Thursday, January 31, 2013

Proverbs 29:1 If it's my time . . .

Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. (NIV)
“He, that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (King James version)
Have you ever heard someone say, "Well, if it's my time to go, there's nothing I can do about it." Usually they are discussing life and death, and expressing the opinion that no one can know for certain when it will happen. They may say it with a wry smile, yet it is a sobering thought. 

There is a moment in time that is coming for each of us. A date with destiny, if you will. For Christians it will be a homecoming. For the unsaved, a day of reckoning. Many people avoid talking about these matters -- they are afraid they will "turn people off" and offend them. As Christians, though, we have a responsibility -- yes, a duty to talk about them.

As sinners, we certainly don't deserve to have a holy God speak to us. Yet, time and again, He will speak and reprove. Sometimes it is through His servants: pastors, teachers, and our friends. Sometimes it is through sermons or the scriptures; sometimes a situation can speak to us and draw us to Him. And especially winning is the Holy Spirit, in His efforts to draw us to Christ. When God speaks to us, do we consider it an option? A suggestion? Do we treat it that casually?

When you read that section "hardeneth his neck" what do you think of? I believe that Solomon was talking about stubborness, defiance, contempt, and even outright disobedience. No, no, that's not me . . . can't be me. 
No? Has He whispered to us about a certain sin that we need to put away? Have we been procrastinating? "I'll do that tomorrow" we say.  But can we be assured that there will be a tomorrow? 
How about pride? When He speaks to us about that certain sin, do we repent, or do we look at others around us and think, "Well, even if I have this sin, I'm doing better than they are!" 
How about pleasure? Are we "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God"? (II Tim. 3:4) Might we have to change our life-style to give up that sin? Oh, is it "too much" to give up? Well, the only things that God will ask us to give up, are things that hurt us. "No good things will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." (Psalm 84:11)
If the things will make us holy, happy, healthy, and wholesome, He offers them and says "Take them, you are welcome."  What we give up is nothing compared to what we will receive, and what we give up is also nothing compared to what Christ gave up, and what He endured.
The last portion of the verse says that change, that moment in time, is surely coming. For sinners, it will be sudden, and settled -- no way to go back and change. We must convey this message to the unsaved that we know . . . we want to see them in heaven!
For Christians, that moment in time will signal an end to the opportunity to have shed that sin, and to have received those blessings on earth that He had planned for us. Yes, we will be with Him in heaven. 
But might we, because of our "hard necks," have missed a little of heaven on earth? Let's pray and ask the Spirit to point out the things that we need to change . . . let's open our arms to the blessings that He wants to give us here on earth.    

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Proverbs 28:28 The silent majority

When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

Sometimes proverbs are a little difficult to understand . . . other times they make us sit back and think, "Duh! I knew that." 

Solomon here is instructing his son to place righteous men in places of power and judgement. He says that will encourage the people of righteousness to be visible, to be active, to be involved. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the situation of wicked kings and leaders -- the righteous "go into hiding" and are not visible, or involved.

In I Kings chapter 19, we read the story of the 7,000 righteous citizens who were in hiding, not publicizing themselves, in the day of Ahab and Jezebel. I'm sure that these people asked themselves, "Why risk persecution and retaliation? Why subject the truth of God to ridicule?" And so, they took themselves out of the limelight, out of the public marketplace of ideas.
The New Testament churches did the same; they worshipped in individual's homes, and in Rome, they utilized the maze of catacombs beneath the city.

By contrast, there are examples of leaders who inspired others to become more righteous. In II Chronicles 15, King Asa turned to the God of his fathers, and even citizens from other nations joined him in his quest for the true God. Also in II Chronicles, King Hezekiah inspired others to turn to God, and in Esther, the removal of wicked Haman caused many to adopt the Jewish faith and worship God.

The wisdom is fairly easy for us to follow. Put good people in positions of leadership, and good people will come forth. Put a wicked person in power, and these good and valuable people will disappear -- perhaps from contempt of the wicked person, or perhaps from fear of persecution.  We can see this in businesses, in churches, and in our families. A wise and righteous leader inspires those in his charge to be wise and righteous.
Many saints of God today, referred to sometimes as the "silent majority" are in hiding. They are hiding from the world that seems determined to undermine and destroy what they believe in. It's understandable. At the same time, we can be inspired by God's promises to be more vocal, a not-so-silent majority, and impact this world for our Lord!
Isaiah 54:17 weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Prayer Requests

This is our regularly scheduled group prayer and share time.

