Friday, September 28, 2012

A Friday Slowdown

This old hymn by Lina Sandell is a precious one. Please take time to read these words and meditate today on how He strengthens us day by day. If you would like to hear the hymn, there is a video below these lyrics. I was able to find one that is very pretty, and has lovely photos of our Father's workmanship.

Day by day and with each passing moment,
strength I find to meet my trials here;
trusting in my father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
gives unto each day what He deems best –
lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me
with a special mercy for each hour;
all my cares He fain would bear,and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Power.
The protection of His child and treasure
is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This is the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
so to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
that I loose not faith’s sweet consolation
offered me within Thy holy word.
Help me Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
one by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
'Til I reach the promised land.

Have a blessed weekend, my friends!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Proverbs 26:17 Don't rush in...

17 Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
    is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

Let's imagine that you have done what Solomon is saying here --- you have grabbed a stray dog by the ears. Perhaps he was menacing you or your little one, and you grabbed the first thing your hand touched . . . what's going to happen? Well, if you keep holding on, you have a pretty good chance of getting bitten by the squirming dog. If you let go, you have a pretty good chance of getting bitten, by the squirming-but-now-free-to-move dog.

Either way, it doesn't look good!

Solomon is telling us that, just as in the example above, there are not many good consequences if we rush into a quarrel that is not our own.  Just in the last chapter, number 25, we were told in verse 8: Don't go forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.
If we are to be slow to anger, and not be hasty to get into fights on our own account, then we definitely don't need to be meddling in other people's business!

But, you say, I'm just trying to help. I've got the best of intentions, and I have a great track record, too. Well, let's look at a story of a king who had a super track record, and great intentions . . .

In the Old Testament, one of the shining stars is King Josiah. He ascended to the throne at the tender age of eight, and when he was a mere teenager (nineteen) he started reforms in his kingdom, to end pagan worship. He took down idols, burned and destroyed false prophets bones and idolatrous shrines, and just generally was giving his kingdom a good spring cleaning.
When he was twenty-five, he decided to rebuild the temple of the Lord. Workers found a dusty old book, and it was discovered to be a "Bible" or what was known to be scripture at that time. (It would have been the first five books of our modern-day Bible.)  As a portion of it was read to King Josiah, he realized what it was, and tore his kingly garment. This was to show his sadness and repentance, as he realized how far his country had gone, away from God.
Filled with energy and enthusiasm, he began a campaign to restore his country's worship of God. The population was assembled, and the entire scripture was read to them. King Josiah and the people pledged themselves to the covenant of God, and more reforms and "cleaning" were carried out. Finally, King Josiah hosted a huge Passover celebration; this hadn't happened for years. All of the people of Judah, and some from Israel, joined the celebration and worship of God.
Now that you know his track record, let's hear the rest of the story. In Josiah's 31st year as King, The Egyptian king and his army wanted to cross over Judah to get to a battle with someone else. "Just let me scoot across here," he said, "I have no quarrel with you." (My paraphrase.)  He was even inspired by God to tell Josiah that he should not meddle in this situation.
Now, whether Josiah thought he could meddle and keep the two factions from fighting, or whether he just wanted to keep the other king out of his land, he should have obeyed the message from God, and minded his own business.
But he didn't. (You knew I was going to say that, right?) He went into battle and was mortally wounded --- and Judah slipped right back into their old sinful ways.

If we stick our noses into a dispute that is not ours; if we rush to take sides in a quarrel that has nothing to do with us; oh, the consequences are often pretty distasteful. Let's heed Solomon here, and learn to mind our own business!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Proverbs 26: 13-16 Spiritually slothful

13 A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road,
    a fierce lion roaming the streets!”
14 As a door turns on its hinges,
    so a sluggard turns on his bed.
15 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
    he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.
16 A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
    than seven people who answer discreetly.

Wouldn't you know it? This passage of verses would just pop right up, after I didn't get up on time this morning . . . in fact, I hit the snooze on my alarm more than once! But I don't think that is what Solomon is talking about here. 

In previous proverbs, we've seen that the slothful man, or the sluggard (very similar) is too lazy to roast the food that he hunted and brought back. We've seen that he won't plow because he says it's too cold outside. He (or she, don't forget!) will make excuses for laziness and passivity, instead of being diligent and working hard.

