Friday, July 29, 2011

Wisdom Speech

Today's readings are from Proverbs 16, 17, 18

Many of the Proverbs deal with something that is "everyday" with us - Speech. The way we talk...not just outwardly, but even within..what we say to our own selves, constitutes our speaking. Proverbs uses language of "the tongue", "speak", "words", etc...to make the point: what we say and how we say it has profound implications to each of us.

"The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction." (Proverbs 16:21 NIV)

"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24 NIV)

"A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." (Proverbs 16:28 NIV)

"A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue." (Proverbs 17:4 NIV)

"Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out." (Proverbs 17:14 NIV)

"The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered." (Proverbs 17:27 NIV)

"The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives." (Proverbs 18:7 NIV)

It's fairly obvious that our speech makes a big difference in the way that God's word describes us - wise? discerning? perverse? wicked? It's a choice that begins within our minds and hearts...not just with the tongue.

In a day and time that Twitter, Facebook, even email have allowed people to speak instantaneously and also without regard to thinking...hit the send button and you can't bring it back...that is a recipe for foolishness. It doesn't have to be, but it often is. I'm amazed at the things people will write in an email that they would never say face to face.

Let's learn the proverb of gracious speech that comes with wisdom.

Peace

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Fool

Today's readings are from Proverbs 10, 11, 12.

At the beginning of Proverbs 10 there is a shift in language. Now, instead of narratives of wisdom, individual pithy statements - Proverbs - begin to appear. One after another they extol some aspect of wise living. There is emphasis on speech, on greediness, on wise living, on marriage, etc... Each on can stand on its own and the context is limited to the immediate sentence.

One of the themes that repeatedly surfaces in these individual proverbs is the life of a "Fool". The Fool is not just someone who does a foolish thing. We all have had times where we did something that was foolish. The Fool is a person who lives without regard to wisdom in relation to God.
For example:

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15 NIV)

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18 NIV)

The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool's heart blurts out folly. (Proverbs 12:23 NIV)

What is a Fool? We are warned by Jesus that to say "You fool" to someone without regard is to incur God's judgement. It is pretty obvious that God takes this designation rather seriously. A Fool is a person who lives without regard to what is life, wisdom, righteousness, to God. They don't listen to advice from God, or others.

How can we live in a way that defies this behavior? The scripture is "the way" that points us to a wise life..that's it.

Peace

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wisdom...What is it?

Today's readings came from Proverbs 7, 8, 9.

The writer of Proverbs makes a number of statements that describe wisdom in it's various facets. Wisdom is like a beautiful jewel. It doesn't have a flat surface, or a front and back side. No, it is multi-faceted with each side reflecting some aspect of God's character. What is wisdom?

"The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10 NIV)

This fear aspect is not a cowering fear. A fear in which there is a dread of approaching because there is an assumption that He is stern, judgmental and harsh is not the fear of the Lord.

This fear is a based on awe, a sense of wonder, a respect of God that sets Him apart in mind and feeling above all other beings. What can we say of the character of God? He is not our "buddy", but He is our "Father". He is not tolerant of sin; but he knows that we are but "dust" - creatures who sin. He is not willing to overlook the evil; but he is faithful and just in all His ways. He is above our comprehension; but He makes himself known so that we might have a relationship with Him.

It is this notion that we can "know" him that makes wisdom possible. We can inquire of His ways. We can recognize that he delights in our prayers, however childish and selfish they may be - even as a parent loves His child.

Jesus said, "If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more does the Father know how to give His Spirit to us?" We don't come to the Lord "begging"; but rather we come with open hearts and hands to ask of our Father. It is "knowing" Him that we begin to learn...we begin to gain wisdom, we get knowledge, we learn to understand what life is all about.

Peace








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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Path of Wisdom

Today my readings came from Proverbs 4, 5, 6.

The passages in Proverbs today concern wisdom in several areas; but nothing can be more predominant in the text than the area of sexuality and wisdom. Whatever the area that wisdom touches, the fact is:

For your ways are in full view of the lord, and he examines all your paths. (Proverbs 5:21 NIV)

Our ways are before the Lord. It might be bothersome to think that for some, but it need not be. What God desires for our lives is the growth of wisdom. As a Father and Mother desire to see their child "grow up" so also our Father is patient and a teacher, in terms of growing up.

One of those areas to grow up in is in terms of our sexuality. The author in Proverbs makes it clear, our moral choices don't begin in the head, but in our souls...in our heart:
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

It is a matter of much more than sexual fidelity...as important as that is. In warning about committing adultery the author frames the issue:

"Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel..." (Proverbs 5: 7 - 9 NIV)

Two words that are meant to be embraced as goals in living - honor and dignity. There is a character in living that goes beyond self-gratification. To have honor and dignity are to live on a higher road than the self-debasing road of many today. Our media is replete with images and role-models of those without dignity, without honor. It would be wise to avoid this whenever we can. It would be wise to look at our lives from the standpoint that our ways are in full view of the Lord...but that's not a bother because my life is lived with the goal of being honorable and living with dignity.

