Friday, December 18, 2009

The Christmas story part 10: Luke 2 - Boy Jesus in the Temple

Today is the last part of the Christmas story, but it really doesn’t have much to do with the Christmas story at all. Luke finishes his account of Jesus’ birth with the only story wee get of Jesus’ youth. It is a very brief account of a 12 year old Jesus getting lost from His parents, but they find him back in Jerusalem speaking to the teachers in the Temple.

46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
49"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" – Luke 2:46-49

I have often wondered why this story was chosen as the one story to represent Jesus’ youth. We don’t have very many stories of Jesus simply as a man living among His family and friends. This is one of them, yet it still shows His divine nature because He was found among the teachers in the Temple.

It is important to remember that Jesus was a man too. As this passage finishes, it says he returned to Nazareth and grew as a man over the next 18 years. I try to think about that growth, especially now that I am the age Jesus was when He began His public ministry. The important thing to remember is that we are not separated that far from Jesus in terms of our lives.

Even though Jesus had a miraculous birth, He still had to grow as a man., He faced temptation like us. As we see in the account of His death, He even had some doubts like a normal man. Still, He grew and faced His adversity like a man. We learn from His example of living a humble life and presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice before God, not from the miracles and proof He was divine. We cannot match the divine. We can match the humble example he set.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Christmas story part 9: Luke 2 - Jesus presented in the Temple

Have you ever waited your entire life for something? The closest thing I can compare that to was making the basketball state finals while I was in high school. I grew up loving the game and knowing I would have my chance to make history for my school by going to state. In Indiana, that is a very big deal! When I was a junior in high school, it happened and we made the state finals in Indianapolis. I felt like I had waited my entire life for it. It was a small peak in my life though. It was not the end all, be all moment I thought it would be. Though it was very exciting, I no know there are other things worth waiting for.

We see that in the life of Simeon. He was promised that he would see the Christ before he died. Without question he was already advanced in age at this point in time. He had to wonder if God was going to fulfill his promise. Here in Luke 2 we see that that promise is fulfilled when Mary and Joseph bring the infant Jesus to the Temple.

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel." – Luke 2:25-32

This had to be an incredibly special moment and honor for Simeon. We see another prophetess, Anna, have a similar moment in this section. It is key here that Simeon, though Jewish, believed that Jesus was destined to be a light of revelation for the gentiles. This was unusual at the time. It stepped away from what was normal, but it showed how extraordinary Jesus’ birth was.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Christmas story part 8: Luke 2 - Jesus' birth

What I love about the birth of Jesus is that it is the exact opposite of what you would expect. If mankind were running things, this Savior would have been born with much fanfare. The birth would have occurred in the finest palace with the elite of the elite present to worship Him from the beginning. Instead, we see the opposite. He was born with little fanfare in a manger. Shepherds, part of the bottom rung of society, were the only ones present at the birth.

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." – Luke 2:8-12

This is just the first of many misconceptions that those in power would make during Jesus’ life on earth. Since they held positions of power they figured He would come from power. They ignored the prophesies that predicted this exact scenario, never seeing past their own pre-conceptions.

The shepherds play an important role as well. One of the things that got Jesus into trouble later in his ministry is his desire to associate with sinners. As He famously said, “a doctor is there for sick people, not those who are healthy. The shepherds visiting at the time of His birth were the first example of many proving that Jesus came for everyone, not just the elite. These men were considered unclean by those in the Temple. Their testimony could not be trusted, yet they were the first to recognize this very special event.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Christmas story part 7: Luke 1 - The birth of John the Baptist

Why does the birth of John the Baptist get almost equal weight to Jesus’ birth in Luke 1? John was just a man, while Jesus was the Son of God. We see so much of John because he was meant to prepare the way for Jesus. In a way, his birth was supernatural as well. It echoes the birth of Isaac. While Isaac was the patriarch of God’s kingdom on earth, John was essentially the one that would go before the most important man who ever lived.

76And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins, - Luke 1:76-77

Humanity needed to know that it needed salvation before accepting it. Otherwise, they would not have understood what Jesus was trying to teach. John was a man that lived a very humble life. He knew God had a special plan for him, yet he lived in the desert away from power in order to focus on God’s plan. It is also important that Jesus sought John the Baptist before beginning His public ministry. He did not seek someone in power in Jerusalem for their blessing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Christmas story part 6: Luke 1 - Jesus' birth foretold

What made Mary so extraordinary? She was poor. She was young, and she was a female. Through her, however, God changed the world. This is a testament to what God can do. At the time, women were treated almost like property. They had no real power, so people would expect a man to make a difference. Age and wealth were also respected, so since Mary was young and poor she had two more strikes against her.

I have questioned God’s use of our gifts quite a bit lately. Last night I received the news that young Amberly, the girl with the brain tumor that needed prayer for her surgery, had some major complications. They found out the tumor itself was malignant, and the long-term prognosis is not good.

How can God use something like this for good? My cynical nature tells me that it is yet another way that gifts get wasted. She is a highly intelligent 10-year old that may see her life cut short before it really gets started. In related news, someone I knew very well in high school is going through a similar battle right now. He is also very talented and well respected in his field, but has to face this. On a much smaller scale, I feel my own gifts are being wasted as I struggle to find my place.

38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. – Luke 1:38

Sometimes that is all we can do. I can’t imagine Mary’s fear either. In her world, being an unwed teenage mother was even more harsh than it is today. She would be labeled a harlot and would pretty much be cast out of society. She had to trust God knew what He was doing. Even in all this she still left to help her older relative Elizabeth.

As I begin yet another week of uncertainty, a week in which it looks like no good can happen, I can only repeat Mary’s words with all the conviction I can muster. I am the Lord’s servant.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Christmas story part 5: Luke 1 - John the Baptist

Today we shift to Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. The gospel of Mark picks up Jesus’ life around the beginning of his public ministry, so there is not much of a Christmas story there. We get a much more detailed account in the book of Luke, however, beginning with the birth of John the Baptist.

If the story of John the Baptist and his birth sounds familiar here it should. It is a very similar story to the birth of Isaac from Abraham and arah. John was a gift from God for Zechariah and Elizabeth. His birth was somewhat miraculous like Isaac’s in that Elizabeth had been barren. He also was to prepare the way for Jesus.

14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." – Luke 1:14-17

What an advantage to have to be born with the Holy Spirit already filling you. It is clear that God was not messing around with Jesus’ birth, nor was he messing around with His messenger. Most people have to wait until adulthood to come to the Lord and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Some don’t even get it then. With John, however, God wanted to give Him the tools from birth to prepare the way for Christ. Shoot, I am 30 and I am not sure what to do with my life. John knew before birth!

So how does this tie into the Christmas story? Well, John’s birth was also somewhat supernatural. His life was so entwined with Jesus’ earthly ministry that it is important we know his origins as well. Elizabeth was also a relative of Mary’s, so he was related to Christ. Like any great story, we must know the full backstory. That is why we have this story.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Christmas story part 4: Matthew 2 continued

Today we have the last part of Jesus’ birth story as told by Matthew. As a kid, I always thought all of these events happened in one night. He was born, the magi visited, and they immediately fled to Egypt. Instead, there was a small bit of time between all these when Jesus and His family returned to Nazareth. Once there, they unfortunately had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.

