An Idea Borrowed

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Arrow of Accusation

(Proverbs 31:11 KJV)  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

Here Proverbs is talking about the relationship between husband and wife.  I think for the principle being dealt with here we can set aside the gender roles.  I also think we need to reverse the arrow of accusation.  We want to focus on “can I trust my spouse?”  Let’s face it.  If you can’t, there is little you can do about it but soldier on.  You cannot change the person you marry.  Many people spend a lifetime trying.

But you can change yourself.  You can make yourself worthy of trust.  Ultimately this resolves back to you trusting God and allowing the Holy Spirit to mold you into an upright child of God.  Who knows, your becoming more worthy might be a tool God wants to make your spouse more worthy.  Either way the ball is in your court.

So?  Don’t blame the other person even if they deserve it.  Focus on what you have a chance of changing with God’s help, yourself.  Let today be different from yesterday and tomorrow a sanctified version of yesterday.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Full Denial

(Proverbs 30:9 KJV)  Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

My father used to ask the question, “Why wasn’t I born rich instead of so good looking?”  I repeat it to the kids at school on occasion.  It is amazing how many people have no sense of humor.

Have you ever wondered why God did not “bless” you with wealthy parents or with a business sense that made you genuinely wealthy?  This passage give us a hint on the reason:  We could not handle it.  We would not be good stewards of wealth.  I think if I had piles of money that is just how it would be, in piles.  Remember the cartoons of Scrooge McDuck and the room full of gold coins?  That would be me.  I can be so tight I squeak.  I would squirrel away what God wanted me to give away.  This would be disobedient.

This is a truth that we don’t like to admit when we get excited about the promises of prosperity and success.  When we are “full” (7646) we have a tendency to “deny” (3584) the Lord.  This means that we refuse to recognize our dependence on Him.  This is why Jesus taught about the rich man and the camel through the eye of the needle.  When we live in a situation that allows us to supply our needs, or seem to, we forget our dependence and get real cocky.

So?  Go to work.  Pay your bills.  Tithe.  Find a worthy charity.  Help people.  Be thankful that God has promised to supply your needs, not your wants.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Be a Control Freak

(Proverbs 29:11 KJV)  A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.

It might be good to give the NASB translation here.

(Proverbs 29:11 NASB)  A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.

A “fool” (3684) and a “wise man” (2450).  Both experience inflammatory events.  Both are angry.  What is the difference?  It is not anger, but self control.  Both have a “mind" (temper NASB) (7307).  One gives in, one resists.

The sin in not anger.  We sometimes get this wrong.  God felt anger.  I believe when Jesus cleansed the temple He was angry.  What could be more clear than this statement:

(Ephesians 4:26 KJV)  Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

The sin is in losing your temper, in letting your emotions rule your roost.  It is possible to control any strong emotion, to change any entrenched habit, to sanctify any prejudice.  To paraphrase Tigger, “That is what Holy Spirits do best.”  Here the example is anger but the same applies to any excess in our lives from lust to gluttony. 

So?  Don’t let “losing your temper” be an excuse to give in to sin.  Repent of past sin.  Make restitution if the Spirit convinces you it is necessary.  Allow Him to do His work in you and allow Him to give you the control you need.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In Whose Eyes Are You Wise?

(Proverbs 28:11 KJV)  The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.

Why is it that according to Jesus it is hard for a “rich” (6223) “man” (376) to enter the kingdom of heaven?  Remember what He said,
(Matthew 19:24 KJV)  And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
The rich and successful are “wise” (2450), but only in their own eyes.  Success tends to nurture our ego and our pride.  This is natural.  The gifted see their ability and feel like hard work and talent have provided rewards.  Success needs a reason, right?  Being so self contained these people are a hard sell when it comes to trusting something, or Someone, outside themselves.

Because they are not impressed with themselves, the “poor” (1800b) have a  better “understanding” (995).  This analysis of the poor applies well historically but it loses some of its punch in modern times.  Our modern poor, fortified with the teachings of victimhood and the support of progressive social workers, tend to think very highly of themselves.  Studies have shown that the students with the highest self-esteem tend to have the lowest grade and students with the lowest self-esteem tend to do well academically.

Part of the Biblical definition or poor and rich has to do with humility.  Remember the Beatitudes and Jesus talking about the “poor in spirit.”
(Matthew 5:3 KJV)  Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
So?  Do you want to know the kingdom of heaven?  It requires faith and trust in God.  That requires admitting our inadequacies.  If you have trouble with that, mediate on eternity for a time.  Try to figure out the trinity.  Don’t make me pray for you to have humbling experiences.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Nagging Pain

(Proverbs 27:15 KJV)  A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.

