Proverbs 19 – August 19

CC Image courtesy of Martin LaBar on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Martin LaBar on Flickr.

Proverbs 19
Author: Bob Bailey

So much advice and it seems so random. Well, at least to the modern reader. We know that there are major themes and connections once we begin to read larger sections of Proverbs and take into account ancient cultural context. So, how do we maneuver through this list of seemingly unconnected bits of advice? It is easy to identify the positive and negative attributes and characteristics presented. No one questions that we don’t aspire to be so lazy that we can’t even feed ourselves (vs. 24), or that being a liar is a bad thing. What is at the root of what the writer is trying to say? Does he really want me to work on these individual traits? The answer may be planted a little deeper.

One can work on these characteristics individually, like being slow to anger, or being more generous, but if we miss the reason in vs. 3 that “when a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord,” we also miss that recurring theme in vs. 23: “The fear of the Lord leads to life and whoever has it rests satisfied”.

How many people work on thorn bushes expecting apples? How many people seek fulfillment and find folly because they have the wrong roots in their hearts.  Starting with the right roots (the fear of the Lord) helps us grow in the direction of good branches and eventually the fruit of integrity, good sense, understanding and overlooking the offense of others. When we see questionable fruit in ourselves or others, maybe we should look at our roots.

Proverbs 18 – August 18

CC Image courtesy of Photo Gallery Israeli Ministry of Tourism on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Photo Gallery Israeli Ministry of Tourism on Flickr.

Proverbs 18
Author: JoAnn Long

Where do you run?

In antiquity, cities were walled to keep would-be intruders out and residents safe inside. Towers were strategically positioned along fortifications with watchmen ready to sound the alarm should danger arise. Stalwart enough to have remains of mortar and stone still standing, evidence of once mighty civilizations now lie in ruins across the Mediterranean basin.

Isn’t our human tendency still to put our trust in that which is tangible?

Not unlike our counterparts from the past, we sometimes now look to what can be measured scientifically as our means of hope. While all discovery of that which is good in our material world is ultimately from the hand of God, the writer of Proverbs reminds us that real security is not found in that which can be quantified: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10, ESV, emphasis mine).

What about you? Where do find your security? As God’s people made righteous through Christ, let us humbly run into name of our Lord, our strong tower. For it is Him, and Him alone, in which we are to place our complete trust.

Proverbs 17 – August 17

CC Image courtesy of Margaret Almon on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Margaret Almon on Flickr.

Proverbs 17
Author: T.J. Randers

As we have been reading through Proverbs this summer I have noticed that I can read the same chapter on different days and different verses will stand out based on what is going on in “life” at the time. Today, verse 22 of chapter 17 reminds me of an important lesson. The first half of that verse states: “A joyful heart is good medicine” or “A joyful heart causes good healing.” I try to remind myself when I wake up that I have a choice on what type of lens I want to use to look at things that day and I have found that on those days that I choose to look at things through a joyful lens or a joyful heart that I tend to handle situations better.

I recently read a book that really resonated with me. It is titled The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. It reminded me that one of the things I have control over is my attitude. The bus driver on the Energy Bus is named Joy and her advice throughout the book reflects that. Someone told me once that the source of JOY is putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself third. That is very counter-culture, but if we want to be a people different from the world around us, this is absolutely a way to stand out – choose JOY each day! It isn’t easy, but it is a choice that we can make each day. If you choose JOY, you will be rewarded with the benefits of the “good medicine” it provides. I pray that each of you will choose JOY.

Psalm 118:24- “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”.

Proverbs 15 – August 15

0815 - AbeProverbs 15
Author: James German

Abraham Lincoln had a few words to say about how we speak to one another.  He said “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”   I wonder if good ‘ol Abe had been reading Proverbs 15 when he coined that phrase.  Proverbs 15:2 says “…The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly…”  President Lincoln’s advice seems to follow the writer’s thoughts in Proverbs 15.  One of the most powerful tools known to mankind is the tongue.  It can certainly be used to build each other up.  But in this day and age, it seems to be a tool of destruction.  Whether spoken or typed on a social media site, our spoken work has the ability to produce fruit….or the ability to cause great destruction in our relationships.

