Sunday, May 31, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #31

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)

It is no secret that my wife, Rhonda, is an early riser. This hasn’t changed during our weeks of self-isolation and social distancing; it might even have become more accentuated. My family and I have benefited from her care and hard work.

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 I (as a man) stopped to think that about my role to ensure that my wife the freedom to be this kind of person.

The first readers of this passage would have marveled 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 treated 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 ideal to be reached? Maybe, in some cases. However, it should also be seen as the standard of a man who sees the true value of his wife, working as one team, seeking her advice in their decisions, and encouraging 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?

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.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #30

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 marveled 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.

I wonder how many people today could say the same thing? Our current circumstances have brought out the inner hoarder in many of us. Who would have ever thought that toilet paper, or yeast, or hamburger would be the products missing on our store shelves. Instead of thinking of others, far too many people have forgotten God’s promise to provide all that we need.

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 our neighbor possessions, instead of living with contentment.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #29

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. Thankfully my traps never produced much in the way of animals, 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.

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. We can even end up doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and seem to have a desired result. But it’s all wrong and it robs us of experiencing the “good, perfect, and pleasing will of God.” (Rom. 12:2)

Hebrews 12:1 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.  

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #28

You 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 reminds us that actions have consequences. I can imagine an old, toothless cowboy saying this out of the side of his mouth: “If you wanna dance, you gotta pay the fiddler.”

We live in a world where people don’t think that their actions will catch up to them. This hasn’t changed in our Covid-19 World. We’ve heard politicians say one thing in public (“wear a mask,” “don’t travel to the cottage,” or “don’t gather in groups larger than five people”), and do something completely different. What’s worse, once caught in the act, their pictures are posted all over social media.

However, this is far from the teaching of the Scriptures. Listen to the words of Proverbs Chapter 28:

The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. (v. 1)

A man tormented by the guilt of murder will be a fugitive till death; let no one support him. (v. 17)

He whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but he whose ways are perverse will suddenly fall. (v. 19)

The Proverbs teaches that sin cannot be concealed. It will reap a harvest in due time, just like God told Moses: You can be sure that your sins will find you out. (Numbers 32:23b)

However, 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 has been 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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #27

Living with an Open Agenda

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

If there's a lesson I have learned through these last three months, it is this: I can't control the circumstances around me. My plans all changed with the travel bans, social distancing, and self-isolation. And no one asked me about it!

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.” Secondly, 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 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 a God who guides us and cares for us 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)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #26

Barn Swallows

One of the pleasures that self-isolation and the Covid-19 world has not taken away is the ability to go out and watch the birds, busy with all of their springtime activity. A wooded area close to our home is a catalogue of winged wildlife: Cardinals, Warblers, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Canadian Geese, Mallard Ducks, and Herons. It gives me an odd sense of comfort to know that the pandemic hasn’t stopped everything.

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. These images remind me of the truth of this verse; a person of integrity does not need to fear undeserved accusations. 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’s a case of nature gone wild. Images of birds swarming and pecking away at people 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 they won’t stick when a person’s reputation is one of trustworthiness in their words and deeds.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #25

You Know Who Your Friends Are When …
Like a bad tooth or a lame foot, is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble. Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. (Proverbs 25:19-20)

The current circumstances have offered ample opportunity for people to show their true colours. Whether is has been a health issue, or financial strain, many people have fallen into hardship during these months of social distancing and the shutdown of our economy. It’s a time when many of us have seen who our true friends are; people who stick with us through the good times and the bad.

True friends show their worth when they come to our aid, or bring a word of encouragement that helps us focus on the One who meets our greatest needs. Solomon is quick to identify these people.

Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters. (Prov. 25:14)

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver. (Prov. 25:12)

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land. (Prov. 25:25)

We are given the opportunity during these days to demonstrate the kind of a friend we are. The Scriptures speak of this in many places, reminding us that it is God’s love, given freely to us, that He expects to give to others:

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

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

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

Like so many other things in the Scriptures, we are given bad examples as a warning, not to justify a pity-party. The issue is never, “who has come to help me,” but rather, “who have I reached out to and shown my true friendship?”

