Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pride vs. Humility

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6b

The last two chapters of the book of James offer yet another contrast; that of proud boasting and planning pitted against a person who has bowed their hearts in humble submission and prayer. There is a sense that God uses the difficult things in life, or the circumstances that we strive to avoid, to produce Christ-likeness in our lives.

Chapter 4 speaks of submission to God. There are many things that can take the place of trusting in God. We are warned of “friendship with the world and its ways” as a source of intense envy on God’s part (See James 4:4-5), and is one way that we break the first commandment by placing other things in the place of God (Exodus 20:2). Our self-sufficiency is another way that we can let things slip in and take the place of God, as are good planning (James 4:12-17) or our trust in riches (James 5:1-6). God opposes these things.

Chapter 5 speaks of ways and circumstances that God uses to work in our lives, often bringing us to our knees in prayer. Suffering and sickness can do this. Shifting circumstances and situations where we know we are not in control magnifies our need for God’s presence in the hard stuff of life. They all show us that we are not masters of our own destiny and that our times are in God’s hands.

The interesting thing is that the things God uses to bring us close to Him can also run the risk of leading us away. They drive us to a prayer of Moses recorded in Psalm 90:12; a prayer from a man in the midst of changing, seemingly uncontrolled circumstances:

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Heavenly vs. Earthly Wisdom

The book of James is a collection of contrasting faith themes; an opportunity to know true faith in the contrast to the false or phoney practices of people who do not live out a life of faith in God. James speaks of godly wisdom that goes beyond head knowledge. He speaks of humble works of service that draw attention to the Creator and not the creature. The third chapter of the book of James reveals another such comparison.

James tells us that there are two kinds of wisdom: a false or earthly wisdom that flows from a heart of envy and selfish ambition, and a true or heavenly wisdom that comes from a humble, serving heart.

But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven, but is earthly, unspiritual, and of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:14-16)

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:17-18)

The two kinds of wisdom are prefaced by a question and a statement:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13)

The contrast is striking. Godly wisdom is learned in the school of humility and suffering. While the world looks for pedigree and titles, God looks for brokenness and submission to reveal heavenly wisdom. God looks for the ordinary person who understands the truth and contrast of 2 Corinthians 4:7:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Faith vs. Works

You see that his (Abraham’s) faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. (James 2:22-23)

Why is it that we Evangelical Christians are unable to put two things together that are natural partners? The argument that has circulated in our circles for years – salvation by faith versus a salvation borne from works of goodness – has at its root a flaw. The two do not conflict with each other, but walk hand-in-hand, not in a tug-of-war of opposition.

Faith that does not show itself in a changed life and works of righteousness deceives no one. Faith in God changes the character and actions of a person, causing him or her to look to the needs of others, not just their selfish ambitions. James put it this way: But someone will say, “You have faith, I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do (James 2:19). It is ridiculous to think that a life changed by the saving grace of God will not be reflected in words and deeds that reveal the character of our Saviour.

In the same way, works that does not express itself in words of faith becomes selfish, seeking its own gain or fame. The author of Hebrews reminds us that: Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and good works alone do not save a person. All of our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and it is by faith that you are saved, not of works, lest no man can boast (Eph. 2:8-9). It is equally audacious to think that salvation can be gained without taking the step of faith and trusting in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

The arguments over history – which did not just start with Martin Luther or the onset of Protestantism or Evangelicalism – have polarized and made either faith or works the central point of salvation. But the point is this: Salvation is not an either / or proposition. This is just as true for Paul as it was for James, the two biblical authors most often quoted in the debate. Faith will produce works of righteousness, and the good done in the name of Jesus will result in greater faith in the One who works in us and through us. The question of faith versus works is a both / and proposition, and must be seen working together, not in opposition.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wisdom vs. Knowledge

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

After reading through the book of Proverbs in the month of October, it was refreshing to read through the book of James a number of times this week. The five chapters present a faith that is lived in such a way that comes from a person who lives what they say they believe.

This is better understood the Greek word used in this passage. James had two Greek word he could chose from: the word gnosis or sophia. Gnosis is a word refering to special knowledge, and is the root from comes from which we get the word knowledge and the term use to describe the mystical ancient Greek philosophy known as Gnosticism. The word James chose was sopia, the same word that we get our English word sophisiticed. It impies applied knowlegde, and not just intellectual consent.

Our understanding of God's type of wisdom is enriched when we remember that James wrote from a Hebrew-Aramaic cultural background. He would have understood the Hebrew meaning of the word wisdom, which is best translated "know-how" versus knowledge. The wisdom God gives is applied knowledge; a faith that is lived out in each and every situation we face.

This basic understanding helps us to appreciate the highly practical nature of the five chapter book of the new testament. It helps us to understand that faith that is mere intellectual assent, is not faith at all. Faith must be worked out in the way we live, treat others, and the ways we seek to please God. If any of us lacks wisdom, or that power to live out that which we believe, he or she should ask God and He will give liberally to those who seek Him.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

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. I’ll be adding weekly postings throughout the month of November (posted on Saturdays) that look at the book of James.

Behind Every Successful Woman ...

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. And since I’m talking mostly to guys in this posting, 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? No way! Rather, it is 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:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Godliness with Contentment

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.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

Did you ever go out to the woods as a kid and build a trap? It might have been the box with a string variety, or a noose in the middle of a path, or trip wire. You may have gone so far as digging a pit covered with a thin layer of twigs and grass. My traps never produced much in the way of animals (thankfully!), but they did teach me a thing or two.