I hope that you will check out the requests and updates on the Prayer Request page, and if you have an update or a new request, that you will add it in a comment below.

It is a privilege for all of us to be able to join together on our knees and support one another in prayer. May God bless you as you pray today.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Proverbs 28:27 The lion and the mouse

He that gives to the poor shall not lack: but he that hides his eyes shall have many a curse. Proverbs 28:27

Our buddy Solomon is just re-phrasing a principle that was found in the Law -- be generous to those who have less than you do, and you will not lack what you need; you will receive a blessing from God. It was a physical reward for a physical offering. 

Real, tangible, you-can-hold-it-in-your-hand results.

In the New Testament, there are lots of verses that address this issue. We've looked at some of them already, when we have studied verses that are similar to this one. But I found something in Corinthians that really inspired me . . . let me show you:
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.    II Corinthians 8:8-14
Paul was discussing the churches and the way that they could assist one another --- from one who had abundance, to another who had need.  Did you see the bold type? Of course, that is my emphasis that I added, to draw our attention to it. It's kinda like the old story of the lion and the mouse. Remember? The mouse pleaded for his life and the lion let him go. He told the lion that someday when he was in trouble, the mouse would help him . . . and he did, when the lion was caught in a net. The mouse helped him to escape.

Now, please don't misunderstand me here. I'm not promising, as some will, that you will receive that tangible, hold-it-in-your-hand result. You might! There might be a time when someone whom you have helped, is able to repay your compassion with tangible things that you desperately need. You supplied their need in your time of bounty, and they will supply your need when you are lacking.
There might also be times when the blessing that we receive is a spiritual one:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    their righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!  II Corinthians 9: 6-15
 It's not what we have that is so important --- it's how we use what we have!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Slowdown

Today's Slowdown is an old favorite --- I expect that many of you will be very familiar with this, and I hope you'll sing along!

This is a special song, a reverent song, and I hope that it blesses your heart today.

Psalm 119:105
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Have a blessed weekend, my friends!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Proverbs 28:26 Remember WWJD?

26 ¶ He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.

What pathway are we walking?

I recall that in the 1970's it seemed that all everyone was talking about was "doing your own thing," and "following your heart," and even "gotta find myself, find out who I really am."

It seemed that everyone wanted to replace what was right and wrong, with what "felt" good and felt right at the time. The idea of comparing what we thought we should do, with what the Word of God said, seemed to be forgotten.

Then in the 1990's there was a wave of "What would Jesus do?" It was a positive change, for many would actually stop and think about their actions or their words, and alter their course for the better.  Sometimes they still did the wrong thing, though, for instead of consulting the word of God, they again would go with how they felt --- how their heart led them.

Solomon told us a little something in chapter 3 that is helpful:
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.
And today's verse is a precursor to what Jeremiah told us:
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Wow. Our hearts are not just wicked, before Christ changes us. They are desperately wicked. And each and every day we need His help to become more and more like Him. We simply cannot follow our heart, unless our heart is safely in His hands.
We must walk wisely in the pathway that God our Father has set us upon. We cannot trust in our own hearts, but in the heart of Christ. Deliverance from the day-to-day sin "that does so easily beset us" does not come from trusting in our own hearts, but from trusting in Christ, and letting His word change us day by day.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Proverbs 28:25 Um, Emerson and Rand had it wrong.....

25 ¶ He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.

When I read Ralph Waldo Emerson in high school and college, the independent Me thought he was the bomb. I soaked up the "be self-reliant, be your own person and don't pay attention to what others think (or care about)" attitude, and thought it was great.
When I got to college and read Ayn Rand's writings, I thought those were super, too --- "going your own way" sounded perfect to me.  The old maxim of marching to a different drummer (Thoreau) was appealing.
As I grew older (and I hope, wiser) I began to re-read some of what had appealed to me before, and wondered how I had missed some things . . .
Like this quote from one of the characters in "Atlas Shrugged" who says, "Man --every man -- is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose."  Huh?  How did I miss that -- was I speed-reading and missed it completely?

