Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Proverbs 24: 17-18 No gloating!

17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
    and turn his wrath away from them. 

OK. I'm going to ask for total honesty here. I hope you are ready. This is directed at me, too.

Have you ever heard that something happened to a person who has been wicked and spiteful toward you? Some trouble that has befallen them? How did you feel? Did you think to yourself, "Well, they got what they deserved."  

Maybe it is someone who has done you a terrible wrong. Did you smile inwardly when you heard of their "fall" or their difficult situation? 
Perhaps it is someone who has slandered you so that your church friends and acquaintances are wary of you. They are not sure what to think, in spite of their years of fellowship with you. Maybe this person has treated you badly, and then received an award or promotion that you deserved. How should we react?
In complete honesty, I have to admit that I have been guilty here. In the business world that we operate in, there are some extremely ruthless people, and they have caused us harm in more ways than one.  If we allow our human nature to rule, we will want revenge -- we want them to get their just desserts. If we allow our spiritual nature to rule, however, we will react differently.
I think that is one of the marks of a committed Christian -- a character trait that means we don't seek revenge for wrongs that are done to us.  In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus goes way further than that:
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
As followers of Christ, we need to make certain that we behave graciously in defeat, and benevolently in victory. If we laugh and mock at our "enemy" in distress, are we putting God in a position of defending that person to whom we show contempt, or even hatred? Solomon says we are (v. 18). 
How blessed we are, to have a Father that has not avenged Himself for our sinful ways, and for what we have done to Him! 
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  
No one has nailed me or you to a cross, for things we did not do. Who can have done more to us, than we have done to Christ? And yet, God loves the whole world -- saved and unsaved.

We are not supposed to be glad when our enemy falls. We need to have compassion on the unsaved, and on carnal Christians -- lest we prove that we are just the same as themIn the words of Walt Kelly's icon, Pogo, "we have met the enemy, and he is us."
How about it? What is our attitude like, when our enemy stumbles? Are we cheering -- proving that we are really just the same as them?  Or are we praying for them, as Jesus asked us to do?

I needed this today . . . can someone pass the band-aids so I can take care of my own toes?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Proverbs 24: 15-16 Get up, 'fess up, and clean up!

15 Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous,
    do not plunder their dwelling place;
16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
    but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. 

How many times have we read Solomon's words, giving us warnings to stay away from the wicked? A bunch, right? This time Solomon seems to be warning the wicked to stay away from the righteous!

I think that Matthew Henry was correct in his assessment of these verses, though. He said that it is not necessarily counsel for the wicked (since we've studied verses that say the wicked won't listen to wise words) as much as it is said to them in defiance -- almost a challenge.  

Hey, you wicked! Stay away from the righteous folks' house. Don't lurk around their dwelling place. Don't think that you'll cause them to stumble and then they will stay down. Nope. They rise again.

This is a great picture of a devoted Christian: the truly just, or righteous, man or woman. Solomon is not talking about a temporary believer, or a "on the edges" disciple --- he's talking about someone who is convinced of his sin, and knows that Christ is the only way he can attain righteousness. 

These "falls" that Solomon mentions . . . they can be tribulation, or affliction, or even sin. Yes, even the righteous can fall into sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us that "there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not." Here is the important difference: the righteous will get back up --- no wallowing in sin for him. He'll get up, and then 'fess up, and then clean up!

"It is by the power of God, he shall and does rise again sooner or later; not by his own power and strength, but by the strength of the Lord; he rises by renewed repentance, and under the fresh discoveries of pardoning grace and mercy . . . "  (Gill's Exposition of the Bible)

Lord, show us when we sin, so we can ask for your forgiveness, and get up out of it!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Take a Rest!

We've had some pretty intense weeks of study lately, and I wanted to give you a chance to rest. I'd like to encourage you to scroll back through some of our recent posts, and refresh your memory of what we have discussed.
Also refresh yourself with some prayer and thanksgiving times with our Father. Have a blessed weekend, and we'll resume our studies on Monday . . .

Here's the first verse of a lovely old hymn to start your restful time:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Proverbs 24: 13-14

13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
    honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
14 Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
    If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off. 

Have you ever considered what honey means to bees? In a word, it means hope. Surprised?