13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." – Matthew 2:13-15

It is amazing to see that this is a sad theme during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Even as an infant, someone who posed no threat to anyone, Jesus was hunted down. Those in power felt threatened by Him because they feared losing their power. That was Herod. Instead of embracing the birth of the Son of God and worshipping Him (thus giving him even great power), he chose to hold on to his earthly power.

That is really what it breaks down to. In Jesus, we gain the kingdom of heaven. Even serving in the kingdom of heaven is greater than having power here on Earth. Many of us are never presented with the power to run a small nation like Herod. I can see, however, where that power is tempting. Fortunately, God was in control the entire time. After a brief time in Egypt, Jesus and His family were able to return to Nazareth where he had a fairly normal upbringing.

Which brings me to my final point today. Between His birth and around the time He was 30, we have only one story of Jesus as He was growing up. I think this is important. It shows His humanity, as He did not grow up pampered in some earthly palace. We know that he grew up learning Joseph’s trade and practicing as carpenter. In that regard, He was as normal as you or I. This connection with humanity was essential for His mission.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Christmas story part 3: Matthew 2

I begin today with a question. What was the last birth that received national attention in this country? Was it Suri Cruise? That is probably the most famous birth out there. As much as some people follow the tabloids, however, it is unlikely that the story of her birth will be told two millennia from now. There were no signs in the heavens (as far as I know) announcing her birth, nor did elders from other countries come to visit.

I say this because we see all of these signs when Jesus was born. Here in Matthew’s version of the story we see many of the human reactions to Jesus’ birth. Most of these reactions are related to his Jewish background. That is why the King of the Jews, Herod, was so interested. We’ll have more on him later, but let’s take a look at some of the other events around His birth.

10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. – Matthew 2:10-12

These Magi were outsiders. They were not Jewish, but they were sent on their mission from Herod because of Herod’s personal interest. God did something amazing with their hearts, however. He opened them up to Jesus’ true meaning to humanity. They were seekers of wisdom and God allowed them to find the ultimate truth in His Son. This is important because Matthew shows us that salvation is promised for all mankind.

Up to this point, most of the Bible has been meant for the Jews. While the Jews are God’s people, God loves everyone equally. These experts and seekers of wisdom in the Magi saw that there was something special about Jesus. We don’t know how they knew, but we know that they knew. That is enough to start Jesus’ message before He even started it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Christmas story part 2: Matthew 1 continued

On paper, it looks like an entertaining story. Teenage girl is approached by Holy Spirit, is told she is pregnant, and the child is said to be one that will save the world from sin. This is a pretty dramatic story. It was one so dramatic that Joseph did not believe it himself and he almost walked away from the issue.

19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." – Matthew 1:19-21

I think it is important to remember that Joseph and Mary were not royalty. Yes, Joseph was in the line of King David, but centuries had passed and his family was not one of power. Neither was Mary. They were two ordinary people that loved God and tried to follow His teachings. This is important because it shows that Jesus’ very beginning on this earth were humble.

Remember, humility is a critical element that I have stressed here when it comes to Jesus’ earthly ministry. He never sought to glorify Himself. He instead chose to always glorify the Father. This is counter to man’s desire, as we often seek to glorify ourselves above others. His birth is a sign of that humble nature. We only get four paragraphs here as a brief introduction to His earthly parents, but they were far from the elite of society. They were even frightened by this destiny put before them. Joseph felt His birth would be a public disgrace, so he wanted out of the deal. As usual, God had other, more wonderful ideas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Christmas story part 1: Matthew 1

I have been trying to figure out what I should write about next. Since it is Christmas time I thought it would be best to touch on the Christmas story itself. We have all read these following verses at this time of year, but I wanted to try and look a little deeper behind them. Over the next couple of weeks I wanted to see if God had anything new to tell us. This world needs more of Jesus’ story, so why not go back to the very roots? I admit that it has been very hard to study God’s word of late. It just isn’t saying much to me. Hopefully this basic story we all know will have something new to say.

6and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, -- Matthew 1:6

On the surface this is just a list of names. Matthew wanted to establish Jesus’ genealogy from a human perspective and show that His birth was the fulfillment or prophecy. His lineage goes back to Abraham through David, Solomon, and the kings of Israel. The mention of Uriah is important because it ties in God’s grace to this story. Remember, a critical aspect of Jesus was His humanity. Uriah was a man that David cheated by stealing his wife, then putting him in harm’s way so he would be killed. As great as David was, this was not his proudest moment. This doesn’t taint Jesus’ lineage, but it does show that he was willing to be associated with some of the darker elements of humanity. He was coming to save us from moments like this.

We will see a different genealogy of Jesus when we take a look at the Christmas story in Matthew. This author, however, seeks to emphasize Jesus’ human characteristic s and background. Families were very important in ancient Israel at the time. Even then, very few people could trace their roots as far back as what is listed here. We can rarely do that today with modern methods of information. By establishing Jesus’ lineage, Matthew was setting the tone for a remarkable story.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 31

As we finish our study of the book of Proverbs today I am reminded of the greatest piece of wisdom I have received from this book. I thought about this last night as I was driving home from Lafayette. I had reached a major moment in my writing career by being asked to cover the Purdue-Wake Forest game as a member of the press. This was a huge step forward. I wasn’t getting this because I worked for a newspaper. This was a direct result of something I had built from scratch that was now fully recognized.

The night could not have gone worse. There were traffic problems, problems getting in the Arena, computer problems, you name it. By the time I got started I was so flustered that my in-game coverage was not quite what people were looking for. I had screwed up badly. I had screwed up so badly that I found out at the end of the night I may have hurt my chances of being asked back to press row. It wasn’t because I acted unprofessionally. It was because I put myself into the equation too much in my coverage.

Ultimately, that is the main thing that the book of Proverbs tries to teach us. It is the removal of the self and the reliance on Godly Wisdom that we have seen as the key lesson of the last 31 chapters. I can even see it in writing about this book. If I tried to write about what I thought things meant I would get stopped. If I sat and let God’s wisdom flow through me it even felt different, like I wasn’t controlling the keyboard anymore.

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31 Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. – Proverbs 31:30-31

Though this last portion is about a wife of noble character it can apply to all of us. The key is to always fear and follow the Lord. As I was lying in bed this morning praying that I would have the strength to merely get out of bed I knew that the only thing I had control of was swinging my feet over the side. Now that I am out of bed it is up to God to come with the rest of the plan for today. I certainly can’t do it on my own.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 30

It is amazing what God’s Word has to say to us sometimes. In this morning’s chapter, Proverbs 30, I discovered a major reason why I have struggled so much lately with writing here. I keep thinking that I need to add to God’s Word, like I will be blessed with some great insight that will inspire the masses. Instead, I get this:

2 "I am the most ignorant of men;
I do not have a man's understanding.
3 I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. – Proverbs 30:2-3

This is not totally an expression of ignorance, but one of humility. The author here comes before God to say that they are powerless to add anything to what God has written. As my study Bible says in its commentary, we have no ability or even a right to add to God’s Word. We can’t know god from our own ideas, only by the wisdom that he reveals to us through His Word.

