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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Real Neighborly

(Proverbs 31:8 KJV)  Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

In this verse and the next we again we see the responsibility of wealth, power and position.  You say, “That lets me off the hook, I am none of these.”  Wrong.  Historically, if you live in the western world you are wealthy.  Even today, by world standards, the poor in America are wealthy.

Add to that the political rights that we have.  In America, think of the First Amendment to the Constitution.  We have in our basic source of law specific, written guarantees that make us cocky and loud without fear of the police attacking us as we worship, speak, read or gather with friends.  Much of the Western world shares that to some degree. 

In the days of Solomon, only the nobility and the very rich would have these rights.  The poor and slaves were expected to be quiet and obedient.  Today we are a part of the class that is to “open” (6605a) our “mouth” (6310) for others. 

In this verse there are two types needing our help.  First you have the “dumb” (483).  Literally this refers to the mute, people who are incapable of speaking.  Figuratively it would include those that are too shy or weak to have an opportunity to speak.  We have a responsibility to speak up for those who cannot.

Then we have the “unfortunate” (2475/1121) or as the KJV says, the “appointed for destruction.”  This is a compound word that literally means “sons of those who are passing away.”  It is an interesting combination.  “Appointed” (1121) is the Hebrew word “ben” which means “son.”  It is incredibly common.  The other word is used only here in the OT.  We are to be concerned with the children of the past.  This would be a very wide category.  You may have heard the phrase, “the world is our oyster.”  This would be rephrased to “the world is our clinic.”

So?  However you want to interpret these words it points out that followers of the One True God are supposed to be concerned about the people in our world.  Remember the OT command:
(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.
People think this was original to Jesus but it was really a standard God had demanded from the beginning.  Just think, Moses could have told the story of the Good Samaritan.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Timely Requests

(Proverbs 30:7 KJV)  Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:

We have “required" (asked NASB) (7592) God for so many silly things in our prayers.  It might be embarrassing if God ever published a list.  Of course many were valid and sincere, but not all.  Most of the stories of genies and magic lamps and such have three wishes.  In the next verse we will get two examples of appropriate requests.

Notice that God did not ask for two requests.  He did not promise, like in the fairy tales, to grant just three requests.  As we shall see later, this will not be a wish list for the author but an expression of what he wants his life to say.

What would be our last wishes?  Have you ever had that fantasy?  “You will have thirty days to live.  What will you do with them?”  Or seven days or one hour or as the Bible verse says,
(Luke 12:20 KJV)  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
Wouldn’t it be great if we were focused enough to make our last request 10, 20 or 40 years before we expected it?  I have mentioned it before but one of the ideas that C.S. Lewis expresses in several places is that we are preparing for eternity.  Eternity will have more growth and the further we can get down the road in this life, the greater our growth on the other side.  He says to think of steering a boat.  A small difference in the rudder doesn’t make much difference over a few feet but over an ocean voyage it can land you on the wrong continent.

So?  Prepare for eternity.  Don’t do it with the attitude I show when my wife is driving and I scream, “We’re all going to die!”  Do it with the attitude that someday this stock is going to be worth a lot of money.  Oh, and also to bring glory to God.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Personal Privilege

I want to take a  moment of personal privilege.  This blog is an outgrowth of my daily worship time.  I am speaking to myself as much as anyone.  I am going to keep it that way.

But I have a lot of issues that keep bubbling up that do not fit in this purpose of this blog.  To find an outlet for those ideas I am working on another blog that I am calling Medley of Worship.  It will address all the areas of life that are a part of our worship.  I will address politics, theology, education, whatever.  You may have noticed the list of books I am reading in the side column.  I have just finished Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  I removed it from my reading list and posted a brief review on the other blog.  I also have posted the notes that I took while I was reading.  If you are interested in that kind of thing, check it out.  If not, ignore this post.

Perpetual Proverbs will remain my first concern of the day.  Thank you for visiting.

It Works Better with Manufacturer’s Parts

(Proverbs 29:6 KJV)  In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.

This verse shows contrasts between two types of people.  Some are stated, others implied.  The base contrast is in character.  You have the “evil” (7451b) and the “righteous” (6662).  This is a frequent pairing in Proverbs because much of the book is to show how life is different for people who follow the directions of the Manufacturer.  Proverbs proceeds to show how their lives are guided by their character.

He contrasts behavior.  Only the behavior of the first is stated.  He is caught in “transgression” (6588) {28:2}.  He is a sinner.  I think it is understood that we are not talking about the occasional failure of a person who is walking with the Lord, just as the righteous is not assumed to be absolutely, Mary-Poppins perfect.  What is the basic style of your life?  Are you living for yourself or are use living for Jesus?  Are you demanding and selfish or are you a servant?

Then Proverbs moves on to the result.  One is “ensnared” (4170), the other, by implication, is free.  This is the nature of sin and Satan.  Sin develops habits and chains that inhibit the freedom of life.  Sin cuts off potential and kills dreams.  With God we are love-slaves.  We are trusted as part of the family.  We know the master and desire to please Him and in the pleasing we have a freedom that is beyond compare.  Think of the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve had total freedom except for one tree.  What happened when Satan became their lord?  They were chained to that tree and kept away from the rest.  We now have the knowledge of good and evil but without the freeing blood of Christ we are denied the tree of life.  I wonder what the other trees in the garden would have been called.  We will find out, right after the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

The contrast finishes with attitude.  The “righteous” (6662) knows he has nothing to fear because he has done nothing wrong.  We can sing and rejoice.  Even in the presence of death.  Have you been to the funeral of a believer and joined in the singing of “Amazing Grace” or another favorite hymn.  That should help you define joy.  At an unbeliever’s funeral the highlight was the song “Happy Trails to You.”  This joy is stated clearly for the righteous, the other side is inferred.  It is also possible that the righteous knows how to confess and repent.  Remember the difference between Judas and Peter.

So?  Which side are you on?  Remember it is a choice.  God offers His love and grace.  Satan offers chains, misery and deception.  I know which side I am on.  I trust you have made the same decision.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

(Proverbs 28:5 KJV)  Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.

Again we see the reality:  “Evil” (7451) men exist.  Let me remind you, this is one of the key differences between people who believe the teaching of the Bible and those who do not.  The teaching of our post-modern culture is that man is good in his heart.  All the murderer or rapist needs is a chance to reform and they will do so.  This is why our prisons speak of rehabilitation instead of punishment.  This is why our school labeled our detention holding tank the Opportunity Room.  Our society believes, teaches and acts as if the only thing a criminal needs is to understand what is right and they will respond.  Of course, that mean they don't need a Savior, just a social worker.

On the other hand, the Bible teaches that man is inclined toward evil.  Without getting exhaustive let me give a few references.
(Psalms 51:5 KJV)  Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

(Romans 5:14 KJV)  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
All human beings are lost.  They cannot help themselves.  That is why the second half of this verse is so important.  Remember that we constantly see reference to the upright and the righteous.  If all are lost, how can this be?  Some people have sought the Lord.  When we seek Him, He responds.  Grace is applied.  We are forgiven, born again, given the Spirit and the ability to be changed persons. 

We can be “not-evil.”  Not because we are that way naturally but because Jesus died on the cross to provide the way of redemption.

So?  Are you still one of the evil?  Are you still trying to be good in your own power?  It ain’t gonna happen.  Confess your sin to God.  Trust in Jesus for your salvation.  Be transformed.  Have you drifted away from God.  There is no time like the present to confess and be renewed.  Any day can be a happy new year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What the World Needs Now Is...

(Proverbs 27:8 KJV)  As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.

We have had a lot of rain lately.  At school we always have some kids who like to stand under a down spout.  Others will stand out in the pouring rain.  I tell them that even my dog knows to come in out of the rain.  Sometimes we can look at animals to learn a thing or two.  The behavior that is being examined today is the tendency of a bird to protect the eggs or young in the nest. 

I am not an ornithologist, but I do listen and observe.  When birds in the wild have laid eggs they make sure that they are covered and kept warm at all times.  It my differ in different species but in the examples I remember the mother would keep the eggs warm while the father went off looking for food to feed her, and, after the eggs hatched, to feed the babies.  As they got older the mother might also join the search for food but the nest was never abandoned.

The point for us is that parents have responsibilities.  I think this could be extended to both parents even though the pronoun is masculine here.  My reasoning is that “home” (4725) is better translated as “place” as it is in the KJV.  Thus “man” could be interpreted as “mankind.”  The principle applies both ways.

