An Idea Borrowed

Years ago on a radio program someone shared that they read a chapter in Proverbs every day. Since there are 31 chapters and the longest month has 31 days it allows you to read through Proverbs on a regular basis. I use it as the launch pad for my personal worship time and branch out from there. On this blog I will try to share some of the insights I have in the Word. I will try to organize them in the archive by reference.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Baby Steps before You Run

(Proverbs 4:7 KJV)  Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

How do we acquire something this important?  Start small and at the beginning.  When I need to tutor someone in Algebra or Geometry I realize that I have not had a math class in over 40 years.  I find that if the student is in the middle of the book, I am lost.  If they are at the beginning of the book, I have not problem.  If I work through the chapters with them it all comes back.  So start as a beginner.  That seems obvious but we want to be experts at once.  Before you can make award winning spaghetti, you have to know how to boil water.

Where do I start?  Not in a systematic theology.  Not in the book or Revelation.  Nor in Romans.  Start reading a gospel.  Mark is the shortest.  Look at the cross references and follow a few thoughts through the Bible.  When you find another place that is interesting, read the context.  Start small, but start.

Stupid Has a Cure

(Proverbs 30:2 KJV)  Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.

How often do we feel this way?  It hits me on occasion.  It probably should more often.  This is almost on the level with admitting that we have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  There is a measure of humility if we are admitting this to ourselves and not just making it a part of our mantra, looking for people to deny it.

Being “brutish” (stupid NASB) (1198) is like being born a sinner.  It is a condition that we did not cause but we can do something about.  In modern English stupidity is not really something we can change but the Hebrew word has the idea of being on the level of an animal.  This comes through in the KJV.  That we can change.  Just as sin is dealt with by calling on God, so it animal behavior.  It is inferred all through Proverbs that conditions like this can be changed.  Look at the next verse where it adds wisdom and knowledge to the list.

So why admit our limitations?  If we don’t admit we are off course we can never change direction.  The first step to finding your way is to admit that you are lost.  It is a standing joke that men will not ask for directions.  One symptom of this is looking for something in a strange grocery store.  I could ask a clerk but I don’t do that until I have gone through the entire store twice.  Admit your need and ask for help.  That help can come from the written word, good books or the mouth of mature believers.  Now let’s see if I can practice what I preach.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Real Truthers

(Proverbs 29:2 KJV)  When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Politics again.  But not really.  The difference between this and our public discussions is that the moral element is stressed and explained in Proverbs.  In fact the key is the moral truth, not the political experience.  It is important that we look at morals by eternal standards, not the standards of the sociologists and educators.

First, look at the general categories.  We have the “righteous” (6662) and the “wicked” (7563).  It is imperative that we understand these from a Biblical perspective.  We live in a world that considers homosexual marriage as moral and unrecycled trash as immoral.  In our modern newspapers and newscasts the words have lost their meaning.  The only reason that can be true is because the church has lost its way.  We have abandoned the fear of the Lord for the fear of being considered intolerant.  We think that truth is established by the latest poll instead of the Bible.

So, what do we do?  Accept that the Bible has the definitions and standards.  Even if you don’t have the courage to speak up, in your heart recognize the foolish confusion that you hear every day.  You cannot know what is a lie unless you know the truth.  An often repeated sermon illustration I have heard deals with how bank tellers can tell if a bill is a counterfeit.  They don’t really study how to recognize the phony.  What they do is know the real thing and usually at the first touch they can tell the fraud.  Get to know the real thing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Is Democracy Biblical?

(Proverbs 28:2 KJV)  For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged.

One of the big questions that will never have an answer is, “How much of what we believe is based on our culture and upbringing, and how much is from the Bible?”  Some parts are easy to answer others are difficult.  One of the things I am looking for and not finding is the justification for believing that democratic forms of government are best.  That is my belief, but what does the Bible say?

Does this verse refer to democracy?  Is it a “transgression” (6588) to have “many” (7227) people in power as opposed to a king?  In a sense, Americans think of themselves as sovereign.  We are princes.  We consider ourselves equal to any ruler.  The Bible, on the other hand talks about kings.  Some people point out Moses taking the advice of Jethro in Exodus 18 but the men Moses picked were not elected they were appointed by the God appointed leader.

Later the people will demand that God give them a king.  It was not the way God wanted it to go but He consented and Saul was chosen.  So maybe even kings are not God’s way.

We are in the midst of a campaign season now.  The November, 2010 elections are approaching.  Anyone who has eyes and ears sees the ads and articles that are trying to get people elected.  Most of them are designed to fool the masses.  Lies are told.  The past is covered up.  Favors are earned.  Usually the sheep will elect the best liars.  Will this be another such year?  Democracy depends on an informed electorate.  Ours has become too lazy and illiterate to know what is going on. 

Are God’s people going to prayerfully consider their choices and vote in a Biblical way?  Will people watch a couple of commercials on prime time and sell their birth right?  In reality, only God knows and He’s not telling.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Enough is Enough

(Proverbs 27:7 KJV)  The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.

This is a statement on the relative value of what we consider needs.  The basic statement is one that we have all experienced.  How good something tastes depends on how hungry we are.  To me a red delicious apple is one of the most useless parts of creation.  It is dull and almost tasteless.  However, if I am really hungry and it is the only thing in the refrigerator, I can eat it with gusto.  If I am “full” (sated NASB) (7649) I only sneer.

I think the NASB word gives the meaning better here.  We live in a “sated” (7649) culture.  We are so spoiled that we cannot enjoy basic goodness.  This applies to all areas of life.  Our senses are so dulled by excess that we keep looking for the bigger rush, the more extreme thrill. 

So?  How does this speak to me today?  A verse comes to mind:

(Psalms 46:10 KJV)  Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The NASB starts this verse off with “cease striving.”  In modern times someone coined the phrase, “Stop and smell the roses.”  Have you ever had someone who was all agitated and getting worse?  One way to help them is to take them aside, make them stop and think, and calm down.  This is where meditation, reflection, prayer and fasting come into our lives as believers.  Structure your day so you can “Be still” and remind yourself that He is God.  Not your employer, your wife, the traffic around you, the government, the barking dog but Him.  I find it important enough to start my day this way.  Find what works for you so that you are not sated with what is going on around you.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Answer a Fool

(Proverbs 26:5 KJV)  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

Does this verse contradict the previous verse?  The KJV seems to have the same words except for the “not” in verse 4.  One says “answer” (6030a), the other says don’t.  In the NASB it is indicated that the word “deserves” is not in the Hebrew.  This seems logical but I don’t know enough Hebrew to understand the difference.  Context, though, makes it obvious.

Some lives are nothing but examples of “folly” (200).  There are times when we are called to correct, reprove and rebuke.  I know that people like to quote Matthew 7:1 and tell people to “judge not.”  Some times those people are applying it correctly.  Sometimes those people are fools because they ignore context.  All they need to do is read a few more verses where Jesus continues:
Matthew 7:5 "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (NASB)
The hypocrisy is in not judging yourself, not in trying to correct a brother.