Think about that for a moment. How many things in this world are based merely on an idea? The Cold War was essentially a 45 year clash of ideas. What good came from it, too? The “idea” of communism caused countless millions to live without God’s knowledge in the atheist regime. Our own ideas are counterproductive to God’s plan. Because of that, I apologize for trying to interject my own.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 29

15 The rod of correction imparts wisdom,
but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. – Proverbs 29:15

No one enjoys facing discipline. It is a reminder that we are wrong, and who wants to admit that they were wrong. We all must face discipline though. How we handle it determines our character. I had to face it this week at work when I was caught reading stuff on the internet instead of working. I could have fought back. I had already finished my work for the day, but instead I needed to respond in a more positive manner. I needed to keep my job, after all. Even though I am not a fan of it, I know have to limit my usage of the internet at work as a result of this discipline. It is for the better as well.

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

What is the law for us? It is following the rules set down before us from God. Honestly, I am having a hard time writing about this chapter this morning because I don’t have any kind of a revelation. I am confident, however, that’s God’s Word is the law. Look at how chaotic society is today. It is a direct result of the world turning away from God’s law and following the ways of man. That should say everything we need to know about this point.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 28

God’s Word constantly reminds us that humility is important. We must always be humble before God because our own pride can be a major stumbling block. I know I felt this yesterday. I was called to task for something I was doing wrong at work. Instead of humbling admitting my mistake, I let my own pride get the better of me. I felt entitled to do what I was doing because I felt better than the job. I see this morning that this was the wrong attitude to take, even though what I was doing did not affect my job performance.

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

When we are caught doing something wrong our natural reaction is first to deny that we made a mistake. After all, no one wants to face the consequences of their actions. This is made even worse by a world that refuses to show that there are consequences for our actions. It takes a truly responsible, humble person to admit their mistakes right away. Doing so, however, is the key to wisdom.

26 He who trusts in himself is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. – Proverbs 28:26

Once again, we are reminded that our own pride and methods are not always the best way to do things. It is easy to trust ourselves because we know our abilities. It can be folly to trust ourselves, however, because we don’t often see the limits of those abilities. As this verse says, true wisdom lies in knowing that we cannot totally trust ourselves.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 27

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

Should we think about the future? It is always wise to plan ahead. God wants us to plan ahead, but He also wants us to be mindful that each and every day is a gift. We cannot get so caught up in future events that we forget about today. I know there is nothing more disappointing than the feeling of going to bed at night knowing that the day felt wasted. It is a frustrating experience, especially when I am working some job that seems like a waste of my time. All we can do is trust God in these situations that our efforts that day were not in vain.

1 Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring forth. – Proverbs 27:17

It is hard to do something by ourselves. As much as I want to be put out on an island sometimes because of the way some people act, this proverb strikes true in my heart. We need other people around us to challenge us. This helps us to achieve personal and spiritual growth. This is how ideas get generated. This is how we gain knowledge. It is even how we spread God’s Word, which is our primary reason for being!

21 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but man is tested by the praise he receives. – Proverbs 27:21

This is a major test of our character when we receive praise. If we respond to praise with a boastful attitude it can be counterproductive. I am reminded of a time in college when I was playing a game of pickup basketball. This one player on the court was openly mocking my abilities. He said I couldn’t shoot, couldn’t score. After enough of this I finally pulled the trigger and hit a long 3-pointer. I started talking loudly going back down the floor about how bad of a player I was. On my team’s next possession he said I couldn’t do it again, so I hit another three. As the game went on he kept talking, but I had the best stretch of basketball I ever played, hitting shot after shot, getting a few steals, dishing out a few assists, until finally hit the game winner. After each basket I got louder and louder in my responses to his challenges, much to the delight of my teammates.

After the game, this player came over and actually congratulated me on my game. That usually doesn’t happen in a pickup game, but he came over and singled me out, saying I was a heck of a player. In that moment I could have continued to be boastful, rubbing it in that I stood up and dominated against his challenge. In reality, I knew it was a lucky streak, as I am not normally that good of a player. I thank him for his praise and said he was a great player too, but I just got hot.

Sometimes life teaches us a great lesson in how we can handle the praise before us. I could have gotten too big of a head there and it wouldn’t have been good in the long run. If I started taking every shot eventually I would have started missing, then my teammates would have gotten upset. Instead, I stayed within myself, as God wants us to do, and didn’t overstep my abilities.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 26

This chapter in Proverbs speaks a lot about being a fool. There are warnings here against being both foolish and lazy, but the foolishness is not rooted in ignorance. Sure, sometimes we simply don’t know enough about a situation to do anything, but other times foolishness comes from a lack of humility.

12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him. – Proverbs 26:12

I have spoken often about humility since I started this blog. It is important to always remember that our own knowledge is limited. We must therefore act within those limitations. This involves a submission before God that we are not all-knowing and all-powerful. Once we acknowledge that we have limitations God can open our minds for the true wisdom he has in store for us.

24 A malicious man disguises himself with his lips,
but in his heart he harbors deceit. – Proverbs 26:24

This simple proverb is a warning that people can hide what they truly think with the words they say. Words can be a blessing. They can provide comfort to those who need it, but they can also provide deceit. If we build ourselves up with false words only ruin will await. Building ourselves up through words instead of through true wisdom provided by God is a sure way to fail.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 25

28 Like a city whose walls are broken down
is a man who lacks self-control. – Proverbs 25:28

I am a big proponent of discipline. I have talked about it here a lot lately, but that is because it is a key element stressed by the book of Proverbs. In the end, we have only ourselves to blame for everything. Yes, there are temptations that each person faces, but these temptations can only be overcome with our own discipline. For example: I could be a smoker, but I use my own internal discipline to never start smoking in the first place. In this regard, it is easier to never start than to quit.

Think of how this principle works with your relationship with Christ. Once you acknowledge Christ in your life that is like planting the seed of discipline. You may not always walk the right path, but the root is there to guide you back to it. It is then up to you to nurture that seed of a relationship into something better.

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

This is also an area which takes discipline, but is a prime example of God’s plan triumphing over our human nature. There is one man on earth that I would have a very hard time applying this Proverb to. Honestly, I would rather beat him until I got tired of beating him than apply this Proverb, but that is not the case. I pray then that God can do this work in his life from afar and overcome by human-ness. In turn, I pray this allows my own discipline to grow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 24

10 If you falter in times of trouble,
how small is your strength! – Proverbs 24:10

There is something here this morning with this verse. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but I know the Lord has drawn t to my attention today. Perhaps it is related to giving up in some way. I say that because we must surrender ourselves to God in times of trouble. Sometimes our tendency is to rely on ourselves. I have done that for four and a half years during my jobless state and it has gotten me exactly nothing.

Lately though I have had a change of mind in regards to things. I recognize I can do nothing beyond what is presented to me. Perhaps I am just exasperated, but when things are beyond my control lately I have just been saying, “Lord, You know what to do. You figure it out because I can’t.” To me, this is knowing where my true strength lies. I cannot make people read a resume when I send it in. All I can do is send it.

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

I saw a version of this in a basketball shoe commercial a few years ago with Dwyane Wade. He spoke about being fouled a lot in a game. He said if you fall seven times, just get up eight. That is really the key to life. Every time you fall, just get right back up. When I lost my long-awaited full-time job about a month ago it was a fall, but I got back up and now I am waiting for God to figure out what He is going to do with me. It is all I can do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 23

One of the main points that the book of Proverbs tries to drive home is that we should have wise hearts. Proverbs provides plenty of solid advice on how to gain wisdom, but what does it mean to have a wise heart? It is not an easy commitment. Because of the unfortunate nature of sin, we already have two strikes against us. That means it is our natural inclination to turn from god and work only for ourselves.