Without giving you an entire course on beekeeping, let me just point out a few things here! You may have learned in the past that there is one queen in a bee-hive; there are lots and lots of "drones" and even more "worker bees."  The honeycomb, which bears (and humans) enjoy eating, is actually home and a nursery for "baby" bees . . . the eggs are laid and bees develop in some of those little sections of the comb. As they develop, they are fed a diet that changes as they mature through the stages necessary for them to become productive members of the hive.  First they are fed something called royal jelly, then pollen and honey. 
So, without the honey to feed them, the future generations would not survive, and there would be no hope of the hive continuing on.

There's another way that the honey is hope for the bees --- in the winter time, the bees all stop flying, and congregate in the center of the hive. They gather around the queen, and form what is called a "winter cluster." What are they doing in this cluster?  Shivering.  Really.
Here is another witness to our awesome Creator . . . the bees actually vary their shivering enough to keep the temperature in the center at certain levels: 81 degrees Fahrenheit for the start of winter, and 93 degrees for the time period that the queen begins laying eggs again.  And catch this: the worker bees rotate through the cluster (from the outside to the inside) so that no bee gets too cold! And, what do they eat in order to have the energy to shiver and rotate? You guessed it! Honey!

You can see that without honey, the bees have no hope of survival. So, too, Solomon is telling us that wisdom is like honey . . . it is very pleasant, just as honey is sweet to the taste. It is also our hope for the future -- we may learn from it, and it will keep us. Way back when we first began our study, we read that wisdom will keep us safe, and happy. 
Pro 1:33  but whoever listens to me will live in safety
    and be at ease, without fear of harm.
Not only safe from evil, but from the fear of it, as well. Wisdom's instructions will help us "rest easy."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Proverbs 24:11-12 Rescue Part 5

11 Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? 

The next step in fearless witnessing for our faith is this: don't be afraid to make mistakes. The biggest mistake is not to try at all. The biggest mistake is to have an opportunity to speak a word for Him and then to say nothing.
I know by personal experience that God can still use my witness -- even if I make a mistake. He will bless our obedience, our striving and trying to witness. If that wasn't the case, it would be all about you and me . . . can we save them? Nope.  God can, and when we follow these guidelines and open our mouths, He will fill them!

Now, it certainly helps with confidence and having something to say, if we can "back up" our convictions with verses from His word. I would suggest that you check out some of the verses that Tonya put on the "What is Salvation" page, here at the blog.
Some folks really like the "Romans Road" and find it easier to remember those verses and call them to mind, and I use something similar:
I start with John 3:16 -- God loves all people. 
Next,  Romans 3:23 -- All people everywhere are sinners.
Then, Romans 6:23 -- Sin simply must be paid for.
How? Romans 5:8 -- Jesus paid for your sins.
What must you do? Romans 10:13 -- Trust Jesus as your Savior, and turn from your sins.
God can work wonders, in spite of us!

I posted our verses at the top again today, and I hope this five part study has been of some benefit to you. I know that I learned a great deal, and I'm more convicted than ever that I need to open my mouth and speak -- witness for my faith when I have the opportunity!

I truly believe that if we follow these guidelines, our witness will be gracious, and sweet --- reaching people, instead of erecting barriers.  We need to share our faith, and not hide it "under a basket." In the fifth chapter of Mark, Jesus went all the way over the Sea of Galilee, just to save one man. Surely we can witness to those that are around us and near us, each and every day of our lives! Let's ask God to help us prepare, and then to open our eyes to someone who needs to hear about Him -- and then let's open our mouths!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Proverbs 24: 11-12 Rescue Part 4

We are working our way through a short study on sharing our faith, and the next step we can take is to claim God's promise of His presence as we try to witness for Him:

Matthew 28:19-20
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
That wasn't just spoken to the disciples . . . it's for us, too! He has promised to be with us -- on the job, at the store, soothing that baby, talking to that neighbor . . . you'll not be alone as you try to speak a word for Him.

These are verses that reinforce that thought -- He will be with you; He has promised His presence as you go about your day:

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  (Exodus 33:14)

(Romans 8:38-39)  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

As we pray, we can boldly claim that promise, and then be ready to speak . . . where? Check out these verses:
Acts 28:30-31
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
Acts 17:17 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

I hope you will have time today to look up these verses, too:

We can share our faith in our car, as Phillip did in a chariot: Acts 8: 29-35.
We can share our faith in a boat, as Paul did: Acts 27: 22-25.
You may know people who share in prisons, as we see Paul doing, even though he was one of the prisoners: Phil. 1: 12-13

There are no limits as to where we can graciously speak a word for Him!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rescue - Part 3

We've been looking at steps that we can take, to deal with our fears about witnessing and sharing our faith. Today we'll study two more important ground rules in this process . . .

