Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Today we celebrate an empty tomb! Christ the Lord is risen indeed!

And because He lives, our world is changed. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" II Cor. 9:15

Happy Easter, everyone! Snoodles is taking a day or two off, and will rejoin you very soon. Much love and blessings to all!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Slowdown

As we contemplate Christ's sacrifice of Himself for us, I thought this song was particularly moving. Please listen and consider the words . . .this is why He came.

May all of us experience the love and peace of God's love this Easter season.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Are you addicted to the approval of others? Part II

We're studying Proverbs 29:25:

The fear of man lays a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. Prov 29:25 

We looked in detail at the fear of man yesterday, so today we need to keep moving forward and work our way to "trusting in the Lord."

The fear of man, and trusting in the Lord are polar opposites. It's kind of like when we are using a vegetable peeler on carrots....if we keep on scraping down further and further, we will get to the core -- and that is, that the fear of man is a worship issue. We are placing our affection and our trust in man, when we are supposed to place it in our Father. When we live our lives in the light of what others may think of us, we are allowing that to control our lives -- instead of allowing God to control.

At that point what people think of us, their approval or disapproval, their pleasure or displeasure with us, assumes control of our lives and is a snare, or trap for us.  And if we are caught in that trap, we will not be able to be the wise Christians that we are called to be. If we are fearful of what others may think, will we confront sin in the life of a fellow believer? Nope. Will we question their interpretation of a Scripture, even when we have insight from the Spirit? No way. Will we shade the truth so as not to offend others? Yep. So this trap will cause us to sin, and sin, and sin.
The Hebrew word "trust" here means to hide for refuge or to be bold or confident, to have hope. To have such confidence in something that you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you can rely on it. Doesn't that sound like a great description of how our faith makes us rely on God?

The word "safe" here means to be inaccessibly high . . . like a very tall city wall, or a fortress upon a mountain top. If we trust in the Lord, that is the kind of safety and peace that we can experience.
The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You (Psalm 9:9-10). 
The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory (Psalm 64:10) 
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The LORD is for me among those who help me; Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me. It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in princes. (Psalm 118:6-9)
If we are addicted to the approval of others; if the fear of man has taken control of our lives, then we need to ask our Father to help us.
Jesus died and rose again, to make us fully approved before God the Father. We don't need to continue thinking about others' opinion of us, or even thinking better about ourselves . . . we need to think more about Him, and how to bring Him glory for the great gift He gave us!
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  (Hebrews 1:3)
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Philippians 2:9-10)
Praise the Lord!    

I'm indebted to the site for some of the thoughts in this study. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prov 29:25 Are you addicted? To approval? Part I

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

At first glance, we might look at this verse and think, "Not me; I don't live in fear of man."  But do we? Are we looking for approval from our sisters and brothers in Christ, or from the world at large?  Do we love that approval . . .are we addicted to it?  We could put this in other ways: pleasing people, wanting their stamp of approval on our actions, or our way of life. Going out of our way to make others happy with us. Are we approval junkies?

The phrase "fear of man" in this verse implies something bad - and it is. But like so many things in life, something negative can develop from something that is good. The fear of man, or the seeking to please others, is not always bad --- let's look at some verses:

1. Children are commanded in the Word to obey and please their parents: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother(Proverbs 10:1)

2. In marriage, we make a commitment to please one another:
“The married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided…the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband” (1 Cor 7:33-35).

3. Servants (employees, too) are to work in ways that please their masters (employers):
“Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,  not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10)

4. Although we have Christian liberty, we are to consider what is pleasing to others:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,  just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor 10:31-32). 

So, pleasing people is not a problem in itself -- it's actually a good thing. Sin can distort the good gifts and desires that come from God -- the problem isn't people, or their approval; the problem is being addicted to that approval.
The "fear of man" and the desire to please people becomes sinful when it becomes an overwhelming desire . . . when it becomes too important . . . when we long for it too intently.
So, how can we tell if we have a sinful fear of man, an addiction?
Well, it can be seen in an insatiable desire for approval, or as a controlling fear of rejection. Let's look at this more closely . . .
Do we struggle with peer pressure?
Are we over-committed? Have trouble saying "no" because of what others might think?
Do we "need" respect from our spouse or our friends and acquaintances?
Do we second-guess our decisions because of what others might think?
Do we often lie? Experience jealousy?
All of these are evidences that we might have a problem with approval . . . tomorrow we will explore how to be free of the problem!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Prov 29:24 It IS our business

The accomplices of thieves are their own enemies;
    they are put under oath and dare not testify.

