you are not a king; this has nothing to do with you, right?
Not exactly...There is something to think about. There is a reason for this advice, and the instruction applies to all Christians, especially to leaders.

The advise was given to a king by his mother. Strong drink (intoxicating drink) was not for a king, but it did make sense for two categories of people: Those who were ‘perishing,’ and those whose ‘life was bitter.’ (v. 6)

The one who is perishing may be someone near death, most likely in great pain. In our day we use anesthetics to ease the pain as a person nears death. We wish for our loved ones to be comfortable as they pass from this life. This was the purpose of the strong drink when this proverb was written.

The one whose life is bitter is one who has little or no hope. In our day many folks turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with anxiety, despair, depression and hopelessness. Many doctors will even prescribe drugs to deal with your symptoms! (Just because a drug is prescribed does not mean that it is the solution to your problem, or that it is wise to take it.)

Back to the king and his drink...

The reason that the king should avoid intoxicating drink, is to avoid “losing his mind.” Yes, intoxicating drink and many drugs (including many prescription drugs) dull the senses so that a person cannot think straight.

As for the king, or any other leader (church leaders and preachers included), decisions cannot be made and duties performed properly while ‘not thinking straight.’ Without a clear, sober mind thoughts can easily be perverted (twisted); thoughts pertaining to what is good and right and wise. It is imperative for leaders to be sober-minded, clear-thinking, and free from any kind of substance that would impair their ability to think, reason, and lead God's people.

Consider the intersecting instruction the Apostle Paul offered:
   And do not get drunk with wine,
   for that is dissipation,
   but be filled with the Spirit.
                              --Ephesians 5:18

'Being filled with the Spirit' is set in direct contrast to drunkenness. For that reason it is imperative that we make the connection between the mind and the human spirit. It is imperative that we make the connection between the mind of the Christian and the Spirit of God. Intoxication (even by prescription drugs) directly affects whether or not a Christian is filled with the Spirit of God.

When a person is ‘under the influence’ of alcohol or drugs that affect the mind(even prescription drugs), he is unfit for spiritual leadership; he simply cannot think straight!

I'm not making this stuff up. I'm not on some sort of campaign against anyone or anything. I'm not mad a anyone. I AM READING GOD'S WORD, and I am making a valid application.

Church, take this instruction seriously.
Leaders! Be wise! Be fit!
Do not scoff...
Be sober!!!