Did you know that there are spiritual sluggards, too? Someone who is not only too lazy to do anything for himself; but in verse 16, we're told that this sluggard also considers himself to be the only person who really knows anything!

The spiritual sluggard is one who will not dive deeply into God's word and feed himself.  The sluggard depends on the pastor to give him all of the wisdom that he needs from the scriptures. The slothful Christian thinks it is too time-consuming to look at the study notes, flip over to the cross-reference verses and study. The sluggard much prefers to be spoon-fed theology, and comforts himself with the thought that "they've been to seminary, and know so much more than I do." Instead of searching for herself in her Bible, the spiritual sluggard will complacently accept what she hears.  If we are slothful, we may feel that there is no real power in the Bible, but it's because we are not working at our study!

Let's try not to be sluggards. Instead of leaving the church and not thinking about the sermon topic any further, let's look for verses that apply to the topic, and study them. Let's make sure that we believe something because we have studied it and found it to be true -- not just because someone told us so. Let's ask our children what they thought of the sermon, or what they learned in their Sunday School or study group -- and study along with them. Let's meditate on verses from the Bible, and let's repeat them to ourselves when we feel stressed. Let's call our brothers and sisters by name in our prayers.
All of these may seem like work. They may seem difficult at first. But if we incorporate these concepts into our lives, we will experience the power that our Father has promised us.
And we won't be sluggards. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Proverbs 26:12 Wise -- in whose eyes?

12 Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?
    There is more hope for a fool than for them.

My KJV translates this as " Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit?" So I think we should check out some definitions here . . . lessee, I found haughty, arrogant, proud, pompous. Whoa! I think that's enough! I definitely can see that this is a person that I don't want to spend any time around!!

Oh. The Holy Spirit just told me that I'm that way sometimes. Ouch.

Did he nudge you, too? Ouch again.

Conceit can be used in the sense of a thought, or an opinion. Something that we have thought up, and carefully crafted, and that we want other people to admire. We'll tell them about it, and then sit back expectantly, waiting for them to oooh and aaaah over it (and us). We aren't thinking about Who gave us the imagination and inspiration to come up with that special idea!
Conceit can also be used in the sense of our own opinion of ourself -- an opinion in which we are elevated above the everyday, the average, the "obviously un-imaginative people that we are constantly surrounded with, and that we have to put up with, in order to get anything done."  Ummm, not a good way to think about others, right?

It's sad when a Christian exhibits these tendencies. It saddens me to think that I have sometimes appeared this way to others. What is even more sad, is that we are turning people away from the faith that we wish they would find -- pushing and shoving them away, because no one wants to be around that kind of person! The things that we should aspire to, like humility, modesty, and sweetness of spirit, are far more appealing to the unsaved person that we want to reach (and more appealing to our Christian brothers and sisters, too!).

I think it might help me avoid this if I have some verses tucked into my "survival belt" . . .
Philippians 2:3 tells me: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
And Romans 12:3 says: For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

I want to be a helper to the Spirit, not a hindrance!   

Monday, September 24, 2012

Proverbs 26:11 Again and again

11 As a dog returns to its vomit,
    so fools repeat their folly.

This is a rather unpleasant verse, but Solomon has a great truth here for us.

Ever seen your dog go outside and munch on grass? He hasn't suddenly turned over a new leaf and taken up vegetarianism . . . something is troubling his stomach, and he wants relief. The grass will make him vomit, and then his tummy will stop bothering him.
But, yeah, he will sometimes go right back and ingest what was hurting his stomach, and go through the whole process again.
Thank you, Solomon.

Actually, yes, thank you Solomon. You have illustrated for us a concept that we need to be aware of, as we try to witness to and minister to others. If an unsaved person, a sinner, a fool as it were, tries to tell us that he has figured out just what his problem is --- and he will never go back to the problem again, just remember this verse. It will help you understand.
Without God's grace, that person will continue to be pulled in again and again by the particular sin that is his "folly." It may be alcohol, or it may be drugs. It could be the crowd that he/she wants to run with. It could be sexual sin, or it could be gambling. The list of possibilities is as long as the years that Satan has been roaming this earth, "seeking whom he may devour." (I Peter 5:8)

The person may muster up an extra dose of will-power. They may have someone that they know, to hold them accountable. They may have a token or talisman in their pocket that will remind them of their determination to avoid that sin. They may be enrolled in an awesome self-help course that promises results.
But when that accountability-friend is not there, or their will-power wanes, there they go again . . . back to that same sin that they swore they'd avoid.
Sometimes they are facing personal catastrophe; sometimes they are hurting the family that loves them; sometimes they are disillusioning their peers. It's just human nature, they say. I can't help it.