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #24

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)

One of the surprises of life in our pandemic world is the generosity and free music that has been available over the internet. I have particularity enjoyed watching a weekly worship concert put on by Keith and Kristyn Getty. This married couple writes songs that reflect 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 one of their songs, 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 (2x)

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 (2x)

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 (2x)

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 (2x)

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 (2x)

If you want to listen to the song, click here.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #23

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)

Solomon doesn’t mince his words in these verses. The bottom line is this: if you get caught in the trap of alcohol or drugs (or any other unhealthy addiction), you will pay for it in the end. It is a matter of control. The reports in the news confirm this in our current situation, as alcohol-induced household violence is on the rise.

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 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), we are offered power for living and a hope to live a life controlled by God.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #22

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. We see it as nations jostle for position as they protect their own interests. It will surely be seen in individuals as a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus is developed, wanting to make sure that they get the shot that will ensure their safety.

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 followers of Christ live radically different than others around them, but that is often 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 pressures of life; as I face the challenges of living in a Covid-19 world.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #21

The “Shees” 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 of this colorful Portuguese saying; but it gets to the point of this verse. The literal translation of ‘Xis’ da Questão is to say “the X of a question,” or the main point of a matter.

I bring this up because I see an alarming number of people, Christ-followers included, who defend their behavior with an “ends justifying the means” sense of logic. It doesn’t matter how I act or what I say if the eventual outcome aligns itself with a good outcome. Our current Covid-19 crisis has brought this attitude to the forefront in the lives of political leaders, social media stars, and ordinary people.

But God is more concerned about who we are than the outcome of what we do. He is pleased when we choose to live our lives out of loving obedience, and not for what we other people might think, or what 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)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #20

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)

I spoke the other day to a friend who is passing through a deep depression. His confidence has been rocked by the events of the crisis and he’s wondering if he’ll ever see light at the end of his personal “Covid-19 tunnel.” I asked him if he’d ever gone down into a deep cave and experienced absolute darkness? Then I told him this story.

As a young boy our family visited the Lewis & Clarke caverns in Montana. At one point of the tour our cleaver guide warned us that he was turning off the lights. Before he did this he explained the dangers of the cave, including flying bats and scurrying rats. When he turned off the light and we all stood in utter complete darkness, and it was then that my brother – who stood in front of me – took a small step backward. All I could think of was a rat nibbling at my shoes, so I gave a good kick to rid myself of the unseen menace. My brother yelped like a hound dog kicked by a horse. I don’t think he ever forgave me.

The perceived danger of my situation was far worse than anything that was real, but my mind played tricks on me.

In many ways, our minds can become dark places where we lose focus and confidence in God. When we read God’s word, we are often exposed to that darkness of our own hearts and minds. Consider these 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 the Proverbs 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)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #19

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 favorite sayings of my High School drafting teacher, but the problem was that he seemed to like to use it with me.

If you have listened to the Covid-19 newscasts you have heard many statements that were made one day, only to be retracted the next. Promises of additional testing and eventual defeat of the pandemic have flourished, only to flounder in the face of hard evidence and lack of resources.

The book of Proverbs encourages us to seek advice of wise counselors, carefully weighing their words and wisely putting their directives 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 ways God guides us in the decisions of life. It is clear that the Word of God and prayer all play a part of God’s direction. Circumstances can also 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 rubber meets the road when it comes to knowing and doing the will of God.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #18

Where do you go in times of trouble?
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe. (Prov. 18:10)

This weekend Canadians are celebrating the Victoria Day long weekend; the unofficial start of the summer season. In the past they have been able to go and take refuge at a summer cottage, or to travel and be with friends and family. But this year is going to be different.

