Posted tagged ‘Proverbs’

The Fog of The Moment

October 31, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             October 31, 2017

                               

This morning our area was greeted with a dusting of snow, twenty-six degrees, and fog. It’s one of those mornings that a person is tempted to fall back into bed to the clarity of being covered with warm blankets.

Most of us, however, don’t have the option of doing that. There are places to go, appointments to keep, and work details to get accomplished. The fog is just one of those things we’ll have to brave this morning. The fog changes how we approach the beginning of our day. Those who refuse to believe that often end up off the side of the road, or crashed into the rear bumper of the car in front of them. And there are plenty of people who are like that…careless, and idiotic!

What about the fog of the moment in our life? What about when things aren’t clear as to where the road is leading, when the next step may lead to a person’s life spinning out of control? What about when a decision that needs to be made is as clear as Mud Creek?

The wise person is one who understands that life must sometimes move ahead slowly, cautiously, preceded with and followed by prayer. The fool is the one who rushes ahead regardless of the situation and circumstances. Solomon’s words to the wise in Proverbs 12:15 say, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice…” Our world is well-populated with people who think their way is right, regardless of the fog of the moment!

But the wise listen to advice, they listen to possible solutions to the uncertainty in front of them, and they proceed slowly. Yes, there is some fog in the midst of our journey of faith. Abram had faith even though he did not know where it was the Lord was leading him, but let’s be honest! For most of us the chaos of our lives results from our reckless rushing into the fog.

The fool trusts his own understanding, but the wise trusts in the leadings of the Lord.

There’s another learning from the fog of the moment that needs to be said. The effects of foolishness often crash up into the ways of the wise. It isn’t fair, but it’s the ripple effect of a fallen creation…that the stupidity of others causes pain in the lives of those who are going the right way. I fully expect that the news of our area this morning will include stories of multiple car crashes, and that the accident was ignited by the carelessness of one. Following Jesus and living wisely does not mean trials will pass you by. The trial may have just rammed you in the rear!

Leaning Not On Your Own Understanding

July 21, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 20, 2016

                                

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.”   (Proverbs 3:5 from The Message)

Today I helped a group of middle school church campers rappel down a cliffside. For almost all of them this was a first time experience. Actually, it was my first experience also. For about four hours I held a rope and said things like “Awesome! Great job! You can do it! Keep going!”

I asked the question to some of them: What does Proverb 3:5 say?

Trust God…and don’t lean on your own understanding. I learned today that you must not lean forward in fear, but lean back and trust. In essence, we were telling the students to not do what seemed the understandable solution…leaning into the mountain, but rather to lean back and give up control.

A few of the students had a hard time getting past their fears and letting go. For some it took just a little bit of encouragement from the top to get them going…just a small dose of guidance from the top, and belief that they could do it. After the first fifty feet their camp friends down below took up the encouragement.

Another young man came to a point of hesitation, a place between the top and the bottom where he froze and became unmoving. Kent, our lead person, finally rappelled down to him and “unfroze” him. The young man had to be almost pulled along all the way to the bottom. His ego was a bit bruised, but he got to the bottom. Sometimes people need to be pulled along in their spiritual lives, and lives in general. They need a guide who pulls them…an AA sponsor who says the hard things, a coach who won’t let them settle for mediocre effort, a tutor who says “If I have to, I’m going to sit here all day until you get this!”, a pastor who pulls them away from the errors in judgment.

Some people need to be pushed, or in rappelling…pulled! Discomfort is not accepted easily, but sometimes taking people to an uncomfortable place is the needed ingredient for spiritual growth.

A couple of the campers rappelled alongside a friend who was struggling. One young guy, Jacob, knew his friend’s fears were real and inhibiting. Even though he had the ability to rappel down at a much quicker pace, Jacob slowed down to encourage his friend each step of the descent.

