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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Portion Control

(Proverbs 30:8 KJV)  Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:

What a tremendous prayer:  to desire only our “portion” (2706).  This is from the NASB.
 )Proverbs 30:8 NASB)   Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion,
Translators fascinate me.  At this spot the KJV uses the word “convenient.”  Why?  It looks like a case of the language changing.  For us today convenient means what is ready at hand, easy to access but that is not the historic meaning.  As recently as the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary it is defined, “ Fit; suitable; proper; adapted to use or to wants; commodious...”  In a word “portion.”

The word has a feel of what we would call a ration.  During times of food shortage resources are sometimes rationed.  Everyone has an assigned amount each day and that is there portion.  We need to learn to be satisfied with our rations.

We are used to living beyond plenty.  We eat too much.  Our closets are full of clothes that will never wear out.  Our garages are a buffet of past greed.  Yet we want more.  We still shop and buy. 

So?  Recognize the call to spiritual sanity.  Today let’s all consciously decide not to buy something or eat something.  Ask yourself what the portion is that God has allotted not what the TV tells you is deserved.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Respond, Don't React

(Proverbs 29:9 KJV)  If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest.

Contention (controversy NASB) (8199) is a part of life.  Although I am willing to write loud, I tend to walk small.  I don’t like genuine controversy.  A good spirited argument is a joy but if true hostility emerges, it is time to change the subject.  Having said that, controversy happens.  How do we respond to it?

We have two types of people and two responses that the fool gives.  At first I thought this was condemning the two responses but that didn’t seem to mean much.  As I continued to look at this I came to the belief that the point is that the “foolish” (191) do not listen.

There is a middle ground for he who “rages” (7264) or “laughs” (7832), it is called listening and responding thoughtfully.  Proverbs here is pointing out that often we get angry instead of genuinely thinking about another point of view.  It is easier to simply assume we are right and feel offended.  Or we just laugh it off.  Both responses are foolish.

We should want to be wise.

So?  Listen to what people are really saying.  Let them finish.  Respond thoughtfully to what they are really saying, not what you thought they meant.  Wise debate is within reach.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

They ARE Out to Get You

(Proverbs 28:10 KJV)  Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession.

As the saying goes, there is good news and there is bad news.  The good news first.

According to this verse it is possible to be “righteous" (upright NASB) (3477) and “upright" (blameless NASB) (8549).  Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.  Some people focus on the fact that we are sinners and are born with sinful natures.  They seem to feel like we are doomed to be spiritual cripples until the resurrection when God will do something they don’t seem to think He can do now.  This verse puts the lie to that theology.  I will give some wiggle room and say that however you want to define it, your understanding of the teaching of the Bible is that it is possible to live in a way that brings the approval of God.

Then the bad news. 

There is one who “causeth to go astray" (leads astray NASB) (7686) anyone he can.  He has many servants.  There are people who enjoy nothing more than to drag someone else down.  They glory in it.  It somehow  gives their life meaning.  Be leery of anyone who seems to want you to compromise your standards of right and wrong. 

Of course we know there is really good news.  We know that,
(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.
So?  Stay alert.  Take up the armor of God.  Remember, we have read the book and we know who wins.  Don’t forget that last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection.  Rejoice with your eyes open.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Noise Pollution

(Proverbs 27:14 KJV)  He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

At first reading, this makes no sense.  Then I begin to wonder if David was a father like me who enjoyed waking people up when I had already been up awhile.  Is this tongue in cheek humor?  When I had been up for an hour or two and needed to wake the kids up I was so cheerful it was disgusting.  I was loud and boisterous.  I would sing to them and tell jokes.  They hated it.  My false joy at greeting the day was not always accepted in the best of moods, but I never considered it to be a source of a “curse” (7045). 

How do our moods effect others?  Are there times when being cheerful is a negative?  This makes me wonder.  This is a reminder that we should work at being sensitive to how other people are feeling.  It is an application of Paul’s comments about applied love,
(Philippians 2:3-4 NASB)  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
So?  Turn your people radar on.  This is not a heaven or hell thing but we could probably be more sensitive to those around us in the little things.  I know I should be.  Sometimes love means tiptoeing when you feel like jumping and leaping.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Homonyms in Hebrew

(Proverbs 26:10 KJV)  The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.

This is interesting.  The KJV and the NASB have totally different translations of this verse.
(Proverbs 26:10 NASB)  Like an archer who wounds everyone, So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.
The differences require more Hebrew than I have.  The transliteration of the key word is [rab] and the root for it is [rabab].  There are two different words that are transliterated the same.  One means “great” (7227) the other means “archer” (7228).  As far as I can tell the Hebrew words are written the same.  In the NASB Concordence (7227) is divided into 7227a and 7227b.

This is not a mistake or a contradiction.  It is a problem of language.  In English we call them homonyms.  These are words that sound the same but have different meanings.  For instance, take the word “lead.”  Does it mean to take someone by the hand and guide them or a metal that used to be in paint and is poisonous?  Only the context can tell you. 