Ever heard of the phrase, "a partner in crime"?

A partner in crime is someone who shares in someone else's sin . . . that can happen in two ways. We can participate in the sin with the first person, or we can help cover up or ignore the sin after the fact.

The root of the Hebrew word that is in the original documents has to do with giving testimony to something that's being covered up. The same word is used in the context of an ointment that gives off an aroma that is difficult to conceal.

The accomplice, or partner in crime shares in the thief’s sin and doesn’t give up the deed even when he hears the victim cursing the thief. The point here is that the person who is an accomplice to sin is every bit as bad as the person initiating the sin. We can’t run with people intent on committing sin and not be one of them, and not share in their guilt. In fact, we will even go so far as to help conceal their crime.

What I took from the proverb was that we are partners in crime, if we hear about a sin and don't say anything about it. If we take no action, we are an accomplice.  I believe the Bible tells us that the Christian, when they are aware of sin in the congregation or they perceive that there has been a sin committed, must speak up, preferably to the sinner first, and not hold their peace, lest they be an accomplice to the sin.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them.  Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work. II John 1:10-11
It really IS our business. We must help a brother or sister who is heading the wrong way by speaking to them in the Biblically correct manner. In Matthew 18 we find these instructions:
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, then you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church....."
If we say nothing, we are a partner in crime. How many people, young and old, have had their faith in Christ shaken or destroyed, because a sinner in the congregation was allowed to continue, and Christians stood by, saying nothing? We must not be accomplices, or partners in crime. We must stand for the truth.  
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Monday, March 25, 2013

Proverbs 29:23 It's not about us

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

As a history buff, I love to read and study about people who have shaped the past, and in doing so, are still shaping the future. I read once about how Thomas Jefferson chose to write his own epitaph . . .

Here is the epitaph on his grave marker in Virginia:
"Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia."

Wow! Would you like to know some of the things he left out? There's quite a list:

1. He was a delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress.
2. He was the second governor of Virginia.
3. He was the US Ambassador to France.
4. He was the very first US Secretary of State.
5. He was the Vice President of the US under President John Adams.
6. He was the President of the US, elected to two terms.

He could have had all of those things listed on his tombstone, but he chose to leave all of those off the marker!

Today's verse talks about pride. Most of us would agree that pride is often a vice that destroys many of us, or at least destroys our testimony. We accomplish something in life and we cannot wait for the world to learn of our deed and praise us for doing it. And, what’s more, many of us keep re-telling the story years after our accomplishment.
Some people learn how to handle pride. Thomas Jefferson handled it by having a desire to be a servant. As I read further, I saw that he told his daughter, "The things that are not on my inscription are the things the people did for me," he said. "The things that are on it are things I did for the people."

As good an example as Thomas Jefferson was, our Lord Jesus was the best example of all:
"For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give My life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
 It's good to remember on this week leading up to our Easter celebrations, that it's not about us. It's about Jesus. It's about His becoming flesh, and dwelling among us, and giving His life for us. 

Praise His name!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Slowdown

This old hymn is so loved and well known that there are three different towns that have laid claim to being the birthplace of the song!  In George Bennard's biography, it tells of the traveling evangelist having written one verse in one town, finished the text in another, and set it to musical accompaniment in a third.
No matter where it was written, it has been a steadfast favorite of Christians everywhere. There is so much packed into this hymn that it might be well to read it, before giving it a listen:

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday - Prayer Requests

It's a special privilege to pray for one another, isn't it? It's a joy and a responsibility, all at the same time. In our small group we have shared requests, we've poured out our hearts to each other, and we have also had the happiness of rejoicing when God moves and intervenes in our lives.

Please feel free to leave a request that is on your heart in the comment section today. I'll be happy to add it to our Prayer Page for you.

Please take a moment, also, to read through the Prayer Page and lift up our friends and blog buddies in prayer as they face difficult situations and times in their lives, and in the lives of loved ones. We bring joy to our Father when we show love and unity, and He blesses us tremendously as we seek His face.

And lastly, if you have a praise that you can share, that would comfort and encourage others, please leave a comment detailing that for us. We will rejoice with you!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Proverbs 29:22 Adjust the Vent, Part II

An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.

