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?

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty-Two

•October 22, 2016 • 2 Comments

Chapter 22 is another section of Proverbs brimming with wise sayings.  Today, however, I found verse 28 particularly interesting (Do not move the ancient boundary
Which your fathers have set.
).  Without resorting to a bible dictionary or concordance to look up the phrase “ancient boundary”, I simply gave thought to a couple of different ways I could take the meaning of the saying.  First, the obvious intent is that ancient boundaries, property lines, border lines, should be honored.  I recall more than one incident I have either known of or somehow had connection to in which “ancient boundary” lines were not honored.  Instead, someone encroached on another’s property and trouble invariably resulted.  So, Proverbs 22:28 could simply warn us against falling into the trouble that arises out of violating the boundary lines that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Another thought that came to me speaks of a different kind of boundary.  In fact, the entire book of Proverbs can be thought of as establishing boundary lines for the author’s son.  The writer warns the reader against joining forces with evil doers, setting a boundary line in the kind of friends his son should choose.  The writer warns against being lazy, setting a boundary line between industrious activity and idleness.  In other words, perhaps the writer of Proverbs is again exhorting the reader to abide by the wise sayings contained in the collection when he says “do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set”.  Maybe we could interpret that to mean we should honor godly heritage passed on to us by our fathers in the faith.  Maybe we should hold fast to the standards and not destroy or move them through compromise.

My prayer today is that God would help me to recognize the wisdom of maintaining the boundaries He has established in His Word.  How about you?  Are there some boundary lines you need to maintain in your life?

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty-One

•October 21, 2016 • 1 Comment

I often think of Proverbs 21 as one of the most powerful chapters in the book.  It opens with a strong one, two, three punch and closes with victory coming from the Lord.  What a whirlwind of wisdom!  The followers of Christ in America during this incredibly discouraging and certainly embarrassing election year will do well to remember the opening verse of Proverbs 21: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.”  Regardless of who wins the presidency, God remains sovereign.  He (God) is more than able to turn the heart of the President of the United States wherever He (God) wants that heart to go!

Right after that powerful opening statement, Proverbs 21 continues with a keen second insight: “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.  One of my favorite words in the bible is the conjunction but.  That word indicates that the phrase before it carries less precedence or priority or value than the phrase following it.  In other words, but something means what comes after the but is what the speaker really wants you to hear.  In the second verse of Proverbs 21, the phrase the Holy Spirit wants us to recognize as most significant is “the Lord weighs the hearts”.  While our own action or thought may be justifiable or right in our own eyes, we must always remember the fact that God knows what is within us – He knows our true motive.

Then, in the third verse of Proverbs 21, we discover that obedience is better than sacrifice and to listen to God is better than the fat of rams (see 1 Samuel 15:22): “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.”  The chapter goes on with verse after verse of wise sayings.  One that hit home with me today is verse twenty-one: “He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.  I am reminded that following after Christ (the righteousness of God) and loyalty (faithful love: we are commanded in the bible to love God and love our neighbor) leads to the discovery (and possession) of life (see 1 John 5:12), righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21) and honor (see 1 Samuel 2:30).  May God help me, enable me, to pursue Christ passionately all the days of my life in this earth!

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Twenty

•October 20, 2016 • 2 Comments

As I read and reflected on the wise sayings of Proverbs 20, I felt drawn to this saying: “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right” (Proverbs 20:11).  I observe many in American society today who use their words to try to make themselves known.  Many talk a good game and by their words are mighty in valor and in strength, eagerly saying what they would do in a given situation.  On the other hand, I know a few people who are people of action rather than words.  By their deeds, by their actions and conduct they make themselves known as people of faith, followers of Christ.  Their compassion and their good deeds are not done to seek fame or favor.  Their actions are done out of a sincere heart that loves the Lord and seeks to demonstrate faith in Him through action.  Such people rarely have to use words to make themselves known.  Everyone knows them by their deeds.

Recently, I participated in a memorial service for a very dear friend and brother in Christ.  During the service, a number of people stepped forward to share how my friend had helped them in multiple ways, demonstrating his faith in Christ and his love for people by his actions.  Weeks after the memorial service, I am still encountering people who tell me of my friend and how he impacted their life through his actions.  Yes, a young man makes himself known (distinguishes himself) if his conduct is pure and right.  What does your conduct say about you?