The KJV has some validity if you are thinking in the greater context of Scripture.  Remember the words of Jesus.
(Matthew 5:45 KJV)  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
But I would go with the NASB because the verses before and after follow a certain format and the dangerous archer fits in better.

So?  No one ever said study would be easy.  You can never turn your mind off and just coast.  Well, I guess you can, but sooner or later you will crash.  I personally have no problem with Thomas demanding proof to the resurrection.  Read, pray, trust, think.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Personal Plagiarism

(Proverbs 25:9 KJV)  Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:

The previous verse reminds us that we should not be quick to enter a public disagreement.  In this verse we find more advice.  This verse assumes that you are going to “debate” (argue NASB) (7378) your “cause” (case NASB) (7379).

The advice given here is to not “discover” (reveal NASB) (1540) what others do not want you to reveal about what they have told you.  Be trustworthy.  As believers we should be the last bastion of honor and trust in our culture.  We should not be walking National Enquirers.  We should be Etruscan documents, indecipherable and still holding their secrets. 

Do people share with you?  You must be careful to guard their confidences.  Too often I find that, in my enthusiasm to make a point, I have revealed what was to be a “secret” (5475).  I am making progress but I should be able to reach perfection on this.  Even if it seems that it is no big deal we need to seek permission before we quote.  It slows us down, but is that a bad thing?

So?  Examine your conversations.  Examine your heart.  Make sure that people can trust you.  Bring glory to your Lord by being trustworthy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Open Eyes

(Proverbs 24:8 KJV)  He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous person.

This is not a warning about not being a “mischievous person" (schemer NASB) (1167/4209) as much as a warning to avoid them.  This is a fascinating compound word.  The compound part comes across better in the KJV than the NASB but the NASB has a footnote.  The footnote says, “or deviser of evil.”

This is advice about those seeking marriage, friendship, employment or voting.  A “schemer” seems to refer to anyone who will be able to exert influence on your life.  It is translated many different ways in different versions:  husband, owner, possessor, captain, confederate, even archer.  Each of these people have a degree of power over other people.  The advice is that you avoid them.

So?  People influence our lives.  Sometimes we have no choice in who we deal with, sometimes we do.  If you can’t avoid certain people, at least open your eyes and be aware that they have plans that are not righteous and their toy is you.  Pray, observe, think, act, trust.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Who Am I?

I love Saturday mornings.  During the week I am pressed by getting to work; on Sunday, to church.  Saturdays I often have the joyful blessing of unhurried worship and study. 

Today I was able to read more in Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison.  In it we find an occasional poem.  Part of my personal growth involves reading poetry out loud to try and learn to value this art form.

He shared a poem he titled “Who Am I.”  After several stanzas asking this question in different ways he concluded with the lines that struck me.

Who am I?
They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!

This is a glorious reminder.  I thought I would share it with you since the nature of this blog is devotional. 

In the midst of holy week, looking at our celebration of the resurrection, in all the turmoil of our lives we are reminded:  We are His.

Enjoy tomorrow.

Divine Paparazzi

(Proverbs 23:17 KJV)  Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.

Be honest.  Don’t you have times when you look at the luxury and comfort that others have and you just for a moment wish....?  I just flew across the country and back.  I flew coach.  If I really wanted to I could probably buy a first class ticket but I can never rationalize the amount of money that takes.  But I must confess, when I walk through the first class section I have a bit of envy.  If they spend their money on such luxury they must be sinners, right?

We go to church.  We seek to be servants.  We sacrifice and discipline.  It is still natural that in our “heart” (3820) we “envy” (7065) “sinners” (2400).  We may be able to hide how we feel by the right words, but our inner being wants to share in the delights of our world and that can become sin.

How do we avoid feeling envy?  This is where the fear of the Lord comes in.  The fear of the Lord helps us keep our perspective.  It keeps us honest in many ways.  When we fear the Lord we see more clearly.  It is like having good sun glasses when you are driving into the afternoon sun.  It filters out the nonsense.  Too often we look at life the same way we look at celebrities on TV or in a movie.  We see the made up version.  Professionals have spent hours covering their warts and wrinkles.  Experts have positioned the lights just so.  Photoshop has edited the results to perfection.  It is not real.  When they get caught by a casual photographer the results are dynamic.  You often don’t even recognize them.  The fear of the Lord is like the paparazzi. 

So?  Embrace a healthy fear of the Lord.  Live in awe of His holiness.  Accept that, as Creator, He really does know what is best for us.  As Eternal Father He wants to see the best come to be.  Rejoice.

Friday, April 22, 2011

No Peaches on the Palm Tree

(Proverbs 22:4 KJV)  By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.

The NASB says we can expect a “reward” (6118) for living the right way.  In the KJV it says simply “by humility...”  The word has the meaning of consequences.  An interesting thing happens in English, or maybe just in my mind.  When I think of consequences, I think of a negative result.  When I think of reward, I think of a positive result.  Is it just me? 

Our actions have rewards, good or bad.  What we do with our life has consequences.  How you drive will effect your milage.  It is not the only factor, but it is the one you can control.