As we saw in verse 3, the way a fool should be answered is with a beating.  I am not sure we can get away with that today but it shows you the importance of trying to straighten fools out.

So?  Admit fools exist.  Admit they do not please God.  Admit you need to set them straight.  But again remember that it must be done the right way.

Don’t Answer a Fool

(Proverbs 26:4 KJV)  Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

This verse and the next go together.

I think this has several applications.  First, it means that we are not to dignify fools by trying to debate them or discuss certain issues.  Don’t even “answer” (6030).  This would apply mainly in personal style and confrontations.  There are times when we are to just bite our lip, shut our mouth and get on down the road.

Second, It also has the connotation that we are not to use his methods, or “folly” (200).  Engaging in a shouting match does nothing but say, “Monkey see, monkey do.”  In this case we are the monkey.  Sometimes the fools will be others who claim to be believers.  Paul discusses this in I Corinthians 6 and in regard to our point here says:
I Corinthians 6:7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? (NASB)
Third, do not let a fool set the terms of debate.  We fail at this.  In attempts to be kind and courteous we let the fools of the world set the ground rules for issues we disagree with them on.  One of the surrenders I am seeing is on the issues that are clear in the Bible:  Homosexuality and abortion.  We allow people to call these “social issues.”  They are not social issues.  Litter is a social issues.  Year round schools is a social issue.  Zoning ordinances are social issues.  Homosexuality and abortion are moral issues.  Even orthodox believers fall for this and have given up the field by using their language.

No one wants to be “like” (7737a) a fool.  One of the great temptations of righteous people is to sink to using the methods of the world.  We are to be different.

So?  Practice I Corinthians 13.  Remember that love is patient.  We may not suffer fools gladly, but we do suffer them.  Remember that love does not seek its own and does not act unbecomingly.  Apply it.  It is not easy, but it is necessary.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The New Hezekiah Translation (NHT)

(Proverbs 25:1 KJV)  These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.

One study Bible points out that the editing of Solomon’s Proverbs went on as late as the reign of Hezekiah.  This king was working hard to bring revival to the kingdom.  This verse is not offered as criticism but as reporting.

A thought came to me.  This chapter starts off with frequent mention of kings.  That might be because it was “copied out” (transcribed NASB) (6275) under the direction of a king.  I believe that Aramaic had become the standard language at this time so the general population could not have read the Hebrew.  Or at least it was a Hebrew that was archaic to those who could read.

This should be an indication to us of the need for fresh translations of the Bible.  We have so many today that it gets confusing.  All are not equal.  Some are heretical, but with a little thought and research we can make good choices in which translation we use.  With thoughtful study almost any translation can lead us to the truth.  There are places on the internet like John Meunier's Blog where he discusses the differences.

The key is the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Christians believe the Bible is the inspired word of God.  We argue over the meaning of “inspired” and the means of inspiration, but we agree that the Holy Spirit was active in creating this book.  Why then do some people believe that the Holy Spirit is incapable of guiding people who are faithfully trying to translate.  Obviously He can.  The key is in the hearts and minds of the translators.  Are they really trying to be faithful to the original text or are they just pushing their own ideas? 

So?  Don’t turn off your mind.  Read.  Study.  Think.  Remember that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to teach and lead.  I believe one of our presidents once said something like, “Trust, but verify.”  You don’t need to take anybody’s word for it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shame vs. Guilt

(Proverbs 24:2 KJV)  For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.

Evil is found in “hearts" (minds NASB) (3820).  The most common translation of this word is “heart”.  That is what the KJV uses here.  This would imply more of a built in action as opposed to a thought out action.  This is a part of original sin.

Evil minds “studieth" (devise NASB) (1897) “destruction" (violence NASB) (7701).  In the verse the emphasis is not on violence itself but on the mind that deliberately looks for ways to cause violence.  Compare this to verse 6.  One reason that Americans have such a hard time understanding much of the world is that Americans have been raised in a culture molded by the Bible.  Up until our day Americans might fornicate or commit adultery but they would admit that it was wrong.  People would lie but know that is was bad.  That is changing in our culture and has never been that way in much of the world.

I don’t know where I heard it first, but I have read it other places.  Some countries have a shame culture, others are guilt cultures.  What is the difference?  A shame culture is a value system that only feels bad when a person is caught.  As long as you get away with deceit or out of line sexual behavior, it is okay.  You can live with yourself.  This is most of the world.  A guilt culture knows they are wrong even if they are not caught.  This has been the traditional American view of things but it is changing.

No longer is evil automatically rejected by our courts or our leaders.  The law becomes a matter of technicality rather than real justice.  Just the use of the term “social justice” is a mockery of God.  The God of the Bible is not seen as all knowing.  This is the mindset of most the people we deal with.

So?  Accept the existence of sin and evil.  Be the exception.  Allow the grace of God to make you the salt of the earth and the light on a hill.  Remember that is Lot had been able to find 10 worthy people, Sodom would not have been destroyed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why Work?

(Proverbs 23:4 KJV)  Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.

This verse is in the middle of a passage looking at different sides of the lure of  being “rich” (wealth NASB) (6238).  Often the verses of Proverbs stand alone.  At times several will follow a theme.  This is a theme time.

At first it might seem that this verse is saying, “Don’t work hard.”  Keep in mind the principle of interpretation that demands taking all scripture into consideration.  Just in Proverbs we are told to work hard, to not be sluggards.  In other words, don’t be lazy.  We are made “weary” (NASB) (3021) by a lack of balance more than by a excess of hard work.  When we work hard, we sleep well and feel good about life.  When we obsess with one thing we sleep fitfully and are always tired.

The issue here is the focus of our work.  Why do we work?  Why do we work hard?  In addition to the obvious of supporting ourselves and our families we have the words of Paul:
EPH 4:28 Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have {something} to share with him who has need. (NASB)
I have listened to people trained in business.  I have watched how stores are run.  One observation I have had is that the businesses that focus on just making a profit do well in the short term but fail over time.  Profit is necessary but it is the target of serving the customers that is the key to success.  The person who wears himself out just get rich wears himself out.  The person who is concerned with serving finishes the race.

So?  Do good work and do it with the right attitude.  Develop a servant attitude at home, work and even at play.  Again, this is all through the Bible.  It needs to be all through our lives.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Judas or Santa Claus

(Proverbs 22:1 KJV)  A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.

What is in a “name” (8034)?  In ancient cultures a name carried a lot of weight.  There is a reason we pray in the name of Jesus.  We have all sung the chorus that begins, “Jesus, name above all names...”  The Bible recognizes that.  Modern fantasy writers often talk about the power of names to the point that many of their characters have a secret name that is not known because to know it would give someone power over them.

Much of that we brush off today as superstition.  But names still mean something.  If you follow politics, the name “Bush” causes certain rashes on certain people.  The same for the name “Obama” in different circles.  We have a different reaction to being called a Judas than a Santa Claus.  We now have people being borked.  When I was a kid my father would often remind me that I was a part of a family and I should not bring shame to our name.  So we understand this.

