Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty-nine

•October 29, 2016 • 1 Comment

On this twenty-ninth day of the October, 2016, challenge in Proverbs, I am reflecting on Proverbs 29:13.  In several translations, the verse reads “the poor man and the oppressor have this in common-the Lord gives sight to the eyes of both”.  I found it interesting that the Darby Bible Translation uses the terms “the indigent and the oppressor”.  I am also reminded that we have seen this wise saying, or at least something very similar to it, previously.  Proverbs 22:2 reads “the rich and the poor have a common bond. The Lord is the maker of them all”.

It comes to mind as I think about this saying that God rules and reigns over all people.  Sometimes I tend to think of people as being in one of two buckets.  Either a person is in the “good” bucket or the person is in the “bad” bucket.  The reality is we are all in the “human being” bucket.  Every one of us has been created by a sovereign God and He made each of us for a reason.  The bible tells us that God knew us before He formed us in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5).  It tells us that God even made “the waster to destroy” (Isaiah 54:16).  Since God made us all, we are all in the same bucket.

The thirteenth verse of Proverbs 29 reminds me that God is in control.  It also reminds me that it is by grace, through faith, that we humans come to know the salvation of God (see Ephesians 2:8-10).  I pray that God will help me to always remember that I can walk by faith in Christ, knowing that God has made both the poor and the oppressor.  He, the Creator of all things, is Lord over all!

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty-eight

•October 28, 2016 • 2 Comments

Today’s reflection in the twenty-eighth chapter of Proverbs led me to verse nine – “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination.”  It is worth noting that God has inspired the writer to capture this statement.  When we turn away our ear from listening to the law, our very prayer becomes an abomination to God!  In other words, when we reject the offer of life in Christ God provides, we cannot even lift acceptable prayer to God.  God loves us and cares for us so much that He doesn’t even listen to those who ignore His love, grace and mercy.

My prayer is that God will help me listen more and more to His Word.  I am asking Him to help me turn my ear to His law, obeying Him in all things and seeking His will in my life day by day, moment by moment.  I want, I need my prayers to be acceptable to God!  I need to know He listens and hears when I pray.  So I need to commit to listening to what He says.  How about you?

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty-seven

•October 27, 2016 • 2 Comments

Today’s challenge chapter seems to open with a caution about making the most of today because we do not know what tomorrow will bring (verse 1, Proverbs 27).  The chapter concludes with an exhortation to pay attention to the condition of the flock, an expression meaning basically to keep priorities in order and do what needs to be done.  The final verses (26 and 27) then tell us that the result of heeding this wisdom will be sufficiency for our needs.

In America today, we have so many who lean more towards procrastination than toward industry.  We have a tendency to put off until tomorrow things that we know should be done today.  In other words, we tend to run contrary to the wise sayings of Proverbs 27, which teach us to make hay today and take of business now that we might have supply for our needs and those of our household.  I am praying that God will help me practice being more industrious in my life.  How about you?

Before I end today’s thoughts from the October Proverbs Challenge, let me just mention two other verses in Proverbs 27 that seem to speak to my heart today.  The first is Proverbs 27:17 (Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another) and the first part of Proverbs 27:10 (Don’t abandon your friend or your father’s friend) [both quotes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible].  The Word of God has a good bit to say about friendship and the benefits of friends in each other’s lives.  Have you been faithful to your friends?  Sometimes we neglect the reality that we are made to be in relationship and we withdraw unto ourselves.  Our friends, or at least those who thought they were our friends, are then left with an emptiness and sense of loss.  We, on the other hand, grow dull in our own life because we have lost the sharpening effect of our friend and their input to the shaping of our character.  Maybe its time to ask God to help us be better at being a friend, no?

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty-six

•October 26, 2016 • 1 Comment

Have you noticed how modern news broadcasts and papers have become more and more dramatic?  Instead of simply reporting events (i.e. news) the media and press have largely gone to promoting agendas.  It often seems that any morsel of real news creates a feeding frenzy in which the various outlets seem to try to outperform one another by over-dramatizing details.  For example, a train derails and passengers are injured and killed.  As soon as the story breaks, every outlet seeks to provide more and more of the details –often not actual details of the derailment as much as details of how the victims felt, what they saw, and so on.  More than providing facts as they become known, our media often seem pre-occupied with speculating and postulating, with each hypothesis firing off an additional round of frenzied effort to provide more dramatic coverage.  Maybe we should all consider the words of Proverbs 26:20 –

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.

As I think about those words, I realize that what we sometimes need is less fuel for the fire of drama and more quietness of spirit and word as we turn to the Lord for His guidance and direction.  When we hear of a marriage in trouble, we would likely be better benefited by simply praying to the Lord in our prayer closet about the matter than we are by spreading the news and our opinions across an ever-growing audience.  When we get that bit of news about a tragic situation in someone’s life, we would do well to talk to God about it and not throw fuel on the rumor mill that almost invariably erupts.  Perhaps if we chose to let the wood run out and to let the whispers fade away, we would see less strife and more reconciliation.  Just thinking.