13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.
14 Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death.
15 My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad; -- Proverbs 23:13-15

A wise heart is rooted in discipline. Discipline is rooted in our upbringing. If we do not have a solid foundation of discipline laid down when we are young it is even more difficult to overcome our sinful natures and commit ourselves to God’s plan. Parents, this is a critically important step in your child’s development. Proper discipline, even saying the word no to children, has fallen out of favor. It is not cool to deny our kids anything, but if we take that attitude they will grow up without a necessary sense of discipline.

That is why I am thankful for my father. He wasn’t afraid to tell me no. He wasn’t afraid to make me earn certain rights and privileges. As a result, I had fewer restrictions, rather than more. He instilled discipline in me and then trusted me to make up my own mind when it came to living my life. As a result, I hope I am an example of today’s final verse to him.

24 The father of a righteous man has great joy;
he who has a wise son delights in him. – Proverbs 23:15

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 22

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

I love my Study Bible. It’s notes are straight and to the point in terms of what some verses mean. It points out this very verse as the entire point of Proverbs. The value of our character does not carry a dollar amount. It is not measured in our bank accounts or in the property we own. It is based solely on our name. What we do, how we treat people, and how we live our lives it what gives us our character. God tests us each in a variety of ways. How we respond to those tests is what makes up our name.

6 Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it. – Proverbs 22:6

This is critical in how people turn out. If a child is raised properly from birth it will be much easier for he or she to develop that good name that is so critical. Parents have a huge responsibility to do this. It means saying no when the situation calls for it. It means providing discipline and rules. I see so many parents these days that think saying no to their children is bad. They let the child control them, not the other way around.

This is why I am thankful that my father was such a student of the book of Proverbs. The time for me to have children has not come yet, but now that I am 30 I can see many moments where his nos and his discipline were applied perfectly. I really have reached a moment where it makes sense for me, and I am all the more thankful for it. I think that is a major reason why I find myself here writing about the book of Proverbs because he loves it so much. I know that when I tell him he did a good job raising me and my sister I see in his eyes a moment of satisfaction that was a long time coming. I hope to have the same with my own children some day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 21

Today is a day for encouragement. I know people can use encouragement at all times, but I feel especially led to provide it today with the help of the book of Proverbs. High on my list of encouragement and prayer priorities is the request I mentioned on Monday, as my family friend and his daughter are facing that surgery on Friday. It is hard to preach encouragement in the face of such fear, but we must know that God is always in control.

30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
that can succeed against the LORD.
31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but victory rests with the LORD. – Proverbs 21: 30-31

God has blessed mankind with the ability to do many things. Just look at the scientific and industrial advancement that occurred from 1869 to 1969. In 1869, the crowning achievement was finishing the transcontinental railroad. In the most base terms, it was carving a path across this country. 100 years later we had advanced enough that a man was walking on the moon. In that 100 years we saw advancement than the previous several thousand.

Despite our abilities and gifts, however, we cannot succeed against God’s plans. His plans are set in stone and will not be altered by the hand of man. The best part is that this not a bad thing. As we are promised in verse 31, victory ultimately rests with Him. I don’t know what you are facing right now, but always remember that the ultimate victory rests with the Lord.

This does not erase fear and doubt. Those human constructs are the most difficult things to erase, but God is still in control even when we are afraid. It is not like He gives up because we are afraid. It is not like His plan fails if we don’t believe. It is the ultimate case of, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 20

What does integrity mean to you? To me, it means we are constantly seeking to align ourselves with God’s will. It does not meant hat we are perfect. It does not mean we are blameless. Far from it, in fact. It means that we see that we have faults, yet we still try to align ourselves with the plan that our Creator has for our lives.

7 The righteous man leads a blameless life;
blessed are his children after him. – Proverbs 20:7

This is a sign of integrity. Not only do we seek a righteous life for ourselves, in doing so we pass on that example for our children. The example also is reflected in our daily lives, as those around us see that we are men and women of integrity. That, in turn, continues God’s message and passes it off to others. I know I am not perfect. I know I will never be perfect. I do, however, strive to live my life as one with integrity.

11 Even a child is known by his actions,
by whether his conduct is pure and right. – Proverbs 20:11

This ties in to the verse above because of the example we set for our children. I see this all the time in public, and now example was bigger than Friday night. My wife and I attended the Indiana Pacers game here in Indy. In our section were kids as part of families. There were several kids that understood this was a public setting. They sat and enjoyed the game, not bothering other fans there. They needed no prompting from their parents because of the example that had been set before them. Behind us, however, there was a kids that had no such example set before him. He was kicking my seat, yelling as loud as he could (right in my ear), and kept leaning over and tried to mess with my coat on the seat next to me. I know kids will be kids, but this was beyond that, especially with the examples around us. This is a reflection of the life of integrity (or lack thereof) by the parent too since there was no effort to correct this behavior.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 19

I apologize if my thoughts are distracted slightly this morning. I was speaking with my father last night on the phone and he gave me a prayer request I am trying to pass on to as many people as possible. There is a long-time friend of the family that is in need of God’s love this week. Years ago, he and his wife adopted a pair of little girls from China. His oldest, a 10-year old, was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago. It has since grown to the point where she must have surgery this coming Friday to remove it.

It is not going to be an easy surgery. If they do nothing, she will die, as it is causing seizures and affecting her elsewhere. The surgery itself is dangerous. It will last at least eight hours and there is no guarantee she will survive the surgery.

11 A man's wisdom gives him patience;
it is to his glory to overlook an offense. – Proverbs 19:11

God has certainly granted David patience lately. There is nothing in the parenting manual that tells you what to do when your 10-year old daughter asks you if she is going to die and you don’t have a definite positive answer for her. God, however, is infinitely patient. I know David has walked with the Lord for a long time. I know he knows that in the Lord lies strength. We are promised that many times here in the book of Proverbs.

21 Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21

This is certainly not a plan that David had. No one plans for this. No one plans to have their daughter ask if her cousins can come visit one more time in case she doesn’t make it. No 10-year old girls should ever have to deal with this. Though we do not understand, we must know that the Lord’s purpose will prevail in this, and that purpose is never wrong.

If you have a chance, please pray for young Amberly this week. Pray that God will give her and her family strength, comfort, and healing. Pray that God will guide the doctor’s hands during this surgery. Pray God will give the doctors wisdom to do what needs to be done. This is something that is too big for anyone to handle. Only the Lord can triumph on this day, so please lift this family up in prayer if you get a chance.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 18

10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe.
11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
they imagine it an unscalable wall. – Proverbs 18:10-11

Where does your strength lie when times are tough? Do you place your faith and strength in God, or is it in the ways of man? Do you put your faith in the money that you earn to save you? The answers to these questions are critically important even if you are not in a time of crisis. They probably meant he difference in how you will handle such a crisis if it occurs.

The continuing theme of Proverbs is that we must seek God for wisdom. If we continue to seek man for wisdom we will be lost because we are not going for the one true source. Trusting in wealth is the same thing, as that is another way of man. Only mankind assigns value to supposed wealth. In the eyes of God, it is meaningless. Remember to seek your heart, where your true wealth is stored, in times of trouble.