The best traps are the ones that you don’t see coming. They are veiled and hidden from plain sight, or placed in the blind spot of an intended victim. They often entice you with a morsel of something that invites you in for a look, and then catch you unaware from behind.

I think that the traps of sin are much the same. They promise “greener grass” or swifter returns, but end with devastating outcomes. They disguise themselves as good, but end in compromise.

The fear of what others think – living for the approval of those around us – is an example of the later. We can rationalize that it is wise to please our family, wife, boss, or friends. That’s good, isn’t it? But if this takes our eyes off of the Lord, or compromises our beliefs, it can become a snare to us and trip us up.

The focus of Hebrews 12:1-3 reminds us to “keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” This is my prayer for today, as there are many other pressures and demands upon my life today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Better Late than Never

Wow - someone actually noticed! To those who were asking, I ran into a glitch this morning - no web access via my home computer. Hopefully it gets fixed by tomorrow.

Ya Gotta Pay the Fiddler

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 always reminds me that my actions have consequences. I can imagine an old, toothless cowboy saying this out of the side of his mouth as he haggles with a potential customer: “If you wanna dance ya gotta pay the fiddler.”

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:

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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Living with an Open Agenda

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. (Proverbs 27:1)

There are two extremes that seem to identify who we are in our approach to life.

First, there are the laissez-faire types with the motto: “Let go and let God.” Life happens to you and there’s not much you can do.”

Second, there are those who are planned and controlled, who reflect the mantra, “God helps those who help themselves.”

Somewhere in the middle is the possibility of planning, dreaming, and seeking God as we make plans and chart our course, allowing for the unexpected circumstances or opportunities that God may bring our way. Life is neither a predetermined plot from which we have no escape, nor is it a free-flowing river that’s never been navigated. Two truths are held in tension: There are choices we make that affect the outcome of our lives, but there is also One who walks with us and guides in the midst of our circumstances.

As I read this verse there were two other verses that came to mind, reminding me that I need to live with an open agenda:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
Now then, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. (James 4:13-15)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Barn Swallows

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 tiny, darting 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.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Upside-Down Kingdom

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.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

When Trials Come

... for though a righteous man fall seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. (Proverbs 24:16)

This past week I had the opportunity to attend a concert by Keith and Kristyn Getty, a married couple that call themselves modern hymn writers. Their music reflects the Irish ballads of their homeland, and the depth of their lyrics speaks of the pain Irish Christians experienced in the midst of trials. Much of their music can be summed up in the title of their song, When Trials Come.

One of the mysteries of the Christian life is the way God draws near to us in times of trouble. As followers of Christ we are not promised that trials will never come, but rather that when they do come, that God walks with us. Read the lyrics below or go to the link that will take you to this song as you ponder your situation, whether it be times of trial (for they surely will come) or in times of great rejoicing.

When Trials Come
Written by Keith & Kristyn Getty

When trials come no longer fear
For in the pain our God draws near
To fire a faith worth more than gold
And there His faithfulness is told
And there His faithfulness is told

Within the night I know Your peace
The breath of God brings strength to me
And new each morning mercy flows
As treasures of the darkness grow
As treasures of the darkness grow

I turn to Wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known
My confidence will rest in You
Your love endures Your ways are good
Your love endures Your ways are good

When I am weary with the cost
I see the triumph of the cross
So in it’s shadow I shall run
Till He completes the work begun
Till He completes the work begun

One day all things will be made new
I’ll see the hope You called me to
And in your kingdom paved with gold
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old
I’ll praise your faithfulness of old

If you want to listen to the song, follow this link:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Do not get Drunk on Wine ...

Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. (Proverbs 23:31-33)

It would be unwise to get off on a tangent with this verse, but the least you can say is that Solomon doesn’t mince his words. The bottom line is this: if you get caught in the trap of alcohol (or drugs or food or any other unhealthy addiction), you will pay for it in the end. It is a matter of control.

But isn’t it interesting that the same word picture is used by Paul in the New Testament? The issue of control extends to a person being controlled by the Holy Spirit. We read in Ephesians 5:15-18:

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is: Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:15-18)

Bob Dylan had a short-lived conversion to Christianity in the late 1970s, and wrote a song, You Gotta Serve Somebody. The fact that he slipped back into a life of fame, drugs and alcohol probably means that it will get lost in some historic time warp, but the words told a tale that repeats itself; either you control the appetites of your sinful nature, or you will be controlled.

The Proverbs speak of a control that is obtained through seeking wisdom, understanding, and God’s path. This same kind of control is spoken in the New Testament using the imagery of being under the control of God’s indwelling Spirit; not to make us perfect or without sin, but to give us forgiveness and replicate the character of Christ in us. In both of these (wisdom and the Holy Spirit), God offers power for living and a hope to live our lives under control.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

True Riches: The Value of a Good Name

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (Proverbs 22:1)

We live in a world where the question “what’s in it for me?” is the measuring rod of all that people do and say. This is a world that complains about the integrity of politicians as they make lofty promises, but deliver little. A “dog-eat-dog” mentality rules the business sector and corruption is not only expected, there are times that it is applauded. I wish I could say that people who say they are followers of Christ live radically different than others around them, but that is not the case. What’s a person to do in such a world?