Yesterday we explored some Hebrew words and we touched on some consequences of uncontrolled anger.
Today, let's look at wise ways to handle our anger.
Remember this verse from earlier in chapter 29?
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person keeps himself under control. Proverbs 29:11
Solomon didn't tell us, "a wise person never gets mad" but that a wise person will keep himself or herself under control. Hmmm, kinda like that vent, right? Open it slowly, gradually.  This is our first clue on handling anger wisely -- to vent it without exploding!
I have six ways that we can try -- some may work better than others for each particular person, and some are absolutely essential . . . let's get started.

1. Talk it out or write it out: Possibly the most important way to deal with anger is to talk about it, but without hurting anyone else with our words. Remember yesterday that we mentioned sometimes we get mad when we feel hurt, or helpless. If we can express those feelings, the anger will decline. As the hurt and helpless feelings become less intense, our anger will subside as well. So, if you can talk about your feelings with someone that you trust, that will help. Writing down what we’re thinking might help if there’s no one to talk to about it.

2. Forgive: The second aspect of handling anger wisely is to exercise forgiveness. It's kinda like a muscle; when you exercise it it gets stronger! I know that sounds a lot easier just to say it casually then to actually do it, but following Christ means learning to be like Him, and express forgiveness. If we find ourselves dwelling over and over again on an offense against us, resentment will turn us into angry, bitter people.
3. Take ownership: Third, we need to take ownership of our own role in the problem. We need to search for areas where we went wrong, and find forgiveness ourselves, through repentance.  It's not often that we get hurt, and we've not contributed in some way to the problem. We need to take ownership to vent our anger slowly.

4. A gentle word: Remember Proverbs 15:1? "A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger." The word "gentle" means "soft" and "calm." When we get mad, our words turn harsh. Sometimes we overstate the situation and use words like "always" and "never" even though we know they are not correct. Sometimes we use sarcasm. So this proverb says to use a gentle answer. Now, that doesn't mean that we are going to tell the other person what they want to hear -- it means that what we do say, is in a soft tone and content. No sarcasm, just sincerity, caring and gentleness.

5. Patience: In that same chapter, we find: Proverbs 15:18--"A hot tempered person stirs up dissension, but a patient person calms a quarrel." Sometimes it may take more than one gentle word! It may take time to de-fuse a situation, and we need patience to deal with that. Now, patience is not resigning yourself to something and being a martyr. It's a positive attitude of active endurance, of bearing up under difficult circumstances. You could translate the New Testament word for "patience" as staying power.

6. Choose your battles: We shouldn't avoid conflict at all costs, but there are some conflicts we should use wisdom and avoid. There are certain situations in life when it is simply best to avoid an argument. We've learned in earlier chapters in Proverbs, that this is especially true when a person is not open to correction.

I hope that this two-part study has been a help to someone who reads it . . . I know that I learned a lot from it myself!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Proverbs 29:22 Adjust the vent, Part I

An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.

You're probably looking at that title and the photo, and comparing it with the verse, and thinking to yourself, "Snoodles is off her crumpet again." But hang in there with me, and maybe it will make sense in the end!

