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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The End of Moffatt

For the past month I have been starting my day reading Proverbs from the translation by James Moffatt.  I have had it on my shelf for years and thought it was time to crack the cover.  I probably got it in a yard sale and after reading the Introduction and Proverbs, it will probably go back to the yard sale.

The first reason I won’t bother with it again is that it seems more of a paraphrase than a translation.  I am not a child or a new believer.  Years ago I found the original Living Bible very useful for those special situations.  I don’t usually find them helpful now.  I don’t remember any rampant heresy, but it always seemed a little bit off to me.

The second reason is that reading the Introduction allowed me to get into the head of the translator.  He was a scholar and an academic.  In his own way he tried to be humble but there is something about education which often confuses the thinking.  I would consider him unassumingly arrogant.  As I looked through the book, I found that he had rearranged the chapters in some books.  There may be some scholarly reason for that.  Fine.  Share your wisdom at the next meeting of University Professors.  But don’t try to confuse us ordinary folks with issues that do nothing to strengthen our faith.

It was worth a read through but I would not recommend you spend the time looking for a copy.

Lead from Where You Are

(Proverbs 31:4 KJV)  It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

Since there are only 30 days thismonth I thought I would put in something from Chapter 31.

I think this chapter has a lot to teach us about godly leadership.  Here it is about kings.  Later we see the same principle when it is talking about the excellent wife.  Leaders, or “rulers” (7336) ,  are not allowed to have the weaknesses of the masses.  Leaders are to make sure that they are in the condition to take care of those below them.

Leadership involves self-denial.  This is a Biblical concept.  Some in society may embrace it, but in general Biblical leadership does not bestow privilege, it bestows duty and responsibility. 

You say, “But I am not a leader?”  Actually you are.  God has put you in a position to represent Him.  You are to do it your way, with your personality.  You are pointing the unsaved toward salvation.  You are encouraging spiritual siblings to move on to maturity.  You are raising children.  You are an influence. 

Here it talks about strong drink but the principle applies to any area of our lives that weaken our ability to lead.  What keeps you from being a good example?  Do you fail to control your temper?  Do you drive like you accuse others of driving?  Do you borrow and not return?  Do you let others do all the heavy lifting?  Fill in the blank.

Accept the fact that your are an influence, if not a king.

Test Time

(Proverbs 30:5 KJV)  Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.

Notice it is God’s “word” (565a) that is being “pure" (tested NASB) (6884) here, not man.  This verse would refer to two things at least.  First, it would mean the written word of God.  At that point they had the Pentateuch at least.  There was a body of information that was considered different and had a higher authority. Second, in those days, when the prophets still spoke, this would also have included what they had to say. Today I would limit this to the Bible as used by most Protestants.  If Catholics want to throw in the Apocrypha, then test away.

The word is to be “tested” (6884) . The definition is “to smelt, refine, test.”  The idea behind “tested” (6884) is that of the refiner’s fire.  That is a process in which the dross is removed and purity is approached.  How does this apply to us?  The word itself is not being changed in a refining process.  If you take pure gold and put it through a refining process, you get pure gold.  We are taking God’s word, putting it through the fire of our lives and finding that it is everything God claims it to be.

We test it by relying on it.  We test it by planning our lives around it.  In a sense we test it by risking out lives on its truth.

So?  Do you know the word of God well enough to apply it?  If not, maybe it is time to get back to reading what it says.  There are some things that no one can do for you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Offering, a Bribe?

(Proverbs 29:4 KJV)  The king by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.

When I first went through Proverbs, our nation has just allowed congress to bail out the large banks of the country.  If you follow the money you can see easily that this is a clear case of “bribes” (8641) given to corrupt politicians, representing the “king” (4428), and corrupt business leaders.  All they can see is the short term increase in their wealth and power.  If they see the damage they are doing to the country and liberty, they don’t care.  They think their position will shield them from the consequences.  They are probably right.

We are not politicians, or at least I assume none of us are.  None of us in one swoop can damage the entire country by one action.  Yet, this is a Biblical truth and applies to us.  How?  Any time we allow personal gain to harm others we are part of this problem.  It comes down to the word “bribes”  (8641), KJV has “gifts.”  I assumed this was the word that is used interchangeably with “gifts”.  I could not have been more wrong.  This is actually the word for offerings.  In the definition it specifically says “for sacred uses.”  Let me quote a familiar verse:
(Malachi 3:8 KJV) Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Our word here is “offerings.”  This is saying to us that any time we misuse what we should be giving to God, we are damaging the “stability of the land.”

We contribute in our own little ways.  Each decision effects us and a few others.  When enough people compromise then you have what the nuclear scientists would call “critical mass.”  In physics you have an explosion.  In society you have genuine harm.  If the critical mass reaches the right level you have God moving to chastise a nation.

So?  Are you faithful in your giving to God?  Some people freak-out at the concept of tithing.  In the Bible, the tithe is the beginning platform, not the ultimate goal.  What about your spiritual gifts?  Are you using them for the glory of God?  For many of us the issue is bigger than money.  Think, pray, meditate, act.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Straw Men Build Straw Laws

(Proverbs 28:4 KJV)  They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.

This is a timeless indictment that reaches down through the centuries to our times and our leaders.  We need to strive to keep it from applying to us as well.  Our leaders “forsake” (5800a) the “law” (8451) [torah].  At it’s heart it is talking about the law of God.  Notice that the Hebrew is “Torah.”  This obviously means precept or statute.  When you look back to the root it has the idea of pointing out or teaching.  This is not a bad thing.

It irritates me that when anyone talks about the law they focus on the most absurd portions. I am not sure the details they pick are, in reality, part of the law.  For example, I heard a sermon recently where the pastor was focusing on some obscure laws itemizing how many steps you could take on the Sabbath.  His point was that no one can keep all of the law perfectly.  Okay, no argument with that basic statement, but the Bible doesn’t say anything about how many steps you can take on the Sabbath.  At least I don’t think so.  Let me know if I am wrong.  But it does say we are to keep a Sabbath on which we do not work.  Just because some Pharisees wanted to write a doctoral thesis loaded with their own opinions does not mean that the entire law is ridiculous.  We should not erect straw men and feel proud about tearing them down.

We should not abandon the law of God.  I understand that we live under grace, not law.  I know we have liberty in Christ.  Jesus came that we might have life abundantly, but He also came to fulfill the law.  Instead of throwing it away we should be studying it so the Holy Spirit can show us ways to apply it to our lives.  It helps us to know right from wrong.  We may have four-wheel drive and big tires.  We can go anywhere we want.  But the roads are still the best way to arrive in good shape.

The basic meaning of “forsake” (5800a) is to loosen.  Other translations include “abandon” and “leave.”  It implies that what you are leaving is important.  If you walk away from the table and leave a half-eaten piece of pizza it is not considered forsaken.  I might feel that way when I leave it but that is appetite, not a moral statement.  If I decide to leave the pizza palace and head home while my wife is still in the bathroom, that might be abandonment.  It implies that you know what you are doing is wrong.

So?  Right and wrong exist.  Truth exists.  The Bible is not a book of relativism, it is a book of absolutes.  Jesus did not say, “I am a way, a maybe, and an alternate lifestyle.  It was much narrower than that.  Don’t forsake the Highway of Holiness.  Expect to grow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Off the Road Again

My travels are over.  I managed to post every day.  Now I am back to my regular life.

Why Not What

(Proverbs 27:4 KJV)  Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?

When you consider it, these are traits that God exhibits.  God shows “wrath” (2534) and “anger” (639).  God is a God of  “jealousy” (7068).  We might get wrapped up in which is worse and how they are different, but I have a different point, and I think it is important:  Why is jealousy okay when God does it and not when we do it?

First of all, this verse does not categorically condemn these actions.  It is simply making the point that jealousy is more powerful.

But more to the point, how come we have a double standard?  It really is not a double standard.  It is another example of how sin in perversion of righteousness.  I have said it before.  I will say it again.  Most perversions are the twisting and misusing of a gift that God has given us.  Even original sin is a warping of the ability to make choices.  We get angry for petty, self-serving reasons.  God only gets angry because eternal values have been violated.  When God demands our total devotion it is because He deserves it.  We don’t.

