In Mark Divine’s excellent book “The Way of the Seal” he presents a mind exercise called the Sentinel at the Gate. It involves finding a quiet place and from a third party viewpoint, carefully pay attention to the thoughts that go into your mind.
The exercise is designed to allow you to intercept thoughts that you don’t allow to enter your inner mind.
I visualize a Marine standing guard duty in my mind. He is alert, vigilant and no-nonsense. Nothing passes into my inner mind without his approval. A thought appears, he blocks the entrance as I evaluate the thought.
Does this thought line up with my core values? Does it line up with God’s word? Does it distract me from my current mission? If acceptable, the thought is allowed to proceed into my inner mind.
Know this – your thoughts are not you. All kinds of distracting, disgusting, jealous, lustful or other thoughts can present themselves at your mind’s entrance. Just because a thought appears it does not make it a part of you. If you allow them in, they will take root, become established and be a part of you.
Jesus echos this when he warns his disciples about the evils of the heart (innermost mind) “For within, out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery . . . ” Mark 7:21
This sentry is now a part of my thought process. The worse the thought, the more violent action my sentry takes. In the worse cases I picture him throwing an unwelcome thought-visitor out a skyscraper window. This exercise keeps me on track, focused and at peace.
Although the exercise was developed for military purposes – to build a mental defense against distractions – it carries over well into the Christian lifestyle and is outlined in Proverbs as follows:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” ~Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
In ancient times there was only one food program on TV – Julia Child’s “The French Chef.” It was hilarious. She was 6′ 2″ tall with broad shoulders and “BAM” – when she slammed a sea bass down on the table everything would go flying. As kids we thought it was just another comedy show on Public Television a la Monty Python.
Today, there are hundreds of cooking shows on the air. And those are instructional cooking only. That’s not include the many reality restaurant, bakery and other competing programs or the many cooking competitions on television.
And how about internet food clubs? For $99 a month you can join the steak or lobster club, $35 gets you the wine club and if your on a tight budget you can join the Peanut Butter & Jelly Club for a mere $20 per month.
So what is wrong with a focus on gourmet cooking and eating? Very simply, it drains your time and your wallet. Other concerns that we don’t need to rehash here is our nation’s obesity crisis, a generation retiring without retirement savings and an explosion in diet related preventable diseases such as Diabetes.
Being able to Focus on a goal is a key to success. Getting involved in a pursuit of fancy food and drink is a distraction.
“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.”~ Tony Robbins
Benjamin Franklin learned this truth early in life and actually hired out his meal preparation of very simple vegetarian meals as he writes:
“We had our victuals dressed and brought to us regularly by a woman in the neighborhood, who had from me a list of forty dishes, to be prepared for us at different times, in all which there were neither fish, flesh nor fowl, and the whim suited me the better at this time from the cheapness of it”~ Autobiography Part One
So this leads us to our Proverb to help guide us along a path of success in life.
“He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich” ~ Proverbs 21:17
There is nothing sadder than a defeated Christian. His success has slipped away, his prayers have not been answered, he speaks with a hint of bitterness. But he has faith, he is “trusting the Lord” he will tell you, often smugly.
He might quote the scripture spoken by Moses at the Red Sea – “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” Or perhaps he favors the words of the prophet to King Jehoshaphat “the battle is not yours but the Lord’s.”
My dear defeated friend, please consider carefully these two verses from Proverbs 10:
“Lazy hands make men poor but diligent hands bring wealth”~ Proverbs 10:4
“The blessing of the Lord brings wealth”~ Proverbs 10:22
A contradiction? Which is it?
The answer, of course is both. Could it be that the Lord is waiting on you to take action?
The first Proverb tells us that a poor man is made not born. Lazy is also translated “slack.” It means a sluggish, careless, and thoughtless approach to living. The diligent man is the opposite. He proceeds thoughtfully, alertly and with great persistence.