Everyday in the news there are people saying and doing controversial things. In His day, Jesus said and did controversial things, as well. One of those was when He told His listeners about anger, and how it could be a form of murder:
"You’ve heard that it was said, "Thou shalt not murder," and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22)
Jesus was telling us that murder may be the fruit, or end result, but the root of the problem is anger. And although not every fit of anger results in violent acts, every violence can be traced back to the root cause of anger. OK, now, it's easy enough to have head knowledge of this, but how can we actually root it out of our lives?  You see, everyone has anger -- it is a human emotion. Even Jesus got angry.  We need to figure out how to deal with our anger in a way that honors God. Tall order, no?  Yes!
Let's look first at what anger does to us. We've said it's simply an emotion, and that all humans get angry at times. It's what we do with that anger (how we express it) that determines whether we are handling it wisely or not. Let's talk about uncontrolled anger . . . why uncontrolled? Check out those Hebrew words:
The second word in the verse, translated "angry" is actually an extremely descriptive word in the Hebrew language. It's very graphic -- it pictures a person's nostrils flaring. This word is describing more than just mild irritation; it's red hot anger. It's the kind of wild-eyed-fists-clenched-veins-distended-clenched-teeth kind of anger that is totally out of control.
The second half of the verse describes a "hot tempered" person. This language is every bit as picturesque, though we may not find the picture appealing. The word literally means "full of poison" or full of venom. Wow! Like a snake, with sharp fangs ready to dispense lethal venom, the hot tempered person is full of poison and it's ready to spill out. Some venom can induce blindness, and indeed, anger can blind us to the sin we are headed into.
Uncontrolled anger, then, leads us into sin.
Ever heard someone describe themselves as "boiling over"? Yep, our emotions can boil over, and just like trying to get a lid on a fiercely boiling pot, or a petcock on a pressure cooker, it's hard to stop once anger is stirred up.
Are we a victim when our anger is stirred up? Not all the time. Yes, there are times when our feelings are hurt, and we are angry. We feel we've not been treated well, and we get mad. We feel helpless about situations in our life -- here comes that anger.
Sometimes, though, our anger is stirred up by our dwelling on that person who hurt our feelings. We hang out with our friends who commiserate with us, and agree that we were not treated well. We rehearse the scene over and over, and get more and more angry. Natural? Yes.  A godly attitude?  No.
Lots of things can happen when that anger is stirred up --- we can commit sins that we never would have considered had we not been blinded by rage. We can harm interpersonal relationships in ways that we will regret for years. We can say reckless, hurtful things. 
Back to our vent up there in the photo. You know how the air rushes out when the fan is on high and the vent is wide open? Whoosh! Whether hot or cold, it's full-blast, extremely forceful, isn't it? That is how our anger is, when it is uncontrolled . . . like the air coming from the wide-open vent, there is nothing to stop it, nothing to temper or control it.
Tomorrow let's look at ways that we can "adjust the vent" and control our anger, and deal with it wisely.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Proverbs 29:21 It's just logical

A servant pampered from youth will turn out to be insolent.
A servant pampered from childhood will become a rebel.
If you pamper a servant from his childhood, later on he'll become ungrateful.

I put three translations of this verse up there, because I thought each one brought a little different meaning to the table, but they all play well together.

Have you ever heard of an "if then" statement? I believe it is used in logical reasoning, in mathematics and in computer science. To those folks, it is a conditional statement --- let me explain:

It tells a computer program to execute (act on) a certain section of code (computer geek text) only if a particular test evaluates to true. Lets say there is a high tech bicycle that is electronically assisted . . . the computer could tell the brakes to be applied if a certain condition was true (the bike is going down an incline at an insane rate of speed, the computer picks up screaming from the rider, etc, etc). If that condition was not true, the computer would not mess with the braking system.

In logic, a professor might write on the chalkboard, "All men are mortal." Then he could turn to the class and say, "If I am a man . . . " and a student might finish for him, "then you are mortal." This can be carried to ridiculous conclusions by some people who want to trip others up, and say "All fish are wet." They'll then point to a person who just climbed out of a pool and say, "She's wet, she must be a fish".....but hopefully the professor will have told you that the statement is directional; you can't turn it around backwards.

OK, this was a round-about way to get to this: there are some conditional statements in the Bible! There are a lot of "if then" statements, and we have studied a ton of them in Proverbs. Whenever Solomon points out an action, and then notes a consequence that will happen, he just used one of those conditional statements.

So let's look back up at the verse translated up there. We've talked before about how we are servants of God. And in all three translations the word "pampered" is used. The dictionary says that pampered means:
"to treat with extreme and excessive care, to gratify every whim, to humor, to indulge, to baby.....
Where am I going with this?
Right here.
Have we ever whined about how we think our Father is treating us? Have we sniffled about how hard we have it? How we don't get our way? How things just aren't up to snuff in our way of thinking?
Hmmmmm.  I think I heard myself being rebellious, insolent, and ungrateful.
We're asking Him to pamper us, aren't we? To gratify our whim, to indulge us? Ouch.
I think God wants different results than the conditional statement says will happen (rebel, insolent, ungrateful). I think I need to remember these verses:
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33
 I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word.My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Psalm 119:67, 71
And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.  Romans 8:17
And lastly . . .

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
It's just logical.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Slowdown

I was moved by this song by Casting Crowns. I really feel it needs no words of mine. I hope it blesses your heart as you listen...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Proverbs 29:20 Where are those bandaids?

There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.

Hasty words.

There is a lot of pain in those two words, isn't there?