Consider the following:
(Ephesians 4:26 KJV)  Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
This would imply that the sin is not in the anger but in the way it is used.  We misuse anger, God will not.

Second, there is a privilege that comes from position.  As Americans we have a hard time with this, but remember that the denial of social class that is part of our blood is not universal.  In my middle school classroom I will tell a student, “Be quiet.”  Every once in a day some smart mouth will say back to me, “You be quiet.”  This tends to generate wrath and anger in me because I am a bit jealous of my standing.  If he asks me, “How come you can say it and I can’t?”  I pull out my wallet and begin a parade of drivers license, credit cards, voting stubs, etc.  This is the equivalent of the lecture that God gave Job.  Because I am Teacher.  Because I am Adult. 

Students don’t appreciate the fact that teachers are (in some schools) above them.  Humans don’t appreciate the fact that God is above them.  It gets under their skin.  It leads to denial and all kinds of anti-social acts.  It was the argument that Satan used in the garden.  It is still popular today.

So?  It never hurts to remind ourselves about who is God.  This will lead you to the wonder of grace and forgiveness and help you to understand the hymn that said, “...for such a worm as I.”  Praise God for His wrath, anger, jealousy which produce His patience and kindness.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Post Thanksgiving Syndrome

 (1 Thessalonians 1:2 KJV)  We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

It is the day after Thanksgiving and I was looking at something besides Proverbs.  I noticed a simple, common word and the Greek word behind it.  “Thanks” in Greek is a word that sounds like the catholic term “Eucharist,” or communion to us protestants. It is a compound word using “good” and “grace” and meaning “good grace” or “good favor”.  It looks like the catholic term comes from the use of the word during the Last Supper as Jesus was giving thanks.  It seems to be the common form of prayer before meals.  In a sense, every time we offer a blessing before we eat we are having a Eucharist. 

Why do we offer a blessing before meals?  Because Jesus did.  That seems like a pretty good reason.  It might be a simple way to begin following His lead.

So?  One day has passed.  Are you still thankful?  The blessings continue when the mashed potatoes, or tamales, run out.


(Proverbs 26:12 KJV)  Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

Up to this point in this chapter we have been making comparisons that point out the weaknesses of the “fool” (3684).  Now we find someone that is even sorrier.  The second target of these proverbs is the man who is “wise” (2450) in his own “conceit" (eyes NASB) (5869).  At first I thought this was a synonym for fool, but they are ranked here.  It is pretty bad when you are lower than a fool.

Why does a fool have more “hope” (8615b)?  I’m not sure that is a question that needs an answer.  It is like asking, “Is it easier to build a house with one nail or with two?”  Maybe the pseudo-wise are more able to be successful so repentance comes harder.  We don’t want to be in either category.

The pseudo-wise are lacking in humility.  They genuinely feel they are better than other people.  Think of the picture Jesus painted of the two men who came to the temple.  The one who thanked God that he was not like other men was wise in his own eyes.  It is easy to fall in this trap and even easier if you are one of those people that God has gifted with great talent and blessed with a place of birth.  Americans by nature tend to think they are better than the rest of the world.  It is easy to look at the blessings of God and feel like we deserve them.

When I read this I wonder if this refers to me.  I should wonder that more often.  That is one of the habits we need to develop.  When you read something in the Bible, does it make you see a need in your life or does it point out the failures of others?  When you are listening to a sermon and the pastor is calling for repentance, are there ten people in your sight that you hope will respond and it never occurs to you that you are the target?  The Bible is not a hammer for you to use on others, it is a smelter to refine you.  And me.

So take the opportunity to ask yourself, “When is the last time I realized God was trying to help me grow?”  You may be glad to see that you are not wise in your own eyes.  Or you may see a need to listen better.

Another writer, Being a Christian Today, had this quote:
"If every man was their equal, they would no longer be superior."
You might find the entire article interesting.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


(Proverbs 25:6 KJV)  Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:

People label Jesus as a revolutionary.  They talk about His radical teaching and how He brought in a way of looking at things that was rejected by the powers that be.  Maybe.  That is certainly true in spiritual terms.  We no longer have to bring a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin.  He has done that for all time.  But that is not what people usually mean when they talk about Him being a radical.  They are talking about what He said, not about what He did and who He is.

They are wrong in the sense they mean.  If you spend any time in the Old Testament you find that Jesus was often reteaching old truths.  The reason they seem radical is that people have been ignoring what God has said for centuries.  They sometimes speak from ignorance.  This verse and the next are clearly the source of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14:7. 

The simple understanding is a lesson in social behavior.  It is a way to avoid embarrassment.  It is better to be honored by being called to a higher position that shamed by being moved down.  At a wedding reception, don’t try to sit by the bride because you are one of her friends.

At the heart of this is a call to humility.  We are not to “put forth” (claim honor NASB) (1921) ourselves.  This has the meaning of swelling up.  We have all seen nature films of puffer fish, frogs, porcupines and other animals that have ways to make themselves look bigger.  We should be doing the opposite.  We should deflate instead of inflate.  We are called to serve, not be served.

We are also better off avoiding the company of the rich and the famous.  This brings to mind a passage in Psalms:
Psalm 1:1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, #Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! NASB
Although there are exceptions, positions of power seem to be filled with the wicked, sinners and scoffers.  I don’t think that the powerful are any more evil in their hearts than the rest of us, I just think their money gives them more opportunity to defy moral law.  It is best to avoid them.

So be content where you are.  This does not rule out hard work and ambitious dreams.  It does limit the amount of compromise you are willing to endure to achieve it.  Don’t trade your family for a fortune.  Don’t give up paradise for a promotion.  Make sure you are doing it God’s way.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rich Rooms

(Proverbs 24:4 KJV)  And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

The third element for building a home is “knowledge” (1847).  Verse three talked about wisdom and understanding.  I don’t think this is trying to establish a hierarchy as much as make us think about the different approaches to building a godly home.

Wealth is described here as the “chambers” (rooms NASB) (2315) being “filled” (4390).  This is a good point to again remind ourselves that there is real danger in pulling a verse out of context to prove a point we want to make.  Sometimes that is all you have time for.  Understood.  But do it with honor and integrity, using the verse for what it means, not for what wins your argument or makes a good excuse for your disobedience.  You could easily take this and make it a statement about materialism and how being rich is a sign of God’s blessing.  That is not what is being said. 

We don’t want just any type of wealth.  We want “pleasant” (5273a) and “precious” (3368) “riches” (1952).  Notice that gold and silver are not mentioned.  This is the kind of riches that come from knowledge, wisdom and understanding.  We are talking about understanding the salvation history that God has woven into our world.  We are talking about knowing how we fit into that history.  We are talking about knowing how to treat people and respond when they mistreat us.  God back and read the first chapter of Proverbs and see all the reasons to study and learn God’s word.  It might include material wealth but such wealth is a sickness if not understood and used with righteousness.

I think it is interesting that love is not mentioned in building this home.  Perhaps it is assumed that with wisdom, understanding and knowledge love will come.  Perhaps it is a clue to us that love has nothing to do with the Hollywood version but involves making decisions about patience and kindness.

So how is your home coming?  If Jesus came by for a visit, would He be comfortable?  Obviously He would.  Let me put it another way:  Would He feel comfortable bringing an unsaved friend to your house for Thanksgiving.   Remember He would prefer leftovers of a meal that had been served in love to turkey with all the trimmings of bitterness. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Advocate for the Defense

(Proverbs 23:11 KJV) For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.

“Redeemer” (1350) was an important word to Israel.  It had very concrete applications in their lives.  It is the word that was used for the one sent to kill a murderer.  That really seems strange to us but murder was not taken lightly in those days.  They were not talking rehabilitation, but payment. 