And you know what? They are right. They can't.
The Person who can help is our Father God; He can change them. He can make them a new creature, and give them hope, and guide them. As long as he/she stops trying to do it himself!
If that sinner will trust in Christ, and get into His word -- then wait on the Lord to lead, then they will experience success. 
Don't jump out ahead of God, for you will make the same mistakes as before -- Wait on the Lord to lead you, for His timing is perfect. Even if it seems like it will take "forever" He will guide you, through His word and your prayer life.
Don't trust yourself . . . trust Him.
If you are ministering to someone who is in this destructive cycle, try to remember this, and be compassionate to them as you try to witness.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Proverbs 26:10 Aren't you glad He is patient?

10  The great God that formed all things both rewards the fool, and rewards transgressors.

The commentaries actual say some conflicting things about this verse, and some translations have very different words here. I went back to my old faithful King James, and as I studied, I was struck by this fact . . . our Father is so patient.

Not that we are always happy about that. Sometimes we are like little kids and we want to see God point His finger at the wicked sinner that is causing us trouble, or that has more goodies and prosperity than we do, and zap 'em with some lightning. Leave a little sooty spot behind, nothing more.

Listen to what Job said, as he said in chapter 21:
7 Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? 8 They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. 9 Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not upon them. 10 Their bulls never fail to breed; their cows calve and do not miscarry. 11 They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about. 12 They sing to the music of tambourine and harp; they make merry to the sound of the flute. 13 They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace. 14 Yet they say to God, 'Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. 15 Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?'
I had to chuckle when I read that --- Job says that even their livestock lead charmed lives! On a more serious note, Jeremiah asked a similar question in Jer. 12:1:
You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? 
And Jesus addressed this, too:
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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. (Matthew 5:43-45)
Sure, it bothers us that the wicked people can prosper now. Sure, we know that we are in it for the long haul -- that our rewards will be mighty in the eternal scheme of things. And that is nothing to belittle . . . it's a promise to treasure. Jesus' words in Matthew tell us that, for the Christian, God’s patience, His mercy on those who have no regard for Him, is an example for us to follow in treating those who hate us.
If our holy and righteous Father can be patient and kind, then so can we. The time of the sinner, of the fool and the transgressor, is coming.  Don't fuss and fume about it. After all, we should be glad that He had patience with us --- He could have terminated our lives before the light of His truth dawned on us!
God will settle these accounts in His own time --- He gives sinful men and women lots of time to repent and turn their lives around.
II Peter 3:9 tells us: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
I don't know about you, but I sure am glad that He was patient with me!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Proverbs 26:6-9 Does it add up?

6 Like cutting off one's feet or drinking violence is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool.   
7 Like a lame man's legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.  
8 Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool.  
9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

 These four verses have something in common . . . Solomon is saying that these things "don't add up." In other words, they don't make sense.

First of all, you would not send an important or confidential message by entrusting it to someone who you knew was foolish, would you? They might not value the importance of the message, and dilly-dally instead of hurrying to deliver it for you. They might also tell other people your confidential information, instead of keeping it secret. 

Next, a proverb, or wise saying, is useless in the mouth of a foolish person --- they will more than likely turn it into a jest or joke, and make fun of it. So the wise words become useless, like the lame man's legs which he cannot use to walk or run.

We've already talked about giving honor to a foolish person --- Solomon says here that it would be like tying a stone in a sling. Remember David's sling that he put the stone into, and then used the sling to hurl the rock at Goliath and kill him? Well, what do you think would happen if you put the stone into the sling and then tied it shut? Yep, you're right --- nothing would happen, because the rock couldn't come out of the sling! 

Lastly, he mentions again that a proverb in a foolish person's mouth is like a thorn in a drunkard's hand: it hurts him and he tries to get rid of it as soon as he can, by flailing around and perhaps harming others. 

It occurred to me as I studied these verses, that we need to make sure that our lives "add up." If we say we are Christians, there will be those who quietly, carefully watch us. Do our lives show that we are "walking the walk," or that we are just "talking the talk?" Are we an example in what we say and do?