The writer also speaks of the concept of “discipline”.  “Those who disregard discipline despise themselves.  But the one who heeds correction gains understanding.”  Are we disciplined enough as a people of God to heed instruction and gain understanding when it comes to disciplining our tongue?  Are our words “building others up” or are they “tearing others down”?

I challenge you to read Proverbs 15 again and commit yourselves to taming your tongue.  Use social media to be SALT and LIGHT for God’s kingdom.  And remember our 16th president’s advice.  Better to remain silent…

Proverbs 13 – August 13

CC Image courtesy of FreddieBrown on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of FreddieBrown on Flickr.

Proverbs 13
Author: Gary Evans

After college graduation, our daughter Rebecca spent over a year with a mission team in Uganda, Africa. Within a short time of her return to the U.S., she observed sadly one day that our lives here are so full of “clutter” and lived at such a hectic pace. She stated, “No wonder we cannot be still and know God—-we cannot even be still.”

Among other gems, the blessing of discipline is found throughout this chapter—whether it be the tongue, our lives, or our money.

Verse 3 admonishes this way: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. Though in a later chapter (17:28), I smile when I read, “Even a fool is thought to be wise if he keeps silent.” I believe discipline begins with our tongue. If our words are reckless, bitter, and cutting (always looking for an opportunity to put someone down thinking it lifts us up), there is no way Jesus can live in our hearts. Remember, what comes from our mouths originates in the heart/mind.

For some of us just being still with a spirit of quietness (and being silent), is a challenge (I know); and we must draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us.

Spend one day a month, then two, then one per week, then daily meditating on words from a Psalm or Proverb or Jesus in quietness and solitude. If you will do this consistently (begin with only 5 minutes), you will find that other areas of your life begin to refocus and become more disciplined and your days more fulfilling.

May God bless you as you allow Him to calm your spirit and fill your life with more discipline, purpose, and hope.

Proverbs 12 – August 12

CC Image courtesy of Fiona Henderson on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Fiona Henderson on Flickr.

Proverbs 12
Author: Rob Anderson

Those who work their land will have abundant food,
But those who chase fantasies have no sense. (Proverbs 12.11, NIV)

I have two raised gardens in my backyard. I built them to grow vegetables of various kinds. On an almost daily basis, I will come home from work and head to the backyard, where my daughter will show me the progress the plants have made. A tomato here. A few beans there. Once there was even a jalapeno pepper. Just one.

When we pick something from our garden, I always remark on the feast we have to eat. (Assuming we define a feast as a quarter of a tomato and two green beans each.) There is a certain amount of satisfaction in growing your own food, regardless of the amount harvested. And in all seriousness, even if it is just one tomato, I am as content as I can be to know that it was raised just outside my house.

As much as I love to see my homegrown vegetables on the table, I recognize my efforts pale in comparison to those who actually do “work their land.” We know these people. They live here in our midst. The stereotype of “good old-fashioned hard working salt-of-the-earth folk” does not miss the mark far, if at all. Most of the farmers I have met may long for more rain or a better price on cotton, but by and large, they live lives of peace, filled with a relative sense of abundance.

I am thankful for these people. If it were not for the examples of their lives and the small reminder I raise in my back yard, I would spend all my energies on some foolish fantasy. Proverbs 12 does not specify the fantasies these people pursue, but in my mind, they center on some “get rich quick, do it all by yourself, you can control your destiny” type scheme. No, it doesn’t make much sense, but we all have a tendency to ignore the One who provides for our needs. When we do ignore Him, we discover a lack of abundance—one tomato and a couple of beans could never be enough!

This week, when you reach for the food on your table, purchase something at the grocery store, or see a field in some stage of growth, stop and give thanks to the One who gives in abundance and for those who remind us of our need to be dependent on Him.

Proverbs 11 – August 11

CC Image courtesy of Chris Potter on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Chris Potter on Flickr.

Proverbs 11
Author: Lyn Meter

You tell your children to sit down, stand up, be quiet, be still, stop talking, say something, go to sleep, get up, go to school, come home, eat your vegetables, behave, etc., but have you ever told your child to “be righteous?” Proverbs 11 uses the word “righteous” at least 11 times. To be righteous means to be upright and to be just in our dealings with others. The author of this proverb uses the example of accurate scales in commerce and business, to use a proper standard of conduct, to follow a straight path, to be honest and “right” in all of our dealings with those we deal with everyday. In other words, don’t cheat.

