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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…)

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…)

Deflate the Hot Air Balloon of Angry Words

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.”

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_oussuchol'>oussuchol / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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…)

Do You Know When To Keep Your Lips Zipped?

Proverbs 14:3

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 using14193593 - close up of man 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…)

Becoming A Warrior of Peace

Peace Not Always Possible

Christians have digested the idea that the majority of our contacts with other individuals should be peaceful and non-offensive.  After all, Romans 12:18 reads,” If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (NASB).”

However, notice the important two words, “if possible.” In other words, it’s not always possible.  In fact, Paul lays the responsibility upon every follower of Christ to “be at peace with all men” so far as “it depends on you.”

What is a true peacemaker?

Do what you can to establish peaceful relationships with people at work, individuals who attend church with you or persons you come into contact with in your everyday world of shopping, driving and working out at the gym.

Just today I sat next to a Korean War veteran at the Veterans Administration who was attempting to collect vacation pay from sixty years ago when he served in Korea. His greediness upset me and I told him that the government is not his mother and father.  I was not too peaceful. I firmly told him that his reward as a Korean vet was the privilege of serving his country.

Was I a peacemaker?  Better yet, is a peacemaker someone who never voices a contrary opinion?

Many pastors have misunderstood  passages like Matthew 5:9 in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus pronounces a blessing on “the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.” In contrast, Jesus says in Matthew 10:34 that He did not come to to “send peace on earth . . . but a sword.”

Why the apparent contradiction? On one hand, the gospel message describes how one can find peace with God by accepting Jesus as Redeemer and Lord. Actually, the one who shares the message of redemption through Christ is true peacemaker.

However, this peace-giving message is also a stumbling block to those who do not want to humble themselves and recognize their own sins.  Families, according to Jesus, can be torn apart by His saving message of grace (Matthew 10:35-36).

Jesus’ message can be reconciling to some and divisive to others. Why? Because the gospel exposes the darkness of our own hearts. Rather than repent and accept the knowledge of the truth through the Son of God, people would rather gravitate towards darkness and animosity towards Jesus and His followers.  (more…)

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