Welcome to the June 2003 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
Scripture on this page taken from the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.
A WORD FOR TODAY, June 2003
For the month of June, we will look at a Proverb a day and expound upon the wisdom found within from the writings of the New Testament. How did Jesus and the Apostles relate the wisdom of the Old Testament patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets after the salvation that comes form Jesus Christ our Lord?
Proverbs Webster’s Dictionary defines a proverb as “a short, pithy, and much-used saying that expresses a well-known truth or fact.” This is much different than the oft used cliché, which is “a trite expression or idea.” It becomes trite because it is overused and abused, especially by those who do not truly understand its significance or meaning. Too many people live their lives on the wisdom found on bumper stickers and ignore the true wisdom that comes from God. There might be value found in sound bite theology, but there is much more to understanding the love, mercy and peace of God than can be found in a few words we read as we are driving through our lives.
We can find much wisdom in the pages of the Holy Scriptures, where we see the Word of God developed through His relationship with Israel, the revelation of His mercy in the birth of Jesus Christ and the work of the Son on the cross, which brings us forgiveness and eternal life. The Old Testament and New Testament work together to help us to see our need for a Savior. The Old, the lives of the patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets, points toward the coming Messiah so that we can see our inability to keep the law. Then we look to the New Testament to see the fulfillment of all God’s promises in Jesus.
One of my favorite Old Testament books is Proverbs, which seems almost like a collection of bumper stickers. These small bites of wisdom give us food for thought and guide our path. These one liners are filled with God’s Word, but they aren’t enough to truly understand God. For the month of June, we will look at a Proverb a day, and seek an understanding of that passage with New Testament eyes. How did Jesus and the apostles use this wisdom to shine God’s love and mercy on the people? But when we walk away from a quarrel, God will bless our mercy with peace. Thanks be to God.
“The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: Therefore leave off contention, before there is quarrelling." Proverbs 17:14 (ASV)
It is so easy for us to bicker about things and once it starts, it only gets worse. Our human nature tends to desire to be on top, to be number one, to win the games or wars. It doesn’t take much. We all have different experiences, different cultural and gender related expectations. We see things through clouded glasses and our idea of life is skewed. When we face others with diverse views, we can’t help but try to defend our thoughts and dreams against those that disagree.
“Whence come wars and whence come fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your pleasures that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures.” James 4:1-3 (ASV)
A dam is not easily breached. It takes a great deal of pressure and pounding before it breaks. The same is true of our discussions about our differences. It is not disagreement that makes a quarrel; it is the pounding and pressure to agree that turns into a fight. We quarrel because we can’t let go, we can’t speak what we know and move on. We have to win, we have to defend ourselves, and we have to be number one. When we cannot get what we want, we do far worse, the dam is breached and we harm those who are caught in our path. It is better to just let it go, to stop the quarrel before it starts, even if we have to appear to be the loser. Truth always wins, and sometimes we discover that our clouded glasses were the cause of our own skewed idea of the truth.
There are those who would be quick to disregard any discussion based on the Proverb for today, but it isn’t disagreement that brings quarrels. It is when we can’t let go, when we have to be on top, when we have to win that we end up in a fight. It is our own desires and lusts that cause us to go too far and we do not see the blessings, which God has for us perhaps even in our relationships with people who are different. It doesn’t help to quarrel, for it brings forth the worst in our own lives and leaves us far from the will of God.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12 (ASV)
We never know what is around the corner or behind the door. The path that begins wide might lead to steep terrain or flooded plains. The big door may lead to crowded halls or the wrong part of the building. When it comes to hiking in the woods or arriving at a place, it is good to get instructions from those who know better so that we will go the right way. We tend to go through the bigger door or take the wider path because it seems like it must be easier, but that is not always true. I have had too many experiences of getting lost because I did not take the path recommended to me. You would think I would learn by now.
Yet, how many of us are very familiar with the scripture that tells us we shouldn’t take the wide path in our Christian faith, and we still go along with the crowd? The Proverb tells us that there is a way that seems right to man; it is the well-worn path. It is the direction many people go – the bigger door, the wider path. Yet, it is the way of destruction if it is not the way of God. Unfortunately, trendy Christianity is a constant problem in this world. Someone grabs onto an idea that is new and sounds good, so thousands, even millions, follow. These teachings sound good, but they twist the Word of God in a way that makes it a false Gospel, dangerous to those who seek the love and mercy of God. It leads to death because there is no life found in the words.
“Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it.
Jesus was concerned for those who were taking the wrong path, the path that does not lead to life. He is the way, He is the gate. We should not follow the way we think we should go, but rather follow the way Jesus has paved for us. The wide path and the bigger door may have dangers lying just out of sight, but the way God has planned is safe because God is with us. He knows what is best, He knows what lies ahead, He knows who to guide us through each difficulty. We tend toward our own way, thinking that it surely must be right. We listen to those whom seem to be speaking well. But man’s way is never the right way, it always leads to death. May we all seek guidance from the One who knows, and follow His ways in all that we do. Thanks be to God.
“Commit thy works unto Jehovah, And thy purposes shall be established.” Proverbs 16:3 (ASV)
Recital This weekend Vicki performed in her dance school recital along with 61 other acts. We began with a lengthy dress rehearsal at which the children were directed about where they should go, stand, begin and end their acts. The stagehands practiced getting props on and off stage and group moms learned where to gather their charges. The sound and lighting people set their levels to best enhance the performance. The dress rehearsal seemed to last forever and was in some ways quite disastrous.
The point of a dress rehearsal, however, is to discover the problems and fix them. The dance school director was on top of every mistake, every tribulation and she found solutions. Where there were missing dancers, she reblocked the act. If the lighting or music was not right, she explained what she wanted. Attitude adjustments were made so that the recital would run smoothly. Of course, as a mom having watched much of the dress rehearsal, I know how much work went into the recital, and I found the actual performance even more amazing. Saturday girls were running around in the wrong costumes, hair undone, making too many mistakes in their routines. They were not used to the bright lights, the stage or the large audience. I wondered how it would all fit together. Yet, we watched a most wonderful show on Sunday, completely unaware of the backstage activity.
I was most amazed at how unseen was the dance school director. On Saturday, she was in the middle of everything, giving instruction and making changes. But on Sunday, she left it up to the stage directors and group mothers. I’m sure she worried, I saw her pacing occasionally before it all began, but when the time came, she let go and trusted those who were given the responsibility to make the show run smoothly.
“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (ASV)
These words from Paul are so easy to say, but not so easy to do. When we commit our lives to God, it means to let it go and let Him take care of everything, and yet how often do we keep holding on and try to do it all ourselves? We are very independent and afraid that if we do not do everything ourselves, something will go wrong. We do not want to really let go. Unfortunately, when we can’t let go, we actually cause more harm than good.
The dance school director would have been in the way if she had kept control on Sunday. Instead, she stepped back and let all those given specific responsibilities do what they could do. Everything went well and the show was wonderful. When we “let go and let God” it means we really let go of everything. God knows best what we need and how things will work well. We no longer have to worry or fret, because God takes our prayers and He does great and wonderful things. We don’t find peace in control, we find it in knowing that God is near, answering all our prayers with His good and perfect will. Thanks be to God.
“He that walketh uprightly walketh surely; But he that perverteth his ways shall be known.” Proverbs 10:9 (ASV)
Shoplifting My years in retail as a clerk and then manager taught me some things about human nature, things I didn’t like knowing. One of most important jobs, both at the register and as a manager, was to do all we could to halt shoplifters from taking merchandise from our store. It isn’t just up to the security guard, particularly since most small stores do not hire someone just for that task. When I was first trained about shoplifting, I thought we were talking about the people who come and stick something under their shirt and then go out the door. But most shoplifters do not try to get something for nothing; they try to get something for less.
Take, for instance, braziers. I purchased a bra from Walmart the other day and the cashier could not get the UPC code to work. I had to explain to her that she needed to take the item out of the box and scan the code located on the item itself. It is possible to take a more expensive bra and slip it into a box of a cheaper item. At Woolworth’s, we had that problem with yarn, shoes and jewelry. Other shoplifters try to stuff things inside of other things. We had to open every box and take the paper out of every purse to ensure that something was not hidden beneath. At Toys R Us we ran into the problem of people trying to return items of a questionable nature. We had several regulars who never had the proper receipt. There were times when it was quite obvious when the person was trying to pull one over on us. After awhile, it became difficult to look at them without wondering what game they were playing today.
I disliked dealing with people when I knew they were not being honest with me. I could not understand how someone could live a life such as theirs, having to tip toe through every exchange, and keeping up appearances. They use the same excuses, the same stories and the same indignant responses when questioned. Eventually, even as they walked in the door, the store employees went on guard – managers were called immediately we made sure that they were given no opportunity to pull anything. Their dishonesty became evident and we did all we could to stop their scheme.
Unfortunately, we can find the same sort of schemes in the ministries of many Christians today. Teachers and preachers who claim to be speaking the Word of God are just filling pages with garbage and making a fortune off it. We buy into the slick trends and pretty packages, thinking that they will change our lives. Sometimes they do, for a brief moment, but they lead us on a path of destruction. False teachers are selling a false Gospel.
“But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power there of. From these also turn away. For of these are they that creep into houses, and take captive silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 And even as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also withstand the truth. Men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further. For their folly shall be evident unto all men, as theirs also came to be.” 2 Timothy 3:1-9 (ASV)
Chasing after shoplifters was definitely not my favorite part of the job when I worked in retail. After all, I would much rather enjoy knowing that people are honest and trustworthy. Yet, it was important for the sake of the store, employees and our customers to keep shoplifting to a minimum. The cost of everything rises when we have to make up for that which has been taken or destroyed.
When it comes to the things of faith, I would much rather that everyone who claims to be from God really spoke the truth, but I know this is not going to happen in our world. This is why it is necessary to discern between right and wrong. The comfort in this, as found in both the Proverb and the words from Paul, is that the ways of the schemer are found out and their folly will come to an end. Until then, let us preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and pray for the gift of discernment for all who hear, so that they will see the love and mercy of God and come to live in His grace. Thanks be to God.