The Greek word for sincerity helps me understand the value of a good name. The literal translation, Sin Cera, or “without wax” refers to a marketplace description. Vendors of marble statues would cover blemishes in their artwork with a white pasty wax, and polish the final product. If a statue was “sincere,” it would be placed in the direct sunlight where such cover-ups would quickly be exposed. The heat of the day would show whether or not it was without wax.

In the same way, it is in the midst of the pressures and temptations of life that our sincerity is revealed. A good name (integrity of character in word and deed) is described in this verse as something more desirable than riches; more important than what we get in return for our actions and words. It is one of the ways that we please God, and stand out from others. It is one area in which I need the Holy Spirit to produce Christ-like character and the Fruit of the Spirit in me. That’s my prayer today as I face the heat of the pressures of life.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Sheesh of the Question

To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3)

OK – you have to be a Brazilian to understand the title, but I needed to share a bit from one of the colourful Portuguese sayings; it gets to the point of this verse. The literal translation of ‘sheesh’ da questão is to say “the X of a question,” or the main point of a matter.

God is more concerned about who we are than what we do, especially when we easily fall into the trap of thinking that the things we do for God win us merit or favour. Our righteous acts are called “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), and never earn us forgiveness or right standing with God. God is pleased when we choose to live to please him out of loving obedience, and not for what we think we might gain.

This theme rings true throughout the Bible. Consider the truth of the following verses, and allow them to shape the way you live today:

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. (I Samuel 12:22-23)

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with a thousand of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Darkest Place on Earth

The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being. (Proverbs 20:27)

Have you ever gone down into a deep cave and experienced the darkness?

As a young boy our family visited the Lewis & Clarke caverns in Montana. At one point of the tour our cleaver guide stopped and warned us that he was going to turn off the lights. Before he did this he explained the dangers of the cave, which included flying bats that had a habit of getting stuck in a woman’s long hair, and rats that nibbled at the plastic ends of sneakers (with a special hunger for the shoes of young children). Then he turned off the lights and we all stood in utter complete darkness, and it was then that my brother (who stood directly in front of me) took a small step backwards. All I could think of was the nibbling rats and I gave a good kick to rid myself of the unseen menace. My brother yelped like a hound dog kicked by a horse, and I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me.

But there is a place that is darker than even the deepest cave, and it’s closer than you may think. When we read God’s word, we are often exposed to that darkness as we consider our own hearts and inability to live up to what we read. Consider these other verses:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130)
For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life. (Prov. 6:23)

My prayer today as I read is this: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where Fools Rush In

It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. (Proverbs 19:2)

“You rush in where angels fear to tread.” That was one of the favourite sayings of my High School drafting teacher, but the problem was that he seemed to like to use it with me.

The book of Proverbs has many admonitions to be a person who not only seeks advice of wise counsellors, but to be a person that carefully weighs it and puts it into practice. Listen to the following verses:
Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. (Prov. 19:20)
The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. (Prov. 12:15)
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Prov. 15:22)
For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers. (Prov. 24:6)
For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure. (Prov. 11:14)

There are a number of sources that God uses to guide us in the decisions of life. It is clear that the Word of God and prayer all play a part in the way he directs his followers. Circumstances can also be used to shape our actions, but they can also be misleading. However, there is one source that we all have that is a great resource; other men and women of faith.

Many good ideas and good intentions have been shipwrecked because they were not accompanied by good advice and practical tracks to run on. But God has placed us in community, rubbing shoulders with others who have experienced more of life, to provide insights as we forge ahead and make decisions. The willingness to seek and listen to those who God has placed in our lives is where the proverbial rubber meets the road when it comes to knowing and doing the will of God.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Words of Life and Healing

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

Do you have someone in your circle of friends that seems to say the right thing at the right time; a person who isn’t necessarily known as having the “gift of the gab,” but rather as someone you can count on for timely and good advice? We all need men or women like this in our lives, and they are candidates to be a life mentors and coaches.

The wise mentor speaks words of life and direction. Contrast the outcome of a person who learns to speak words of life into those around them, and those who do not:

A fool’s lips bring him strife and his mouth invites a beating. (18:6)
A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. (18:7)
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. (18:8)
He who answers before listening – that is his folly and shame. (18:13)

I like to try and turn some of the negative examples into positive, seeing that there are direct results of heeding this instruction. For example:
A wise man’s words bring him peace. A man of integrity’s mouth is his strength, and his lips fortify his inner being. The words of a man who speaks with discretion are like exquisite food; they fill others up with good. He who answers after giving his words careful thought is known for his wisdom and is honoured among his peers.

Going back to Proverbs 13:20 (He who walks with the wise grows wise), I think that one of the keys for becoming a man of integrity and wise speech, is to have that same kind of person in my life as a mentor. I’ve found that I need to seek this out (both in formal and informal settings), and it becomes an area of prayer, asking God to bring a mentor into my life.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Between the True and the Sublime

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)

I love the sense of humour, seasoned with a good dose of sincerity in Proverbs chapter 17.

The chapter begins with one of the great one-liners of the Bible (Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife). It ends with one of those “ah-ha” moments that causes me to reflect (Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue). These verses are funny; that is, unless you find yourself in one of those situations.