Sometimes we need a brother or sister to lean on as we take that next step. What each one of us needs is someone who slows their pace to stay with us. Sometimes we ARE the ones who slow down in order to be with. Last week I officiated at a funeral for a twenty-four year old. I didn’t know the deceased, but I know his dad. Next week I’m going to try to get together with him for a cup of coffee and continued conversation as he rappelled down the mountain of personal loss. He may have some moments in the coming weeks where he “freezes.” I know that I’m probably one of the people that God has placed in his life who needs to help him unfreeze…to continue in the heart wrenching journey of grief.

And it always seems to come back to “trusting and leaning.” Trusting in the Lord with our whole heart…leaning back and experiencing the loving arms of God.

Being Wise and Doing Dumb

July 6, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 6, 2016

                                           

Dumb and Dumber was a dumb movie, which is what made it hilarious. Sometimes dumb is funny! Sometimes dumb is just plain dumb! One of my favorite baseball players of all time is John Smoltz. “Smoltzy” had a good head on his shoulders. He was well-grounded. But even Smoltz had a dumb moment. It happened one season when he decided to iron his shirt. The problem was that he was wearing the shirt when he tried to iron it. Not a bright moment in his career, but one that people will remind him of for a long, long time.

Speaking of dumb, the news has featured several examples of dumb things people do with fireworks. Dumb works overtime around the Fourth of July. The fifteen year old in Texas who was using two hundred sparklers will have to live with his “What was I thinking!!!” moment for the rest of his life. I saw a guy who decided to light an explosive that was halfway between a firecracker and a stick of dynamite…and put it in his Speedo! What??? Of course, someone was filming it, and I cringed when the little flame flared out of his front side! What was he thinking?

Wisdom and dumbness seem to be in two different camps, but they are camps whose residents have dual citizenship. I was reading about Solomon the other day, you know…the guy known for his wisdom! People would come from far and wide to be amazed by his wisdom and judgments. 1 Kings 3 tells the story of the two women who had infant sons, but one of the mothers rolled on top of her baby and smothered him in the middle of the night. She then took the baby from the other lady and put her deceased son beside her. The two women come before Solomon with their dispute. The mother of the child who was still living claimed that the baby was hers. The other mom said he wasn’t. Solomon decided to take the living child and slice him in half and give half to each mother. The real mother screamed not to do that, to let the other mother have her child. That sign of motherly love made it clear to Solomon who the real mother was. People were taken back by how he could figure out things.

We have a book of proverbs for further proof of his profoundness. He gives advice on parenting, wealth, work ethic, relationships, and old age. Dr. Phil can’t hold a stick compared to the wisdom of Solomon.

But Solomon decided to do a summer home in “Dumb!” For a guy who could solve problems he also created his own chaos, his own disaster! He was obsessed with women. I mean, it’s okay to be attracted to women, but when women were around Solomon he did stupid! Notice I didn’t say that he was stupid. Stupidity is a decision, and he decided to do stupid! God had told him, in essence, “Be smart!” Here’s what 1 Kings 11 says about it:

   “God had clearly warned Israel, “You must not marry them; they’ll seduce you into infatuations with their gods.” Solomon fell in love with them (women) anyway, refusing to give them up. He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines—a thousand women in all! And they did seduce him away from God. As Solomon grew older, his wives beguiled him with their alien gods and he became unfaithful—he didn’t stay true to his God as his father David had done.” 

The wisest guy on the planet and he couldn’t figure out the fact that living with a thousand women was not a good situation. I’m not the sharpest tack in the box, but I think I could have given Solomon some simple wise counsel about that one!

In a weird way Solomon’s dumbness gives me some hope. It is a bit reassuring. My residence is probably more in the subdivision of Dumbness rather than the rural-ness of wisdom. Dumbness is not a gated community. It is accepting of all. There is not a membership fee to get into it. Some people arrive there on a moment’s notice, while others plan for it. I remember my friend Steve Wamberg and I taking a few high school kids from the church we were youth ministers at to a concert one night. Two of the students were the daughters of the senior pastor. After the concert we decided to go out for pizza to a place in our Chicago suburb called Connie’s. We didn’t get the pastor’s daughters home until 1:30 A.M.