The Psalmists tell us that God’s righteousness can be spoken, sung, proclaimed, declared, revealed and demonstrated.

Righteousness is not just about behaving yourself, righteousness is grounded in the very character of God. God IS righteousness and it is God alone who credits righteousness to you and to me and to our children.

So, the next time you decide to tell your children to “be righteous” instead of telling them to behave, tell them they’re in good company with people like Noah and Abraham, and that their righteousness is a very special gift from God.

Proverbs 10 – August 10

CC Image courtesy of david gee on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of david gee on Flickr.

Proverbs 10
Author: Daniel Wheeler

Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
(Pr. 10:12)

So simple and so profoundly true.

I see this in a world of malice,
never resting from its search
to conquer and destroy.

I find this in those I know,
some who shelter hate as if a dying ember; and
still others who have grace to bury it in ash.

I see this in myself – in the animus
leaping from the shadow of my heart and from
the harm it leaves behind.

I find this in Almighty God and his
great undying love, a light that
blinds him to offense.

So profoundly simple and so true.

Where you see strife, there
you will find hatred;
Find forgiveness and
you will have peace.

Proverbs 8 – August 8

CC Image courtesy of Mark Herpel on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Mark Herpel on Flickr.

Proverbs 8
Author: Matthew Killough

How do you count your wealth? In dollars? In real estate? In stock options? In collectables? We all have an unfortunate flaw: we think the things we own are worth more than their actual value. The writer of Proverbs has been reminding us that one thing is worth more than others. In case you have not been paying attention this one thing is wisdom.

“Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 8:10 – 11

Here is where popular thinking has it all wrong! Wealth is not measured by the balance in your 401(K) but by the wisdom you have gained in life. Who is the “go to” source for all this wisdom-wealth? None other than the creator of the universe! Even better, God is not stingy with his wisdom. James writes “If you any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5). So stop spending so much time worrying about your retirement account and pay more attention to your eternity account. Collect wisdom.

Proverbs 7 – August 7

CC Image courtesy of clappstar on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of clappstar on Flickr.

Proverbs 7
Author: Carter Shuman

What are your intentions with my daughter? That is the question that was asked to a young man who hoped to take a girl out on a date. He sat on the couch waiting for the girl to come down the hall so they could go out to dinner and a movie. While he sat in that awkward place, the young girl’s father issued a preemptive strike against any ideas that the young man might have had involving his daughter. The older gentleman is firm and direct. He wants to leave a lasting impression. The hope is that the young man will have more of him than he has desire to experience any form of physical touch with his daughter. And somewhere in the middle of the situation the question comes out. What are your intentions?

But I have to wonder if that is the right question to ask. Do our intentions determine the things that we do or the road we travel? This section of scripture gives us an insight into the heart of man on a road he has no business traveling. We have no way to determine what the intentions of this young man were. He may have had dreams of being the best husband there on the planet. He may have never dreamed of taking the offer of another man’s wife. We have no way to determine what the intentions were of this young man. But yet we find him on the road toward a place of dishonor. It is dark on the road and the woman is waiting for a man to walk by suitable for her taste. There is no denying her intention in the matter. She has readied her bed to be a place of infidelity. This young man was walking as an ox to be slaughtered and he didn’t even know it.

The truth of the matter is this. Our intentions do not determine where we go. Some of the most well-intentioned, goodhearted people I have ever met ended up in places that they never wanted to be. Our direction is what ultimately determines our destination. It is the choice of what path you take that will lead you to the destination before you. Andy Stanley calls this the principle of the path: Your direction, not your intentions, determines your destination.

So here is the question the father should actually be asking the boy that wants to take his daughter out, “Do you know what direction you are going?” Or better yet, the father should be giving the advice to always take the path that will lead you to the destination you desire.

So what direction are you headed? Does the path you are going down lead to the adulterous woman who will ensnare you, or does your direction match your intentions leading you down the path of righteousness?