My take on this now, is that we Christians are supposed to (in fact, the Bible strongly tells us to) put our trust in God, not in man, and not in ourselves. I think you can probably point to many other verses that support this, but here are just a couple:
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this: 

 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,    your vindication like the noonday sun.  Psalm 37: 5-6
  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.  Psalm 118:8
We are to depend on the Lord. His words are to be our final authority in all matters of faith, doctrine, and even everyday life. The Bible is our light when the path grows dark and confusing, and the words in it can shed light on our decisions. We also live in a community of believers who can offer us Biblical wisdom and offer accountability as well. Self reliance? Not.

The word "fat" in scriptures almost always notes bounty, success, and blessings. Check these out:

Genesis 45:18 And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.

Psalm 92:14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;

Solomon is telling us that the proud heart, the person who is arrogant and self-centered, stirs up conflict. Why? Because she or she is always placing their needs above the needs of everyone else. They are often gloating and think they are above reproach -- their way or the highway -- and think that they are the only godly person in the room!  Because of that attitude, they cannot abide with contradiction or competition . . . they make their own life and the lives of those around them miserable.
In contrast, the person who trusts in the Lord shall have an abundant life, a life full of blessings. And the person who can see wisdom and beauty in others will, I believe, find that Emerson and Rand had it wrong, and that Peter had it right:
1Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Proverbs 28:24 Waste not . . .

Whoever robs their father or mother
    and says, “It’s not wrong,”
    is partner to one who destroys.
24 Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer.
 Isn't it interesting when you can study one verse in the Old Testament, and another that is similar in the New? We can do that today, by looking at this verse, and at Matthew 15:5.
In Matthew, Jesus was teaching that it was wicked of children who thought it was no duty of theirs, to help maintain their parents. They did not feel it was their responsibility to help them, to provide for them in their infirmities, or to pay for their needs when their livelihood was spent.
Here in Proverbs, Solomon is noting the wickedness of those who think it is no sin to rob their parents. Rob them? We can't imagine, right?
But there are those who will plead and wheedle for things they want. They will perhaps threaten them, or they will waste the resources of their parents by running into debt and relying on them to "bail them out." 
Sometimes the children will make light of their ways; they will say that their parents have plenty enough to go around, and might as well share it. Or they will say that it will be theirs soon anyway, when their parents pass on, so why not get it now?  But Solomon says that no matter what they say about it, the child who treats his parents this way, is the companion of a destroyer --- no better than a thief or a highwayman --- a robber.
And indeed, one has to wonder, what else will this person do, that would rob his or her own parents?

Now, here is today's application. And I am warning you ahead of time, to go and get the bandaids, for I had to use some myself . . . my toes got stepped on, and I had to get on my knees about this.

We have a heavenly Father who freely gives us blessings. Are we being wasteful of those blessings? Are we robbing our Father? 
Do we plead and wheedle for what we want? When He grants us the desires of our hearts, do we praise Him for it, or do we shamelessly waste those blessings? 
Do we use the blessings as precious resources that we can use to change our world and bring glory to Him, or do we waste them, and then ask Him to "bail us out" of our situation, or worse, out of our sin?  
Do we make light of our sins or do we repent and turn from them? Are we robbing our Father of the glory that is rightfully His?
We may need some extra time today for thoughtful study and prayer. I know I did.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Proverbs 28:23 Like Grandma's tonic

23 ¶ He that rebukes a man afterwards shall find more favor than he that flatters with the tongue.

"It's good for what ails you."

Did you have a grandma, or a great-grandma, that swore by her special tonic? A special preparation . . .a closely guarded recipe . . . it was usually a foul-smelling, terrible-tasting liquid that you had to be held down and your nose clamped shut, so you'd open your mouth to breath, and then there went the spoon! Gulp!

Actually I didn't have a grandma that made me take tonic, but I recall hearing her tell stories of oldsters who had some and dispensed it with regularity, when "it was needed." (Grin)

The whole concept of something that was at first awful, and then good, is one that Solomon is referring to. No, really!

Those who flatter people may please them for a time, but when they've had time for second thoughts, the flattered person may despise them for their dishonesty. Perhaps they've indulged in sin -- if they are later convinced of the evil of their ways, they will be ashamed of the pride and vanity they showed, and how easily they were flattered. They'll be convinced (and they'll be correct) that the flatterer did badly by them, and that the dishonesty had an ill effect upon them.