The second Proverb clearly says that God is the source of all blessing. So God’s blessings favor the diligent but not the lazy. He blesses diligent hands and those who use wealth to give and serve others will find themselves in possession of eternal treasure.
Do you want a successful life? Then make God your partner. Ask God’s blessing on the work of your hands, on your employer, on your home, on your children and extended family. Then roll up your sleeves and go to work as if the entire success depended on your work alone.
“Pray as if everything depends on God, work as though everything depends on you” ~ Unknown
A sudden violent attack had stunned the peaceful city of Abel Beth Maacah. An attack not by an enemy of Israel but by David’s chief general, Joab, and the troops loyal to David, King of Israel. The city was under siege and while the men feverishly worked on the faltering defense of the city the unanswered question of “Why” was not addressed.
The city would be saved, but not with it’s thick walls and stout defenses. Abel Beth Maacah would be saved by an unnamed woman with a super-power. Her super power? Wisdom.
A wise woman made her home in Abel and asked herself that question. Why? She could not find answers. Why would David’s troops attack a city long loyal to David? It made no sense. She must find answers. The rumors on the street did not satisfy her. She needed solid answers and there was only one place to get them.
She made her way to the dangerous edge of the city where the battering rams were pounding the city’s walls and the siege ramps had already gone up. She cried out loud to the opposing forces asking to speak to Joab the commander. When Joab appeared she spoke humbly and addressed him with deep respect. She spoke of the peaceful nature of the city and it’s history of faithfulness to Israel. She describes the city of Abel as a “mother in Israel” and asks Joab why he would destroy this peaceful place.
“That is not the case, says Joab, far be it from me to swallow up or destroy.” Joab goes on to explain to the woman that the city Abel is harboring a violent rebel, Sheba, who has lifted up his hand against King David. “Hand over this one man and I will withdraw” promises Joab.
Ah, so this is the reason for all our troubles! The woman’s response to Joab (in modern language) is simply – “no problem, we’ll toss his head down from the wall.” How did she know the town would follow her advice? I guess they had no choice. The city immediately cut off the head of Sheba and tossed it down to Joab.
The trumpet sounds, Joab’s troops retreat and the city of Abel goes back to it’s peaceful existence. The Wise Woman of Abel retreats into the background. Not even her name is recorded. But, every man, woman and child in the city of Abel owes their life to her.
This is why “wisdom is supreme.” Let’s take a closer look at how she applied her wisdom.
1. Wisdom asks why? – during the confusion and panic of the attack nobody had asked the most important question. Why was this happening?
2. Wisdom gets the facts. She then sought the answers from the most credible source. I’m sure there were dozens of opinions on the street but she sought credible information.
3. Wisdom is bold. She approached Joab, the high commander, of the armies of Israel. This was a pretty gutsy thing to do.
4. Wisdom has a silent “i”. She spoke humbly and persuasively on behalf of her city. She wanted no glory for herself – her entire focus was to help and save her city.
5. Finally wisdom takes action. She tells Joab that his problem will be solved and then immediately goes back to all the people sharing her wise advice. Her plan is adopted and the city is saved.
Have you ever thought of wisdom as a super power? It comes from the Lord, it provides tremendous power, in this case the power to save a city. Your city may not be in danger but many of your problems and difficulties can be solved by applying these five keys of wisdom. You can find the story of the Wise Woman of Abel in 2 Sam 20 verses 14-22.
The Book of Proverbs contains 31 chapters of proverbs and sayings of the wise. But what exactly is a Proverb? A proverb is defined as a “short pithy saying, usually in current use and providing advice.”
The Proverbs in the Bible deal with timeless subjects – wisdom, understanding, wealth, work and success. They can be applied as successfully today as when they were originally written.
This is evident in the successful lives of men and women who down through the ages have successfully mastered the principles outlined in the Proverbs.
Probably the most notable would be Benjamin Franklin whose autobiography reads like a modern version of a man obsessed with living and sharing Proverbs.