I think that in our modern culture at least, this should be targeted on men.  We live in a day when men are abandoning their God given responsibility to be fathers and husbands.  The number of families with only a mother in residence is reaching epidemic proportions.  This is not the place to try to analyze the reasons why, except to say it is rooted in sin.  This is the place to remind those who call themselves followers of Christ that the plan of God is for two parents in each home.  If the bird wanders the babies die.  When the man wanders the same thing happens to the children he leaves behind.  Sometimes it is physical death, usually it is emotional death.

So?  Sex leads to children.  That is why God put it in the context of marriage.  Be moral.  Encourage others to be moral.  Don’t do anything that would encourage the kind of thinking that it is cool or manly to have many children by many women.  You might not consider it, but be an influence for moral behavior in your community.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Attitude Check

(Proverbs 26:7 KJV)  The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.

This is so politically incorrect and insensitive according to our modern standards that it deserves a close look.  It seems to mock the “lame” (6455).  Not really.  It is actually mocking the “fools” (3684) by making a statement of fact.  Perhaps we should use this as our standard rather than the current fur ball theology.  Full disclosure:  My gift of mercy allocation is so small that even I notice it is missing.  I am aware of this and try to compensate. 

I had the kids at school asking me if I had some syndrome I had never heard of.  They were talking about my eyes.  I am cock-eyed.  It has many terms, such as lazy eye, but it is a genetic thing.  I guess I am focus challenged.  It is the way I am.  I could have gone all sensitive and freaked out because the kids were “mocking” me.  I just laughed and told them I always called it “cock-eyed.”  We are what we are.  We should not get caught up in denial or being language police.  I am cock-eyed.  Some are lame.  Some are blind.  It is what it is.

Handicaps are nothing to be ashamed of.  Picture the man born blind that Jesus healed.  The Jewish leaders were trying to claim he was born blind because of the sin in him or his parents.  They were using his problem to glorify themselves and control those less fortunate.  Jesus said, to the contrary, he was born blind to show the power of God.  Too often we look at our limitations and think someone needs to be blamed.  We look for victims and scapegoats.  Try to wrap a God’s-eye perspective around things.

Our limitations exist for the glory of God.  Remember what Paul said.
(II Corinthians 12:9 NASB) And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
I quote the NASB because I like the word "boast" better than the phrase "glory in."

Think of people who have overcome physical limitations to be successful.  Would anyone have ever heard of Joni Erickson Tada if she had not suffered from a tragic accident?  This is not to say, “Oh, joy.  Another person injured.”  It is to say that God can take any situation we are in and remake it for His glory.  The key is in how we respond.

I do not speak from extreme experience.  I have big feet and a lazy eye.  These are not exactly big handicaps!  But any one of us can take small deficiencies and magnify them into real handicaps.  It depends on our attitude and our faith.  In this verse the problem was not the Proverb.  It was not the broken body.  It was the attitude which made the fool.

So?  Attitude Check.  Certain things are good to do regularly.  I can almost feel the attitude coming on at times.  It helps if I move to nip it in the bud.  I start thinking about my blessings.  I remember the price Jesus paid.  I allow the Holy Spirit to lift me as I call on God.  I remind myself that I am called to be a servant, not the Lord of the Manor.  For me it works.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The False Gifts of Christmas

(Proverbs 25:14 KJV)  Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.

Think of the false gifts that are offered to us.  Have you ever gone into a store in response to an advertisement and found that it was just a come on.  You forgot to read the fine print.  What about a statement that I see frequently on school walls.  It goes something like this:  “If you can dream it, you can be it.” 

Is Christmas a “gift” (4991) that “boasts” (1984b) “falsely” (8267) to you?  I see offers from time to time for a free round of golf.  It sounds good, until you read the fine print.  You need three friends paying full price for you to get the free one.  Or if you have a coupon from a restaurant, you are seated and ordering, you pull out the coupon, and the server says, “That doesn’t apply on weekends.”  Is Christmas like that to you?

Is Christmas dry wind and clouds to you.  Picture the beautiful tree in the window.  When you get inside you find out it is plastic.  Think of the songs about going home for Christmas and when you get there it isn’t like you remember.  Think about all the specials on TV where everything works out so wonderfully, but it isn’t happening in your life.  Is Christmas like that to you?

I have a thought.  Maybe the problem isn’t in the gift.  It could be in the wrapping.  Does anyone in your family try to wrap gifts in such a way that the Christmas snooper can’t figure out what is inside?  There is deliberate deception involved.  Our world goes out of its way to ignore the meaning that is the cause of Christmas.  Is Christmas like that for you?

 It could be in the receiver.  I remember a time when I wanted a pony.  It really did not matter that a small horse was a totally irrational gift, I was disappointed with just sox.  I know I needed the sox, but I wanted a pony.  Is Christmas like that for you?

Christmas was not initially a big celebration like Easter.  It was the mass of Christ.  It was a day picked by the church, Roman Catholic at the time, to remind its illiterate members of a part of their theology.  It was a teaching moment.  It was part of a liturgy that stretched through the world to remind believers methodically of all the truths that the Bible teaches.  It was a teaching moment with a celebration of the death and resurrection built into the service.  There was partying but it was secular in nature.  There is wisdom in that approach.  The real gift is that God chose that moment to bring the lamb for the sacrifice that was to come.  Focus on the gift before you celebrate the season.  Is Christmas like that for you?

So?  Enjoy the wrappings and decorations.  Let the music lift you.  Bask in family and friends.  But always come back to the gift of the incarnation.  God became man.  Salvation was, and is, offered.  Understand why the angels sang. 
(Matthew 1:21 KJV)  And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Let Christmas be like that for you.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Tree Christians

(Proverbs 24:5 KJV)  A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.

Once again we have a statement that flies in the face of our post-modern culture.  The first bump in the road is accepting the Bible’s definition of “wise” (2450).  It doesn’t take long reading in Proverbs to see that wisdom is based on a healthy and well balanced fear of the Lord.  Our culture would discount the health of fear and would reject being subservient to God.

Strength based on a fear of God would be considered insipid superstition in our world.  When I read people expressing “Christian” solutions to issues of our day I hear a lot of psychology, sociology, educational theory and philosophy.  I don’t hear much that is based in the word of God.  Rejected ideas include sin, both nature and acts, Creator/creature hierarchy, personal responsibility, and moral imperatives to name a few.  If the prof says one thing and the Bible says another, for some reason the prof has more authority.

It takes special grace to be strong in wisdom in this world.  You are laughed at and dismissed.  You are patronized and expected to grow up.  To be foolish is easy today, to be wise is an upstream battle every drop of the way.

As I write I recall the Christmas tree we have at home.  It is beautiful.  The lights and decorations are placed perfectly (by me, of course).  Most of the ornaments have some special family memory involved.  It gives off a great smell.  Is it still a tree?  Pine needles are gathering on the floor around it.  If you touch it you can feel it is brittle.  Is it dead or dying?  Why do we even ask the question?  Putting water in the base is not the same as a root structure.  The once strong tree will soon be nothing but a mulch candidate.  Why?  It isn’t the decorations or water.  It is because it has been cut off from its source.

So?  Don’t be a Christmas Tree Christian.  All the bells and whistles of life are wonderful but don’t let yourself get cut off from your Source.  Rejoice in the incarnation and the abiding.  Be strong in wisdom.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't Watch the Birdy

(Proverbs 23:5 KJV)  Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

In this verse Proverbs continues the theme of “riches" (wealth NASB) (implied, not in the Hebrew at this point).  At first I thought this was a simple point.   It seemed we were reflecting on the importance of our focus, where our “eyes” (5869) are “set” (5774a).  I thought we were dealing with the issues of priorities and to what we are really committed.  Then I looked a little deeper.

That is the problem with Bible study.  It doesn’t always tell you what you want to hear.  I first looked to see some pithy meaning to “set” (5774a).  I was totally confused when I saw it meant “fly.”  “Fly?”  Since I am limited in my knowledge of Hebrew I looked at some other translations. 
(Proverbs 23:5 Douay)  Lift not up thy eyes to riches which thou canst not have: because they shall make themselves wings like those of an eagle, and shall fly towards heaven.

(Proverbs 23:5 CEV)  Your money flies away before you know it, just like an eagle suddenly taking off.