Do the things we say, and the things that we do, add up?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Proverbs 26:4-5 Good answers

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    or he will be wise in his own eyes.

That was my response, gentle reader, when I first read these two verses. I knew I needed help, so I turned to Matthew Henry's and John Gill's commentaries . . .

John Gill covers these verses by telling us that one should not answer a fool at all. He cites as examples the ministers of Hezekiah and King Hezekiah himself, who did not respond directly to Rabshekah, the field commander of the Assyrian king. (You can read the whole story in Isaiah 36-39.) 
There was a time when Christ did not respond to the railing of the scribes and the Pharisees, either. Check out the passage in John 8. There was an onslaught of questions, aimed at cornering and discrediting Him, and He simply did not answer.

Matthew Henry notes that the proverbs here are cautioning us against answering the foolish question in the same manner in which it was asked -- to avoid responding to anger with anger, railing with railing, sarcasm with the same, etc.  When we answer a foolish person, we must do it in wisdom, to keep him from thinking he has "won the argument" and puffing him up with pride about his superior intellect and reasoning!  In other words, you don't let the person get away with his foolishness, but don't respond in the same manner in which he proposed the question. And, sometimes, silence is golden -- especially if we realize that answering would make our argument or solution appear weak, because we are not fully prepared to answer in wisdom.

Now there are some real, rational questions that people may raise when discussing the Christian faith. But we all probably know people who think up questions that they know are not constructive; going round and round on a trivial issue with someone who is being hostile, combative, and argumentative is not going to accomplish anything --- except that you might begin to lose your composure and then lose your effectiveness as a witness. Someone watching the two of you might have a difficult time deciding who was the Christian, and who was not! 

We can be better prepared for these situations by immersing ourselves in His word; by knowing the scriptures backwards and forwards; by praying for the opportunity to share with someone who is willing to hear.
 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. I Peter 3:15-16

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Proverbs 26:3 Herding ducklings

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
    and a rod for the backs of fools!

Some of you may recall from my other blog that our family is raising eight orphaned ducklings.  They are a lot of fun, and they can also be a fair amount of work.
We have constructed a movable pen, so that they can be in different areas of our yards from day to day, and the wire play yard can be easily moved as well, to encompass their sand box "pool." (It seems that hanging on to things that the kids outgrew can be a good thing.) 
Each day, they have two "outings" where they are free from the fence and can explore and graze. We supervise them, since they have no duckie mama to tell them what is and is not dangerous. With the help of our dog, who has herding instincts in her heritage, we gently herd them away from the densely wooded areas, away from the automobiles, etc., etc.  One evening while I was trying to turn them back from the cars (don't want them to get too accustomed to cars; when they are turned loose on the lake, they will avoid the roads) I realized that this was similar to what God does with His children. He gives us opportunities to venture out, and be more daring, and try things that we've not tried before --- but always He is there, gently turning us back from what is dangerous. 
Of course, when we don't heed the gentle guidance, that's when this verse comes into play!
Horses and donkeys start out in a herd . . . the ratio of cowboy (human) to horses may be as large as 1 to 50. It's the one-on-one time, the training, where there is one human and one horse, where the learning takes place. The horse learns to obey the bridle and the whip, to go where his human trainer wishes for him to go. 
That should be what happens in our relationship with our Father -- He is far gentler at first; no bridle or whip is used. We can receive His guidance in our prayer time and in our study of His word. Our conscience can speak to us and we can follow.
If we are foolish, however, our Father's only recourse may be discipline. Solomon says in the verse above, that the fool must be chastened and taught by a "rod" applied to his back. Why is it that sometimes we refuse to learn, unless God chastens and disciplines us? It is more painful and more difficult. Why don't we learn our lessons?
It all stems from our former nature - that sinful self that Christ changed when he saved us -- and the constant battle between our old self and the new spiritual nature:
II Corinthians 5:17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
And yes, it is a struggle -- check out Romans 7:15-25, where Paul tells us that he is frustrated because he keeps doing the things he knows he should not, and he is not doing the things he should.
Jesus knew we would experience this, when He said: "... the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41)
We need to try to heed Peter's instructions in I Peter 1:14 . . . As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
Peter knew what he was talking about, too, for he struggled with these issues. Let's be determined and pray to God to guide us; let's pay attention to the gentle guidance, and avoid the chastening and discipline if we can!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Proverbs 26:2 Sparrows and curses

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST: Please join me in prayer as Tonya's hubby goes into surgery today. Many of you will recall that Tonya started this blog, and we miss her!  Her hubby allowed his health to go untended for too long, and is now in the hospital. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors, as they attempt to regulate his blood sugar levels, and as they remove his gall bladder today. Pray also for Tonya as she comforts her two sons during this time; pray for strength for her as she shoulders even more responsibilities in the coming days, until Jerry is recovered. You can read about his condition at Tonya's blog.