The following is a summary of twelve Proverbs Principles you will have to master to successfully incorporate the Proverbs into your life. Master these virtues and you master life.
1. Fear of the Lord- “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 9:10 Here is the starting place and the place you finish. You will have difficulty mastering the other habits without a healthy respect and reverence for the Creator of all things.
2. Wisdom – “wisdom is supreme, therefore get wisdom” Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom provides the ability to use the knowledge and understanding you have been given. It is one of the foundations to living a successful life.
3. Discipline – “those who disregard discipline, despise themselves”~ Proverbs 15:32 Discipline is the control developed through obeying a set of rules or guidelines. A successful life is a life under control.
4. Knowledge – “the discerning heart seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 15:14 Knowledge is a valuable stepping stone to understanding and wisdom. It is no accident that college graduates out-earn highschool graduates by almost double over the course of a lifetime. But there are many ways to obtain knowledge outside of a classroom.
5. Understanding – “the one who cherishes understanding will prosper” Proverbs 19:8 Knowledge becomes understanding when you begin to see the patterns and connections in the things you have learned. If knowledge is the “what” understanding is the “why.”
6. Fidelity - “the adulteress preys on your very life”~ Proverbs 6:26 It is no accident why nearly three chapters in Proverbs are devoted to warnings to avoid sexual immorality and build a strong marriage.
7. Hard Work – “All hard work brings a profit” – Proverbs 14:23 There is no “easy button” in Proverbs or in life. There are no short cuts and no “Four Hour Workweeks”.
8. Careful Speech – “gracious words promote instruction” Proverbs 16:21 It is not enough to have wisdom, understanding and knowledge – you must be able to express what you learn in an impactful way.
9. Good Health – “a merry heart does good like a medicine” Proverbs 17:22 Poor health will consume your attention and you will be unable to help others. How much did you accomplish during your last toothache?
10. Generosity – “the generous will themselves be blessed” – Proverbs 22:9 The successful life is a life of giving. Wealth is not to be stored up – but to be put in circulation.
11. Friendship – “a real friend sticks closer than a brother” Proverbs 18:24 The wise man is surrounded by friends and associates acting as teachers, mentors and guides.
12. Perseverance – “Keep to the paths of the righteous” Proverbs 2:20 Sadly this was the downfall of Solomon himself. With all his wisdom and knowledge he still left the path later in life. Any runner will tell you that a great start doesn’t make up for a DNF (did not finish)
Some of these principles may come naturally to you, others may require intense effort. But the rewards are tremendous including long life, safety, riches, honor, and peace.
Are you up for the challenge?
The answer is “no”.
Sorry if this shocks or disillusions you. I shouldn’t. When was the last time you purchased a piece of land? The last time you sewed your children’s winter clothes? And how is the linen garment business coming along?
The point is that the Proverbs 31 woman is amazing and unique. She is gifted by God in areas that make her gifts, hers alone. No one else on earth is gifted precisely the same as her. What the Proverbs 31 woman has done, however, is she has taken the steps to develop those gifts of raw talent into important strengths and skills that we see showcased in Proverbs 31.
So while her nimble hands are a gift from God she has taken this gift and developed it into the talent of sewing, garment making and cloth production. Her ability to function on less sleep than most people she has used to start working while dark and to continue until well after dark. She has developed every raw talent she has to the utmost.
You are also amazing! You have also been blessed by God with a unique set of natural talents. Do you know what they are? Are you developing them to fullness?
Don’t fall into the trap of spending endless hours building up your weaknesses. Always work on your strengths.
In Tom Rath’s “StrengthFinder 2.0″ he states that after studying 10 million people nearly 7 million fall short in the area of developing their strengths. ”People not only go from cradle to cubicle but also to casket without ever uncovering their greatest talents and potential.”
Don’t waste another day. Be 100% you! Build on your raw talent, develop the unique “you” and take your place along side the Proverbs 31 woman. You have the potential to impact your family, community and world in the same way.