A good reputation is to be “chosen” (desired NASB) (977) and the word seems to imply action and choice.  We must make daily decisions to have people know we are honorable.  What do people think of when they hear your name?  Does it generate trust or a shaking of the head?  I remember one time at school when the library computer system was down and the librarian said, “Take it.  I know I can trust you to bring it back.”  Evidently I had been making the right choices.

“Favor” (2580) is better than riches.  This is the OT word for grace.  This is the favor that Noah found.
(Genesis 6:8 KJV)  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
It has a spiritual element and cannot be bought.  This is true in everyday life as well as in eternal matters. 

So?  Live each day as if you were an advertisement for Jesus.  You are.  If you pray over your meal in a restaurant, make sure that you treat the staff in a way that brings glory to Jesus.  When you are in the library don’t be talking loudly on your cell phone.  There are so many ways.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sin? What Sin?

Galatians 1:4 KJV)  Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Why did Jesus come to earth?  Modern Americans seem to have a hard time dealing with this.  He did not come to help us reach our potential, make us feel good about ourselves or build our self esteem.  He did not come to make us happy or to build strong families.  He “gave” (1325) Himself for our “sins” (266).  Only in verse 4 and already we must face the dreadful “S” word.

In our Post-modern world we find many people who believe they are following Jesus who are uncomfortable with this.  It is not a new discomfort.  Remember what Paul said about being a stumbling block.
1CO 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness,
If you do a word search on the phrase “stumbling block” you will see it is linked with iniquity in the OT.  People have always wanted to deny that they are sinners.  Today in addition to that many in the churches have adopted the idea that the cross was not the cure.  I remember reading in one of the emergent church authors that Jesus did not come to die for our sins but to help us find the good in us.  That is a warm, happy thought but it does not come from the Bible.

So?  If you want to be part of the solution, you need to know the problem.  The problem is not evil capitalists, the problem is evil.  That evil is in the hearts of all those not washed in the blood and filled with the spirit.  If you are still part of the problem, call on God for forgiveness and the grace to grow.

A Lesson in Interpretation

(Proverbs 21:18 KJV)  The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.

This is a verse that would be good to establish some heresy, if that was your goal.  This seems to imply that God will use the evil to pay the blood price for the sins of the righteous.  This is nonsense, of course.  Only the blood of the Pure Lamb of God would be sufficient to pay that price.  You need to be careful with isolated verses.

This is a good verse to teach about Biblical interpretation.  A simple, isolated reading of this brings us to an understanding that is the opposite of Bible teaching as a whole.  Only the pure sacrifice can pay a “ransom” (3724a).  That is clear in the rest of the Bible.  Sacrificial animals were required to be without blemish.  This kind of thinking even applied to the priests.  They were not allowed to be crippled or maimed.  It certainly is demanded in the statement that Jesus was without sin.

When you run into statements like this you must reach an understanding that is consistent with the witness of scripture.  Ignoring this principle is how weird cults get started.  When you come to an understanding it must work together with the rest of the Bible.

What could be an interpretation?  One possibility is that when the balance of the universe needs to be leveled out, God will generally try to direct it toward those who are living in rebellion.  You can take this too far also, but if you believe that God protects His people then you must leave open the option that those who hate God will suffer calamity.  Some call it bad luck but to the Christian there is no such thing as luck.  Put this together with another verse in Proverbs:
(Proverbs 16:4 KJV)  The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
So?  There are times when God allows His people to suffer, but in general we can relax more than the rebels.  We know that God will be looking out for us.  That is part of the promise.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Non-Martial Arts

(Proverbs 20:3 KJV)  It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.

“To cease" (Keeping away NASB) (7674) conflict should become habit.  It is not cowardice, it is maturity.  This message is brought up repeatedly in different ways because it goes against our natures and our cultural training.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  Evidently it is not just a matter of wisdom, avoiding “strife” (7379) is also an “honor” (3519b).  Is honor a factor of wisdom?  Avoiding the fight is honorable and wise because most fights are childish responses to pricks to our pride.  I work with teens.  Almost all fights involve the most immature in the student population, you know, the ones who have those great responses of, “Oh, yeah?”  Adults that get into fights have frequently been drinking too much.

A “fool” (191) is disagreeable.  A fool lacks wisdom.  Honorable men do not “meddle" (quarrel NASB) (1566).  This would go in the face of many cultures from the street gangs to the hidalgo of Spain.  What does this say about the macho man?

There is also the element of choice and attitude.  Although it is not used here, at other places there is a qualifier:

ROM 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.(NASB)
It is honorable to avoid strife.  We are to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.  Sometimes, after our best repeated efforts, it is not possible.  Romans 13 says the state bears the sword to punish evil.  Everybody quotes Jesus talking about non-violence but they ignore it when he tells the disciples to buy one (Luke 22:36). 

So?  Should we avoid strife and conflict, yes.  It that always possible, no.  But you can plan for it.  Are there always certain subjects that start an argument between you and your wife?  Do you always start screaming during rush hour traffic?  Do you start mumbling when you have to wait in a long line?  Start planning ahead and asking the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom you need to be more that a conqueror.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Haste Makes Waste

(Proverbs 19:2 KJV)  Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.

“Haste” (213) in a man, especially based on ignorance, means he “sinneth" (errs NASB) (2398).  The popular proverb would be “Haste makes waste.”  This is even more important in the digital age.  Information is so readily available that we don’t always take the time to verify.  Is it information or propaganda?  Is it fact or theory?  Is it accurate or twisted?  If we read without discernment we often pass on deception.  Discernment is sometimes quick; we just sense that something is wrong.  Other times it takes research and, even more important, thinking.  The context here is with our “feet” (7272) but I don’t think it is beyond the meaning to include our intellectual journeys.

So?  Slow down and take the time to think and pray.  Listen to the inner voice that sometimes is overwhelmed by the world of crisis and advertising.  The first time I was seriously considering the decision to place my faith in Christ was at a campfire service at summer camp.  The setting was designed to encourage decisions.  My friends were around me ramping up the pressure.  I refused to go forward and humble myself, not because it wasn’t a good idea but because I refused to be pressured into such an important decision.  After honest, unpressured consideration I made a public profession in a few weeks.  I think it has been more solid because of that pause.  To wait does not mean to refuse.  It can mean to be more serious.

The important decisions won’t go away.  I have a policy when approached by sales people.  If they have a offer that will go away if I don’t decide right now, then I decide right now.  I decide “No.”  It is amazing how often I get a second chance.

Stupid or Ignorant?

(Proverbs 19:2 KJV)  Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.

Ignorance is not “good” (2896a).  In our culture there is no excuse for not having “knowledge” (1847).  It might be good to point out the difference between stupid and ignorant.  Many people seem to think they mean the same thing.  Not so.  Stupid is a natural condition that is beyond your control.  It is nothing to be ashamed of, it is the way you are.  Ignorance is either a matter of choice or a lack of opportunity.  Many Christians are ignorant of what the Bible teaches and they are ignorant by choice.  They never read it.  Others, like new believers, are ignorant because they are young in the faith.  They have not had a chance to get into the word yet, but they will.  So as the verse says, it is not good to be without knowledge.

