Monday, May 29, 2017

I Was Only Trying to Help...

There are those kinds of people that really are difficult to deal with. You cannot suggest anything, they already ‘know’ what to do. You cannot discuss things with them, their minds are made up. And if you should ever try to help by offering correction, “Watch Out!” They will lash back at you as if you are the one who needs correction.

If you are not expecting that type of reaction, it can really take you by surprise. If you have the presence of mind not to strike back, you might feel a hurt and feel uncertain as to what to do next.

One of the greatest values of the Proverbs is that of teaching us about the brutal realities of life. Solomon often makes simple observations that will help us to face life with greater understanding so that we are not surprised, and so that others do not take unfair advantage of us. His teachings help us to move forward in life with our heads held high. He helps us to face life's challenges by 'toughening us up' mentally and emotionally.

   He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, 
   And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
   --Proverbs 9:7

This is the kind of proverb that presents a true observation about life. It is a, “Brace yourself,” kind of advisory. It is reality!

The word ‘correct’ is literally an emphatic ‘sternly correct.’ In the Hebrew Old Testament it often describes discipline. The term ‘reprove’ is similar, but refers more to verbal correction.

As far as the scoffer and the wicked are concerned, they already ‘know.’ So they reject instruction and correction. You do not tell them, they will tell you. They have made choices in life and are set in their ways. You could say that they have set their path ‘in stone.’

So, when the scoffer dishonors you, or the wicked person insults you, don't fall apart. Don't cry about it. Understand that God already knows about the scoffer. God has warned us of the brutal reality of the scoffer through Solomon's writings. Recognize the scoffer and the wicked man for who they are. You are not judging them, but rather making a simple identification based the way they choose to express their character. So, take this wise insight and stand up straight. Do what is right, and move forward without fighting, without crying,  and without feeling badly.

And read the next two verses...
Really...God reveals something more...
So, get your Bible...right now...and...
Read two more verses...

Monday, May 22, 2017

What Is God's Will For Me?

“I don’t know if I should marry <name>; what if he’s not the right one?”
“We don’t know whether we should buy a house or rent.”
“We don’t know which house we should choose.”
“We don’t know if it is the right time to have a child.”
“I don’t know if I should choose job #1, job #2, or just stay where I am.”
“I just don’t know...”

“I wish I knew what God’s will was for me.”


We sometimes ask questions that cannot be answered with certainty. Let me explain.

Suppose your preacher introduced his Sunday morning sermon topic as ‘The Will of God.’ Do you think he will be discussing your marriage? Your house? The timing of having children? Your job? (I think not.)

Sometimes we twist the meaning of the ‘will of God’ into ‘what God wants for me.’ The latter idea is closely akin to ‘what I hope God wants for me, because I know what I want.’

If you have learned from the Proverbs (the focus of many previous blogs), you already have your answer to the myriad of questions concerning life’s decisions: 
  • Be wise. 
  • Seek wise counsel and listen, even when it is different from what you want to hear.
  • Pursue righteousness in all things.
  • Pursue justice and fairness for others.
  • Honor God; revere God.
We sometimes set ourselves up for doubt. We believe that we want God’s assistance when we already have our hearts set on our desires. Then when difficulties arise after having made a decision, we doubt God’s help.

Reality check: There will be difficulties regardless of the decisions you make, even if God were to send you a message by way of an angel telling you what to decide. If you think that God’s assistance is the assurance of easy living, you haven’t been reading your Bible.

Now...STOP thinking about yourself!

   Commit your works to the LORD, 
   And your plans will be established.
   --Proverbs 16:3

This proverb does not mean, that you should make ‘your’ plan and then dedicate it to God. That is still ‘your’ plan.

The Hebrew word translated ‘commit’ literally means to ‘roll.’ When used in this context it gives the image of ‘rolling’ something (your works) into the presence of the Lord. It conveys the idea of surrendering your works to him. So, ultimately by surrendering your works to God, you are adopting as 'your will' that which you already know to be God's will. In other words, God's will becomes your will, instead of the other way around.

God’s will, his desire for mankind (and you specifically), is revealed in scripture. Simply stated, God desires the salvation of your soul. He wants you to be fully devoted to him so that you can obtain eternal life and fellowship with Him.

Set in that context you should see with clarity whether you should marry <name>.
Set in that context, you should see with clarity the real importance of houses and jobs and the timing of having children.

Make His will the center of your desire. 
Then your plans will revolve around the will of God. 
Then they will be set (established), as if etched in stone.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Playing with Fire

I remember childhood friends who could put out a lit match by pinching the flame with their thumb and forefinger. It looked rather daring to those of us who had never tried it and did not know the ‘trick.’

Everything was fun and games until one of my buddies accidentally pinched the head off a lit match and burned a blister on his thumb.

If you 'play with fire, sooner or later you are bound to get burned.'

'Playing with fire' is an expression that describes taking an unwarranted risk in a dangerous or questionable situation. A person who ‘plays with fire’ intentionally places himself in danger, usually with a sense of confidence. Due to inexperience in life, young people often ‘play with fire.’

Solomon wrote:
   Keep your way far from her,
   And do not go near the door of her house.
   --Proverbs 5:8

He was warning his son to stay far away from the house of the adulteress. It should be applied today as a general warning against sexual immorality.

We might have expected, “keep your feet” or “keep your eyes” or “keep your heart” far from her. Yet, Solomon said, “keep your way” far from her. The simple point is that YOU are the one who ultimately chooses your way. So, you should make your choice so that your path in life does not come near the house of the adulteress.

Applied to our day: Make your choice so that your path in life does not come near pornography, improper physical contact of your girlfriend, talking and joking about improper sexual behavior.