It is interesting to watch as people’s normal schedules or routines have been altered by the conditions and travel restrictions that Covid-19 has placed upon us. The standard places where we have been able to seek rest and refuge have been lost or uprooted. It’s not easy to have your whole world turned upside-down.

A few years ago Rhonda and I had the opportunity to travel to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. We visited several medieval castles; the places of refuge of kings and kingdoms remain as a testimony to the different realms that ruled the land, whether it be pre-Christian Phoenicians, Roman Emperors, Moorish princes, or post-12th Century Christian kingdoms.

One of the castles that stood out was the Kasbah-Medina of Tangier, Morocco. The layer-cake effect of the different conquered kingdoms stands as a reminder of man’s inability to control his circumstances or to keep safe. The walled cities and strong towers built by the hands of men will all day come to ruin, and eventually be nothing more than a museum piece.

David spoke of a refuge in which we can rest and put our trust:

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Behold, the Protector of Israel will not slumber or sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is the shade on your right hand.  … He will preserve your soul. The LORD will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:2-5, 7-8)

The LORD is the same refuge for us today, a sure and safe place to go when everything around us is changing.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #17

A Wise Fool?

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (Proverbs 17:28)

Have you ever caught yourself, stopping just short of saying something that you might regret for the rest of your life? There is wisdom in showing restraint in our words, especially as we live during a time of tension and uncertainty.

The Book of Proverbs takes extraordinary pains to discuss the perils of a person who is incapable of controlling their tongue. This 17th chapter is no exception, and the title of “fool” is reserved for them, reflecting the state of their heart. Here are a few examples:

A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue. (v.4)

Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool – how much worse lying lips to a ruler! (v. 7)

Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly. (v. 12)

A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble. (v. 20)

The opposite of is to be careful with our words; to use them to build people up, rather than tear down. Such a person is called wise and reaps an expected harvest; respect of those around them.

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (v. 27-28)

We live in a culture where we are told to “just say what you think.” It’s a world where verbal diarrhea is rewarded by followers in the Twittersphere. But this is not the way of wisdom, nor the path of a person who fears the Lord.

Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 12:34 and 36: For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks … But I tell you that you will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word you have spoken.

The wisdom of the Proverbs stands true; I’d rather run into a bear!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #16

Change of Plans

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)

Have you been forced to change any of your plans this year? We had a great adventure planned, joining our daughter in Norway at the end of the summer and taking a 12-day road trip to explore the Fjords. It was going to be a trip of a lifetime!

We had other plans too – things we wanted to get done and people we hoped to visit. It was all put on hold by Covid-19. We were made painfully aware that we are not in control of things, but equally reminded that God is.

The Apostle James spoke of this when he was writing to a group that was facing persecution and an uncertain future. Hear what he said about making plans without taking God’s counsel and timing into consideration when making plans:

Now listen, 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.” (James 4:13-14a)

The Sovereignty of God is the theological term for acknowledging that God is aware of all things, including the pandemic before it ever hit the news. His character and his care for us are what help us through the good and the bad in life, trusting in His promises and provision. We trust in the fact that He knows what is before us, and that He is the giver of all good things and rewarder of those who earnestly seek him.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #15

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 words of Proverbs Chapter Fifteen reminded me of yesterday’s verse, except that the author begins with a positive statement. It is all about 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.

The Old Testament story of Abigail is a personification of the principle in Proverbs (1 Sam. 25:23-25). With one gracious and gratitude-filled statement, she turned David’s wrath into pity; his anger into action that reflected godly character.

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 what I can say to build up those around me, especially as people live in a climate of fear and uncertainty. What can I do to encourage my neighbour today? How can I express appreciation to those who go to work to make sure that my needs are met, or that people are cared for? One kind comment goes a long way in making peace in the home. 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 in a negative sense, but in 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.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #14

What are you thirsty for?