24 A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

Out friends and companions, however, are a true source of wealth. You may think this is still relying on the ways of man, but If we choose our friends with a godly heart we are using Godly wisdom because God can then work int hem to support us. It is all about the direction your heart lies in. As we see here, friends in time of crisis are truly a source of power that we cannot overlook.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 17

When have you learned the most? Some of the most important lessons we learn come not in the classroom, but when we are tested by life during hard times. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. Shortly before I graduated college, I lost a dear friend of mine. She was only 22, but her mother found her dead in her bedroom one morning. She was set to be married in three weeks and was about to graduate Summe Cum Laude from her college. It is a death that still affects me because we used to be really close.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but the LORD tests the heart. – Proverbs 17:3

I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a test. She was the first of my close friends to pass away, and in that test I learned to deal with sudden loss and missed opportunities. I was thinking of her yesterday because she would have turned 30 this week. Back when we were close, I think a part of me always wanted something more to develop between us, but she was always with someone else so I stayed out of the way. Instead, I gained a very good friend. We grew apart, however, once we went to college. I think there is a lesson in that too.

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

That is exactly how we were. In the ninth grade, we helped each other through a lot of tests. We shared a lot of joys and sorrows. The lesson I learned form her death is not to take friends like her for granted. After we grew apart, I missed her friendship. I remember the last time I saw her alive was about a year before her death, and it was a brief, but fun reunion. As I age, I miss having her spirit and vigor in my life.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Proverbs, Chapter 16

I have spoken a lot lately about God’s plan. What does that mean exactly? We have our own ideas and plans for our lives, but those sometimes vary from what God has for us. Sometimes our plans are small, like an idea for a long weekend away from home. These rarely affect God’s plan, but we can still do small things that reject God’s plan. These small things add up until we find ourselves off the path, wondering where we are.

9 In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

We are still supposed to plan our lives. That is why we have free will. God wants us to determine our steps. What this proverb means, however, is that God’s plan will ultimately prevail not only for us, but for the entire world. He is thoroughly in control at all times. He does not take a break. Even when our plans fail, as so many of my own have, He is still in control.

18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18

This ties in with the previous proverb because we will fall when we think we can affect God’s control and ultimate plan in the world. That is the ultimate example of pride. Pride causes us not to think rationally. It makes us think we are bigger than we are, and thus prevents us from sound, biblical planning. We must always watch our pride, because it is easy to get out of control.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Proverbs, Chapter 15

God is good.

I just wanted to say that this morning to begin this entry. As always, He is providing for me, and it is now my responsibility to give back what He has given to me. I received news this morning that I will have work at least through the end of the year, so now it is time to make sure that I can give back.

16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD
than great wealth with turmoil. – Proverbs 15:16

I am not going to get rich with this job. I’ll be making just $10 per hour and it is only guaranteed through the end of the year. There is the possibility of it going permanent, but it is far from a guarantee. Still, when I look at my bank accounts, I see just how God has provided over the last five years despite my always uncertain job status. We are truly blessed, and I feel moved to share that this morning.

I feel like my life is an example of how God’s fiscal principles can be truly realized on this earth. I have friends that make a lot more than I, yet they are saddled to with debt and constantly are seeking relief. Meanwhile, my job situation varies from week to week, yet we have no debt. We even have some savings that God has blessed us with in case of a prolonged dry spell. This has been achieved simply by following God’s principles and plans for our money. We save via coupons and deals. We find little ways to earn extra spending money and finance our favorite activities (travel and sports tickets). We don’t spend more than we bring in each month. It is that simple.

To me, this is living and thriving with little because of a fear of the Lord. As I have explained before, it isn’t even fear. Fear in this sense means respect for God’s power and providence. People often openly ask how we can afford to do what we do. I respond by saying that it is only through God’s blessing.

32 He who ignores discipline despises himself,
but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. – Proverbs 15:32

The biggest thing to remember is that it does take discipline in order to see these blessings. There is true understanding though in discipline. Discipline is far from a bad word. It is essential if we are going to achieve what God wants us to achieve for His kingdom.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 14

9 Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright. – Proverbs 14:9

I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. I am probably going to continue making mistakes because I am human. I cannot attain perfection no matter how hard I try. What I won’t do, however, is mock people who seek to makes amends for our mistakes. Those that seek forgiveness see that it is a way to gain reconciliation. They try to make a mends for what they have done wrong, so we should commend them on that. That ties into the next verse I want to focus on:

15 A simple man believes anything,
but a prudent man gives thought to his steps. – Proverbs 14:15

Part of the reason we find ourselves mired in sin is a lack of forethought. If we don’t plan ahead there really is no point in living. Our lives are then directionless and we are not living our lives with the purpose God has for us. Planning is important, but we cannot go the other way and become so focused on the planning that we forget to live. We must remember what we believe, and more importantly why we believe it, as my father told me dozens of times while growing up. If we don’t know why we believe in something the world will tell us what to believe in.

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

If you want to talk about lessons I need to learn, this is one of them. The bad thing is that I know the last five years have been meant to teach me patience, but instead I have let bitterness creep in until recently. I have always been a bit of a hothead. When you through frustration and bitterness on top of that it can make for a volatile situation. This is why I am actively seeking God’s patience and wisdom, because I know that my way is not the way to go.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 13

Yesterday I spoke about keeping my big mouth shut. It is a weakness I have, but it is one that I am slowly learning to overcome. It seems as if I have two extremes. Either I am talking too much on a topic and repeat my thoughts over and over, or I am silent and barely want to speak. Maybe that is the book of Proverbs finally taking root in me.

3 He who guards his lips guards his life,
but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. – Proverbs 13:3

This does not mean we should always be silent. On the contrary, we are charged with spreading the Word of God at all times. It is hard to do that if we remain silent all the time. Instead, God is asking us to think before we speak. Words can have incredible value, but there is nothing worse than speaking when you have nothing to say. That is what reality television is for, especially on the E Network.

7 One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. – Proverbs 13:7

This is another fundamental problem with society, and a major reason our economy is in shambles at the moment. People think they must be rich, so they spend money they do not have and rack up huge amounts of debt. Nothing but trouble lies that way. It is a departure from the Biblical principles that work. I know because I am proof of this. Not having a permanent job for four and a half years has certainly not made me rich, yet God has provided and we have never been without, plus we have virtually zero debt.

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

The final point I want to make today is to watch the company you keep, as told in verse 20 here. I know today’s entry has come off as somewhat cynical. I apologize for that, as it is my poor attitude getting in the way. Still, the book of Proverbs warned us, millennia ago to watch the company that we keep. We learn the most from those around us. If we keep good company that is a step along the road to wisdom.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 12

1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid. – Proverbs 12:1

I wanted to start today’s entry with the very first verse because it is one of the most poignant you will ever see in the Bible. I know it is a point I have tried to make over and over again here, but I think that it is because it is something that God wants to make sure we know. If we truly are going to seek knowledge we must always be ready for discipline. It is impossible to grow without discipline. Even if it is painful, it is probably for our own good.

15 The way of a fool seems right to him,
but a wise man listens to advice. – Proverbs 12:15

Another key component of wisdom is knowing that we are not the source of it. We must always have our ears open to wisdom. This is true not for ourselves, but for others. One of the most stunning things I have discovered recently is that people have come to me for wisdom. I just turned 30, yet people respect me for wisdom I might have. Inside I feel 15 still some days. I should be the one seeking wisdom, and I strive to do it every day for the rest of my life. On both sides of the coin we must be willing and able to listen when necessary.