As I continued to investigate this word I was reminded of the detailed plan God has for allowing a rural people to keep their inheritance.  If people were forced to sell their family property in hard times they were given a right of redemption.  They had that right.  But I also noticed that people were not required to sell back property as charity.  There seems to be a 20% mark-up on the property that is being redeemed.  God understands the principles of real estate, profit, and property.  Being part of the family of God does not mean we are a welfare state that takes from the rich and gives to the poor.  Responsibility and fair value are expected.

Here is a side of God we do not like.  Because He is righteous, when we are wrong He will “plead the case” (7379) “against” (854) us.  He will not stand up for us when we are disobedient.  Don’t think that because you claim the name of Jesus that you can live a selfish and dishonest life.  God expects us to be obedient and righteous.

So rest in the reality of a Redeemer.  We are not expected to be perfect and earn the redemption but we are expected to do our best to live as He would have us live

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spiritual Perfume

(Proverbs 22:2 KJV) The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.

The Declaration of Independence has the phrase “that all men are created equal.”  We have had a lot of debate over the years about what that means.  People have asked how such a statement could be made when slavery was still legal in most, but not all, of the colonies.  Those people have a valid point and contrary to popular teaching, the Founders were aware of it.  They agonized over it.  Eleven years later when they were putting together the Constitution they had to decide if they wanted one country with slavery or have a bunch of little countries with some having slavery.  They decided to go with unity and deal with the slavery issue later.  There was no hypocrisy in this statement.

Proverbs 22:2 is what the Declaration of Independence is talking about.  We all have a “common bond” (6298).  Obviously this verse recognizes rich and poor.  Other places it recognizes class differences.  So there must be something different, something deeper.  The definition of the word is “to meet, encounter.”  Although we are different, we are to spend time together.  We can do this because there is something deeper than dollar signs and skin pigment that we see in each other.

What we have in common is that God is the “maker” (6213a) of everyone.  This is something that is universal.  It does not mean we are all going to heaven.  It means that we have a certain worth because God made us in His image.  We are not dogs or whales.  We are born with a unique quality that allows us to respond to the call of God.  Lassie may have come when Timmy called, but she could not hear the Holy Spirit.  Jesus died for all and we need to remember that. 

From our New Testament prospective there is also something even deeper than our common humanity.  It is the blood of Christ.  When we are washed in the blood something happens that people around us can sense.  Read these verses:
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?   (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 KJV)
We exude a “savour” (aroma NASB).  Brothers and sisters can sense it.  Unbelievers can sense it.  The OT talks about being made.  The NT talks about being remade.  That gives us a oneness the world can’t match or understand.

So?  Get down off you high horse.  Remember we will stand before God without our credit cards and diplomas.  Start to get to know your family.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Plan to Plenty

 (Proverbs 21:5 KJV)  The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.

We come to another clue to the causes of poverty.  Other places indicate laziness is a path to “want" (poverty NASB) (4270), here it is haste and in 21:17 love of pleasure.  The reasons for destroying wealth are rooted in the short-cut mentality of the lazy.  They think they will get it done quick and easy.  If it is quick and easy, then it is costly.  Fast food is quick and will keep you alive but my wife has never wanted to go to the golden arches for our anniversary dinner. 

Three elements determine any project:  Time, quality, price.  Anything worth doing is going to demand a sacrifice in one of those areas.  For example, you can do something fast and cheap, but not well.  Or you can do it fast and well, but not cheap.  Of course you can miss on all three and have a royal failure.

Laziness and haste are two extremes.  Both can lead to poverty In the middle is the diligent planner.

So take some time to think, pray and plan.  Get to church early and use the extra time to meditate.  When I am asked what I am doing, I try to dig up big words like “reflecting” or “contemplating.”  The Holy Spirit has a hard time talking to you when you are doing the 50 yard dash but can fill your mind on a two mile walk.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the Road Again

I am going to be on the road for about a week.  I will try to schedule posts but I don’t know if I will be able to respond to comments.  Enjoy your family during this season.  Next Friday my family will allow me to begin listening to Christmas music.  This is where my I-pod really comes into its own.

The TSA Blues

(Proverbs 20:2 KJV)  The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul.

If I had to paraphrase this I might say, “Count the cost before you open your mouth.”  As Americans we are used to speaking out minds.  We spout off about the freedom of speech and it really is a glorious freedom.  The lion doesn’t care.  The lion is anyone who has power over you whether it is legitimate or not.  We need a healthy “fear” (terror NASB) (367).  As I write, I look forward to going through airport security and all of the current frenzy about groping TSA employees.  Often the hype is much worse than the reality.  My point in bringing it up is that I will be in a situation where I am being searched without a warrant, due process, probable cause or anything else that the Constitution talks about.  But I will be looking the lion in the mouth.  I can open mine but I don’t growl very loud.  There is a time for fear, even if it is only healthy concern.  At that point TSA is the king.  It reminds me of traveling into East Berlin before the wall came down.  You could argue with the Communist East German guards, but not if you wanted to cross the border.

The best translation here is “growling” (5099), not “roar” as the KJV has it.  This word is sometimes translated “roar” but another word (7580-1) actually means roar.  Most of us will never meet a king or president.  In fact we rarely meet the mayor of our hometown.  So let’s step back a little.  When does a lion growl?  I really don’t know but I don’t think it is when the hunt is on and you are being stalked.  I think the growl is a warning.  My dog would give an imitation growl if I got too close to the food bowl.  It was saying, “Keep your distance or I will make your hand my next course.”

This rule certainly applies to those in power.  I think it is also a principle that applies to people who are not kings.  Listen for the growls.  I love to debate.  Some would call it arguing.  I am aware that some people don’t like me to broaden their understanding of the world.  I listen for growls.  Sometimes it is a set of the mouth.  Sometimes it is a glazed look in the eyes.  Sometimes it is the steam coming out the ears.  I change the subject. 

This is part of the love chapter.  Think about some of the qualities in I Corinthians 13, especially this verse:

    (1 Corinthians 13:5 KJV)  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

So judge carefully if it is the time to speak your mind or stand up for your rights.  Sometimes that is the right approach but often it is just our pride or ego speaking.  Stop, think, pray, listen and choose a course of action that will bring glory to Jesus.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Strange Twist

(Proverbs 19:3 KJV)  The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.

Why do some people go through tragedy on an even keel and others lash out at God?  We have all probably seen both demonstrated.  Perhaps we have experienced it.  I have friends who have lost children.  My brother struggles with a rare form of cancer.  Right now some friends have a grown son in ICU and it seems like it could go either way.  Most have kept the faith.  At least one has nothing but anger toward God.  This verse gives some clues to why people turn away from God.  It does not deal with the entire problem of evil.  (If you want to go into that check out this post at Covenant of Love. I t is long but good.)  This is personal.  It lays a path for us to avoid.

Our response under pressure is condition by our “foolishness” (200).  This is a word that is almost always reserved for the book of Proverbs with its emphasis on Wisdom.  It is only used twice in Psalms compared to twenty-two in Proverbs.  It means folly.  Another word that comes from the same root means “silly.”  Everyone has a bit of “silly” in their life.  It breaks the monotony and gives a bit of variety.  We all do things that are stupid.  That is part of being human.  What we are talking about here is habitual behavior.  Some people go through life ignoring the warnings of the Holy Spirit and laughing at the “uptight prudes” around them.  They are going to grab for all the gusto, do it their way, live for the day; and set up the foundations of failure.

This “perverteth” (subverts NASB) (5557) their “way” (1870).  The KJV has it better here.  “Pervert” means twist and warp.  Have you ever seen someone standing straight and tall, walked up behind them, struck the back of one of their knees and watch them stagger and possibly fall?  It is fun if no one is hurt.  It is an example of what happens in life when our foundations is subverted or bent.  When the weight comes the support crumbles.

Then when we have disobeyed all God’s commands and ignored His wisdom we “rage” (2196) against God.  We blame God.  When the time comes to trust and walk in faith we lose it.  I don’t really fault anyone who goes through a brief reaction.  Pain is real.  Responses happen.  God is patient and ministers to us.  But I have noticed that if a person is not in the habit of cursing they don’t yell obscenities when they hit their thumb with a hammer.

