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Sunday, June 7, 2020

More Wisdom from Proverbs

More Wisdom from Proverbs
God’s Spirit speaks through the book of Proverbs in Old Testament times with more wisdom for His people. The main point of the book of Proverbs is that wisdom apart from God is impossible Our God is a faithful and merciful God.  A God of unfailing love and a God of justice. A God who can do no wrong. And a God who calls us, His children, to be like our heavenly Father, and be merciful, loving and faithful.   
 One of God’s promises in the book of Proverbs is that He will provide and lead and protect us through life if we are willing.  He promises us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  And lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6) And another promise in the book of Proverbs says: “A person’s heart plans his or her way, but the Lord directs her or his steps.”  (Proverbs 16:9)
Also, “The preparations of the heart belong to humans, But the answer is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:1) It is exciting to realize that we don’t have to run our own lives all by ourselves. But we can come under the protection and guidance of our loving heavenly Father if we trust Him and try to obey Him.
In the book of Proverbs, Solomon lists seven things that our heavenly Father hates:  God hates the proud. (We Christians are to be humble.)  And God hates violence. People who shed innocent blood.  Our heavenly Father hates it when people stir up trouble and anger between family members.  And He hates it when people think up wicked plans or give a false witness about another person, getting them into trouble. (Proverbs 6:16-19) A whole chapter in Proverbs is given to warning humans of the perils of adultery.  Perils for the person who cheats on his/her marriage.
The Holy Spirit is not mentioned directly in the book of Proverbs, but the person named “Wisdom” is mentioned over and over again throughout the book.  The “Wisdom” in Proverbs becomes a Person calling out to each of us to take her in.  To let her lead us. Bible scholars believe that this Person named “Wisdom” in Proverbs is really the Holy Spirit, ((Proverbs 1:23)   The Holy Spirit in the New Testament is given to us when we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord and He will help and teach us to follow the  “wisdom” of Proverbs, and He will give us the strength to do it.
All through the book of Proverbs, wisdom is contrasted against folly.  Proverbs teaches that there are just two paths in life and humans must choose one of the two.  The book of Proverbs contrasts the good path of “Wisdom” against the evil path of folly.   Wisdom is many things.  Wisdom is righteousness. and Wisdom is life.  It is justice and honor and truth and industry.  Wisdom is fidelity and love and peace.
Humans can choose the path of righteousness or the path of evil. The path of Life or the path of death. Honor or dishonor.  Truth or falsehood. Love or hate.  Fidelity or adultery.  Peace or violence.  Industry or laziness. “Wisdom” travels up and down the highways and byways of this earth calling out to humans to take the right path – the path of wisdom.
Much of the book of Proverbs is taken up with warnings for us to stay away from the sins that will destroy us and begging us to follow the things that will lead to the good life. Here are some of my favorite verses in Proverbs.
“The memory of the righteous is blessed.  But the name of the wicked will rot.”  (Proverbs 10:7) 
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers a multitude of sins” (Proverbs 10:12) 
“The blessings of the Lord makes one rich.  And He adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)
“When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked are no more.  But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.”  (Proverbs 10:25)
“The righteous will never be removed. But the wicked will not inhabit the earth.” (Proverbs 10:30)
A righteous person regards the life of his/her animal.  But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)
“The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish woman pulls it down with her hands.”  (Proverbs 14:1) 
“There is a way that seems right to a person, but it’s end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) 
“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, Than a fatted calf with hatred.”  (Proverbs 15:17)
“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence.  And His children will have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26) 
“Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues of monies without justice.” (Proverbs 16:8) 
“Pride goes before destruction.  And a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
And my favorite: “In mercy and truth atonement and forgiveness is provided for sins:  And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.”  (Proverbs 16:6)    












Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wisdom from the Book of Proverbs