Sometimes our actions are actual physical movements.  If you don’t set the alarm you won’t get up in time to get to that job interview.  Sometimes it is decisions.  If you don’t decide to move when the alarm goes off you won’t get up in time to get to that job interview.  Sometimes our action is expressed in an attitude.  If you go into the interview dripping with pride and arrogance, it won’t matter if you set the alarm or got up.

So?  Because we serve an unchangeable God, we can have some confidence in the law of cause and effect.  If life is giving you lemons you may be expected to make lemonade.  You also might be expected to check which tree you are picking your fruit from.  Only you and God know which is the case.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Golden Rule for Ears

(Proverbs 21:13 KJV)  Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

This is a verse I need to read on a regular basis.  That is why reading through Proverbs every month has value.  The lessons keep coming up.  I am one who “stoppeth” (shuts NASB) (331) my ears to the “cry” (2201/7121) of the “poor” (1800b).  It is almost a natural reaction.  My attitude goes beyond discernment.  There is a place for discernment but there is also a place for compassion.  A verse comes to mind that has different words but the attitude behind it is the same.
(1 Corinthians 8:1 KJV)  Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.
This verse is the pin prick that keeps me from being puffed up.

Why is it so important to remember this and live by it?  This follows the thought of Jesus when He says those who do not forgive will not be forgiven. 
(Matthew 6:14-15 KJV)  For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
By ignoring the poor we risk not being “heard” (answered NASB) (6030a) by God.  This is a twist of the golden rule that explains why that rule is so important.

So?  Don’t turn off your discernment, turn on your compassion.  You may need to make a conscious effort.  Make the effort.  Following Jesus is a walk of balance not a hop of single focus.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Sinful Diversity

(Proverbs 20:10 KJV)  Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.

Although this appeared a concrete, literal example, I couldn’t help but feel that the condemnation of “divers" (differing NASB) (68/374) has some figurative applications also.  Then I notice that the Hebrew does not clearly have this word.  What goes on here?  If you have a reference Bible, look at the marginal notes.  In the Hebrew this is literally “a stone and a stone”.

Ancient grocery stores weighed their organic veggies with a balance type scale.  You would put what you were buying on one side and add weights on the other to find out how much you were getting.  This would determine the price.  Some dishonest merchants had different sets of weights.  One might be honest.  One might be for buying.  One might be for selling.  Some merchants would use whichever gave them the most profit and would cheat the customer.

This is a statement about business ethics.  The basic idea is to give fair value.  Failure to do so is “abominable” (8441).  It is interesting the list of things that are abominable to the Lord.

So?  You aren’t a green grocer?  I guess the question is, “Do you give fair value in your life?”  Followers of Jesus are called to walk to a righteous path.  Cheating is not righteous, it is sinful.  Glorify God, even when you don’t think you will get caught.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Simple Truth

(Proverbs 19:22 KJV)  The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.

What is one of the greatest differences in living standards between followers of Jesus and the rest of the world?  Truth, both absolute and moral.  Absolute truth is based on Jesus claim that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Truth exists because of God. 

Here we are called to moral, daily truth.  We are reminded again that God hates a “liar” (376/3577).  Notice I list two numbers.  That means this is a compound word.  It combines “man” and “lie.”  When God told us not to bear false witness in the Ten Commandments, He did not include any exception clauses.  I can’t think of any place in the Bible where it says circumstances allow a lie.  We need to get over the situational ethics of our day and live with honesty, no matter what the cost.

So?  Don’t lie.  That seems kind of simple.  And don’t sidetrack the issue by bringing up your wife asking if the dress makes her look fat.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Only Way to Fly

(Proverbs 18:14 KJV)  The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?

Notice the priorities here.  A healthy “spirit” (7307) can “sustain" (endure NASB) (3557) physical “sickness” (4245b).  We see this all the time.  I have recently read a book, Reading Between the Lines, by Gene Edward Vieth.  He is examining literature, at this point comedy and tragedy.  He points out that people who believe that existence will end in despair (tragedy) are focused on immediate pleasures.  There is no reason to be concerned about the distant future.  Christians who focus on eternity and have a hope (comedy), are able to smile at the problems of life.  One of my favorite comments to lighten up these dark times is, “We have read the book and we know who wins.”  Of course that only works on those who are believers.  Our sanctified spirits can see us through shattering tragedy.

On the other hand, if our spirit is “broken” (5218b) we cannot “bear” (5375) much of anything.  We give up when perseverance would bring victory.  We slow down when we should push harder.  Think of an airplane strut that has at its core invisible metal fatigue.  It’s spirit is broken, just waiting for the sudden pressure that will shatter it.  On the other hand I remember watching an airplane land with its front wheel only partially lowered and the wheel facing sideways.  The concrete slowly ground the projecting metal down but it never broke.  The plane landed safely because that wheel support had an unbroken spirit.

So?  Trust.  Does that seem too simple?  Maybe, but it isn’t always easy.  This is why daily worship and immersion in the Word is so important.  Read, think, pray, trust.  It’s the only way to fly.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Don’t Have High Doors

(Proverbs 17:19 KJV)  He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.