So lay the groundwork daily.  Avoid foolishness.  Ground yourself in truth.  I pray that you will either never be tested or will pass with faithful colors.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Role Models

(Proverbs 18:5 KJV)  It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.

This is a good verse to compare the KJV and the NASB.  They both speak about how we are to relate to the evil of the world.  The KJV says to not “accept the person.”  The NASB says to not “show partiality” (5375/6440).  There are two words used in these phrases.  Together they give us a word picture.  The first (5375) {end} means to lift or carry.   The second, (6440) is the word for “face”.  I guess the composite would have the idea of turning your face with favor on one instead of another.  Perhaps we would use the phrase “look up to.”  It is telling us not to look up to the “wicked” (7563).

Who are your role models?  Who do you look at and say, “I want to be like him?”  “If she thinks it is okay, it must be okay.”  No matter where you are you have people that influence you.  You quote them.  You trust them.   Be careful who has this role.  It needs to be someone who is not “wicked” (7563). 

So look around and ask yourself, “Who is being a good example?”  There must be some people you can look to.  If you can’t find any today then look to the past.  Another thought you might want to look at:  Is anyone looking at you?  What do they see?  Think about it when you walk out the door today.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mock Not

(Proverbs 17:5 KJV)  Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

The Bible has kings and rulers.  It recognizes class and breeding.  In the midst of that is a call to our common humanity and the universality of sin and the need for redemption.  The person who “mocketh” (3932) because of social standing is condemned.

There is a certain level of courtesy that the Bible demands.  Social snobbery is not acceptable.  We live in a day when people are putting others down for lack of education or going to the “wrong” schools.  We laugh at people with accents or clothes out of style.  God is saying, “NO!”  We have spent a lot of time in Hawaii.  We have interacted with the locals who do a lot of the repair and maintenance on the condos.  I am not talking about the “homeless,”  but the professionals who have skills and jobs.  We get along well with them but we noticed that there is a reserve that has to be overcome.  We began to realize, from direct comments and inference, that many of the tourist class and investors tended to treat them as unworthy of courtesy and respect.  They would talk to us because we saw them as people, not servants.

Here we are cautioned against mocking the “poor” (7326).  A word of balance.  We must remember this verse in the context of the entire book of Proverbs, not just the warm-fuzzy, unbiblical “brotherhood of man”.  Keep in mind that Proverbs attacks people for other qualities:  sluggard, fool, drunk.  There are traits that might be mocked, but a lack of money is not one of them.  The Bible makes a difference between the deserving poor and the lazy.  It also makes a difference between the deserving rich and the oppressor. 

Looking down on our fellow man “reproacheth” (2778a) God.  After all, we are created in the image of God.  Jesus picked up this theme as He talked about the final judgment day:
(Matthew 25:40 KJV)  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
So?  Do you feel superior to anyone?  Do you treat people like they are there to serve you?  Grocery clerk, teacher, waitress, wife, gardener?  Obviously the list could go on.  Remember we are sinners saved by grace.  Is today a day of repentance?  What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Other Side of the Coin

(Proverbs 16:4 KJV)  The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

The second part of this verse I find troubling.  If we are righteous we have a purpose, if we are “evil” (7463) we also have a purpose.  Notice that the “wicked” (7463) exist for a purpose.  That is not my difficulty.  The thing that bothers me is that God “made” (6466) them.  If I were predestined to believe in predestination I could simply accept that some were created to go to Hell.  I don’t believe that is the witness of the entire body of scripture, so I need to go further. 

I have to come to the point where I accept that when God created the world He knew that some would chose to reject Him.  Again, as a long range planner, He made provision for that.  Even the wicked have a purpose.  Here it says it is for the “day of evil.”  There will be a “day” (3117) [yom] of evil.  This is the only place this phrase appears in the NASB so it is hard to figure what it means through word studies.  It could refer to Armageddon.  I don’t know.

So, God knows there are wicked people around.  He has made provision both for eternity and for today.  Remember,
(1 John 4:4 KJV)  Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
There is a reason we walk in faith.  It is not a game, it is a life-style.

Purpose Driven Creation

(Proverbs 16:4 KJV)  The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

The first part of this verse I find very comforting.  It speaks to me of God’s careful planning of creation.  “All things" (everything NASB) (3605) are for Him or have a “purpose NASB”.

God “made” (6466) everything for its own purpose.  We can assume that He assigns that purpose.  It also does not say “for His purpose in the sense of the plan of salvation”.  There are generic purposes such as providing nutrition or fixing nitrogen to the soil which do not have the same divine mandate as His purpose for your life.  This could have been in Paul’s mind:
(Rom 8:28 KJV)  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Since God is a long range planner, it is a given that the “new” discoveries of science were built into nature at creation.  Some of the miracles we now take for granted.  Most of us have boarded airplanes without a lot of thought about the miracle of flight, yet God has had the birds doing it forever.  What else are we looking at that waits for our curiosity?  Have you seen the books advertised telling us about all the miraculous uses of vinegar?  It seems it can cure anything from cancer to dandruff.  Maybe I have the wrong book in mind, but if I were a little more gullible I would buy one.  I am tempted just to find out all the uses that my grandmother knew about and were not passed down.  What remains to be uncovered?  Will the next breakthrough be cheap and abundant energy? 

It could also just be a reflection that all of nature is in God’s hands.  Does the common house fly have a purpose?  I would imagine so.  If nothing else it is part of God’s recycling plan because the maggots feast on dead animals.  The world we live in works together in ways that we don’t even imagine.  You remember the media frenzy about the BP oil spill in the Gulf.  It was the beginning of the end.  It was an environmental disaster.  But most of the oil has disappeared.  Where did it go?  It seems there is a bacteria that God specially designed to get rid of leaking oil.  It has been around all along.  On the coast of California where the environmentalists have managed to stop drilling the oil is seeping out naturally.  It always has.  It always will.  But God had a plan.

So trust in His plan.  We don’t need to know everything.  When you were a child in the back seat of the car your drove your parents crazy with, “Are we there yet?”  Plan when you can, trust when you can’t.  It is a glorious place in life to be.

Creation, Trust of Faith

Monday, November 15, 2010


(Proverbs 15:4 KJV)  A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

I think this is another approach to the thought of verse 2.  A “wholesome" (soothing NASB) (4832)  “tongue” (3956) can be a good thing.  Notice I did not say “is” a good thing.  More on that in a moment.  Proverbs is full of reminders that it is better to be a peacemaker than an agitator.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  This has the idea of healing.  Think of the first aid cream in your cabinet.  Think of petroleum jelly and all the soothing it does.  Our mouths can be that way.  We can calm angry people.  We can avoid stirring things up.  This is supposed to be a good thing.

But....  And it is a big “but.”  A soothing tongue can also be a “perversion” (5558).  Based on other passages in Proverbs, this is a deliberate goal for some people.  Perversion seems to have a consistent meaning.  It is a twisting.  Remember that much sin is a warping of a normal, God-blessed, activity.  Yes, we are to sooth and heal, but what about the times when the need is for reproof and rebuke.  What do you do when a brother in Christ needs correction and you are the person that God has directed to speak.  Part of love is doing what is right for the other person, not what is easiest.  What if Jesus had always followed the soothing route?  The rich young ruler would have never known the truth.  Peter would have not been corrected.  The Pharisees would have continued being smug and deceived.  Pilate would have been untroubled.  The list could go on.

So?  It is best to be a healing influence, except when surgery is needed.  In medicine the least invasive technique is best.  The same is true in our spiritual lives.  But remember that when the Holy Spirit demands more than a band-aid then a band-aid becomes perversion.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oppression and Lovingkindness

(Proverbs 14:31 KJV)  He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are to be “gracious” (2603a) [chesed] to those who are “needy” (34).  This is another of those places where I wish we could transliterate words from the original languages.  “Mercy” KJV and “gracious” NASB are the word chesed in Hebrew.  This is one of the great words of the OT.  To me the best translation of this word is “loving-kindness”.  It is the agape of the OT.  It speaks of the loving graciousness of an almighty God who loved us so much that He sent His son to die for us.  The glory of this rings through scripture.  Here we are being told that part of our mission on Earth is to take that love which the Holy Spirit makes possible in our lives and apply it to a “needy” (34) world.