For riches can disappear as though they had the wings of a bird! (NLT)
So in a backhanded way it is saying keep your focus on the things of God.  It is warning us not to let our eyes fly away and focus on the secondary. 

It is so easy to get distracted.  As I write this Christmas is just a few days away.  We are surrounded by the aggressive attacks of commercialism that perpetually tries to drown out the message of Christmas.  Gift giving is a wonderful part of Christmas but the guilt that goes with not finding the “right” gift can blanket the joy of knowing the open secret of God’s gift.  Time with family can draw us away from time with God. 

I am wallowing in the season.  I love it, but I am also keeping my focus on Jesus.  Galatians talks about the fullness of time.  John talks about the Word becoming flesh.  Don’t take your eyes off the incarnation and the atonement to focus on the tree.

At this point I realize the passage is dealing with wealth, but that is okay because the real point is to keep our eyes on Jesus.

So?  Enjoy the season.  Joy to the world not only because the Lord has come but because the Lord “is” come.  And He is still with us.  Remember that when the tree takes on wings and goes to the dump.  Remember that when the decorations become as rare as eagles and are hidden in the closet.  The Lord is.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sow What?

(Proverbs 22:8 KJV)  He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.

Our life “sows” (2232) according to our values and decisions.  It is possible to sow a crop and have it destroyed so that you can’t reap but generally you cannot reap if you have not sowed.  That is the observation of a non-farmer. 

As a Bible student I did a search of the two words together.  I found many different cause and effect relationships.  One set has to do with the physical act of farming.  The Bible recognizes the many possible outcomes in a profession dependent on weather, insects, oppression and war.  Another major category is more figurative.  This verse one of those and it goes along with the verse that most are familiar with:

(Galatians 6:7 KJV)  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
We know that is talking about major spiritual issues because of the next verse.
(Galatians 6:8 KJV)  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Good farmers and gardeners prepare the ground.  Compare our yard and my mother’s.  I remember how my mother’s yard always seemed to grow the best vegetables.  She had these massive tomato plants among other things.  She never planted them, they came up volunteer because she had been burying her garbage for years.  Ignore the word “garbage” or switch it for “spontaneous fertilizer.”  She was doing the work that prepared the ground to produce a crop.  Our house was in an old development that had leveled the lots by scraping off the top soil and bringing in decomposed granite to make it smooth.  We sometimes had to plant a bush or tree three times to get it to take hold and grow.  Even then it was anemic for years.

It matters what you sow.  It matters how you prepare the ground before you sow.  If our actions demonstrate “iniquity” (5767b), we see the results.  We determine how our life and character will develop by our choices. 

So.  Do you choose to sin?  Then live with the results.  Do you sow righteousness?  Then live with the results.  But remember that God is gracious.  He is always ready to respond to genuine repentance.  This is one of the miracles of grace.  This is why when I am feeling my most self-righteous God reminds me that it was Jesus blood, not my sweat that bought my salvation.  He is waiting if you are ready.  He will meet us where our need is, be it repentance, reminder or revival.  Give Him a call, He’s in the Book.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dishonesty Is a Deadly Policy

(Proverbs 21:6 KJV)  The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.

Recognize that the problem is not the “getting” (6467) of “treasures” (214).  Profit and wealth are not problems in themselves.  There are examples of this.  A simple one for you to examine is in Proverbs 31 in the description of the perfect wife.  She buys property, plants vineyards, manufactures and sells.  If that isn’t free enterprise and business, I don’t know the color of the sky on a clear day.  It amuses me to see people who criticize capitalism and have links on their blog so you can go to Amazon and buy the book they recommend criticizing capitalism.  I assume that they are signed up so they can get a payback for the link.  Other places Proverbs will address how the wealth is used.  That is not the focus here.

Once again we see that the issue is how the wealth is accumulated.  The problem here is in the “lying” (8267) {end} “tongue” (3956).  This is a Biblical business principle.  In the short run a business can lie and cheat.  There is money to be made.  But it is only temporary.

In the long run it will come back to bite them.    Illicit gain is a “fleeting” (5086) “vanity" (vapor NASB) (1892).  We all go shopping for bargains, or at least I assume we do.  There are times, though, where we want someone or something we can depend on.  Do you want the cheapest brand of tires from a guy who sells them out of his garage?  Would you buy a Rolex watch from a guy on the street corner?  Do you go back to the restaurant that made you sick?

This is a business principle.  It is also a life principle.  If you are this kind of business owner, you are in “pursuit” (1245) of “death” (4194).  How you run your business has eternal consequences.

So?  Be honest in your dealing.  Are you selling a home or a used car?  If you cheat the buyer then God is saying He will come back to bite you even if they don’t.

Monday, December 20, 2010

An Interlude with C.S. Lewis

If you only want Bible study posts, skip this one.  This is a reflection on something C.S. Lewis wrote that has to do with my previous post.

This morning I was reading in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  I am in Book 4, Chapter 9, “Counting the Cost.”  I came across another one of God’s “coincidences.”  What I read went perfectly with my Bible encounter.  If you have a copy of Mere Christianity, read over this chapter.  Since this is in so many editions I won’t give you a page number.  If you don’t have one, buy it or borrow it.  You will not be sorry.

Lewis is writing on the topic of Christian Perfection.  He is an Anglican layman, not a holiness preacher.  He is still writing on Christian Perfection.  Why?  Because he sees it in the Bible.  If you are from a different theological persuasion I think you will find him neither offensive or abrasive. 

He is talking about the process that God begins at salvation and continues to work in His children.  I will let you read it if you are interested but a few quotes are in order.

He quotes George MacDonald as saying “God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.”  This means that God understands our failures but expects our attempts to grow.

Then he says:
“The command 'Be ye perfect' is not idealistic gas.  Nor is it a command to do the impossible.”
At the end he gives you some material to quote if you want to attack his positions.  If that is your thing, go for it.  He is a big boy, he can take it.

So?  Start with God’s word.  Read other trustworthy authors.  Compare what they say with the word.  Read, think, pray, grow.

Which Is More Important, Who, How or Why?

(Proverbs 20:9 KJV)  Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

Welcome to Proof-text Harbor.  This verse is a delight for Calvinists.  Link it up with Paul saying that no one is righteous and you have a theology.  I often read attacks on people who claim they are without sin and the blatant accusation is that they are so perfect that they have never sinned and never will sin.  If anyone actually made that claim they should be attacked.  The claim of Wesleyan theology is that the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to give us victory over sin, not that we are strong enough to do it ourselves.

This verse takes the claim a bit further.  Words like “cleansed” (2135) and “pure” (2891) set some people’s teeth on edge.  They say we cannot cleanse their hearts or be purified from sin.  This is a bit of a straw man.  There is really no disagreement on this verse.  The statement here is one that both sides of the aisle can agree on.  Holiness people do not believe they have “cleansed” (2135) their hearts, they believe God has done it. 

If you look back at verse 7, Proverbs refers to a righteous man walking in integrity.  If you look through Proverbs for uses of the word righteous you see it again and again.  In that context we are reminded here that we cannot do this ourselves.  We sometimes forget that Jesus and the Holy Spirit existed before Christmas and Pentecost.  They have been active throughout history.  Yesterday I gave you a reference in Ezekiel. 

Can we do it on our own?  The Bible quivers with a resounding “NO!”  Can God do it?  Try to tell Him He can’t.  Remember the question that agnostics like to ask?  “Can God make a rock so big that He can’t move it?”  The answer is, “Sure He could, and He will do it right after you understand the trinity, the incarnation and the depths of sin.”  You see, even if He did it you would not be able to understand.  I don’t know about you but I have enough things that I don’t understand.

So?  Read and wonder.  I tell the kids at school, “‘I don’t know’ is a good answer.”  Remember that we may not know the how’s and why’s but we know the Who.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Plate or Sterling?

(Proverbs 19:8 KJV)  He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.

The one who “gets” (7069) “wisdom” (3820) has a reward.  It includes a healthy regard for where he will spend eternity.  This process of getting has the idea of seeking out, not just the result of an accident.  To get something means you make a choice and take action with that in mind.

But there is a surprise for us here.  At least it was a surprise for me.  The word for “wisdom” (3820) is not the usual word for wisdom.  This word is usually translated “heart” as here: 
(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.
I am tempted to paraphrase again.  “If you care about your soul you will deal with your heart.”  We are to be seeking a radical change in our hearts if we are concerned about our eternal destiny.