My benchmark translation is the NASB.  I usually start my morning with it by reading in Proverbs, unless it is a month when I am dabbling in another for comparison purposes.  As I was reading through Proverbs 17 this verse stood out to me, not because of some great insight, but because it made me scratch my head and say, “What?”  This is the way the NASB has it:
(Proverbs 17:19 NASB)  He who loves transgression loves strife; He who raises his door seeks destruction.
What does this second phrase mean?  The idea of “exalteth” (raises NASB) (1361b) infers arrogance.  The KJV gives us a better idea.  What is an arrogant “gate” (door NASB) (6607)? 

This is a place for commentaries.  Most of the time I don’t find them very valuable but when I find a head scratcher I like to see what their itches have brought to the surface.  John Gill says,
“The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions, have it in Pro_17:16, ‘he that buildeth his house high’; or who behaves proudly.”
I like that way of saying it.  I can understand building my house high.

The Geneva Bible, an early competitor of the KJV, has a footnote, “Lifts up himself above his degree.”  This is talking about social classes.  In the seventeenth century the world was very much into social class.  They would have meant that we are to not question our betters.  Sometimes it is interesting to see how people with different assumptions about culture see things.  In America we are taught that there are no inherited social classes.  After all, “all men are created equal.”  We are what we earn by the sweat of our brow.  That is obviously an ideal but one we feel is right.  It would seem to me the Bible questions that assumption.

Are there Biblically acceptable social classes?  As an American I have been taught differently.  In my limited experience in Europe I see an ingrained respect of social class.  My observation of Mexican culture says social class is alive and well there.  Most of the world follows that example.  Proverbs has a lot to say about kings and prophets.  Is it a recommendation or just an observation of what exists?  Maybe they are right and we are wrong.  If this is of the Lord, the Holy Spirit will keep bringing in back.

So?  However we feel about kings, it would seem we are talking here about a lack of humility.  King or peasant we are warned about setting our opinion of ourselves too high.  We are called to love our neighbor and to put the needs of others before our personal wants.  This is a good reminder.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

(Proverbs 16:16 KJV)  How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!

When we talk about blessing and prosperity we need to keep it in this context.  Proverbs has a lot to say about wealth and how we get it but this is a reminder to keep things in perspective.  How often do we have a choice?  How often do we judge others on their bank balance rather than their wisdom.

So keep your priorities in line.  Seek that which is eternal.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Death Can Be Serious

(Proverbs 15:10 KJV)  Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.

Some would say that “grievous” (stern NASB) (7451a) “correction” (discipline NASB) (4148) is just the method God uses to bring believers back into fellowship.  There is a spiritual condition that would fit that idea.  There is the place for reproof and rebuke.  We have I John 1:9, written to believers.
(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.
God is able to read our hearts and respond accordingly.  Just as you would not respond to a clumsy three year old who breaks a plate the same way you would to an eighteen year old who threw one at the cat, God is capable of seeing the nuances of sin.

Having said that, this seems a little bit stronger than immaturity or a flash of anger.  “Forsakes” (5800) does not sound like being in grace but out of fellowship.  This is the condition of someone who has made a conscious decision to walk away from God and His way of living.  A husband and father who forsakes his family is not just late for dinner.

Stern discipline is for one who “hates” (8130) the spiritual process of “reproof” (8433b).  You can follow this in the NT.  Mature believers are to reprove and rebuke.  They are to correct.  It is part of being the family of God, just as it is part of a family.  One who “hates” (8130) correction cannot be a believer.

This attitude means you will “die” (4191).  This is not just the breaking of fellowship, it is an ending.  This is why it is important to have the right faith.  The wrong belief can send you to hell, not because you are wrong on a detail, but because it leads you to live in such a way that heaven is ruled out.

So?  This is pretty basic.  God does not play games.  He knows what we think and what we feel.  This means, unlike us, He does have the right to judge.  This is a simple caution not panic mode.  Walk in faith.  Live in obedience.  Trust Him for your salvation.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Houses and Tents

(Proverbs 14:11 KJV) The house of the wicked shall be overthrown:  bt the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.

This verse is full of possible interpretations.  Literal or figurative?  Present or future?  But what hits me the most today is the promise of God that if we are faithful, or "upright" (3477) then our decedents will do much better than if we are unfaithful.  I am probably thinking this way because I am spending the week with my grown children and fitting into their lives for a few days.  Yesterday we spend the day at Patrick Henry College celebrating their tenth anniversary.  What a joy to be surrounded by people committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and seeing my children be part of that.  To God be the glory.

My grandfather died wth all of his children i spiritual rebellion.  He was one of those old holiness preachers that were case studies for the stereotype of being full of the Holy Spirit and vinegar.  He was the kind who would give his last dollar to a poor person and let his own kids go hungry.  My father was out working to support his brothers and sisters while still in high school.  All of the children turned away from the God my grandfather served.

But in the midst of his legalism he planted seeds.  Those seeds grew.  God's grace was active and powerful.  I have buried my father and two uncles and all went to glory as believers.  I still have an aunt and uncle who serve Jesus and at this point there is only one holdout.  Not bad for a legalist.  There must have been something of the upright in his "tent" (168).