We are to be merciful.  We are to be gracious.  We are to be the living Bible to people who have, at best, a distorted view of the glorious God we serve.  We forgive.  We are patient.  We are honest.  We are chaste.  We are kind.  We are something they don’t understand.

The KJV says we are to have mercy on the “poor”.  This is not the same Hebrew word used in the first part of the verse.  “Needy” is a better word for us.  I guess one of the big questions we face, at least in modern times, is “Who are the needy?”  This is a real question because we have no understanding of the difference between needs and wants.  We can be encouraging laziness and sloth by giving in the wrong circumstances.  Of course, this can also be an excuse for not giving.

In the obvious understanding of the needy we see those who do not have enough to feed and clothe themselves.  These are those who are worse than poor.  Poor is a relative term.  The poor in our country are considered rich by those in the third world.  I was raised in a poor home.  We had no health insurance.  One of my favorite parts of the meal was the bread and gravy we filled up on after everything else was gone.  I didn’t know it was poverty food, I liked it.  But we were not needy.  The needy exist but not near as many as the social workers would like you to believe.  I work in a school full of the “poor.”  They have more gold jewelry that I do and buy more gum and candy in a week than I do in a year.  We need to focus our help on those who can really benefit from it.

But the “needy” are more than the poor.  Without abandoning that group we need to understand we are surrounded by people who are full of needs.  Some are lonely, not because noone will talk to them but because they don’t know how to respond.  Some are rejected because they have never had anyone teach them to be polite.  There are many in the world in need and we are to reach out to them.  You might think of them as frogs waiting to be kissed.  We were once frogs.  Jesus kissed us.  Now we are to take that lovingkindness and extend it to others.

Oppression is Reproach

(Proverbs 14:31 KJV)  He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

The pagan “reproaches” (2778a) God, who is the “Maker” (6213a) of all.  A sin of oppression is not just against the poor, but also against God.  If you love Jesus you need to understand how serious it is to be an oppressor.  “Reproach” is a common enough word but I have not heard it used much today.  It means to correct with contempt.  It is an insult combined with a feeling of superiority.  When we take unfair advantage of the poor we are spiting on God.  God is not surpised when He gets this treatment from a post-modern pagan, but I think His wrath is kindled when it comes from those who are part of His church. 

Our world is constantly mocking God by denying who He is and what He has spoken to us.  Christians are constantly belittled in the media.  I was reading a mystery the other day and I guessed at who the villain was early in the book.  It was the one who went to church and acted spiritual.  I see this regularly.  Remember that this warning applies to the world as well as the church.  God is the “Maker” (6213a) of both.

Remember that this warning applies to areas other than oppression.  When we abandon the standards God has given us we are heaping reproach on Him.

So?  Examine your life and repent if you find need of it.  Renew your commitment to be faithful to your calling.

Oppression Is Not What You Think

(Proverbs 14:31 KJV)  He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

Have you ever tried to see how far you can drive your car without any correction on the steering wheel?  Aim as carefully as you can and lock your arms.  You will see that almost immediately the car begins to drift either right or left.  Maybe you have been successful in this, I have not.  And so it is in much of life.  We head in the right direction but tend to begin drifting one way or the other.  Constant alertness is necessary to keep “in the lane.”  Thus it is with me and the poor.  I react to what I see as attempts to manipulate the poor for political gain and tend to overlook verses like this that force me back into the lane.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are not to oppress the poor.  The world “oppresseth” (6231) the “poor” (1800b).  We are not to be like the world.  But we need to understand what it means to oppress someone.  Our culture of welfare and entitlements gets this word wreathed in emotional baggage that changes its meaning.   Webster defines this “To load or burden with unreasonable impositions; to treat with unjust severity, rigor or hardship....”  It is not oppression to expect able bodied people to work for their food.  It is oppression to expect them to pay taxes while the rich are totally exempt.  An example of the latter is David killing the lamb of the poor man to feed a visitor and exempting the flocks of the rich.  Oppression is not paying minimum wage for working at a fast food chain. It is not demonstrated by hiring teenagers to work in their yard and paying them less than union wages.  It is oppressive to hire illegal aliens to work for you and paying less than the going wage for that work, knowing they cannot complain. 

Most of us don’t face situations where we oppress the poor.  But we do contribute to situations that allow it.  Oppression can take the form of government handouts that weaken the moral fiber and independence of all levels of society.  People are trained to expect others to provide for them when they could be providing for themselves.  It creates poverty.  Oppression can be practiced in education.  Teachers who give students answers instead of requiring the student to find it themselves are oppressors.  Schools that force teachers to give passing grades when the student has not earned them are oppressors.  Forcing children into school and not giving them an education is oppressive.  I speak here from the position of a teacher watching it happen.

So?  Neither you nor I can right all the wrongs of our world.  We can work on our corner.  We can make sure that we are being honest and honorable with people.  We can vote for people who favor responsibility.  We can get involved in our local community.  Find a place to reduce oppression.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

(Proverbs 13:13 KJV)  Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.

The world “despises” (936) the “word” (1697).  I think it is interesting that in the OT world people were thinking about the word, or Word.  This almost sounds like the NT, talking about the “word” (1697).  It is equated with “commandment” (4687) {end}.  We don’t have the John 1:1 reference to Jesus as the Word, but you can see that the idea would not be foreign.  The Bible has ideas that run through it.

Our culture is turning its back on the values that God has taught us.  There are consequences to that.  It is almost like there is an evil quotient, E.Q, that is slowly building up.  When it reaches critical mass there will be some kind of explosion, political, social, environmental.  We keep acting like there will be no price to pay for the behaviors that are becoming so common.  When you study history you see cultures that get more decadent as they get more mature.

This gives a negative balance on the scale of salvation and "destroys" us.  The NASB says "puts us in debt” (2254).  Our modern world has forgotten the seriousness of debt.  Historically debt was the road to slavery.  Literal slavery, not the distortions you get today.  If you could not pay your debts you began selling what you owned, then your family and finally yourself.  In more modern times you were thrown into debtors prison until you paid your debts.  Not we have bankruptcy which has become a national pastime.  Our debt of sin cannot be paid that way.  It will destroy us.  This is why grace is such an awesome gift.  The debt is out of our reach but God has provided a way.

So this is a message of hope for us.  We do not despise the Word.  We do fear the commandment.  We are rewarded by the knowledge of our salvation and will be rewarded with an eternity in God’s presence.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Sqeeze

(Proverbs 12:4 KJV)  A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.

Alright, I admit it.  This verse is a “sexist” statement.  It clearly infers that there is a hierarchy in the family and by inference that hierarchy extends into society.  You got a problem with that?  Then talk to God, not me.  As a Christian I am to develop my weighing of society and its standards from the Word, not judge the Word on what my coffee shop crowd says.  There are times when this reality rears its head, stares us in the eye and demands a decision. 

We have let the Biblical standards be overwhelmed by the pragmatism of the age.  Think of the areas that the church has given up the standards God has established.  I can name a few but an exhaustive list is beyond me.  Think about the following that seem to be as rampant in the church as in society:  Divorce, adultery, teenage pregnancy, abortion, lies, cheating on taxes, lawsuits, and those are just the ones that occur to me at the spur of the moment.

Remember what Paul said:
(Romans 12:2 KJV)  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
I have always loved the paraphrase that J.B. Phillips gives in this verse.  I quote from memory:

    “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”

We are being squeezed and every time we look at a verse like Proverbs 12:4 and on some level reject what it is saying, we give in to the squeezing a little more.  I remember going into my son’s room when he was young and seeing the dog between him and the wall, stretched out in all her glory and he was clinging to the outer edge of the bed.  You know what eventually happened.  He ended up on the floor.  Heresy and apostasy work this way.  It pushes.  We adjust.  It pushes some more.  We adjust some more.  The dance goes on.