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

This is in conjunction with verse 15. If we are going to speak wisdom to others we must be careful with what we say. We can do a lot of good with the words we say, but we can do a lot of bad as well. Believe me, when I was working full-time I had a problem with what I said. I was young and idealistic, so I thought people would appreciate an honest take on things. Sometimes a little tact can help you be on the right side of the line between wisdom and reckless.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 11

Part of true wisdom is humility. We must know when we do not have all the answers, and therefore we should seek them in those cases. Unfortunately, it is human nature to charge ahead blindly without knowing. I’ll give you an example. I am a big college football fan. I am going to see a game this weekend, but it is on a campus I have never been to before. I could charge ahead blindly, thinking I know everything because I got o games all the time. Without humility and seeking the wisdom of directions, however, I can impair my weekend.

Think of God and the wisdom He offers as the ultimate game day guide to any stadium. I have produced a game day guide to Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium That many fans have found quite helpful when they visit Purdue. Well, God’s Word is our game day guide to life. Think of the book of Proverbs here as the parking guide. You need the basic knowledge of where to park before you can enjoy the game.

2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom. – Proverbs 11:2

There is nothing wrong with being proud of what we have accomplished as long as we realize that the ultimate source of our accomplishments lies in God. I have built a popular sports blog that has been read by people as far away as Argentina. It thrills me to no end that I have readers thank me for what I do every week, but ultimately it is God’s glory, because I know this is only a step along the way. This is part of the process of Him putting me in a better position to do His work. I must remain humble before God and give Him the glory here.

23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
but the hope of the wicked only in wrath. – Proverbs 11:23

This ties in with the idea that God is preparing me for something better than what I am currently doing. It is my desire that I serve His kingdom at all times and in all places. I know I can do great work through my writing, but I must wait to get there first. I must strive to be righteous and serve His ends first so that my life might have meaning.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 10

In Proverbs 10 today we see the theme of Proverbs change slightly. The book now is not focusing on a single thought, but rather on a collection of thoughts and advice from King Solomon. This is a good idea because you can almost take what you want from it. Since I believe the Bible is the living Word of God, I believe it can speak to me at different times. If I read a verse one day it may not mean much depending on my circumstances at the time. If I read the same verse years later it can feel like a lightning bolt revelation. I don’t see any of those revelations today, but I do see some good things in the context of the moment.

7 The memory of the righteous will be a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot. – Proverbs 10:7

My wife and I recently moved to a larger apartment in our same building. The place we had lived for almost the last five years, since we got married, was getting too small for us. As we finished moving things out yesterday, however, there was a very sad moment. We would never again see our first home together. The walls were bare, the floors were empty, and the only reminders that we were ever there for so long were some nail holes in the wall. Just before I turned the keys in this morning I went back upstairs and did one last walkthrough of place. I prayed that God’s love, mercy, grace, peace, strength, and everything else would be poured out upon anyone who lives there after us until He returns.

How does this relate to the verse above? I want my memory to be a blessing upon those after me, even if I never meet them. I will likely never meet the people that live int hat apartment after me. I still pray for them. I still want them to receive God’s blessing and mercies. That is why I think it links in with this next verse:

17 He who heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. – Proverbs 10:17

I know that part of my discipline means that I must always seek the kingdom of God. I must always be willing to impart that gift on others. This morning’s gesture may have been a silly thing. I likely will forget about it and not know any results until after I am dead, but I still did it because I feel God called me to do it. I pray that you will have a similar type of discipline this day.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 9

What is the difference between wisdom and folly? That is the question that Proverbs 9 tried to answer. It is a short chapter, but it is one that tries to draw a clear distinction between the two. From Solomon's words here, both wisdom and folly call to us. They say that all who are simple should come here. They promise wisdom when we lack judgment, but there is a difference between the two.

11 For through me your days will be many,
       and years will be added to your life.

 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
       if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer."

 13 The woman Folly is loud;
       she is undisciplined and without knowledge. – Proverbs 9:11-13

To me, the biggest difference between wisdom and folly is their basis. True wisdom is based with God behind it. Folly is more likely based in the thoughts of man. We may think we are smart, but the truth is that mankind has absolutely no idea what it is doing if it turns away from God. That is why Folly is undisciplined and loud. We think we know what is going on. We boast about it. In truth, however, we are lost children. When you are seeking wisdom remember to tests its source. That is how you define between wisdom and folly.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Proverbs, Chapter 8

I have spoken a lot here recently about seeking wisdom at all times. After all, we have to do our part to constantly seek God in all we do. Today, in Proverbs chapter 8, we see that wisdom wants to be found. God wants us to find the wisdom that we seek. He even goes so far as to tell us that wisdom seeks us if we are open to look for it. That makes the journey that much easier.

4 "To you, O men, I call out;
       I raise my voice to all mankind.

 5 You who are simple, gain prudence;
       you who are foolish, gain understanding. – Proverbs 8:4-5

This is why I love that God is an interactive God. He does not sit back on a cloud, waiting for us to come to Him. He leaves his wisdom in places where we can find it easily. He wants us to find Him. He wants us to seek him at all times, trying to know what He wants us to know. The biggest place, of course, is His Word in the bible. We find it in other places though. We find it in quiet moments of prayer and reflection. We find it when we calm our hearts and listen for His voice even when our bodies cry out for action.

I wish this came as easy as it sounds though. Anyone who has read this blog before knows that it is as much a quest for personal wisdom as it is me trying to teach what I have learned. I am once again in a place where I crave that wisdom that God is offering. Sitting at home every day, unemployed, is not good for my personal mindset. I know God has something better planned for me. Fortunately, he spoke to me today with these following words.

32 "Now then, my sons, listen to me;
       blessed are those who keep my ways.

 33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
       do not ignore it.

 34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
       watching daily at my doors,
       waiting at my doorway.

 35 For whoever finds me finds life
       and receives favor from the LORD. – Proverbs 8:32-35

Like everything with God, this is a matter of faith. This is His promise to us. If we seek wisdom, we will find it. It may not be instant. It may not be a parting of the clouds moment, where a ray of sunlight hits you and a voice from above tells you what you are supposed to do. It is there though. I know God will be faithful to me. I know it in my heart even when my mind tells me I have been abandoned. That is what keeps me alive.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Proverbs, Chapter 7

Proverbs 7 serves as another warning against adultery, but I think the language of the text here suggest that it is a different type of adultery. The wisdom given in this chapter is more meant as a preventative measure from getting tripped up by all that tempts us in life, not just sexual temptation. The adulteress in this chapter can serve as a metaphor for all types of temptation that can lure us away from the path that God has chosen us.

 2 Keep my commands and you will live;
       guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

 3 Bind them on your fingers;
       write them on the tablet of your heart.

 4 Say to wisdom, "You are my sister,"
       and call understanding your kinsman;

 5 they will keep you from the adulteress,
       from the wayward wife with her seductive words. – Proverbs 7:2-5

Life can be seductive. That which can destroy us or take us off the path God has for us can be seductive. The only true way to avoid these temptations is through the knowledge that God provides in His word. That is why Solomon, the author of this book, warns us to guard these teachings. He is not only talking about the word of Proverbs, but the Word of God itself.