2  Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
    an undeserved curse does not come to rest.

I had some trouble getting my head around this one, for I was looking at it a little bit sideways . . . I was thinking that even if it is undeserved, a malicious comment can still cause hurt to the innocent victim.
After reading some commentaries and studying, I understand now that "curse" means something different. Here it means the invoking (or asking) of evil upon another, with no justification for it. Let's look at a couple of Bible references, and we can understand.

In I Samuel 17, we can read the familiar story of David and Goliath. If you have time, I hope you will re-read it, so that we can fully explore this. You'll see in verse 43 that Goliath cursed David by the Philistine gods. Nevertheless, in the power of God, David was triumphant over Goliath --- the curses were as ineffective as a tiny bird, fluttering about and never coming to light on David. The curse did not "come to rest" on him.

In the book of Numbers, Balak, king of Moab, hired a prophet of God, Balaam, for the purpose of cursing the children of Israel. Moab figured that way he could be victorious over them in the battle. Balaam warned him that he could not curse God's people, and he was right -- blessings came out of his mouth instead. Not once, but three times! (You can check it out in Numbers 22-24.) Because there was no justification for it, the curse did not "come to rest."

Another example is in II Samuel chapter 21: Shimei, who apparently was a very spiteful guy, pelted David with dirt and rocks, cursing him. He accused him of several things which David had actually not done (we know this by reading the chapters previous) and King David decided to restrain his soldiers, ignore the cursing, and arrive at his destination unscathed. Again, the curse did not come to rest.

In sharp contrast is the situation where Elisha cursed the "youths" (which actually must have been a mob, by most commentaries, as 42 were mauled by the bear) who were mocking and insulting him. Since Elisha was the prophet of God, it was as if they were mocking and insulting Him, and Elisha asked God to deal with them as He would. This was a curse with justification, and it definitely came to rest.

Again, in the ninth chapter of Judges, Jotham is the main character who curses both Abimelech, and the men of Shechem, who conspire, murder, and more, to install Abimelech as king. Jotham's curse of death by fire comes true later for the men of Shechem, and Abimelech dies an ignominious death, being felled by a millstone.
So, an undeserved curse will be harmless. To be cursed or insulted by mere men, for doing what is right, or what is good, will affect us only as much as a tiny bird flitting about.  When we reprove evil, proclaim an unpopular truth, or pursue a righteous course which runs against popular opinion, we may be cursed. But what of it? The prophets of old were insulted, Christ was cursed and spat upon, and the disciples were mocked and cursed, as well.
Perhaps this is what Jesus referred to, when He said:
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)
This has been a lengthy study, but I hope it will be a blessing for someone who needed to hear it, and be encouraged to "keep on keeping on."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Slowdown

I'm inviting all of you to join me in a "Friday Slowdown" today. In the world we live in, there are constant demands on our time and our emotions. Sometimes it seems we can't catch our breath!

There are so many things to occupy our attention --- and most all of them are good things. Things which are worthy of our time and our involvement. But life can certainly get frenzied, can't it?

Some of us are dealing with thorny issues; some of us are anguishing about situations in the lives of our family members, or in our own lives. All of these are issues which we should bring to the throne of our Father, and "cast our cares upon Him, for He cares" for us. Careful, now. Don't reach back up and pull those things back into your own care. Leave them there for Him.

Some of us are dealing with things that make us wonder, "why, Lord?" We may struggle and wriggle and cry out to Him, both in prayer, and aloud. I was having a time like that, this past week, when I heard this song. It was so meaningful for me, that I wanted to share it with you. You may click on the link if you would like to hear the music, or if you prefer, you can scroll down to simply read the lyrics.

I hope that this blesses your heart, and that you will find time for your own Friday Slowdown, when you can spend time with Him. Let Him heal and repair the things that need mending in your life.

"Blessings" by Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Proverbs 26:1 Snow in July

1  Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
    honor is not fitting for a fool.