So?  Do something about it.  Turn off the TV.  Shut down the Twitter.  (Is that possible?  I am ignorant here.)  Stop checking your e-mail.  Get out your Bible and read it.  Sooner or later you are going to have to admit it won’t happen unless you make a choice to cause it.  You do have time.  Everyone has time to do what they really want.  Gather knowledge.  Start now.  Stop surfing the net and reading blogs.  The Holy Spirit is waiting to instruct you

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Grace and Peace

(Galatians 1:3 KJV)  Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,

When did the church stop calling down grace and peace in a regular way?  Did it fade because frequency often desensitizes?  Did it disappear when Christianity was legalized and people did not feel so dependent any more?  Think about what this should bring to mind.  We are saved by grace.  We are carried by grace.  It is God’s love in motion.  Out lives would be futile without it.

And peace....  This is not the peace of the treaty and a strong police force.  This is the inner peace that comes from having read the book and knowing how the story ends.  Do you know the thrill of riding a roller coaster or its modern descendants?  When you go over that first cliff you ask yourself, “What am I doing here?”  Some people scream and carry on.  It is just an act.  In their hearts they know they are safe.  They know the engineers have designed the structure.  They know the bolts have been checked.  They know they will come through it alive.  We have that same assurance.  We may wonder what we are doing here, but in our hearts we know God’s grace so we know God’s peace.

So?  Relax and enjoy the ride!

Evil Is As Evil Does

(Proverbs 18:3 KJV)  When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.

We again see a truth that our culture does not like to admit.  “Wicked” (7563) people exist.  They are all around us.  They have an effect on the world.  This could also be saying that the “contempt” (937) comes from the “wicked” (7563).  Showing contempt is part of being wicked.  Many times this contempt is well hidden.  Many ruling elites act like they care but in their hearts they are looking down their nose at people below them.  The righteous have courtesy for the poor and downtrodden.  We see this in another context:

(Proverbs 12:10 KJV)  A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
What looks like “tender mercies” are really cruel when they come from the wicked.  Sometimes the “wicked” (7563) man brings “contempt” (937) demonstrated in his attitude.  Other times his attitude brings contempt from his audience.  How does this work?  We have leaders and people who are not leaders.  They may be in politics, education, religion, or entertainment.  They use all the right words but in reality they are trying to divide and destroy for their own glory.  I see it in the kids I work with.  When a student is not getting his way he will call you something like “racist” or “hater”.  He is calling on words that are used to condemn evil behavior but he is using them for personal gain. 

The wicked do not feel “ignominy” (dishonor NASB) (7036) or “reproach” (2781).  It is hard for us to believe this.  As Christians we have been taught a certain way to look at the world.  We have been taught right and wrong.  We want the world to be Polyanna.  It is not and never will be.  Again I say, evil exists.  There are many people who have destroyed what conscience they had.  They have hardened their hearts.

So?  First, stay alert and don’t just accept what people say.  Watch their actions.  Make your decisions based on their fruit, not their words.  Second, look at your own heart and listen to your own mouth.  Are you living the life of holiness?  Are you representing your Savior the way you want to?  If not, repent.  Ask for divine help and allow the Holy Spirit to move change you into the person God intends you to be.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Equal or Created Equal? (Part II)

(Proverbs 17:2 KJV)  A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.

While there is an acknowledgment of social classes, this also contains the idea of dreaming big dreams.  Notice that the servant can become an heir.  It will not happen because he is at heart such a wonderful person.  This is not a self-esteem builder.  The dream is not because we dream it, but because we follow the correct principles.  It is possible for anyone to act “wise” (wisely NASB) (7919a), even a servant.  Our position in life does not regulate the quality of our behavior.  By following God’s principles we can better our position in life.  This is the upward mobility of the American dream and the reward of righteousness.

Equal or Created Equal?

(Proverbs 17:2 KJV)  A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.

I wonder if “servant” (5650) in Hebrew is the same as Greek, a synonym for slave.  It seems to be the most common for both.  As Americans we have a difficult time understanding the concept of a servant class.  We are believers in the idea of “all men are created equal.”  We may misunderstand what that means.  It may still be an idea that is seeking perfect expression.  But there is still something in the American way of thinking that says we can achieve.

How does this apply to us?  First, classes are always with us.  As I get older and rub elbows with more people I can see that while we all can be equal before God and the law, we are not of equal ability.  Some people just don’t have what it takes to be big achievers.  This is not based on race or socio-economic nitch, but on personal ability.  I don’t like the idea, but some people will never be anything more than peasants.  They may have had rich parents and have a lot of money, but they are nothing but a drag of society.  I could list many celebrities, but let’s not get personal.  Other people will move ahead or die.  I think of Frederick Douglass.  He was born a slave, but refused to be broken.  He taught himself to read.  He escaped and became a successful leader, author, editor and diplomat.  Read his autobiography if you get a chance.   It is called Narrative of the Life of a Slave.

People fit into certain jobs and classes.  There is a sense in which we need to accept that.  There is a saying, “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.”  That is fatalistic.  It should have added to it, “No, but you can make some great fried pork rinds.”  You may not be a bank president, but you be the best brick layer in town.  You may not graduate from college, but you can raise honest, responsible children.  You can be the best that you can be.

Which leads to other thoughts if I can get to them today.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Heart and the Tongue

(Proverbs 16:1 KJV)  The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.

First I want to give the entire NASB verse because it comes across different:
PRO 16:1 The plans of the heart belong to man, #But the answer of the tongue is from the \Lord.\ (NASB)
You need to begin by comparing this to verse 9.
(Proverbs 16:9 KJV)  A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.
This is an interesting passage that seems to have something to say about free will.  We can have “preparations” (plans NASB) (4633) of our own.  It also speaks about God’s sovereignty.  It gives God the last word.  This is a tension we see throughout the Bible and reflected in the debates between Calvinists and Arminians. 

Two different words are translated “plans” here and in verse 3.  This word seems to mean the mental planning.  In verse three it seems to mean actually talking action.  A third word is used in verse 9.  It is a root for the word in verse 3.

The NASB says these plans “belong” (not in Hebrew) to man.  Notice that the KJV has a different meaning, making the two phrases parallel constructions.  Barnes says that “to man” is literally “in man”.  Although I like the KJV translation better it has a problem because the verb is singular but the subject would be plural in this construction.
Proverbs 16:1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. (KJV)
According to Adam Clarke this literally says:

    “To man are the dispositions of the heart; but from the Lord is the disposition of the heart”

He believes it means that man can propose, plan and ask for as much as he wants, but the ultimate “answer” (4617)  is made by God.  I believe that this is an example of the way in which God gives us responsibility and freedom but keeps the veto pen in His hand.  This should give us a greater sense of peace as we pursue “holiness, without which, no man shall see the Lord.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Contrast and Compare

(Proverbs 15:16 KJV)  Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.