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life … (Prov. 14:22)

When was the last time you worked outside, under the hot sun? One of the advantages of the closure of my office due to Covid-19, is that I’m working out of our house. This gives me some flexibility to my schedule, and I’ve been able to get some of the spring yard work done. This week I got my office work done early and took advantage of a sunny afternoon to clean my deck. When the day was done, there was nothing better than pouring an ice-cold glass of refreshing water.

One of the blessings of living in Canada is the abundance of cold, clear, drinking water. Not everyone has that advantage, so I am careful not to take it for granted. The fact that I can just go to the tap and I have a source of life-giving, thirst-quenching water, is an incredible blessing.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is the source of life, comparable to a fountain of cool, fresh water on a hot, scorching day. We are told that He not only promises quality of life, but quantity the exceeds our expectations. His conversation with the woman at the well, told to us in John Chapter Four, equate physical thirst with a deeper spiritual thirst that only God can satisfy.

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14).

Jesus’ comment to the disciples, comparing His plans for the believer, compared to the designs of the one called a thief and liar, are markedly different.

I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)

We are called to lean into God and look to Him as the source, or the fountain of life. We do this knowing that as we seek Him we will not go unrewarded.

Today, may we echo the prayer of the Psalmist, letting his words be the cry of our heart: As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul thirsts for you. (Psm. 42:1)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #13

In the Company of Godly Friends

Last week I received two phone calls that came completely “out of the blue.” Friends were calling to see how we are coping with all of the changes and challenges of the pandemic world we live in. We talked for a long time, sharing what we were learning and how we were adjusting to everything. It was a joy to spend some time “together.”

Friendships like that enrich us and make us better people. They help us to face tough circumstances and to act with grace and godly character. It is no surprise that we become like the people that we associate with; we become like the people that we hang out with. As we rub shoulders with godly men and women, something rubs off on us.

The use of the word ‘walk’ in Proverbs 13:20 follows the same principle of the word in the New Testament. It can be substituted with the word ‘live,’ and is reflected in the following verses from the book of Ephesians:

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

You must no longer live (or walk) as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking (Eph. 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 (Eph. 5:1-2).

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity (Eph. 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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #12

Talk is not Cheap

I watched in shock as a customer tore a strip off the cashier at a local grocery story. He let his anger get the best of him, insisting that it was his right to pay with cash, and that the Debit or Credit Only sign was far too small to expect anyone to read it from the back of the line. He justified his actions, saying, “Aren’t we all a little edgy these days?”

I know that we are all tired of the adjustments and inconveniences of the “new reality” as we live in a Covid-19 world, but is that a good excuse? I think it’s been happening to many people during these days of quarantine.

The New Testament 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 we all will have to give account for “every careless word that is spoken.” (Matthew 12:34-36)

But there is hope! The wisdom promised in the book of Proverbs hinges upon God-given power for all areas of life. Living under the control of God’s Spirit means that our words can bring healing to those around us (Proverbs 12:6). He brings the kind of transformation that allows our words to build people up (Prov. 1:19) and bring delight to the Lord (Prov. 12:22).

I need that control in my life, especially when I find myself in unwelcome circumstances. I recognize that the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24 includes self-control, and that implies the taming of my 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.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #11

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

An “Under-the-Radar” Fruit of the Holy Spirit

The news has been filled with stories of empty shelves and panic purchases; people’s reaction to shortages has been anything but exemplar. Many people, when they hear that things are running out, they complicate the situation by running out to get the product, even if they do not need it. It seems that in some cases, Covid-19 has brought out the worst of people.

On the contrary, we are told that the person with godly character has a quiet confidence that God rewards those who follow His paths. God sees all of the things which go unseen by others, and His promise is that by refreshing others that we will receive His provision. He calls us to a higher standard; one that goes beyond doing acts of charity, moving toward revealing His character to a world that desperately needs to see the goodness of God in tangible ways.