The second step to deal with our fear is to pray and ask God to take it away.   David says in Psalm
"I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."  So often we include in our prayers the words "If it be your will, Lord."  We know that it is His will for  "all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (I Tim 2:4)  So we know He will calm our fears, and help us speak out for Him!

There have been times that I've been afraid. Very afraid. The fact that I have tried to memorize these particular verses has been a blessing --- even if I can't recall all of it, or get it in the right order, I can pull a lot of it out of my wee brain, and His words comfort me:
I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

 (Isaiah 41: 9-10)

Isn't that an awesome passage? God is telling us, "Hey! What's the trouble? I am your all-powerful, all-knowing, holy God, and I called you and said you are my servant!"  This is such an all encompassing thought: He next says that He chose us -- an active process, not a passive one. He saw us and chose us; He drew us to Him. 
Next He states that He has not rejected us. In spite of our sin, our weakness and even our lack of witnessing for Him, He has not set us aside.  He is a God of second chances.
Then the climax of verse 10 --- four awesome things that He promises to us:
  • I am with you
  • I will strengthen you
  • I will help you
  • I will uphold you with my right hand
I don't know about you, but I think that those words can comfort and inspire, no matter what our situation. If you don't get excited and pumped up (and grateful) reading those verses, I have to wonder if you are still breathing!

I hope today's study has encouraged you, and that you'll be back tomorrow for more!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Proverbs 24: 11-12 Rescue Part 2

When we paused yesterday, we had started to consider the difference between the Peter we see in Luke's gospel, and the Peter that we see in Acts --- huge difference in the man!

What caused that difference?

Quick answer --- Acts chapter two: the filling of the Holy Spirit!  Peter changed from someone who was afraid, to someone who was "filled with the Spirit."

The word used is a different word from one used further down in the chapter,  in the phrase "filled" with wine. This "filled" has more to do with being "influenced, controlled."

Let me give an example: If I want to cut some of my quilting fabric, I must use my scissors or rotary cutter in a controlled way --- I can't just hold the cutting tool in my hand and whack away at the fabric and achieve great results. I must carefully control the tool, to achieve what I desire.

So, we can be carefully used by the Spirit, in this activity we call witnessing.  You see, when the person you are speaking to can sense that you know what you're talking about, it's much easier to get their attention. They will actually want to listen!

How can you be filled?

           1. Self examination -- this takes time; in daily prayer and Bible study
           2. Confession -- get cleansed. You and I need to ask God to bring our sin to
               mind; then name it.   1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and 
               just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
           3. Repentance -- more than just an "I'm sorry" but a turning away from
               the sin.
           4. Ask God to fill you -- Luke 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give
              good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father 
              give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

When I'm helping my hubby with a project, and that project requires him to pick up some tiny new parts and place them carefully into an electronic assembly, I can't hand him the same gloves that he used to protect his hands while packing grease into a tractor wheel-bearing, can I? Well, you also can't expect our Father to slip His hand into a dirty glove (us, with un-confessed sin) and do His work.
But when we are cleansed and filled with the Holy Spirit, our fears will subside, and God can use us.

Thanks for sticking with me --- we'll continue on Monday, OK? Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Proverbs 24: 11-12 Rescue - Part 1

11 Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? 

It's very true that our lives should be witnesses for Christ. There are so many ways that we can show our faith and our trust in our Father -- in many cases that is all we can do, because of time or circumstances.  But in others, we have an opportunity to speak, and in those situations, our witness is not complete until we open our mouths and speak a word for Him.

There have been times when this has come up in our studies, and I have heard from ladies who say that (like me) they struggle with this sometimes. Let me first say: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!

A group of Christians in training for an evangelistic crusade were asked: "What is the biggest thing that stops you from witnessing?"  Here are their answers:

                        9% said they were too busy to remember to do it
                      28% said they lacked real information to share
                      12% said that their own lives were not the witness they should be
                      51% said they were afraid of how the other person would react

I do not mean to shout, but I'm going to use all capital letters again: THIS IS NORMAL!! Absolutely perfectly normal. But we are not going to stop there . . . because this is not what we should strive for!!

I've been right there with you -- you may be afraid that someone will think you are a fanatic, or a "Bible-thumper" or you may be concerned that it will change your relationship. You might be afraid that you'll be rejected, or not liked anymore.