I love the Living Bible’s rendition of this verse:  A nagging wife is like a dripping faucet.  Not that I would personally know anything about that, you understand.

I notice in the Hebrew that “contentious” (4066) is madon and it sounds like the root to Madonna.  I don’t know that that has any significance but there are times when I find the way a word is pronounced in the original language has an eerie rightness about it.  The actual root of the word is “to judge”.

If the perfect wife of Proverbs 31 were writing this I am sure she would have talked about the nagging husband.  Get beyond the gender specific language and look at the truth behind it.  Nagging is irritating.  The implication is that nagging is wrong.  The answer is simple:  Don’t nag.

So?  I am sure that none of us really nag.  We just give frequent helpful suggestions, right?  Get real.  Get honest.  Repent and change.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Thorn in the Hand Is Not Worth Two in the Bush

(Proverbs 26:9 KJV)  As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.

Have you ever been around people who quote scripture like some people knock on wood?  It has become a habit that is done without thinking.  I was in a Sunday School class recently where the teacher would make a comment and several people would quote a couple of verses.  Okay, but I wondered if they had gone beyond memorization to meditation.  Had they really thought about what those verses mean or were they just quoting what they had heard quoted?  I don’t know.

The Bible, and Proverbs, were not designed as a club for beating people or a manual on winning debates.  It is the words of God written down for us to consult so that the Holy Spirit can have another way to speak to us.  “Fools” (3684) generally have not thought about what they are quoting.  Fools have not listened to what the Holy Spirit has to say.

A thorn in the hand?  At best the situation is one of uselessness.  At worst it can do real damage.

So?  Be careful how you quote scripture.  Spend some time thinking deeply about it, meditating.  Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in what it means and then trust that you can use it well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eternal Forgiveness, Temporal Consequences

(Proverbs 25:10 KJV)  Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.

This is a continuation of the previous verse but gives an important addition.  We are reminded that once we have lost our credibility, that reputation will not “turn away” (pass away NASB) (7725).

No one is perfect.  We make mistakes.  From an eternal point of view, God has made allowance for that.  It is called repentance and forgiveness.  That is what John meant when he wrote,
(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 understands.

People don’t.  One of the sad facts of life is that we must live with the consequences of our actions.  This is a chance to practice humility and patience.  God’s grace will help us with those we have wronged, it just may take longer than with Him.

So?  Do what you can.  Repent.  Apologize.  Do restitution if it applies.  Get on with life knowing that God’s forgiveness is our model, not the actions of our fellow man.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Keep the Change

(Proverbs 24:21 KJV)  My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:

Here is another way in which people who follow an eternal God should be out of step with our common culture.  We are not to be “given to change” (8132).  The idea is not that we are to avoid any change but that we are not to assume that change is always good.  We are not to embrace a “change culture.”

If you are reading this, you have a computer.  I get extremely irritated by the constant updates that are like ants in the middle of summer.  They just keep popping up.  I doubt if I really need to be alerted that I-Tunes has a brand new version out.  Have you noticed that there seems to be a new translation of the Bible every month?  Are you eating the newest, most improved corn flakes?

This is not saying “never change.”  It is not saying “fear change.”  It is saying that change is not automatically good.  “New” does not always mean better.  “Improved” often isn’t. 

So?  Find the balance between seeking to grow and chasing the latest style of your friends.  It is possible.  Make your change repentance not apostasy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Listen to the Fool

(Proverbs 23:9 KJV)  Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

At first this made me think of the NT phrase about throwing our pearls before swine.
(Matthew 7:6 KJV)  Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Then I began to wonder if Solomon wasn’t speaking tongue in cheek.  Is this an example of OT humor? 

We often fall into the trap of believing that people listen when we “speak” (1696).  Dream on.  Sometime when you are at a meeting take a look around.  Observe all the glassy eyes, conversations and texting going on all sides.  The same happens when we talk.

How often are we the fool (3684)?  How often do we automatically assume that what we have to say is “wisdom” (7922)?

So?  Listen to what you have to say.  Does it reflect the fact that you have been in the Word?  Or does it simply reflect you have been listening to talk radio or watching Dr. Phil?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Damn the Doritos, Full Speed Ahead

(Proverbs 22:5 KJV)  Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them.