Wisdom from the Book of Proverbs
The book of Proverbs in the Bible was written over a period of 200 years by Solomon and also perhaps Hezekiah and several other prophets from approximately 950 B.C to 750 B.C..  The main theme of Proverbs is this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  (Proverbs 9:10) And also that God’s wisdom is the most valuable thing we can strive to obtain.
 The book gives many examples to prove these truths: (1) That wisdom is the most valuable of assets.  (2) that wisdom is available to anyone, but the price is high.  (3) That wisdom comes from God, not ourselves, and comes by attention to God’s instruction.  (4) That wisdom and righteousness go together. That wisdom apart from God is impossible. (5) That evil people suffer the consequences of their evil deeds. (6) And that the simple, the fool, the lazy, the ignorant, the immoral, the proud and the sinful are never to be admired.
Right away in the first chapter of Proverbs we are told how God will punish violent persons.  Let’s listen: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.  If they say, ‘Come with us.  Let us lie in wait to shed blood: Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause:……. We shall find all kinds of precious possessions.  We shall fill our houses with spoil:  Cast in your lot among us.  Let us all have one purse.” 1:10,11,13-14)
 “ My son do not walk in the way with them.  Keep your foot from their path: for their feet run to evil.  …Surely in vain the net is spread In the sight of any bird:  But they lie in wait for their own blood.  They lurk secretly for their own lives.  So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain: Greed takes away the life of its owners.”  ( (Proverbs 1:15-19)
Another proverb turns “Wisdom” into a person – a woman calling out to each person on earth, begging them to take her wisdom.  And promising those who do, protection and preservation. Here is the call to Wisdom:  “Wisdom calls aloud outside.  She raises her voice in the open squares.  She cries out in the chief concourses, At the openings of the gates in the city.  She speaks her words: ‘How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?  For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge.  Turn at my rebuke, for surely, I will pour out My Spirit on you.  I will make my Word known to you.” (Proverbs 1: 20-23)
Sadly, as “Wisdom” goes about calling out to each one, many do not listen.  She has so much to give to anyone who will receive. She is deeply grieved and describes what will happen to those who refuse God’s knowledge and wisdom: “Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own ways.  And be filled to the full with their own fancies.  For the turning away of the simple will slay them.  And the complacency of fools will destroy them.”  (Proverbs 1:31-32)
Wisdom tells the one who want wisdom what it will do for them.  She says that discretion will preserve you.  And understanding will keep you. And deliver you from the ways of evil. And from the person who speaks perverse things.  (Proverbs 2:11-12) God’s wisdom will keep you from walking in the ways of darkness (verse 13b) And this wisdom will also keep you from the sexually immoral person, whose house lead down to death. (verse 16 and 18)      
And then this woman named Wisdom also describes the reward that will be given to those who received her Words and treasure God’s commands. “But whoever listens to me “to Wisdom” will dwell safely.  And will be secure, without fear of evil.  They will find the knowledge of God, because the Lord gives wisdom:  From His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.  He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.  God is a shield to those who walk uprightly:  He guards the paths of justice and preserves the way of His saints.”  (Proverbs 1:33,2:6-8)  
 There are warnings to the person who is lazy.  The person who hates to work is told to see how hard an ant works to gather food for the winter.  If he or she refuses to work “poverty will come on you like a prowler, and you will be in need.”  (Proverbs 6:11) 
And to the wicked person there are more warnings. “The one who walks with a perverse mouth. …   He devises evil continually.  He sows discord.  Therefore, his calamity shall come suddenly:  Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.”  (Proverbs 6:12b, 14b-15)
And wisdom has this to say to the adulterer: “Whoever commits adultery lacks understanding.  He or she who does so destroys their own soul.  Wounds and dishonor, he/she will get and their reproach will not be wiped away. “(Proverbs 6:32-33)
Scriptures in Proverbs tell us that evil actions can become addictive. That evil persons are literally addicted to doing their crimes again and again. - Proverbs 4:14 and 16-17.  The thief must steal again and again, and the violent person must continue hurting more and more people. – or the same person over and over again. Very frightening! Let us read: “Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not walk in the way of evil. … For those who enter this path do not sleep unless they have done more evil: and their sleep is taken away from them unless they make someone fall.  For they eat the bread of wickedness.  And they drink the wine of violence.” (Proverbs 4:14, 16 -17)  
There are more promises to those who run after wisdom and more warnings for those who run after evil.  “For the upright will dwell in the land.  And the blameless will remain in it.  But the wicked will be cut off from the earth, and the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.”  (Proverbs 2:21-22)
“But the path of the just is like the shining sun.  that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.  But the way of the wicked is like darkness:  They do not know what makes them stumble.”  (Proverbs 4:18-19)  
It seems that the book of Proverbs is telling us that we have a choice between good and evil.  There seems to be no middle ground.  Even Jesus said: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and He who does not gather with Me,  scatters” ( Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23)  Which will it be?