It is the word of God that guides us. As I have said many times previously when writing about the book of Proverbs, the Word is God's way of keeping us on the path that He has intended for us. When we are on that path, life is good. Unfortunately, as this chapter suggests, life wants to lure us away from that path. It makes things look easier, when in truth it is quite the opposite. We are never the master of our own destinies, but it is only by submitting ourselves to the wisdom God provides that we can truly find our place.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Proverbs, Chapter 6

Part of seeking wisdom is acknowledging that we need to seek it. This is where I was about a week ago. After a long talk with my father about being so lost, he pointed out that sometimes you need to step back and simply ask god to show us back to the path. In those moments we need to repent that we are lost, and we must seek God. Proverbs 6 today shows that one of the main reasons we get lost is because we strike out on our own path, rather than seeking the path God has set before us. I admit god slapped me in the face this morning with these first three verses:

 1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
       if you have struck hands in pledge for another,

 2 if you have been trapped by what you said,
       ensnared by the words of your mouth,

 3 then do this, my son, to free yourself,
       since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands:
       Go and humble yourself;
       press your plea with your neighbor! – Proverbs 6:1-3

Most of the time I really have no idea what I am doing. God made it plain to me a few years ago that I am on this earth to write. Since that time, the only place that I truly find peace is in my writing. When my recent job fell apart late last week, I was laid off after just three days on the job because of a lack of revenue for the site I was managing. Imagine my frustration. I had waited four and a half years for a full-time job. I was given one that allowed me to work from home and to write about something I love. It was taken away after just three days, leaving me more lost than before.

So I am trying to humble myself this morning and seek the wisdom that God has for me. I feel like I am at the mercy of the world, not knowing what to do next with no more doors open before me. I must push forward though. This chapter says that we are to continue working without being lazy. I know God wants me to write, so I write at my ventures that won't pay the bills because I know I am building a foundation with them. It is all I can do this morning.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Proverbs, Chapter 5

There is not a single positive thing that can come out of adultery. It destroys trust, lives, and any benefits from it are only for the short term. It is ironic that we get a warning from King Solomon in Proverbs, chapter 5, as he had over 700 wives and 300 concubines. Why then should we trust a man who so clearly disregarded God's design for sexuality and marriage.

Perhaps it is because he speaks from experience. The entire idea behind sexuality is that it is an intimate, treasured experience. God only means for us to share it between a husband and wife. As always, God's idea about something is much better than anything man can come up with. From what I have seen, those that value this idea are much happier in the long run than those that do not.

 20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
       Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?

 21 For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD,
       and he examines all his paths.

 22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
       the cords of his sin hold him fast.

 23 He will die for lack of discipline,
       led astray by his own great folly. – Proverbs 5:20-23

Adultery affects more than the people committing it. It is an affront to God, turning away from Him in one of the strongest ways we can turn from him. It is a selfish act, and it strong speaks of a lack of discipline. Discipline comes from sticking through event he bad times, and that includes with a spouse. Without discipline, you can never find true wisdom.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Proverbs, Chapter 4

As the heading of today's chapter states, wisdom is supreme. It is also found all around us. Since God is always accessible, His wisdom is always accessible to us as well. We don't have to go on some great hunt for the wisdom we seek. It is often right there in front of us. Solomon makes and interesting point about that early on, speaking about how he gained wisdom from his father, David.

 3 When I was a boy in my father's house,
       still tender, and an only child of my mother,

 4 he taught me and said,
       "Lay hold of my words with all your heart;
       keep my commands and you will live.

 5 Get wisdom, get understanding;
       do not forget my words or swerve from them.

 6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
       love her, and she will watch over you. – Proverbs 4:3-6

For many, this is where the root of wisdom comes from. It comes from a mentor that is willing to instill the proper teaching in us early. In a way, that is another responsibility that comes from seeking wisdom. We must also be willing to share it with others so that they may know. That is part of our responsibility, and it is our charge from the Great Commission given to us by Christ at the end of Matthew.

Wisdom means nothing if we horde it for ourselves. Wisdom is something that needs action. It needs a change to grow and flourish, otherwise it is not true wisdom. Think about your education. If you are a doctor, what good is all the wisdom you have gained in school if you do not put it into practice? It means nothing, right? It is the use of the Wisdom that God provides for us that is the true value of that wisdom.

20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
       listen closely to my words.

 21 Do not let them out of your sight,
       keep them within your heart;

 22 for they are life to those who find them
       and health to a man's whole body.

 23 Above all else, guard your heart,
       for it is the wellspring of life. – Proverbs 4:20-23

We are to keep this wisdom in our heart because that is where we often make our decisions. Sure, there are plenty of decisions we think through completely. There are quick decision, however, that must be made with the heart. With God's wisdom in our heart we always have the proper foundation to make these decisions.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Proverbs, Chapter 3

There are more benefits of wisdom than just gaining access to God's plan in our lives. That is a fantastic benefit in itself because we are happiest when we are doing what God has planned for us. In Proverbs chapter 3 today we see some other tangible benefits from seeking wisdom. God offers this wisdom to us because He loves us. Imagine that for just a moment.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with my father. He is a man that has been walking closely with God for almost all of my life. He explained some things to me that I needed to hear since I had fallen away a bit in my walk with God. As he told me, not only is God still in the same place and never moves, He also loves us and wants us to come back to Him for wisdom. That love is never ending as well. It never goes away and we need only seek it if we want to find it.

 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
       bind them around your neck,
       write them on the tablet of your heart.

 4 Then you will win favor and a good name
       in the sight of God and man.

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
       and lean not on your own understanding;

 6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
       and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:3-6

When we think of binding something around our necks, it can be considered to be a burden. After all, this is how animals are handled when they are attached to plows. When we allow love and faithfulness to bind us, however, we can never go wrong. That love is God's love as promised above. There is not one thing ever wrong with God's love. The more of it we accept, the better. As we see here, we are taught to rely on His love and understand. It is when we begin relying on our own understanding that we begin to fall.

 25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
       or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,

 26 for the LORD will be your confidence
       and will keep your foot from being snared. – Proverbs 3:25-26

I wanted to focus on these verses to end today's entry. Once again, this is a promise from God that He will always be there to love and care for us. Does this mean that our lives will be perfect without any adversity? No. We will still have to face things that go wrong. These things can be big or small, but they still happen. With God's love and wisdom, however, we have no reason to fear it. He will help us from being snared and paralyzed into inaction when we face these troubles. Again, this comes from relying on god instead of ourselves. It is when we begin to rely on ourselves that we take our first step toward failure.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 2

As I mentioned yesterday, Proverbs is about a search for wisdom. Today, in chapter two of Proverbs, Solomon explains the moral benefits of wisdom. Let's face it, much of this world has lost its way in terms of morality. Unfortunately, this departure from morality has affected me too much because it has made me a very bitter person. It is this bitterness that has led me here to Proverbs, ironically, because I am seeking the wisdom to get away from it.