Then there are verses that ring true – like verse 17 – that make you thankful for the people around you. That is, unless you find yourself in a tough situation where there is no friend to walk with you in one of the valleys of life. Then you find yourself falling to your knees and asking God to send someone like that into your life.

As you read the Proverbs you will have one moment when you are laughing, followed by another which leads you to deep reflection. You will laugh at yourself if you consider what is said, but also see yourself in the word pictures that the author paints. You find yourself agreeing with the truths that are presented, but affected by the sublime ways that it reaches down and touches your soul.

This is because the Proverbs deals with the real stuff of life. Topics like family, money, pride, sex, truthful speech, arrogance, and joy are all mentioned in a smorgasbord of pithy sayings and advice. What this teaches me is that God is concerned with all of life. He’s not just interested in making an appearance once a week on Sunday morning. The Holy Spirit, who lives in and through those who are followers of Jesus Christ, walks with us in all of life. This is both my prayer for today – that He be seen in me – and my cause for thanksgiving.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Blank Cheque?

To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:1-3)

The last time I checked, we’re not supposed to be able to order God around and use him like a magic genie – three wishes granted and then you’re on your own. But this verse seems to indicate that God grants our wishes. Another place where we read this is Psalm 37:4 - Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

It is important to remember that Solomon, the compiler and author of the book of Proverbs, is speaking from personal experience (see I Kings chapter 3:1-15). Solomon was a young man when God came to him in a dream and said, “Ask for me whatever you want me to give you.” We read that Solomon asked for wisdom to rule the people, passing over the temptation to ask for riches, fame, or long life. God was pleased with Solomon’s answer, and blessed him beyond his declared wish.

There are two thoughts that help me understand the “black cheque” nature of these verses. First, the blessing of God rests upon the request being made from a pure, transformed heart, with motives that are weighted by the Lord, and in line with his will. Second, with our choices comes responsibility and consequences of our choices.

Wisdom is to be valued more than gold, fame, or long life. Each of these wishes, or “resources,” is of little value if not tempered with the gift of common sense and wisdom. We need to use them wisely, with the guidance of God, who is the giver of all good things and who rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ruling the Rudder

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. .. The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:1-2, 4)

The first couple of verses in Proverbs chapter 15 bring me back to the theme of controlling our speech, but this time with a positive bent. The impact of someone who knows how to use their words wisely produces peace, offers up timely knowledge and brings healing.

My thoughts went to the New Testament where we are told: Take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go (James 3:4). James compares the tongue to a ship’s rudder or a bit that controls a horse; small things that can give positive direction to large objects or animals.

This made me think of some of the small words or phrases that I can use to build up the people around me. How long does it take for me to mention to my kids that I’m proud of an action they’ve done or accomplishment? One kind comment goes a long way in making peace in the home. Thanking people for their service or generosity prepares the heart for a growing relationship. Of all the people who should know how to encourage people with their words, Christians should be on the forefront.

Asking God to fill us with his Spirit implies self-control, not only in a negative sense, but also the positive. This day I want to ask God to make me aware of situations where I can bring a word of hope or encouragement, and then act upon the opportunity with a word aptly spoken.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Road Rage

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

Have you ever witnessed or been the victim of road rage? (I won’t ask if you’ve been tempted or actively participated – that would get far too personal, eh?)

I was riding on a city bus a couple of months ago when our driver got cut off by a black pick-up. Our driver raced after the vehicle, ignoring people at bus stops and the calls from others who wanted to get off. He finally caught up to the vehicle at a traffic light and clipped the truck’s rear-view mirror. That’s when the fight started, the police were called, we gave statements, and I spent the better part of an hour waiting until Translink could send another bus to take the place of the grounded driver. It was a foolish thing to do, especially with a bus full of witnesses that were already at the end of their patience.

I was among those who condemned the bus driver for giving in to his temper, but I saw something of myself in his actions. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought of doing the same, but held back because I didn’t want to dent my vehicle. I’ve had other times (not on the road) when I’ve given in to my anger, and immediately wished I could take back my actions.

Patience is a virtue seldom exercised on the road of life, yet it is a part of the Fruit of the Spirit and part of what the wise and discerning person displays. I don’t think it’s something that comes naturally to me, and once again it’s an area where I need the Spirit’s direction and control.

Proverbs 13:33 adds that “wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known.” To repose is to rest, even when everything tells us to strike back with words or anger. To rest is to trust in God, despite the circumstances or actions of others. It’s being controlled by a power that is able to hold us back when it is wise to do so.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In the Company of Godly Friends

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20)

As a parent I cannot count the times I’ve spoken to my kids about the importance of good friends, teaching them that they become like the people they hang out with. My wife and I often pray that our teenage kids be influencers among their peers, and not the influenced.

Is it any surprise that this principle applies to our lives as we grow older, and hopefully wiser? We become like the people that we associate with; we become like the people that we hang out with.

This does not mean that we avoid completely friends or family that do not seek the things of God (these friendships are valuable and an opportunity to be “salt and light”), but that we balance our friendships with a healthy dose of walking with people of godly influence. As we rub shoulders with godly men and women, something rubs off on us.

The use of the word ‘walk’ here can be substituted with the word ‘live,’ and is reflected in the following verses in the New Testament book of Ephesians:

Walk worthy of the calling you have received (4:1).