So?  Where are you dancing with the world?  Look at your life and compare it to what you have read in the Bible.  What verses have made you uncomfortable in the past?  Do they still make you uncomfortable or have you adjusted?  I don’t write as the Perfect One.  I write as one who is trying to stop my dance and continue the walk.  Examine your life and let’s get on down the Highway of Holiness.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Imperfect Perfection

(Proverbs 11:5 KJV)  The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.

There is a spiritual condition that the OT calls “perfect” (blameless NASB) (8549).  There it is.  Deny it all you want.  You see it talked about again and again.  You can redefine it, water it down, and ignore it.  It still exists.

Part of our problem is in trying to be too perfect about what it means to be perfect.  If you look at this word’s definition it has the idea of being complete.  It is something, or someone, that has reached the goal for which it was created.  It has the idea of being complete.  It is not the flawless ideal of Plato.  It is the perfection of being suited for a task.  What do we mean when we say it is a perfect day for a picnic?  Does it mean that ant’s have ceased to exist?  Does it mean that the sun will not longer burn your skin?  Does it mean the wind will never blow your napkins all over the place?  Of course not.  That is not part of what makes it an ideal day. 

In the same way we can be “perfect” (KJV) or “blameless” (NASB).  We are in a condition which God can use.  The word is used to describe the lambs picked for sacrifice.  They were “without blemish,” or “without defect”.  Does this mean that there was not one hair longer than another?  Does it mean that there were no bacteria in its blood?  We could go on.  No, it means the the lamb met certain reachable standards.

We can be “blameless” before God.  Noah was.  Zacharias and Elizabeth passed the test.  The standard is reachable.  We will never be perfect in the sense of no flaws.  Nothing physical can be.  But we can be perfect for the use God has for us.

So?  Don’t get arrogant and puffed up.  Do get perfect.  Seek the way of living that can make you what God wants you to be.  Understand that it is the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace that is at work in you.  But tap the power and let the grace work.  I hope we all want to hear “Well done, though good and faithful servant.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Summer Jobs

(Proverbs 10:5 KJV)  He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.

The believer “gathereth” (103) when he can.  This can be serendipity or routine.  In the serendipity sense it is telling us to be alert to unexpected opportunities.  Wisdom involves timing.  I think of a story that is probably too true.  A couple have just had their first child.  The young mother is totally exhausted by the process.  The struggle and pain are very fresh on her mind.  The young father is gushing and excited about this new addition to his life.  In his enthusiasm he says something like, “Let’s have another one!”  Although having another child is a great idea, it is not a wise statement at that moment. 

Timing is critical.  I can’t say it is everything.  You need truth and resources also.  But it is vital to success.  When do you witness to an unbeliever?  When do you teach your child to ride a bicycle?  When do you ask someone to marry you?  Wisdom will help in these things.

Timing sometimes involves asking “What is right for this time?”  rather than “Is this a good time for doing this?”  Do you see the difference?  In one case you look at the situation and respond.  If it is summer you don’t look for the best time to shovel snow.  God wants you to be salt in the situation you face.  In the second case you are simply looking for a situation to adapt to your need.  Too often we have our own agenda and are busy looking for the “right” time to push it. 

In the more specific sense it means to do your job.  Your life has summers and harvests.  It also has winter and spring.  There are certain events that we should plan on based on knowing how life progresses.  You may need to find a bigger house.  You may need to find a new job.  There are things you know are coming.  Be reading when the season for them comes.  This involves discipline and planning.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Vintage Choices

(Proverbs 9:2 KJV)  She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.

First let me give a disclaimer:  I don’t drink alcoholic beverages of any kind.  I have tasted a few over the years but only once did I finish a “drink.”  I have never even been close to drunk.  When cold medicine had alcohol in it, one serving would put me out for the night.  My reasons for not drinking run from not liking it to feeling alcohol is one of the evils of our age, or any age, for that matter.

Having said that, here is a verse that seems to imply that “wine” (3196) for a meal is normal.  Actually it does more than imply.  It states that Wisdom has prepared wine to go with the food on her table.  Some people say this is unfermented grape juice.  I honestly wish I could agree with that but it does not bear up under examination.  Just sticking to Proverbs we see the following:
(Proverbs 20:1 KJV)  Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

(Proverbs 31:6 KJV)  Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
In both verses it is the same Hebrew word for “wine” that is used in this verse.  In one place it is accepted as normal, in another it is presented as a problem.  Like so many other things, perverted use changes the moral character.

My personal feeling is that a spiritually mature person will avoid alcoholic beverages.  That is cultural and personal.  Some of the giants of the faith have good things to say about wine, John Wesley and C.S. Lewis for example.  To those you can add Wisdom.  I don’t like it, but there it is.

Drunkenness on the other hand is condemned.  As an example:
(Galatians 5:21 KJV)  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But enjoy it while you can.  Alcohol is a product of fermentation.  Fermentation is the result of death.  Since death will be banished, there will be no alcohol at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.  Deal with it.

So, as much as I don’t like to admit it, wine, in moderation, seems to be acceptable.  Make sure that you don’t use it as a point of judgment.  But I still think it is best to avoid it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Froward Is a Real Word

(Proverbs 8:8 KJV)  All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.

“Righteousness” (6664).  We see the word repeatedly in Proverbs and the rest of scripture.  It almost becomes a part of the scenery, like street lights.  How often do you notice them?  What is righteousness?  Many Christians deny it is possible and yet remember the words of Jesus,
(Matthew 6:33 KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
This verse gives us insight into how is it lived out in our lives. 

Here righteousness is clarified by two opposites.  The first in the KJV is “froward” (6617) or “crooked” in the NASB.  No, “froward” is not a misprint or typo.  You can find it in your dictionary.  Since I had to look it up, let me share it with you:  “Not easily controlled; stubbornly willful; contrary; refractory” and the obsolete meaning, which is closer to the KJV is “adverse; unfavorable.”  Have you ever dropped a small piece of ice on the floor and tried to pick it up?  No matter what you do, it squirts out between your fingers.  That is froward.  Other synonyms might be slick, slippery, obstreperous (for those who like big words).  This kind of person is always looking for the angle that is best for them.  Righteousness avoids that type of talk and approach to life.  Truth is truth.  It doesn’t change based on how it effects us.

Righteousness is not “perverted” (6141) {2:15}.  A picture comes to mind.  It comes because on the floor, in a box, by my desk is a pile of rope that my wife wants me to straighten out and tie neatly.  It is all twisted and entwined.  The root for this word is twisted.  Perversion is a twisting of something that is good.  We are not to make things complicated just to confuse and control.  The obvious example would be contrasting sex in marriage and pornography.  One not so obvious would be the prayer chain that becomes a gossip chain.  Beware of twisting holy things into perversions.

So?  Seek His kingdom.  Seek His righteousness.  One way to do that is to make our conversations direct and honest.  Don’t feel like you have to be all things to all people.  Remember that “I don’t know” is a good answer.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Open Minded Foolishness

(Proverbs 7:7 KJV)  And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,

The observer in this passage looks out the window and divides the people into three.  With each division the focus is smaller.  First he labels the crowd “naive” (6612a).  Why would he pick this word to describe the crowd?  In this verse there is no time mark but if you look over the next few verses you can see that this is more of an extended observation than a casual glance.  In verse 9 it talks about evening and the middle of the night.  In verse twelve it refers to being in many parts of the town.  It would seem that the observations are taking place when people are not at work or he is observing people who should be at work and are not.  This is the casual population. 

Being “naive” (6612a) is an interesting condition.  It’s root has the meaning of spacious and wide open.  The definition of this word reads “simple, perhaps open minded.”  Our culture tries to make being open minded a virtue.  They try to portray it as being flexible and unprejudiced.  It could be.  Proverbs implies that it can also mean foolish.  Being open minded without discernment and out of contact with truth makes you susceptible to anything.  People use being open minded as an excuse for all kinds of foolishness and disobedience.  If you look at the uses of this word in Proverbs, it becomes clear that being naive is not a condition that grants amnesty.  It has a terrible reward.  Years ago I remember reading a “Chinese” proverb that someone made up:  “Ignorance is not innocence, it is sin.”  Being “naive” (6612a) is not an excuse. 