I believe this verse is talking about when things seem appropriate, and when they don't.We've all heard the expressions and cliches about having snow in the summertime --- it just doesn't seem right. Snow belongs in the winter months, right? When it does happen, it is so unusual that it is heralded on the news!

Rain in the harvest times of Solomon's era would have seemed just as unusual. The typical weather for their harvests was fairly dry . . . and it needed to be. Their agricultural methods were uniquely different from today. There were no huge combines to creep across the fields and harvest ripened grain --- they actually cut their grain before it was ripe, and gathered it into "sheaves" or bundles that would stand upright in the fields. Standing up like this allowed rain and dew to drain away, and avoided trapping the moisture as would happen if the bundles were lying on the ground. (Later then the grain was ready, the sheaves would be taken to the threshing floor, where the husks would be shaken or gently beaten to release the grain.) Of course, if there were unusually heavy rains when the sheaves were standing in the fields, some of the crop would be lost.

Just like snow in the summer, and heavy rains in the ancient harvest times; it is unusual, and it is not fitting to praise someone for foolish behavior. David told us in Psalm 14:1,
The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good.
But in our culture, it is troubling (and not fitting) that wicked men and women are praised as heros and held up as people whom we should emulate! Their sins and their excesses are celebrated.
Let's look at Psalm 12:7-8:
You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
    and will protect us forever from the wicked,
who freely strut about
    when what is vile is honored by the human race.
We learned in the very first chapter of Proverbs that fools despise wisdom and knowledge, and won't listen to instruction.
We need to make certain that the people that we honor, the people we praise and celebrate and allow to influence us and our families, are godly people --- not foolish people!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Proverbs 25:28 Broken walls

28 Like a city whose walls are broken through
    is a person who lacks self-control.

It's awfully hard to control our own will, our desires, our emotions, and our minds. Our Father knows that, and has provided help for us. 
But you know who else knows that? And will use it against us? Satan. Yep, the devil knows exactly how difficult it is, and he is happy to use it for his own devious, awful purposes.
You see, Satan knows (and we should, too) that if we don't control our emotions and will, we are just like a defenseless city: walls broken through, gates falling down. We'll be blown this way and that, like a leaf in a strong wind.  Our relationships with others will be awkward, with those who like or love us constantly wondering, "did I say something to set (insert name here) off?" 

If you are one of those people who has a short fuse, there is something that you can do. God's word can be the best medicine to heal a life and to heal relationships, too. Begin by reading the Bible and asking God to show you what you need, each day. Select small portions of the Scriptures to memorize, and let them become part of you.

When we pray and ask our Father to control us, and try not to let our emotions and will control us, He can help and comfort us. When Satan puts that certain person in our path, that knows just the "right buttons" to push, we can quickly ask God to assist us. Then, instead of exploding and harming our testimony, we can react in a better way. And you know what? That whole process is what is known as "sanctification," which is something that Jesus prayed for, for His disciples and for us. (It simply means to be set aside for God's purpose, and so becoming more and more like Christ.)
John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Proverbs 25:27 Glory be!

         It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one's own honor.

When I looked at the King James translation of this verse, I noticed that the second part read this way: "for men to search for their own glory is not glory."
It's human nature to seek the glory. And it's in our nature to give glory. Sometimes, tho, it's easy to get wrapped up in the glory of things that don't matter in the long run . . .

This time of year, a huge percentage of our population gets caught up in sports fever. Names become famous overnight --- who threw the longest completed pass, who made the longest touchdown run, who made that fantastic tackle that stopped the runner and saved the game, etc., etc.
It's ironic that the same things can happen in the lives of Christians --- who has the largest church, who has to hold several services on Sunday to fit everyone in, who has the largest program of giving and missions, etc., etc.

Sound familiar?
All of these things are good things to strive for, and wonderful to accomplish, but to whom are we giving the glory? That is what we must be careful of.
Giving God the credit for what He has helped us to accomplish is the best way to avoid the traps of self-glorification and pride. Listen to what Paul said in I Corinthians chapter one: "Therefore, as it is written: "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord."  Sounds like Paul is quoting from an Old Testament scripture, doesn't it? Let's check out Jeremiah 9:23-24:
23 This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.
If we seek God's glory, and praise His name in all things, then we are putting the credit and the glory right where it belongs!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Proverbs 25:26 Don't muddy the water

26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
    are the righteous who give way to the wicked.