You must no longer live (or walk) as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking (4:17).

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (5:1-2).

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity (5:15-16).

Living the Spirit-filled life includes walking alongside and learning from Spirit-filled people. We are called to walk with people in the community of the faithful. This is a valuable resource which enables us to grow in our relationship with God, and become the people God wants us to be.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Talk is NOT Cheap

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

There are times when talk is costly, not cheap; times when what you’ve said in the heat of a moment hurts the people you love the most. You wish you could take your words back, but what has been said, has been said.

One of the areas that the Proverbs challenges me is that of self-control, especially in the area of my words. Some of the things we say in a moment are remembered for an eternity; painful words take a long time to be erased from the memory of those we love the most.

The New Testament also speaks of the taming of the tongue. James 3:1-12 is a passage full of stern warnings to the person unable to control his speech. Jesus said that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” and warned that men will have to give account for “every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:34-36).

But there is hope! Hope that wisdom can make me person under the control and influence of the Spirit and that my words can bring healing. Hope that my speech can rescue me, together with those around me (Prov. 12:6). There is a transformation that allows my words to endure forever (Prov. 1:19), something which brings delight to the Lord (verse 22).

I need that kind of control in my life, and recognizing that part of the fruit of the Spirit we read about in Galatians 5:22-24 is self-control, and that includes the taming of the tongue. It causes me to pray the words of Psalm 19:14 - May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Generosity Encouraged

One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another witholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:23-24)

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving - a day we set aside to consider the ways we are blessed. It's been a busy day, with church in the morning, teaching an adult elective class, and getting together with family to eat more than is good for anyone. This is a day when the generosity I've seen is God's generosity expressed to me and my family.

It's interesting that today the verses that caught my attention were on generosity. On the day when we're introspective and count our personal blessings, the word to me was that I need to share these blessings with others - it's not just about me.

These verses reminded me of the promise of God to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3 - I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing ... and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

We are not generous and outward thinking to get more; we are blessed to bless others. That's where the economy of God sets in, where the one who loses himself, finds himself. It is where living for others is to be the norm, and where generosity is encouraged, not because of what we might get in return, but out of gratitude. This all enables me to be grateful, not only today, but each day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Works vs. Trust Balance

The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the cravings of the wicked. Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:2-3)

When it comes to trusting God there are two opinions that are often expressed. The first sounds super-spiritual: Let go and let God. The second is practical: God helps those who help themselves. Somewhere in between those two phrases is a balance between sitting around “trusting God” and working tirelessly without a sense of God’s promise to provide for those who seek him.

Proverbs chapter 10 is one of the portions of scripture which holds the two thoughts in what some would see as a paradox: God cares for and provides for those who are righteous, yet the same people are the encouraged to work hard, “gather the crops in summer” and be diligent. It’s not a case of one way or another, but as we work and do our part we trust in God’s provision for those who earnestly seek him.

Consider the following verses:

He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son. (verse 5)

The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out. (verse 9)

The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment. (verse 16)

The words of Jesus also reflect this same balance when he said; But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33).

“Seeking God first” isn’t sitting around and waiting for everything to fall into place. But nor is it a hurried or panic-driven, work-a-holic attitude that doesn’t take into account the promises of God. The Spirit-filled life is one of balance, recognizing that God works with us as we do our part, and trust in his goodness and promise to care for the practical needs of those who love him.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Fork in the Road

If you are wise your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker you alone will suffer. (Proverbs 9:12)

Proverbs chapter 9 continues with the personification of wisdom, this time comparing her to another woman, called “Folly” (Prov. 9:13). There are two competing voices calling out to us, and we must choose which way to go.

I used to hike the trails and climb the peaks around Vancouver, back in the “good old days” before GPS navigation and smart phones. An upgrade for us was what we needed to take to get to the peak, and a download was when you added a couple of pounds of rocks to your buddy’s backpack on the trip back to the cars.

My friends and I had one trip out in the Harrison valley that was uncharted, with many forks in the road. Our map was apparently a couple of decades old and recent logging made finding the main path to an elevated ridge above the lake a challenge. We ended at many dead ends that had no clear route to our desired outlook. In fact, there were so many forks in the road that we finally took one out, put it into the dirt, and made a memorial to a frustrating trip. The best we could do was hope that the next wandering soul would find humour in our gesture.

The lesson for me was this: without a clear map my decisions are at best a gamble and that there are consequences to those decisions. God’s invitation is to give us guidance (an updated map) through life’s twists and turns. This is not a guarantee that we will never go through difficulties or struggles, but that if we choose to have it, God gives us a compass that guides us along the journey of our lives.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

LIFE Personified

For whoever finds me finds life and receives favour from the LORD. (Proverbs 8:35)

Proverbs chapter 8 is one of the parts of the book which speaks most clearly about the link between the Spirit of God and wisdom. If you go back and insert the words “the Spirit” in each place where the words “I” or “wisdom” are used, it becomes even clearer. The Spirit was present at the beginning of creation (Prov. 8:22-32), and is the giver of life to those who earnestly seek him (Prov. 8:34-46).

Solomon declares a promise of God when he writes; I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me (Prov. 8:17). This promise goes hand in hand with Luke 11:13; If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

This truth is echoed in other parts of the New Testament. Romans 8:1-4 uses the same imagery as Paul speaks of “the spirit of life” that sets us free from the “spirit of sin and death.” The chapter speaks of life in the Spirit and inseparable link between finding life and victory over the sinful nature.