How much are we responsible for what goes on in our lives?  Some, but the real key is calling upon God to do what He wants to do in our lives.  Some people think that Pentecost and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives is a new revelation of the New Covenant.  Once again we see that the Bible has these themes that run through the entire book.  For example look at this sample:
(Ezekiel 11:19 KJV)  And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
That word “heart” is our word “wisdom”.

There is no half way Christian life.  We are called to offer our all.  It is not our action of offering that changes our heart but the willingness of Almighty God to accept the offer and work a miracle, replacing stone with flesh.  Trying to get your heart right is like a teamster trying to move 40 tons of truck by rolling up his sleeves and pushing.  Use the power.

So?  Have you made the offer?  Or are you still satisfied with silver plate instead of sterling?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don’t Be an Answering Machine

(Proverbs 18:13 KJV)  He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

This is one of those “ouch” verses.  I cringe at the thought of trying to list all the times I have answered questions that were not asked or failed to listen when others are sharing.  I am not talking about the times I have tuned out people who have used up their listening allowance with meaningless details about the life of the person next to them in line at the market.  I am talking about our, my, tendency to not listen.  It is based on a self-centered lack of patience.  It is a matter of either not caring about the speaker or caring too much for the listener.  We are talking about practical expression of love.

My thinking started with human conversation.  Does it not also apply to the things of God?  If we rush off to “answer” (1697) the questions of life withing hearing the wisdom of God, we are in trouble.   Remember that one way in which we listen to God is by spending time in His word so that He can communicate to us.  If we are not hearing what God has to say we can’t find answers for ourselves.  We also can’t help others find answers that they are looking for.  We cannot be a voice of salt and light in our communities.

So?  Again I say, read, study, meditate (on the word not a mantra), pray and live as God would have us.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gomer Vocabulary

(Proverbs 17:7 KJV)  Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.

Is this a statement verifying classes?  Such a concept is anathema to those of us raised to the concept that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  The statement that “all men are created equal” is a belief that is at the center of our faith.  All are sinners.  All are in need of a savior.  We are not Europeans who have the Divine Rights of Kings bred into our inner fiber.  We all believe we can walk up to the president and tell him what we think.

Having said that, “excellent” (3499a) “speech” (8193) is not for everyone.  “Excellent” (3499a) seems to refer to being not common.  The upper classes talk and act different.  I don’t know how Southerners feel about our Yankee accents but I know how mid-America feels about a southern accent.  I have a lot of respect for the ministry and teaching of J. Vernon McGee, but I could never listen to him.  Anyone who can make the word “God” into three syllables is hard for me to take seriously.  This is my problem, not his.

We are to be the upper class, not in social snobbery, but in spiritual example setting.  We are to exhibit excellent speech.  Our language is to be different.  That means real difference, not cosmetic differences.  Instead of saying, “Oh my God” the kids say, “Oh my gosh.”  Instead of “damn it” we say “darn it.”  These are cosmetic differences.  They emerged in an age when people were concerned about taking the name of the Lord in vain but they still wanted to cuss.  They still exhibit a lack of self control and respect for God.

So, does saying, “Gosh darn it” of “Golly gee” send us to hell?  I doubt it.  It might make us sound like Gomer Pyle, but all it does is make God roll His eyes.  It also might make someone who is observing us roll his eyes and take us less seriously.  Let us aim for excellent speech.

Crowns and Glory

(Proverbs 17:6 KJV)  Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.

What happened to being proud of my children?  Is that ruled out?  I don’t think that is the point.  If my children were young I am not sure I could understand this.  Now that I am getting to the point where grandchildren would be expected, it has more meaning to me.  I am proud of my children.  If nothing else, my wife did a great job raising them.  It was a joy to watch and occasionally help.   My big concern now is to see if it will be passed on to the next generation.

My children have a very high opinion of my father.  I am not sure how much they remember from experience and how much they remember from the stories, but the comment is often made that he would be proud of his grandchildren.  He had four sons.  None were ever arrested.  All are believers.  But the true test was the next generation.  I must say that my nieces and nephews are a fine bunch.  Not as fine as mine, but definitely above average.  At this point there is only one in the whole bunch that seems to be turned away from the Lord.  That is where the legacy really shows up.

This points out a Biblical principle.  We should be building for the future.  By the future I mean generations, not hours or day.  On a day by day basis we trust and live by faith.  In so doing we model the kind of attitudes and actions which our children see.  It is an old cliche but so true, “One picture is worth a thousand words.”  From the other direction comes, “Your actions are so loud that I can’t hear your words.” 

So?  You will leave a legacy.  It will not be in how often you were promoted or if you made it into “Who’s Who.”  It will be in the values and priorities of your grandchildren.  Keep that in mind when you go to work or prepare dinner.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marching in Hell

(Proverbs 16:5 KJV)  Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.

The is a danger in being “proud” (1364) in “heart” (3820) {end}.  This leads us to the situation we see in verse 2 where we are so impressed with our own plans.  To be proud is to be exalted.  When this attitude is lodged in your central, core being it lays the groundwork for your entire life.  We see ourselves as better than others, not based on any empirical data, but just because we know it in our inner being.  Not only is this the foundation for racism, class envy and tyranny, it is the reason that people cut in line, weave through traffic and leave a mess for the waitress to clean up.  After all, who are these people that think they can get in front of me?

Ultimately, or perhaps initially, a proud heart even looks down on almighty God.  I see this is a lot of “scholars,” “persons in authority,” and bloggers.  I listen to and read people who take simple, clear teachings of the Bible, such as the physical resurrection of Jesus, and tell us that it could not mean anything like what it says.  I hear people who know that Jesus said we would not know when He would return giving dates and times.  A proud heart refuses to bend its knee at the name of Jesus.

Let me share a theory with you.  This is not doctrine or a “word from the Lord.”  It is just a way I have worked out to try and understand how some people will go to hell.  I think of the picture of all humanity appearing before the judgment seat.  On one side is a gate to heaven.  On the other side is the gate to hell.  I don’t think that God will need to force anyone through the gate to hell.  They will march through singing, with fists held high and proud hearts.  You see, the door to heaven is not only narrow; it is low.  To enter you would have to bow.  Also, just as the flames of hell are billowing out one door, the other radiates the holiness of God.  The proud of heart will respond to the heat holiness the way that the righteous respond to the fires of Hell.  God won’t need to say or do anything.  People have already made the choices in their hearts. 

Just a theory.  So, where is your heart?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not in Vain

(1 Thessalonians 2:1 KJV)  For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:

Is it possible for the work of a faithful believer to be in "vain" (2756)?  I know that there are times when I feel this way.  I live with it almost every day.  I served as a pastor for 10 years, full time, and seven years, part time.  That is where I felt called and where I felt my gifts were.  But for reasons that I feel are beyond my control, I am not doing that now.  It is not because of disobedience or open rebellion, it just is.  I am teaching instead.  Teaching is a worthy profession, and I do a decent job.  But I know teachers for whom it is a passion.  For me it is a rewarding job but not a passion.

Is my time spent in vain?  Do you at times feel the same frustration?  The Lord keeps telling me to trust Him.  I must accept the fact that walking by faith does not always mean wondering where the next meal will come from but also trusting God for the meaning and direction of my life.  If I have been redeemed and walk in obedience, it is impossible for my life to be in vain.  It doesn’t matter what I see.  Think of Steven as he was being stoned.  There must have been a glimmer in his mind about all the witnessing he would not be able to do it he died.  God, in ways he could not imagine, preserved his witness for eternity.

So, be faithful and walk in faith.  There are currents we cannot know.  Trust is more than eternal.  It is daily.  It is based on not seeing the next step but knowing the route.

A Roadmap, Not a Club

(Proverbs 15:5 KJV)  A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.

Again we see the “fool” (191).  To rob someone else's insight:  God must have loved fools because He made so many of them.  Remember that Jesus said we are not to call people fools. 
(Matthew 5:22 KJV)  But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
I had another thought on that paradox.  Proverbs defines the fool.  Jesus talks about calling someone a fool in anger, or at least to his face.  In Proverbs we are allowing God to tell us the standard, in Matthew Jesus is talking about our behavior.  Picture the difference between discussing the sin of murder and calling someone a murderer.

