Proverbs 7:21-23 says, “So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery. He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter. He was like a stag caught in a trap, awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart. He was like a bird flying into a snare, little knowing it would cost him his life.”
As a parent of two teenage sons I can fully attest to the reality that sometimes teenagers don’t fully think through what they are doing in their lives. They’re good at mapping out point A and maybe point B but they usually fail to see point C, point D, point E and beyond. Having been around the block a few times we as parents try to teach out kids to think critically about which path they are on and where their current, seemingly harmless choices could possibly lead.
To teenagers and sometimes even to “seasoned adults” certain options can seem really appealing at first glance. We can sometimes be guilty of shadowing the heels of those in front of us without ever raising our heads to see where it is that we’re headed. We shuffle along following what’s in front of us without fully thinking through where this road will lead us.
Figuratively speaking we keep our heads down, only raising our eyes high enough to what’s right in front of us. With that being our only directional point of reference we simply keep moving.
Proverbs 7 paints a powerful picture of someone witnessing first hand the ramifications of an ill-advised youth failing to critically think through his choices. The writer uses powerful words such as “seduced” and “enticed”. We’ve all been their right? We’ve all felt the powerful lure of instant notoriety, instant money in our pocket, instant pleasure. We each have our own stories of “one being led like an ox to the slaughter”. It’s often these scenarios that we find easy to spot, especially in the lives of others. We use phrases like, “Any idiot could have seen that coming.” or “I could have told you that was going to happen.” or “I’d never be so stupid.”
What’s interesting is that the writer also uses another analogy that we perhaps overlook as one and the same. He uses the words “a stag caught in a trap, awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart”. This feels intentional to me, I think the writer was painting two pictures: one of instant death and the other of eventual death.
We often pride ourselves as mature adults who can easily spot obvious pitfalls and would never make a decision without critically thinking it through. However the writer also points out that not all “pitfalls” are so easy to spot. The stag isn’t killed immediately, it’s first trapped. What perhaps looked like an appealing or delicious opportunity to the stag, in the end only served to ensnare it. The stag wasn’t killed right away, the arrow to its heart came later.
What arrows are headed in your direction? Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
As an adult I often have to deal with things that could easily be qualified as "No fun". I have job responsibilities. I have to pay a mortgage. I have to cut my grass. I have to clean my house. I have to pay for stuff that I don't really want to pay for (whoever said public education was free didn't have kids). I have to do the dishes. I have to get oil changes on my car. I have to pay for gas. From time to time I have stress in certain relationships. Sometimes, as I wake up in the mornings I want nothing more than to stay in bed and not have to deal with any of the stuff that isn't fun. We've all had days or maybe even weeks like this right? Sometimes being an adult with obligations and responsibilities isn't fun. If we're not careful we can pretty quickly lose any and all joy that we once had for living life. Even the things that we once enjoyed and found happiness in doing can start to lose their luster. Last night I was reminded of the simplicity and joy of life that can be ours if we choose to take it.
One of the aspects of my job that I most look forward to each year is welcoming in new 6th graders to our student ministry. Each May we invite, for the very first time a handful of upcoming 6th graders into our student center to experience all of the wonder and glory of student ministry. Their faces are priceless. Their eyes light up at the dancing lights on the stage and they almost involuntarily "have to" run through the fog as it rolls out of the machine and into the room. It seems as though with each passing year they grow smaller in stature and watching them wonder among the "giants" that surround them is fascinating. It's as if they struggle to take it all in. Often they just run around the room as if swimming through a pool of jelly beans or their favorite treat. As I watched all of this unfold last night I was struck by the sheer joy that they seem to experience in these moments.
I was sitting at the check-in table greeting students when one new 6th grader approached the table with a friend in tow and a huge smile on her face. She said, "Pastor Andy, I'm here and I brought a friend, her name is Eva."
I probably freaked her out a little because I just stared back at her with my own beaming smile. I was mesmerized. It was as if at that moment, nothing else on the planet mattered to her. She was so happy. She had a friend. She was now considered a youth. She was excited. This was awesome. She had arrived and nothing could change that. In her mind and in her world, that moment seemed to top any previous joyful moment she had yet experienced.
I quickly snapped out of my "weirdness", greeted them and sent them on their way to the cafe for their free drink, but that moment stuck with me for the rest of the evening and even into today.
In my life I know how easy it can be to lose my joy. I get tired. I get cranky. I get impatient with those around me. Things I used to love and enjoy doing, things I used to find joy in can slowly start to become not so joyful. It's as if the older we get, the harder we are to impress. We require more stimulation. We require things that cost more money. We require bigger and better. When we don't receive that our joy begins to fade. I was reminded last night that I need to return to a place and time in my life when I found my joy in the simple things.
