Proverbs 20 – June 20

CC Image courtesy of Ed Schipul on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Ed Schipul on Flickr.

Proverbs 20
Author: Daniel Wheeler

One of the early instructions we hear in Proverbs is to keep or protect sound judgment and discretion. There are many things that endanger our sound judgment and discretion and will lead us astray. Some are obvious and some are not.

Proverbs 20 touches on a few of the things we encounter that can deceive us and entice us to act like fools. Alcohol is one of the obvious. We don’t have to look very far to find examples of people who have allowed alcohol to rob them of their sound judgment and have suffered terribly as a result.

Likewise, we can be deceived by others who wish to rob us – for example, dishonest buyers and dishonest sellers. We must be aware of circumstances where people may not be telling us the truth.

Perhaps the most deceptive thing we encounter is our own hearts. Knowing our own hearts and our own motives – seeing our own pride – hearing our own lies – this wisdom and insight can only come from God. Only God can reveal the heart.

Perhaps the most deceptive thing we encounter is our own hearts. [Tweet This]

So, how does God reveal this wisdom? Ironically, it may come in the sincere rebuke of a wise person who wounds us with God’s truth.

May we have the humility to reject deception and accept instruction.

Proverbs 19 – June 19

CC Image courtesy of Kamyar Adl on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Kamyar Adl on Flickr.

Proverbs 19
Author: Luke Anderson

Stop listening to instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19.27, NIV)

If you are ever in our house and listening to our conversations, you will often hear the question: “Why?”

If something doesn’t go our way, our response becomes “Why this?” or “Why that?” I’m sure my parents get tired of hearing this. My sister and I both ask this question and some times the response from my father is “Because I said so”.

We want to think this is a sarcastic or rude response but in reality, this is the honest answer to our complaining. We often leave it at that. But sometimes we push our luck and say: “So? It doesn’t matter. What do you know, anyway?”

My father’s classic response is “When you have lived as many years as I have, let’s talk.” This aggravates us and you can probably see why, but when you think about it, he is so right. He is the smarter one and we are really not thinking when we say these things.

We know the Bible talks a lot about honoring your parents. However, when you are a teenager, you don’t always want to honor your parents. I think all parents that have had teenagers will agree, too often we want our way and to do our stuff.

Truthfully, we are selfish. We want what makes us happy and to do what feels good to us. We think our parents don’t know anything even though they have been around a lot longer and seen way more things then us. They don’t know how the world is now and are behind the times. But this is not true at all! We look at this proverb and discover that once we stop listening, we have moved away from knowledge. We are, as the Proverbs often says, the foolish ones.

This hurts me to say, but sometimes the “oldies” are right. [Tweet This]

Listen to their instruction.

Proverbs 18 – June 18

CC Image courtesy of Anne Worner on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Anne Worner on Flickr.

Proverbs 18
Author: Rob Anderson

The ad on the television promises that a new drug will lower your blood pressure or drop your cholesterol levels. You are amazed at the health benefits this one drug can provide … until you begin to hear the legal disclaimer of potential side effects and problems one may have while taking this medication. Suddenly the drug may not be the cure-all you once thought it was.

Your friend describes a conflict he recently had with a fellow employee. As you listen to him paint the picture of this other employee, you are saddened at how arrogant that employee must be … until you begin to hear, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. Your friend, you discover, sees the conflict only through the lens of his own self-interest.

The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18.17, ESV)

We want to believe the best in people, we really do. Yet at the same time, others want us to believe the best in them and so attempt to put their best foot forward. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so desire that impression to be a glowing one.

Tweet: Speak slowly, but listen quickly.×13+

The speaker in Proverbs continually seems to state: Speak slowly, but listen quickly. Your first response to those who seek to woo you to their side in a conflict (the NIV uses the word “lawsuit” for the word translated “case” here in the ESV) should be to listen and carefully consider all the evidence presented to you. Do not rush to judgment nor select too quickly any one side. Allow all parties involved to state their observations. Assume the best in both sides, until further examination shows you otherwise.

Love people.

Strive for complete fairness.

Show mercy.

Proverbs 17 – June 17

CC Image courtesy of Katmai National Park and Preserve on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Katmai National Park and Preserve on Flickr.