The purpose of the written word it to be a roadmap, not a club.  While there are times that the Holy Spirit directs individuals to correct and reprove the usual target of the correction is to be ourselves.  We get it turned around.  Think about the preaching last Sunday.  I don’t know what the text was or if it was well presented.  Who was the target of the sermon in your mind?  Go ahead, make a list if it helps.  In reality the list should be short.  In fact it should have one name on it:  Yours.  Or mine.

So, when you read or listen consider yourself the most needy person in range.  That should be the attitude.  Prepare yourself ahead of time.  “What do you have for me today, Lord?”  Sometimes when a student hands me a paper I get a puzzled look on my face and ask, “Why did you write it upside down?”  They patiently, rolling their eyes, reach out and turn it around for me.  The problem is the one holding the paper.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Avoid the Wrath

(1 Thessalonians 1:10 KJV)  And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

We are delivered from much in life, but it goes farther than that.  We are also delivered from the “wrath” (3709) that is coming.  Jesus used the phrase “wrath to come” twice, Matthew 3:7 and Luke 3:7.  The word is common in the NT.  It seems to be referring to the wrath of God.

We need to deal with this.  We are so used to people talking about the love of God.  It is true.  In the OT we have “chesed” or loving-kindness.  In the NT we have “agape.”  We have two absolute statements by John:
(1 John 4:8 KJV)  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

(1 John 4:16 KJV)  And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
But God is not a one sided, two dimensional cartoon.  He is not summed up in one phrase.  We were created in the image of God.  The emotions that we feel come from the character of God.  He expresses anger, jealousy, patience.  Of course His emotions are pure and burn with Holy fire but they are there.

One of the often repeated realities of scripture is the wrath of God.  He is holy.  He is just.  He must punish sin.  The only hope we have is in the blood of Christ.  The other side of that is that there is no hope outside of Christ.  He did not die on a cross so we could learn to show patience in the line at the grocery store.  He became the atoning sacrifice to deliver us from the wrath that is to come.

So?  Rejoice if you are redeemed.  If you are one of those who think of God as a great big Teddy bear giving group hugs, take another look.  He waits to deliver you from wrath not your addiction to chocolate or fear of spiders.

Scoff Not, Least Ye Be Scoffed

(Proverbs 14:6 KJV)  A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.

What is the difference between needed criticism and scoffing?  In our day it is hard to admit that criticism has its place.  We only want to hear happy thoughts.  When I sit in a meeting over a student who has been a royal pain for years and shows no concern about his behavior, the person in charge will start by saying, “Okay.  What are the strengths of this student?”  Excuse me.  We are not here to discuss his strengths.  His strengths are disruption and destruction.  No one wants to hear that.  Two words that have been banned from the public square are “bad” and “evil”.

Yet there is a personality that Proverbs is talking about, the “scorner" (scoffer NASB) (3917b).  This is not talking about someone who has negative things to say, it goes more to the attitude of the person.  When you look at how the word is used you see “mock” and “scorn” being used.  The scoffer is there to undermine and destroy.  Usually his target will be the good things that God is trying to build.  It is hard to believe that a “scoffer” (3917b) ever does anything with sincerity.

I think “seeks” (1245) should be in quotation marks here.  Other places in Proverbs it becomes clear that the naive will find answers if they really want to find them.  My question would be, “How hard are they seeking?”  The attitude of our seeking is key.

I know I must fight this tendency.  There are times when a loyal opposition is needed, true, but it is too easy to pick things apart because you like picking.  At the same time, I am a history teacher.  I think that saying, “We tried this before and it did not work” is a worthwhile statement.  The object is not to try something again but to figure out why it did not work before and what can we do different to make it work.  In the current election one of the quotes I heard coming up frequently went something like, “Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.”  I think it is attributed to Einstein.

So, don’t be a scoffer.  There are times when it is a conscious choice.  Always ask yourself if you are mocking to frustrate or questioning to find answers.  It makes a difference.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Poor Wealth

(Proverbs 13:11 KJV)  Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.

When we read this verse we need to understand the meaning of “wealth” (1952).  For most people it would seem almost impossible to accept this statement because of their definition of wealth.  Most people would equate wealth with financial strength.  That could be applied to this verse but it would seem that the number of poor working people in the world would make us skeptical.  So how does it apply?

First notice two things that are visible in both the KJV and the NASB.  The words “gotten” (KJV) and “obtained” (NASB) are marked by the translators as not being found in the Greek and are added for understanding.  Then notice the final word in the NASB, “it” is marked the same way and is left out of the KJV altogether.  When you leave them out the NASB becomes:

    Wealth by fraud dwindles, But the one who gathers by labor increases.

This changes the meaning of wealth.  It becomes a much broader concept which fits in better with the rest of Proverbs.  Wealth, riches, prosperity and such words tend to have a meaning that goes beyond dollar signs. 

Biblical wealth involves things like wisdom, righteousness, peace and eternal life.  It is a very expansive understanding.  With that in mind it becomes possible for the janitor to be better off than the CEO.  This is not a pie in the sky, cop out.  It is a statement of fact.  It is a cliche that money does not buy happiness.  A wag said he would rather be rich and miserable than poor and miserable.  Both are true.  But the concept here is that honest, godly work is what rewards. 

So?  Keep hoping for a promotion.  Keep investing and saving.  Those are all approved in Proverbs.  But don’t sacrifice the wealth of God to do it.  It is possible to be ambitious and content at the same time.  Godly priorities can do that for us.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Just Be Just

(Proverbs 12:5 KJV)  The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.

 By being righteous we become “just” (4941).  It is a requirement of the job.  When the kids at school tell me I am crazy, I tell them it is a requirement of the job.  I say there is a place the application that asks, “Are you crazy?”  If you don’t check “yes” they don’t hire you.  Some of the kids even believe me.  God is constantly asking, “Are you willing to be just?”  If we don’t answer yes, we have little claim on the job.

Justice is based on honesty.  As followers of Jesus we are required to tell and live the truth.  Since we are not post-modern, but Christian, we believe that there is truth and that it is based on the One who was the Way the Truth and the Life. 

Justice is based on forgiveness.  This is a required part of our spiritual walk.  If we are not willing to forgive we will not be forgiven.
(Mark 11:26 KJV)  But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
This cannot mean our initial forgiveness.  That is part of coming to Christ.  It must mean the ongoing forgiveness in the life of the believer revealed in the following verse:
(1 John 1:9 KJV)  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
When we deal with others around us, part of justice is involved in being willing to forgive those who have wronged us.  We have every right to demand retribution or restitution, but righteousness tempers the law with mercy.  We are expected to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, etc. 

For those who think this is an idea that Jesus or Paul came up with, go back to the source.  One of my favorites is:
(Micah 6:8 KJV)  He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
So?  We have a high calling.  We are to be salt.  We season the world by allowing the righteousness of God be demonstrated by our lives.  Live it.

The Power of Righteous Thinking

(Proverbs 12:5 KJV)  The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.

How are your “thoughts” (4284)?  My first response to this is, “How can I control my thought life?”  We tend to think that we cannot control what pops into our minds and up to a point we are right, but there are things we can do to keep our minds clean.  It does not happen by gritting our teeth and trying to squeeze things out of our minds.  I remember when I was in the army I wandered into a dark room where a projector was running and for the first time in my life saw a porno movie.  Fortunately it was also the last.  But at that moment I stood like a deer in the headlights.  I don’t remember how long I stayed but some of the images are still burned into my mind.  How do you get rid of them?  By following the words of Paul:
(Philippians 4:8 KJV)  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
You don’t get rid of evil thoughts by effort but by thinking on the righteous.  When you concentrate on one you find the other fading and life changes.  Your mood lightens.  Your attitudes adjust.  Your resilience returns.  Your thoughts again become what you want them to be.

I practice as I preach.  As I am trying to write this I am continually interrupted.  I find the frustration growing and the anger waiting just around the corner.  I am so tempted to brood and focus on the situation.  Unfortunately, I am writing about just this situation.  I find that as I stop focusing on the things irritating me and get back to applying my mind to the word I am again approaching the ability to think in righteousness.  I can’t control the interruptions and distractions.  I can’t control all that pops into my mind.  But I can point my mind so the Holy Spirit can reward the desire of my heart.

So?  If there are problems or issues, deal with them and then get back to thinking on the good things.  You know when you are brooding.  Recognize it.  Admit it.  And get back on track.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Good Life Is Upright

(Proverbs 11:6 KJV)  The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.

