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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Aug. 24 - Prov. 24

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

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to attend a concert by Keith and Kristyn Getty, a married couple that are 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 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

To see a YouTube version of the song, go to:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Aug. 23 - Prov. 23

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.

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 Dillon had a short-lived conversion to Christianity in the 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.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Aug. 22 - Prov. 22

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

Yesterday the XXXI Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro ended a 16-day celebration of athleticism and competition. While many of the images that will be remembered are about those who won silver and gold (as well as bronze), there are many moments that reveal deeper values that will be remembered for the good and the bad in the human spirit - reflections of the image of God stamped upon us.

Many of the memorable moments did not nclude medal winning performances, like the long distance runner who was unintentionally tripped and finished her race with one shoe. There were the two long distance runners that tripped and fell, helping each other up and finishing the race together (in last place); they were rewarded with a second opportunity to race. The speed walker who encouraged a fallen comrade to keep on the race, placing an encouraging hand on his shoulder, was himself elininated from medal contention by a questable act of another athlete. These images stick with us.

There were also negative images that reveal the destructive and selfish nature of the human spirit that lives far from the paths of God. Athletes who would not shake the hand of a victor because of his nationality or religious faith had no place at the games. Many who cheated or were part of a massive national cover-up over the use of banned substances were booed from the stands. The vandalism and drunken outrage of a small group was exposed as a lie. The sour tweets and name calling of a defeated athlete were quickly called out for what they revealed; a selfish, ego-centric, sore loser.

The way the first group of athletes treated one another is the difference between having a good name and an honourable reputation, and affects how they will be remembered.They will wake up today known for their goodness and will return home to their respective countries with their heads held high. For me these reveal the image of God and his goodness - this is the way we are intended to live.

The second group returns under the shadow of scandal and shame, having played out a drama in the biggest arena of their lives. They too will be known for their actions, and will carry the burden of dishonour. For me their legacy shows the far-reaching effects of a fallen nature and destructiveness of sin; once again it raised its ugly head and reveals the need for God in the lives of each person.

Our stage may not be the Olympic Games, but our lives will be judged by God and those around us. The author of the Proverbs hits the nail on its head when he says, "Even a child is known by its actions" (Prov. 20:11). Paul spoke of a race that we need to run with perseverance, competing according to the rules of life that God has set before us (Phil. 3:14 and II Tim. 2:5). And although it may cost us riches or fame, these actions do not go unnoticed by God, nor those who watch to see if the image of our Heavenly Father is of more value to us than silver or gold.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Aug. 21 - Prov. 21

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

There is a Brazilian saying that describes this verse. It is the "X of the Question", or the X da questão. The literal translation of X (pronounced ‘sheesh’) of the question” is to get to 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)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Aug. 20 - Prov. 20

Ears that hear and eyes that see— the Lord has made them both.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭20:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Some things we take for granted; we're completely used to them and we underestimate their value and the blessing they are. Such is the case with our eyesight and hearing. They form part of the package of senses that enrich and help us appreciate life.

Our spiritual hearing and eyesight are no different, but they can be dulled or turned off. The prophets of the Bible were often told that they would be sent to a people who had ears, but refused to listen to the voice of God; they had physical eyesight, but they would not see the hand of God. Solomon speaks of the fact that God has placed eternity in the hearts of every man, woman, and child (Eccl. 3:11), yet this inner sense seems to be disconnected in many. The Psalmist encouraged those around him to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psm. 34:8), inviting those who had not experienced a personal encounter with God to do so.

God made us with both physical and spiritual senses that, although they are "standard equipment," need to be tuned into the source of life that God provides for us. Jesus is the source of life, and used terms like "bread of life" and "living water" to describe what he offers to those who will trust Him and seek Him. He calls us to experience Him on a personal level; to see Him working in our lives and hear His loving and guiding voice.

Lord, give us eyes to see your wonderful works around us and to see you fingerprints upon the daily circumstances of our lives. Give us ears to hear your voice as it speaks to us - we need to hear from you among the din of many other voices that call out to us in our culture. May we be able to say that we've seen you, heard from you, and tasted and can say that the Lord is good.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Aug. 19 - Prov. 19

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 seek the advice of wise counsellors, carefully weighs it and then to put 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. The ability to go one step further and put it into action is how we can know and doi the will of God.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Aug. 18 - Prov. 18

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. 
Prov. 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 friend'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 or woman 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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Aug. 17 - Prov. 17

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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Aug. 16 - Prov. 16

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 which seem 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 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.

Monday, August 15, 2016

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 in a positive, proactive sense. I have a choice each day to ask God to make me aware of situations where I can bring a word of hope or encouragement, and then to act upon it with a word aptly spoken.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Aug. 14 - Prov. 14

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!)