Proverbs 17
Author: Sarah Roberson

It’s been said that of all the wild beasts, a momma bear is the fiercest. Several years back on a Jr. & Sr. Leadership Retreat for the youth ministry, we led the students on a beautiful hike to the top of a waterfall in the mountains of New Mexico. After reaching our destination and taking in the beauty that was before us, Trent began to speak to group about a topic that for the life of me I could not tell you about.

As Trent reached the climax of his lesson, one of the students in a calm yet stern voice said, “Trent, shut up and turn around!” What stood behind Trent terrified us: a momma bear and her two cubs! The last thing you want to encounter on a hike! Nothing compares to the fury of a momma bear separated from her cubs. Even being in the proximity of the bear and her cubs had us terrified. Proverb 17:12 compares the danger of a fool to that of a momma bear separated from her cub and describes it as being worse! Now that’s an extreme comparison!

So what makes one a fool and how do we keep from becoming the fool? Throughout scripture a fool is never described as someone who lacks intelligence or social status, but rather someone who opts not to obey God’s plan and teachings. Unfortunately, fools surround us and sometimes we encounter them in our own mirrors. The Proverb challenges us to pursue wisdom and obey God and to avoid the path of the fool due to the danger that exists in his path.

The Proverb leads me to reflect on 2 questions:

  • Are there areas in my life in which I’m the fool?
  • How do I avoid the fools path?

Proverbs 16 – June 16

CC Image courtesy of portukcan on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of portukcan on Flickr.

Proverbs 16
Author: Gary Evans

Proverbs 16 continually draws us back to the fact that God’s ways are always right for us—in spite of our “best” (or “worst”) efforts to direct our own paths.

A favorite for me in this chapter is verse 24 (ESV): “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

In life it seems so much easier to be negative and to continually find fault in others or in the events around us; yet we, as Christians, should be the most gracious, kind, thankful, and optimistic people on this planet. Even though we are just “passing through,” we are to be ambassadors of Jesus that “live life more abundantly.”

Jesus healed ten men of leprosy in Luke 17, but only one returned to thank and praise him. Could that be similar to the percentage of us today that are truly thankful (and express it)?

Gratitude is a choice that we make, and is not based on our circumstances or status in life. It is also inherent in almost all of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 (read it).

May we be more gracious (and grateful) daily so that others may see our attitudes and actions and glorify our Father—and find sweetness to their souls and health to their bodies!

Proverbs 15 – June 15

CC Image courtesy of Alan English CPA on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Alan English CPA on Flickr.

Proverbs 15
Author: Randy Wiseman

I still remember Mrs. Nichols, my second grade teacher and sometime Sunday school teacher, say many times, “A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger”, which also happens to be Proverbs 15:1 (in the King James, of course). I also remember singing, “Angry words, o let them never, from the tongue unbridled slip”.

Not that I have followed both of these perfectly over the years, but when we hear such wisdom time and time again, it can’t help but sink into your heart. These words held true back in second grade, and still hold true today: what we say and how we say it does matter. We can choose to use our words to encourage and uplift, or we can choose to tear down and hurt those around us. That is the power of the tongue.

The Proverbs writer goes on to say if you want to be foolish, ignore the advice of your father. I like that one. I wish I had listened to my own father more than I did, and I hope and pray that my children will listen to me when I have something wise to say. Think before you speak; what a novel concept!

Proverbs 14 – June 14

CC Image courtesy of Susanne Nilsson on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Susanne Nilsson on Flickr.

Proverbs 14
Author: Charlotte Wheeler

“The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” (Proverbs 14.1, ESV)

A house is the dwelling place of a family. It is much more than four walls and a roof. It should be a place of nurturing, comfort, peace and safety where God is glorified. Sadly we see that the house of the foolish woman is a broken down dwelling of neglect, turmoil, strife and danger!

On the other hand, the house of a wise woman is built on a rock-solid foundation. It will withstand the furious storms of life (Matthew 7:24-25). Building well requires strength and diligence. The woman of Proverbs 31 is our example here (Proverbs 31:17,27). No one could accuse her of being weak and lazy! The “and then some” principle is also important. Because life is filled with unexpected bumps and detours, the wise woman provides “extra” savings, resources, and supplies (Matthew 25:2-4). Most importantly, the Lord is the true builder of the wise woman’s house (Psalm 127:1). Her labor is not in vain.