This is part of walking by faith.  We may not live to see how our children and grandchildren turn out.  At times I am sure that we can despair.  We do the best we can.  We walk the walk.  The results are really between God and our children.

So?  Relax and trust.  Make sure your tent is being moved to the green pastures.  The sad part is that you may not live to see your children converted.  The glorious part is that the story continues after we go on to glory.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Foundations Not Foo-Foo

(Proverbs 13:7 KJV)  There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.

We have some compound words here that are interpreted in the translating.  It almost seems like paraphrasing because of the construction.  In the Hebrew you have only “rich” (6238) and “poor” (7326) with no “pretends,” but both words are verbs.  We have actions which imply gaining or losing wealth but each one is contradicted by the following.  You have those gathering riches with “nothing” (369/3605) and those in want that have “wealth” (1952).   To us we have what might seem incomplete sentences, “rich with nothing, poor with everything.”

I think this is an OT version of the words of Jesus,
(Mark 8:36 KJV)  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
What is the focus of your life?  Is it real or mirage?  People spend there time working toward a goal or a dream.  It might be a stereotype recipe for disaster such as wealth at all costs.  It might be more worthy such as a strong family or a growing church.  Either way it just doesn’t seem to be enough to make life meaningful.  When my kids were young and I would ask myself why I was getting up and going to work, all I had to do was look in their rooms and see them sleeping to remind myself.  Now they are grown and doing well on their own, that does not work any more.  I need to move beyond that to a new focus.  Ideally I would have had that focus from the beginning but I am not sure I did.

The new focus is that of the person who seems to be insignificant but lives with the joy of the super successful.  This is the person who truly knows the joy of the Lord.  This is what I am seeking today as I go through my schedule.  This is the focus I seek as I spend time in worship in the morning.  This is what I want Proverbs to remind me of.

So?  Each day renew your focus.  Put your eyes on Jesus.  God created the world without your help.  He can probably keep it going another 24 hours.  What He wants is your undiluted love.  What He wants to see is a human being living out the image of God in daily life.  Rejoice where you are.  You have the riches of eternity.  Enjoy the bounty.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Listen Up

(Proverbs 12:15 KJV)  The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.

I see this in others and ignore it in myself.  It is really hard to “listen” (8085).  I like the KJV here.   It sounds so elegant to “hearkeneth” unto something or someone.  We need to develop the habit and desire to hearkenth up.  I can remember in the army, in basic training, where the drill sergeants took on the of deity.  When they turned around and said, “Listen up, recruits,” you can believe we listened.  There were consequences for not listening.  I know that the little old lady who sits in the back row at church isn’t going to make you do push ups or run a mile, but it might be good to get in the habit of listening when she speaks.

A few thoughts on listening.

Make sure that you listen to God, whoever else you listen to.  God speaks to me most consistently when I listen regularly.  Most often it is through reading the Word.  Then it is through the voice of those I call the giants.  You know, giants.  The guys whose shoulders we stand on.  For me this is Wesley, Lewis, Bonhoeffer.  For you it might be Calvin, Spurgeon and McGee.  This will help you measure the advice of other people.  It will also help you recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit when He speaks to you.

Take into consideration past counsel.  If someone was a fool last week, it is a good chance they are still a fool.  Some people give out so much advice they run out of worthwhile content early.  It is like the cook who ran out of fresh tomatoes and substituted ketchup.  Same color, not the same result.

Be careful of gurus.  The guy on the radio is an entertainer, not a channel to God.  We have so many people who know that we are insecure.  I sometimes think there is an on-line chat room or a daily conference call where these people get together and share their success stories.  “Did you hear what I told that poor sucker who couldn’t tell his three year old ‘No’?” 

Remember to accept the good words of “counsel” (6098) along with the bad.  Sometimes you are doing just fine.  You don’t need to change anything.  All you need is to be patient.  All you need is to trust.  Accept that fact that maybe God has already told you what you need to know, you are acting on it and just need to give it more time.  Accept that maybe the problem isn’t you.  Sometimes people will actually tell you that.

So?  Read, think, listen, pray, grow.  Have I said that before?  Do I need to say it again?  I probably will because it is wise counsel.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Security Clearance

(Proverbs 11:13 KJV)  A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.

How much of what people tell us are we free to share.  Often this is a simple question to answer but occasionally I find I have passed on something I thought was public knowledge only to have a person go ballistic about it.  I understand that “secrets” (5475) are not to be revealed.  I don’t always understand what is a secret.

One solution would be to never share anything that someone has shared.  That would cripple communication and often make it impossible for society to function.  When I was in the army years ago they talked about security clearances.  Two qualifications were necessary for information to be shared.  The one everyone can see is the proper security clearance.  Have you been checked out and found reliable.  When we are sharing we should always keep in mind to whom we are talking.  Are they trustworthy?  Are they the kind that will take what you say, twist it, and pass it on where they know it will do the most damage?  I have found that there are some people that I am very guarded around.  They can take innocent words and make it sound like they are the conspiracy of the ages. 