I am not a hunter.  I have no problem with people who are, but I am not.  But I read a lot and you often have people describing the process.  One of the types of gathering food is a snare.  Satan is constantly setting “snares” (6341a) for us.  That is the bad news.  It is news we have all experienced.  The good news is that snares can be avoided.  They tend to be passive and wait for prey.  They are usually set on the standard paths, the “way” (1870) an animal follows without thinking.  You don’t set a snare for a rabbit on the limb of a tree, but you might for a squirrel. 

How do we avoid the little traps of the devil?  Think about it.  Where have you stumbled in the past?  What are the big temptations you face?  Are there any thought patterns you follow by habit in certain situations?  For instance, I am at a place in life where I have accepted the fact I have diabetes.  I am blessed that sugar is not a big temptation for me.  I like sweets, but my downfall is salt.  I can turn my back on a Snickers bar with little effort but I must admit Doritos are a snare that gets me.  So I don’t buy Doritos.  I know that I will eat the whole bag.  I make a choice.  I am not perfect but I am making progress.

So?  Make progress.  Remember that if you get snared, Jesus is ready to forgive and restore.  If you love Him you will want to have less to forgive today than you had yesterday.  Observe, think, avoid.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Judge with Joy

(Proverbs 21:15 KJV)  It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.

This verse brings so many directions to my mind.  Just look at all the key words.  For today I want to focus on the concept of “judgement” (justice NASB) (4941).

One of the first things that comes to mind is that when we stand before God, if we are covered by the Blood, we will not be receiving judgement or justice.  We will be granted mercy.  Jesus paid the price demanded by justice.  We were sinners but now we have been justified, regenerated, adopted an sanctified.  Did I leave any glorious words out? 

This is why justice can bring joy to the heart of the believer. 

At the same time we are expected to do judgement.  Notice in the NASB this is “justice.”  We are salt and light in this world.  We are part of the city on the hill.  We are supposed to make a difference because we have been redeemed.  When you are out camping and need to take water from the stream you must purify it.  You don’t purify it to pour it back onto the ground.  You purify it so that you can use it.  In the same way, we are redeemed so we can make a difference in our world.

So?  If you are one of God’s adopted children, act like it.  Justice means dealing fairly and honestly.  It means displaying courtesy instead of contempt.  It means acting, today, like you really mean it.  Change your corner of the world.  God has his eye on the rest.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Deeds Are Trumps

(Proverbs 20:11 KJV)  Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

What kind of a reputation do you want?  What kind of images come to your mind at the mention of Lady Gaga as opposed to Mother Theresa?  You don’t know their hearts.  You don’t know their motives.  You have a good idea of their “deeds” (4611).  You don’t let the fact that you don’t know their mind keep you from giving a quick, and accurate, evaluation of the kind of persons they are. 

If you could split yourself and follow yourself around for a day, what kind of actions would you observe?  How would you stand out in your own mind?  Here I am talking about the things you are aware of and not all the unconscious foibles that you demonstrate.  In your own evaluation, what kind of person are you demonstrating?  What do your deeds show?  Do you glorify God or simply embarrass Him?

So?  Don’t fall into the trap of making grace an excuse for sin.  When you look at the process of sanctification on a daily basis it means we improve.  The Holy Spirit will bring things to mind.  It is up to us to apply that knowledge with the power to change that comes with it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Discipline is spelled H-O-P-E

(Proverbs 19:18 KJV)  Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

Does this imply that if we don’t “chasten” (discipline NASB) (3256) it means we do not care about our children?  The short answer is, “Yes.”  The long answer is, “Yes, it does!!!!”  Do you see the difference?

We may not like it but discipline is a part of love.  Years ago James Dobson wrote a book, Dare to Discipline.  It has been reprinted many times and an updated edition is available.  People laughed at it when it came out.  I recommend it, the world still laughs at it.  As I talk to parents at school, I can almost see this.  They talk about love and say they care, but they do nothing to teach their children.  They do nothing to enforce standards.  Worse, they do not live as models. 

My children are now independent adults.  I stay in their homes on vacation and let them pick up the check when we go out to eat.  I am proud of them but I am not sanguine about the future.  I can’t do much in the way of enforcing discipline.  I can’t put my son on a chair for fifteen minutes or take away his computer.  But because I live in “hope” (8615) I continue to exert the types of discipline still available to me:  Teaching and example.

So?  No matter how old your children, you are an influence in their lives.  If they follow the Lord, reinforce all the investment you have made.  If they have not embrace Jesus, then live in hope.  The final chapter has not been written yet.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rabbit Ears Can Be Good

(Proverbs 18:15 KJV)  The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.