One who reproves or rebukes their friend may have to bear the brunt of that friend's displeasure at the first, but when the passion is over, and the bitter "pill" has done its work, they will respect their friend for the courage and the love shown to them. If we deal faithfully with our friend, in telling her of her sin, at the present time there could be harsh words and argument. We may receive no thanks for having done our duty --- until later. Our friend will acknowledge our kindness, our wisdom, and our faithfulness to them. Our friendship will deepen. 

No one likes to hear bad things about their behavior --- and if it is done with a self-righteous or pompous attitude, it surely will not be well received! But our advice to our friends should be based on our own experience, and on a knowledge of God's word. And it should be given with kindness, love, and a sweet spirit . . . as one who has been "in their shoes." If we are a true friend, we will be less concerned with someone's immediate approval of our words, as we are concerned with that person's long-term benefit and relationship with our Father.

We studied in Proverbs chapter 9:
Proverbs 9:8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.

Kinda like that tonic Grandma talked about, eh?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Slowdown

Today's Friday Slowdown is a call to consider all of the blessings that God has given to us so freely ...


When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Proverbs 28:22 An evil eye?

A stingy man is eager to get rich and is unaware that poverty awaits him. Proverbs 28:22

The King James translation reads like this:

22 ¶ He that is hasty to be rich has an evil eye, and considers not that poverty shall come upon him.

An evil eye? Let's look at this and see what Solomon is talking about . . . I think it might be what Jesus talked about in Matthew, chapter 6:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
In verse 23, the KJV reads, "if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness."  Healthy eyes will be focused on what we can do to glorify Him and to lay up treasures in our heavenly home. An evil eye will be fixed on worldly things, seeing wealth in the wrong way, greedily trying to get more and more. 
The way we look at things, our viewpoint, determines how we will live. Are we tantalized by every get-rich-quick scheme? Do we daydream about what we'll do when we have it all? Or do we view earthly wealth as a way to bless others as God has blessed us?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Proverbs 28:21 Out of the mouths of Romans

To show partiality is not good--yet a man will do wrong for a piece of bread.  Proverbs 28:21

"...that he might be hired, for a morsel of bread, to speak or hold his peace.”  Cato the Elder, Roman stateman and orator

That Roman politician had it right --- sometimes we humans will do things for the most basic of needs . . . food, peer approval, etc. 

I think we have all seen examples in our world of people who show partiality, based on a person's rank, social standing, or the fact that they can "do something" for someone. They are wealthy; they are powerful; they receive different treatment. We hear about government officials who accept bribes and we hear of local officials who bend the rules for that "certain someone" that they want to treat differently.

As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. God the Father knew that we humans would act this way, so he even gave instructions in the Law:

Deuteronomy 1:17 You shall not respect persons in judgment; but you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.

Deuteronomy 16:19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
Remember that term that we've discussed before?  "Respect of persons" . . . that's the same as partiality, right?

I am so very glad that God does not show partiality due to social status or wealth (or lack of it), or the family that I was born into, or any other thing. The only thing He sees when He looks at me is the blood of my savior, Jesus!
We must, in our efforts to be more and more like Christ, pay no attention to the outer trappings of the people we meet and interact with. We must look beyond --- not be a respecter of person, not be partial --- and see the child of God who is loved and deserves the same blessings and mercy that we have been given so freely.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Prayer Requests

I received an email recently with an excellent suggestion; the writer asked if we could routinely have a special time of prayer and add requests that are on our hearts.

I felt that this was indeed something that we need to do. There are many broken and hurting hearts and many situations that truly need the healing touch of our Father.

If you have a need for prayer, or you know of someone who needs our prayers, please feel free to leave a note in the comment section. You don't have to give a lot of details -- in fact, you can just say that you have an unspoken request if you like.

God knows the details, and when the rest of us are on our knees in prayer and mention that request, the Holy Spirit will help us, and our Father will know just the situation we are praying about.

Please let us join you, in your "fighting the good fight." Perhaps you are at war with Satan and his helpers, or perhaps you or a family member are battling sickness or despair. "Cast your cares upon Him" for He truly does care for you.

Remember as you pray, to praise Him for answered prayer, to claim the verses that promise His help, and to ask forgiveness for sins in your life that would interfere with His work. Then pray for any requests here, and those on our Prayer Page. Assure Him that you will wait on His timing, and thank Him for what He will do.
I thank all of you who have prayed for me, and I praise Him that our son has come back to us, to a loving relationship. I have a serious and important unspoken request for which I covet your prayers. I hope that you will honor me by allowing me to pray for you, as well.