The bottom line is, you'll have to open your mouth and just spill it out. There. I said it. Now, how can we become braver, so that we can actually do this?  That's what we will work on, for the next couple of days.

I'd first like to look at two Scriptures about the same man --- Peter.  Simon Peter is one of the most lovable characters in the New Testament, because he gives us hope for our own faults! Peter was at various times overeager, immature, and cowardly, but he also became brave, bold, and influential. Something must have happened to change him, no?

Let's look at Peter, when Christ was on trial for His life. He followed the procession at a distance, and warmed himself at the fire (Luke 22:55).  When questioned and pointed out as one of Christ's companions, he denied even knowing Christ three times, and the last time with cursing for emphasis!

Fast forward to Acts 4:13, and people were astonished at his "boldness" ---- what happened in between these two events?  How is it that in Acts 2 and 3 Peter preached with great passion, and thousands were converted?

Please study this and if you'd like to leave a comment, please do. We'll continue this tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Proverbs 24: 10 Do you know your own strength?

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
    how small is your strength! 

Recently I was in heavy traffic and stopped at an intersection, waiting for the traffic light to change.  The heat from the pavement made everything shimmer outside my car; all was asphalt, concrete, and paint. My eyes were drawn to a crack in the sidewalk, where a small plant had found just enough dirt to get its start. It apparently had avoided the city workers and their sprayers, and had risen several inches into the humid summer air. A tiny bloom decorated the very top of the plant, and it swayed in the breeze as I watched.
The light changed, and I drove away, but I kept thinking about the little bloom. Then I saw that this was the next verse in our study, and I knew why God had drawn my attention to that plant. 

Do you know your own strength? There are examples of plants and trees that actually cause pavement to crack and crumble, so strong is the force that they exert as they grow.
How strong are we? When a "time of trouble" comes, how do we react? Do we panic, or complain; perhaps we have a pity party, or whine to someone about our situation. Or, do we seek the Lord for the endurance and power that we need, to quietly, cheerfully face that trouble?  Solomon has been encouraging us to internalize the wisdom that will help us endure adversity.

Nehemiah 8:10 tells us "the joy of the Lord is your strength." We belong to a God who makes gladness a pathway to power! And Paul says to the Ephesians: "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." (Eph 6:10)   That's the ticket! That is where our real power comes from . . .
Isaiah 40:29 says it a little differently, but the idea is the same: "He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak."
Today let's give thanks to our Father for the strength He makes available to us!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Proverbs 24:7- 9 Thinking about stripes

Wisdom is too high for fools;
    in the assembly at the gate they must not open their mouths.
Whoever plots evil
    will be known as a schemer.
The schemes of folly are sin,
    and people detest a mocker.

Did you notice something in these verses? They all have one thing in common --- they speak of someone who is foolish, or who is a sinner, and note that they will be known to everyone.
People do not mind their faults being spread out before them, but they become impatient if called on to give them up. –Goethe
 I think that Solomon is saying to us, that we can become known by our sins. If someone is always scheming and trying to manipulate people and circumstances, other people will catch on to that.  If someone is a mocker, and is contemptuous of other people and their feelings, people will soon know that person by "their stripes." 

Have you ever wondered where that saying came from? Let's think about some examples . . . some military personnel are known by stripes on their sleeves. Those stripes can tell us about their rank or service.
How about zebras? That was a jump, wasn't it? (Grin) Ever wondered why God gave the zebras their stripes? I seem to recall one of my biology professors intoning that the stripes were to allow the zebra to "blend in to their surroundings, and avoid their number one predator, the lion" . . . I always wondered if the lions were color blind, because all of the zebras that I saw were black and white, and the Serengetti grasses were tan and green.  More recently I read a scientist's hypothesis that the stripes would throw the visual senses of the tsetse fly "out of whack" so that the zebras would not be bitten and get the sickness. (I hope you will pardon my editorializing, but either way that it works, I think it's another example of our awesome Creator.)
Camouflage, concealing what is there . . . did you know that we have stripes, too? They camouflage the worst of our traits, and conceal -- no, actually eradicate, our sins.

 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 5) 

Those precious stripes protect us; they camouflage, and then they heal us. Through His shed blood, we are given new life --- our Father looks at us and sees those stripes . . . not our wickedness.  Those stripes give us the opportunity to live in His presence if we but accept His gift of grace and believe on His name.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Proverbs 24: 3-6 Blueprints and Power Tools

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.
The wise prevail through great power,
    and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
Surely you need guidance to wage war,
    and victory is won through many advisers. 