“Instruct a wise man and he shall be wiser still”~ Proverbs 9:9
“Joe, I like what I see from the neck up. But frankly, I can’t stand what I see from the neck down.” These blunt words were spoken by Jack La Lanne, number 1 fitness guru of the 70’s, to Joe Girard, super salesman and Guiness Book record holder for most automobile sales in a year.
Girard was admittedly 50 pounds overweight at this time.
Pretty blunt, maybe even hurtful?
La Lanne challenged the super salesman to a make a sale to himself – to take the weight off and keep it off. He instructed Joe Girard on healthful eating habits and then gave him a program of three simple exercises to do twice a day.
Morning and evening he was to work himself up to 42 pushups (from his knees), 42 sit-ups, and 42 bicycle kicks from a position of lying on his back.
For three months Girard ignored the advice. Then one day getting out of the shower he looked at himself in the mirror, and was disgusted at what he saw. He then took La Lanne’s advice and within the year was down from 207 pounds to 157 pounds.
One of Girard’s rules of selling yourself is now “Make sure the wrapping on your package makes people want know what is inside, – be buyable”
But Girard followed a rule of living that was laid down 3,000 years earlier by Solomon, King of Israel. He accepted strong criticism that was leveled at him and used it for his own improvement. That is one hallmark of wisdom.
(Story from “How to Sell Yourself” by Joe Girard, Warner Books, 1979)
“Greatness lies not in trying to be somebody but in trying to help somebody.”–Unknown
“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you” ~ Proverbs 4:25
“Oh give me the beat boys and free my soul, I want to get lost in your rock and roll and drift away”~ Drift Away (author Mentor R. Williams, Jerry Lynn Williams)
Instead of my usual morning drive entertainment of an audio book or podcast I was running late and just cranked up the music. Big mistake.
At work I sat at my desk, pulled out my to do list and got busy. When I couldn’t complete the first item due to a system glitch I jumped over to my email. I handled a few emails and then jumped into something else. I bounced from task to task all morning and had very little done by noon. By the time I left at 5 it was one of my least productive days ever.
I was out of focus.
Compare this with my most productive days which start when I’m inspired by business or productivity talks during my drive in. I’m mentally going over the items I want to accomplish that day before I even walk in the door.
The entire Proverb speaks of staying focused.
- “Let your eyes look straight ahead”
You are looking ahead to where you want to be.
- “Your gaze directly before you”
You allow no distractions
- “Make level paths for your feet”
Adjusting for obstacles that keep you from your goal.
- “Take only ways that are firm”
Watch for time-traps that like quicksand can suck you in.
- “Do not swerve to the right or the left”
My error yesterday was a swerve to check my email.
- “Keep your foot from evil”
Righteous living leads to clear thinking.
So don’t start your morning off like the song singing “day after day I’m so confused” and drift, drift, drift away.
“I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds and the stone wall was in ruins.” ~ Proverbs 24:30
Detroit’s city manager has cited the bankruptcy filing as needed in order to find a way to deal with 60 years of deferred maintenance. That’s not a typo – 60 years!
Many streetlights haven’t worked in years, there is no money to fix broken down ambulances, and up to one third of the residential properties are vacant. Why shouldn’t they be? Who wants to live in a city that is falling apart?
Now, accumulating stuff, is not the goal of the believer. The less the better. But the Bible does teach us to take care of and to prize the things we do own.
Even Paul, the apostle, had a few chosen possessions that he cared about. “When you come bring the cloak I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.” (II Timothy 4) It was speculated that Paul, on the verge of being arrested while in Troas, quickly slipped his most prized possessions to trusted Carpus for save keeping.
So whether you own a mansion on a hill or the clothes on your back, carefully maintain, prize, and care for them as a good steward of God. Your nice, well kept home, yard or garden may inspire your neighbors, which may inspire your community, which may bless your city.