The “heart" (mind NASB) (3820) and the “ear” (241) must work together.  The mind will process what it has to work with but it is the ear that determines much of the raw material. 

Are you familiar with the term GIGO?  It means “garbage in, garbage out.”  I believe it comes from the computer world.  Computers can only do what they are programed to do.  If you give them incomplete data or faulty instructions you get incomplete analysis or faulty calculations.  That seems obvious.

The same is true in our spiritual lives.  GIGO.  We are different from computers in that we have a choice about what is input.  Not totally, we have what we call noise pollution, but generally the believer who “seeks” (1245) will find.  Didn’t someone we all heard about say something like that?

So how is your day going?  Did you come to the word today to hear or just out of habit.  If you don’t come seeking there is a good chance you won’t find.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Back Off

(Proverbs 17:14 KJV)  The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

We usually have a choice in whether we get into an argument or not.  There is a tipping point, a line that we cross.  If we are alert we can sense that moment coming and head it off.  Proverbs is telling us that we are to want to avoid the crash, not enjoy the ride.

We are to “leave off": (abandon NASB) (5203) any “contention" (quarrel NASB) (7379) that develops.  I think of how I want to react to attacks and slams on my person.  I am clever.  I can win.  No, drop it.  This is an OT version of turning the other cheek.  We must take the responsibility to stop the escalation. 

You might ask, “What about important issues?”  Good question.  This does not mean to sit like a shrinking violet and never raise a voice.  Remember the words of Peter,
(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:
Our attitude is key.  We can discuss things, share our reasons.  At the same time realize that human beings rarely change their mind on important issues in one moment.  Somewhere I remember reading that if you can change a person’s mind quickly someone else can change it back just as easily.

So?  Be sensitive to the tension in others.  When it rises, it is probably time for you to back off.  Turn the other cheek in your discussion.  This page will come again.

Monday, May 16, 2011

You’ll Understand When You Are Older

(Proverbs 16:13 KJV)  Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right.

I was going to skip this verse.  I honestly don’t know how to deal with it without twisting and squirming to make it conform to my expectations.  I am finding myself questioning the word of God.  I read this and say, “Not in my world.”  I would want to say of “righteous” kings, not all kings.

Another way I squirm is to say maybe they are a “delight” (7522) in ways the king does not understand, like when a parent disciplines a child.  At the time they don’t appreciate it, but later they do.

What is the Holy Spirit saying to me?  He is laughing about how I think I will understand everything.  There are mysteries.  Some mysteries are awesome and beyond my finite mind such as the trinity or the extent of eternity.  Others are like this and just don’t make sense. 

That doesn’t mean I ignore them.  That doesn’t mean I don’t think.  It doesn’t mean I don’t keep trying to figure them out.  It means to extend my faith to things I don’t understand yet.  I teach history.  Seventh graders are always asking, “Why do we need history?”  Most are trying to get me off the subject.  Some actually want to know.  A few might even be able to understand.  I tell them most people don’t begin to understand until they are 30, some not even then.  It doesn’t mean there is no answer.

So?  Keep thinking and questioning but question as a disciple, not a pharisee.  There are answers.  Some are so obvious that when we see them we will give ourselves what is being called a “face palm.”  If I understood everything I might not need a God.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Oasis Heart

(Proverbs 15:11 KJV)  Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?

Is your heart a place of refreshing to God?  Jesus made it clear that the way of the cross was narrow and that most would take the broad way.  That means that in a land of human hearts, most of what God sees is desert.  Do you represent an oasis for the eyes of God or are you just another sand dune?

An oasis is a place where water is found in the midst of a parched landscape.  Think about the miles and miles of lifeless sand and suddenly there is a tree shaded pool.  The water must be there beneath your feet.  What chain of geological oddities allow it to emerge?  The Holy Spirit stands poised to bring the water of life into your heart on a regular basis.  Unlike the ground, you have a say in the matter. 

How many promises have passed you by because you do not read the word?  How much encouragement have you missed because you are not in regular prayer?  How many wrong turns have you made because you didn’t look for the signs? 

So?  Open your heart to the Holy Spirit.  Make it an oasis for the living God.  Allow Him to set up residence.  He will do the heavy lifting but He expects you to be ready and willing to receive.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Built-in Death Wish

(Proverbs 14:12 KJV)  There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

Here we have another recurring theme.  It is an echo of fools laughing at sin in verse 9.  The natural way of fallen man leads only to death. 

This also reflects the words of God to Saul when he was picking a future king from the sons of Jesse.
I Samuel 16:7 But the \Lord\ said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God {sees} not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the \Lord\ looks at the heart."
This verse is repeated at 16:25.