These verses speak of building a house, but after some study, I think this could be a metaphor for building a life. Let's think about it for a while today.
Those of us who have had the experience (I started to say good fortune, but while you are in the midst of it, it doesn't seem so great) of building a home, have seen the steps involved in putting it together.  Let's face it --- there are certain steps to follow, and a certain order in which they must be completed.  You don't go and buy lovely lamps and framed artwork, before you lay the foundation and get the structure "in the dry" (walls up, and a roof on it).

Solomon is unrolling a blueprint for us here in these verses: our life should be built with wisdom, on a foundation of understanding.  Over the last few months we've learned about wisdom from Solomon -- to seek it, to value it, to use it. Did you also know that wisdom and understanding can be power tools for us?  You see, those that increase in wisdom are "strengthened with all might."

Check out what Paul says in Colossians 1: 9b,11:
9 . . . We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, . . . 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 
Once He helps us to establish a foundation, then we can fill each chamber with treasures . . . patience, kindness, contentment, joy, and more.
And there are more "power tools" in our toolbox. The last two verses today speak of our strength, our waging war, and our achieving victory. We know there are verses that mention being at war with Satan, and we know that we can have true victory over him: Ephesians 6:11 is a trumpet call to battle --  Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 
But, you say, I'm tired of the battle. I'm weary. I've tried so hard, and I don't think I'm winning. 
It may be health issues that you struggling with; it may be family or friends relationships that cause you heartache; you may be at war with the devil on any number of issues.
Grab your power tools! I don't mean to trivialize this -- I have struggles too, and my heart aches sometimes, and yes, I cry out to God for help. I even whine sometimes, and then have to ask Him to forgive me.
Here's what I should do, instead --- these power tools are right here for my asking:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  II Cor. 12:9

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” II Pet. 1:3

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” II Cor. 9:8

These are precious promises. I hope they help you, as they have helped me.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Proverbs 24: 1-2 Where are you planted?

 1  Do not envy the wicked,
    do not desire their company; 
 2  for their hearts plot violence,
    and their lips talk about making trouble. 

Several times before we've studied verses that told us not to look at the wicked, who may be prospering, and wish that our way was like theirs. It may seem that they "have it all". . . wealth, happiness, popularity, all the possessions that they fancy, perhaps not even having to work hard for any of these things.
Solomon has cautioned us that even though it may seem that they are living the life of Riley, that we should not be jealous. We shouldn't envy them. They are constantly beset with worries and stress -- who is trying to take away their toys or their reputation or their power? Can they hang on to all that they have? Did this or that person that they stepped on, on their way to the top, follow them to take their revenge?
They cannot be truly happy, nor can they be at peace. Even after they grasp a prize, or attain some power, or receive some recognition --- it is a hollow victory, and they are left wanting more.
Solomon tells us in these verses to go one step further -- do not desire their company.  Remember how he told us that the friends we choose will influence us? For good, or for bad....and we don't want to begin to think like the wicked, nor to talk like them.

David, Solomon's father, spoke these words in the first Psalm:
Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,  but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers. 

Do you see the progression there? Don't walk "in step" with the wicked, nor should we stand in the path sinners take, and be careful not to sit in the company of those who mock and scorn our Father. 
Instead, be planted in the streams of living water. That person is the one that will be blessed!

Have a safe and pleasant weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

He shall purify . . .

I read this story on a book review blog recently. One of our Bible study blog followers is Donna, who blogs at My Life One Story at a Time. She was reviewing a book that I will tell you about later, and this was an excerpt that she posted. I found it very touching, and the author, Londa Hayden, graciously said that I could share this with you:

           A group of women who had gathered for a Bible study were reading the third chapter of Malachi. They came upon a remarkable expression: “And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”  Speculations as to the meaning of the scripture echoed throughout the room.  One lady knew of a silversmith in town and offered to visit him.
            She went to inquire about the process of refining silver, which he fully described to her. “But Sir,” she said, “do you sit while the work of refining is going on?" 
           “Oh, yes,” the silversmith replied, “I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace. If I go the slightest degree hotter than necessary, the silver will be injured.”
            The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort in the expression, “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” At times, Christ must put His children into the furnace of affliction; His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Such trials do not come at random; “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”   
           As the lady left the shop, the silversmith called her back, and told her that he forgot to mention that the only way he knows the process of purifying is complete is when he sees his own image reflected in the silver.
I don't think I have ever heard a more beautiful metaphor for the work Christ does in our lives, and for the result He wishes to achieve in us. Have you? Do you feel you are in the refiner's fire right now? Remember, He is with you, and watching you with His wise and loving eyes.