“Riches profit not in the day of wrath; But righteousness delivereth from death.” Proverbs 11:4 (ASV)
Treasures Vicki is headed to Mexico in a couple of days. The youth group from our church is going to do some mission work in Reynosa and surrounding area. They will paint the inside of a church, minister with some children and help in a hospice. They went last year and it was an incredible experience for the entire group. The evening devotional and prayer times were powerful moments and the youth came to better understand their own faith in Jesus Christ. The daytime work was such a blessing to each as they began to appreciate their own blessings and share them with others. The fellowship time the youth had together helped to build the relationships they have with one another, making the bonds so much stronger.
Unfortunately, this year we do not have as much funding for the trip. Last year, the group used extra funds to give school supplies to the children and have crafts for them to do. This year they do not even have enough to rent a van, so they will be using the vehicles of the adult chaperones and will have much less space to take materials and luggage. They also need a greater financial output from each of the youth. This is greatly impacting Vicki’s souvenir fund. Last year she had plenty of money from babysitting jobs and mom’s bank that she bought many presents for the family from the Mexican market. This year she is scraping every penny she can find to take along. As much as we enjoy the lovely gifts, we’ve told Vicki to save her money. Those souvenirs are treasures to us because they came from her heart and hard earned money, but they are certainly not necessary. The greatest treasure we received was to see the joy she had from impacting the lives of those children in Mexico and the growth in her Christian faith.
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (ASV)
It was wonderful that they had so much money that they could do so many things with the youth in Reynosa last year, but this year will not be any less of a blessing to the people they meet. They will have to rely more on words and actions than on the stuff they have to give to share the love of Christ. It is more difficult when there is a language barrier, but even that can be breeched with love. We’ve had a few worrisome moments this year in planning, wondering if we could even make it happen, but God is always faithful to provide and protect His people. The knowledge of God’s faithfulness will be an even greater treasure than all the pretty things they could possibly buy in any market. There is not as much money available, but their hearts are filled with a desire to share the Gospel in word and deed. What more do they need? Thanks be to God.
“The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him; And the desire of the righteous shall be granted.” Proverbs 10:24 (ASV)
Lifeguard It’s been a few years, but when I was in college I took a course in lifesaving. The class offered far more than just the skills for saving people from the water. We learned water safety, first aid and swimming endurance. It was not just about how to keep others from dying, but how to protect ourselves in dangerous situations. We practiced in swimsuits but also fully dressed so that we could learn how to react to the affects of the water in any situation. Having been a swimmer for most of my life, from the time my big brother threw me in the pool when I was just a wee little babe, I found that many of the lessons were common sense. But many of the students do not have such extensive experience with the water.
The hardest thing to teach is that when in danger in the water it is best to relax. If someone falls off a boat in a lake or an ocean, the tendency is to tense up and try hard to keep one’s head well above the water by moving their hands and feet. Though this may seem to work for a moment, even the most athletic people will tire quickly, particularly if they are fully clothed. Muscles cramp and it becomes nearly impossible to stay afloat. Once a person goes under, they do not have the strength to get to the surface again. It is better to keep the head down in the water with nose and mouth above the surface, lightly treading water, keeping the muscles moving too keep them from tightening up without using too much energy at once. When the body is tense it will sink, when relaxed it will float. For those who do not learn this lesson, the very thing they fear the most – drowning – will overcome them.
When we live in wickedness, we spend most of our time looking over our shoulder wondering when the shoe will drop. Liars worry about the truth being found, thieves worry about being caught, murders worry that they will fall to the sword. Without Christ we live our lives trying to run away from the consequences of our own sin, but we end up drowning under its weight. In Christ, we are made righteous – reconciled to God through the blood of His Son. In that relationship God hears our prayers and answers.
“These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.
The most wonderful aspect of our relationship with God through Christ Jesus is that in His righteousness we begin to know the Will of God for our lives and we desire that which He wants for us. Then our prayers are in accord with the things He desires for us, the things He knows are best for us. It is like relaxing in the water, rather than working hard to avoid drowning, it is better to let the water do all the work. When we live in our sin, we run from everything, fearing that the consequences will catch up with us some day. But when we live in Christ, we let God keep us afloat through His promises that He will grant all that we ask in His will. Thanks be to God.
“The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold; But Jehovah trieth the hearts.” Proverbs 17:3 (ASV)
Butterflies Art was always one of my favorite classes in school. I did all sorts of different projects over the years – painting, batik, cut paper, soft sculpture, clay, pointillism and other pen and ink, pencil, charcoal and pastel drawing and jewelry design. Some of the projects were fairly easy and others were more difficult. I never took the easy way out. I remember a pen and ink project that took me most of the school year because I used only stipple (small dots) and the picture was on a full sheet of poster board. I finished the main part of the picture – a large butterfly – rather quickly, but when I was ready to turn it in, my teacher said, “I think you should do the background also. He was right. When the whole picture was complete with the background, it was wonderful. I would have been happy stopping with the butterfly, but I was glad he pushed me further.
In another class I made a silver pendant that was shaped like a butterfly. With a tiny jewelry saw, I cut the shape and then soldered a crown for a stone in the center. Then I began the hard task of buffing the silver until it was polished and beautiful. It took a long time, many layers of polish. Just when I thought it was done, my teacher encouraged me to continue. Over and over again I went back to the machine, each time the piece was a little better. When I finally reached the moment when I could see myself in the silver, I knew it was worth the extra work and I was glad the teacher pushed me to go the extra mile on the project.
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, saying, It is needful to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.
It would have been much easier if I had just finished the projects when I thought they were done, but they never would have been as beautiful as they were with the additional time and work. The pen and ink picture still hangs in my living room, and I thank God for the extra push from my teacher. The necklace was one of my favorite pieces of jewelry for a long time, though I doubt it would have been if I had not polished it until it really shined. I didn’t know what was right for the pieces, but my art teachers did, and they encouraged me to take the projects to their limits.
In the early days of the church, many people tried to define the different doctrines that would stay with the Church into the future. The early Christians needed to learn what it meant to be disciples of God, to establish the patterns and practices of the fellowship of believers. That is what was happening in today’s lesson from Acts. Some Christians felt that it was necessary for new believers to first become Jewish and then Christian. Paul understood that God was not requiring circumcision from the Gentiles. God does not see people as people see people – through our own experiences and expectations. He sees our hearts and knows the potential for each of our lives. He purifies each of us according to His word and will, making us masterpieces for His glory. God’s love reaches beyond our expectations; no matter who we are He provides all we need to live in the faith He has given through the grace of Jesus Christ. He saves us and gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not because we have done anything as required by men, but because He loves each of us as His own. Thanks be to God.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue; And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21 (ASV)
Hawk There is a story about Genghis Khan who was an awesome warrior and ruler of the Mongol Empire in the early years of the thirteenth century. He was on a hunt with a large party of friends and servants. He had a pet hawk that would hunt with him. The hawk was trained to fly above and seek rabbits or deer in the forest and swiftly attacking the animals from above. After a long day of fun with his companions, the king had not caught as much game as he expected. The party began to return home on an easy path, but the king decided to take another route. He let his hawk go to fly home as he was trained to do, and he set on a longer road. After some time the king became thirsty. He knew the paths in the forest very well, and was certain there was a spring nearby. It had been a dry, hot summer and the streams had long disappeared.
Finally the king found the spring, but even it was nothing more than a trickle. He took his cup and waited patiently as the cup filled drop by drop. Just as he decided to lift the cup to his lips, his hawk appeared out of nowhere and knocked it out of his hands. The king was angry, but picked the cup and began to fill it again. When it was half full, he began to take a drink and his hawk did it again. A third time the king tried to fill it, but this time he was prepared for the hawk’s attack. In his anger, he took out his sword and threatened the bird. He tried once again and when there was enough water in the cup, he lifted it to his mouth. The hawk came to attack but this time the king attacked first, killing his beloved pet. The cup fell out of his hand and fell into a crevice where he could not reach. He decided to climb to the source of the spring. When he reached the top of bank from which the water came, he found the pool and the dead, poisonous snake that had polluted the water. His beloved pet hawk was trying to save his life, but the king reacted to his anger in word and deed, which ended in tragedy.
“So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire! And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping things and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind. But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield sweet.” James 3:5-12 (ASV)
The king reacted to the lifesaving actions of his beloved pet hawk with angry words and then violence. He let his anger and harsh words get the best of him, and he ended up with nothing – no water, no cup and no hawk. Anger is not the only thing that is revealed in words that can lead to an even greater response. The human heart tends toward greed, jealousy, lust, bitterness, strife and doubt and we show our tendencies by what we speak. In the case of the king, his anger was spoken and then acted upon and he lost his friend.
Yet, it is not just the negative that can manifest in our mouths and actions. When we speak in love, mercy and peace, the same comes back to us. If only the king had called to his hawk, not in anger but in love, he might have realized that the hawk was protecting him from the danger in the water. Thomas Jefferson said that when we are angry we should count to ten before acting upon that anger. It all starts in the mouth. When we take that moment to think about our words, we are more likely to respond in a positive manner. Our words spoken in the heat of the moment will bring exactly what it deserves, the consequences of our anger, greed, jealousy, lust, bitterness, strife and doubt. It might mean death to ourselves of someone we love. The king learned the lesson in a very hard way. In Christ, we’ve seen how words can bring good things, particularly when we praise the Lord our God. In that we find much blessing. Thanks be to God.
“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty; And before honor goeth humility.” Proverbs 18:12 (ASV)
Grades Zachary has always done very well in school, so well that some of his friends were jealous of his good grades. I’ve tried to teach the children that they should not make a deal about their successes because they never know what might happen tomorrow. While competition can be healthy and help others to do better, I just want them to be considerate of the other children’s feelings. Earlier this year Zack was showing off a bit to his friends about never having anything but A’s on his report card. The rating period was over and he was expecting another perfect record. Unfortunately, he ended up with a B in one of his classes. It was a perfect time about humility. I reminded Zack about his conversation with his friend and said, “Now aren’t you sorry you made such a big deal about it before?”