Psalm 66:17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 

"Don't pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. We are powerful on our knees."   Corrie ten Boom  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Proverbs 28:20 The greatest ability

A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished. (NIV)

The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.  (NLV)

What does it mean to be faithful?

No, I really mean it. Stop and think for a minute about the word "faithful" and what it means to you. We'll wait for you . . .

Ready? OK!

I think that we can all agree that being faithful means a lot of things in the Bible. First, being faithful to God comes to mind. Then, being faithful to others --- both Christians and unsaved alike. Faithful to your word, to the promises you make, being dependable to do what you say you will . . . all of these are important meanings of the word.

What would the faithful Christian do?  He or she would honor the commitments they make, pay their debts, and keep their word.  It follows logically then, that the faithful Christian would not make excessive promises, would keep their debts small, and would be very careful to keep their word after telling someone they would get something done.  Do you know many people like that?
It seems that this modern world compels many Christians to go into huge debt, and spread themselves way too thin, because of the many demands on their time. Then they can't make good on their promises.
But God promises that if we honor our word and be faithful, we will abound in blessings!        
Many times as we Christians look sideways (instead of upwards toward our Father) at each other, we talk about others' faithfulness only in terms of how often they come to church services. How much more is bound up in that word!
A promise that we make to someone who is unsaved, or doesn't attend church, is so very important --- if we make a commitment to our employer, to a community service group, or to a sports or school event --- that is a testimony to our discipleship in Christ. If we can't follow through on our promise, we give Satan an edge, and encourage the unsaved to have a poor opinion of Christians.
The contrast that Solomon is making is that of the "get-rich-quick" person . . . he (or she) makes tons of promises that he has absolutely no intention of keeping. He wants to be all things to all people, and will try to do everything in his power to get you to do business with him. One wonders if the only reason that he comes to church is to do more "networking" and meet and greet potential customers/business partners!
Let's be conscientious about our promises; let's try to be faithful to God and to men, and let's try to be dependable. We can rely on God; others can then rely on us.
An old southern preacher and evangelist, Bob Jones Sr., once said, "The greatest ability is dependability." So true, Bob, so true!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Slowdown - Thy Mercy, My God

Thy Mercy, My God
1. Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart. and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.
2. Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.
3. Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.
4. Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Proverbs 28:19

19 He that tills his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that follows after vain persons shall have poverty enough.

19 Those who work their land will have abundant food,
    but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

Did any of us make any new year resolutions?  Come on, now, be honest with me . . . did you? Did you determine to work harder, or work smarter, or find more time for the worthwhile things of life?

Well, then, you can go to sleep and not read the rest of this post.


Seriously, I think we can all use reminders of the need to be diligent and faithful -- to avoid the vain things and vain people of this world. The root of the word translated "follow" up there actually means "to chase after." Perhaps it would be a good thing for all of us to consider . . . what am I chasing after in my life?

Am I chasing after people who are idle and careless, who don't choose to worship our Father and live lives for His glory? Am I chasing after foolish dreams and fantasies, instead of being grateful for the tremendous blessings that He has given me? (Please don't misinterpret here. I'm not talking about the God-given dreams of good and righteous things that we can accomplish for Him; I am talking about pipe dreams and distractions. Things that keep us from focusing on what we can do for Him and for others.)
Many people are consumed with meaningless and empty activities, instead of worthwhile ones. We would do well to get our education and training, to work hard for our families, to give to the Lord's work with wisdom and discernment, and find our joy in God's Word and godly relationships. If we spend countless hours "chasing" frivolous people (on the television or the computer) and wasting our time, we are conforming to the mold that the world would have us fit.
There's an old saying that just really seems to fit here:

Only one life - it will soon be past.
Only what's done for Christ will last.

But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value. I Corinthinans 3:13

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Proverbs 28:18 It will happen suddenly

18 Whoever walks uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.

I was checking out some commentaries on this verse, and I read that the phrase "at once" means "all at once, or "all at one time."

Numbers 13:30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
Caleb was saying to the people, "let's go all at one time." 

Deuteronomy 7:22 And the LORD thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou may not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.
The counsel here was that nation-building would occur gradually, not all at once.

1 Corinthians 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 
A group of over five hundred souls saw the risen Christ "all at one time."