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me (John 14:6).

In the New Testament authors had two Greek words to describe life: bios and zoe. Bios is the functional aspects of physical or animal life; the living and breathing of life. Zoe is the qualitative aspects of life, of feeling or loving or enjoying life. It's quite clear whch word is used to describe the life that God offers.

Life in the Spirit gives us power for living a life that makes us complete; that allows us to be the people God created us to be. It is through his dynamic presence living in us and through us that the life (zoe) of God becomes a personal reality for those who seek him.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Grace Awakened* Dysfunctionallity

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commandments and you will live; guard my teaching as the apple of your eye. (Proverbs 7:1-2)

Have you noticed that the last three chapters had a reoccurring theme? For a book full of patchwork pieces of wisdom on a variety of topics, chapters 5-7 of Proverbs is the most focused part of the book and warns readers about adultery and sexual sin. It is important while reading these portions to remember the context of Solomon’s own family to understand some of his comments.

David and Bathsheba – his father and mother – were the main players in the greatest sex scandal in the Bible (See 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12 in the Old Testament). Their story would make the pages of the National Enquirer or any gossip column; yet God’s grace and forgiveness extended to them and their second son, Solomon, would eventually become the heir to the throne. There was not only restoration, but grace enough for Solomon to honour his father and his mother.

This is where the Gospel begins; with broken people who come to the point where we know that we need a Saviour and acknowledge that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But it doesn’t stop there; it leads to transformation that enables us to avoid the pitfalls of life. We don’t go on heading straight towards a life of sin in order that “grace may abound” (Romans 6:1).

One of the best ways I know how to do this is through storing up God’s word in my heart, either through reading it (like we’re doing in the Proverbs), or memorizing it. David’s words in Psalm 119:11 say it best: I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Today I’m taking my cue cards with me, and instead of listening to the radio banter on while I wait in traffic, I’m going to continue working on memorizing Romans chapter 8.

*The Grace Awakening is a book by Chuck Swindoll, and a term often used by Geoge Verwer.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Frown or a Smile?

There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him. (Proverbs 6:16)

What do haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers all have in common? These are things that God – the One who describes Himself as love – declares as “out of bounds.”

The fact that there are things that are hated or detestable to God reveals something about his character; there are also things that He loves. While this chapter tends to dwell on the negative characteristics of a life out of control (i.e. the sluggard in verse 6, the scoundrel and villain in verse 12, and the adulterer in verse 32), it helps me to get through this section if I think of the positive qualities that please God. What are they?

God is pleased with eyes that are fixed on Him (Hebrews 12:1). We can bring healing and wisdom with our words (Proverbs 15:1-4). His pleasure is seen in hands that save lives and hearts turned towards helping others. The feet of those who bring the Good News of Christ’s love and forgiveness are called beautiful (Romans 10:15). The Lord delights in men who are truthful (Proverbs 12:22). Jesus would call peacemakers blessed and refer to them as the ones to be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9).

We cannot escape the fact that there are things – and I would venture to say that the list is much longer than six or seven things – that are displeasing to God. But it is important to balance this list with the equal number of things that please Him; that bring a smile to his face. Remembering this helps us to avoid the trap of legalism with a long list of don’ts that characterizes some people’s faith. It helps us to focus on Christ-like character and the need for the daily filling of the Spirit. It causes me to think that today I want to see God’s smile, not his frown.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Curiosity Killed the Cat

Keep to a path far from her (adulteress), do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel. (Proverbs 5:8-9)

We’ve got some great word-pictures in the English language, and for those of us who are not cat lovers, curiosity killed the cat is one of them. I think of it every time the neighbour’s cat comes and drinks from our dog’s water dish, just outside our back door window. She constantly dangles at the brink of danger and even flaunts her audacity with a flick of her tail. She goes from yard to yard and checks out all of the other pet’s dishes in our complex, but one day she’s going to get a surprise. You see the new neighbours down the road have a big, mangy, mutt and it’s not afraid of cats.

Proverbs chapter five speaks of one specific sin, but the principle applies to all others. What is common is our bent towards pushing the limit and seeing how close we can get to something without getting burnt. This chapter is clear; stay away from it!

I’ve been reading Drops from a Leaking Tap by George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilisation, a mission group with over 3,000 members around the world. He shares an honest struggle of how he as a leader has dealt with pornography and sexual sin, with what he calls a “grace awakened” approach to avoiding the traps set along his way. The first word of advice he gives about temptation is “don’t go looking for it, because if you do, it will find you.”

One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to guide us in all truth, and to guide our feet, eyes, and ears. Submitting to the Spirit will make us sensitive to the places we shouldn’t meander, and those things which lead to destruction. My prayer today (and every day) is that He keep me to a path that is aligned with God’s will for my life.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Heart Health

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Have you ever spent time in a doctor’s office reading the pamphlets or posters on the wall? There are 3 pointers that are basic to a healthy heart: Get plenty of rest, eat properly, and exercise daily. Is it any surprise that a healthy spiritual heart requires the same three elements?