Sunday, May 17, 2020

Strengthening Yourself in the Lord

Strengthening Yourself in the Lord
Scripture says: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”  (Proverbs 4:23) Most of us try to take care of our bodies. But do we – do you - take care of your heart?  By heart –we mean the part of you that is “you”.  Your soul – your mind, emotions and will?   You are a spiritual being as well as a physical being.  And taking care of your heart – which is another word for your soul- is all important.  Scripture says: “from your soul flows the springs of life”.  (Proverbs 4:23) 
As Christians, taking care of our hearts means learning to receive our comfort and strength from God. Trusting and obeying God. Meditating on God’s Word, the Bible. Living a life of thankfulness and praise to God. And building our lives on the solid Rock. (which is Jesus Christ)
To strengthen our faith in God and to take care of our heart we can start by: (1) Pursuing God with all our hearts.  Cry out to God and pursue His will for ourselves and others.  Fast and pray. (Mark 9:14-29) Ask God for more faith and more love. For more of His Spirit. Scripture says: “He who comes to God in prayer must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  (Hebrews 11:6) Faith pursues God and believes that God rewards those who come to Him.  Scripture says: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”  (1 John 5:14)
 Jacob wrestled all night with God and told God that he would not let God go until God blessed him. God blessed him and changed his name from “Jacob” to “Israel” which means: (You have wrestled with God and have prevailed).  (Genesis 26: 24-29) God was very pleased that Jacob ran after Him and would not let Him go.  In order to strengthen ourselves in the Lord we must be more like Jacob and pursue God with all our hearts!
The second thing we can do to watch over our hearts and strengthen ourselves in the Lord is this: (2) Study the Bible and meditate on God’s Word.  Let God speak to you through His Word.  Do not feed your soul junk food or even worse do not feed on Satan’s lies, hatreds, heresies and poisons. Get a good concordance and go to a Bible believing church.  Fellowship with other believers.  Stand on the promises of your faithful God. All through Scripture God has given His children wonderful promises.  He promises us His peace so let us take it and hold onto it. God’s Word is food for your soul, and you cannot be joyful and strong in the Lord if you do not feed on His Word. 
The third thing we can do in taking care of our heart is this: (3) Obey God and obey His Word. Live a life of obedience to God.  Remember that God is good.  The goodness of God is the cornerstone of our faith. Everything God does is good and loving, joyful and merciful.  Scripture says that He can do no evil. He is a righteous Judge.  His commandments and laws are just. They are there to lead us in the ways of eternal life.
Confess your sins and ask for His forgiveness, which He promises to give. If you have bitterness, hatred or unforgiveness in your heart, confess it and give it to God.  He will take care of it.  Your soul will not prosper if you carry around unforgiveness or bitterness or hatred.  Also, Jesus calls us to have a servant’s heart.  He will give us joy as we serve others. Followers of Christ are to be humble.  Scripture says: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16;18)   
 If there is a commandment in Scripture that you are disobeying, confess it to God and turn from it.  Honor your parents.  Do not steal from others or take advantage of others or be greedy or bear false witness against others.  Do not covet what others have. And do not commit adultery.  Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.  Live a life of love to God and to other humans. Do not take God’s Name in vain.  Set aside time to rest and worship God.  And do not kill another person.  Human life is sacred. God calls on us to trust Him. Ask Him to help you trust Him more. Ask Him to guide your steps and listen for His leading.
The fourth thing we can do to build ourselves up in God is: (4) Be thankful to Him. Scripture tells us to give God thanks in every situation.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)   Live a life of praise and thanksgiving. Rejoice in the Lord always!  Live in the romance of a loving and good and faithful God.  Scripture says that God lives in the praises of His people.  Spend time praising God. Give Him your heart in worship.  Scripture says: “Therefore, they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, Streaming in to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat and new wine and oil, for the young of the flock and the herd:  Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,” (Jeremiah 31:12)  Is your soul a “well-watered garden”?
The fifth thing we can do to take care of our souls is: (5) Feed our hearts on what God is doing.  Do not stumble over what He does not seem to be doing.  And do not dwell on your disappointments, or on the people that tried or are trying to hurt you. Scripture instructs us to fill our minds with the helpful people in our lives, the beauty of creation, and all the good things around us. (James 1:17) And, to remember that God is the source of everything good.  Scripture says: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father…” (Philippians 4:8)
The sixth thing is: (6) Learn to trust God and live with the unexplainable.  That doesn’t mean that you don’t try to find explanations.  But give up your right to understand everything that happens that doesn’t seem to make sense. Learn to trust God with the unexplainable.
 We read in the Bible (in the book of Job)  where Job, a good man of God, struggled to understand why God would allow him to lose all of his children and all of his wealth and covered him with boils when he had been such a good man and had tried to serve God.  Job insisted that God should come and give an answer to him.  God was the defendant and he was the prosecutor!  Do we ever do that with God?
 So, God showed up and assured Job that his terrible loses did not happen to him because he wasn’t a good and faithful man.  That there were realms in the universe that he, Job, could not understand.  And that the God who knows everything and has all power and who created the world and makes it all work together, could also be trusted to take care of us, even when it doesn’t look like He is taking care of us.  That we don’t see the whole picture and still we are called to trust God.  Job fell on his face and worshipped God and promised that even if God killed him, he would trust Him.  God blessed Job and healed his boils and gave him more children and gave him back twice the wealth that he had had before.
And last but not least, to build up our hearts, we need to: (7) Do good deeds. Be good stewards of our time and money.  Help the poor. Pray for others and share the gospel. Take care of our family and be faithful to our spouse.  Ask God to lead you.  When Jesus comes again to judge the world and when He divides the sheep from the goats, the sheep are the ones who fed the hungry and who took care of the sick. (Matthew 25:35-40).  Jesus tells them that when they fed the hungry it was the same as feeding Him. And when they helped others it was the same as helping Him. While we are on this earth let’s  be Jesus’ sheep and help others.
Scripture says that Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches. (John 15:51) We get all of our strength from Him.  We can do nothing without Him. Let’s go out and walk in His Ways and His Holy Spirit will go with us to guide us Then our souls will be like well- watered gardens. 

I took much of this blog from Bill Johnson and Randy Clark’s book “The Essential Guide to Healing”  .