The closer a person gets to sexual impurity and the more they allow themselves to be teased by the imagined possibilities, then the more dangerous the circumstances. They invite temptation, paving the way to 'the door of her house.' How then will they keep from falling to the temptation.

Consider the next few verses from the same chapter to better understand the very real consequences of ‘playinng with the fire’ of sexual impurity.

   Lest you give your vigor to others, 
      And your years to the cruel one;
   Lest strangers be filled with your strength, 
      And your hard-earned goods go to the house of an alien;
   And you groan at your latter end, 
      When your flesh and your body are consumed;
   And you say, "How I have hated instruction! 
      And my heart spurned reproof!
   And I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, 
      Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!
   --Proverbs 5:9-13

Sexual impurity robs you of your strength, your wealth, and the best years of your life by giving yourself to someone who does not care about you...all in exchange for a mere moment of pleasure.

Young men...choose now to keep you way pure.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

“I Understand . . . But . . .”

Have you ever had anything stolen from you?
Do you remember how you felt?

Imagine this: Two thieves are caught, their circumstances described...
In desperate circumstances a man breaks into your car and steals some electronics. He then sells them at a pawn shop so that he can have some money to buy food for his starving wife and two small children.

A second thief breaks into your home and steals your laptop, TV system and jewelry. He later pawns his heist for quick cash. When he is caught it is discovered that he had been on a crime spree for quite some time. He's just a thief; no family; in it for the money.

One steals for need;
The other for greed.

If you are like most people, you have some degree of understanding, perhaps even sympathy toward the man who stole out of need. Solomon wrote:

   Men do not despise a thief if he steals 
      To satisfy himself when he is hungry;
   But when he is found, he must repay sevenfold; 
      He must give all the substance of his house.
   --Proverbs 6:30-31

It is important to understand that right and wrong do not change with circumstances. While we might be more understanding in one situation than another. Right is still right, and wrong is still wrong...ALWAYS.

Be wise. Do right.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Never Date a Girl Named...

Brush your teeth before bedtime.
Check the oil when you fill up your car.
Don’t take any wooden nickels.

Drink eight cups of water daily.
Don’t dive into dark water.
Always carry a little cash.

Lend a hand to a stranger in need.
Don’t talk to strangers.
Never date a girl named ___________.

Under closer inspection, some 'rules' are contradictory, some are silly, and some are dated. (I'll bet 150 years ago dads gave their kids some 'horse sense' instead of 'car talk.') And believe it or not, my dad actually instructed me to never date a girl with a first name of... (sorry, I can't tell you the name). He was quite serious...and I followed his instruction!

Every home has rules. Rules are for safety, or for health, or for good organization and order, and some...some are just the personal preferences of parents.

A story is told about a young wife who prepared a roast for her family just like her mother had taught her. She cut off one end then arranged the two pieces in her roaster. Her husband asked her why she always cut off one end of the roast before placing it in the roaster. Her reply, “That’s how my mother taught me.”

At the next family gathering she asked her mother about the roast. Her mother explained that she had been taught the exact same process by her mother. Asked by the trio about her process, the grandmother explained, “My roasting pot was too short; I had to cut off one end to make it fit.”

From time to time there are instructions that no longer fit....
So it is with man's instruction.

The wisdom and instruction (and rules) found in the Book of Proverbs must not be confused with the wisdom of men. The sayings in the Book of Proverbs are not merely common sense, or time-honored traditions, or well thought out maxims. These sayings can be trusted. They are good sayings. They are sound instruction. They are beneficial rules for life.

The Book of Proverbs is a record of God’s inspiration and revelation for man, and it is given for our we do not have to learn by experience!

   For I give you sound teaching
   Do not abandon my instruction.
   --Proverbs 4:2

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Importance of a Necklace

What are the kinds of things that a person wears 'around the neck'? Aside from simple jewelry, some may wear a necklace with a special locket, or perhaps a cross, or a ring, etc. These objects usually represent things of value such as a cherished memory, a strong belief, or a valued relationship.

What are the kinds of things that are ‘written on the heart'? These are not things that are merely memorized. They are etched onto the mind and heart as a permanent reminder of something of great importance. Things written on the heart affect the way a person thinks, affect day-to-day decisions, affect behavior and speech.

Do you know what God wants you to wear around your neck? Do you know what God desires for you to have etched onto your heart? Do you know the things that God regards as having the deepest meaning and value, that should mold your character and define your being?

   Do not let kindness and truth leave you; 
   Bind them around your neck, 
   Write them on the tablet of your heart.
   --Proverbs 3:3

The word ‘kindness’ in this verse is more often translated ‘lovingkindness.’ It comes from a Hebrew love word that is connected to the idea of ‘covenant.’ God’s lovingkindness, or covenant love, is his steadfast love which is demonstrated by his commitment to his promises.

When the Hebrew word ‘truth’ is paired with lovingkindness it generally carries the idea of ‘loyalty.’ With respect to God, it is his loyalty to his covenant promises.

In His declaration of His divine nature, God revealed Himself as “abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6) He extended his love to his people because of his promises and his undying loyalty to his covenant. It is His nature.

God’s ‘lovingkindness and truth’ should give us insight into Solomon’s words. With respect to man, ‘lovingkindness and truth’ refer to man's commitment to the covenant he has made with God. Man’s commitment is expressed through his holiness toward God and his love and kindness toward his fellow man. His loyalty is demonstrated through an undying devotion to God throughout life regardless of life’s difficulties and temptations.

What is it that you wear around your neck?
What is etched onto your heart?
What is it that truly defines your character?