Proverbs 31 – August 31

CC Image courtesy of Howard Lake on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Howard Lake on Flickr.

Proverbs 31
Author: Rob Anderson

I have never not had my voice. I don’t mean I have never had laryngitis or a sore throat to the point I could not talk, I mean I have never found myself in a position where the things I had to say were not heard or even outright rejected.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of those who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31.8-9)

When I read these words, I have to remind myself that speaking for those who have no voice takes a great amount of work on my part. It is too easy for me to overlook the needs and rights of those who are poor and needy. No matter how much more I wish I had, I am in no way either poor or needy. And no matter how often I may feel overlooked, I have never not had my voice.

As we conclude our reflections on the book of Proverbs, how many times have we seen over the last three months the writer warn us against the allure of folly, whether that be through the chasing of women or wealth? When we scorn the path of wisdom, we move further away from our ability to see the world through God’s eyes.

Is it any wonder that the book concludes with a description of a woman of noble character, who is ultimately praised because she is one who fears the Lord? When we fear the Lord, we begin to see the world the way he sees the world and when that happens, we DO lose our voice, only to gain the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves.

May the words we speak always be words that heal, build up, and support, rather than words that oppress, destroy, or ignore.

Proverbs 30 – August 30

0830 - handpumpProverbs 30
Author: Randy Wiseman

The sweet, life-giving water stopped flowing at our house this week. The diagnosis? The filter needs to be replaced. Ah, an easy and cheap fix! No, the pressure tank is filling very slowly, there must be another problem. The control valve going into the house needs to be replaced. Yikes! My internal calculator starts to add up the costs. The valve was replaced-still, no pressure. “We better pull the pump,” the words I didn’t want to hear. Sure enough, the pump needed to be replaced. I thought of Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof pulling his milk cart through the streets of Anatevka because his horse went lame, singing, “Lord you decreed I should be what I am. Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?”

Today we read Proverbs 30, which are the words of Agur, not of King Solomon. And although we don’t know anything else about him, his message in verses 7-9 remind us to recognize our daily dependence on God.

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

These verses remind me of one of my favorite passages, when Moses instructs the Israelites in Deut. 8:10-18. 10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Rebecca and I have often used this passage to teach our children that God is the one that gave you the abilities you have. It is from the gift of those abilities that you are able to make good grades or excel at a sport. I’ve also told them God blessed me with the skills I have and gave me the ability to hold my job. Therefore all our money and all our possessions came directly as a blessing from Him.

So as I was presented with the bill for the new pump did I say, “Thank you Father for blessing me with trouble so I may not have too much and disown you and say, Who is the LORD?” Not quite. But it was again a moment to reflect on God’s great blessings in my life. I am thankful. Thankful the pump lasted the first 14 years we lived in this house. Thankful I am employed. Thankful for running water. Thankful for Townsend Pump Service. Today, let’s be thankful for our daily bread and remember to praise God for his abundant blessings in our lives.

Proverbs 29 – August 29

0829 - GavelProverbs 29
Author: Jim Brewer

If I’m not on jury duty or in local government, what does justice have to do with me? I want justice, but do I want to do justice. Proverbs 29 lays out clearly that there is divine justice (1, 6, 13, 23-26), political justice (2, 4, 7, 14) domestic justice (3, 15, 17, 19, 21) and even personal justice (5, 9-11, 20, 22, 24). And although I am involved in all of them in some way, the ones about personal justice focus on how we treat each other, especially on some of the unjust ways we tend to treat each other.

  • Flattery A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.
  • Controversy If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
  • Hatred 10 Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.
  • Anger 11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. 22 A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.
  • Thoughtless Talk 20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
  • Lying 24 The partner of a thief hates his own life; he hears the curse, but discloses nothing.

Although we may tend to “justify” these things in our lives, unjust ways are a misrepresentation of a just God! And after all, we are justified by faith in the One who suffered through such injustices, in order to free us from them.