Notice the contrasts between what is obviously the spiritual condition and the one that is the result of seeking material wealth.  First you have the “little” (4592) contrasted with the “great” (7227).  I think it is safe to say that both are meant to modify “treasure” (214).  Why is it that we are never content with enough.  We always need a little more.  I currently own eight guitars.  Except for the Strat, I play all of them on occasion, but in reality I don’t need all of them.  I still have to slap myself when I go by a guitar store because I still don’t have a hollow body or, well you get the idea.  I have more than enough.  The trick is to know that and believe it.  Treasure takes different forms for different people.  Learn when enough is enough.

The other contrast is between “fear” (3374) and “trouble” (turmoil NASB) (4103).  The fear of the Lord is frequently referred to in Proverbs.  It is not the craven fear I used to have of the dark.  It is the healthy respect for the holiness and character of God.  It is the concern that helps us live upright lives.  This fear leads to peace.

The turmoil comes from the insecurity of never feeling like you have arrived.  It is involved with the need to get ahead and be successful.  It is rooted in the wrong understanding of what getting ahead and success really are.

Learn to ask yourself if you really need something and why you want it.  Imagine Jesus going over your receipts.  What will those receipts tell Him about your priorities and values?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Strong Home

(Proverbs 14:1 KJV)  Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

I don’t think this is a literal statement.  No woman “builds” (1129) a “house” (1004) in the roof and walls sense.  But they do build the atmosphere that permeates that house.  In our day of radical feminism this is an unpopular idea.  To many people it would seem sexist and out of date.

To start with, you have a decision to make today.  Do you accept the Bible as the word of God?  Do you believe it is inspired by God?  Don’t get sidetracked into an argument about what “inspired” means.  There are many definitions.  The question is, “Do you believe that the Bible is a means of communication that God has supervised and must you listen to what it says?”  If you say “No” then you have obviously wandered in here by mistake.  You are welcome but much of what is said here will seem strange.  If you say “Yes,” then today work on taking it more seriously.

While reading Proverbs I have come across many indications that women had more status in Jewish culture than was normal for the day and surrounding norms.  They were not “liberated” by any means, but they were much more free than women in nations around them.  This goes back to creation where the Bible says:
(Genesis 1:27 KJV)  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
At the other end of the spectrum we find Paul’s statement:
(Galatians 3:28 KJV)  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Having said that, the role of the woman in building the home is pivotal.  My wife laughs about how one of the roles of wives is to civilize their husbands.  Often there is real truth in that.  Men when they are by themselves act different than when they are with women they respect.  One of the reasons that our society is seeing so many problems is that little boys don’t have fathers in the home to look up to.  One of the reasons that the fathers are not in the home is because women have begun to look at them as nothing but studs and don’t want them around for any other reason. 

Where one woman builds another “plucketh” (tears down NASB) (2040).  One makes her family stronger the other destroys it.  My kids pointed out a bumper sticker to me.  It is a take off of a popular sexual joke.  It goes like this, “So many women...So few ladies.”  Many women have set their goal to become one of the guys.  I watched a panel at a computer hackers conference.  It was on parenting.  No joke.  In typical hacker style one of the speakers was unmarried and had no children.  She never intended to have children.  She was the one who had the foulest mouth of the whole group.  Everyone laughed, but there was a nervousness about the laughter.

Ladies, are you going to build up or tear down?  Gentlemen, are you going to love and support or accept the destruction of your home?  It is up to you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

After the Glory

(Jonah 4:10 KJV)  Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

I was listening to an Alister Begg sermon on the way to work this morning.  He made a comment about God continuing to work with Jonah after his mission was over.  That spurred me to think about the reality that God does not use us and cast us aside.  He continues to be involved in our lives.  Has God called you to do something?  There can be a real let down after it is done.  Expect another contact.  God is still involved in your life.

Unisex Translation

(Proverbs 13:5 KJV) A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.

Have you noticed in your King James translation that some words are set in italics? That is not a matter of emphasis. It is a translation technique used to show when words have been inserted to give understanding but they are not in the Greek or Hebrew. I don't think I have have been making that adjustment when I copied and pasted. I just now noticed it was not coming across. I will try to make that correction from now on. The NASB uses a similar technique. Thus "righteous man" becomes "the righteous". This might be a place where the feminists have a legitimate point to complain.

Righeous Is As Righteous Does

(Proverbs 13:5 KJV) A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.

Honesty is a constant companion of the “righteous” (6662). Again it strikes me how often words and themes are repeated in Proverbs. It would seem repetitious, but I think God understands we need to be constantly reminded. We see that with righteousness. You might know someone who always quotes the verse that says “there are none righteous, no not one.” They seem to ignore all the references that say we are to be righteous. It is not by our own strength, it is through grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. Don’t ever fall back on “I’m just a sinner, saved by grace” as an excuse. Use that when you need to forgive someone else, but not to excuse your failures.

How can people say that a believer never “hates” (8130)? Like many words it depends on the context and the target. When hate is acceptable is when it is aimed at sinful activity. In Proverbs I can’t find any acceptable hatred toward people. The righteous only hate unrighteousness.

One form of unrighteousness is “lying" (falsehood NASB)” (8267). Falsehood has many forms and expressions. Those who sincerely desire to be righteous recognize and avoid all forms. We get very good at sophistry and rationalizations that make it possible to look pious without the ethical demands messing up our plans. Most of the time, if we will listen to the Spirit, we can avoid the compromises that our society demands. This attack on liars is another often repeated theme of Proverbs and the entire Bible.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our Establishment Clause

(Proverbs 12:3 KJV) A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.

An obvious goal is to be “established” (3559). This is a word that is sometimes used to refer to the creation. As an example:
(Proverbs 3:19 KJV) The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.
The picture is a person standing tall, being salt and light and making an impact on his community. God is building us for a dual role. For eternity yes, to be in His presence. But we are also being built up to be examples of godliness in a wicked world. This brings to my mind the words of Paul:
(Ephesians 3:17 KJV) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Our righteousness is rooted in Jesus and having Him live in our hearts. This will establish us and keep us from being pushed around by all that happens around us. Although I believe that God expects our efforts and work, it cannot be denied that such a thing is only possible because of grace and the work of the Holy Spirit.

I continue to be reminded as I study Proverbs of how well God has woven together the different parts of His word. So many authors. So many centuries. Yet the themes are repeated and reinforced. I have always heard this but it is a great pleasure to see it with my own eyes and heart.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Is Sushi Evil?

(Proverbs 12:27 KJV) The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious.

Does this mean that sushi is evil? How about the advocates of vegetables either eaten raw or at least not cooked long? It is amazing how we can find things in the Bible that back up our personal opinions if we only look long enough.

Compassionate Conservatism (and Liberalism)

(Proverbs 12:10 KJV) A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

The second part of this jumped out at me as I read through Proverbs again this morning.

So called “tender mercies" (compassion NASB) (7356) are not always good.