Yesterday I commented on a verse in I Thesselonians ?.  It used the word “deliver”.  We see the same English word being used in Proverbs today.  Coincidence?  As someone once said, “It is amazing how often we have a coincidence when God is involved.”

Moral behavior will “deliver” (5337) {23:14}.  This has the same sense as the NT word.  It means to rescue or pull away.  This is not a statement of eternal salvation, it is a statement of how we live after we have been regenerated.  Righteous behavior will pull us away from many of the traps that life lays for us.  Someone once said, “You can’t cheat an honest man.”  Why?  Because their values and moral fiber keep them from taking advantage of others and thus it is hard to scam them.  A righteous person does not buy pirated software because he knows it comes from a questionable source.  An upright businessman does not stock shoddy merchandise because he knows it will not deliver fair value. 

The opposite of deliverance is being “taken" (caught NASB) (3920).  Several times in Proverbs it refers to snares.  That is a different word but the idea is there.  I like the KJV translation of the last word.  “Naughtiness” (1942) (10:3) catches my attention in this modern day.  “Greed” is an overused word in our day where free enterprise is being attacked.  Either way, behavior that goes against the standards of God leads to unpleasant ends.  Today.  Tomorrow.  And if repentance and confession does not take place, eternally.

So?  Don’t get hung up on legalism or trying to be perfect.  Is there a trace of naughtiness that might emerge today?  Squash it.  Make a bunch of little decisions.  At each fork take the way of the upright.  Life will be better.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hi. How Are You Today?

(Proverbs 10:6 KJV)  Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.

Do you ever stop and reflect on your “blessings” (1293)?  When people greet me with, “How are you?”  I try to give a real answer.  Currently I have been saying something like, “Not quite magnificent, but I am working on it.”  It gives me a reason to think about how wonderful life is.  If you don’t believe it then think about what your life would be like if you lived in Darfur or next to a drug lord in Mexico.  Even if you face what would be defined as tragedy by any sane person, you have the resources of the God of the universe just waiting to minister to you.  Blessings must go beyond the financial or physical.  Those can be included but it is not an exclusive statement. 

Perhaps a key is that the anointing is on the “head” (7218).  This might imply a mental or spiritual blessing.  It certainly opens it up to a wide variety of expressions.  Think about it.  The infinite God of the Universe has an infinite number of ways to bless you.  You know how you can go into a coffee shop and order a weird coffee creation that is prepared just your way?  What kind of drink do you think God could come up with that was designed specifically for you?  How many days in a row could He come up with a new boutique refreshment?  Think of the words to the song that comes from Lamentations 3:22-23:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning...

This promise is for the “righteous” (6662).  Remember the righteous?  They are those people that the Calvinists say don’t exist but keep popping up in scripture.  They are not the perfect-in-every-way Mary Poppins types but the redeemed.  They are the forgiven.  They are the obedient.  I hope that includes you and me.

The reference to the “mouth of the wicked” reminds us of one of the blessings of the righteous.  God hates liars.  There is a special mention of them in the lake of fire.  One of our blessings, if we are the righteous, is that we don’t have the stress of dealing with our own lies.  It may be tough being honest at times but think of the long term dividends of telling lies:  Keeping them straight.  If you lie you must remember what you said to who and when you said it.  This could be exhausting.  One of our blessings is being spared that struggle.

So look for your blessings.  There’s one.  Oh, there’s another one.  There’s one I never saw before.......

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jesus Delivers

(1 Thessalonians 1:10 KJV)  And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Let us never forget one of the great promises of scripture:  Jesus “delivers” (4506).  In our English we tend to think of delivery as dropping something off at its intended destination.  UPS delivers.  Domino's delivers.  The actual meaning seems to be going in the opposite direction.  The definition starts off “to draw to oneself.”  What?  The idea is to rescue or to set free.  Look at this verse: 
(Romans 7:24 KJV)  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver (4506) me from the body of this death?
In the NASB this is translated “set free”.  Jesus sets us free by drawing us to Him.

From what are we delivered?  If you follow the word through the NT you find that we are delivered from the power of sin and temptation.  We are given a way out of the perversions that surround us.  We are lifted out of the gutter.  We are delivered by being close to Jesus.  Take some iron.  Attach it to a magnet.  Draw it through a pile of sand.  When I did it I always got a pile of iron fragments.  We are drawn out of the sand of life by the power of Jesus.  If you withdraw the magnet, the iron will fall off.  Stay close to Him for daily strength. 

The Bloggers Proverb

(Proverbs 9:12 KJV)  If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.

At first reading Solomon seems to be addressing bloggers in this proverb.  Obviously it goes a little deeper than that, but the lesson of this proverb applies to bloggers, preachers, teachers and anyone else who has something to share.

It is well established that wisdom is good and that it can be achieved.  Not overnight or in one easy lesson, but it is possible to grow in wisdom.  Once we begin to gain in wisdom it is also easy to become foolish again.  It is easy to come into contact with the glory of God and to think that we are the next apostle.  We can get so consumed with telling others all the great stuff we know that we forget to listen and apply it to ourselves.  We miss the principle.

What is the principle?  That the “wise” (2449) listens to their own wisdom.  The Godly preacher listens to his own sermons.  The conscientious parent listens to his own lectures.  You may have never prepared a sermon.  One of the things I miss about the preaching ministry is the time that I was able to spend in the Word allowing it to scour my own soul.  More frequently than I want to admit I would become aware in the middle of the week that I was preparing something to scold people, not a sermon from God.

Being “wise for yourself” is not a statement of selfishness or arrogance.  It is a reminder that we also need to keep learning.  As I search the book of Proverbs and share what I see I pray that it never becomes a matter of looking for lectures to give other people but simply a matter of sharing the areas that God is speaking to me.

So?  Do your homework.  Share the glory of God as it is revealed to you.  Never fail to apply the lessons to your own life.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stop, Look, Listen

(Proverbs 8:6 KJV)  Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.

The key to wisdom and understanding is to “hear” (listen NASB) (8085).  As people of the book this means to listen to the written word.  This means to read with our minds turned on and seeking.  How often do believers read the Word as an exercise instead of an interaction.  We are told to read and being closet legalists we want to know exactly how many verses or chapters.  If we get our one chapter a day, we feel we have fulfilled our part.  No, we are to listen.  We are to think.  If we do not think as we read it is hard to see how the Holy Spirit can speak to us.

As Spirit filled believers we are to listen to the “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit.  I am not sure where that phrase comes from but I have heard preachers use it for years.  I did searches of both the KJV and NASB and did not find it, but I like it.  It reminds me that in any situation the Holy Spirit is trying to speak to me.  I don’t know about you but in my life the Holy Spirit rarely shouts.  I hear Him better when I want to hear Him. 

As part of the Body of Christ we are to listen to the voices of other believers.  God has appointed people to teach and preach.  After being careful who we are listening to, we need to pay attention to what they have to say.  Obviously this means being a part of public worship.  I also find that my time in the car is more productive since I moved up to an I-pod.  I can down load the preaching of Alistar Begg and, forgive me for admitting it, Mark Driscoll, and every drive over 5 minutes can become a worship service or a lecture hall. 

If these sources “speak” (1696) to you, you will be stronger in the Lord.  But only if you listen.  Wisdom will speak of “excellent things” (noble things NASB) (5057).  This word usually means a leader, a prince, a ruler.  Who is the most noble of leaders?  Jesus.  Wisdom will always bring us to Him in some way.  If we listen and respond we glorify Him and bring about His will.

So.  Keep up the listening.  Look for more opportunities.  Let Him give you the directions you need to be a force of righteousness in a wicked world.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Live in Anticipation

(1 Thessalonians 1:10 KJV)  And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Paul praises them as they “wait” (362).  This is a compound word and the prefix gives it the sense of intense wait.  These people were focused on the return of Jesus.  We will see later that this caused some problems but it was the kind of focus that lead them to be more serious about their lives and their obedience.  If you look back to the previous verses you see repeated reference to the positive effect their active faith was having. 

I am not a big one for focusing on the end times.  I remember that Jesus said He would come when people were not expecting Him.  To me that means it won’t be soon because so many are focused on that event.  But there is something about expectation.  If I come home tonight and the dining room table is cleaned off and I see vacuum trails on the rugs I can assume that someone is coming.  It may be days away.  They may have a change of plans.  But someone is coming that was worth changing our habits and patterns.  We are not talking about the Fed Ex man or the plumber.  We are talking about someone who is important to us.