My grandma used to say that it was "running your mouth before your brain was engaged."

Hasty words have caused hurt feelings for spouses, hurt souls for children, and sometimes have ended careers as well as relationships.

Words really do mean something. What you say today, this morning, can have repercussions all day, all week, and on and on. Perhaps the rest of your life.
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (Eccl. 5:2)
 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19)
There are loads of examples of politicians and preachers alike who have opened their mouth before their brain was engaged. But you and I do this at home, too, don't we?

I'm sure that as spouses and parents we have all said things that we can never take back. We may have hurt souls, young and old, with our rashness and temper. Looking back, we've been foolish.

While I go and get that box of bandaids for my own toes, and possibly yours, let's make a new dedication of ourselves to avoid hasty words. Let's think carefully before we respond to anyone, particularly to our spouses and our children. They are going to remember, and our relationships will be affected by rash speech and unkind words. It's easier to erase a "whupping" from one's mind than it is a verbal lashing.
We need to think before we speak, especially if we are angry, or if we are hurt, ourselves. Let's not be foolish.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Proverbs 29:19 Servants all

Words alone will not discipline a servant; the words may be understood, but they are not heeded.

Are we unprofitable servants?

In Romans 1:1 and II Peter 1:1, Paul and Peter both unashamedly stated that they were servants of Christ.  
 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
 We are also His friends:
 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
 In Galatians 4:7, Paul tells us:
So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
And then coming full circle, Paul notes this:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
Since we are called to obey Him, perhaps we had better refresh our memories of what it is that we are called to do!
First, we are to love God and those around us, as in Matthew 22: 37-39:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
And then, to love our brothers and sisters in Christ:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

As Christians, we have the truth right in front of us --- God's Word. All we need to do is follow its instructions and obey our Father . . . all the rest will fall into place.    

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Proverbs 29:18 Brethren, pray for us....

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (King James)

When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful. (New Living Translation)

Without prophetic vision, people abandon restraint, but those who obey the Law are happy. (Inter-national Standard Version)

I thought it would be interesting to consider several translations of this famous verse....many commentaries suggest that "vision" in the ancient times was basically "prophecy." Similar to the way that Isaiah's vision in the temple was a prophetic message for all those in his day, and for us, as well. In the era we are in, prophecy would probably be likened most to "preaching."

What a huge responsibility for those who accept the role of preacher, pastor, shepherd today. Many of them are godly souls who seek the Father's face and then proclaim His word to those who will listen. There are some who take their role much more lightly, and do a great dis-service to their congregations and to themselves.

It is vitally important that church leaders articulate a vision to their people --- they must teach a Biblical view of who they are, what they believe, what their standards are, and where they are going as individuals and as a church body.

In I Peter 5:2, Peter encouraged his fellow elders in the church to "shepherd the flock of God among you" and to "exercise oversight."  God entrusted them with the authority and the responsibility of leading the flock. Pastors are accountable for how they lead, and the direction in which they lead.

The pastor exercises oversight of the flock by the example of his life. Being a pastor requires getting in among the sheep. It's not leadership from above, but from within --- the most effective pastor will not herd his sheep from the rear, but will lead them from the front. In that way, they can see him and imitate his actions.

The most powerful asset of spiritual leadership is the important principle of an exemplary life. I Timothy 4:16 instructs our church leaders to:
"Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you."
Pretty hefty responsibilities, no?  If your pastor is faithfully carrying out the duties prescribed in the Bible, then be certain to carefully fulfill your end of the bargain --- obey and pray!
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)

Brethren, pray for us . . . (I Thess. 5:25)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Proverbs 29:17 A good parent

Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.

All through Proverbs, Solomon weaves his theme of father and son . . . many of the verses allude to the fact that it will delight him as a father (as it will delight all parents) if his son takes in and lives the training that he has been given. Solomon says it will give him peace to know that his son grew up into a gentle but strong king, who has both wisdom and understanding.

Are you a parent, or a grandparent?

Have you watched and worried over your children (or grandkids)?

Have you, as many others before you, wrung your hands, cried, and grieved over your child? Or your children?

Oy.  I'm guilty as charged.

I've been torn up with grief many more times than I ever dreamed. I've kicked myself and chided myself, and that's after wondering where I went wrong. Guilt? By the barge-load.