(I hope that you will check out Donna's review of Londa Hayden's book, Date. Pray. Wait., an excellent book that speaks to women everywhere about the best way for Christians to search for and find their soul mates.  Londa writes openly and honestly about her search for a lasting relationship, and brings scripture into her writing for a truly Biblical perspective. It is currently available on Amazon, and I want to thank Londa for allowing me to utilize this story.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Proverbs 23: 19-28 A wise lifestyle, part II

UPDATE: Please click over to the prayer request page for a joyful update to Linda's request for prayer!
Did you have a chance to search for some verses that illustrate the points we gleaned from Solomon's words? Here's a refresher of his tips for a wise lifestyle:
  1.    What we eat and drink (he advises against drunkeness and gluttony)
  2.    Whom we listen to (he says listen to our father)
  3.    How we live (live a life of truth, wisdom and discipline)
  4.    What we think about (give me your heart)
  5.    What we look at (let your eyes delight in my ways)
Here are some that I found:

1.  I Corinthians 10:31 -- So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.   I guess that cuts to the heart of the issue.... when I eat more than I should, I'm not doing something that glorifies my Father, because it certainly doesn't help me to be ready for service. It makes me sleepy on the short term, and pudgy on the long term! Got my own toes on that one!

2. Psalms 32: 8 -- I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  What a wonderful promise from our heavenly Father! When we read in His word, pray, and listen to His spirit, he can teach us and guide us.

3. Ephesians 6: 10-18  -- Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
This is Paul's idea of a life of truth, wisdom, and discipline. It's still true, today.

4.  Philippians 4:8 -- And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. It stands to reason that if we fill our minds with "junk" then that is what we'll continually think about, and perhaps even live out. Let's fill our minds with good things, and let those flow out of our lives.

5.  Proverbs 4: 25-27 -- Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

I'll be trying to stick to this wise lifestyle; how about you?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Proverbs 23: 19-28 A wise lifestyle, part I

UPDATE:  We've had an urgent prayer request added to our prayer page (scroll down to the comment), and I would encourage all of our readers to go and read it, and lift up Linda and her husband in prayer, as they travel to a specialized facility to seek treatment for him. It's an honor and a privilege to pray for each other's needs -- please join her in prayer and leave a comment here to encourage her heart. Thank you.

19 Listen, my son, and be wise,
    and set your heart on the right path:
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine
    or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
    and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
22 Listen to your father, who gave you life,
    and do not despise your mother when she is old.
23 Buy the truth and do not sell it—
    wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
24 The father of a righteous child has great joy;
    a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
25 May your father and mother rejoice;
    may she who gave you birth be joyful!
26 My son, give me your heart
    and let your eyes delight in my ways,
27 for an adulterous woman is a deep pit,
    and a wayward wife is a narrow well.
28 Like a bandit she lies in wait
    and multiplies the unfaithful among men.

We hear a lot today about "wellness."  There are resorts and cruises that offer to train you in healthy activities, magazine articles that trumpet healthy recipes and tips for living, and oh-so-many commercials and ads for the latest exercise routine or exercise product. They all make extravagant promises --- it's enough to make your head swim!

In fact, if you are a person trying to implement a new routine, or a new diet, or some other instructions that promise you a "healthy new you" or that promise increased over-all wellness, you just might feel like that gerbil up there . . .
Solomon gives a pretty good "wellness" handbook in these verses: he says that we should implement a wise lifestyle -- a Spirit-filled life. We need to evaluate several things:
  •    What we eat and drink (he advises against drunkeness and gluttony)
  •    Whom we listen to (he says listen to our father)
  •    How we live (live a life of truth, wisdom and discipline)
  •    What we think about (give me your heart)
  •    What we look at (let your eyes delight in my ways)
Aren't these things that we've heard from our heavenly Father in other Scriptures? Perhaps if you have time today, you can search for some verses that illustrate each of these five points. Let's compare notes tomorrow . . .

Monday, July 9, 2012

Praxis - rolling up our sleeves

I'm interested many times in words and their origins and meanings....I admit it; I'm a bit of a word nerd. I love to read, and raised three kiddos that love it, too. I have even seen one of them reading a dictionary.  Does that make some of you sad? (Grin)
Recently I heard the term "praxis" used.  Praxis usually refers to the process of putting theoretical or philosophical knowledge into practice. Hmmm, that sounds a lot like what we do in our Christian lives, to me!