 1 My son, if you accept my words
       and store up my commands within you,

 2 turning your ear to wisdom
       and applying your heart to understanding,

 3 and if you call out for insight
       and cry aloud for understanding,

 4 and if you look for it as for silver
       and search for it as for hidden treasure,

 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
       and find the knowledge of God. – Proverbs 2:1-5

Seeking wisdom takes work. The payoff, however, is clear if we seek it. Once again, understanding the fear of the Lord does not mean we have to be afraid of what God has for us. It means we must be receptive to His teachings and respect what He can do for us. Part of the reason for the lack of morality in the world is that people have fallen away from this. I am not immune to this, as it is not uncommon for people to shy away from hard work. This is hard work that pays off, however, as it opens the door to so many other things.

 21 For the upright will live in the land,
       and the blameless will remain in it;

 22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
       and the unfaithful will be torn from it. – Proverbs 2:21-22

This is another reason that I like the book of Proverbs. The author, Solomon, is very straightforward. He plainly states what the consequences are if we do not seek the moral wisdom that God offers. If we stay upright we are promised eternity because that way walks with God. If we walk in the ways of man, however, we will be cut off from God.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Proverbs, chapter 1

Proverbs is a book that thrives on the search for wisdom. It was written primarily by Solomon. This is significant because God presented Solomon with any gift he could possibly ask for, but Solomon asked for wisdom. He could have had money, power, respect, fame, but instead he chose to ask God for wisdom. God gave him everything else in addition to wisdom, and Proverbs is a collection of that wonderful gift of wisdom. I wanted to come here and begin an in depth study because I am seeking for wisdom as well. It is through proper wisdom and knowledge of God's plan for us that I feel I can finally find some peace in my soul.

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

Does this mean that we have to be afraid of God? Of course not! Fear, in this use, is used primarily to show proper reverence and respect for God. It is the cornerstone of this entire book. If we do not give God the proper credit and respect He deserves then we have no basis for wisdom. That is because we are then basing our wisdom on man, not God. Wisdom based on man has no chance of standing up to God's standard. We must approach God with an attitude of humility and respect, thus allowing us to connect with Him. That is where wisdom begins.

 20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street,
       she raises her voice in the public squares;

 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out,
       in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: -- Proverbs 1:20-21

The amazing thing about wisdom is that it does call to us. God does not want us to walk around in a fog of cluelessness as I have for the past year or so. He wants us to grow and connect with Him. By growing and connecting with Him, we can serve the purpose that He has placed us on this earth for. God wants us to have the wisdom He has promised us because we are also happier when we are serving in the role He wants us to serve. A former pastor of mine once gave a sermon about living in the zone of God's blessing. In short, we are happiest when we are doing what God wants us to do. We feel like we are living in the groove and serving the purpose we were created for.

I have not been in this zone of God's blessing for some time. I know this because I can remember when I was. Nothing is sweeter than being in that spot with God. Even though at the time I was not working a great job, I was still serving in the role God had intended for me. Life is fluid, however. That zone changed for me and I slipped away from it. That is why I am now seeking wisdom, as Proverbs tells me to do, so I can get back.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Taking this in a new direction

I have not been happy with a lot of things lately. I have not been happy with the way this blog was progressing. I have not been happy with the way I have handled news, both good and bad. For example: I recently received wonderful news that I finally had a full-time, permanent job. Not only that, I would be managing a sports website from home. This seems to be perfect for me. I would be getting paid to sit at home, write, and work in a field that I am genuinely interested in. How could it not be better?

My latest reaction, however, has been sheer terror. I am afraid I can't do the job. I am afraid that I will become too tied down to it. I am afraid that it is too good to be true. I start this job on Thursday, and I have so much anxiety that I can barely breathe at times. This anxiety consumes me when I know mentally that there is no reason for it. It doesn't make since that I would be paralyzed by this much apprehension over something so simple. That is what makes the situation all the more frustrating because I should be overjoyed.

The only reason behind his is the same reason this blog has suffered. I have fallen away in my walk from God. There has not been something drastic. I haven't had a great moral failure or anything like that. I have simply relied on myself for too long and I have fallen away from the peace that God offers. The connection that I once had is no longer there. I have felt adrift in my faith. My worship has been non-existent. My spiritual disciplines have been robotic at best.

Today is a good day to move past that. I turn 30 today. It is the age where I can see where I have been and I realize that where I am going is very close at hand. Today I want to repent from how lost I have become and I want to rededicate myself to the plan God has for me. I have gotten here because of a lack of patience, and as a result I don't even know what I want now. One of God's great promises, however, is that he doesn't move. He is still there. I just have to ask him to show me the path back to Him.

Here is what I want for the rest of my life: I want to make the most of the gifts that God has given me. I want to study His Word, His promise to us, and have it speak to me as it once did. God has given me a wonderful gift with the written word. I have no doubt that His plan for my life involves my writing. As much as I enjoy my sportswriting, I know it ultimately means nothing compared to what I can write for God's kingdom. He has given me everything that I need. They are his gifts anyway, not my own. God has placed me in a position where I can influence people for him with the written word. He has placed me where I can reach people for His kingdom, which is what we are called to do.

This is what I want to turn this blog into. I want to continue writing on what God is telling me. I want to study his word, learn from it, and pass it on to others. I know there is much I need to learn, but I want other to learn with me. My own doubts are preventing me from feeling so much. They make me focus on negativity and question if I even believe in all this despite the evidence to the contrary I have seen.

We are told through God's Word that Christ is the only way to salvation. It is by believing in His death on the Cross and resurrection that we are absolved of our sins if we only accept his sacrifice. That is the message. It is so simple, but it takes such a leap of faith to follow because no one can prove it by earthly means. We won't know the final answer on it until we die or He returns as promised. Right now I know I believe it, but my heart does not feel it. I long to share that with others because I know it is my responsibility, but I need to get that feeling back in my heart as well. This has become a quest for inner peace as well as a mission to speak of God's Word.

It is my hope that you will come along with me on this journey as I strive to get back there. I do not have all the answers and never will. I am willing to look for them though. I will begin tomorrow by seeking wisdom from the book of Proverbs. I cannot promise I will post every day, but I feel led in the direction of the book of Proverbs so that is where I shall go. Please be patient as I work through this new direction.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Acts, Chapter 6 revisited

Advancing the cause of God does not always have to be converting thousands at a time in a mass service. You can advance the cause of God in small ways as well, and we see that exhibited here in chapter 6 of acts. As the early church grew, it needed others to do some of the busy work that comes with being part of a large organization. The disciples, though gifted from God, could not handle every single task. That is why we see seven other believers here appointed as decision makers. Here, they serve in a role of distributors, deciding where goods and services controlled by the church needed to go. This is not the glorious role of winning converts, but it is still incredibly important because it was a job within in the church that needed to be done.

In the second part of this chapter we see Stephen, perhaps one of the most gentle apostles, get arrested for spreading the gospel. This would eventually lead to his martyrdom by stoning, but the way he handled this terrible accusations is a great example for us to follow.

8Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. – Acts 6:8-10

Once again, this comes down to jealousy. Stephen was speaking and acting with the full power of God behind him. Unfortunately, the Sanhedrin did not like this because it would result in a loss of their earthly power. It was their greed that led to his arrest, even though he was doing the work of God.

This raises the question: Do you have what it takes to do the work of God even in the face of oppression? Stephen’s work cost him his life, as we will see in the next chapter. He faced his death with a smile that could have only come from God’s direct strength and intervention. I admit that now, at a time where it is hard to smile about anything, that it would be difficult to follow in Stephen’s footsteps.