Proverbs 27 – August 27

Image courtesy of Raymond Richardson

Image courtesy of Raymond Richardson

Proverbs 27
Author: Raymond Richardson

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27.17)

I had the privilege of serving as a board member and the Director of the Spirit Ranch. The Spirit Ranch is a team building, leadership, and spiritual training facility. The “motto” of this organization is “Iron Sharpens Iron”, from the biblical text of Proverbs 27. This is one of the greatest verses that speaks directly to me. It is not my nature to gravitate to other men to seek advice, council, and wisdom. It is probably not in most men’s DNA to do that. We are problem solvers and can figure out life without reading the instruction manual. It is then our tendency to fail and once we fail we for sure are not going to ask another man for wise council. I say all of these things from a man’s perspective, but I am sure women share a similar feeling.

I look around our church at South Plains, and I am thankful for men of all ages who are humble and willing to share life with me as a friend, brother, and mentor. We need community to grow in our walk with Christ. As I reflect on the physics of iron sharpening iron, I realize that it is a hard process that takes strength, it causes sparks to fly, and it is labor intensive. Sharing the ups and downs of life with a brother in Christ is hard. It too takes strength, time, and shrapnel could fly. But that is how we make each of us better as disciples for the kingdom. I encourage you, and I hope you will encourage me, to talk about the hard things and do away with the shallow “hellos” in the hallways. We need each other because iron sharpens iron.

Proverbs 26 – August 26

CC Image courtesy of zoetnet on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of zoetnet on Flickr.

Proverbs 26
Author: Randy Sheets

“Wise in their own eyes.”

A couple of years ago we were out with my son and daughter and their families at a local Italian restaurant. My daughter-in-law was giving the waiter her order and asked for a side order of Italian bread-bruschetta. The waiter, in the haughty way some waiters have, looked rather condescendingly at her and said “It’s pronounced brushetta.”

Every adult at the table immediately looked up from their menus to look at the waiter and then at Elena to see what would happen next. Here’s what we hoped she would say:

“Look buddy, I’m half Italian, I grew up in Italy, and Italian is my first language. I was ordering bruschetta before you could read a menu. When I pronounce it brusketta you can bet that’s the correct pronunciation!”

But instead she just looked at him and said “Okay…whatever, that’s what I’ll have.”

Much of the Proverbs 26 deals with fools and the folly of trying to work, reason or in any other way deal with them. Further, the person worse than a fool is the one who thinks he knows it all-as in verse 12:

“Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”

Some people will not be open to instruction because they feel they have nothing further to learn-they know it all! (How many political or religious “discussions” have you ever seen where someone actually changes their mind?)

Others, it they show a willingness to learn, will find there are any number of people who will gently instruct and guide them correctly.

How would it have been different if the waiter had said “I thought it was always pronounced brushetta, but I’m not sure.”? Elena would probably have patiently told him the proper pronunciation and the reason she could be trusted to know. And he would have gotten a bigger tip!

Proverbs 25 – August 25

CC Image courtesy of jdan57 on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of jdan57 on Flickr.

Proverbs 25
Author: Bobby Clark

“Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence
and do not claim a place among great men;
It is better for him to say to you, ‘Come up here.’,
than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman.” (Proverbs 25.6-7)

Jesus expands this proverb in Luke 14:7 – 11 after observing the way guests at a Wedding Feast were “jockeying” for a “front row” seat; he used a parable to illustrate that the one “who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Many times in my own career as a leader in a sales organization I have witnessed those who want to be “out front” and “noticed” by the “higher ups” in the organization!! Painful to watch!

It is the privilege of leadership (at any age) to value people over position and your position in the hierarchy is not a reason to look down on others!

