Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Aug. 31 - Prov. 31

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than riches. (Proverbs 31:10)
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.(Proverbs 31:30)
Put on your hip-waders, I’m about to step into a bit of controversy. I hope that the waters won’t get too deep.
We’ve all heard it said that “behind every successful man is a good woman,” but let’s invert the equation. It’s one thing to use Proverbs 31 as a measuring rod for the ‘ideal woman,’ but how often have we (as men) stopped to think that about our role as husbands to give our wives the freedom to be this kind of person.
The first readers of this passage would have marvelled at two things: First at the wonderful example of what we have come to call a virtuous and godly woman, but secondly at the husband who treats his wife differently than the prominent view of the culture of the day. This was a radical thought in the culture of King Lemuel, the author of this chapter.
Paul’s understanding in the New Testament was equally radical for the culture of his day. After he encourages us to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), he goes on to say that this filling will be worked out in a husband who will truly loves, cherishes, and encourages his wife (Ephesians 5:25-32). 
Is Proverbs 31 an idealistic model for our wives to reach? Perhaps, but it is also the standard of a man who sees the true value of his wife, seeks her advice in their decisions, and encourages her to be all that she can be. This puts the shoe on the foot and asks; who can find a husband of noble character? 
For further investigation, read David Sanford’s article by the same title: 

POST-SCRIPT: A Note to those who took the Proverb-a-Day Challenge
This ends our month-long journey through the book of Proverbs. I trust it has been encouraging and that you will continue to daily spend some time in God’s word. Keep on this path; it will lead to life.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Aug. 30 - Prov. 30

Give me neither poverty nor riches ... 
Proverbs 30:8b
The context of Proverbs 30:8 is a request for contentment. Agur, a nebulous character who more than likely was an Assyrian Ruler, says: Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God. 
The fame of Solomon reached to many nations, and Agur is more than likely one of many dignitaries that visited Jerusalem during his reign. The Queen of Sheba (modern day Ethiopia) also visited and marvelled at the wisdom of Israel’s king. Solomon’s story of his dream (I Kings 3:1-15), was likely told to these visitors. For visiting rulers it was amazing to think that Solomon would ask for wisdom to rule, as opposed to long life, riches, or fame.
The Apostle Paul dealt with the same issue. He experienced the extremes of poverty and plenty, and came to this conclusion:
For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Paul hits the nail on the head when he said, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Timothy 6:6).
It is one of those areas where once again we need the direction and filling of the Holy Spirit. Our sinful nature would lust after things or covet what our neighbour possesses. It is only through the presence of the Spirit in our lives, that we can learn to live content, not being caught in the traps of riches or rags.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Aug. 29 - Prov. 29

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Prov. 29:18

I've heard this verse badly misquoted, at times with great zeal. "Where there is no vision, the people perish" is the King James Version of the text, and is used whenever vision is cast and great projects proposed. The verse is most often used when the preacher or group of leaders is selling their own great idea, not linked to knowing and doing the will of God as revealed in His Word.

I see that things like prosperity and our own grandiose plans can take the driver's seat of our lives, rather than the teaching of humility, graciousness and the grandeur of God's glory. I guess it makes sense, for things like discipline, obedience and suffering don't get the crowds out, like one who speaks of health, wealth and prosperity. I'm all for the later three, but see in the Proverbs that these are three of the barriers that prevent a person fromof a deep walk with God.

True vision and true blessing will follow a path that is revealed in the Word of God. "Your Word is a lamp for my feet; a light for my path," says David in Psalm 119:105. It's a path that is filled with a sense of God's presence and contains the promise of his care and guidance.

Once again I like what Eugene Peterson has done with his translation of this verse, seeking to find a dynamic equivalent to the intent of the writer:

If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭29:18‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Instead of tripping over ourselves to promote our vision (and later ask for God's blessing on it), or rushing after the latest teacher that promises unbridled blessing, maybe we should be turning to the pages of the Word to find God's direction and instruction. I pray that the Lord give us a mind to understand what He's saying, ears to hear His voice, and eyes to see what He is doing, even in the midst of what appears to be trials or difficulties.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Aug. 28 - Prov. 28

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Proverbs 28:13

There’s a Texas saying that reminds me that our actions have consequences; If ya wanna dance, ya gotta pay the fiddler. I can imagine an old, toothless cowboy saying this out of the side of his mouth as he haggles with a potential customer:

The problem is that we live in a world where many times it seems that the unrighteous prosper; that their actions don’t catch up to them. However, this is far from the truth. Listen to the words of the following verses from the 28th chapter of Proverbs (and one from Numbers):

The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
Prov. 28:1

A man tormented by the guilt of murder will be a fugitive till death; let no one support him.
Prov. 28:17

He whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but he whose ways are perverse will suddenly fall. 
Prov. 28:19

But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sins will find you out. 
Numbers 32:23

The Proverbs teaches that sin cannot be concealed. It will reap a harvest in due time. But the offer of the Gospel is that those who confess their sin and turn from their ways find freedom. This is the message of I John 1:9 when it says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

This is not to say that there are no consequences of our sin, but the fiddler is paid from Another’s pocket. Jesus came to pay a price we could not pay, and erase a debt that was not his. This is the gift offered to those who will believe in Him and call on His name.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Aug. 27 - Prov. 27

As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man.
Prov. 27:19

As I read these words I'm reminded of the words of an old hymn that says;

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
All his wonderful passion and purity
May his Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

What does it mean for us to reflect Christ? It surely involves a deep heart transformation and a regenerated spirit; a reflection of the indwelling Holy Spirit that causes people to see beyond us, and to see God at work in our lives.

In the New Testament Paul, while writing to the Corinthians and to his disciple Timothy, was able to say, "Follow me, as I am following Christ" (I Cor. 11:1, 2 Tim. 2:2). His example and pursuit of Christ-likeness is what fueled a life of service, teaching, and reaching out to others. His transformed heart became evident to those around him, even the apostles who at first did not trust or place their confidence in him. In the last book he wrote, Philippians, Paul speaks of wanting to know Christ more and more, even to the point of Christ's suffering on the cross (Phil 3:10). He made this his life's goal and aim.

This is my prayer for today; for me, for my family, and for our church. Wouldn't it be wonderful if people were to say that they have seen Jesus in us today!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Aug. 26 - Prov. 26

Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
Proverbs 26:2

Two images came to my mind as I read this verse today: visiting my uncle’s farm and an Alfred Hitchcock movie called The Birds. The images reminded me of the truth of this verse, as a person of integrity does not need to fear the accusations of others. However, this does not mean that he or she does not take appropriate, prudent actions to make sure that there is no ground for them. Let me explain.

I watched the classic Hitchcock movie as a boy and was terrified of birds – especially cawing crows and the tiny, darting like barn swallows. If you’ve never seen the film, it is a case of nature gone wild, taking revenge upon mankind. Images of birds swarming and pecking away at person kept me looking over my shoulder for many years.

The other image is my uncle’s barn, a place where I spent hours building forts and secret hideouts in the hayloft with my cousins. It was a place where I had to deal with my fears and where I learned a valuable lesson.

The lesson was this: since barn swallows feed on insects in flight, the one way to make sure that they don’t come near to you is to make sure mosquitoes and other bugs don’t come near to you. A simple application of insect repellent helped to ensure that you wouldn’t have a swallow dive-bomb towards your face, veering off at the last second.

Integrity is the insect repellent that wards off the undeserved curse. It is not that accusations or verbal persecution will never come, but it won’t stick when a person’s reputation is one of trustworthiness in their words and deeds.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Aug. 25 - Prov. 25

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. 
Proverbs 25:21-22

There are some instructions in the Scriptures that don’t seem to make sense – that is, if you take into account conventional wisdom and action. Loving your enemy is one of those things that we know we should do, but struggle with because we don’t understand how God could allow unjust people to take advantage of us, or to persecute us for our beliefs. But it does happen.

This truth treating others like you would have them treat you, even if they are considered your enemies, is permeated in both the Old and New Testament. Listen to the words of Jesus and Paul:

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbour and hate your enemy, but I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:34-44

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath ... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:17-19, 21

How can I do this? Does this make me a doormat, open to the abuse of each unjust, ungodly person who comes along and tramples upon me? How can I know when it is right to treat the undeserved with dignity and not react, trying to give them what they deserve?

Taking things into my own hands has never been the answer, even when treating the people well didn’t seem to give the desired result. As impossible as it is (in human terms), there are times when we are driven to our knees and call out, “God I can’t do this! You will have to do it through me.” It is one of the situations where we need wisdom, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to help us turn the world around us upside down.