At the end of the school year, Zack was honored with some special awards for his academic achievements and his attitude. When it came time for the award ceremony, he did not know what to expect. He had learned his lesson a few months before and approached the program with humility. He was honored with the respect of his classmates and teachers.
“If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.” Philippians 2:1-4 (ASV)
Paul went on in this passage to say that we should be like Jesus, uplifting others above ourselves. Jesus put aside the glory He had in heaven to become like us. If anyone ever had the right to be proud, it was Jesus. He came from heaven, sent by God and given great power and authority. He was perfect in every way, generous, knowledgeable and loving. He was the Son of God! But Jesus never boasted about who He was, He lowered Himself to be like a servant and referred to Himself as the Son of Man. He willingly went to the cross and died for our sake.
We respond to Jesus’ humility with the realization that if Jesus, who was the Son of God Himself, could reject any sense of pride, we should also. We are certainly no better than Jesus, or anyone else for that matter. Living in our pride does little good. It only leads to a downfall of some sort. Zack’s experience impacted his life, and he has realized it is not good to boast about his grades. His relationship with his friend was made better when he spent his time and energy encouraging him to do better rather than talking about his own good work. How joyful we can be if only we do the same with those who cross our path, humbling ourselves and uplifting others with kind words and loving actions. In this way we can be just like our Lord Jesus Christ. Pride serves no good purpose and when we hold ourselves in such high regard, we are most likely going to fall eventually. But when we are humble before the Lord and each other, He will be drawn ever deeper into our relationships with Him and others and there find great joy. Thanks be to God.
“Better is a little, with righteousness, Than great revenues with injustice.” Proverbs 16:8 (ASV)
Awards Yesterday we heard about Zack receiving awards for his accomplishments at school. Zack’s school always has a special program at the end of the year to recognize all the children with some sort of award. This can be quite a difficult task for the teachers, but good that they have to find something positive about even their worst students. Vicki’s school also gives out awards and though not all the children receive some sort of recognition, some students who are normally forgotten when it comes to academics are given some sort of acknowledgment for the wonderful things they did this year. It is especially good to see the slower students getting certificates for the most improvement in a subject.
Awards are a great way of encouraging children and adults to do their best, to accomplish great things. Throughout the year we are able to watch shows on the television where people are presented with trophies for being the best actors, writers, singers or artists. The Oscars, Grammies and Tony awards are presented each year to the best of the best. Country music offers its own statues and even the Christian music industry offers recognition to the artists who have impacted the world with their music.
I don’t know how all the different organizations choose their winners. There are people’s choice awards and those that are selected by professional peers. Some are based on merit and others are strictly popularity contests. Generally there is a slate of nominees from which the qualified voters can choose. I didn’t always like the winner, but I thought that perhaps my taste was much different than the majority. I have to admit that I became somewhat disillusioned with some of the awards when I discovered that these awards are more like an election than a representation of the best talent in the industry. The nominees campaign, offering parties and even gifts to the voters. Now when I see the announcement of the winners, I don’t know for sure if they deserve the award or if they bought it.
Perhaps this talk of awards seems rather worldly, but the Proverbs often deal with the very basic experiences of our lives and how we respond. They are about character and integrity. Do we live in right relationships with God, each other, the whole creation and ourselves? Do we try to succeed no matter what or do we accept our lot in life with joy and peace? Who suffers or benefits from all we do? This is what we learn from the Proverbs, just like Jesus and the Apostles. We see in the stories of their lives their character and integrity, but most particularly in the life of Jesus. He was all that is good, right and true, the One who is righteous and just. Jesus didn’t have much during his life on this earth. He didn’t even have a place to lay His head, but He always did what was right.
“And Jesus perceiving it withdrew from thence: and many followed him; and he healed them all, and charged them that they should not make him known: 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, Behold, my servant whom I have chosen; My beloved in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry aloud; Neither shall any one hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, And smoking flax shall he not quench, Till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles hope.” Matthew 12:15-21 (ASV)
Jesus did not seek great wealth or reward for all He did, He didn’t even want the people to tell others when He healed their dis-ease. Jesus simply sought to bring justice into this world – justice for the sick, poor and persecuted. He didn’t buy people’s love or even fight when people put him down, He helped them through their troubles and lived rightly at all times. This fulfilled what was promised through the prophets, that God would send the Messiah to restore the world. There were many who were seeking a different kind of messiah, but Jesus refused to do things the way the world expected. He did things His way, to bring about exactly what God intended – salvation for all those who call on the name of the Lord. He didn’t get any awards for his actions nor did he win any popularity contests. As a matter of fact, He was persecuted and killed. That is where we put our hope – not in any special recognition of our works or in the remembrance of our abilities, but in that which the Lord Jesus did on the cross on Calvary. In Him we see justice and know justice will be victorious.
“Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, Before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, Before the earth was.” Proverbs 8:22-23 (ASV)
Flesh It is all well and good that the proverbs teach us some common sense lessons for living in this world. After all, though we are spiritual creatures made new through our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, we also have to get through the day-to-day experiences with others and God’s great and wonderful creation. The wisdom that shines from the words in the book is invaluable to our lives, relationships and even our faith. But that is not all we see in this book. All the Old Testament scripture establishes a foundation for the grace of God given through Christ Jesus our Lord. Even the proverbs point to the coming of Jesus as Savior.
John, as were all the Jews of the day, was quite familiar with the words of the prophets and the promises of God for a Messiah. He drew from those words and ideas when he wrote down his version of the story of Jesus. John knew that God’s presence was in the world from the beginning, manifest as wisdom. We saw it in the life of Solomon, who is credited with the writing of many of the proverbs. Of all the things that he could have asked from God, he asked for only wisdom. God was pleased with such a request and gave more than Solomon could have desired – wealth, power and fame. Though today’s passage from Proverbs does not directly refer to Jesus Christ, it does lay the foundation for our understanding of the fullness of God dwelling in the flesh of man. John knew this as he wrote the opening words of the Gospel.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
It is indeed well and good that we know the wisdom found in Proverbs, and live by it daily. If only more people would follow the common sense lessons of integrity, compassion, gratitude and humility the world would be a much more pleasant place to live. Our relationships with God, each other, the creation and even ourselves would be stronger and better for it. But even the wisdom of Solomon would do us no good if we did not have the saving grace of God as found in Jesus Christ.
John tells us that the Word was made flesh, and when He came He changed the world. We don’t always understand the things of God. Even the most spiritual people still live in the flesh and have the daily trials and temptations to overcome. We live in a world that still knows the affects of sin and death, and we see the things of God as though through darkened glass. What we can know without a doubt, and live in faith and hope, is that Jesus is with us now as He has always been, a bit of wisdom in the midst of foolishness and a light shining in the darkness. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament witnesses agree. God is with us as He has been from the beginning. We can rest assured that through grace God will build upon that great and wonderful beginning – first wisdom as the Word and then that Word made flesh for our sake. Our lives might be made better by the wisdom we hear in the words of Solomon, but we can only have true life in Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God.
“Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart, And lean not upon thine own understanding: In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he will direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (ASV)
VBS This week we have been enjoying the fun and fellowship of Vacation Bible School. Nearly a hundred children and dozens of leaders have been studying the subject of light. The program has been really cute, set in a lighthouse. We’ve learned so many interesting facts about lighthouses and how they protect ships on the sea. Each day we have also heard stories about God’s light. On Monday, we learned that God’s love attracts, just like He attracted Moses with the burning bush. On Tuesday we saw that God’s light guides, as He did with the tower of fire that lead the Israelites to the Promised land when they left Egypt. On Wednesday, we heard the story about how God’s light arrived in the baby named Jesus. Today, the story was about Nicodemus and we saw how God’s light reveals. Tomorrow we will learn about Saul who became Paul and how God’s light shines through those God uses to share His light.
I love to be involved with Vacation Bible School, to see them learning about God’s love. It is amazing how much they pick up in such a short period of time. They are learning the bible verses, remembering the stories. V.B.S. is a great opportunity to get the youth and others who are normally unable to be involved in religious education to share their faith. It has been eye opening for some of them. We all should have the chance to tell others about Jesus. I think we learn as much from the children as they learn from us. Particularly when it comes to matters of trust.
“ Jesus therefore said unto them, Yet a little while is the light among you. Walk while ye have the light, that darkness overtake you not: and he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have the light, believe on the light, that ye may become sons of light. These things spake Jesus, and he departed and hid himself from them.” John 12:35-36 (ASV)
This is one of the bible passages that the children have heard this week. They learned that Jesus is the light that came as a man to show God to the world. When we believe in Him, we become children of the light. Believing in Him means trusting God with all our heart. One of the greatest joys about Vacation Bible School is seeing the faith of those small children. They don’t understand everything about Jesus. Certainly we can make the stories simple enough for them to understand, but can any of us really fathom the great love of God as found in those miraculous events – the burning bush, the towering flame, the birth in a stable, the revelation of truth to Nicodemus and the conversion of Paul? Yet, children believe without question, sing with great reverence and tell others about God’s love. They have a trust in God that has slipped away from many adults, a love for Him that sets them on the right path of faith. May we all learn to trust in Him this way that we too might be His children in this world. Thanks be to God.
“For that they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of Jehovah: They would none of my counsel; They despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, And be filled with their own devices. ” Proverbs 1:29-31 (ASV)
Chances Did you ever take any chances when you were a kid, teenager or even a young adult? Perhaps you climbed a very tall tree or swam in an old mine hole. You may have written a note to a boy or girl you like, even though you did not know if they liked you back. You took chances the first time you road a bike without training wheels or tried out for a sports team. Most of the time, the chances were harmless. It was no big deal if you failed, but it was great if you succeeded.