Peace




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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wisdom

Today's readings are in Proverbs 1, 2, 3. The subject is "wisdom".

"Tune your ears to wisdom,
and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God." (Proverbs 2: 2 - 5 NLT)

One of my dictionaries describes wisdom as: "wisdom - the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight" The life of every believer in Jesus Christ is called to live in wisdom.

Where does it come from? The end of vs 5 says that it results in "gaining knowledge of God." He says to tune our ears to it...look for it in every place we find ourselves. "Where is the wise here?" If the answer is "there is none", then question whether that place is even where we should be. The author says "cry out for insight", "ask for understanding". Insight looks beyond the surface...sees into the circumstances and seeks to understand - "what is going on here?"
Insight
Understanding
Search
Seek
Wisdom!

Jesus said, "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE." How is he those things? How is he "THE WAY"? The writer of the Proverbs often uses the word "Path" to describe the Way. God's "ways" are not our ways...never have been, never will be. In God's ways there is wisdom about life, the world, the flesh, the devil. Tune to the wisdom of God and discover his ways...and recognize what the Proverbs writer challenges us to:

Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Peace
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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Praise

Today I finished reading the Psalms...from 145 - 150.

All of these Psalms that end the book of Psalms are songs of Praise. Tomorrow I'll gather with my church fellowship, and although our music is not professional in quality, still with voices raised we will sing praises to God.

Why? First of all, because God is worthy of praise.
Praise the Lord!
How good to sing praises to our God!
How delightful and how fitting! (Psalm 147:1 NLT)
He deserves praise for his character, his grace, his mercy and judgments. He is wisdom and strength...the God above all gods. There is no one in the universe that deserves praise except for God. All humans beings, myself among them, can be good people, filled with virtue, integrity and godly character; but we know that human beings can also fail and can show that they are not forever these good things...not so with God. He is worthy of praise because these attributes are with him at all times, and in all places.

Secondly, we praise because it is good for our souls. We live with a hunger deep within us to recognize that there is more to life than what we know. The soul within us needs the food of praise, even as our bodies need earthly food. It is good to praise the Lord says the Psalmist.
"The Lord helps the fallen
and lifts those bent beneath their loads. (Psalm 145:14 NLT)

Thirdly, because it is good for us to do it together as a way of confessing our faith mutually in the one true God that holds us in fellowship. The great need of our day is not professional music, polished speakers, dynamic churches; but the great need is to know God in one another...to see that in Him we have an anchor for our souls, and a foundation for our lives together.

It is good to Praise the Lord.

Peace


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quiet Trust

The Psalms today are from 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132. These continue to be the Psalms of Ascent...the pilgrimage journeying Psalms of the believer who heads through life with a deep desire to discover God. In these Psalms is this short, but meditatively amazing thought.

"Lord, my heart is not proud;

my eyes are not haughty.

I don’t concern myself with matters too great

or too awesome for me to grasp.

Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,

like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.

Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

OIsrael, put your hope in the Lord—

now and always." (Psalm 131:1 - 3 NLT)

I love the imagery the Psalmist portrays. If it were possible to put our lives in such a state. It would be "wonder full" to find the soul in such a condition. To have a quiet trust that surpasses the stresses and busyness of life, the struggles and the difficulties; as well as the euphoric highs of everything is good.

I want this as much as anything in life.

Peace


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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mountains of Security?

Today I began reading the Psalms of Ascent. They are the Psalms numbered 120 - 133. Why Psalms of Ascent? Because as faithful Jews returned to Jerusalem for the various festivals every year, they had to "walk up" to Jerusalem...no matter what the direction they came from. The "ascended" to the city where the Temple stood and made their pilgrimage in stages.
So, these Psalms marked their progress. Little by little as they walked along they prepared their hearts and souls for the reason they were going to Jerusalem. It was here that they would meet with God...offer their sacrifices...worship and pray...even though they did all of those things in their hometowns anyway. Jerusalem was the treasured city, the holy city, the city of David, the city of God.

One of the early Psalms, 121 says so beautifully:

"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?" (Psalm 121:1 NASB)

The mountains in Israel became a stumbling block to many Jews. It was on the mountain tops that altars were set up in hopes of currying favor with one of the many pagan so called gods. Baal, Ashtoreh, Ishtar, Molech, Rimmon, Ramman, to name a few. Most of these "gods" were worshipped for what they provided: rain, crops, sunlight, etc...and the temptation was always present for a Jew to "incorporate" a local god alongside of their belief in Yahweh. In some cases, apostasy set in and the "god" became more real to them than Yahweh himself.

To the Israelites God had spoken so clearly:

"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before Me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20: 2-4 NASB)

But, on mountain tops across all of Israel altars of incense, sacrifice and worship appeared. The Psalmist doesn't hide it, he acknowledges the fact:

"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come? (Psalm 121:1 NASB)

It was a question...one in which the faithful who refused the temptation of idolatry asked out loud.