I did some study on this verse, and what the NIV translates as "give way" here, has the meaning of falling down in front of -- this can be a moral falling or a lack of accountability. Let me explain what I mean. . .

When a spring or a well has been muddied, or polluted, it's pretty much worthless at that point. You can't water your animals --- they'll turn up their noses sometimes. You can't draw water for your household --- who would want to drink it, or wash in it? It really isn't useful after it has become dirty.

I'm sure that everyone has seen or heard of a situation where a Christian of some renown, whether a pastor, and evangelist, or just a well-known layperson, has been caught in a moral "fail." Sometimes a major one. For a while, that's all you hear about: the sin, the why, the wherefore, the when, and lots of gory details. The newspapers, the blogs, and the networks have a field day mocking and denouncing the Christian faith. It sounds like the situation David the king found himself in, when the prophet Nathan told him, "by this deed thous hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme..." (II Samuel 12:14a, King James version)
Matthew Henry's commentary gives a second meaning to the verse. He notes that when a good man or woman, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is afraid to "call" the wicked on their sin, and instead is fearful to hold them accountable, then that person has "given way" to the wicked, and this verse applies to him or her. We've discussed before that there are ways to confront a person that God has placed in our pathway, so that we have an opportunity to witness. There are kind and gracious ways to do it --- but if instead, we turn away, or worse yet, condone the sin, then we will be held accountable for our omission. I've even known an unsaved person to point out that lack of witness in someone before; to them, it was a sign of hypocrisy.

We must remember what Jesus told us:
 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

If we deliberately do wrong, and fall, or if we deliberately refrain from witnessing, the world will grab that and look upon it as hypocrisy. We must be careful to keep our testimony "straight as an arrow" as Peter told us: 
 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:11-12)
Let's be careful not to muddy the water!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Proverbs 25:25 Good news!

25 Like cold water to a weary soul
    is good news from a distant land.

When I read this verse and began to study, I was drawn down memory lane. You'll have to pardon me, but I recalled when our vocal ensemble was preparing for a tour. Our director had chosen a spiritual for us to work on, called "Poor Man Lazrus." At first, when we sightread through the music, we were all giggling, because as teenagers, it was cause for merriment to be able to say the word "hell" in song --- after all, we weren't supposed to say it! After we'd calmed down and digested the gospel message contained in the spiritual, it became one of our most treasured songs, and we were able to point listeners to Christ in the services when we sang, by delivering this song with all our hearts.

I know that you can find it on Youtube if you wish to hear it, but I just want to note the lyrics here for you:
Poor man Lazrus, sick and disabled,
He had to eat crumbs from the rich man's table.
Rich man Dives, he lived so well,
But when he died, he went straight to hell.
Dip your fingers in the water, come and cool my tongue, 'cause I'm tormented in the flame....

Let's pause for a moment and look at the gospel of Luke. In chapter 16, verses 19-31 tell us the story. In mortal life, Lazarus was a poor man, who was only able to reach for and receive the crumbs from the rich man's table.  Dives (this word means "rich man" and may not be his actual name), on the other hand, lived well. Plenty to eat and drink, and high quality, too. And yet, we can see from the parable that he had little compassion for Lazarus - gave him nothing. He was lucky to get whatever crumbs he could from Dives table. What a contrast in the after-life: Lazarus was comfortably resting in the fellowship of Father Abraham, while Dives was tormented in the flames of hell. He asked first for a few drops of water -- just what would cling to Lazarus' fingertips and be shaken out onto Dives' tongue . . . when Abraham told him how dire (and how permanent) his situation was, he suddenly changed gears and asked for his five brothers to be told of his plight --- he wanted them to be able to avoid the hell he found himself in.

Just like that cold water would have been to Dives, so is our good news that we can, and should share with others. Our good news is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the good news from a far country, for all of the souls that are thirsty for God's love. Let's share this gospel --- first, by our behavior and words, and quiet testimony of how we live. Then, as others are drawn to the Spirit in us, let us answer their questions of how we have peace and contentment, and forgiveness of sins -- how we have hope for eternal life with our Father. That's good news!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Proverbs 25: 23 -24 Sly and quarrelsome - twin problems

23 Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain
    is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look.
24 Better to live on a corner of the roof
    than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. 