Even as adults we sometimes take chances. Some of those things are downright stupid. Driving through the Rocky Mountains several years ago, I absolutely had to touch the snow that I saw clinging to the side of a mountain. The snowfield was about twenty feet from the road. I slipped a bit, but was able to make it down, grab a snowball and climb back up. On another occasion, I wanted a better picture of the coastline of England, around Land’s End. I climbed down the cliff to the perfect ledge and got the perfect picture. In both instances, I could have slipped, fallen and gotten seriously hurt. There’s been other times I have wanted to take a chance, to climb on dangerous rocks or go beyond the safety zone, but the danger signs and my family convinced me otherwise. Some people are not so smart.
Whenever a movie or television show comes out with dangerous stunts, the producers make a very big deal about the warnings to the viewers. “Do not try this at home” is a statement we’ve heard a million times. Yet, every time we hear it, we also hear accompanying stories of people who have ignored the warnings. There have been too many young people who have died or been injured in attempts to recreate something they have seen. It is sad when that happens, but unfortunately we do suffer the consequences of our stupidity.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.” Galatians 6:7-10 (ASV)
I wonder how often we take chances with God? Do we ever test Him, make deals with Him, try to get out of Him exactly what we want, rather than what He has planned for our lives? Do we swim in dangerous waters, climb down the jagged rocks of a cliff or try to do the things we’ve seen others do, not only in the flesh but also with our spiritual lives? I think we do when we willfully disobey what we know is right and true. Like when we lie, cheat or steal even know that it is wrong to do those things. Or when we hurt someone purposely. Or when we try to take our own revenge for the things that have been done against us. Unfortunately, when we take chances, we suffer the consequences. Sometimes we get lucky; we make it back up the mountain or down out of the tree. But sometimes we slip and fall. The movie producers warn the viewing public that some things they do are not real, that there should be no attempts to duplicate it. Some ignore the warnings. The Proverb for today and the passage from Paul to the Galatians both tell us that we will reap what we sow. So let us always do that which is pleasing to God, do good to all people and reap the eternal life He has promised through Jesus Christ our Lord. Thanks be to God.
“Jehovah by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding he established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths were broken up, And the skies drop down the dew.” Proverbs 3:19-20 (ASV)
Lost The other day we were driving home from an event about an hour from home. Looking at a map, I could see that there was a much simpler way for us to get home from the place, saving quite a bit of time and mileage on the car. Another car agreed and decided to follow me. As we were driving, I realized the map I was using was not as detailed as it should have been and we came across some surprise intersections with options that seemed easier than the way I had planned to go. We spent some time lost in the Arkansas countryside, though not really lost because we were always headed in the right direction. I didn’t have a map in my car, so each time we can to one of these choices, I had to stop and take a look at the other lady’s map. I apologized profusely for making a shortcut longer than expected.
We did manage to get home in good time and when a much shorter distance than we would have gone if we had followed the others, and we saw some of the loveliest countryside that I’ve seen since we have been here. Though we were a bit lost, it was the most delightful afternoon as we watched the scenery go by. Arkansas is riddled with lakes and creeks, meadows filled with wildflowers and a wide variety of trees. Sometimes when we live in the hectic life of a big city, we forget how wonderful and glorious God’s creation really is. It takes a day being lost in the country to appreciate the work of God. We too rarely stop to smell the roses.
The worst part is that when we don’t take the time to enjoy that which God has given us in the creation, we also forget the great and wonderful things God has done that can’t be seen with our senses. If we don’t enjoy the lakes, flowers and trees and attribute them to the One who brought them forth, how can we really grasp God’s mercy and grace found in His redemption – re-creation – of His world?
“...who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.” Colossians 1:15-20 (ASV)
The proverb for today shows us how deeply God is involved in His creation, from the beginning of time until today. By His wisdom, His Word, He laid down the very foundations of everything we see, hear, touch, taste and feel in the world today. Even the heavens, that part of creation we cannot see with our eyes, was brought forth by Him. He controls the waters, placing every lake and stream exactly where He pleases and bringing the rain that waters the flowers and trees. It was by His Word these things came to be, and that Word is Christ.
Christ is the image of that which we cannot see. He is the Word made flesh, the God of creation dwelling with us. He was there when God laid down the foundations of the earth and it was through all things were made. In Christ we see that God did not make the world and disappear, but that He has been with us always, planning even in the beginning the redemption that was to come. Everything is His, and through Him we are re-created and reconciled to God our Father in heaven, part of the body of Christ and blessed with eternal life in Him. In that day when we are finally face to face with our Lord Jesus, when we finally inherit all that has been promised, we won’t have to get lost in the countryside to appreciate all that God has done for us. Thanks be to God.
“Every purpose is established by counsel; And by wise guidance make thou war.” Proverbs 20:18 (ASV)
Tours We were incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to live in England for four years. Most people only manage to visit for a few weeks at a time. There is no way to see all the wonderful things to see there in such a short time. To even try is exhausting. Though they can be very constricting, it is sometimes best to take advantage of organized tours that plan an itinerary for the visitors. The tour operators have experience and information about the country, the places to visit and best accommodations.
A few years ago I received a note from an acquaintance that was planning a trip to England. She wanted some advice about places to see and things to do. She gave me a long list of desires – she wanted to spend time in London, Scotland and near Oxford. She had some specific sights that she wanted to visit, ideas about the type of places she wanted to stay. On top of it, she wanted to do it on a limited budget. She was hoping for a few days in the middle to do some genealogical research. I gave her a few suggestions, places to call and things she should do, but I did so with a warning. She was planning too much. While it is possible to do all those things in two weeks, she did not have the knowledge of English roads, gas prices and other considerations to make the best choices for her trip. I gave her my honest opinion that I thought she was trying to do too much, that she would not enjoy any of the places because she would be too concerned about getting to the next place or too tired from the long drives and rushed visits. After she read through my notes, she agreed she was expecting too much and cut back on her wishes. When she returned, she was so thankful because she knew her original plan would have been overwhelming and perhaps even disastrous. A little planning went a long way to make her trip enjoyable.
Though there are very few of us who will be the one in control of waging a war, we certainly have many aspects of our lives in which it would be best to seek advice. Even in dealing with our relationships, it often helps to have the guidance of someone who can help us make the right decisions. When our children go astray, when our bosses overwhelm us with work, when our neighbors do something to annoy us – these are the battles we fight day to day. How do get through them? Do we jump into the fray or do we take a moment to consider the costs?
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it? Lest haply, when he hath laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all that behold begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, as he goeth to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and asketh conditions of peace. So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:28-33 (ASV)
It is certainly best to enjoy a foreign country the way we were able – one day at a time living there for a few years. However, this is impractical for most people. For those who want to visit, a few weeks is usually all they have and it is usually a once in a lifetime experience. It would be wonderful if they could do everything, to see all the country houses, all the ancient castles or feast in the many different pubs. It would be wonderful to enjoy the countryside of Scotland, the mountains of Wales, the ancient monoliths of Cornwall and the nightlife of London, but it is impossible to do that much in just a few weeks. Tours usually give only the highlights; visit only the most popular sights, so you miss out on some of the less traveled paths. Yet, it is often better to take the advice and planning of those who are experienced, who can get you to see the most for your money, rather than try to do it alone. We lived there. We could waste a day lost in the country doing nothing and return another day to visit what we wanted to see.
As for our relationships with one another, and with God, how much better is it to have the help of others to get us through the rough times, to guide us through the doubts and fears, to lead us into a better way? Jesus calls us to do incredible things – to give up the world, to face persecution and strife, to walk in ways that go completely against our nature. But His blessings are great for those who do those things. In this scripture, which expounds upon the proverb for today, Jesus simply wants us to count the costs of discipleship. This is good for us to do with all aspects of our lives, to take time to make the right decisions and prepare ourselves for whatever might be. Sometimes it takes the help of a friend, co-worker, parent or pastor. We should not jump headfirst into anything, but do so with faith, through prayer and wisdom from God. Then we won’t become lost in a foreign country, have a tower that falls or face an army too big, for God will bless those who seek to do what is right and true in His name. Thanks be to God.
“Hear, my sons, the instruction of a father, And attend to know understanding: For I give you good doctrine; Forsake ye not my law.” Proverbs 4:1-2 (ASV)
Homecoming Vicki and the troops returned from their mission trip yesterday afternoon, a little tired but exhilarated from their experiences. They were also a bit crisp. See, each year they take one day for pleasure and go to the beach at South Padre Island. Last year, Vicki was among the worst victims of the blazing sun. She came home in pain, red as a lobster with blisters all over her shoulders, face and back. It took several days to nurse her back to health, all the while telling her how to avoid this pain in the future. It seems she remembered every lesson we taught her, because this year she survived the beach with just a little color – much better than the rest of the kids. They did not listen to the suggestions given by their own parents or by those who had suffered before. There were even a couple who forgot what happened last year.
Yesterday was Father’s Day. We didn’t do very much to celebrate, though I’m sure Bruce felt some pride in his daughter as she showed that she remembered the lessons he had taught her, not only about the beach, but also in sharing her faith. It seems as though for many the role of fatherhood has changed in our society today. He is no longer the spiritual head of the household. For too many kids, father is a negative word. For those who have been abused or abandoned (emotionally or physically) the whole idea of a Father’s Day is upsetting. On our way to church yesterday morning, I noticed that there weren’t very many cars on the road. I joked that kids will go to church to make Mom happy on Mother’s Day, but its more important to do the lawn or play golf for their fathers on Father’s Day. Unfortunately, too often humor has some foundation in the truth.
But while fatherhood does have negative connotations for some people in our world today, there are still those who have a positive influence on their children in every way. There are those who can discipline with tender loving care, teaching life lessons with strength, love and encouragement. Those fathers are the ones who look to God as their father and who pass down that wisdom to their children.
“It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not? But if ye are without chastening, whereof all have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed good to them; but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness. All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews 12:7-11 (ASV)
Last year Vicki suffered the consequences of not listening to our advice about sunscreen at the beach. She lived in pain for a few days and learned some valuable lessons. This year she knew better, took care of her skin and kept from being burnt by the hot sun. There are other times she doesn’t listen, more lessons to learn and more discipline to undergo, but for today we can rest in the assurance that at least some of what we have said has gotten through to her.
