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.