The second qualification is one we don’t often pay attention to.  Does the person have a need to know?  Not do they want to know, do they need to know.  If you are talking politics then everyone has a need even if they don’t have a want.  When you are sharing an argument you had with your wife, few people need to know about it.  In a sense this also goes beyond security.  We often spend a lot of time telling people details that they could not care less about.  It isn’t gossip, it is motor mouth.  Have some pity.

So I guess I am saying that we should be thinking when we talk and before we talk.  Don’t wait until after we talk.  This might slow things down a bit, but is that a bad idea?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Demand of Discernment

(Proverbs 10:13 KJV)  In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

We need more “understanding” (discerning NASB) (995) people.  This is the gift of discernment, one of the most overlooked spiritual gifts in the believing community.  We are much more into the gifts of mercy and the power gifts.  These types of gifts put us in the driver’s seat and make us respected, even envied.  Who wouldn’t rather be the one giving our largess than the one appealing for help?  And if you are able to give a mighty prophecy, who can argue with you? 

I think that is because discernment acts as a party pooper.  No one likes a party pooper.  In the story of the Kings New Clothes it took a child who was not aware of the party line to say, “Why is the king naked?”  When a panhandler hits you up for some change in the parking lot it is much easier to empty your pocket than point out that the Burger King on the corner is hiring.  When a kid in class says he can’t find the answer to a question it is much easier to point it out to him than to make him read the first line on the page. 

It also requires effort to be used and accepted.  We tend to be lazy because legalism is easier than holiness.  That is one of the reasons it is so popular.  Having a list of rules makes it easy to be holy.  They are minimum requirements.  After they are met you can get down to living.  Following the leadership of the Holy Spirit requires constant engagement and mental energy.

One big weakness of this idea is that we all tend to think we are the ones who are discerning.  Admit it, you are right most of the time.  Except when you disagree with me, of course.  Everything I wrote above is truly inspired.  How can you disagree?

So?  Disagree.  Disagree with me, but don’t disagree with the wisdom that the Holy Spirit provides.  Take everything written by mere human beings and get out your magnifying glass.  Take everything written by the Holy Spirit and start taking notes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cool It

(Proverbs 9:13 KJV)  A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.

I like the KJV choice of words here.  It uses “clamourous” instead of “boisterous” (1993).  This is not a positive character trait in scripture and being boisterous is not seen as bad in our culture.  As I look at the word I find that the problem is my understanding, not necessarily the actual meaning of the word.  When I think of “boisterous” I think of someone who is spontaneous and full of joyful energy.  When I look at the definitions I don’t see that.  I see angry tumult and roaring rage.  Much of what we think is being in a “party” mood is much more than casual letting down of hair.  Much of it is a spirit of rebellion that starts in our sinful nature and finds expression in certain occasions.

I think this is one reason why I have a hard time with alcohol.  I do not believe that alcohol is condemned absolutely in scripture.  Drunkenness is a sin.  A glass of wine at dinner is a preference.  I can’t seem to get past all the times I have seen people who have their inhibitions, self control and common sense neutralized by a little bit of alcohol.  Or maybe more than a little bit.  People look for excuses to be “boisterous.”  It may not be fashionable to say “The Devil made me do it” any more but we have substituted things like stress, sugar, ADHD, poverty and the list goes on.

So?  What do you use for excuses in your life?  I have my list.  I am sure you have yours.  Part of what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us is that God is not impressed with our rationalization.  When we stand before the Judgement Seat of God I don’t think we will be able to plead stress.  We can plead the blood but it will ring a bit hollow if we have been making excuses for years.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Proverbs, In the Beginning

(Proverbs 8:22 KJV)  The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.

This looks to me to be the beginning of a passage dealing with Creation.  It goes from verse 22 to verse 31.  Look it over if you have a Bible handy.  Even here in Proverbs we have reminders that the world is not an accident.  You may have heard about the theory of evolution and how “scientific” it is.  Not really.  It is a statement of faith.  There are many problems with it.  Honest scientists will admit that.  Unfortunately honest scientists are no more common than honest used car salesmen.  Both groups know that their financial success depends on selling their product.  In reality though the differences between Christians and evolutionists is not really about the process of evolution.  That is only a matter of “how” and is open to debate and experiment.  The controversy is over “Who” and “Why.” 

Christians have a conviction about the place of Jesus, or perhaps the Holy Spirit, in Creation.  The steps of the process are open to honest scientific investigation but if you reject the clear statement that God was the Managing Director, you can never come to a real conclusion.  Picture trying to study disease theory if you denied the existence of viruses just because they were too small to see.  There was a time in history when Doctors laughed at anyone who washed their hands and called them crazy.  Really.  So don’t confuse honest inquiry with religious fanaticism.  I am talking about the fanaticism of the religion of science.

Of course God “possessed” (7069) wisdom.  It is a part of His character.  And remember that we were created in His image.  That image was damaged by the Fall and our sin nature but through the Blood and the Spirit something can be done about that. 

So?  When you see a beautiful sunset be reminded that God wants to reestablish you as a part of His creation.  He wants to make you part of the family again.  Thank you, Jesus, for the reminder.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Place for Works?