Even older men can be “lacking” (2638) “sense” (3820).  Younger people have no trouble believing this but as an “older man” I need to be reminded.

Fortunately naivety is curable.  That is what Proverbs is about.  Foolishness is a condition of the natural man.  Wisdom is a product of letting God’s Word be a lamp unto our feet.  If you have been putting off enrolling in this  university why not take an application and begin the course of study.  Wisdom awaits.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Peculiar? Me?

(Proverbs 6:6-8 KJV)  Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:  Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

How are we supposed to be like the ant?  The first point seems to be having no leader.  That can’t be right, can it?  This is a case of interpretation.  Remember context, context, context.  The first context is the surrounding words.  The second context is the extended passage of scripture.  The third context is the entire scripture.  While I can never be such a scholar as to know all that the Bible has to say, the more I study the more the Holy Spirit can bring to mind what I need to know.  We know that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our salvation.  We know that God is the King of creation and Jesus is our Lord, so in a sense we have a chief, officer and ruler.  BUT, God does not rule over us in the way implied in this verse.  I don’t know how familiar you are with military culture, but when an officer walks into a room who outranks everyone else, someone yells, “Attention!”  Everyone is expected to stop what they are doing and stand at attention.  You salute with the lowest rank starting and holding the salute until the higher rank returns it.  This is the peacetime army.  Maybe that kind of thing happens inside the anthill, but not out in the field.

We are in God’s front lines.  When the military gets to the front lines they no longer yell or salute.  When a patrol goes out they don’t call back for guidance on every move.  You know the mission.  You know your part.  You get to work. 

The ant does its job because the mission is built in.  We also have a built in job.  The Holy Spirit is given to us to lead and guide.  We should not need a supervisor to keep us on the job.  We are to pursue excellence because we have a heart set on holiness and seeing the will of God done.

Do you have that hunger to see Jesus glorified?  Do you desire to do the will of God?  Then get to it.  Some things should be obvious.  We prepare by study and worship.  We examine our hearts and repent when necessary.  Then we go to work.  At work we apply holy standards in a perverse world.  We demonstrate honesty and purity.  We are different, not because we try, but because we are.  As the King James says we are to be a “peculiar people.”  Get out there and be peculiar, but in a Biblical sense, please.

Obedience, Interpretation

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sugar and Wormwood

(Proverbs 5:4 KJV)  But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword.

Everywhere we look people are offering wonderful things.  That is the basis of advertising.  Have you ever tried to guess the target audience of a radio program?  Listen to the commercials.  They are aimed at the people the advertising executives believe listen to the program.  At one point I became convinced the audience of the Christian radio program I was listening to were people who had problems with regularity, children with emotional problems and vitamin deficiencies.  Most of the promises in these adds are castles built on sand.  I doubt if your child will get taller taking their snake oil.  I doubt if the lap band will make you sleek and sexy. 

Eventually the sweet promises become “bitter” (4751).  Reality sets in.  The problems continue.  They will never be solved because we look at the wrong causes.  Most of the world’s problems could be solved by applying wisdom based on a fear of the Lord.  Poverty?  If we could remove the lazy habit, the oppression gene, the self-centered syndrome and the “I am poor because I have less than Donald Trump” point of view we would go a long way toward doing away with poverty.  It would not cease to exist, after all, Jesus said the poor would be with us always (more wisdom), but it would be much less invasive.  Name a problem, you will find the same situation.

People become bitter because they have believed false promises instead of seeking wisdom.  The false promises will always let you down.  Some false promises are based on true statements.  For instance:  “This is a fat free food.”  It is true.  The calories are from sugar, not fat.  “Half the calories per slice.”  True, but the slices are half as thick.  Some are based on obvious lies:  “Vote for me and I will....”  The way our system works, one person cannot do much of anything let alone change the world.

So?  Avoid bitterness by perusing truth and wisdom.  Don’t build your house on the sand; build on the rock.  And how about pausing and looking at all the blessings in your life.  When people ask me how I am doing, I don't say, "Fine."  I tell them I am just short of glorious, but I am working on it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Law and Life

(Proverbs 4:4 KJV)  He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.

Is this Solomon quoting the words of David?  It would seem so.  The only reason to question that might be in verse 1 where Solomon talks about “a father” instead of “my father”.  But he seems to be making this a personal statement.  So consider this the words of David passed on by his son.

In our “heart” (3820) we must “retain" (hold fast NASB) (8551) to the “commandments” (4687).  This implies that obedience begins in our core being and then moves out to our behavior.  We have so many excuses for our failures.  I believe it was a comedian named Flip Wilson who had a routine where he made a big deal of “the devil made me do it.”  We have our own versions of how this works.  Or am I the only one?  We live in a culture that makes excuses for us and we cling to them.

We are to “keep” (8104) the “commandments” (4687).  I think we can assume that this will not happen automatically in most cases.  We need to consciously be aware of right and wrong.  Although Solomon is talking about the direction given by his father, assume that the words of David were based in the law of God.  And don’t let distractions about the Law get you off track.  This is not a command to keep the kosher law or the ceremonial law, this deals with the moral law.  This involves those standards that are universal, not just those aimed at the Jews.

And we have the promise of life.  This was very real in those days.  Father had the literal power of life and death over their children.  Obviously it also applies to the figurative idea of the quality of life and the eternal idea of our resurrection expectations, but it starts in the reality of today.  So this is a promise that begins today and extends through eternity.  It is echoed several times in the Bible but the most complete is this:

(Deuteronomy 5:16 KJV)  Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
So make up your mind, or heart, that you are going to walk the road of obedience.  As you go out the door today be aware that God has high expectations of you.  Be a faithful child of God.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who's on First

(Matthew 6:33 KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

As usual I was listening to Alistair Begg on my I-Pod as I drove to work.  The I-Pod can make your car a cathedral.  He said something in a sermon with a broadcast date of June 24, 2010.  It hit me that this is the kind of reminder we all need:
“...You’ll never know who you are ‘til you find out who He is.  And some of you are spending all your time trying to find yourself and then you’ll go look for Him.  I want to tell you, meet Him and you’ll find yourself.”
In our self esteem based, narcissistic culture it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of this on a regular basis.

So?  Find out who He is if you don’t know already.

Wise Eyes

(Proverbs 3:7 KJV)  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

I think this is a caution and reminder of our human condition.  Since we are locked into our bodies, are limited by our senses and are bound in time we run everything through our own personal paradigm.  That is natural.  One of my hopes is that in our resurrected bodies that will be different.  But for now it is where we are at. 

We should not be satisfied with that.  To often we are content to be “wise” (2450) in our own eyes.  God is saying, “Get away from this self-centeredness.”  How do you do that?  Proverbs is full of directions on how to achieve wisdom.  It all is based on being aware of God’s wisdom and absorbing His standards.  It involves the work of the Holy Spirit and growth in grace.  The reason we have hope is because we have access to a constant consistent measurement that can keep us on track.  Think about the interaction of the lines on a road and your hands on the wheel.  When you first start driving it seems almost impossible to stay between the lines.  Your hands jerk back and forth.  It is almost like being in a bumper car.  Gradually you develop the hand/eye coordination that makes it possible to drive without conscious effort.  If you get too confident you have the “thump, thump, thump” of the reflectors put there to wake you up.  For a time you are alert again.  It is a constant interaction.

Wisdom is the same.  As new believers we are very nervous about keeping between the lines.  With experience we learn not to lean on our own wisdom.  When we start to drift we hear the spiritual thump that gets us back on track.  It is a constant interaction.

When you hear the beginnings of the thumps it often generates “fear” (3372) or at least startles us.  We become alert again.  That is the role of the fear of the Lord.  Modern society and psychology do not like the concept of “fear” (3372) {end}.  It can be healthy, specifically when there is a reason to fear.  A word search finds the phrase “fear the Lord” thirty times in the NASB.  The Hebrews had a much healthier and realistic view of the world.  Fear was a helpful emotion.  It leads to righteousness.