"Is my help from the mountain...the gods...the gods who some claimed to be God?"
Is my help in prosperity?
Is my help in politics?
Is my help in my addictions?
Is my help in what I can control?

The answer is always "NO". The Psalmist answers in vs 2:

"My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:2 NASB)

It is a worshipful, good reminder to us, that God alone is what we need. There is no substitute in life...all other "gods" are not really God.

If you have a chance read through a few of these Psalms today. They draw us towards truth in who God is and what are faith in him means for us everyday of our lives.

Peace

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Psalms for Life

Today my readings came from Psalms 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95

These Psalms are full of promises, wisdom, life "stuff". I'll call them Psalms for life. In other words, they speak for themselves...there's very little need to clarify, explain, dissect for understanding. For example here's a tour. If nothing else, meditate on these verses today:

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 NLT)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1 NLT)

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening, (Psalm 92:1,2 NLT)

The Lord is king! He is robed in majesty.
Indeed, the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength.
The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. (Psalm 93:1 NLT)

But the Lord is my fortress;
my God is the mighty rock where I hide. (Psalm 94:22 NLT)

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
a great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:1-3 NLT)

Just from these, the reality is that our lives are short, and God is not limited by anything. We worship and give praise because of who he is. He is faithful, the King, our fortress, the great God above all other "gods".

Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, (Psalm 95:6 NLT)

Peace

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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Paradox of faith

Today's reading is from the Psalms: 86, 87, 88, 89

As I read these Psalms this verse stood out to me:
"You are their glorious strength.
It pleases you to make us strong." (Psalm 89:17 NLT)

I looked at that verse and thought about it a lot. You see the Psalm before this one is probably the darkest of all the Psalms. I dare say one would not read Psalm 88 as an encouraging reading. It is full of despair, hopelessness, anger, and questions. Then in turning to Psalm 89, the light comes on, the darkness flees, and hope is returned.

That is "paradox". Contradictory truths. Both are true. Both reflect reality. The problem comes when we can't see both. Our faith is not a matter of God doing what we want, but of our seeking to understand what God wants. It is he who is our "glorious strength". In my weakness - of which there is much - God shows himself to be strong. He can/does make me strong, but I need to appropriate that strength, or forfeit it to despair.

I have lived in despair. It is Psalm 88 all over again. I felt the loneliness, the anger, the sense of distance from God and all hope. It seemed to go on forever, but it didn't. In the midst of Psalm 88 I wondered "why God"? It is our pre-disposition to believe that God is responsible for our problems, our sickness, our financial mess, our disease, our job/career issues...but why do we believe that? What makes us want to hold God responsible for a world that is corrupted by sin, especially since he is the one actively working to bring about redemption?
Let's stop the next time when we are in a Psalm 88 time and realize that in time, Psalm 89 comes to past. The paradox of our faith is real.

Peace
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Finding Purpose

Today's readings were from Psalms: 68, 69, 70, 71

I'm continuing to read through the scriptures in a year. This is a practice I've been attempting to do for close to 30 years. I don't always make it through in entirety. I've had years where I've missed days and therefore missed sections. I've always found it hard to read through the Prophets simply because they are so despairing. But now I'm in the Psalms and it is a joy and delight to be there.

For example, today I ran across this verse that only in recent years has meant so much to me.

"Now that I am old and gray,
do not abandon me, O God.
Let me proclaim your power to this new generation,
your mighty miracles to all who come after me. (Psalm 71:18 NLT)

It's a prayer that I can pray. It's been a privilege of mine for the last ten years to see much of that seemingly come to past. I love teaching God's word...my prayer is that I will first live it out myself!

But I believe God's word to be truth. I don't simply mean that I believe it "contains" truth - that I find many are willing to say. What I mean is that it is the source of all truth - the fountain of wisdom that defines truth, life, meaning and purpose. Without the word of God we are left to define truth according to our own standards, and we have seen what mankind is capable of doing when left to their own "wisdom".

I'm also continuing to read the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It was during the Nazi era that Bonhoeffer served the church in Germany. He saw the Nazi political machine and the ideologies that drove it, and he also saw and heard the propaganda that attempted to tie Christian (institutionally) with the Nazi movement. He stood up in opposition precisely because he knew the word of God. Without the word of God he would have merely been a religious or political dissenter...an opponent. Because he based his opposition on the gospel, and the word of God, he served as Prophet to his country...to the church in Germany, and around the world.

Here is our call. We are Kingdom people...armed with the word of God...it is the source of all truth. It is in our Kingdom identity that we find meaning and purpose. It is here that we discover all that God has to say...both to us and to the people around us. Let him first say it to us, and let us make it our own, and then let us be bold and courageous should we need to say it prophetically to others.

Peace

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