Our “praxis” is the practical application and use of what is given to us by our Father. Paul says in Corinthians that the gifts are given to be used "for the common good," not just collected, admired, buried or envied. Not one of us, as a believer, lives to herself or dies to herself. A hallmark of a genuine member of Christ's body is that we are active members.
The kind of "roll up your sleeves" activity that we are talking about, is much more than just showing up at a worship service.  It is taking part; it is ministering your gift to the needs of others in the body of Christ, and outside of that body, too.

Paul gave a perfect illustration of this in his letter to the Corinthians: he used the analogy of the human body.
The eye may be attached, but if it doesn't see, what good is it? The foot may still be connected, but if it can't bear weight to walk, what use is it? Your heart may still be present in your chest, but if it’s not beating, it’s no use to you. The reason for its existence is to beat—to pump blood to the body.
There is a huge diversity in the gifts that are given to believers; we are all to be active. We are each part of the whole; we need to serve others in love.
Perhaps this is something that you can write in your journal:
  • What are your gifts?
  • What can you do to help others?
  • What do you care about?
  • What are you alert to?
  • What do others appreciate most about you?
After you consider those questions, and come up with your own answers, then you can determine if you are actively using your gifts.  Try to honestly decide: are you strengthening others, and helping them serve the Lord?
Paul listed some of the Spirit's gifts: preaching, serving, teaching, exhorting, comforting, contributing, leading, showing mercy, and more. (I Cor. 12:28-30)

Personally, I don't know what gifts you may have. That is between you and the Lord. But I do know the gifts that I have been given, and one of mine is teaching; another is exhorting. I am sure that some of my family and friends wish I'd been spooned out some more tactfulness, but I do the best that I can. (Grin)
So, that is why I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to talk to all of you (and myself, in good measure) on this blog. I've rolled up my sleeves and I'm trying my best to improve myself and to serve all of you.
I feel very honored to have all of you along for the journey. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Proverbs 23:17-18 A certainty, not just a hope

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
    but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.
18 There is surely a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off. 

These verses made me think of an old hymn, that speaks about what we hope for, as Christians. And yet, it is not just a hope -- it is a certainty that we can cling to, and we can depend upon.

Paul wrote this in Romans:
Romans 15:13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
How wonderful it will be when our hope becomes a reality!
Love divine, so great and wondrous,
Deep and mighty, pure, sublime;
Coming from the heart of Jesus—
Just the same thro’ tests of time.

 He the pearly gates will open,
So that I may enter in;
For He purchased my redemption
And forgave me all my sin.

Like a sparrow hunted, frightened,
Weak and helpless— such was I;
Wounded, fallen, yet He healed me—
He will heed the sinner’s cry.

Love divine, so great and wondrous!
All my sins He then forgave;
I will sing His praise forever,
For His blood, His pow’r to save.

In life’s eventide, at twilight,
At His door I’ll knock and wait;
By the precious love of Jesus
I shall enter heaven’s gate.

Wishing you God's blessings and peace, this weekend!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Proverbs 23:12-16 3 tips for parents

12 Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.
13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. 
14 Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death. 
15 My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; 
16 my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.

I really like how Matthew Henry's commentary groups these verses together -- it makes a lot of sense to me.  He says that in these verses we find:
                         1. A parent instructing a child
                         2. A parent correcting a child
                         3. A parent encouraging a child
Our children and our grandchildren need to have God's Word placed in their hearts, in their minds and on their lips daily.  Why? For instruction and correction, and for the Spirit to utilize to help them in the future. The rod of correction won't hurt him or her, if done in a loving manner, not in anger, but the Bible is key even in that situation:
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
If we keep the nurturing and the attitude of being an example to our children uppermost in our mind, I think it will be hard to go wrong. If we avoid doing things because of our own opinion, or our friend's opinion, or our boss's opinion --- and instead rely on God's Word, we will stay on the right path.
When I read these verses I feel that Solomon is saying that after instruction and correction, it is vitally important to encourage our children. We need to make certain that they know when we notice they did something right. We need to point out and praise the good, the honest, and the caring things they do and say.  We've had people say, laughing, that our family is the "hugging-est" family they've seen -- and I am not embarrassed about that; I'm happy! Hugs can comfort, encourage, and love someone through a rough spot!
As parents, we are joyful when a child chooses wisdom and righteousness, just as Solomon said in verse 15 --- and when that child speaks wisely, how glad the parent is! We also feel relief and gladness when, having chosen to do wrong, our child turns away from the wrong - and does what is right.
Just imagine God’s joy when we trust in Christ or when a Christian turns from sin!
Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom is not free!