When it comes to faith, we don’t know where our children will end up in the future, but we can certainly hope that the things they’ve learned from their fathers will be remembered and understood. For those fathers who have not had such an impact, I pray they will realize what an important role they are to play in the lives of their children. It is not only the mother’s job to care for the spiritual welfare of our children. It is a father’s responsibility to hand over the faith to their children. Perhaps in the years to come, more children will realize that a lawn mowed or a round of golf will not be a blessing to their fathers, but rather with time shared in worship of the true Father in heaven. It is there that righteousness and peace will be found. Thanks be to God.
“A man shall be commended according to his wisdom; But he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.” Proverbs 12:8 (ASV)
Extreme It is raining at our house again today. We aren’t complaining, because our water levels were well below normal, so this rain should help us through the normally dry summer months. Unfortunately, the rain is coming in waves, extremely heavy downpours rather than a good soaking rain. This morning, the roads were covered with sheets of water, causing many cars to hydroplane and crash. There were several bad accidents around the state, which brought traffic to a standstill in many places. There were those who thought they could get around it by taking a side road, but they found themselves in situations that were just as bad or even worse. The announcers on the radio this morning tried to give suggestions, but they received calls from drivers who had found out the hard way that those routes were no better. One woman had been stuck in traffic nearly two hours.
Extremes are not necessarily good. We need the rain, but this kind of downpour is dangerous and the water usually just washes away. It comes so quickly that it does not soak into the ground. But it is not just the rain we have to be concerned about. Extremes in everything can be bad. Take, for instance, extreme sports. These athletes are insane, taking rather normal gifts and abilities to the edge of common sense, risking life and limb for the thrill of it all. I’m not so sure I would ever even get on the bunny slope of a ski resort, let alone go to the top of a mountain where there are no prepared paths. It is fine to wade or tube in a nicely flowing river, but you won’t catch me careening off the top of a waterfall in a raft. Perhaps I am just chicken, but I just don’t see myself ever taking my limited physical abilities to such an extreme. Though I don’t do extreme sports, there are areas in all our lives that we take to an extreme, whether it is politics, caring for our families, work, hobbies or healthy living. Even our faith can be taken to an extreme.
I’m a little more likely to do it with ideas and opinions, but even this is dangerous. Consider those who are racist or sexist. They are extreme in their opinion of those of another race or gender. “No ‘whatever’ can ever do this.” Or “All ‘whatever’ are that.” These opinions are extreme and should be avoided. Many take their religious opinions to the extreme, particularly those who claim that they are part of some sort of remnant who have the whole truth while every one else is wrong and going to hell.
“But shun foolish questionings, and genealogies, and strifes, and fightings about law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A factious man after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned.” Titus 3:9-11 (ASV)
There are many doctrines in the religious world today that are extreme – trendy Christian teachings that go against the Gospel of Christ and diminish the grace of God. Those who teach these things will fight with anyone who disagrees, debating every point to the ground and destroying relationships in the process. We certainly do have disagreements about the interpretation of the scriptures and what it means for our lives of faith, and it is good to discuss these things. What is dangerous is taking our own opinions to such an extreme that we will not even listen to what others have to say.
The Zondervan study notes for verse 10 says, “The Greek for this phrase [divisive person] became a technical term in the early church for a type of ‘heretic’ who promoted dissension by propagating extreme views of legitimate Christian truths.” This is happening today, and it is something about which we are warned in this proverb. Wisdom is not being right about everything. The wise man is the one who will listen and learn, be corrected and changed. The man with a warped mind is the one who stubbornly refuses to listen and learn, the one who takes ideas and opinions to such an extreme that it brings pain and suffering to those who cross his path. May God give us each the wisdom, courage and strength to such men and keep from the extremes, so that we might live in peace filled relationships with even those who disagree with our understanding of faith. Thanks be to God.
“The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters; The wellspring of wisdom is as a flowing brook.” Proverbs 18:4 (ASV)
Springs We have a great deal of standing water around our house. The landscape is such that when it rains hard large puddles – small lakes – form in the yard. They eventually disappear as the water soaks into the ground or evaporates, but until then it is a problem. We are unable to mow the grass while it is so wet and the water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Unfortunately, mosquitoes spread diseases like the West Nile virus, which can be fatal. While our puddles are not a major problem because they do not last for more than a few days, standing water is dangerous.
When we look at a river, the rapids seem to be the most dangerous, because the water is moving so fast. Yet, we must be extra careful in the water that looks safe. Where the water looks calm and barely moving is where it is deepest and most deceiving. If you tried to cross, you would quickly discover that the water is indeed moving and you have little control. You can step into a hole, lose your footing and be carried under water very quickly. The water along the edges of those areas are more likely to get stagnant and be unhealthy to drink.
In Pennsylvania, as well as in other places I am sure, there are springs of water that flow over the rocky walls along the roads. These springs produce clean, clear, cool water. I’ve seen people parked along the side of the road holding pitchers and jugs to be filled with the water. It is so good because the water is not given time to sit. It is filtered by the rocks, cooled in the natural refrigeration of the earth and forced to the surface by pressure. By the time it appears it is pure and it flows almost all the time. Even in the winter you can find signs of the springs as the water freezes in beautiful cascades of ice hanging on the rocks. It is rather amazing to consider that the springs are probably rather small flowing rivers below the surface, yet they provide life-giving water to those who thirst.
“ Jesus answered and said unto her, Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come all the way hither to draw.” John 4:13-15 (ASV)
The woman in this story from John relied on the well as did all the people in that time and place. They didn’t have faucets in their kitchens to get the water they need for daily living, so they had to go a great distance, fill pots and then carry them home. Because this woman was outcast, she went alone at noon. It was a difficult task, particularly in the heat of day. Even well water can become tepid during the day, no longer cool and soothing to the one who drinks of it. But a spring is constantly flowing, giving fresh, clean and cool water to drink.
The proverb says that man the words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but wisdom is like a bubbling brook. Many people think themselves quite intelligent, able to recite long dissertations of knowledge using big words and complex ideas. Yet, there is often very little wisdom found in those ramblings. It is the living spring of water that gives life and renews a person, the Word of mercy, forgiveness and grace that Jesus gives. Oh, when the woman received the Gospel from Him, she still needed the water from the well to keep her body alive, but she found that wisdom is like a bubbling brook, constantly renewing itself – now through her as she shared that Gospel message with others.
Oh, how wonderful it is to get deep in God’s word, to find the depths of His love in the scriptures and His Spirit. But true wisdom is not found in great theological knowledge or spiritual understanding. It is found in the living water of faith that flows through Jesus into our hearts and into the world. Thanks be to God.
“Weary not thyself to be rich; Cease from thine own wisdom.” Proverbs 23:4 (ASV)
Money It seems that many of the proverbs deal with money. And why not? Our lives, particularly in this day and age, revolve around money. We need money to pay for our shelter whether it is a mortgage or rent. We need money to pay for food. Even farmers who tend cattle and grow grain and vegetables need to purchase some staples for living. In American society, we need to pay for electricity and other utilities so that our water will be delivered to our faucets and our waste sent far away. We don’t go a day without spending money in some way. Though things may have changed over the millennia since this proverb was written, things are not much different than they were then. Money is still necessary for life.
Through time and space, money has always been a important matter to understand and use properly. We are certainly quite wasteful with our financial resources, buying things we really do not need and throwing away our excesses. When we visited the Heifer International Ranch several weeks ago, I was uncomfortable with what a poor steward I am of the wonderful things God has given to me. My family is not rich, but we have so much more than we need. We enjoy collecting pretty things. We enjoy going places and doing things together. Unfortunately we spend too many hours a week working to pay off our credit card bills. Or to pay for the ‘nice-essities’ of life. Or to maintain the lifestyle we’ve built.
While I am sure there are people who are striving to get rich, most of us just laugh at the proverb. We are wearing ourselves out to get by. “Rich? I’ll be lucky if I can pay my bills this month.” We strive to make life better for our kids, to give them the things we never had. We want to be comfortable and happy. So, while we scoff at the proverb, thinking to ourselves that we aren’t striving to be rich, I have to wonder if we could be content living in a small hut with little or no possessions. Now, I don’t think it is necessary for us to give up the blessed lives we’ve been given to move to a third world country, but this proverb offers good council for those of us who live in today’s world. Are we working too hard to keep up a lifestyle far exceeding the blessing of God?
“But godliness with contentment is great gain: for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; 8 but having food and covering we shall be therewith content. But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ASV)
God has not necessarily asked us to give up the wonderful gifts He has given, or the life with which we have been blessed. He simply asks that we be content, satisfied with what we have. Working for a living is not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, the proverbs are very clear that sluggards and lazy people will not find God’s blessings. But we should not seek to be rich or work to live in excess.
Paul writes, “The love of money is a root of all evil.” He did not say money is evil. He is drawing here from the proverb for today, asking us to have restraint, to be satisfied with enough. It is when we desire more than enough that we fall into error, easily deceived and led astray. In today’s world, it is necessary to pay the rent, have a car and purchase our food from the grocery store. May God help us do so as good stewards of the resources He has given so that we might live content and happy in this world. Thanks be to God.
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes; But Jehovah weigheth the hearts.” Proverbs 21:2 (ASV)
Servants One of my favorite Bible stories comes from 1 Samuel – the anointing of David. Saul was living up to God’s expectations of an earthly king. He was overtaxing the people, taking the sons to be soldiers and the daughters to be perfumers. When the Israelites asked for a king, God warned them that this would happen. Worst of all, however, Saul turned from God and disobeyed His command. God was grieved that He chose Saul to be king. He sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint a new king.