The “wicked” (7563) can make compassion “cruel” (394). When you think about all of the Federal programs started in the name of compassion and examine the results, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that evil people cannot administer compassion. With school starting I also think of all the misguided “good intentions” of teachers who think they are helping by building self-esteem built on nothing and ignoring the Biblical truth that only grace can change the heart of man.

Grace and Peace.


(Romans 13:4 KJV) For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

This is a day to look back and remind ourselves of the kind of world in which we live. It is a day to look further back and remind ourselves that we are to be salt and light.

We as individuals are not called to retaliate for evil done to us. Do a word study on vengeance. Just a few verses earlier we see the theme of the Bible:
(Romans 12:19 KJV) Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Compare that to the teaching that brought the attack on the twin towers:
From Surah 2, "The Cow",
verse 179 "And there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil)."
verse 216, "Warfare is ordained for you..."
These are direct quotes from a Koran translated my a faithful Muslim. Get a Koran and read it through. Read the context of what I quoted. I guarantee it will not convert you but it will help you understand the forces that Satan is using against us.

But while we are to turn the other cheek as individuals and not seek vengeance, notice what the verse at the top of the post tells us. It is the government's job to bear the sword against evil. Don't be one of those "proof text Christians" who only takes the counsel of God that makes your coffee clache happy. Read the whole thing. There is a place for the sword as well as forgiveness.

Walk Tall

(Proverbs 11:3 KJV) The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.

When in doubt, follow the path of “integrity” (8538). This should be obvious, but it isn’t to many people. Words tend to lose their meaning when they are used too often. It is now the election season. All of the weasels of congress and the Senate are talking about integrity. So are those who know what it means. We should be setting example not looking for escape clauses. Our culture likes words like “pragmatic” and “reasonable” but God speaks of integrity. I believe God interprets integrity more legalistically than most of us do.

We miss a lot of the word pictures that come in the OT simply because of our modern technology and health system. To many people of the world, “upright” (3477) is a vivid concept. Picture traveling through farm country and seeing old barns and houses that are beginning to lean and sag. The cause is not just age, it is also neglect. In fact you could almost say that it is mostly neglect. Simple maintenance will keep building standing upright.

Or picture some of the elderly who have bodies that are bent and twisted from hard work or illness. Whatever our physical condition, spiritually we are to be upright. “Upright” (3477) means that we are straight arrows, we are followers of truth.

Honesty and character will “guide” (5148) us because God gives us standards and road signs. We don’t have to guess what is the proper response in much of life. We have many commandments given to us that are outside the Levitical ceremonial law. They are universals. Some are given in this chapter such as honest weights and measures.

One of the benefits of walking in integrity is we are free to spend our energy on heavier issues since the simple standards are set for us. We don’t have to fight temptation as much because we know the proper behavior. We can use a simple “no” instead of a long explanation.

Walk tall. Walk straight. Walk the walk that Jesus would have you walk.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Key to Wealth

(Proverbs 10:4 KJV) He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.

We must compare this verse with verse 22. Here it is the “hand” (3709/3027) of the “diligent” (2742a) that makes us “rich” (6238). There, it is God.
(Proverbs 10:22 KJV) The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
We see that again many of God’s principles are two edged swords. We like to see only one side, but God is much more complex and practical. God blesses. Grace is extended. There are reasons that God chooses to extend His blessing. It is not because we are “negligent” (7423b). It is not in spite of our negligence. God is not capricious or inconsistent. There may be times when God extends blessing to those who are not working hard, but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

This is important because it is a principle that applies to our salvation. We have the conflict between grace and works. Some people think only grace is important, others think both have a role. The Bible clearly says we are saved by grace. That means it is a gift. That gift is not earned. God chooses to give it. The question for all believers is how does He choose. First, He chooses those who believe and trust in Jesus and His shed blood. The Calvinist seems to stop there theologically although many stress obedience for some reason I can’t figure out. The Arminian says that obedience is required. Don’t listen to either one. Read for yourself and make you own decision.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to School

Tomorrow I report to school to start the new school year. The luxury of summer vacation will be over and my energy will be drained daily. Most people get two weeks vacation. I am not complaining, just stating a fact. It will be interesting to me how well I keep this up daily with the pressures that most of you face all the time.

The next chapter of the adventure begins

Hope in Change

(Proverbs 9:4 KJV) Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,

In the last post we looked at the “simple" (naive NASB) (6612a). Here wisdom is calling to the “simple" (naive NASB) (6612a). In other places adulteresses are calling. It continues to appear that we have a choice in the direction of our lives. We can respond to God’s call.

It is our responsibility to “turn” (5493) and we get to choose where. Although this word is not translated “repent” in the KJV or NASB, it has one of the aspects of repentance: The idea of changing direction.

Even the naive knows he “wanteth" (lacks NASB) (2638) something. This is the kind of attitude that God can work with. Yesterday in my reading I walked in the shadows of Solomon, John Wesley and C.S. Lewis. (It is still summer so I have more time.) It was a humbling experience. As I learn and grow I also am aware of how lacking I am. It is good for us. It puts us where God can do something with us. It makes us willing to listen.

Think of your inadequacies. Are you naive? Are you a sluggard? What do you lack? No one knows as well as you, except for God, of course. He is waiting for you to turn in. Give Him a daily chance to work on you.

This would seem to have a parallel with the statement of Jesus to come to him all who are heavy laden. This reinforces the idea that God is seeking us out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

C.K. Chesterton on Neighbors

(Leviticus 19:18 KJV) Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

As I was reading today I came across this in Heretics by C.K. Chesterton. Since I am reading through a download from Project Gutenberg I can't give you a page number but it is in Chapter 14.
We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbour. Hence he comes to us clad in all the careless terrors of nature; he is as strange as the stars, as reckless and indifferent as the rain. He is Man, the most terrible of the beasts. That is why the old religions and the old scriptural language showed so sharp a wisdom when they spoke, not of one's duty towards humanity, but one's duty towards one's neighbour. The duty towards humanity may often take the form of some choice which is personal or even pleasurable.

The Image of Lego

(Romans 8:15 KJV) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

How can we assume the arrogance to consider ourselves children of God? Because He created us and adopted us. As I comprehend eternity I think of the sovereignty of God and all the “omni’s” that go along with Him. I anticipate an infinite number of “aha’s” and “eureka’s” as I grow and learn. At the same time because I am created in His image there is a way in which I fit in naturally.

Picture a universe filled with Legos. An infinite number of pieces that can be fit together in a mind boggling number of ways. I am one little Lego. I am nothing compared to the whole, but because I am made in the image of Lego, I can fit comfortably together with any other piece in the set. If I can comprehend it with man-made toys, why should it be hard to accept it of an infinite God?

Deer in the Headlights

(Proverbs 8:5 KJV) O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.

Two points of honesty the Bible gives us. First, it tells us where or what we are. Here it calls some people “simple" (naive ones NASB) (6612a) and others “fools” (3684). We tend to dodge those qualities. Second, it points out that we can grow. We don’t need to stay where we are. It is possible for the “simple” (6612a) to “understand" (discern NASB) (995) “wisdom" (prudence NASB) (6195). You do not have to remain out of it.