So?  Listen for those “thumps” by the Holy Spirit and seriously consider what they are trying to say.  They can come as you read the Word, as you listen to Godly speakers or even as your mind is wandering.  Don’t let the thumps go to waste.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election’s Results

(Matthew 5:16 KJV)  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

I am writing this before the day of the election.  I want it to be uncolored by celebration or disappointment.  I want to consider the effect that election has on our society.  My primary concern is about God’s elect, not the politically elected.  I don’t care if you are a Calvinist who believes that God sat down before He started to create and made of list of people He was going to create to go to heaven and a list of creatures He was predetermining to Hell, or if you are an Arminian who believes that the vote is God-one, Satan-one and you have the deciding vote.  If you are a child of God, however you got there, you are part of the Elect.  You are one of the ones who are destined to spend eternity rejoicing in the presence of God.  You will have a name tag at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

That is glorious for then.  What about now?

Many of us have applied the values of our faith during this election.  We have distributed Christian Voter Guides, we have talked ourselves out of our friends' lives, we have driven people to the polls.  Having done all this, remember that the results have only a little value.  The force that is going to change the country is not who sits in the seats of power.  The force that is with us is not the Ying and Yang of Star Wars.  The question is, “Are you going to be salt and light?”

Jesus talked a lot about the Father in Heaven.  He talked even more about the subject of obedience.  It is not about feeling our faith, it is about living our faith.  I don’t care if you feel my pain, I want an aspirin. 

How do we give that world an aspirin?  First, we start with the invisible, see through bottle that holds the aspirin.  We pray.  We study and meditate on the Word.  We repent.  We get our souls and minds in order.  Remember the second part of the Shema:

(Deuteronomy 6:5 KJV)  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Notice that last part.  Luke has a little longer quote from Jesus:
(Luke 10:27 KJV)  And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
We have to practice our inner disciplines and then begin to apply them.  Begin to love our world.  We have to apply it.  We have to get dirty and smelly as we rub elbows with the dirty and smelly. 

This election is over.  People don’t seem to be so anxious to have the Republicans elected as having the Democrats removed.  If we get “second verse, same as the first” then nothing will have changed.  But if God’s people move out of the voting booths and into the lives of the lost we can see transformation that will equal the first century.  When people are saved they become honest, chaste, thrifty, discerning..., and they go to heaven.  Do you see a pattern here.

So?  You have voted with your pen.  Now vote with your lives.  Live for Jesus and demonstrate real hope and give a chance for real change.

Read All About It

(Proverbs 2:4 KJV)  If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;

We continue with the “if” (518) statements.

Saturday we had friends over for dinner.  We got into an interesting conversation.  At one point I was asked had I read Book X.  When in dialogue with someone on the internet it often comes to the point where the other person will say I need to read Book Y and Book Z to really understand the issue.  At a meeting the Invited Expert will quote Scientific Study A as conclusive proof.  What do all of these have in common?  Information I will never research.  It is not that I don’t care, but we can be drowned in demands that we look at information so that we can understand.  Experience has shown that it often does not give the evidence that is claimed.  I am reluctant to spend the time doing the research.  I can not know all about all.

I am more interested in Wisdom.  And that is the quest that Proverbs is urging on us.  And in this verse we see two requirements.

We must “seek” (1245).  We know that God comes to us, but there is always that element of our desire for response.  Consider the following well known references:
(Matthew 6:33 KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

(Matthew 7:7 KJV)  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

(Hebrews 11:6 KJV)  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
There is a reward when we honestly, with open hearts seek to know God’s will.

We must “search” (2664).  If you knew there was a treasure buried in your back yard you would keep digging until you found it.  The Word of God is full of treasure.  God put it there.  He expects us to search for it.  I don’t know if this is just repetition for emphasis or a call to ratchet up of the search machine.  What it is saying to me today is that searching will reveal even more that seeking.  If I drop a penny I might not even look down.   If I drop a dime I will usually look for a moment but it isn’t worth a lot of concern.  If I dropped a one ounce gold coin which is currently worth about $1,300, you better believe I would do some serious searching.

How valuable is it to you to know the will of God?  How important is it to you to raise Godly children?  How important is your position on abortion?  How important is it to use an accurate translation of the Bible?  The questions are endless.

So?  Ask the questions.  Answer the questions.  Then decide if you are going to watch L.A. Law reruns or read I Corinthians 13.  The answer will determine not only your priorities but also the kind of treasure God allows you to find.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Moffatt Month

(2 Timothy 3:16 KJV)  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

As I explained in the header to this blog, I am reading through Proverbs each month, one chapter a day.  This month in my personal reading I am going to be reading through Proverbs in the translation by James Moffatt.  I will continue to quote the KJV on each post and compare it to the NASB, but I will use this month to see if the Spirit gives me any new insights from this version.  The copy of Moffatt I have was printed in around 1935.  I have had it a long time but have never read in it much.  As I was glancing through it I noticed this quotation toward the end of his introduction:

“The translation now offered of this text is an attempt to represent the gains of recent research and at the same time to be readable.”
I have mixed feelings about this.  I rejoice in the “gains of recent research” if they are truly “gains” and not attempts to undermine the validity of the Word.  Too much that calls itself scholarship is just an attempt to be published and often does not care about truth or accuracy.  This applies to history, science and education as well as theology and Bible.  Some gains are not worth the trash bin they end up in because they are not gains, they are sabotage.  Be careful.

At the same time I see the value in modern translations that are based on Godly scholarship.  I am sorry KJV Only people.  I love you.  I respect the KJV but the English language has changed and research on the internet clearly demonstrates that a lot of similar phrases does not mean much more than a lot of copying of a single source.  If that single source was wrong, it doesn’t matter how many copies you make.  I don’t think we need a new translation every Christmas season but there must be a balance between keeping up and being trendy.

We need to be cautious of the lure of the “readable.”  Sometimes making something easy to read is just a dumbing down that dilutes the truth to make it palatable.  Truth can be understood by anyone but it takes a bit of effort.  “Readable” has its place in evangelism, for new Christians and for small children.  Too often it is a substitute for thinking and acting.

So, I am cautious and open to consider the new.  At all times I compare the new with what I know to be true.  If it does not conform to the Biblical truth I reject it.  Remember that warnings given by the Word itself:

(Revelation 22:18 KJV)  For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
(Proverbs 30:5-6 KJV)  Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

Unsocial Justice

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

In addition to “righteousness” (6664) we are expected to display “justice” (4941).  This is a word we need to be careful with, not because we do not understand it, but because it is another world that our anti-Christian elites have coopted and twisted to fit their agenda to frustrate the will of God.  Justice is a common word and concept in the Bible.  It means to judge things on the basis of right and wrong and apply the results with integrity.  If you look at the qualities used before and after it you get these values.  Justice is bracketed by righteousness and equity.  Since this is the word of God, I don’t think that is coincidence.  Righteousness refers to a standard God has established.  You can’t make up your own standards and declare it justice.  Equity has the idea of applying something equally.  Our modern culture has discarded both of these qualities and calls it “social justice”.  This means that men decide what is right and wrong based on their preferences.  Then they apply their judgment on a sliding scale which punishes those who disagree with them and rewards those who stand against you. 

Justice is not social, it is moral.  You cannot decide someone is wrong because they are rich or poor.  You cannot condemn someone because of the color of their skin, their age or their gender.  I am constantly amazed that they have “senior” discounts.  Most of the wealth of this country is controlled by seniors.  They do not have the expense of raising children any more.  Their homes are paid for.  And they are the ones who get discounts.  It bothers me, and I am one of them.  It is not justice.  I don’t want a law against senior discounts, I just think they are misguided.

We can be instructed in “justice” (4941).  One would think that justice is a matter of common sense, but common sense is easily overwhelmed by ambition and our sinful nature.  This is so easy to pervert.  That is why we need to wisdom of God to use as a measuring stick.  This goes against our post-modern culture that says all is relative. 

So, again, study the word.  Does it sound like a broken record?  No, it is more like that window that keeps popping up on your screen that tells you to register your software.  You need the reminder.  How do I know?  Because I need the reminder.  See, that is justice.  I apply the truth evenly.