When Samuel arrived, he did as God commanded. He took a heifer for sacrifice, invited Jesse and his sons and listened for God’s word on which son would be king. When he saw the first son, Eliab, he was certain this was the chosen one. God spoke to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” One by on the sons of Jesse came before Samuel and God rejected them all. After the seventh son, Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse told him that David was in the field tending the sheep. “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
David was not the type you’d expect to be king. He was not strong like a hunter or warrior. He was the youngest son, a handsome shepherd boy. Yet, God knew David’s heart. He knew that David would be faithful and trustworthy with the gifts and responsibilities of the office. So, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him before his brothers and father and the Spirit of God came upon him in power. It was many years before David took over the throne. During that time he served Saul, grew in faith and knowledge and eventually ran from king’s pursuit. When Saul discovered that David was the one whom God had chosen, he sought to kill David. Through it all, David only sought the LORD and though he had several opportunities to kill Saul, he did not disobey God’s command.
The wonder of this story is how God chooses people not according to outer appearances. It has nothing to do with our physical features, our good works or even the abilities we seem to have. God sees the heart and He chooses those who will serve Him and obey His commands. God’s ways are not always the easiest path, as a matter of fact, sometimes He asks us to do some very hard things. He has not promised that our lives will be free from pain or that we’ll be richly blessed with wealth, fame or even good health. What He has promised is that we’ll be blessed from within; we’ll have a deep and abiding relationship with the Most High and receive countless blessings in the Kingdom of God.
“Let a man so account of us, as of ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Here, moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing against myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. ” 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (ASV)
Saul’s heart was proven hard by the way he served God as king. He did not turn to the LORD, but rather ran after his own lusts and greed. He used the power God gave him for all the wrong purposes and it was taken from him. David, though he was never perfect, always sought God in all things. His heart was right with God and in his failures he looked to God for forgiveness and mercy. God brings all things out in the open – both our vices and our virtues. For those whose hearts are turned toward the Lord, the vices are transformed and the virtues are magnified so that the kingdom of God will be glorified in this world. For those whose hearts are hard, only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can make them soft. Let us pray for those who need to hear that message of forgiveness and mercy and ask God to use us as His servants, sharing Christ with the world so that they too might see Him and walk in the light. God is faithful. He brings to light the darkness and He makes things new with His love. Thanks be to God.
*The story of David’s anointing comes from 1 Samuel 16.
“Honor Jehovah with thy substance, And with the first-fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, And thy vats shall overflow with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10 (ASV)
Capital On an episode of Friends, Monica and Phoebe got into a situation about money. Monica had lost her job and was moping around the apartment when an opportunity arose for her to cater a party. Unfortunately, she did not even have the money she needed to buy start up supplies. She couldn’t take the party until Phoebe volunteered to help. Phoebe loaned her five hundred dollars she had saved, and they became partners in this new enterprise.
When Monica came home from the event, she was lugging brand new pots and other kitchen accessories. Phoebe asked how everything went and Monica excitedly told her that it went great, that they paid well and she has more parties booked. Then Phoebe wanted her five hundred dollars back. “I spent it,” Monica said. Phoebe was upset because she wasn’t being paid back immediately. Monica explained that she had to spend the profit to start up the business and do the upcoming parties. There would eventually be extra money to pay back the loan. That’s how it works when starting a business. You can’t get rich right away – it takes capital to make profit. The first dollars that come in always have to go back into the business, to buy supplies and equipment, pay salaries and establish a marketing scheme.
It may seem strange to compare our lives of faith with starting a business, but it is exactly the same. God blesses us with so many good and wonderful things and He expects us to give it back – but not as a repayment of a loan. He wants us to invest what He has given us so that the Kingdom of God will grow and glorify Him all the more. After all, God does not need our money, time or even our abilities. He has all He needs and more. But He blesses us to be a blessing, blesses us so that we will go out and use our blessings to share the Gospel of Christ with the world.
“But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work: as it is written, He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor; His righteousness abideth for ever.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-9 (ASV)
The more we put into a business, the better that business will succeed. It takes capital to make a good start, and most businesses fail because the proprietors are unwilling to put into it the financial backing it needs. They try to spend their profits immediately, leaving nothing for growth or advertising. Then when they fail they shake their heads in wonderment. “Why didn’t it work?” It was because they were looking for a quick buck, unwilling to put back into it the money necessary for success.
In the Old Testament, the people were required to give a tithe, the first ten percent of their income, to the religious leaders – to God. That tithe helped keep the Temple functioning and gave the priests an income to live on. Now in Christ we live under grace rather than the Law, but that does not mean we should not stop giving the firstfruits of our labor to God. Only now, it is not a requirement but it is a response to the great and wonderful gifts God has given us. With the indwelling presence of God, how can we do anything but give all we have to glorify God? Yes, we’ll still have bills to pay and food to buy, but when we give the best of our blessings to God, we’ll find that there is plenty to eat and our bills will not seem so extreme. Thanks be to God.
“Say not thou, I will recompense evil: Wait for Jehovah, and he will save thee.” Proverbs 20:22 (ASV)
Revenge This is probably one of the most difficult concepts we have to learn – that it isn’t our place to bring revenge on our enemies. The problem is not about bringing justice, for God does give earthly authority to judges and other officials. The problem is our human tendency to take everything to an extreme. We do not repay an eye for an eye; we decide that our suffering is worth an eye and an ear. Then because the revenge was not just, our enemies come back to get their due reward – more revenge. It becomes a never-ending cycle of violence against one another.
The story of Dinah is a story of revenge. Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and Leah, the only daughter of Israel. We know very little about this woman, but she is the focus of one of the most disturbing stories in the Old Testament. After spending many years as a servant to Laban, making him very rich, Jacob took his wives and all they owned and left for his home country. After reconciling with Esau, Jacob settled in sight of the city of Shechem on land he had purchased from the sons of Hamor. Dinah, a lone girl among so many brothers, went into the city to visit the women. The son of Hamor named Shechem raped Dinah, but then fell in love with her. He decided to take her to be his own. When Jacob heard of what happened, he kept silent, but his sons were filled with grief and rage. Hamor and Shechem offered the family anything to make her a bride, so the sons of Jacob used this as an opening for revenge.
They told Hamor and Shechem that Dinah could not be given to a man who was not circumcised. But if the entire city, all the men, would agree to circumcision, then they would settle among the people there, giving their daughters to each other in marriage. They agreed, Shechem quickly obeyed the request and convinced the townspeople that it would be beneficial to the entire town to do the same. “Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours?” So, everyone agreed and the men were circumcised. Three days later, while they were still in pain, Simeon and Levi went into the town and killed every male. They looted the city and carried off the wealth as well as their women and children. But Jacob was very displeased with this scheme of his sons. “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.”
“Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men. Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21 (ASV)
I’m not sure what Jacob intended to do for Dinah. Perhaps he saw no need for justice, she was the least of his children because she was a woman. Perhaps he had his own plans that would benefit his daughter and the entire family. Whatever Jacob’s thoughts were on the matter, he was faithful to God and trusted in Him. His sons, however, decided to take matters into their own hands. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing and they needed revenge. “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” was their response to Jacob’s rebuke.
Simeon and Levi did what they thought was best for the sake of their sister, but their vengeance was not just. Their violence against the city of Shechem brought a curse upon their own households, for their descendents were scattered – Simeon’s offspring became part of Judah and Levi’s were dispersed throughout the land. The revenge on Shechem the man destroyed an entire town, too extreme to be considered justice, but a typical human reaction. Whenever someone harms us, or even more so when someone harms those we love, we seek revenge, taking far more than we lost.
Yet, the proverb and the passage from Paul both remind us that the Lord knows how to provide true justice in the face of our loss. It is most difficult to sit back and patiently wait for restitution; we want to take action immediately. But revenge does not make things better – it usually makes things worse. Rather than repay evil for evil, it is better to do mercy and loving kindness, which will make the enemy consider his own sin and seek forgiveness. When evil is overcome, we are no longer enemies but brothers and friends. Thanks be to God.
*The story of Dinah is found in Genesis 34.
“A worthy woman who can find? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, And he shall have no lack of gain. She doeth him good and not evil All the days of her life." Proverbs 31:10-12 (ASV)
Perfect Several years ago I did a series and a study on the final verses of the book of Proverbs, the Proverbs 31 woman. This is a picture of the ultimate woman, perfect in every way. With a hint of sarcasm, I began to call her the “Martha Stewart of King David’s Court.” She portrays the unreachable idea. A friend of mine commented that she could be a Proverbs 31 woman if only she had servants too. In the wake of Martha Stewarts troubles this past year, it is interesting to go back and look at her life, realizing that she is not perfect in every way, not at all ideal as we had imagined her to be. As we relate the real life of Martha Stewart to that of the Proverbs 31 woman, I think it helps us to see both in a more realistic light.
Successful women in this day and age are made out to be miracle workers or goddesses, how can any of us live up to such standards? Yet, that is not what is expected of a Proverbs 31 woman. Her lifestyle might seem out of reach, but it really isn’t. She is well balanced, filled with grace, knows her priorities and sets out to complete what she begins. She is trustworthy, astute, generous, competent, wise and spiritually confident. The woman of whom this proverb speaks is one who has a grand home and estate to care for, children and servants to guide and protect. Though our lives may seem to be much smaller, we still have responsibilities – homes to manage, jobs to do, people who need our love and care. Though we have less, do we take care of our lives with the same qualities as the Proverbs 31 woman, setting our priorities and finishing our work?
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church; because we are members of his body. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church. Nevertheless do ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she fear her husband.” Ephesians 5:25-33 (ASV)
Perhaps it seems that I’ve left something out, a verse or two that speaks about the wife’s role in a marriage. Those verses about submission are not less important than these, but they are generally the focus of this passage. Wives are commanded to submit to our husbands, and yet we forget that the men are given the greater responsibility. A wife of noble character is worth far more than precious jewels. She is a woman who has a balanced life, one who takes care of all her responsibilities with joy and enthusiasm. She should be loved, not put on a pedestal and treated like a goddess, but honored and treasured for her gifts.