Dumb, dumb, dumb!

“Yes, I’d like a medium pizza with cluelessness, denseness, and ignorance on top.”

Each one of us can recall our visits to Dumbness. We’ve all been there. We can just hope that wisdom is where we spend most of our time.

Here’s the thing! Social media trumpets the happenings of Dumb! Wisdom doesn’t film well. Deciding to have a few beers and then leap from a roof on a skateboard films well on iPhones. Think about it! There was a hit TV show for years entitled Jackass. The people on the show made millions off their stupidity! Wisdom does not make good Youtube videos.

Wisdom is proactive. It steers people away from doing dumb. Wisdom is the coach, the one who understands the situation before trouble arrives.

Solomon was wise, but his dumbness affected his family and kingdom for generations to come. How often have I, and I’m sure also you, said “I wish I would have thought about it more before I did it?”

A Friend Who Is Closer Than A Brother

January 24, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         January 24, 2016

    “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Last weekend I was blessed by…friends! One of my best friends, David Volitis, and his wonderful wife, Donna, drove up from San Antonio, Texas. Rich and Casey Blanchette drove in from Goodland, Kansas. Ron McKinney, Roger Mollenkamp, Steve Wamberg, Andy Brooks, Greg Davis, Rick Banier, Tom McBroom, and Mark Miller all made it a point to come alongside me for part of the day.

There were many others from my congregation who celebrated with me, and my clergy colleague friends who I’ve grown close to…many, many friends!

The occasion was my last Sunday at the church I’ve pastored for the past sixteen plus years, and an afternoon reception. I had a long list of people who I invited to come. Some of them had been a part of our congregation and had decided to switch churches. For a pastor that is perhaps the most painful experience, when you care for, invest, walk alongside someone and their family, and then they decide it is time to move on. But I’ve learned…after many sleepless nights…that our friendship has stayed on solid ground.

As the verse in Proverbs says, there are unreliable friends and friends who stick close.

I am extremely blessed to have many friends who stick close.

I used to do something with the youth of our church called the “Trust Fall” or the “Faith Fall.” It was simply having a group stand around one person, who was standing on a chair or ladder a few feet above the ground and having the person fall backwards. He had to trust that his friends had to catch him. They had to be there for him.

A person who is blessed knows he has a group of friends…reliable friends…who will not let him fall, who will be there for him.

My friends in ministry that I’ve known for years, Tom Bayes and Chuck Moore, both called me to congratulate me and to let me know they are with me…even though they’re located in Dayton, Ohio and Charlotte, North Carolina. When I had those times in ministry when it was tough going I would call them. And if one of them was struggling they would call the other two of our triangle. That is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Someone who is a friend simply to get something from you is one refusal away from being an adversary. There are numerous “friendships of convenience.” The question is whether or not this friend will walk through the fire with you. Will they be there with you in the shallow waters, but stay safe when you enter the uncertain waters of the deep?

Some Sunday Carol and I will drive to Woodland, Kansas to attend First Baptist Church where Rich Blanchette pastors…because he is my friend. Some time in the next few months we’ll head down to San Antonio to see Dave and Donna….because they are our friends. Our separation by distance increases the yearning within us to be with them again. This morning I’m worshiping with Mark Miller and his family…because he is my friend.

A friend sticks closer than a brother.

The Ability to Listen…Online!

June 27, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 27, 2015

                                     

Social media is awesome in so many ways! We can reconnect with people who we haven’t seen or heard from in years. We can see pictures of folk we’ve grown up with…and be able to see how old they look compared to us…compare the amount of gray, if you will, and the size of our waistlines!