Today’s popular philosophy is “if it feels good, do it.”  For the average man on the street that is just the wrong advise.  Our natural inclination is to deeds of death.  Our natural inclination is to sin.  Only through the blood of Christ can we be made clean.  Only through the presence of the Holy Spirit can we stay clean.  The Holy Spirit can turn this on its head and by listening we can make decisions that lead to life.

So?  Pentecost is coming.  The church emphasizes this to remind us of our need for the Holy Spirit.  Seek Him.  Ask Him to fill you.  Ask him to give you a way that leads to life.  Just as the Nativity pointed toward Calvary, so Calvary points us to Pentecost.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Wish Hammer

(Proverbs 13:12 KJV)  Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Again, a first reading gives a strange idea.  At first I thought this was a statement against delayed gratification, an encouragement to get it all now.  The second half still gave me that impression.  I know the Bible well enough to know that such an understanding does not fit.  You may have had that experience when working a jig-saw puzzle.  You have a piece that should work, but it just doesn’t fit.  You can get a hammer and force the issue or you can keep looking.  The hammer approach doesn’t work well for people seeking truth.  Let’s try to keep looking.

“Hope” (8431) is a key word.  We need to understand this from the Bible view, not as a political promise that has been used by so many politicians.  Most of the world lives with a hope that is a wish.  That is based on the promises of politicians and manipulators.  As believers we live with a hope that is an assurance.  That hope is based on the character of God.  It is an assurance because of the actions of Jesus on the cross and out of the tomb.  I think that must be what we are looking at. 

So do you live in hope?  Are you on the tree of life?  Or are you one of those who keep finding your hope deferred because you are placing your trust in temporal expectations.  The economy is tanking.  Terrorism is alive and well.  Iran may get the bomb.  I know it.  You know it.  I hope you have the assurance in the middle of all that.

Gifts Applied

(Proverbs 12:14 KJV)  A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompence of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him.

At first this seems like an observation.  On rereading, it seems like it might be a command to be “satisfied” (7646).  I guess this is another case of both/and instead of either/or.

This is another approach to the Protestant Work Ethic, aka Bible Work Ethic.  We are expected to work and produce in our lives.  God doesn’t really have a lot of time for parasites.  What I like about this verse is that it extends the concept of work beyond being a farmer.  This verse reminds us that there are many ways to contribute to the world, society and the kingdom.

Some of us contribute the “fruit” (6529) of our “mouth" (words NASB) (6310).  We are talkers and writers.  Give me a board, a square and a saw and I will produce a mess.  Give me a word processor and I will show you how to make it sing.

Some of us contribute the “recompense" (deeds NASB) (1576) of our “hands” (3027).  If you go back and read the sections about the building of the tabernacle, you will see that the gift of craftsmanship was given by the Holy Spirit.  In my mind that puts it on the list of spiritual gifts.  You can be a carpenter for Jesus just as readily as a preacher. 

Some are so blessed that they can contribute in both areas.  I think of such overlooked contributions as mothering children or making your home the playground for neighborhood children who have no adults at home.

So?  Accept who you are.  If you take a back seat let it be because Jesus is teaching someone else to drive.  Be a blessing in your way, not the way your older brother does it.

Technical Difficulties

I don't know if it effected the entire Blogger community but I have not been able to post anything for a couple of days.  The notice even said that they had withdrawn what was posted yesterday.  I am going to post Thursdays offering immediately, followed by the one that would have been up this morning.  Hopefully I will be back on schedule tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hearing Lessons

(Proverbs 11:14 KJV)  Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

Do you ever get tired of people telling you what you should do?  I can understand that.  It is much easier to write a blog than to read and apply it.  I find that it is too easy for me to avoid “counsel” (guidance NASB) (8458).  Often this is the stubbornness within me that doesn’t want to hear it.  How often have you been around someone and you tell yourself, “I know what they are going to say.”  This can be little more than our sinful nature refusing to listen to the Holy Spirit.

I need worthwhile counsel.  You need worthwhile counsel.  We all need worthwhile counsel.  Even givers of counsel need worthwhile counsel.  Have I covered everyone?  I think the “worthwhile” is covered in the “multitude” (abundance NASB) (7230) principle.

For guidance to be useful you must really want input.  Every second Monday we have a faculty meeting that goes an hour and a half.  One of the mantras that we constantly hear from our fearless leaders is “I wanted to get your input.”  If you have been to these type of meetings you should either be laughing or crying now.  Too often we are like that.  We say we want advice, but we already know what we are going to do.  We seek many counselors because we keep looking until we find someone who will tell us what we want to hear.