(Proverbs 7:4 KJV)  Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:

I never had a “sister” (269).  My wife tells me that if I had, I would understand women a lot more.  I think there is some truth to that.  This speaks of a relationship that sees us when our guard is down.  Of course the same is true of a brother but somehow the idea of “closer than a brother” seems to have a different flavor.
(Proverbs 18:24 NASB)  A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
I tend to think of a brother sticking up for you when you are attacked.  I think of a sister pointing out all of my faults but expecting me to protect her.  Of course the roles could be reversed, but you get the idea. 

An “intimate friend” (4129) is a different proposition.  It is interesting that the KJV uses a feminine noun but the dictionary says it is a masculine noun.  The KJV is probably looking at the context of sister while the NASB is looking to contrast different types of relationships.  Who knows?  A friend is different from a sister.  A friend takes work.  “Understanding” (998) can be ours.  It can be a real friend, but it requires us to work at it.  Again we come to study, worship and contemplation.

So?  Grace is given by the choice of God.  It is a free gift.  Wisdom and knowledge seem to be available but we have to work at them.  Go for the gold.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reflexive Denial

(Proverbs 6:18 KJV)  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

My “heart” (3820) “devises” (2790a) “plans” (4284).  The question is, “Are my plans “wicked” (205)?  We are looking at a list of things that God hates.  Notice the modifier.  God does not hate all hearts, nor does He hate all plans.  Just the ones that run counter to His will.

What kind of plans does my heart devise?  As I said in verse 14 devising is artisan type production.  I like the KJV word “imaginations” for “plans” (4284).  I can be so creative in finding ways around the clear commands that God gives.  For instance, we are told not to gossip.  Gossip is evil and destructive.  Gossips are on the lists of evil people condemned by God.  So I label my gossip as curiosity or concern.  I can’t pray for someone if I don’t know all the juicy details, right?  My heart devises evil plans to do what God has clearly said “No” to.

How many areas of our life can we find where this is the case?  Are we looking?  Making excuses not to examine our actions and motives is another evil plan.  There is only one way out of this and it is not by being clever.  It is by being repentant.

So?  The object of a verse like this is not to show us how we are going to hell and have not hope.  The object is to point out one by one the areas that we need to bring to Jesus for forgiveness, cleansing and empowerment.  Get started today.  Remember that you can’t put gas in your car unless you pull up to the pump.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shout from the Lord

(Proverbs 5:7 KJV)  Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth.

To whom do you “listen” (8085)?  This is a very common word in Proverbs, being used thirty times by my count.  Why would this book of wisdom repeat a word so often?  BECAUSE WE DON’T LISTEN!  (That was me shouting, in case you didn’t get it.)  Think about it.  A written book can’t yell.  It can’t juggle or stand on its head.  How does it try to get you to wake up?  Repetition.  You may have noticed this in the formula of three’s.  For instance “Holy, Holy, Holy” is to emphasize the holiness of God.  God is saying, “Listen to me.”

There are many ways to tell if someone is paying attention.  Watch the direction of the head.  If they are facing the TV there is a good chance you are not connecting.  If they keep turning their head to see what is happening you are just a distraction.  Watch the eyes.  Have you ever been at a convention and started talking to someone and noticed that their eyes are constantly scanning the crowd.  They are looking for someone else to talk to.  You are not important enough to focus on.  The glazed over look is another indication. 

So?  Is God talking to you?  Are you listening?  It might help to take your figurative earphones out of your figurative I-pod and plug them into the eternal word.  Turn off the TV of the world and focus on the living words of the Father.  Don’t make Him shout.  You really don’t want to make Him shout.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spiritual Carrots

(Proverbs 4:19 KJV)  The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.

How is wickedness like “darkness” (653)?  Think about how we can get used to darkness.  When you first turn out the lights it often seems totally dark in the room but if you stay awake a slow change becomes apparent.  It is so slow you don’t notice it at first, but you begin to be able to see things.  Evil can work that way.  You begin to get used to it and adjust.  You get smoother and stumble less.  When I get up in the middle of the night I can move around the house pretty well.  There are times when I can even see our black cat weaving around in front of me.  I can see where the furniture sits and make it through doors without stubbing my toes.  Wickedness gets more and more comfortable as we stay in it. 

Our bodies have a way of regenerating a chemical in our eyes that is bleached out by light.  It takes time but it happens.  I believe it is vitamin A which is found in carrots.  Eating carrots improves your eyesight at night more than the day.  If we were drawing sermon illustrations we could point out the best way to keep this accommodation to evil out of our lives is a steady exposure to light.  This is why we are called to pray without ceasing, to seek Him while He may be found, to not stop gathering together with believers.  This is why people keep urging you to read the word.  This is why repentance should be a lifestyle.  Remember,
(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.
This is a verse that was written to believers, not to the lost of the world.

So?  The best way to remain uncomfortable in darkness is to live in the light.  Expose yourself in every way you can.  Be a child of the light.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

God Is Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

(Proverbs 3:33 KJV)  The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.

My thinking began to move in verse 12 where Proverbs talks about God reproving those He loves.  Since part of worship is self-examination, I began to look for the reproving hand of God in my own life.  I was looking for major smack-downs that God had given me to bring me back into line.  As my mind worked in Windows I kept reading and came to this verse.

