Forgive Me but Really????

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Do not be rash with your mouth or hasty in your heart… for God is in heaven and you are on earth! Therefore, let your words be few.”[Ecc 5:2] God often brings this verse to my mind as a gentle reminder of who I am and who God is. Who we are is often revealed by the voluminous words we speak versus the few words God speaks. Elihu, in Job 32-34 would have been wise to have taken this advice but he is really a pompous windbag in many ways.These chapters on Elihu are so like Meryl Streep’s rant at the Golden Globe awards to which I say “Forgive me but really??” And here’s why:

Elihu begins with his diatribe saying he is angry. When we are angry we often say things we later regret. He is not just angry with Job but the other three friends as well. He has, as we often say, “had enough.” He is controlled by his anger which is a danger signal. Secondly, he does not attribute wisdom to the fear of God but to age. Granted with age we do become wiser but the source of godly wisdom is from God, not from man. Thirdly, he admits he is full of words! Over and over through the book of Proverbs, it is the fool with the busy tongue. James reminds us that we cannot subdue the tongue and it is full of deadly poison. Fourthly, Elihu says Job is not listening to God for God reveals his plan and purpose and Job, you don’t a clue!

God exalts the humble, not the proud. Forgive me but I think Elihu is a proud “windbag.” Instead,  we should heed this verse:  “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.” [Pro 25:11]

God is Always Thinking

crooked-nail2aBattles are conquered in prayer, discouragement is defeated in prayer, self is humbled in prayer because God is exalted. That is the message Jeremiah sent to the exiles in Babylon. [Jeremiah 29] Although they Judahites had trudged the desert sands in chains they were now sitting beside the great city of Nebuchadnezzar wondering what lay ahead. Jeremiah sent this letter to them to remind them that God is in control. He knew from eternity past what He had planned for them. I know the thoughts that I “think” (present tense) toward you. God is always thinking about His plans for His children.

Today you may be experiencing your own exile of sorts. You are wondering where God is in all of what you are facing.  The enemy would have us dwell on the storm; the Good Shepherd would have us dwell on Him. He has plans to take you to the green lush pastures from where you can be fed from His Word. His plan is to lead you to the quiet waters where you can drink from the Living Water. For now, you are in a holding pattern.  Trust in Him with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and He will make the crooked straight so you may not stumble.

God knows the past, present and future. Will you trust Him?

McNuggets or God-Nuggets?

proverbs-22-nuggets2A favorite fast food restaurant serves “McNuggets” as tidbits of chicken morsels that children really enjoy. The book of Proverbs serves up “God–nuggets” of wisdom for us to feed on each day. Chapter 22 gives us wisdom regarding one’s reputation, one’s wise counsel regarding the raising of children; wise counsel regarding how one is to respond to those who are poor. They are intertwined like beautiful jewels.

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great wealth, good favor more than silver or gold.” Money and riches can disappear in an instant and is only good in this life. On the opposite side, integrity is a key component that one has now and carries into the grave with them.

The world would tell us children only need more education, more of this and more of that yet the Word of God tells us otherwise. Feed them “God-Nuggets” as you train them the way they should go, and when they are old they will not turn from it.

Jesus said “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”  What “God-Nugget” will you feed on today?

 

 

The School of Hard Knocks — God Calls it Refining

Proverbs 17 Is 48 molten-metal-puregold2Prov 17:3 “The crucible is for refining silver and the furnace is for gold, likewise the Lord tests hearts.” Isaiah 48:10 “ Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have purified you in the furnace of misery”

We have all been there and we do not like it one bit and, in fact, we probably have had a few choice words for the God we serve as to “why me? Or why now? Or what is this all about God?” So when we read verses like these we have to stop and answer those questions.

These are the “ouch” verses and we really find them uncomfortable when we try to understand the love part with the affliction/misery part. We just want the “God loves me” and the fluffy part, not the refining part, but God has a higher purpose. God is saying I am refining you just as a metalworker would do to remove the dross. The refiner is an assayer, one who is able to determine not only the quantity but the quality of the product and only God has the inner view of our heart. (Jer 17:9) He knows our secret sins, what fears we harbor, what attractions the enemy has placed before us, where we might be prideful, where our love is impure. And so like a refiner of gold God steps up the fire.