For guidance to be useful we also must learn to listen.  Pay attention.  Engage your mind.

Everyone can find the advice they need, but where?   Who is to supply the “guidance” (8458) that people need so much?  It is found in an “abundance” (7230) of “counselors” (3289).  Don’t just think of names.  Think of sources.  The Bible is alive.  It can speak to you.  The Holy Spirit can point out things you have either never seen or forgotten.  The Sunday sermon can speak to you if you will listen.  Podcasts can speak to you.  Blogs can speak to you.  And don’t forget your wife.  God can speak through her.  Really.

So?  Seek counsel.  Listen, think, meditate, apply.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Like Money in the Bank

(Proverbs 10:15 KJV)  The rich man's wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.

This seems like a simple statement, too simple.  How does this apply to me, and you, today?

We see two different groups of people, the “rich man” (6223) and the “poor” (1800b).  At first glance there is no criticism here, only comment, but this is the inspired word, so lets assume that God has a message for us.  I think that Solomon is pointing out the flaws in the thinking of both groups.

Rich people tend to feel like their “wealth” (1952) gives them strength.  They stand behind it as if it will really protect them.  It becomes their “fortress” (7151/5797).  Most people who have a computer and an internet connection would be classified as rich on a Biblical standard.  Keep in mind that the rich of those days did not usually have indoor plumbing, A/C, instant communications, broadcast TV (let alone satellite), root canals, appendectomies...the list can go on.  When you have money in the bank and canned goods on the shelf it is hard to remember that it is God who brings the harvest and gives the increase.  Are you more concerned about getting a RIF notice or having God write Ichabod over your house?  What is your fortress?

Most of us think we are closer to being “poor” (1800b) than being rich.  The danger for the truly poor or the emotionally poor is that they focus on their “poverty” (7389).  I have always liked a statement that someone’s grandmother was supposed to have said, “We aren’t poor, we just don’t have any money.”  Poor is often an attitude.  It is an attitude of hopelessness.  Did you see the movie “Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith?  I hated it and loved it.  I hated it because I don’t like seeing people go through pain.  I loved it because it showed what hard work and perseverance can do in a life.  God can change our attitudes and our future.  Don’t let your bank balance “ruin” (4288) you.

So?  We sang it last week.  “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way...”  Works for me and I am a teacher in California where the state is on the verge of bankruptcy, everyone is mad at public sector employees and Christians are fair game.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Are You Expecting?

(Proverbs 9:9 KJV)  Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

Will you go to church expecting to hear from the Lord this Sunday?  We all know that some preachers seem to have missed their calling.  Do I hear an “Amen?”

But remember that the ultimate teacher is the Holy Spirit.  He is the one who prepares our hearts and opens out minds.  Take that thought with you this Sunday and try it on for size.  One thing I notice about the kids at school, they cannot find answers in a book because they refuse to admit to themselves that it is there and they have the ability to find it. 

I know that is true in my life.  I have trouble finding light bulbs when I need them.  I go and look where they have been and they aren’t there.  I go ask my wife and she tells me there are where they have always been.  I am skeptical but take her at her word and go look again.  This time I look harder, just to prove her wrong.  Guess what.  They are right there under a folded clothe.  If I had not had my eye on her I would swear she ran ahead of me and put them there after I looked.

God has wisdom waiting for you.  It may be that the Holy Spirit will need to stir your mind at something the preacher says and you will have to take a tangent in your Bible while he continues to drone on.  It may be that something will come to your mind and you will need to look it up during the announcements.  It may be that the terrible praise chorus they are singing reminds you of one of the great truths your learned in one of the dinosaur hymns.

So go expecting and looking.  God has many ways to pass on wisdom and understanding.  No harvest is gathered without some sweat.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Who Is Watching the Gates?

(Proverbs 8:3 KJV)  She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.

I am going to give myself a tongue-lashing today.  You can either sit back and enjoy my discomfort or see if it applies to you also.

This is talking about the places where Wisdom should be found.  Notice I said “should be,” not “is.”  There is a decided lack of presence when it comes to wisdom found at our “gates” (8179).  “Gates?”  Our cities don’t have gates.  No, but theirs did and the gates where one of the places that people would congregate as they were waiting to be processed in and out.  At the gates you would find a group of the elders of the community.  If you look at the last chapter in Proverbs where it talks about the perfect wife you will find that while she is out starting businesses and planting vineyards, he is at the gates,
(Proverbs 31:23 KJV)  Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
Am I doing anything to make wisdom be known at the gates of my community?  Am I attending city council meetings?  Am I giving my two cents at school board meetings?  Am I participating in community forums?  Am I making excuses?  The answers are no, no, no, yes.