I Peter 4:8-11 speaks of stewardship of the gifts of a transformed life; a Spirit-filled person who acts with Christ-like character:

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.

How does this work out in our trip(s) to the supermarket? Instead of stocking up, maybe it means that we check to see if an elderly neighbor could use something. Instead of grabbing the last three packages of ground beef, maybe we take only one. It means we put the needs of others first and trust God for His timely provision, knowing that He rewards those who model His generosity.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #10

How Will God Supply My Needs?

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)

The reality of the Covid-19 World goes beyond self-isolation and physical distancing. It has also led to the closure of our nation’s economy left many people without work and monthly income. It’s a situation where they need to trust God in a new ways.

When it comes to trusting God there are two opinions. 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 that doesn’t just sit around and “trust God,” nor does it work tirelessly without a sense of hope for God’s provision.

Proverbs Chapter Ten holds the two thoughts in what seems to be a paradox: God cares for and provides for those who are righteous, yet the same people are encouraged to work hard 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.

Consider the following verses from Proverbs Chapter Ten:

He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps 
during harvest is a disgraceful son. (v. 5)
The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked 
paths will be found out. (v. 9)
The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the 
wicked brings them punishment. (v. 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, workaholic 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.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #9

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

Do you remember the “good old days” and what it was like in our pre-Covid world, when we were able to explore the trails of our parks? We traveled freely and enjoyed God’s marvelous creation.

I used to hike the trails and climb the peaks around Vancouver, back in the days before GPS navigation and smart phones. An upgrade was a steep trail that took you to the peak, and a download was when you added a couple 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. 

Proverbs Chapter Nine 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. More than ever, in this Covid-19 World, we need God’s wisdom to navigate the “new normal” that is set before us.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #8

Treasure Hunters
Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.  (Proverbs 8:10-11)

The news is filled with reports of how people are going to have to adjust to a “new normal” once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted; doing things differently and valuing protection and a close family circle more than ever. We’ve been forced to restructure and re-evaluate all of the things that we hold dear.

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-old boys, 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. However, all was not lost; the hours spent seeking treasure were rewarded with rich friendship that was worth more than any archaeological find.

Many times we sell ourselves short 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, in His Sermon on the Mount, said it this way: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heave, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21)

How have you been forced to re-evaluate the treasures of your life? Who are the people and what are the things that you have learned to appreciate during this season of self-isolation and physical distancing? How are you going to act differently once things return to the “new normal?”

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Living in a Covid-19 World: Day #7


Building Your Mind-Memory
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 7:2-3)

        Several years ago I had the opportunity to interview Lyndon Rush, the Canadian bobsled athlete. He and Jessie Lumsden were the 2013 overall two-man World Champions and he piloted the Canadian 4-man bobsled team to a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Winter Olympic Games. He now coaches young athletes to excel in this sport of finger-tip reflexes and break-neck speed.
        Lyndon Rush’s role on the team as driver meant that he needed to guide the bobsled through the twists and turns of the world’s most dangerous tracks. He explained that his position required both great physical strength and mental toughness, as he was responsible for the lives of his teammates. “People can die in this sport if you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said in the interview.
        As the driver of both the 4-man and 2-man events, Lyndon Rush put into practice a skill which he learned as a young boy; building his mind-memory. Rush grew up in a Christian home and memorized scripture as a child. He employed this same skill, memorizing and visualizing the perfect line of each track. His ability to guard the fine details of each course enabled him to compete at a world-class level.
        The same skill is needed for us as we navigate the complexities of the Covid-19 world. We are able to employ the words of Proverbs 7, which promises to keep us from wayward ways; keeping us on track. Memorizing the Word of God and focusing on His promises enables us to live in such a way that the “straight paths” or furrows of Proverbs 3:5-6 become our natural reaction to the circumstances and temptations that are thrown our way. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts – scripture memory – is one way to ensure that we can keep our way pure and not sin against Him (Psalm 119:9, 11).