If you can face the fire your faith will be stronger, your grace measure in abundance, and your obedience pure. If you pass the test you will come forth just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, with no smoke upon you. You want to be able to say like Job “if he tested me, I would come forth as gold.” So be ye thankful, Beloved, that God has considered you worthy to step into the fire. You want to shine like a diamond reflecting Christ and His image. So, Beloved, thank  God for your refining school of hard knocks.

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Does God See?

prov 5 stand before GodaAs a wise parent, Solomon continues to admonish or to gently reprove his children. Why? Because “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.”[Prov 22] If we truly love our children, then we will spend our lives teaching life principles  using the inspired, God breathed scripture which is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. It cannot be done once but over and over, precept upon precept, line upon line. [Is 28].

Solomon zeroes in on the two commandments that are easily broken when one’s eyes are led astray: “thou shalt not commit adultery and thou shalt not covet.”  Once again he begins “be attentive, pay close attention” for we are easily distracted and foolishly think we are master of our own souls. He who would be wise would heed and run from the whispers of the evil one: “The Lord does not see this.” [Ps 94]  But, God does see: “the ways of a person are in front of the Lord’s eyes” [Prov 5:22]  And not only does he see but he records the names of those who respect the Lord and distinguishes between the one who chooses to serve God and the one who does not. [Mal4] “He, the Lord, weighs all that person’s path.” [Prov 5 21]

In order to be protected from the lies of the evil one, we must “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” In this way, we may discern what is true or false and be assured of keeping the Commandments.

 

Prov 7 “Simpleton or Mature?”

ImageRecently a post was written to young men/women about life after high school. It was interestingly similar to an instructional manual and could have come right out of Proverbs 7! Listen to some of the advice offered: To the gals: If a guy calls you at 2 AM to “hangout”…he is not boyfriend material. To guys and gals: go to church…not just because your parents instructed you to do it, but because in church God speaks and you need to hear his voice; now is the time to strengthen your relationship with God and follow his plan. To guys and gals:  keep your morals and standards high. The poster asked: Will it be tough? Absolutely. Will you feel like the minority? Absolutely. Should you change to fit in? Absolutely not! This poster has it “right on.”

After giving instruction to his son in chapter 6 along with a list of the things God hates, the  father in chapter 7 instructs his son (also applicable to daughters) about what God loves and that begins with being morally pure. Five times he uses the word “keep.” As a dad I implore you to “keep” my words and treasure them. “Keep” my commands and obey my instruction as you would the pupil of your eye. “Keep” wisdom so intimately close that she may “keep” you from the man/woman who fails to “keep” his/her feet at home. Why this concerted effort in using this word? The father knows that without this the adolescent before him will fall victim to the ways of the seducers of the world. Bob Deffinbaugh wrote: “Being simple is a stage in the development of every person, very much like adolescence….being simple is one short step from being a fool, so this critical period in life must be lived very carefully.” As a child still under the parent’s roof he/she is going through a stage and therefore must be instructed. It is not a sin to be simple but it is a sin to not grow from simpleton to maturity. That was the sin that the author of Hebrews spoke about: “But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil.”

As Proverbs 7 closes there is a profound warning to those who ignore and become the fool:  “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways – do not wander into her pathways; for she has brought down many fatally wounded, and all those she has slain are many.” The warning is clear. “when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. Do not be led astray” [James]

Beloved, perhaps you are the parent of a simpleton because of their age or because of their naiveté. How are your parenting skills holding up in this time? Will you choose to instruct those under you with the tool that God has given to you? “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The last is critical…training begins in the home so that the child of God may leave the nest with a pure and reverent conduct.

 

Am I Wise? Prov 24

ImageI like to think I am wise because of the many years under my belt, but Proverbs always checks my stride to show areas where I am faltering. Prov 24 is one of those chapters!