We've seen so many times that Solomon (and his dad, David) counseled his hearers to walk uprightly -- to uphold righteousness -- to be wise and true, and then they would be protected by God:

Psalms 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
But what is perverse? Well, it can mean crooked:

Deuteronomy 32:5 They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.

And it can mean incomplete, and imperfect

Job 9:20 If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.

A perverse, or imperfect, unrighteous person can have their life unravel like a ball of yarn between two kittens, when their behavior is revealed to public scrutiny. It takes years and years of hard work, step by step, to build a reputation --- but losing it can happen so very quickly. It can happen "all at once" and suddenly.
If we've been hiding things in our lives instead of walking uprightly, we can expect the "fall" to happen suddenly. What's a Christian to do?
Walk uprightly -- walk each day with Christ. Stay in His word, and talk to Him in prayer. When you can, keep fellowship with other believers.  God will keep and guard you.
Psalm 91:1-3   He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you ...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Proverbs 28:17 Really? Yes, really.

17 A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.

Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder
    will seek refuge in the grave;
    let no one hold them back.

The history of how murder was treated in the Bible is an interesting study. In Genesis chapter nine, as Noah and his family leave the ark, God gives instructions on how to handle a man who sheds the blood of another. 
In Numbers 35:33, it is stated that the shed blood of an innocent person actually pollutes the land:
So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defiles the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. 
Exodus 20:13 tells us "Thou shalt not kill" and then in Matthew, Jesus tells us:
Matthew 19:17b ……but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness...
Solomon surely must have been thinking of the Psalms of his father, which say:

Psalm 30:3 O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Psalm 55:23 But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.

So, then, the pit is another word for hell -- the place prepared for Lucifer and his angels. Here's what Isaiah had to say:
Isaiah 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
I believe what Solomon is saying here is that the unrepentant murderer should be allowed to flee to his own destruction, to the pit. That, however, is under the Law of Moses. The assumption here is that he is unrepentant and flees without accepting the free gift of forgiveness offered by Christ.
What should our thinking be now?
Well, we are not under the Law any longer. And under the grace of our Lord Jesus, even a murderer can obtain forgiveness if he calls on the name of the Lord. Every murderer in every prison in the land should have the opportunity to hear of Christ's mercy and forgiveness.
As much as it may rattle us, and we may say, "Really?" Christ can save that murderer. It might not be our way; it might not seem "right" to us . . . but it is definitely God's way to forgive, if in sincerity and remorse the person asks for forgiveness. (After all, He forgave us, right?!)
Let's look back into the book of Isaiah, in the 55th chapter:
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Yes, really!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Proverbs 28:16 Covetousness 101

16 The prince that wants understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hates covetousness shall prolong his days.

Now, lest you think that ol' Snoodles is going to give you lessons in coveting, this is not what this post is about! We're going to explore this verse and we'll find that there are two meanings of that word, that we Christians need to be aware of, and to be wary of.

Let's dive in!

In many Old Testament references, the words "prince" and "ruler" are interchangeable. Solomon is noting here that a ruler that lacks understanding (another word for wisdom, right?) is generally a huge oppressor of his people. We can call to mind many examples of leaders who have lacked in wisdom (and moral attitudes) and have oppressed the peoples that they governed: Hitler, Stalin, and many more. Solomon notes that in addition to lacking wisdom, these rulers also share a covetous spirit -- no matter how large their territory was, or how powerful they became, they always wanted more, more, more!

Do we ever think about the fact that covetousness, mentioned in the latter half of the verse, is idolatry? Whoa! We're getting deep here . . . I thought this was an introductory course -- see the 101 up there? Hmmph!

(Whispering) But it is idolatry.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Colossians 3:5

Paul laid it out for us. Idolatry is worshiping or valuing something more than we worship or value God.  Letting something be more important to us than our relationship with Christ. 

The second meaning of the word is this: you're not satisfied with what you have. In Hebrews 13:5, Paul noted: Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

That second meaning of covet, then, is to desire, to lust after something you don't have. If we are living our lives always hungering for what we don't have, we won't be grateful for the blessings that we do have; we won't be thanking God for what He has provided.  That thing that we want so badly will be just like an idol, in our heart or on a shelf --- we'll be paying more attention and valuing that more than we do our fellowship with God.