And what can be awesome can also be awful! I’ve been amazed at the things that are said online that people wouldn’t dream of saying in person. There’s like an openness to be condescending since Herbie isn’t in the room with me!

People are much more bold online. Or maybe bold isn’t the right word! Maybe it’s more like “boldly insensitive!”

I find that the ability to listen online is an unrecognized but gracious gift. The patience to hold off on giving my two cents worth is invaluable! Some may say that if I hold off then the insensitively bold will dictate the pace of the race.

It seems like Proverbs has a few nuggets of listening gold that need to sink in a little bit.

“The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” (Proverbs 10:14)

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” (Proverbs 29:11) 

People are quick to speak online and slow to listen. In the Letter of James in the New Testament he emphasizes the reverse of those two…being quick to listen and slow to speak. He adds a third…”being slow to become angry.”

So before you send that comment that dehumanizes the person you differ with…take your fingers off the keyboard for a few moments and watch a Youtube video of babies laughing or cats playing with dogs. It may be the wise thing to do in a world that is often immensely unwise and unkind.

  

Kids and Jesus

October 17, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    October 17, 2012

 

Most Sundays I have a children’s story as a part of our morning worship service. We try to find a nice balance between children being a part of the worship service and having time together as a “children’s church.” It might be my imagination, but it seems that the kid’s story has more attentive adults than the main message does.

I’ve tried not to analyze it too much. Perhaps it goes back to the days of Art Linkletter and “Kids Say the Darnedest Things.” You were never quite sure what was going to pop out of someone’s mouth. It’s the same with the Sunday children’s story. You never quite know! The congregation has been flashed a few times. I’ve had one cute little girl climb up in my lap as I’m trying to make a serious point about Jesus. I’ve had one preschooler steer my story about prayer in the direction of color of paint in her bedroom. I’ve learned the hard way that any questions have to be carefully worded, and if a hand goes up with an answer it might have something to do with the question, or about what Santa is bringing the kids for Christmas.

In other words, kids are unpredictable.,,which makes them “dialogue dangerous”, but delightful to the core.

I wonder when Jesus’ disciples tried to keep the children from coming to Jesus if they were concerned about the detours that children can take you on. Instead of Son of God rhetoric they like to talk about fruit roll-ups and the sick little boy in their class at school. Instead of repentance and confession they like to giggle and pick their noses.

In fact, the disciples were a little uptight about anyone under five feet tall. Luke 18:15 says “People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.”

Are you serious? Not exactly a “User-Friendly Church! More like “Seeker-Over-Sensitive.”

I guess you could say that the disciples may have over-reacted. Although it doesn’t say it, I can envision Peter being Jesus “muscle” here, guarding the Savior from those dangerous parents of newborns.

Church today still runs the danger of being “a place for grown-ups.” Kids are sometimes seen as a distraction, to be tolerated as long as they are cute.

Jesus rained on the disciples’ power parade by saying that “…anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)

Perhaps some grown-ups need to commence sucking thumbs. Less scowls and more smiles; smaller words, and bigger dreams.

The kingdom of God more resembles a playground than an office building, a super twisty slide more than rushing through traffic.

Have you ever noticed how caring and giving kids are? Oh, there are the selfish moments, but there are other times where they model mercy and compassion. Have a baby bird fall out of it’s nest, and just see who takes the role of caregiver and savior. Adults are sometimes too tall to see the basic misery around them.

Ask a child to help someone who has suffered through an earthquake in a distant country and watch the lemonade stands pop up.

I don’t think Scripture says a bad thing about kids, except maybe in Proverbs, and there it is not explained what age the verse is referring to. (“A fool spurns his father’s discipline…” Proverbs 15:5a)

Maybe that’s why Jesus liked to hang out with youngsters. He knew he would not have to get into a battle about righteousness, fasting, or spiritual authority.

One last thought! Maybe the reason that the grown-ups are so attentive to the kid’s story is that there is a longing within them to be kids again!