We can’t expect God’s Wisdom to be dispensed Balaam’s Ass style.  We are going to need to speak up.  By that I don’t mean read Bible verses to them.  I mean speak from the assumptions of the Bible. 

So?  I am guilty of neglect here.  I pray that God would help me become a channel for the Holy Spirit to work, not a road block.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Farewell Bonhoeffer

I have just removed Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison from my reading list.  It is a great book.  For more comments you can visit my more eclectic blog, Medley of Worship.  Or you are welcome to limit your reading this Perpetual Proverbs. 

Thanks for visiting.

Wrong Turns

(Proverbs 7:8 KJV)  Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,

What “corner” (6438) will I choose to turn today?  What “street” (7784) will I decide to go down?  Tomorrow in chapter 8, how will my life be different because of decisions I make today?

We have all had times of retrospect when we look back and wonder how life would have been different if we had done things differently.  We often focus on how much better things would be, but the sword cuts both ways.  I think of times when, if I had been just a little quicker on the accelerator, I would have been broadsided by someone running a red light.

The context of these verses is adultery.  You can take it literally or figuratively.  I wonder if this implies that he deliberately chose to go in harms way?  Too often in life we set ourselves up to be where temptation can have a shot at us.  If we had gone a different “way” (1870) we would have been fine.  We choose paths of destruction and claim innocence. 

So?  What decisions are you expecting today?  I hope you are laying the groundwork to turn in obedience.  That is important.  We need to develop the habits of thought and response that are part of being upright because I can guarantee there will be some surprises in your day.  You won’t have time to go home and pray about it.  Lay the groundwork and trust in your foundation.

Friday, May 6, 2011

No Cheat Codes Available

(Proverbs 6:21 KJV)  Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.

Is the Bible to be taken literally or figuratively?  Some believers make literal interpretation on a par with belief in the resurrection of Jesus.  Verses like this call us to a more rational approach.  We see examples of both types of applications.

First you have the figurative suggestion.  No one in their right mind would think you could physically “bind” (7194) anything to you “heart” (3820).   We are reminded of the Jewish practice of phylacteries.  They would tie small passages of scripture on their body as a reminder of the word of God.  Handy but not real practical to put a string around the organ pumping blood through your body.

To literally tie something around your “neck” (1621) is possible.  This could be done and is done.  Are we actually supposed to do it or is it just a way of reminding us to live by the commandments of God?

The real controversy is not between figurative and literal.  The divergence comes between those who want to obey and those who are looking for a loophole.  If all we need to do is tie a little box containing a Bible verse around our neck or wear a WWJD bracelet then it is not necessary to actually love our neighbor as ourselves or God with all our heart, soul, body and mind.  God knows the difference and so do we, even if we won’t admit it.

So?  Don’t play games with God.  He is not like the video game you bought.  With those you learn how to go on line and find the cheat codes that let you win big without going through the learning curve.  God doesn’t provide cheat codes.  He is not a gamer, He is Lord.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dead Battery Anyone?

(Proverbs 5:10 KJV)  Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger;

We are to be stewards of our “wealth” (strength NASB) (3581).  Here again I shake my head at translators.  This I the only place the KJV translates this as “wealth.”  It translates it “strength” 58 times and “power” 47 times.  This is not about money, it is about the inner power that we generate as we live our lives.  I only have so much energy.  As I get older, I my power meters get more sensitive and I find it harder to borrow from tomorrow.  By the time I get home from work I am running on fumes.  No longer do I frolic the night away and rise to take on a new day.  I must shepherd my strength. 

I cannot do that if I allow the enemy to drain it away.  Have you ever come out to start your car in the morning to find the battery dead?  You check and find that a little light was left on and it has very slowly sucked the life out of your transportation.  Satan works that way.  While Jesus gives us power, Satan is a big sucking sound.  Or a small, steady one.  But only if we let it happen.

What drains our strength?  Worry can do it.  Excessive sports can do it.  Credit cards can do it.  Ambition can do it.  It is different for each of us and probably even different every day. 