Get Plenty of Rest: The title of Mark Buchanan’s book, The Rest of God, is a play on words. As we learn to rest (or trust) in God, we learn that there is so much more to learn about God. Rest is more than taking an afternoon snooze or watching a movie, but it is the purposeful exercise to be quiet before God, allowing him to speak to us, observing His work in our lives and the world around us. Some call this Sabbath, but it’s just plain smart practice for our spiritual health.

Eat the Right Foods: There was an old saying when computers first came out: GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out. Simply stated, what you put into the CPU it spits out. It’s not a mystery that people who spend time reading God’s Word and study it with others (small group or at church) grow in their walk with the Lord. Far too many people try to live on spiritual junk food and wonder why they have no power or energy when it comes to the challenges of life.

Exercise Daily: Spiritual exercise means serving others and putting into practice that which we’ve learned. We can eat the right food, but if there is too much of it (like at Camp Stillwood the other weekend), we become blimps. There’s a need to put what we learn into practice in our daily lives, affecting how we treat others around us.

What are the benefits of having a healthy heart? Verses 24-27 gives us three hints, as the passages speak of our words, our eyes, and our feet. The consequences of a health heart affect the temptations of life. It’s Sunday – take some time to contemplate on your spiritual heart health today and pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24:

Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Line

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.(Proverbs 3:5, 6)

I'm up late, home from a BC vs. Saskatchewan game at BC Place. Thought that I might as well post my somewhat related entry - at least it's about BC and Saskatchewan.

Sometimes I have trouble with one part of Proverbs 3:5-6; What does it mean to live the straight path of life? I wonder if people in Saskatchewan understand this verse differently from those who live in Squamish?

Those who live on the prairies know about straight roads that stretch for hundreds of miles, without a curve. If you stand on your toes you can see the Manitoba border from Swift Current.

For others who live along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, a straight road is that uphill section which allows five seconds to pass the slow moving truck in the slow lane. The words straight and mountain road just don’t seem to go together.

Many times life resembles a curve-filled road with unseen dangers or circumstances around each bend. My life has had few “Saskatchewan stretches” where I knew how everything would work out.

My work on a survey crew helped me understand the importance of a road’s centre line. An engineer plots the course of a road and everything else revolves around the plan he forms. Building the road hinges upon the centre line, guiding every foot of pavement that is laid.

Once the asphalt has cooled, a centre line is painted to guide drivers around corners. Although they can’t see around the curve in the road, motorists trust that a well-meaning engineer placed the line to protect them.

I believe that the Master Engineer has placed a centre line for us to follow. It is found in His word, seen in people who don’t have all the answers, and experienced when we place our trust in Him when we don’t always know how things will turn out.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Treasure Hunters

And if you look for it (wisdom) as silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
(Proverbs 2:4, 5)
My cousin and I once spent the better part of a week digging a two or three foot hole around a large stone that we believed was the grave-site of a First Nations chief. The large rock stood overlooking a valley on their farm and, in the minds of two ten-year-olds, was the perfect marker for a warrior or hero. Our efforts landed us a handful of triangular rocks that might have been arrowheads; or might have been triangular rocks. The hours “lost” over false treasure were rewarded with rich friendship that was worth more than any archaeological find.

Many times we sell ourselves for things that we think are important, but find that what we fought for is not worth our efforts. The riches, which are fleeting and are literally here today and gone tomorrow, are not the treasure which the Proverbs encourages us to seek.

Jesus put it this way: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth ... But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven ... Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Note that wisdom will save us, protect us, and keep us from perverse men and women. The second chapter of Proverbs shows the two sides of the coin; those who find treasure that lasts, and those who spend their lives on that which leads down an errant path. It makes me ask, “What are the things that I’m spending my time and energy for?”

As you read Proverbs 2 today, jot down key words or phrases that catch your attention. Add a comment and tell others what you're learning.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Fearless Relationship

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)

Wasn’t it Winston Churchill who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself?”The fear he referred to crippled and paralyzed a nation, and was a legitimate fear to be avoided at all cost.

Another definition of fear is that of terror; like the look on my face in a photo snapped when I was crossing the mighty Whitemud Creek. This was an unfounded fear, as the water was only ankle deep.

Then there is the fear that we teach our kids when we tell them not to stick an object into the electric socket. We know that there are consequences that are to be avoided.

This tells me that the fear of Proverbs 1:7 and common definitions of fear are completely different things. The “fear of the LORD” leads to life-giving, respect-filled awe of the life God desires for his people. The “fear of the LORD” draws us into a relationship that isn’t based on terror, guilt, or harmful consequences. It is the beginning point, or North Star which points us to life.

A basic principle of biblical interpretation is to note repeated words or phrases. The words, “the fear of the LORD,” are repeated 21X in the book of Proverbs. Something tells me that it’s an important thing to understand. Something tells me that as I read the Proverbs through this month I need to focus on this phrase in order to learn what God wants to teach me in this book. If I don’t, I’m afraid I might miss the point. Excuse the pun!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Take the Proverb-a-Day Challenge

I spent last weekend with a group of men from Maple Ridge Alliance Church at Camp Stillwood. We sang, we ate, we prayed, we played floor hockey, and - do I dare mention it? - we ate some more. I was the speaker for the camp and we looked at what it means to walk daily with Christ, or to live the Spirit-filled life.

We considered two verses that are invitations from God:

Luke 11:13 – If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven not give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

While I can't say that I've discovered an etymological root between the Hebrew word for wisdom and the filling of the Holy Spirit as described in the New Testament, they both refer to the ability to live out what we believe.