I hold in my  hands the most marvelous treasure of all, God’s Word. Hidden within are the jewels of wisdom that God will refine so that I will shine as His light in a dark world. The book of Proverbs  is God’s treasure box which is filled with His gems which if read, pondered, and applied are the gems God uses to fill my crown that shows I am His child of royal standing. 1Pe 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Proverbs Gleanings: Image

Vs 1, 7, 8, 19 Observe those who are unrighteous, listen to how they converse. Their lips reveal that upon which they dwell in their thoughts. They lack restraint where judicial matters are concerned, are schemers and scoffers. They are the people who belong to the “loose lips” club; avoid them. Am I avoiding them or encouraging them in their foolish ways by listening to them?

Vs 11-12 Today the news is filled with horror of human trafficking, genocide, infanticide and more. We shudder but are we assisting to help alleviate the problem or are we ignoring it?  During WWII many knew but did nothing. “We have a responsibility to help such people. If we claim ignorance of their condition as a reason for not helping them, we need to remember that God knows the true condition of our heart and will requite us accordingly. We are responsible to rescue those who are in mortal danger. This includes warning and teaching those who are hastening to destruction.” [Toy] What am I doing? I am involved in a “holy huddle” Bible Study but on Thursdays I enter the halls of a local elementary school and share the Good News with children who are often unchurched. What are you doing?

Vs 13-14 Just as honey is nourishing to the physical body, so wisdom is the honey for the soul. If we neglect feeding the body it begins to decline, if we neglect reading, meditating and applying the principles in the Word of God our spiritual body declines. “OUCH”!!!

Vs 17-18, 23-26, 28-29 O you who say you are wise, when I see your “works” what do I discern? If I rejoice over an enemy’s stumbling what does that say about my heart and spiritual attitude? If I am prejudiced what does that say about my understanding of  the truth that we are all made in the image of God?  If I hide my light under a bushel and do not share the gospel when God provides a divine opportunity what does it say about what I know and believe about the message of salvation? When I bear false witness what does it say about my understanding of God’s moral law which Jesus obeyed?  

Vs. 30-34/6:6-11 Observe your daily work.  Remember the parable about the ant and the grasshopper and I need to  ask myself: Are you more like the ant that was diligent to prepare for winter or more like the grasshopper who slept in the heat of summer but went begging for food in the winter? I am either diligent or I am a sluggard. Principle: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.” [2Thess 3]

Wise thoughts to glean and determine my steps. Pro 16:9 A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.

What is God teaching you? Image

crown image: credit firstcovers.com

 

 

 

The Path of God…Prov 23

ImageIn the book of Esther we meet two men who were faced with choices which ultimately determined their destinies. The first man, Haman, loved riches and power and was filled with hate for God’s people. Ultimately, Haman’s choices led him to dine with a ruler and found himself hanging from the gallows he had prepared for a man he hated. The second man, Mordecai, made a choice to obey God and prepare his niece Esther for living a life that honored God. As queen, Esther was used instrumentally to preserve the Jewish people from Haman’s hatred and plan of destruction. Mordecai reminded Esther that God had uniquely allowed her to “achieve royal status for such a time as this!” Fast forward to the year 1846 and we meet Lewis Cass, Sec of State under Pres Buchanan, who wrote:  “God, in His providence, has given us a Book of His revealed will to be with us at the commencement of our career in this life and at its termination;” We see the truth of that statement in Haman, Mordecai and Esther’s life.