The idea of being naive goes back to a root including staring with wide open eyes. The idea of a deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming car comes to mind. It is a condition of young children that some people grow out of and some learn to disguise. As believers we cannot afford to be naive. We cannot afford to believe everything we hear whether it be the evening news or the morning sermon (or the daily blog). This verse implies that we can learn to “discern” (995). This is a very common word in Proverbs that is often translated understand.

Discernment is so important to believers. We fall into the opposite traps of legalism or antinomianism because we do not want to think. God speaks to us through many forums and it is easy to be diverted from the paths of righteousness is we refuse to think.

When did “wisdom" (prudence NASB) (6195) become a trait to be laughed at? Here the KJV needs to be updated. Prudence is a much better translation here. We dread being called a prude, yet it is a quality that we are to seek. The world loves to take qualities that God has blessed and make a mockery of them. There is a website, “The Ultimate Answer to Kings” which finishes its title with “ not a bullet but a belly laugh!” There is a bit of wisdom in that. When someone mocks you, don’t get mad. Instead say, “Thank you.”

When is the last time someone attempted to attack your faith either by belittling you or with anger? Maybe it is time to be more vocal.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Foreign Entanglements

(Proverbs 7:5 KJV) That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.

The “they” referred to are in the previous verse: Wisdom and understanding. As we work through Proverbs we will see that these are available to anyone who seeks them but that many people will ignore them instead. They are the roots of discipline that lead to Godly lives. They lead to behavior and values which are not well regarded in our modern culture.

The “strange woman" (adulteress NASB) (802/2114a) seems to be juxtaposed to Wisdom. I again point out that this is rejected by our modern popular culture. Read any popular fiction. The leading characters will somewhere jump in bed with someone to whom they are not married and it will be the “wise” thing to do. I am reading Einstein by Walter Isaacson. It describes how Einstein was deliberately planning on having an affair with his cousin. He was going to do it while staying married. I may have missed it, but there was not a hint of criticism for this behavior, after all his wife was moody and depressed. We are surrounded by this kind of thinking.

There are two concepts in this compound word. It literally means foreign woman. Note that the word “stranger" (foreigner NASB) (5237) is translated adulteress in places. We may not like it, but Israel and the church are closed cultures. We are to keep to ourselves. Our goal is not to be like the world but like Jesus.

At this point I begin to wonder if there isn’t a figurative message here also. The author has been talking about wisdom as a person and a friend. Now, he warns us against the “stranger" (foreigner NASB) (5237). If we allow or minds to roam, we come up with the idea of foreign values, foreign logic, foreign priorities. We see how the world wants to cancel the wisdom of God with the wisdom of the world.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Is This a Waste of Time?

Often when I enter, contribute and explore the world of blogging, I wonder, "Why?"

This takes time. Is it a waste of energy? Is it pure narcissism? Am I trying to do anything besides feed my own ego? No, no, yes.

One of the things that I learned when I was preaching on a regular basis is the focus of a deadline. If I was to stand before a congregation (admittedly very small) on Sunday, I had to be ready. That helped focus my study. If I expected to stand up and proclaim, "Thus saith the Lord!" I had better put in my time. It helped my approach to blogging that I was always speaking to a small group. I am used to it.

A second factor that crosses over from preparing to preach is the blessing that comes from looking deeper. I believe most good preaching speaks to the preacher as much as the congregation. There were many lessons God taught me as I studied that I never had time to share. You cannot get serious about the word without having it touch you. One of the greatest benefits of preaching was the worship of preparing to preach.

A blog is not a sermon, but it is sharing the things the Holy Spirit is whispering to me as I study. Most of what I post is adapted from what I have written in my own personal study files. Even if no other person reads what I write, the discipline moves me down the road of spiritual growth.

Praise God for His many ways of being the Good Shepherd.

Guilt by Association

(Proverbs 6:1 KJV) My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,

Here is another recurring theme in Proverbs, the danger of guaranteeing someone else’s debts. We do stupid things such as standing “surety” (6148) for someone. In modern terms this would be co-signing on a loan. Parents do this for children. I don’t see it being applied that way. The key is whom you trust.

An interesting application to this is found in the binding our associating ourselves with a “friend" (neighbor NASB) (7453) or a “stranger” (2114a). We are to be leery of close associations with people who are not bound by blood or belief. Again it seems that Paul has read his Bible:
II Corinthians 6:14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? (NASB)
In Proverbs it is talking about business arrangements. Paul expands it to such things as marriage. Do not get tied down to people who have different values. Do not establish any relationship that would commit you to evil practices and values. It is clear this means do not marry an unbeliever. It might even go so far as to not marry anyone who comes from another branch of Christianity, not because they are evil but because of the stress on working together. It would also mean business partnerships. It gets more confusing as you move out into the broader world. It used to be possible to avoid shopping at stores that violated your values. Today, good luck with that.

This would include friends. The word “neighbor” (7453) is “friends” in the KJV. That is at the core of the meaning. We are to associate with the world. We can have friends. But there is a limit to how involved we are to be.

“Stranger” (2114a) is the word used for “adulteress” in Proverbs. There was a definite view that those outside the Covenant were polluted by their morals and social practices. They were not believers. They were considered strange. Today we consider the world normal and we are strange. We need to get over this.

This train of thought continues at least to verse 3.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Situational Ethics and Mere Christianity

(Romans 1:19 KJV) Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Today I am reading in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. In the first chapter he talks about the Law of Nature. He explains that this used to mean the Law of Human Nature not the Laws of Physical Science as it is used today. He is making the point that people down through history and in all cultures and centuries have had a basic sense of right and wrong. It might be interpreted different but it was there. For instance, murder is always wrong. Different times might define murder differently, but all would agree there is a type of killing that is wrong. In the book, Lewis is not into heavy Bible quoting but, if he were, he would include this verse.

My mind wandered as he used natural law and gravity as an example of forces that can’t be ignored. I began to think about how often in life decisions are not easy. So often we are dealing with shades of grey instead of black and white. We have to settle for good instead of best. You may remember a book called Situation Ethics. The author argued that all is relative. Not so. Moral law is like physical law. Rarely does one law work by itself. Again let’s look at the law of gravity and an airplane flying. When an airplane starts down the runway, gravity does not go away so it can take off. Other laws kick in. There is something called Bernoulli’s Principle. It states, if my memory is correct, that the faster a fluid moves the lower the air pressure. Since an airplane wing is shaped to make the top surface longer than the bottom, the air going over the top travels further in the same time as the air on the bottom, thus forcing it to go faster. This creates lift and when the lift is stronger than the pull of gravity, take-off occurs.

Get the idea? One law does not go away or get ignored but can be overcome by another law if the circumstances are just right. Thus a Dutch citizen can lie to a Nazi searching for Jews and be doing the right thing. Lying is not right but the need to protect innocent life trumps it in that situation. For believers this can be a slippery slope but to live a life of holiness demands our minds as well as our hearts and souls.