I wasn’t finding any recent times when God had taken me out behind the wood shed.  I began to wonder if I was being a major failure.  This verse brought to mind other ideas that reminded me that I was getting my terms mixed up.  To reprove does not mean to “curse” (3994).  There are many ways to reprove and the all-wise God will use the approach that will bring improvement in us.  His goal is not to take out His frustration but to nudge us into growth.

Some people get so wrapped up in quoting that “our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” that they forget we are still classed as the “righteous” (6662), not the “wicked” (7563).  God tailors his response based on the condition of our hearts.  He can do that because He can see our hearts and because He has the power to do so.

How does this work?  Let me bring you another example from the halls of public education.  One of the methods of class control I am currently using is writing student names on the board and adding checks.  I usually establish some sort of unique club with an acronym such as RSOOJ (Royal Society of Overactive Jaws).  They get extra special time with the teacher after class.  It is quite an honor.  A few days ago I told one of my model students to be quiet and get to work.  One of my motor mouths blossomed with indignation, “You didn’t put her name of the board!”  No, I didn’t.  She was one of the righteous.  He was one of the wicked.

What is the difference?  Both were student “sinners” and were in violation.  One however experienced a momentary lapse and was immediately repentant demonstrated by returning to work.  The other did not pause from disobedience, just changed the target of talk to me from one of his friends.  In my limited insight as a teacher, even I could see the difference.  So can God.

So?  God knows our hearts.  What does He see in yours?  Do you have momentary lapses in performance or do you only pause to accuse God of not being fair?  Grace responds to a repentant heart.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Fulness of the Wisdom/Spirit

(Proverbs 2:10 KJV)  When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;

Does this picture seem familiar?  “Wisdom” (2451) is being personified and personalized.  Remember that the Bible is a unified document even though it is written my many different people in many different ages.  Proverbs 1:23 talks about pouring the Spirit on us. 
(Proverbs 1:23 KJV)  Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
This is not NT language, it is Biblical language.  Wisdom and the Holy Spirit seem to go together.  We ask Jesus to “enter” (935) our “heart”.  It is part of wisdom entering out heart.

This presence of wisdom and the Spirit mean that we can begin to trust our gut.  Do you have times when you know something is right or wrong but you can’t write a detailed essay explaining it in logic terms?  It is possibly the leadership of an implanted wisdom/Spirit combo.  I assume that all of us have had experiences driving a car where we are able to drive well without thinking about it.  Our senses are trained to respond to triggers that alert our active attention.  Or consider that part of your nervous system that starts you hand retreating away from pain before your brain even knows it hurts. 

I don’t know the time-table for this wisdom/Spirit led inner insight but I know it won’t develop if you do not allow it to start.

So?  Start by allowing Jesus in by repentance and faith.  Been there, done that?  Make sure you have invited the Holy Spirit to fill you and control you.  Already covered?  Then begin to trust the leadership of the Holy Spirit as you continue to feed your data banks with wisdom from the word.  Read, pray, think, grow.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mercy Stirred

I am home taking a sick day.  It is the kind of thing that effects my ability to talk, not to think so I am using the time for a little more worship and study than I normally can enjoy.  The silver lining strikes again.

As I was reading in Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison I came across the following,
“When Jesus blessed sinners, they were real sinners, but Jesus did not make every man a sinner first....  Never did Jesus throw any doubt on a man’s health, vigour (sic) or fortune, regarded in themselves, or look upon them as evil fruits.  Else why did he heal the sick and restore strength to the weak?”  pp. 209-210
This got me to again think about my lack of mercy and reminded me that I need to grow in that area.  Too often I look at the choices people have made that brought on their difficulty and have a reluctance to help.  If Jesus had only healed those who were innocent of wrong doing would anyone have been restored? 

So?  God teach me to look more to mercy and less to judgment.  The congestion I am experiencing is in more than my throat and chest.

Wolves, Doves and Serpents

(Proverbs 1:6 KJV)  To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

What is an “interpretation" (figure NASB) (4426)?  My first thought about the NASB translation would be a math problem but that is a term from my childhood.  The definition says it is a satire or a mocking poem.  This would be the proverb of the secular.  This is an important point for us.  We are to understand the reasoning of the world.

Remember the words of Jesus,
(Matthew 10:16 KJV)  Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
It would seem there are different types of knowledge, sacred and profane, and we should be able to understand both types.  I think we can safely assume that those whose world is the profane will not accept our view or understanding.  We see their world, they deny ours.  They are often not even aware of it.  Picture someone who smokes.  I have always found it amusing that people who smoke think that no one can tell.  They are so saturated in the smell that they don’t recognize it.  People of the world are that way.  They are so saturated in their thinking they don’t see any other.  Another example is in what we might call media bias.  As a conservative I am perfectly aware of what the liberals are saying.  You can’t avoid it.  It is everywhere.  Liberals tend to think they are being non-partisan because they are totally unaware of the other viewpoint. 

So?  Remember that the point of this book is to equip you for living in the real world.  Study it because it will give you the tools to deal with life.