Each person is presented with choices that will determine their destiny both here on earth as well as their eternal place with or without God. Today in our reading [Proverbs 23] we find that King Solomon gives wise counsel for the here and now. Summarizing this chapter we find some principles we can apply to our daily walk with God:

  1. Vs 1-3 Avoid overindulgence in your appetite; you might find yourself swinging from the gallows! On the opposite side of the coin, avoid indulging at the table of the stingy person or you may end up paying the check!
  2. Vs 1,6,20-21,27-28 Be discerning in the company you keep; be wise in choosing friends, acquaintances and mates for life. If you choose wrongly, you bear the cross of shame and troubles; if you choose wisely it leads to peace, wisdom and prosperity
  3. Vs 12, 15-16, 19 Learn something new each day, it will benefit your mind and your disposition towards trials.
  4. VS 17 Envy of sin is a fleeting activity but zeal for the Lord is a passion that will only grow stronger as you meditate upon his Word.
  5. Vs 30-35 Over imbibing brings disastrous consequences; it ensnares and corrupts “Do not be caught by its beautiful color in the glass. Much sin enters the soul through the avenue of the eye,” [Fausset]
  6. Vs 22, 24-26 Honor thy parent for it is the first commandment with a promise. A parent rejoices when a son/daughter demonstrates wisdom in life’s choices.
  7. Vs 4-5 Beware of expending your life to gain riches; they make wings for themselves and fly away. Instead lay up treasures in heaven. God calls a man a fool who “stores up riches for himself, but is not rich toward God.” [Luke 12] and wise who “accumulates for themselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” [Matt 6]
  8. Vs 9 Don’t waste your time with fools; those who seek not God but whose god is self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency. Shake the dust off your feet from those who deny God. [Luke 9] Instead “Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD.” [Hosea 6:3]

So today, listen and be wise, God will guide you on your way [Prov 23:19/Ps 32:8] God chooses the path, you choose to follow or ignore the path He has chosen.

Photo courtesy: angelverses.org

The Kingdom Mindset

ImageLong ago I thought I had learned what a mindset is but then again…we all need a refresher course once in a while. So today while gathering my thoughts for Matthew 7 I was struck with this phrase: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is wise.” It was an aha moment. It is not just being busy about the doing, I must have the mindset to hear and then to apply. I then remembered the words in Revelation these words which are repeated over and over: “blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it,” So not only will one be wise but also blessed if they hear and then obey/do.

Remember the book “Secret Garden” with its intrigue and wonderful imagery? Matthew 7 is much like a secret garden. Jesus walks us down the paths of life sharing the beauty of one whose mindset is keyed into righteous kingdom living. As Jesus teaches he uses several illustrations which would be familiar sights to the listeners to not only garner their attention but also as a visual reminder when they meet these same examples in their daily life. For example: beams of wood, doors and knocking, gates—both wide and narrow, paths that are smooth and paths that are filled with pebbles, sheep and wolves, healthy vs unhealthy trees, foundations of homes—rocks or sand, rain and wind. The point of his teaching was to show those who wish to follow Him must consider the cost and the path they want to follow. One path leads to destruction, the other to blessing…the “aha moment.”  If we  hear his words and do them we will be wise as opposed to those who hear but reject. The rejecters are like the fools of Proverbs.

In essence Jesus is giving us these four kingdom principles/paths:

(a) Seeing yourself first before you “open mouth-insert foot” in your criticism of another. Therefore, remove your own speck or beam before you judge another.  

(b) Knowing when to share the holy gospel message and when to walk away—there will be dogs and hogs who knowingly choose to trample, bite, devour and those who enjoy wallowing in the mud rather than accept the holy message of redemption. Therefore, be discerning.

( c) Pray with a kingdom focus in mind: asking, seeking, knocking. Answers come to those who are willing step out and begin at the beginning: asking. God is the Father of Lights in whom is no variableness of turning and He gives good gifts to those who ask. Trust Him for this.

 (c) Applying the Golden Rule as a basis of life—in other words have the “Law of Kingdom Choices” mentality. Dwell on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise. [Phil 4:8] Whatever we focus on will be the guiding principle of how we respond to others and they in turn to us.  

As Jesus taught this chapter the crowds were rapt with attention and so should I be. My mindset should be focused on His words and His teaching…but often my mind wanders. He is the true Messiah with the words of life and I must make the choice to listen, heed, and obey if I want to be wise and also to blessed. The beginning point for me is the asking, seeking, knocking.