Friday, March 23, 2018

It's Where You Put Your Heart., Mind & Ears

My son, if your heart is wise,
my heart will indeed rejoice.
My innermost being will cheer
when your lips say what is right.
Don’t let your heart envy sinners;
instead, always fear the Lord.
For then you will have a future,
and your hope will never fade.
Listen, my son, and be wise;
keep your mind on the right course.
Don’t associate with those who drink too much wine
or with those who gorge themselves on meat.
For the drunkard and the glutton will become poor,
and grogginess will clothe them in rags.
Listen to your father who gave you life,
and don’t despise your mother when she is old.
Buy—and do not sell—truth,
wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
(Proverbs 23)
Choices. The first choices we make are where we will put our hearts, what we will put in our minds to process decisions, and who and what we will listen to.  We all come to those points of rude awakening when we wish we would have done something differently, thought differently, decided differently, and they always come back to this: "Where have I put my heart?"  Put it to seeking truth, wisdom, God Himself. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Good Name...

A good name is to be chosen over great wealth;

favor is better than silver and gold.
The rich and the poor have this in common:

the Lord made them both.
A sensible person sees danger and takes cover,

but the inexperienced keep going and are punished.
The result of humility is fear of the Lord,

along with wealth, honor, and life.
There are thorns and snares on the path of the crooked;

the one who guards himself stays far from them.
Teach a youth about the way he should go;

even when he is old he will not depart from it.
(Proverbs 22)
Choices. That is what Proverbs is all about: making decisions based upon what we believe is important.  "A good name" is all about our reputation - not just what people "think about us", but what they know to be true. Am I living up to my family name, my church family name, my name as a Child of God?   No matter what my lot in life, am I living as if I belong to God?  Do I learn from my mistakes, or seem to look for new ones to make?  Do I see humility as a godly pursuit - not for false praise from men, but to please God and be more like Him?  Do I distance myself from what I know are temptations to me?  Am I teachable? Have I ever been? Choices matter. May we first choose to seek God's wisdom to make them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Whoever 3

Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
    will also cry out and not be answered.
A gift given in secret soothes anger,
    and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.
When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous
    but terror to evildoers.
Whoever strays from the path of prudence
    comes to rest in the company of the dead.
Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
    whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.
The wicked become a ransom for the righteous,
    and the unfaithful for the upright.
Better to live in a desert
    than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.
The wise store up choice food and olive oil,
    but fools gulp theirs down.
Whoever pursues righteousness and love
    finds life, prosperity and honor.

(Proverbs 21)
Once again, we have a cluster of "Whoever Statements".  In a long list of wise statements it is so hard to pull out the most outstanding, but this excerpts covers much. It magnifies godly characteristics such as generosity, justice, prudence, and saving, while pointing out the woes of lust, materialism, gluttony and unresolved anger.  The differences are that profound and strong.  Choose wisely today. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dig Deeper...

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
    he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water,
    but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
    but a faithful man who can find?
The righteous who walks in his integrity—
    blessed are his children after him!
A king who sits on the throne of judgment
    winnows all evil with his eyes.
Who can say, “I have made my heart pure;
    I am clean from my sin”?

(Proverbs 20:4-9)
Every spring it has been the same thing - waiting for the the ground to dry out to till the land.  Being a novice gardener, I decided last fall to till the ground in the fall after the harvest to get a head start. Not a novel idea, as we see in the first verse above.  It is wise to not procrastinate - to plan and to work ahead - to dig deeper now, rather than be disappointed later. The first 19 chapters of Proverbs has been increasingly pointed in telling us to look within. Now he is telling us to dig deeper - deep within our hearts, to turn over the ground, go into the deep end of our hearts.  We say we love, but what about our actions? We say we do the right thing, but what if every thought, word and action were to be examined by the King who judges all things? We say we are clean, but the truth is we all have areas of our lives - along the baseboards, in the closet, under the bed, that still need cleaning. If you are going through life, proudly thinking that all is well, nothing needs to change, and everyone else is the problem, it's time to dig deeper. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Dig in...

Listen to advice and accept instruction,
    that you may gain wisdom in the future.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
    and a poor man is better than a liar.
The fear of the Lord leads to life,
    and whoever has it rests satisfied;
    he will not be visited by harm.
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish
    and will not even bring it back to his mouth.

(Proverbs 19:20-24)
God has set an awesome life before us. What will we do with it? Will we plow ahead on our own path, or seek wisdom from him and others how to live it? Will we try to get all out of it that we can, or will we accept what He has for us? Will we invest ourselves in it, or just wait for things to happen?  But notice what God throws into the middle of these thoughts: What He is looking for is steadfast love - to do what is best not for ourselves, but all those around us who depend on us; honesty - for us to be truthful with Him, ourselves, and others; contentment that comes only when we trust in Him. Life lived this way is truly satisfying and purposeful. Dig in and find the treasure He has for you. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

More Mouth...

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
    but only in expressing his opinion.
When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
    and with dishonor comes disgrace.
The words of a man's mouth are deep waters;
    the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
It is not good to be partial to the wicked
    or to deprive the righteous of justice.
A fool's lips walk into a fight,
    and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool's mouth is his ruin,
    and his lips are a snare to his soul.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
    they go down into the inner parts of the body... 

If one gives an answer before he hears,
    it is his folly and shame.

The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.
The lot puts an end to quarrels
    and decides between powerful contenders.
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
    and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied;
    he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
    and those who love it will eat its fruits.

(Proverbs 18:2-8, 13, 17-21)
The writer has already made several statements about the use of the tongue, and how much evil or  good it can cause. Here he keeps coming back to it, with truths that serve as background material to the popular passage in James 3.  Foolishness affects our speech, which can earn us a punch in the mouth, or worse. The greatest damage they do is to the one who has said them. But this does not make it a victim-less crime. The "words of the whisperer" are one of  the great tools of Satan, going all the way back to the Garden when he planted lies and doubt into the ears of Eve.  When we foolishly involve ourselves in gossip we bring great harm to those around us, who are defenseless against what is being said about them.  If you are like me, you know the sting of having others believe the worst about you, even though they do not know the full story, and may never give you the opportunity to tell it. But it is those who practice it who have shut themselves behind bars in their lies, and who will someday pay the penalty.  May we beware the tendency we all have to share or believe gossip. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Hard blows of Wisdom

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
    than a hundred blows into a fool.
An evil man seeks only rebellion,
    and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs
    rather than a fool in his folly.
If anyone returns evil for good,
    evil will not depart from his house.
The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
    so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
    are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
    when he has no sense.

(Proverbs 17:10-16)
The words of wisdom are getting stronger and more pointed - punch after punch, as Wisdom takes shots at Folly.  There are penalties and punishments for rebellion, foolishness, and selfishness.  In fact, there is no escape from them. With very picturesque language, the writer says foolish arguing is like going to the bathroom - once you start, it's hard to stop. Don't even get started. From the words we speak to the money we spend, we are accountable for what we do.