I was riding on a city bus a couple of years ago when the bus driver got cut off by a black pick-up. Our driver raced after the vehicle, ignoring people at the next bus stop 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 another bus came 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 his irrational behaviour and for giving in to his temper. Yet I wonder how many people have thought of doing the same, but held back because they didn’t want to dent their vehicle. I know that I’ve had times 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 of actions of others. It’s being controlled by a power that is able to hold us back when it is wise to do so.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Aug. 13 - Prov. 13

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

As parents we spoke often to our kids about the importance of good friends, teaching them that they become like the people they hang out with. Rhonda and I prayed 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, as we can't be “salt and light” in isolation from others. But we need to 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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Aug. 12 - Prov. 12

In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In the past years the UN has come out with the annual quality of life index. It measures things like access to health care, opportunities for schooling, ease of transportation, and other variables. In most western countries we get all nervous if we drop a spot or two in this ranking, while other countries can climb dozens of spots with the simple calling of a cease fire, yet they are so low on the ranking that it really doesn't make much of a difference.

The one thing the UN ranking cannot measure is satisfaction and contentment; two values that are not dependant upon "measurables."  These characteristics do not match the formula for success that most of the world around us holds to, yet they really are what people are looking for.

Jesus, when addressing a people who were looking for a way to get out from under the tyranny and unjust treatment they suffered in the Roman occupation, spoke of this in John 10:10: "The thief comes only to steal, destroy and to kill," he said with the crowds understanding this to be the Romans. He went on to sat, "l come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly"

What the crowds didn't understand is that Christ's reference, much like Proverbs 12:28 above, speaks not only of the physical, UN here-and-now type of life, but that he spoke of contentment, satisfaction, and inner peace, as well as eternity and immortality. The life Jesus offers - the life that our Heavenly Father offers - goes beyond the UN index.

Jesus also said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me" (John -
14:6).  Whoever would come to find forgiveness and purpose in Him will experience life that isn't dependant upon the external measurable things that the UN uses. They've found something that will last forever, as well as affect the life they live here on earth.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Aug. 11 - Prov. 11

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭11:24-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Generosity is not just the luxury of the rich, but rather an attitude that understands that we are not defined by what we have, but who we are.

Solomon, who certainly found himself on the list of the rich and famous of his day, has a way with words in this chapter. From the onset of the chapter he speaks of honesty, humility and integrity as the virtues which describe a righteous person (v. 1-3). He reminds us that wealth and riches will not save anyone from days of trouble (v. 4) and that a nation will rejoice when the righteous prosper, for they will share and bless others from what they have received (v. 10-11). I can't help but wonder if Solomon isn't speaking from experience when he says, Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion (v. 22).

The New Testament reminds us of the same principle. Jesus praised the widow who gave proportionately more than anyone else in the temple court. Paul's comment on "God loves a generous giver" is embedded within a larger conversation of what does it mean to live a life that reflects the heart of God and reveals the filling of the Holy Spirit. James warns us of treating a wealthy stranger differently than someone with few resources, for what counts is the heart of the person.

All of these verses point to the same thing; we are not the sum total of what we own or possess. Our character and integrity not only matter to God, but they will affect the people around us and the influence that we have, either for the good or the bad. It's the difference between covetousness or contentment, which doesn't depend on our circumstances or balance in our chequing account. It's an attitude that understands that true riches are based on knowing God, loving others, and being able to live in peace.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Aug. 10 - Prov. 10

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son. Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭10:4-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is a balance between trusting God to supply for all our needs and working hard to meet them. There is a role that God plays and a part to what we must be involved in. This dichotomy plays itself out in a number of ways in the comparisons between different kinds of people in the Proverbs.

Consider a few of the comparisons in this chapter alone:

The wise vs. the foolish.
The righteous vs. the wicked.
The diligent vs. the lazy.
The prudent vs. the disgraceful.
The disciplined vs. those who ignore correction.

Each of the people listed are rewarded for their character, yet the final word of provision, protection or blessing rests with the Lord. The Psalmist said it this way: "Unless the Lord builds the house, its workers labour in vain" (Psm. 127:1).

When I ask the question, "what does this mean for us as a church or a group of people?" I'm drawn to the New Testament illustration of a body, with each and every part working together - there's a part or a role that each member has to play. Yes, the "building of our house" depends upon the Lord, yet it also depends upon our diligent and disciplined work, as well as making wise and prudent decisions. We all have a role or part to play in ensuring that the blessing of the Lord rests upon us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Aug. 9 - Prov. 9

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭9:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

One of the greatest attributes a person (or a group of people) can have is a teachable spirit. There is nothing better for a teacher than to be with a group that is eager to learn, valuing the preparation and experience of a skilled instructor; it makes for a dynamic learning environment.

It would almost seem a given, therefore, that people would strive to cultivate learning and increase in wisdom, but it is not the case. The history of the nation of Israel seems to point the other direction, as prophets are warned that their words will fall on deaf ears. Jesus would often preface His teaching with the phrase "let the one who has ears to hear, let them hear." It seems that when it came to their spiritual hearing, the people were often hard at hearing, or even stone-cold deaf.