Here in the United States, we are celebrating the Fourth of July! What does that conjure up in your mind? Flags? Fireworks? Picnics? The Declaration of Independence?
July 4, 1776 was the date that our "founding fathers" signed the Declaration, having made a resolution to separate from Britain two days earlier. Listen to what John Adams, who would later succeed George Washington as president, wrote to his wife, Abigail:
. . . I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
The story goes that a woman approached Benjamin Franklin as he left the Convention, and asked him, "Well, Dr. (Franklin) what do we have, a republic, or a monarchy?" He replied, "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."

And it's the keeping of it that has been so costly. Brave men and women since then have fought, prayed, lived and died, to keep this republic free. Ronald Reagan put it so well:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.

Freedom is not free.

There is another kind of freedom that was also bought with an enormous price -- when Christ paid our debt, to purchase forgiveness and freedom from sin for all of us.
John 8: 32, 36: Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Christ's sacrifice on the cross set us free from the Law, and from the "sin that does so easily beset us."
Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Jesus paid the ultimate price --- His sinless life, death, and resurrection take away our sin. 

Freedom isn't free.  Let's celebrate with thankful hearts!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Proverbs 23: 10-11 He doesn't miss a thing

10 Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,
11 for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.

Remember the old gospel song, "His Eye is on the Sparrow"?  I always enjoyed (I know I am dating myself here; I heard it as a child) hearing Ethel Waters sing this song as a part of the Billy Graham crusades on television, but I could not find as good a quality version of her singing as I'd hoped, to share with you. But, if you've not heard it before, here she is: 

Wasn't she precious?  Did you know that in His word, God made special provisions for the fatherless, and for those truly destitute? You need to first understand a little of the culture of the ancient Mid East . .  .

When a woman of that era lost her husband, she was a bit of a "non-person" after that. It seems harsh now when we consider it, but that is the way it was. Soon the creditors would come knocking, and bills would need to be paid. Without her husband/bread winner, she would be truly alone, a "widow indeed,"and it wouldn't be long before the property (farmland, vineyards, workshop) that had provided for her and any children, would have to be sold. God's Word made plans for any who was related to the widow, to come forward and be a "kinsman redeemer," to pay the debt. (In Leviticus chapter 25 we see the process where the redeemer could preserve the property for a man in debt, or for a widow. Boaz did this for Naomi, in the book of Ruth.)

So, here you have a picture of a person, or people, who are helpless. And you see, too, that there is someone who is involved, and caring, and mighty to save. I hope you have time to look up these verses, either now or later:
Deuteronomy 10:18
Psalm 10:14
Psalm 146:9
Not only should this remind us to keep a special place in our hearts for the fatherless, and to help them when we our blessings will allow it --- but doesn't it remind us of our great Redeemer? The One who gave His all to save us? And just as the song says, He doesn't miss a thing.

"His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."
He truly cares for you.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Proverbs 23:9 What we should do with those pearls . . .

I thought the NIV gave us the most easily understood translation today:

9 Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.

At first glance, this verse would seem to go against some of what we've talked about in the past. We have discussed how to get wisdom, and how to then guide others with that instruction. We've been encouraged to help others, to speak good counsel to them, and to assist them in finding wisdom.

But this verse seems to be saying "don't bother!"  What gives?

I began to understand it more completely when I studied the roots and meanings of the words. The word here carries the meaning of one who "hates wisdom and despises morality," even "casting off the fear of God," and then "committing evil, while making fun of sin and God's instruction."  Wow.  Pretty strong words, no?

So, we are not talking about someone who, when confronted with his mistakes, is open to correction. Oh, no. This is someone who will make sport of discipline, and throw off any correction like a sailor casting off a line.

This is the type of person that we are warned to not "cast our pearls before" because they are virtually unchangeable. But there is one thing that we can do for them --- and it's not a waste of time. Pray for them!  The Spirit can change their hearts, and then change their lives. 

Do you know someone like this? Have you tried to witness to them with your life, and with your words? Then let's be sure to pray for them - they are beloved of the Father, and He wants them to come to Him.