Solomon addresses two issues here, but they are related. They are both problems of the tongue. 

In verse 23, a sly tongue is compared to a cold wind that is bringing an unexpected storm --- and indeed, a conniving tongue can definitely result in some stormy weather for the person who is being spoken or gossiped about. We must remove gossip, backbiting, and sly words from our vocabularies; they can destroy families, friendships and even congregations! 

In verse 24, we are reminded of Solomon's words in the 21st chapter of Proverbs, which tells us essentially the same thing. I was able to find a drawing that represents a home of Biblical times, showing the ingenious use of the rooftops for more space, and more ventilation. Solomon is telling us that it would be better to live in one tiny corner of one of those rooftops, than to share a house with a quarrelsome spouse.
The thesaurus notes a great many synonyms for "quarrelsome" --- argumentative, cross, peevish, bad-tempered, thin-skinned, petulant . . . hmmm, thin-skinned, eh? How many times have I jumped at someone's comment, to find that they didn't mean it in a negative way?  Petulant? How many times have I agreed with my spouse, but made certain that my tone showed my disappointment? You mean, I've been a quarrelsome wife? Ouch!

1 Peter 3:9-11
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Let's be determined to guard our tongues!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Proverbs 25: 21-22 How to be an overcomer

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
    if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you. 

Anybody besides me have trouble with this in their lives? Honestly? Come on! It's a lot easier to just look and act and sound all spiritual, but actually putting it into practice . . . that's a whole different animal.

It's perfectly natural (ie., human) to want to hurt those who hurt us. That's the way of the world. You do something spiteful to me, I do something spiteful back at you.

Oh, but wait a minute. We are told to be "in" the world, but not "of" the world. Ya think that means we shouldn't "get back" at that person? If you think that, you'd be right.

Jesus reinforced this concept when He told His listeners, " But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28)
Again, these may be some of the toughest verses to obey in our daily lives. And many Christian brothers and sisters will peer past these to other verses that they like better. Ones that are not so tough to act upon. But we can't pick and choose -- we must pay attention to all of the verses!
Paul gently reminded us of these, in his letter to the Romans:
 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Did you notice the last sentence? "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." That, I believe, is the key.  We can't allow ourselves to be vanquished, or subdued, by the injuries of others. We cannot allow our kindness, our good temper, our testimony to be ruffled and then damaged by opposition --- our self control will show the power of the gospel!
Instead, overcome evil with good - what I mean is that we should vanquish and subdue evil by doing good to others. We can show them the loveliness of a sweet spirit, the power of kindness, and the value of a friendly, agreeable attitude. In so doing, we may disarm them of their own spitefulness, and be the means of bringing them to a relationship with Christ.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I stepped on my own toes today, and I'm going to go and soak them a little (and pray). 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Proverbs 25:20 What can I say?

20 Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
    or like vinegar poured on a wound,
    is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

I'll never forget the time that I was with a group of grieving family members who had experienced their loss within the last twenty-four hours, and hearing one of the extended family chirping cheerfully about how many times they'd experienced the same thing, and how everyone should just "buck up." 
That floored me.
Even Job's friends, who are criticized for their lack of understanding, waited with Job for seven days before they opened their mouths! (Check it out for yourself: Job 2:11-13)
In Romans, Paul gives advice that goes right along with Solomon's words:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  Romans 12:15
When you are suffering, and mourning, it seems there is a huge weight on top of you. In your mind, you know that "this too shall pass" and that if that person was a Christian, you will see them again. But your heart is heavy, because you loved and enjoyed that person's company -- and you can't experience that pleasure for a while now, till heaven. 
You are not yet ready to hear that "at least they are not in pain" or "they are in a better place" or that some good will come out of the situation.
And most of the time, the person who says, "I know just how you feel" really doesn't. Some do, of course, but too many mouth the words and don't really know.

Now, those are the negatives; let's look at what we can and should do:
As Christians, we need to be sensitive to the sufferings of others. The absolute best thing that we can do for a friend who is in grief is just . . . be there. Show your support by your quiet presence. Don't try to make things better, and don't, don't make light of that person's suffering. Sorrow and grief are complex processes that people have to go through --- it doesn't make them any less a Christian if they mourn and cry. Even though the pain they feel may never go completely away, it will change. It just takes time.
The time for talking will come. Comfort quietly first, and pray for them, that His peace will enfold them.