So?  How are you waiting?  Are the tables of your life cleaned off.  Are your rugs cleaned.  Is your trash emptied?  Jesus may tarry.  Live like He is poised to knock.

Adultery Strikes Again

(Proverbs 7:23 KJV)  Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.

As I write this I am in shock.  The pastor of the church I attend has turned in his resignation with a confession of adultery.  We had been out of contact for about three weeks and came back to this.  Then I read this passage in Proverbs.  Much of this chapter is about the process of seduction.  I have read it about 20 times, made note of some of the lessons and suddenly have it hit me in the face.

Before I go any further, let us remind ourselves of the offer of forgiveness.  Whether you are looking at II Chronicles 7:14 or I John 1:9, the hope we have is that God forgives sin.  My prayer for this man is that he will find the forgiveness that is at the heart of the gospel.  From what little I can pick up, he was not “discovered.”  It sounds like he was convicted.  That gives me hope for him.  The attitude of the people we talked to was concern for him also.

But verse 23 jumped out at me.  It goes along with Paul’s statement:

(Romans 6:23 KJV)  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
There is a price to pay for sin.  The second part of the verse points out that eternal, spiritual death has a remedy.  But think about the bigger picture of what is killed.

We came to this church because of the preaching.  It was solid, Bible based and bold.  I rarely went home without being convicted or encouraged.  The pastor was one I would have liked to get podcasts from.  He was involved in international ministries.  The church might not have qualified as a mega-church but it was close.  People were being won and baptized.  They had a VBS that reached 600 kids last summer.  The pastor had a wife and grown children he was always very proud of.  Then he got caught up in adultery.

And it is going to cost him his life.  Not necessarily spiritually.  God forgives.  But all of the things he has spent his life building are now crippled, some possibly destroyed.  His marriage.  His children.  The thousands of people he has stood before in foreign countries.  The outdoor community services that attracted thousands.  All of the unknown lives he touched.  His sin has killed that part of his life.

So?  Walk carefully.  The devil knows our weaknesses and is waiting to seduce.  The only solution is to stay so close to Jesus that he bounces off.  Pray for this man, his family and the church he served.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Turn, Turn, Turn

(1 Thessalonians 1:9 KJV)  For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

Here is one of the key expectations of the Christian life.  Real believers have “turned” (1994) from the “idols” (1497).  This is one of the aspects of repentance.  This is why many people fall away; they don’t want to abandon their old way of life.  They cling to their habits, schedules, friends, leisures, sins.  They make Janus their God instead of turning to Jehovah.  Janus was the god that had faces turning in two different directions.  Too many like the claims of Jesus but really don’t want those claims to interfere with their lives.

They reject their old priorities to “serve” (1398) God.  People do not need to remain what Proverbs 6:12 calls a “naughty” (KJV) or “worthless” (NASB) person.  Once they turn to Jesus, repent of their sins and receive the Holy Spirit, they begin to cement that decision in place by a change in behavior.  It all doesn’t happen over night.  It is a process of growing in grace and wisdom.  It is the process of sanctification.  No one needs to stay evil.

Do you pick up the contrast?  On one side you have the false idols; on the other the “living” (2198) and “true” (228) God.  Wood, gold and stone stand contrasted with the dynamic creator of wood, gold and stone.

So?  Rejoice in the God of your salvation if you have turned and serve.  If you haven’t, there is no time like the present to call upon His mercy.

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Sin Cause

(Proverbs 6:12 KJV)  A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.

Again I want to point out the term “naughty” (1100), or “worthless” in the NASB.  I don’t bring it up again to glory in evil, but because we need to balance the inputs of false information with the truth.  We need to allow the Bible to form our values and standards, not out culture.  All of the talk you hear about the goodness in people and the brotherhood of man is based on a rejection of the concept of sin.  When you hear the multi-cultural language that says all cultures are equal and deserve equal respect, that is a rejection of the teaching of God.  You may not like it but it is part of the truth.

This does not mean that we cannot find some worthy qualities in almost everyone.  It does not mean that we reject people who do not attend our local church.  It does not justify harshness, bigotry, racism or any of the other labels that are put on people with a knowledge of truth.  Our standard is still love, but love does not allow someone to lie in bed when the building is burning just because they are tired.

Build your values on the Bible not on Oprah or Dr. Phil.

Artisan Evil

(Proverbs 6:14 KJV)  Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.

This is a continuation of the discussion of the “worthless person” begun in verse 12.

“Perversity” (8419) is a characteristic of “evil” (7451b).  The KJV again uses the word “frowardness.”  If I see this word often enough I may begin to use it.  What is being conveyed here is another way of describing original sin, the condition of human hearts without the washing of the blood and the cleansing of the Spirit.  It has the idea of turning away from the original purpose.  Proverbs is talking about a worthless person so there is a sense of deliberate choice. 

This worthless person has a “heart” (3820) that is continually turning life away from its divine purpose.  This word is used to mean the core of the inner man, just as we might use it.  Again we see that the perversion, sin, is coming from within.  It is not a product of his society.  EVIL EXISTS.  “EVIL” (7451b)  PEOPLE EXIST.

The evil person “devises” (2790a) more evil.  This is the word of the artisan.  This is designer evil.  The definition gives some insight into the picture:  To cut in, engrave, plow, devise.  This implies a gifted, talented approach to evil.  This person is an artist of evil.  This type of person is very common.

“Strife” (4066) {end} is a result of deliberate, targeted work.  This person is at all of your business meetings, family gatherings, social events.  He is in all three branches of government, all ranks in the military, all church committee, and in every charity organization.  He writes blogs.  He gets his greatest joy in causing dissension and suspicion.  He is often subtle and quiet. 

So?  Be aware.  Be an antidote.  Be oil on the water.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace makers.”  Love is patient....  Much of the time this will involve refusing to be seduced.  Often it will mean ignoring the person.  At times it will mean correction, reproof and rebuke.  In extreme cases it will mean ostracizing a person.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will make you aware of the problem and how to be part of the solution. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Choices, Choices

(Proverbs 5:23 KJV)  He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

Verse 22 points out the problem of iniquity.  Now we look at the consequences.  Those lost in sin will “die” (4191).  Since everything that lives will die physically, this is a statement of spiritual and eternal death.  Sin has consequences.

The neo-pagans are on the right track.  People will go to hell because of “lack” (369) of “instruction” (4148).  Where they are off is in the content of that education.  They will not suffer because of a lack of knowledge about the principles of multicultural sensitivity.  They will suffer for rejecting wisdom.  When proverbs talks about instruction and knowledge it is talking about knowing the words of God and submitting to them.  It is not about math, English, or science.

One thing is made clear in the Proverb.  The “lack” (369) is because of choices.  People refuse to listen.  Messages are all around them, but they will not listen.

So?  First, make sure you are listening.  I need to put down my Wesley, Sowell and Lewis, at least until I have spent enough time with Solomon, Matthew, Paul, John and Peter.  Second, look for opportunities to share.
(1 Peter 3:15 KJV)  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Sin At the Center

(Proverbs 5:22 KJV)  His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.

How many subjects have you heard someone talk about with, “There are only two kinds of people, __________ and _________?”  You can fill in the blanks.  Some are profound, some are hyperbole, some are just illustrations.  Let me make a contribution to this genre of literature.

There are two types of people, those who believe that man is sinful and those that believe man is good.  This is a basic watershed belief.  It can be theological or philosophical but it is ultimately very practical.  Is the problem we are dealing with man or society? 

Here we see one example of the Bible assuming man is sinful.  The problem is our “iniquities” (5771).  This is just one place where a consistent theme is found from the Garden of Eden to the churches of Revelation.  Notice it is “his” iniquity, not the failure of society or lack of opportunity.  Those who are “wicked” (7563) are caught in their own web.  The glory of the gospel message is that Jesus, the Cross, the Blood, grace, and the Holy Spirit offer escape from this hopelessness.

On the other side we have our neo-pagan, post-modern society weighing in on the other side of the issue.  I see children daily who are already locked into self centered, egotistical prisons.  Some are very pleasant some are little barbarians (with apologies to the barbarians).  What they have in common is the iniquity that they are caught up in.  The parents have them in therapy, being tested for ADHD, on medication and in free fall.  The school philosophy goes right along because that is the core value of today’s culture. 