The Proverbs 31 woman is not one who is perfect or rich or blessed with every gift. She is the woman who lives out a balanced life, a life in Christ, where she uses her gifts and talents to glorify God and take care of all her responsibilities. She can’t do it alone. She needs a man who will love her and treat her, as Christ loves His Church. We are not perfect; the fellowship of believers in this world does not even come close to being the ideal. Yet, with His love and His gifts of mercy, grace and love, we individually and corporately come closer and closer to being like the Proverbs 31 woman, the wife who is holy and filled with grace. Yes, I skipped the verses about submission on purpose to help us see that the wife of noble character does not strive to be that way on her own. She is one with her husband, in love and grace. Her response to his love is a life of active service, respectfully submitting to his will in joy and peace. This is not just for the wives of this world, but to all Christians who are His Church, respectfully submitting their lives – imperfect as they may seem – to our Lord Jesus Christ, living as “Proverb 31 women” in this world. Thanks be to God.
“She riseth also while it is yet night, And giveth food to her household, And their task to her maidens.” Proverbs 31:15 (ASV)
Sleeping in The day after Vicki got home from Mexico, she slept late into the morning. I finally sent the cat in to wake her up so that she wouldn’t waste the whole day away. The following days were better. She still slept later than the rest of us, but she managed to see a good portion of the morning. Over the past couple of days I haven’t been much better, sleeping well past the time Bruce has gone off to work. During the school year we are up before first light, getting dressed and out of the house very early. For the past few weeks, our summer vacation has been full with Bible School and camps; we have had to get up fairly early to get on our way. This week is finally free and we can sleep as late as we want. Unfortunately, it means that we are wasting our days away.
I got very little done yesterday, barely managed to write and keep the family fed. It is amazing how sleeping late does not necessarily give me more energy; I am lazy and unmotivated. I get frustrated during the school year because we start off our days so quickly I don’t have much quiet time, but now during the summer I don’t bother to get up and take advantage of the quiet moments I would have while the kids are still asleep.
The books of Proverbs is filled with warnings against being sluggardly and lazy. They will get nowhere and have nothing. They will suffer at their own hands, for lack of work is not only bad for the financial status of a man, but it is also unhealthy physically, emotionally and spiritually. We look at this perfect woman, and think she must be insane to get up so early to take care of her household, and yet she is blessed in many ways because of her vigorous life.
“And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the unfaithful.” Luke 12:42-46 (ASV)
Now, an occasional day of rest and relaxation is not going to kill me. I certainly did enjoy my lazy morning and I have begun my work for today. Yet, I must be careful not to fall into the habit of wasting my life away. It may start with putting off the dusting or dishes, the kids can get their own meals and we can manage one more day without doing the laundry, but this laziness can spread to other areas in my life – my writing, bible study and prayer time. “Can’t I put this off just one more day?” The answer is no, I should not. We each have been given work to do. The Proverbs 31 woman had a household that needed her attention, children and servants to feed. She did not grumble and complain about getting up early in the morning to do her work.
Though we may not all have the same schedule, we are called and gifted for a purpose and given work to do in this world. In this parable, Jesus tells us to be busy at our work when the Master arrives. This is not just for His benefit, or even for the benefit of those around us, but for our own. Laziness is unhealthy; it is dangerous to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. What a blessing it is when we do the work we have been called to do, and do it well. Everyone benefits and God is glorified. Thanks be to God.
“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; Yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.” Proverbs 31:20 (ASV)
Prince Prince William has been on the news a great deal lately. He recently turned twenty-one years old and is on a list of the most eligible bachelors in the world. A girl is rumored to be quite close to the prince, and reporters are saying there might be wedding bells are in the future. It is surely not an easy life he has to live, with the media watching his every move, wondering if he will fail or succeed, if he is ready to be king, if he will make the right decisions or do something foolish. It does not help that he is the son of the late Princess Diana, a woman whose life was in the headlines almost daily, even after her death. She had such an impact on the world that many are expecting her son to continue her legacy.
In a way, this is not fair to poor William. So many have put Diana on a pedestal, making her more perfect, beautiful, kind and compassionate than she really was. They made her an ideal, magnifying her virtues while ignoring her failures. While Diana had so much love to give, she also hated with a vengeance. She could strike out as easily as she could open her arms to a hug. As we look at the photos and video of William, we can’t help but remember his mother, for her image is definitely in his face.
Though Diana was certainly not perfect, she was kind. Her life will be remembered for her acts of charity. Her love for her fellow man was real, and some of the most memorable pictures of her life were of her compassion and courage as she held the hands of AIDS patients or walked through villages with children who lost limbs to exploding mines. She reached out to the poor, sick and dying in words and deeds. Her son William seems to be taking a similar path. He loves to go into Africa to work with his hands making life a little better for those who have so little. He teaches children who might never get a chance to go to school. He does this not out of some sort of obligation, but because he loves people as his mother did. Will this continue? Only God knows the hearts of men, but for now it seems William is truly generous with his heart and resources.
The Proverbs 31 woman reaches out to the poor and gives to the needy. I can almost imagine the beggars coming to her door to ask for some bread or a drink. She would not turn them away, but would bring them in to sit while she gathered a few morsels for their bellies. She would clean the dust off their feet and bind their wounds. She would touch their hearts with her kindness and their bodies with her hands and food. Her life seems very blessed from the few lines of scripture we read, a successful woman with an equally successful husband, a fine estate with plenty of servants and children. She certainly has the resources to be generous. What about us? We do not expect to be as wealthy as her, we don’t even dream of having the royal lives of Diana and William. Yet, generosity need not only be financial. Diana did not hand over her fortune, but she went into hospital wards and villages to give more than money. William is doing the same. Mother Theresa, a woman who was best known for her compassion and generosity did not even have a penny to give, but she gave it all.
Many of us count ourselves among the poor, despite our homes, cars, computers, food enough to eat and clothes to wear. We want what we do not have, and if it is beyond our reach we complain that we are lacking the good things of life. Yet, our neighbors – either home or abroad – are starving with little more than a hovel to shelter them from the cold.
“Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (ASV)
Though we do not have the wealth of the royal family or the Proverbs 31 woman, we do have many blessings for which we should be thankful. Most of all, we have the love and salvation of God in Christ Jesus, and the gifts that come from the Holy Spirit. We have a relationship with Him, we are heirs to the Kingdom of God. As such, we have the entire wealth of God at our fingertips, even if we do not have a dime to spare. When we open our arms to the poor and reach our hands to those in need, it should be more than simply handing them a buck. They need the love of Christ, a touch of compassion and mercy, someone to fulfill all their needs – physical, emotional and spiritual. Let us then be generous and share all we have been given, opening our arms to embrace those who are hungry, lost and alone and reaching out to share our resources, whatever they may be, with those who are in need. God will bless such a life. Thanks be to God.
“Strength and dignity are her clothing; And she laugheth at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:25 (ASV)
Marketing There is a television commercial playing around here for a department store that always makes me laugh. The ice cream man is driving down the street, while everyone in the neighborhood starts running to buy ice cream. The brand names of the shoes and clothing are flashed on the screen as each new person come running toward the truck. The funny part is that the ice cream man has total control. He’s laughing at the people, never stopping, holding ice cream cones out the window just beyond their reach. But the people keep running, happy at the sight of the truck and the possibility of a cool treat on a hot day. The point of the commercial is to let you know that the department store carries all the best brands so that you’ll go there to shop. We also get the idea that happiness is found in what we wear. If you have the right clothes and shoes, you’ll be happy even when the ice cream man is a jerk.
The Proverbs 31 woman is said to have fine linen on her bed and purple on her back. He children are never cold in the winter for they wear scarlet. This is the best of the best, the finest things a person can wear. Yet it is not because she wears these things she can laugh at the days to come. The American Standard Version translates this line, “And she smiles at the future.” It is not her fine clothes or even her successful estate that gives her that smile; it is because she is free from anxiety and worry. She is content with what she has, happy about her blessings today. I suppose it seems easy to live in such confidence when your kids are wearing scarlet and your bed has fine linens, and yet we can all laugh at the days to come.
“Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye: and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God. And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17 (ASV)
The Proverbs 31 woman did not smile about the future because she had fine clothes. She was clothed in finer things than scarlet and purple. She had strength and dignity, significant character traits of those who have hope in tomorrow. We may not be able to afford such luxury as the name brands found at the department store, but in Christ we have a much greater covering. We have Him, His righteousness, His mercy and His grace. We have been chosen as heirs to a kingdom much greater than even the ice cream man’s truck. We are being transformed to reflect His character, to have a peace that lets us smile about tomorrow and live today in an awesome confidence that no matter what tomorrow does hold we have Jesus.
It was the Proverbs 31 woman’s character, this strength and dignity, which gave her the confidence to hold her hands out to the needy, to run an estate, to care for her children and treat her servants well. This gift of hope in the future, built upon a strong and humble heart, is a solid foundation for a blessed life. For us, as Christians, we have an even more solid foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord. He rules in our hearts and as He dwells in us He manifests Himself in those fine coverings – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Clothed with these gifts, we can certainly laugh at the days to come, in hope and peace and joy. Thanks be to God.
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; And the law of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26 (ASV)
Kitchen The other day Vicki decided to bake a cake. I helped in very minor ways, but let her do most of the work herself. She did very well following the instructions on the box and the cake came out looking good. Unfortunately, she took it upon herself to ice the cake too early, not giving it enough time to cool. The cake crumbled with every stroke of the knife and she did not understand why she could not get the icing to spread properly, so I explained to her that the cake was too hot and she learned that cooling time has to be more than five minutes. The cake was delicious even though it looked a little rough around the edges.
I get a bit frustrated when people are underfoot when I’m trying to get some work done. Since our homes have always had somewhat small kitchens, I have not allowed them watch me cook or clean the kitchen very often. It is amazing how much children learn just by seeing it done. Perhaps if I had allowed Vicki to help me bake cakes over the years, she would have learned by my instruction that cake cooling takes more than five minutes. Yet, I am amazed at how quickly she has learned how to do things in the kitchen with few questions such which pots to use or how hot she should set the oven.
