Saturday, February 6, 2021

Flour·ish (‘fləriSH)

Each year I spend some time asking the Lord to reveal a key thought or a key verse to guide my times of Bible reading, prayer, and daily devotions. This year the word “Flourish” has come to mind, especially in the context of Psalm 1. It reminds me of the words of Jesus in John 10:10, promising that he comes to us so that we might experience an abundant life; that we might experience all that God has for us, independent of our outward circumstances.

The year 2021 has not moved out from under the shadow of Covid-19 and all of the adjustments we have made. However, as we continue to hope in the Lord there is a sense that He has something specific and special for us in what will be a “new normal”

There are things that the person who wants to experience the abundance of a God-centered life must do. As with many promises in the Word of God, there are things to avoid: Do not walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way sinners take, or sit in the seat of scoffers. There are also two things that are key to experiencing God in all of His fulness: Delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating upon it day and night.

The person who keeps their mind focused on God’s Word will experience abundance; they will flourish and be like a sturdy oak planted by a bubbling brook that sustains it and feeds it. This person will have roots that go down deep enough to withstand the fiercest storm, or a canopy rich enough to provide protection against the scorching heat of the summer sun. They will flourish in the knowledge that “the Lord watches over the way of the righteous” (verse 6), and be able to face all that is to come in what continues to be a pandemic-influenced year.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Canada Day Gift

I invite you to download a copy of the Refresh Bible Study Magazine June 30, 2020 edition. Their “Canadian connection” is an article I wrote based on Proverbs 3:5-6. For those who followed the May 2020 Proverb-a-Day challenge, you will see that I adapted the article for a this publication. “The Line” is a transferable truth that is understood in all contexts. To download a free copy of the magazine, click here: Refresh Magazine

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)