I have been forgiven and loved by God even though I'm a screw up.
I have a beautiful wife.
I have two great kids.
The grass in my yard is mostly green.
I have four bottles of really good Ginger Ale at my house waiting for me.
I get to go home tonight, sit on my couch, eat spicy cheese and watch a basketball game.
When did I stop finding joy in these things? When did these things become, "not enough"?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."
God has blessed you with more than you could ever imagine. Even on your worst day when you are hard pressed to come up with anything to be joyful about, remember that you are still blessed. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I love when things are prepared in advance. I'm a big believer in to-do lists, I use them everyday. Generally at the beginning of the week, I carve out some time on Sunday night or first thing Monday morning to look through my calendar and any late in the previous week or weekend emails and develop my to-do list for the week. Even on the busiest weeks, months or seasons, I take solace in knowing that my to-do list has prepared me for what's to come.
There's an often skipped over passage in the book of Matthew that's right up my alley when it comes to being prepared (it's lengthy and full of difficult to pronounce names, but be sure to read it in its entirety).
Matthew 1:2-16 says, "Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar). Perez was the father of Hezron. Hezron was the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon. Nahshon was the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah). Solomon was the father of Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the father of Abijah. Abijah was the father of Asa. Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram. Jehoram was the father of Uzziah. Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh. Manasseh was the father of Amon. Amon was the father of Josiah. Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon). After the Babylonian exile: Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel. Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud. Abiud was the father of Eliakim. Eliakim was the father of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok. Zadok was the father of Akim. Akim was the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar. Eleazar was the father of Matthan. Matthan was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah."
42 generations beforehand God placed saving humanity on His to do list in the form of Jesus Christ. He made a plan to restore humanity into right relationship with Himself. Things were set into motion long before you and I were even a twinkle in our mama's eye. Knowing that God had a plan for me long before I came into being is extraordinary to think about.
Allow me to encourage you to consider thinking through the concept that God has been passionately pursuing you since the beginning of your life. Think about the ways that God has revealed Himself to you over the years, think about the ways in which He has protected you, sustained you, saved you for Himself.
God is more than aware of who you are and what your needs are. Take heart and know He has planned not only for your existence but for your salvation in the person of Jesus Christ. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good celebration. It doesn't take much for me to have a slice of pie or a piece of cake. Honestly, most days I'm just looking for a reason to fist a couple of pieces of candy or some treats. That being said, I think we're getting a little out of hand with the national celebration days. After hearing an ad on the radio this morning for "National Lost Sock Day" I not only began to question our sanity as a nation, I also began to wonder what other "National Days" there were. After a quick search I discovered more than I bargained for. Check out a much abbreviated list of what I consider to be the
"Top 10 Craziest" just during the months of May & June:
May 1 - Law Day (Not even sure what this means)
May 15 - National Mole Day
May 15 - National Hug Your Cat Day
June 2 - Yell "Fudge" at Cobras Day
June 3 - Repeat Day (a.k.a. Annoy your co-workers day)
June 13 - Kitchen Klutzes of America Day
June 21 - Cuckoo Warning Day
June 27 - Happy Birthday to the Happy Birthday Song Day
June 30 - Sky Day
June 30 - Log Cabin Day
Here's what's interesting to me, largely these days go unsupported by the masses. Of course you may know a person or two that celebrates one or more of these crazy days but generally speaking, no one even knows about them. Someone, somewhere along the line decided that kitchen klutzes needed to be celebrated so they decided to garner a few signatures (or however you rally support for such a cause) and submit their day and name for consideration. Chances are, after a year or two, the significance of this day was forgotten about and yet it remains on an obscure list buried on the internet for someone like me to discover. There are literally hundreds of such days spread throughout the calendar year. Someone has attempted to give value and significance to almost everyday of the year while at the same time most people are completely unaware that such days even exist.
As I drove this morning and listened to the radio host laugh about the ridiculousness of "National Lost Sock Day" I was reminded that we so often attempt to assign significance to our own lives that never seems to really catch. We strive to give ourselves value and meaning and purpose and before long that value, meaning and purpose begin to fade away and are forgotten about.
There is only one source of value, purpose and meaning for your life that will last and that comes from God. Colossians 1:16 says, "for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see--such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him."
You were created through Him and for Him. You will never find greater and more lasting purpose than when you look to Him for that purpose. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.