Any wonder why Solomon's story was a comfort to me? Yes, I'm just like any other parent who has well-intentioned friends who quote, "Train up a child . . . " and that didn't encourage my heart. The story of Solomon's son (Rehoboam) resonated with me, though.
Why? Well, Solomon was the wisest man of his fact, some commentaries note that there had been no one any wiser before him, and there have not been many wise men since then! At least, not blessed by God with the understanding that Solomon showed.
This wise king started his reign in the full glory of a perfect relationship with our Father. God rewarded that relationship, that hunger for him, with blessings both tangible and intangible. (Of course, later on he strayed from the path and began to marry "foreign" wives who brought idol worship and worse into his kingdom, but right now let's concentrate on the good things he did, OK?)

Here is the point I wanted to make --- despite having advice, instructions, and examples, Rehoboam made horrible choices. He lost a huge portion of the kingdom because of that.

To me, this proves one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt: Our children are independent moral agents and bad ones can be raised by good parents and good ones can be raised by bad.

Yes, it is our responsibility to raise our children (and for some of us, our grandchildren) in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4)  And the verses that exhort us to comfort, instruct, praise, and nurture our children far outnumber those that say to discipline them physically.

It is also our children's responsibility as independent beings, having the blessing of free will, to make good choices. All the hand-wringing and grieving in the world cannot change that. Absolutely, we must pray for them and encourage them. But there will still be times when all we can do is pray, and then comfort them when the consequences come. 

As a parent, I'm not the best. I've had epic failures, and I'm still learning. But if Solomon the wise king could have a son who went astray, who am I to think that my kids will be perfect? I'll just pray that if my kids stray, they come back --- Rhehoboam did:
 So the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is righteous.”
When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, “They have humbled themselves so I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some measure of deliverance, and My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by means of Shishak.
(II Chronicles 12:6-7)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Slowdown

The hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” written by Martin Luther in 1529, was based on Psalm 46. Luther said of music, “After theology, there is nothing that can be placed on a level with music. It drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. It is a gift that God gave to birds and to men. We need to remove hymn singing from the domain of monks and priests and set the laity to singing. By the singing of hymns the laity can publicly express their love to the Almighty God.”

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow'r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal. 

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle. 

And tho’ this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim - we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him. 

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Prayer Request Day

I'd like to encourage all of you to join me in prayer today. Please check the requests that are listed on our Prayer Page and feel free to comment on any that you would like to add.

Let us know what is on your heart, and we will join you in praying for that person, that situation, that need that you tell us about.

The Word tells us not only to "pray without ceasing" but also to "bear one another's burdens" so please take this post seriously and spend some time with our Father today.

He hears us --- you can be certain of that. I have had so many answered prayers; I've had more blessings and answers than I could ever deserve, and I praise Him for them. I'm sure that you have had the same experience, and if you have a praise, or wish to just thank Him for something He has done for you, leave a comment. Not only will you be blessed by the sharing of your testimony, but others may be encouraged by it, too.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Proverbs 29:16 Growing like a weed

When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall.

Spring is on its way. For me, it can't come soon enough. I love the warm weather, the feel of sunshine on my back as I work in the yard and the garden. . .

Those dratted weeds. You think you have gotten them all, but there is another one popping up. And another and another.

Kinda like how we Christians feel when we see the wicked and sinful people of this world, and how they seem to be multiplying like weeds! There is so much sin around us. But we have promises that assure us it will not always be this way --- Solomon says in this verse that the righteous will see the wicked's downfall.

It's our responsibility to reach as many as we can before that time comes:

Isaiah 43:10a - You are my witnesses, saith the LORD,

Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

And we have assurance that Solomon was correct in his assessment -- we will see the downfall of the wicked. Check this out from Psalm 37:
[Evildoers] shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. . . . For evildoers shall be cut off. . . . For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look diligently for his place, but it shall be no more. . . . The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming. . . . But the wicked shall perish; and the enemies of the Lord, like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away. . . . [T]he descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. . . . I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree, yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; indeed I sought him, but he could not be found. . . . But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
That's a compilation of many of the verses of that Psalm.
I tell you what --- I think that would be a great way to close today . . . please open your own Bible and read Psalm 37 in its entirety. I believe it will comfort your heart and give you peace, as it did me.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Proverbs 29:15 There is a big difference

The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.

The big difference I'm referring to in the title is the difference between "punishment" and "discipline."