We do not realize how much children pick up even when we are not specifically instructing them about these things. I often wonder if my kids even listen when I talk. Yet, some moment later they ask a question or quote something I’ve said and I realize they really do listen. Unfortunately, the things they quote or ask are not always the things we would like them to learn. They are quick to pick up foul language and gossip. The Proverbs 31 woman is one who keeps good things on her tongue – wisdom and faithful instruction. She knows that whatever she says will impact those who hear.
“I rejoice greatly that I have found certain of thy children walking in truth, even as we received commandment from the Father.
I probably should have had more patience with the children and allowed them time in the kitchen while I was cooking and cleaning up after meals. Despite my failure in this regard, they have learned how to do things for themselves and often make their own lunches or help with the cleaning. What is an even greater joy is to see when their faith in Christ is manifested in word and deed, when they show that something I’ve said about Jesus has remained with them.
I often wonder what it might have been like for Mary with the young boy Jesus underfoot. I think we tend to have a rather extreme view of Jesus in childhood – the child that never cried, did not dirty his diapers and could quote scripture even before he could even talk. But Jesus had to grow up like every other kid. He had to learn how to walk and talk, to do chores around the house and sit through worship at the synagogue. He was remarkable, for He was the living God in flesh. But He was also very human, and God gave Him a wonderful mother who most certainly sang the Psalms to rock him to sleep at night and taught Him the scriptures by the light of the fire at night. When He went into the Temple at twelve and understood the things He heard from the scriptures, it was not only because He was the living God in flesh, but also because His mother spoke to Him with wisdom and faithful instruction. When we also do so, we are blessed by the knowledge that our children walk in the truth. Thanks be to God.
“Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; But a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (ASV)
Shallow Hal “Shallow Hal” is a movie about a guy who learns to look beyond surface looks into the hearts of people. The movie begins with Hal being very particular about the women he dates, never accepting less than perfection. Since Hal is not a very good looking man himself, he does not succeed very well on the dating scene. A woman who lives right across the hall rejects him over and over again because she sees him as very shallow and only interested in her because she is beautiful.
Hal runs into a motivational speaker as they are getting into an elevator. The elevator gets stuck and they spend some time talking about Hal’s problem. Hal asks the man for some advice and the man gives him more. He did a mind thing that made Hal see the world differently. Suddenly, beautiful women were very interested in being with Hal, giving him their phone number and agreeing to go out with him. What he doesn’t know is that these women are not beautiful in the eyes of the world. He also sees those with evil thoughts as ugly and disgusting. He meets Rose, an extremely obese woman with a heart of gold. He sees her as thin, fit and gorgeous. He is almost insulting the way he talks about her beauty and weight, since she knows full well that she should not eat so much and that she is at fault when the chairs break under her.
Hal’s friend can’t believe Hal is even talking to any of these girls, especially Rose, and realizes that the motivational speaker did something to him. He finds out the key to removing the spell and destroys Hal’s relationship with Rose. During the movie Hal met an adorable blond little girl and when he saw her again after the spell was lifted, he saw her as she really was – a patient in a burn ward whose face was scared terribly. In the end, Hal learns that there is far more to beauty than just a pretty face and perfect body. When he looked at Rose without the spell he realized that she is truly beautiful, both in heart and flesh. They go off into the sunset to serve the poor in a third world country with the Peace Corps with a promise of a lifetime of love.
“Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner aforetime the holy women also, who hoped in God, adorned themselves.” 1 Peter 3:3-5a (ASV)
We do not know anything about the physical features of the Proverbs 31 woman. Was she beautiful like Sarah or Rachel or more like Leah? She wore fine clothes; did she also wear jewelry of gold or paint her face? It doesn’t matter either way. We do know that she feared the Lord, lived a blessed life of service to Him and her fellow human beings. She used her gifts well, provided for the needs of her family as well as strangers. She may have been incredibly beautiful, but she will always be remembered for her loving heart and gentle spirit. Her hope is not in the things of this world, but in what the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Hal learned that it is easy to fall in love with a woman with outer beauty, but that they are not always lovable. True beauty comes from a heart that loves despite the flaws of the flesh. He was given a gift – a chance to see people’s hearts. Perhaps we are not as shallow as Hal was in the movie, but we do judge our neighbors quickly by their outer appearance, often rejecting those whose hearts are filled with love and hope because they do not sooth our eyes. May God bless us with the discernment to know true beauty. Thanks be to God.
“Give her of the fruit of her hands; And let her works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31:31 (ASV)
Bread I do not often write about the reward we will receive for our life of faith. I suppose it is because I know that it is not by my own power or ability that I serve the Lord, nor do I deserve any reward for I still faith in the flesh. I know of people who talk about the mansion they will inherit when they are in heaven, or the great feast we will enjoy together. Hymns of praise we sing in worship talk of crowns of gold, fine robes and other great blessings that will be ours when are glorified with our Lord Jesus in that day. I do not often talk about the reward we will receive, but the scriptures certainly do, particularly the Proverbs. They talk of the reward for hard work, the blessings for righteousness. Even the passages about the Proverbs 31 woman include a promise for reward and praise for her life of good works.
The Little Red Hen wasn’t looking for a reward; she simply did the job well and received a great reward. The story begins with the Little Red Hen finding a grain of wheat. She decided to plant the grain and asked if anyone would help her. Her friends the dog, cat, pig and turkey weren’t interested in doing any work. So, she planted the wheat herself. When the wheat grew until it was tall, strong and ripe. She asked her friends if they would like to help her harvest the wheat. They weren’t interested in doing any work. So, she did it herself. She invited her friends to help her thresh and grind the wheat and then bake it into a loaf. Each request was followed by “No thanks” from her friends, so she did all the work herself. When the loaf was finished, she wondered who would eat the lovely loaf of bread. At this her friends all perked up, “I will!” But the Little Red Hen said to her friends, “You did not help with the planting, harvest, threshing, grinding or baking. I think I will enjoy the reward of my hard work.” And she ate the bread herself.
The Little Red Hen did not set out to earn a reward for her hard work, but when the bread was finished, she certainly did receive a wonderful gift. As we remember the life of the Proverbs 31 woman, consider how many people benefited from her hard work – her husband, children, servants, other merchants, the poor and those who heard her speak wise and instructive words. She did none of this because she expected the honor and glory of a reward or praise at the city gate. She was serving the Lord she feared by using her gifts for His glory.
“Whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 (ASV)
We deserve nothing, and yet the Lord God Almighty loves us with a love we can never fully comprehend. We were sinners, enemies of God and yet He sent His Son to be our Savior. Jesus left the riches and glory of heaven to take upon Himself the wrath of God so that we might inherit the riches and glory of heaven with Jesus. We don’t deserve the mansion, the feast or the crowns, and yet thanks to the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will receive the most incredible reward. It is not due to our hard work, nothing we do will ever be enough to earn the gift God offers to us through Jesus. Yet, the scriptures are quite clear, those who serve the Lord in our works in this world, will be given a great reward and honored at the gates of the city. We do so, however, like the Proverbs 31 woman, not to receive the reward we know we do not deserve, but in thanksgiving and praise for that which our Lord God has already done – given us salvation, hope and peace because of His great love for us. That is indeed the greatest reward, the inheritance we have received and which we long to know fully as we will in that great day when we will feast with Him in eternity. Thanks be to God.
“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction; To discern the words of understanding; To receive instruction in wise dealing, In righteousness and justice and equity; To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion: That the wise man may hear, and increase in learning; And that the man of understanding may attain unto sound counsels: To understand a proverb, and a figure, The words of the wise, and their dark sayings.” Proverbs 1:1-6 (ASV)
Scriptures There is a difference between knowing and understanding. I can easily say “The sky is blue,” but I have no answer to the question, “Why is it blue?” It has something to do with particles in the air and reflecting light, but I do not understand the process. With a little research – perhaps some reading or a scientific lesson – I might be able to understand enough to explain it to someone else if asked “Why?”
Many people can easily say, “God loves you.” While this is a most important statement, life saving for those who are lost in sin and death, it is rarely enough to help a person understand the salvation of Jesus Christ. This month we’ve been looking at the Old Testament book of Proverbs, barely touching the wisdom contained within. Hasn’t it been amazing to see how Jesus and the disciples reached into the scrolls of writings of the Jews when speaking about the Kingdom of God? It really isn’t that amazing, after all the Old Testament is the revelation of God, which they knew to be trustworthy. It is how they knew God’s Word given through the patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets. The scriptures are trustworthy.
Though God did a brand new thing by sending Jesus to be the Lamb of God to take upon the sin of the world, nothing about His character is any different in the New Testament. He is still a just God, but now His wrath has been cast upon His Son rather than us sinners. He is still merciful, forgiving our sins and cleansing us from unrighteousness. He is still a loving God, our deliverer, protector and teacher. He guides, disciplines, inspires and transforms His people.
God still reveals Himself to individuals through His creation, through prayer, through each other, and we can know Him through these things. But it is by God’s written word – the scriptures – that we can understand and be assured that what we see, feel and hear are truly from God. Satan is very good at being the adversary. He is well versed in God’s Word and cunningly twists it to fit his purpose to deceive and destroy. This is why knowledge is not enough; we also need understanding. God gives understanding by the power of His Spirit, but it is not handed to us. Understanding comes through study of His Word, through the witness of the men and women whose stories are recorded in the scriptures. It is not enough for there to be just one witness, so throughout the Bible the same concepts – faith, hope, peace, joy, love, responsibility, generosity, and many more – are repeated over and over again. As we see the connections between the Old and New Testament, God’s word is built line upon line into our hearts making us wise and understanding disciples.
“But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them. And that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ASV)
The Proverbs as well as all the Old Testament stories should remain part of our study of God’s Word because they set the foundation from which Jesus preached the Kingdom of God. Jesus did not bring knew knowledge or wisdom; He build upon that which God had already revealed, fulfilling the promises and making the Word of God complete. Through Paul and the disciples, God added the final pieces to the puzzle so that we might not only know and love God but also that we will live a life that is good, right and true – glorifying Him in all that we do. Thanks be to God.