As we build our families may we look to God for wisdom and strength to build for His glory with eternity in view.

Proverbs 13 – June 13

CC Image courtesy of MattLake on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of MattLake on Flickr.

Proverbs 13
Author: Keino McWhinney

We are thirteen chapters into the reading of Proverbs and at this point it’s a challenge to not get lost in the seemingly endless flow of parallel sentences, the use of imagery, and the many instances of compare and contrast. The opening three verses of Proverbs 13 are a good example of the brisk pace of the book:

A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Proverbs 13:1-3 ESV)

Feeling overwhelmed with all this “wisdom” it’s easy to give a cursory glance and make a general mental summary of the text to be filed away for the “future.” Often times the difficulty rests with our failure to read the text slowly. We must read slowly in an attempt to gain the right insight and to consider the questions raised by the text. Will the father’s instruction be regarded? Will I guard my lips in order to preserve life? Do I hate what is false? What is the proper time and context in which to apply these truths?

With slow reading and deep reflection we are more likely to find clarity in the words of Proverbs. For example, in the many parallels presented it is apparent that the wise and fool are allotted similar opportunities in life. The allotment itself is neutral but the classification as wise or foolish is dictated by the choices made and the resulting consequences. I pray that we might read slowly and choose wisely our path in life.

Proverbs 12 – June 12

CC Image courtesy of Kris Kesiak on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Kris Kesiak on Flickr.

Proverbs 12
Author: Troy Sell

Negativity seems to envelop our lives, but God offers alternatives. It is very easy to read over Proverbs 12 and be convinced this is nothing but a comparison of good and evil, happiness and sadness, or things we should do as opposed to things we should not. The initial verse sets the tone for the rest of the chapter by contrasting the “love of knowledge through discipline” to the “stupidity of those that hate correction”. Stupidity in this verse is not defined as ignorance, but the inability to learn from your mistakes. Other references describe, the benefits of a good wife, challenges and rewards of keeping thoughts and language pure, having a good work ethic, and showing kindness to our neighbors or those in need.

I believe the author is attempting to paint a picture of life lived with God contrasted to life without a sense of direction. Occasionally, my thoughts drift back to a time of blonde curls, big blue eyes, and a little voice stating emphatically, “Daddy, I do it myself”. By our actions, do we project this same attitude toward our heavenly Father? Do we as God’s children express to him that we do not need his help? Do we fail to take full advantage of the communication avenues that he freely offers to us? Do we fully embrace the independent American way of life and neglect our relationship with the Creator?

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” “In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”

Proverbs 11 – June 11

CC Image courtesy of Lois Elling on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Lois Elling on Flickr.

Proverbs 11
Author: Ralph Beistle

The practical value of the Proverbs may be in the way they prompt us to focus on something stated simply, but the more you turn the thought over in your mind, the more profound its effect becomes.

Previously, wisdom was defined and described in terms that helped to show its essential nature.  The chapter serves to illustrate situations where the application of wisdom equips God’s people to choose the ways of wisdom to receive blessings in this life as well as the reward of eternal joy.  It is worth the effort to resist the temptation to choose the wrong path and face the consequences of the damage to our relationship to others here and now, and the ruin of a relationship with God eternally.

The method chosen in Proverbs 11 is to compare causes and effects of competing positions in everyday situations.  These are not new revelations – just life experiences that may be mishandled unless we consider the end result:  “If I do this, will God be pleased?”

The person making the choice may properly be described as “righteous,” if his intent is to please God when he chooses the way of wisdom.  What a blessing to be called righteous, because we….

Are honest in our business relationships?  Proverbs 11:1, 3-4, 18, 28

Are respectful and considerate in interpersonal relationships, especially with the family?  Proverbs 11:9-15, 21, 24, 29.

What do we hope for in this life?  Wisdom tells us, “When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes, too.”  Proverbs 11:7

And, as for the accounting for choices we make now, consider this contrast: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.  If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner.” Proverbs 11:30-31.

Cause and Effect – wisdom teaches us to consider our choices carefully.  “Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death.”  Proverbs 11:19