Morality Redfined in 1776

In my last post I mentioned that our culture is redefining words to take the meaning out of them. I specifically mentioned the word "morality". Shortly after that I cam across this comment in Wesley's Journals, Tuesday, July 2, 1776:
In the evening I preached at York, on the fashionable religion, vulgarly called morality;..."
It would seem that over 200 years ago people were putting new meanings to the word "morality." Some human tendencies never seem to change.

Discretion Requires Valor

(Proverbs 5:2 KJV) That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge.

I commented on the first part of this verse here.

We are to guard our “discretion” (4209). This is another one of those words which has a different feel depending on the context. It means to plan in the positive sense and to scheme in the negative sense. In the Bible it is used both ways. Here it is in the context of wisdom and understanding (see verse 1). So we are to be very thoughtful as we observe and respond to the world around us. We are to apply God’s standards to what we see going on in our sphere of influence and beyond.

Everywhere I look I see plain vanilla. We live in a culture that is trying to stamp out excellence and enforce mediocrity. I am only in one school district, but I think it is representative. We talk about rigor and high standards when we are in public meetings then quietly simplify the vocabulary in our text books. One of the topics being advocated by our educational leaders is to make it possible for a student to pass with a 20% average. I kid you not.

Our culture hates real morality and is happy to have wickedness in charge. Part of the attack is to redefine words like morality. Morality now involves how much gas your car uses instead of being faithful to your wife. We should know better. It is required for us to discriminate when discernment tells us there are issues at stake. We should do so vocally, not just in our hearts.

We are to “keep" (reserve NASB) (5341) what we know. This is another word that means to watch or guard. Notice that our lips are doing this not our journals. We are to speak out. It will cost us. It always has cost, but that is what we are called to do and be.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Learn or Fade

(Proverbs 4:2 KJV) For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.

Another key to understanding is “good doctrine" ((sound (2896a) teaching (3948) NASB)). Teaching comes from a root that means to take. It might be better to style it “teachings”. This brings to mind the passage that talks about tickling your ears.
II Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. (NASB)
If “doctrine" (teaching NASB) (3948) as used here is really the idea of taking, that differentiates the Biblical idea of teaching from the modern idea of teaching. Modern teaching is about having fun. Learning is not presented as work or effort but natural and automatic. Educators use as an example the way in which small children learn spontaneously and seem to love it. This week while visiting relatives I observed a three year old joyfully writing words and playing number games. It seems to work. The responsibility is on the teacher to make learning fun. That is fine with beginning numbers but how do you make the idea of checks and balances into a fun game?

The Biblical idea here puts the responsibility on the student. He has to take. It is not a matter of the teacher tricking him into learning. This does not mean to make it dry and uninviting, but learning is a cooperative venture with the student bearing a good part of the load.

Another difference between Biblical teaching and modern teaching is the assumption that the older person has something to “give” (5414) {end}. A few years ago in one of our “in-services”, which are teacher training sessions, the principal brought a bunch of her children’s toys and laid them out in front of us. She told us to pick the toy that represented our style of teaching. Then we were going to share why we made our choice. I hate this kind of thing.

By the time I got over my rebellious attitude the only thing left was a tea pot. My first point was that I seemed to be the only one who seemed to feel that he had anything to pour out to the students. That got polite laughs so I continued. I also shared the science of tea making. You pick the type of tea that is best for the group you are serving. Then I talked about steeping the tea for just the right amount of time to get the full flavor and so forth. Most of the people shared about feelings and such. I was the only one who dealt with content and the students level of ability.

Again we come to choice, to our responsibility as learners and believers. Too often we are willing to “forsake" (abandon NASB) (5800a) God’s “law" (instruction NASB) (8451) [torah]. So much of our spiritual growth depends on our willingness and cooperation.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Partners of Truth

(Proverbs 3:3 KJV) Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:

“Mercy" (kindness NASB) (2617a) is a quality that I am working on. This word in the OT is the word that is translated “loving-kindness” and to me is an OT combination of grace and agape. It is a quality of the character of God and it is expected of us. It is listed in the love chapter:
I Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, (NASB)
It is part of the fruit of the Spirit. It should be a large part of our lives.

I have found that kindness is one of the qualities of love that I had not been cultivating. I was aware of patience but it was too easy for me to make the cutting remark that is so typical of a lack of kindness. Even here in the OT we are seeing the demand for a certain type of person. I had a discussion this week where a non-believer brought up the idea that the God of the OT was different from Jesus. Not so.

“Kindness” (2617a) and “truth” (571) go together. So many people today want to abandon truth because they feel it is too harsh or will offend people. Of course people like me want to abandon kindness because we know we are right. God binds them together. Kindness may make us express the truth more carefully and thoughtfully, but it does not separate us from it.

Do not even dare to separate truth from its meaning. We live in a world of relativism. People are redefining the meaning of words. The post modern thinking believes that truth is different for each of us and that words mean what the person wants them to mean. This is another subtle attack on the gospel and the One who said He was the “way, the truth, and the life.” Don’t forget the next part: “No man comes to the father but through Me.” Truth is eternal. Truth exists.

Micah 6:8 links justice and kindness. Here it is truth and kindness. Truth and justice go together. They cannot stand alone, although our culture is trying to pretend that they can.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Practice Makes Closer to Perfect

(Proverbs 2:2 KJV) So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;

We have the key vote in the election of our souls. We must “incline" (make attentive NASB) (7181) our ear. How do you do that? Have you ever noticed that when you get, for example, a new red car how suddenly you see red cars everywhere? You know what I mean. When something is on our mind we are more aware of it. So when we begin to deliberately focus on something we become more aware of it. Our expectations are key to what we get out of any encounter.

There is also a learning curve and a practice curve. Years ago when I was involved in a youth choir I had to learn parts. By practice I got better at reading music. I eventually was able to pick up a hymnal and come close to what it said to sing. There was a learning curve based on practice. For years now churches have been moving away from hymnals and going to big screens with only words supplied. I find it very hard to figure out anything but the melody now. I have stopped using the skill and it has faded.

If you have never spent much time reading the word, get started. Keep at it. Hearing what the Holy Spirit has to say gets better with practice and your hearing stays strong with practice.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Take It or Lose It

(Pro 1:3 KJV) To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;

We can “receive” (3947) “instruction” (4148) in how we act. This is a goal of Proverbs. This assumes that we can change. This takes the previous verse and reinforces it. Much can be offered but it is useless unless we bring it in. Every once in awhile I arrive home and find a package on my front porch. I don’t just leave it outside basking in the knowledge that it has arrived. I don’t bring it in and put it in a closet. I bring it in and open it so that I can have the benefit of what is inside. It doesn’t help to sit each week and listen to the best preacher in the world if I don’t make use of the teaching.

We are expected to show “wise behavior” (7919a). Wisdom is more than words and thoughts. This is a different word for wise than is used in the previous verse. This word has the sense of prudence. Godliness is not just thinking the right thoughts it is also acting the right way. We should look at the root meaning of prudence and glory in being called a “prude.”