As a young teen with two younger brothers and one older brother, the 5th through 7th grade boys in our housing area (a US Air Force Base Housing Area near Frankfurt, Germany) would gather regularly on the grass between the giant sandbox and the clotheslines for a not so friendly game of tackle football. It inevitably started with a football being tossed around and then “choosing up sides” for a game. I noticed early that those with less experience and skills were almost always chosen last and given the unglamorous task of blocking (basically being a nuisance and fodder) for the more skilled players to run the ball, pass the ball, catch the ball and kick the ball – rarely were they even given a chance to touch the football, much less be a “real” player.

Many times my younger brother Billy and I were chosen by the group to be captains and begin the task of “choosing teams” by alternating “picks” from the remaining boys. Bill would always choose his best friend and I would choose my youngest brother Bart. From there Bill would choose the “best” of the remaining players while I would choose the “lesser skilled” smaller, slower, “left out” ones. You can imagine the results; we were defeated often and often defeated badly, with Bart carrying most of the load! (Guess that could help explain why he became a H.S. All Star and went on to play small college football as a running back!) But, when we did win, the look of pride, pure joy and sense of accomplishment on those younger faces was “priceless”. Even in defeat these banged up, bruised and bloody little warriors who got to run the ball, pass the ball and kick the ball and really, for many, the first time to actually experience the game as “real players”; were smiling and laughing and reminiscing about their “accomplishments” on the makeshift gridiron. (Still brings tears to the corner of my eyes when I remember those little faces.)

One late afternoon just before dark while we were walking off the “field” to go eat supper, my brother Bart threw the ball at me and stated, “I hate playing on your team! Why do you always choose the worst players first and Bill gets all the good guys! I hate losing all the time!” He was mad!! I tried to explain how it felt to always be chosen last and never to be considered a “real” player because I had experienced first-hand that kind of treatment. He was still too mad to even listen.

This proverb was meant for all us to remember the underdogs and be willing to humble ourselves in the presence of the One True King and promote the welfare of others above ourselves. The King sees you and your actions with the “least of these” and will one day call you from the back to come and be seated in a place of honor! Until then, remain humble!

Proverbs 24 – August 24

CC Image courtesy of Jan Jesperson on Flickr.

Proverbs 24
Author: Bob Terhune

I don’t know about you but sometimes I find myself wondering about how people whose actions most of us would consider “bad” actually end up winning.   We all see it in sports, politics and very often in business. Even though I retired several years ago and don’t have to deal with those types of business people anymore, I still wonder occasionally about the influence they are having.

Proverbs 24 has a lot to say about evildoers; folks who do those things not in accordance with God’s will.   The first thing is that we should resist the temptation to model their behavior.   “Don’t envy evil people or desire their company. For their hearts plot violence, and their words always stir up trouble.” (24.1-2) For most of us, this admonition is fairly straightforward and makes a lot of sense and is something that we see as the right thing to do.

Furthermore we will readily agree with verse 8 that talks about those who plan evil: “A person who plans evil will get a reputation as a troublemaker. The schemes of a fool are sinful; everyone detests a mocker.” (24.8-9)

We also are solidly behind the thoughts of verse 19 as we try not to let their actions cause us grief: “Don’t fret because of evildoers; don’t envy the wicked. For evil people have no future; the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.”    In fact a lot of the passages in Proverbs note that the wicked will suffer the consequences of their actions. (24.19-20)

But how do we handle verses 17 and 18.   Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. For the LORD will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them.” (24.17-18)

I am probably not alone in saying that it is challenging not to take some comfort when someone who has done wrong “gets what they deserve.”   I think the point being made in verses 17 and 18 is that we should work to make sure that our hearts are in the right place and leave judgement to God.   “Fear God” is one of the recurring themes in Proverbs and is repeated at the end of this section in conjunction with the admonition to let God deal with those who do evil.

So what’s the bottom line about how to deal with people who do bad things; don’t envy their success, don’t worry about their impact on you and finally don’t rejoice when things go bad for them.   Trust that God has it under control.