The Hebrew understanding of wisdom is not quantitative head knowledge, but rather heart knowledge, or know-how, or the power for living. Wisdom is not the accumulation of knowledge, but the application of knowledge to our daily lives.

In the same way, it is not enough to know about the Holy Spirit, but we need to experience His power for living as we face the challenges and tests of life.

This is summed up well in Ephesians 5:15: “Be careful how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” This is followed by the command in Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”

I want to extend an invitation to anyone who would follow this blog: Read a Proverb a day during the month of October. I’ll post my comments about a single verse or passage between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. of each day and invite you to jot down your comments about that verse, or another which spoke to you. I will look forward to hearing form others who are taking the challenge. I believe that we’ll see that there is an amazing correlation between the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:22-23) and the wisdom described in the Proverbs. Will you join me in this adventure?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Two-and-a-Half Seconds of Glory

The best read of my summer has been Crazy Love, by Francis Chan and Danae Yankoski. (see The book gave me a unique perspective on the brevity and importance of a life well-lived. I highly recommend it for a challenging, uncomfortable look at life and your relationship with God.

The authors describe what they call “the movie of life,” where God is the main character and the plot line follows the history of redemption from man’s fall to Christ’s victory over death and sin. They describe a hypothetical situation where you are invited to play a role as an extra in a film, remembering that our brief life on earth is a part of the bigger story of history woven by God. Good stuff!

The illustration reminded me of a friend who landed a role as an extra in X-Men III: The Last Stand. He shows up in three scenes: twice as one of the hundreds of soldiers that turn their backs and flee for their lives, and once in a close-up shot as the two principle characters pause for a 2-1/2 second conversation in a crowd. He’s the soldier who casts a glance in their direction as they continue on their way.

If you hear my friend talk you’d think he was the star of the show. He describes the film, the action, and everything from the perspective of an insider. People who talk to him find it hard to believe that his name does not show up in the credits. He’s hoping that the exposure in this film might land him a future role; perhaps something that might require a brief speaking part – like the cop that says, “hey, stop!” in the scene just before his stunning performance.

I don’t want to mock my friend (his name has been left out to protect the innocent), but I thought of him as I read Crazy Love. We all have a tendency to think that all of life – even our relationship to God – is about us. It’s not. In the light of eternity and God’s story of redemptive history, we’re lucky to get 2-1/2 seconds of glory (Chan suggests that it’s more like two-fifths-of-a-second).

And yet, we’re important to God. We were created “to do good works which God prepared on advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). We’re told that God knows our name and the circumstances of our life (Isaiah 43:1-2). The psalmist speaks of God’s omniscience, knowing when we sit or stand, and hearing our spoken words before they come off our lips (Psalm 139 – read it all!).

How can it be that my life, which in so many ways is a vapour that’s here today and gone tomorrow, can be significant to Almighty, Eternal God? Why would God send His Son to die to redeem me? I don’t have the answers for those questions, and it’s only through revelation in God’s Word that we come to understand these attributes of God. What I do know is that I want to live my 2-1/2 seconds for His glory!

Think on these things.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tearing Down the Wall

August 13, 1961 is a significant day in world history. Fidel Castro celebrated his 35th birthday and the East German government closed their border as they began the construction on the famed Berlin Wall. The wall was built to stem the tide of refugees fleeing to freedom, while it officially kept out the “evils of the Western world.” It stood as a sentinel that reinforced the power of a military regime marked by oppression and forced compliance. Stories of brave and daring escapes over, under and through the wall would mark the next 28 years of Cold War history. August 13, 1961 was also the day I was born.

The Berlin Wall became a symbol of conflict in the world: the struggle for Western Democracy against Communist oppression, personal independence versus tight controls, unlimited freedom or a system that squashed expressions of individualism, and the fight between good and evil. Those who faced the wall in the 1960s and 1970s could never imagine the scenes of the Wall coming down in 1989; it was only a dream that most thought they would never see.

David – the man with a heart after God – also faced numerous walls in his life. He lived many years with the promise of future kingship, while he lived as a fugitive and hunted man. In one of the dark moments when he struggled with who he knew God wanted him to be, facing the persecution of Saul as he stalked him like a wild animal, he wrote Psalm 18. (Check it out!) The Psalm is an interesting journey that tracks David’s life from praise to despair, only to return back to praise.

Psalm 18:29 is one of my favourite verses: “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”

On November 9th, 2009, a celebration will be held to commemorate 20 years since the Berlin Wall was dismantled. My tiny German Grandmother prayed for and saw this day happen in her lifetime, reinforcing the thought that with God, nothing is impossible. With God we can scale a wall.

What are the walls that I am facing today? Some of them are yet unfulfilled dreams for my family and for my life. Some are the obstacles as I face the daily task of leading a ministry and surviving the current economic downturn. None of them are insurmountable when I stop to reflect that my God is with me and knows the challenges that I face.

What are the obstacles that seem untouchable and insurmountable in your life? Each one of us faces situations when we sense the need for assurance that “with my God I can scale a wall.” Taking down or overcoming the challenges we face may take time, and may occur differently than we envision, but God’s Word enables us to be of good courage, even when we face a wall.

Stay tuned for my weekly posts and ramblings.