Vacation – June 3

Text: Psalm 140 (Read it here.)

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CC Image Courtesy of jeanbaptisteparis on flickr.

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. (Psalm 140.12, NIV)

God Can Do It Better
Author: Carter Shuman

The summer months are busy in student ministry. When trying to balance trips, activities, and classes with life you can start to feel buried.  This is when I absolutely need to lean on the gifts of others, recognizing that more hands on deck gets things done better than I can alone. I love being able to look at someone with teaching skills and say, “You can teach better than I can.” I look at leaders and say, “You can run a camp better than I can.” I can look at our ministry assistant and say, “You can organize better than I can.”

In times of trouble when we need rest can we confidently say, “God can do it better than I can.” That is the spirit that drives David in this Psalm. It is sometimes far outside our understanding to know what action to take when it comes to dealing with life’s problems. We can draw up the plans for what we want to achieve but fulfilling those plans is far beyond what we can do. In the moment of reaching our limitations we have to remember this foundational truth, “God is in control, and fearing him leads us to wisdom and knowing him to understanding (Proverbs 9:10).”

The truth is, we can all use a vacation. Most of us need this because we rely on ourselves to make everything happen. We are the commanders of our destiny. We control every aspect of our own lives. Vacation requires the ability to step away from all of that and give it to God. We need to place all of our problems, our stress, our fear, at the feet of God and be able to walk away with faith that he can do it better than we can.

Can you take a vacation? Can you walk away from your day-to-day troubles, trusting that God has them in the palm of his hand? Do you believe he has the power to overcome any enemy and clear any path that needs to be taken?

Look to him today and say confidently, “You can do it better than I can.”

Questions:

In our world where we tend to allow all faiths and ideals to coexist with one another as long as they did it peacefully, who do we identify as “evil doers” or “the wicked?” In what ways have you sensed “the wicked” making attacks on you?

What examples can you give that shows God a “strong deliverer” and one who prevents the plans of the wicked from succeeding?

As you think about all of the stories we know from scripture, which ones demonstrate God’s securing justice for the poor and upholding the cause of the needy? In our own world, how have you seen these things happen? What specific ways can you think of that you, your family, your small group, or your congregation as a whole might help secure justice for the poor and uphold the cause of the needy?

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?

Proverbs 25 – June 25

Image courtesy of Carter Shuman.

Image courtesy of Carter Shuman.

Proverbs 25
Author: Carter Shuman

Has anyone ever cut to the core with you? You know, really said something that made you quake? Maybe it was something hurtful and you could feel it in your stomach for days. Maybe it was something sad that made your eyes burn in pain. Maybe it was something inspirational that made your heart flutter. One way or another, it had a physical impact on the way you felt. Proverbs 25:15 is a distinct verse playing on the real feeling that happens when someone says something impactful. “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a soft tongue can break a bone”

This verse has two lessons to teach. First, persistence can be key to getting someone to notice the truth. Whenever you are patient in making your point repeatedly even the most distracted person can take notice. So whenever the resistance you meet is a cell phone in front of a teenagers face, keep speaking the same message. Eventually they will take notice of what you have to say.

Secondly a soft speech can move an immovable object. Whenever you speak from a place of true love and caring the hardest heart will soften. Imagine a soft tongue being able to break a bone. It doesn’t really add up. But the truth is, the force your words can have even on the toughest places can be profound and lasting.

Proverbs 6 – June 6

CC Image courtesy of Tim Haynes on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Tim Haynes on Flickr.

Proverbs 6
Author: Carter Shuman

Warning against folly:

In verses 1-9 we are reminded of a barometer we can use to measure wisdom. What we are doing with our physical resources reveals where our wisdom comes from. This barometer especially measures accurately when we look at finances and time. The Sluggard, who is the nemesis of the wise, squanders away his time and is left in poverty. He doesn’t take his cue from the ant who is a hard worker without a manager watching over him. Wisdom is shown in a person who works hard with no one watching.

Warning against Adultery:

Steering clear of temptation takes wisdom and loyalty to God. Adultery is widely compared throughout scripture to idolatry. Marriage only has room for two people. Our allegiance to our spouses is paramount to the success of our marriages. Those who would tempt us to stray from the bond of marital fidelity should be ignored. In the same way, there are many different gods in our culture that are smooth talking and woo us into their “beds.” Our hearts are temples that have a place for one God. He is too big to share space in our hearts with something else: Be it money, sex, success, or self-centeredness, God does not share the altar of your heart, and He deserves your sole allegiance.