Let's look at ye old dictionary first:

Punishment: suffering, pain, or loss that serves as penalty or retribution
Discipline: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character 
Every parent knows that we don't have to teach our kids how to do wrong or misbehave. Just like us, they have a natural bent toward getting into trouble! Discipline, however, imparts wisdom, so when we lovingly correct our children, we are teaching them and imparting wisdom on the accepted ways to behave in different situations. Carrying this to its logical conclusion, if we love our children, we will discipline them.
Now, many parents are torn about physical discipline and verbal correction. I believe that the Bible gives parents the authority to dispense physical discipline if they feel it is necessary -- but I also believe that it is not always necessary --- there are many other means to accomplish the same goals. Parents must pray and seek wisdom for the appropriate measure for each child, and for each situation.
I firmly believe that the parent must also explain to the child why they are being disciplined, and how to avoid it in the future!
Many parents, even many Christian parents, become extremely upset when their child "acts up" in public . . . but they turn a blind eye to the same behavior at home. Is it any wonder that the puzzled child can't understand why it's not OK to act that way in public? That may be why some embarrassed moms will swat their kids in the store, and the children are at a loss to know what they did wrong.

I read of a historian's account of the Sioux Indians that I thought was very interesting. Francis Parkham (I have an old edition of one of his books, and it is fascinating) wrote that the Sioux were extremely indulgent of their children. They did not discipline them at home. However, when they acted up in public, all of the adults would turn and look at them, laughing and pointing at them. Humiliating? Yes. Effective? Definitely, according to Parkham. It taught them that to be taken seriously as a member of the tribe, they would need to act more maturely, and the technique worked better and better as the child progressed toward adulthood.

There are scads of verses that address discipline in Proverbs . . .
Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die. 14 You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell.

This all sounds horrible to us in our day, but the "rod" of correction is an all-encompassing term, according to my commentaries. That rod can be verbal correction, delivered with love and firmness. It can also be a physical correction if a parent believes that is what is necessary. Probably the most important thing is to be consistent!
A child deserves to know the details of what is expected of him/her, and what is the point at which they will have "crossed the line." Things must be laid out as far as right and wrong, and the mom and dad must present a united front, too. Their unity and consistency are key.

It's vital for children to receive positive comments on good behavior, as well as the correction and training on bad behavior. The rod and reproof will not hurt them if done lovingly, consistently, and with their best interest in mind.
Kind of a tall order for us parents, huh?
This is a comfort to us as we seek to discipline wisely:
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Proverbs 29:14 A King Who will rule forever

If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will always be secure.

In his commentary, Matthew Henry noted that the rich can afford to defend themselves, but the ruler of a nation must defend the poor people within his borders. Leaders of nations, large or small, are called to be impartial in their judgements and to see to the needs of all of their subjects, rich or poor.

Leviticus 19:15 You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: you shall not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.

In the Psalms God promises the Hebrew king that his throne will be established forever if he is faithful to the poor, and in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is told this:

Daniel 4:27 Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto you, and break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of your tranquility.

In a literal way, this also refers to our Lord Jesus, since the Bible says that He will return to earth and rule for a thousand years. The early Christians believed this implicitly, and Paul said more than once that His return was "at hand." (Philippians 4:5, and II Thess. 2:2) At hand was a phrase that conveyed the concept "will happen quickly."

Can you blame them for not figuring it out? They were anxious for Him to return! But in the same way that they had missed the way the prophecies lined up about their Lord (His suffering, death and resurrection), they also missed the fact that:
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night. Psalm 90:4
So then, if two thousand or even three thousand years pass before He returns, that is still just the blink of an eye to God.
Christ's reign will be firm, just and fair. Christ, who will be the most righteous King of all, was always gentle and merciful to the poor, and in Revelation we are reminded that He will reign forever:
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become
    the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
    and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15
I'm with the early Christians -- even so, Lord, come quickly!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Slowdown

Today's hymn is a well-known song written in 1913. The author was a public school teacher who had dreams and plans for an evangelistic career. Ira Ogdon prepared herself for what she envisioned as a life of selfless ministry in a far-off place.
She abandoned that dream to care for her ailing father. She wrote this hymn, Brighten the Corner Where You Are, to remind Christians everywhere that the pulpit and the mission field are not the only places that we can make a difference for Jesus.

Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear,
Let not narrow self your way debar;
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are.