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty-five

•October 25, 2016 • 2 Comments

A verse in chapter 25 of Proverbs always catches my attention when I read it.  Verse 25 says “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances” (NASB).  One rendering of the verse I remember says “like apples of gold in leaves of silver is a word rightly spoken” and another says “like apples of gold in leaves of silver is a word spoken in season”.  Maybe the verse always seems to grab me because I can be too quick to speak, even when it might be better for me to hold my peace!

As I reflect on the verse, I realize that there is an implication in this wise saying that there are indeed times when no word should be spoken.  We may have a word, and it may even be a good word.  We may have the best of intentions. Yet, implied in the statement, is the reality that there is a time when it is better to not say anything.  On the other hand, as the verse clearly says, there are times when a word (or perhaps more clearly, a phrase or statement) spoken “in right circumstances” becomes a precious and beautiful thing.

In a former career, I remember being instructed that the only proper thing to say to one who had lost a loved one was “I am sorry for your loss”.  We were told to not offer our opinion or say more than simply “I am sorry for your loss” so we would not risk be an offense to someone already grieving.  In my remembrance, I do not recall ever once having someone come to me later and say how much it meant to them for me to say those words “I am sorry for your loss”.  In my calling as a pastor, I can recall numerous times when I would offer a kind word or a simple statement to a family member who was grieving the death of a loved one in that moment when I sensed the Spirit of God prompting me to do so.  For example, I would utter a simple, seemingly unimportant phrase such as “she loved her hummingbirds” at just the moment I felt it appropriate.  Over the years, many of those who heard such simple words spoken in the right circumstances have come back to me to tell of how those words gave great comfort and became a lasting memory.  Maybe that’s why I often reflect on Proverbs 25:11 – Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty-Four

•October 24, 2016 • 2 Comments

Since becoming a Church Planter, God has been working in my heart to bring to the light the urgency of evangelism.  As I considered Proverbs 24 this morning, my attention was directed to verses eleven and twelve where we are exhorted to “deliver those who are being taken away to death and those who are staggering to slaughter”.  The writer pleads “Oh, hold them back!”.  My first thought as I read the eleventh verse was about abortion.  I thought of all the innocent lives that are terminated in the womb of mothers before ever seeing their first light.  I began to ponder whether this verse in Proverbs 24 could be advocating against abortion, and well it might be.  However, as I read verse twelve, it began to be evident to me that the Spirit of God is warning against an even greater calamity and slaughter.

“Those who are being taken away to death” seemed to cry out to me as being those in this world who are following a path that seems right to them but whose end is death.  In more than one place, Proverbs speaks of such a path (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25).  The phrase “those who are staggering to slaughter” reminds me of how Jesus spoke of the way that leads to destruction being broad and His saying that many people pass through the gate to destruction (Matthew 7:13).  As I read verse twelve, I began to grow more convinced that God is calling those who would be wise to rescue the lost from the path of destruction.  Notice the presumed excuse that will be offered when judgment comes: “If you say, ‘See, we did not know this’”.  How many who claim to be followers of Christ today try to pretend they do not know that many (the lost on the broad path) are bound for destruction?  How many simply turn a blind eye to the plight of those who do not have life in Christ?  I am praying today for God to help me heed the warnings in the latter part of Proverbs 24:12 – “Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?”.

Father God, please forgive me of my callousness toward the lost.  Remove from me the heart of selfishness and give me a heart of compassion and love for those who do not know You.  Help me to deliver them by sharing with them the Way of Christ.  Help me be a vessel of honor in Your service, oh Lord!

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty-Three

•October 23, 2016 • 2 Comments

As we round the turn for the home stretch in our Proverbs Challenge for October, 2016, I must note the wisdom of the closing verses in the twenty-third chapter (Proverbs 23:29-35).  So many lives have been ruined, utterly destroyed, by strong drink.  Would to God that men and women would heed the warnings of these verses and choose to not start down the road of drinking strong drink.  Once a person begins to yield to the allure of alcoholic beverage, whether it is beer, wine or liquor, they are in danger of becoming enslaved by it.  The tragedy is that the strong drink is deceptive and many begin their ruinous journey thinking they can handle the drink.  Remember the warning for Proverbs 20:1?  Be wise and don’t be deceived by strong drink so you avoid winding up as described in the last verses of Proverbs 23.

That aside, my attention today is directed to verses 17 and 18 of Proverbs 23 (17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always. 18 Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.)  One of the saddest things I observe in life is the people who envy those who do not know the Lord as savior.  They look at the way such people live in pursuing the pleasures and position and power of the world and wish they, too, could live that way.  Far better to choose life by following the way of Christ always.  Living for Christ may not always be easy and in some cases may cost us the loss of what we think might bring happiness.  The reality, however, is that only in following Christ will we find the future with hope.  In fact, we have God’s promise on that in Jeremiah 29:11 (11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.).  Let’s commit afresh to not allow ourselves to envy those who do not know Christ.  Let’s choose instead to fear the Lord always.  Amen?