So how do we increase our teach ability or capacity to hear and grow in the things of the Lord? The verse that follows this declaration mirrors Proverbs 1:7, and says:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭9:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This speaks to me on a couple of levels, both as a person that is a life-long learner, and also as a teacher. Cultivating a teachable spirit starts with humility that understands that the fear of the Lord, and it is multiplied when we are able to put it into practice. That's why the Proverbs are full of some "rubber meets the road" sayings; it is applied knowledge that transforms a person's heart and produces godly character. On one hand it starts with a teacher who has experienced this for themselves, but it also depends on "hearers who have ears to hear."

My prayer for myself and for our church is that the Lord give us a heart to know Him, and then the ability to make Him known through our lives and through our words.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Aug. 8 - Prov. 8

Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭8:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Replace one word in the phrase "Wisdom calls out to all people" and you have "God calls out to all people." This reminds me of another verse;

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We're also told that if we seek the Lord, calling out to Him, we will be found. God longs for relationship with those who would bend their hearts toward Him. This is a pursuit that will be rewarded, not with riches or fame, but with His presence and guiding hand.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Aug. 7 - Prov. 7

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭7:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭119:9-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

What does it mean to internalize the Word of God; to keep the commands and guard them in our hearts? How do we make God's teachings and commands as the apple of our eye?

As young priests in training, Levite boys would write each of the Ten Commandments on small pieces of parchment, one command per piece. They would wrap each piece around a finger and tie them with leather straps, creating a kind of "Word of God gloves." They weren't very effective against the cold, nor were they practical when it came to working with their hands, but they memorized the scripture in the process.

Hundreds of years later there was a group of early Christian monks that took these commands literally. They would painstakingly copy portions like the Ten Commandments on a parchment or papyrus scroll, then eat the words one-by-one. While the taste in their mouths wasn't exactly the best,  and their digest system eventually dealt with the chewed pieces, they invested time to make them, and in the process they memorized the words of scripture.

While I'm not sure that I agree with the ancient means that I mention above, I do agree that we need to spend time enough in the Word of God so that the Word gets into us. That's the goal of reading, studying and memorizing the Word. That's why we should strive to make this a daily practice, not only because we know that it will bring life and learning, but also because it can become our delight and pleasure - the "apple of our eye."

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Aug. 6 - Prov. 6

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him ... and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭6:16, 19‬b NIV‬‬

The list recorded in Proverbs 6:16-19 includes a number of items that are detestable to God, and most of those items we quickly and heartedly agree with. There's no question that haughty eyes and a lying tongue, or a murderer and a cheat are abominable. Those who rush into evil or would stoop to perjury are to be avoided.

But think for a minute about the last item on the list - stirring up conflict in the community. Eugene Peterson translated the phrase "a troublemaker in the family." We can call this by several names, but suffice it to sat that there's no room for gossip, backstabbing, or demeaning one another. There is a level of seriousness to this kind of behaviour that I don't think we totally understand, for the scriptures say that the Lord detests and hates it.

Applying the principle to the Church, whether we are talking in a global or a local sense, needs the same amount of serious reflection. Remember that Jesus calls the Church his bride, and He wants her to be spotless and blameless. Pauls speaks often of the work and cost of building unity, as well as the need to build each other up, not tear down.

The way we use our words is one of the key ways that we can either fall into this trap, or purposefully rise above it. I noted in my message last week that there's not a chapter in the Proverbs that doesn't touch on the topic of not only what we say, but how we use our words. My prayer for myself, and for my brothers and sisters in Christ in our church community, is that we'd use our words to build people up and to bring unity - then we'll experience what it means to be involved in something that the Lord loves.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Aug. 5 - Prov. 5

Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house ...
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The story is told of a bus company that was looking for a driver to work a route through a high mountain pass. In the interview process they asked those applying for the position how close they could come from the edge of a precipice before they considered themselves in danger. Some, not wanting to appear fearful, said a foot, or a couple of inches. The person who got the job replied, "I'll stay as far away as I can, for I don't want to endanger my life or the lives of my passengers."

The fifth chapter of Proverbs is one of only three Proverbs that keeps to a single theme; the adulterous woman. It is a reminder for a young man to keep his way pure and to not even cast a glance in the direction of sin.

But in the history of Israel, as a nation, she was often considered the adulteress; the one who abandoned her covenant with God; people that wandered into the sins of idolatry and forgoting all that their God had done for them. It all started with seemingly simple steps away from their practice of worship, but those small "baby steps" away from God soon led to huge leaps away from the relationship that they had with their Heavenly Father.

As individuals and as a body of believers we should be cautious when we hear ourselves saying things like, "it's just this time," "a little won't hurt," or "no one will notice." The father in this Proverb also says to his son, "For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all of your paths" (Prov. 5:21). God knows when we're getting too close to the edge, and through His word and our conscience, He warns us to stay clear and not even go near. The outcome is disastrous for the group of people and the individual who does not listen to His warning.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Aug. 3 - Who is watching you?

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

New Location for August Postings

For the month of August we are creating a private FaceBook page that looks at this book asking, what does this chapter (or the specific verse of the day) mean for us as a people and a local church?

Go to for more details.