Here's Paul again, in I Timothy chapter 6:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

A feeling of gratitude, that we're receiving a blessing because of God's grace, is a good sign that idolatry is being held in check.

One other facet to this word "covet" is the desires of our heart --- the horizontal ones. Know what I mean? Some people use the words horizontal and vertical to imply our relationships with mankind, and with God. On the horizontal plane, we have a lot of expectations. Expectations can truly get us into trouble.
We can have the expectation that our hubby should act a certain way, talk a certain way, or treat us in some particular way. We can have the expectation that our church leaders should see our talent and ask us to head up the children's musical -- oh, why not the whole musical department? You can see that I'm making this humorous, but think about it.
If our hubby doesn't act the way we have our expectations "meter" set, and we get all down in the dumps and become unable or unwilling to act in a Christlike way . . . what have we done? We've made our expectations into an idol!
If the church leaders appoint Mrs. Busysinger to organize the children's musical, instead of us, and we get all bent out of shape and start letting Satan guide our attitudes and actions . . . what have we done? We've made our expectations into an idol!
I guess we, as Christians, need to remember I John 5:21 -- Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 
Will someone pass the bandaids over here? I need to take care of my toes . . .

Friday, January 4, 2013

Proverbs 28:15 Yes, I'm a sheep

Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
    is a wicked ruler over a helpless people.

Before David was a king, before he was a ruler over many, he was a shepherd of a few. Of lowly sheep. His psalms and songs have been sung for thousands of years on the hillsides of Israel. As a character in a Christmas play that I attended said, "Those songs have been sung for many years. You learn them because you hear them over and over again." What treasures they are, too. Full of reminders of God's provision and protection.

David killed predators who threatened the lives of his sheep. The lions and bears were no match for the shepherd boy who trusted in God. 

In the same way, we can trust God for our own safety. In this new year, we may be fearful of governments and rulers, of laws and of lawless people, but there is One who hears us when we cry out to Him:

John 10:27    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:    28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.    29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.    30 I and my Father are one.

A personal note: Please check in from time to time at the prayer requests page, and lift up those needs in prayer. I want to personally thank all of you who prayed with us that our relationship with our son would be restored -- you'll find an update on the prayer page. I hope that this will encourage those who are dealing with some of life's burdens and feeling that it may be hopeless --- it's never, ever hopeless! Someone prayed that God would bless us, for the blessing they'd received from us . . . just days later, we received an email from our son. God is so good --- and He will reward holiness, obedience, and prayer. I know He will! He did for me!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Proverbs 28:14 Joy in the new year

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
    but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

Wow. How many verses are there, that talk about the fear of the Lord? A bunch! I'll just bet that if you look at a concordance or a commentary, you'll see these listed: 

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endures for ever.

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

Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

Psalm 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Here's one from Job . . .

 Job 28:28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.

. . . and another from Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 6:2 That thou might fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.

And just in case we think it's only an Old Testament concept, here is one from Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Many people have hardened their hearts in this day and time. The fear of the Lord is not a popular idea. Some people are more comfortable talking about the power of prayer, than about the power of the Person to whom we pray. They are more comfortable talking about a loved one going to "a better place" than about the holy God that they will meet after death. For the unsaved person, the fear of the Lord is a foreign idea --- but we can tell them about the gospel and let the Holy Spirit draw them to our Father. For Christians, fearing the Lord means to be diligent to keep His commandments --- and we've seen the promises in His word for those who do keep them.
If we want to experience true joy in 2013, here is the key:
Psalm 119:1–8
Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LORD. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. 

It won't happen overnight --- but it will happen:

2 Corinthians 7:1
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Proverbs 28:13 The best resolution

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Anyone who does not believe in divine intervention needs to pay attention to this verse --- I can't think of a more appropriate verse with which to start our studies for 2013, than this one!!

What a privilege we have, to come to our Father and ask His forgiveness for our sins. Did you notice that there are two things that we must do, in order to "find mercy"? 

We must confess our sins:

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And then we must renounce our sins: repent and turn away from them --- do a 180!!  Even though the desire to do that sin may haunt us for a very long time, we must turn our back on it. It might be something that we have to turn our back on several times a day --- but we must!

And here is His promise to us:

Psalm 103:11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

God's precious promise to us in this new year, is that if we will confess our sins, and turn away from them, He will remove that burden from us. I can't think of a better way to start 2013, can you?