So?  Examine your own thinking.  Have you bought in to the idea that if we can just have another government program or if people just had better education, all would be well in the world?  Read your Bible again.  The problem is sin.  The problem is hearts in rebellion to the Holy God.  Start to change your thinking, not because I say so, but because the Bible says so.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Priorities 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.

In commenting on Proverbs 4:5 I was reminded of this verse.  The verse in Provers reads:
(Proverbs 4:5 KJV)  Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
One of the keys to a redemptive spiritual life is priorities.  What is it that you “seek” (2212) with the greatest intensity?  This target could focus on being accepted, not being embarrassed, getting rich, looking good, or almost anything.  But what do you really have if you succeed? 

For those who consider themselves followers of Jesus our first priority in daily life is to seek His kingdom and His righteousness.  As Proverbs tells us, that is done through wisdom and understanding of his word.

Another example of the OT and NT working together.

Going Nowhere Fast?

(Proverbs 4:5 KJV)  Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.

This is both a command and a statement of the possible.  I have not studied Hebrew so I am not aware of its technical grammatical structure but in English and Greek we would call this an imperative.  This is not the language of suggestion.  God’s people are not allowed to walk around as sheep, ignorant of truth and falsehood.  Proverbs is not saying, “If you can work it into your schedule could you please think about developing your spiritual side?”  Proverbs is saying “Do it!  Now!”

Don’t just be open to the possibility, “get" (acquire NASB) (7069).  This is sometimes translated “buy.”  Get on fire.

What do we “require to acquire?”  We are not to “forget” (7911).  New is not always the best.  It can be better, but how do we know unless we remember what the standard it.  I get a kick out of people who talk about a great new song or how good the “worship team” is and later find out that the person praising them can’t carry a tune.  How can you tell me music is good if you don’t know the standard?  New must be anchored in old.  This is an idea that post-modern society is rejecting.

The word is the anchor.  It keeps coming back to this.  Picture trying to navigate a ship with no compass, GPS, or knowledge of the ocean currents.  You could go fast.  You could go far.  But if you don’t have a point of reference you are wasting your time.  In our reference, you are wasting your life.

So make sure that you know the word.  Know the truth or you won’t know if you are set free.  Do what it takes to get wisdom and understanding.

Friday, December 3, 2010

All Means Lord

(Proverbs 3:5 KJV)  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
And we are to trust Him with "all" (3605) our "heart" (3820).  "All" (3605) is an incredibly frequent word that means what it says.  There are no hidden nuances or deep theological mysteries that require a Ph.D.  It is one of the key words in following Jesus.  He demands all.  He requires first place.  And second place.  And third place.  In mathematics they might say place to the nth power.

"Heart" (3820) obviously does not just mean the emotional center of our being.  It is talking about the center of our reason.  We would talk more in terms of the way Jesus said, "heart, mind, soul and spirit.”  We would also look to Deuteronomy 6:5:
DEU 6:5 "And you shall love the \Lord\ your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (NASB)
One of the things that causes people to turn away from the living God is this demand for “all.”  People try to put Jesus into niches:  Great Teacher, Good Man, Meek and Mild, Pain Killer, Fire Extinguisher, etc.  He demands to be Lord.  Many people are like the disciples who turned away.
(John 6:60 KJV)  Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
(John 6:66 KJV)  From that
time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
I don’t believe you can lose your salvation.  That sounds like losing your keys or something.  But I believe that we can go apostate, we can desert our first love and, yes, fall from grace:
(Galatians 5:4 KJV)  Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
You can’t fall out of something you are not in.

So?  Does Jesus have your all or is He just a convenience?  If you have not done so yet, please ask Him to establish Himself as total Lord of your life.

Are Aliens More Logical Than Trust?

(Proverbs 3:5 KJV)  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

We see the three step process shown in these two verses.  We see the emotions and intellect brought under control and followed by action.  One of the reasons I am convinced that Christianity is true has to do with its completeness.  It satisfies me intellectually as well as emotionally and spiritually.  Verses like this bring it together.

How often have people turned to this verse for comfort?  We are reminded to "trust" (982) in the Lord.  A reference book called Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says this about this word (Vol. I, p. 101):  "It is significant that the LXX never translates this word with [pisteuw] 'believe in' but with [elipzw] 'to hope'."   We need to keep in mind the Christian meaning of hope.  It is not empty wishing, but a solid assurance of something.

Don’t every let anyone sell you the bridge to nowhere that says our hope is pie in the sky.  It is an assurance of the future that comes from a knowledge of the past and an encounter in our hearts.  Trust and faith are not matters of empty, unreasoned desperation.  The faith of the Bible holds together rationally while offering mysteries we cannot figure out with our limited minds.  The anti-Christians act like they have reason on their side.  I love the final scenes of Ben Stein’s movie Expelled.  I believe he is talking to Richard Dawkins, supposedly a logical scientist, about the origin of life.  When pressed for how it all began, this great, logical scientist came up with two sources:  aliens and crystals.  Somehow that didn’t seem logical or scientific to me.

So?  Trust with expectation.  It makes the sunrises more glorious, the rain more melodious and the nags of life more humorous.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Be a Cheerful Asker

(Proverbs 2:5 KJV)  Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.

“Then” (227) is the other side of the “if” in verse 1.  We have had a long line of “if” statements.  Too often people take these as unlimited promises that we can use and manipulate to our advantage.  Not so.  They are conditions of the promise, not the promise itself.  We must do.  We must obey.  Why?  People have debated over this since the beginning of theological debate.  I am sure that Job already had a million internet sites bookmarked where he had left comments.  It is one of the tensions we find in the faith.  Our works cannot save us, yet they are demanded.  Why again?  Not to “earn” our salvation.  It is clear we can’t do that.  If nothing else it brings glory to God.  Our obedience is a kind of “proof” that we are saved.  This will be on my list of 100 questions when I get to heaven.

Do you want to understand?  Then obey.  Are you always asking, “Why?”  Maybe the answer is right in front of you but you haven’t done your homework.  One of the hardest things for math teachers to get students to do is show their work.  The teacher doesn’t know if the student understands or is just a good guesser unless they show their work.  The teacher can’t help the student learn unless they show their work.  The student hates it but it makes a difference when things get complicated.

“If” precedes the “then”.  If we work at it, “then” (227) we can “understand” (discern NASB) (995) what God has for us.  We need to work on the “if” part of the promise and let God take care of the "then."

So?  Are you willing to do your homework?  Are you willing to show your work?  Are you willing to do what you are told even if you don’t know all the “why’s”?  It is called walking by faith.  You can still ask.  Just like givers, I think God loves a cheerful asker.  But don’t refuse to obey.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Building Equity

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

I have already commented on the first three targets of spiritual growth.  Now I want to look at the last, “equity” (4339).

We can be instructed in “equity” (4339) {end}.  It would seem to me that this might be a bit redundant, after all, we have already mentioned righteousness and justice.  Why is this added?  I think this is the word that acts as an overview.

This is the word that interests me.  It comes from a root meaning straight.  It says that things are done on a level.  At first a reader might think the word is equality, but it isn’t.  If I were doing a paraphrase I might choose the word “balance.”  This means that we keep on an even keel.  We take the big picture.  Sometimes it is necessary to step back, take a deep breath, maybe mumble a verse of scripture, and try to get things in perspective. 

About 5 years ago I was talked into picking up a golf club.  I had laughed at the “sport” for years.  After a few trips to a driving range and a round of par 3, I was hooked.  I will never be very good at it but I know how to play and keep up with people who are.  Part of playing golf is a sense of “equity.”  When the first three players hit their ball 230 yards and mine goes into the trees 50 yards away the worst thing you can do it get up tight.  There is something that happens in golf when you get frustrated.  You get worse when you thought you were already at the bottom.  If you relax and accept it is only a game you can frequently hit a good shot on your next swing.

Part of what God is trying to teach us is to step back and look at the big picture.  Is the country falling apart?  Is your church luke-warm?  Are  your kids listening to “music”?  Did you eat too much at Thanksgiving?  Relax.  Look up.  Get in touch with the painter of the Big Picture.  And then step up and take another swing.

Remember, we are people of the Book.  We have read the Book, and we know who wins.  We have also seen in the Book that the winning team often gets thrown for a loss.  (Football, not golf).  Trust in the Author of Salvation.