So?  Examine your priorities.  Keep a time log is necessary.  Find out if your energy is going into the kingdom building priorities God would have or if your peer group is deciding what the dance step is.  Think, pray, listen, change.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Afraid of the Dark? Good

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

Darkness effects our sensitivity and it always seems to work against us.  My wife never comes to me in the middle of the day and says, “I heard a noise.”  She saves that for 3:00 A.M.  At times the refrigerator humming at the other end of the house will wake me up in the middle of the night.  I never hear it during the day time. 

I get more irritable in the dark.  That is why the dog barking next door keeps me awake.  If I could just love that dog and my neighbor I would relax, tune it out and go back to sleep.  Instead I focus on all the things I would like to do to the dog.  I get so up-tight that sleep won’t come back in the front door.

In other ways we are less sensitive.  We cannot see color nuances in the dark.  We can only see black and white, if that.

If the physical darkness effects us that way, just transfer that over to allowing spiritual darkness to get a toehold in our lives.  We become touchy when we shouldn’t and obtuse when we should be sensitive. 

So?  Walk in the light, as He is in the light.  Does it sound familiar?  It should.  Seek His face.  Read His word.  Listen to His voice.  And enjoy the Light, because for the believer the Son never goes below the horizon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rough Drafts Need Correction

(Proverbs 3:12 KJV)  For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Do you ever get tired of the way the Bible makes it difficult to fit into your world?  Good.  That means you are listening to the Holy Spirit.  We are supposed to be salt, not tofu.  Here again we go against modern, pop-psychology.  In modern thinking, “loveth” (157) cannot go along with “correcteth” (reproves NASB) (3198).  I sit in on parent conferences that would be great for sitcom plots if they were not such a part of our culture.  I had one woman who claimed she could not get her son to cut his hair.  Inside I was screaming, “What?  He’s only in seventh grade!”  She was under the assumption that love would not force him to do something so demeaning.

God loves us so He reproves us.  If He did not care He would not get involved.  How many times have you stopped your car when you saw a kid on the street when he should be in school.  If it was yours you would get involved. 

How does God reprove you?  In situations.  In words of friends and enemies.  In a sermon.  In the reading of the Word.  In ways I can’t imagine.  He corrects in ways you are not aware of because you might not be listening.

So?  If you are God’s child He is working to get you on track and keep you that way.  Listen, think, pray, change, rejoice.  He delights in you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Developing Good Reflexes

(Proverbs 2:11 KJV)  Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:

This verse needs to be understood in the context of a series of if/then statements.  This is a promise of results “if” the right conditions are allowed to develop.  What are the right conditions?  The first four verses lay out the need to take in what God is trying to teach us.  The next few verses talk about God giving.  In verse 9 we have the “then” promise.  This verse promises “discretion” (4209) and that it will “guard” (8104) us.

What is “discretion” (4209)?  It has to do with making wise choices.  I think of it as an ability that is useful on the fly, kind of a drive-through decisiveness, not a menu planning thought process.  If we have stored the right values and principles away then we will make the right decisions when it is necessary to act quickly. 

Perhaps a good example would be the reflexes of an experienced driver.  Once years ago my wife and I were in snow country on the open road.  The roads had been plowed and we were moving along at a good clip.  Suddenly, for no reason that I could detect, the car began to spin.  I did not need to stop and think, “Now which way to I turn the wheel when I start to spin?”  If I had needed to think I would have been in a ditch.  My hands and arms started turning into the spin before my mind understood what was going on.  We need to develop that ability in our spiritual lives.

So?  Get to know the word of God until it takes a pre-thought place in our minds.  Many situations are things we should not need to think about if we are practicing.  And when we do need to contemplate and think things through, I imagine it will help then, too.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fear, the Elixir

(Proverbs 1:7 KJV)  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Beginnings are important.  We always hear about how a good breakfast is key to a good day.  Think of the parable of the two men, one building on sand, the other on the rock.  Always be aware of the direction your muzzle is pointed when shooting a gun.  Healthy “fear” (3374) is a good place to start.  I fell off a church steeple once.  It was a glorious experience, until I hit the bottom.  When I am on bridges or gazing from a cliff at a panorama I sometimes have this urge to jump.  It was fun.  Only a healthy fear of the landing keeps me anchored.

I am at a time in life where I am concerned about how I finish.  I want to go out still headed for the victory lap, not in the stands watching others experience spiritual sweat.  I often say “good morning” by mistake in the afternoon.  When called on it I will sometimes pull out an observation from my reading that for the believer it is always morning because life is always new.  Although that is just a cover up, the concept is true.

So?  Begin each day well and you will finish life well.  A good place to begin is Proverbs.  A good place to begin is being reminded about the foundation of the fear of the Lord.  A proper fear can bring an eternal peace.