Friday, November 30, 2012

Proverbs 3:5-6 One to Memorize!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;  
in all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV 1984)

We’ve come to two verses that were among the first I committed to memory 36 years ago, when I first became a Christian. I love that I don’t have to figure everything out myself. God is so much bigger than I am; His ways are so beyond what my puny brain can grasp. So, I’m so grateful for this promise that if I just trust in Him, I can be assured that He WILL guide me and keep my path straight! The Amplified Bible expands on the idea of trusting God:

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. (Amplified Bible)

We can be confident in God when we know what His character is. This is why studying His Word is so crucial. It reveals just who God was, is, and forever will be. Just thinking about some of His attributes demonstrates that He can be completely trust and relied upon. He is the sovereign, Almighty Creator of the universe; He is self-existent, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent. He is good, loving, faithful, compassionate, merciful, patient, and a righteous judge. He is holy, unchanging, and full of Truth.

And what does He promise to be to me? My rock, my Savior, my redeemer, my joy, my Shepherd, my peace, my hiding place, my defense, my refuge, my healer, my victory, my sanctifier, and my Abba Father. He is the Alpha and Omega, so He meets all my needs from A-Z.

Can I trust this God? Of course I can! He always has my best interests at heart! How do I show my trust? I LET GO of all of those things, people, and situations that I am trying to control, and I give them over to Him! I stop trying to manipulate answers to my prayers and trust that He knows what to do better than I do.

I want to share with you a portion of Beth Moore’s study in James. She writes about our need to give up our desire to demand our own will and to submit to God’s will. She presents the following arguments for submission:

  • God knows everything about you and every matter concerning you. Nothing is hidden from His sight. So submit to God. 
  • He is always looking out for your ultimate good and takes your hurts personally. So submit to God. 
  • He is holy and worthy and incapable of abusing His divine authority over you. So submit to God. 
  • He knows when your motive was right but your mouth messed up. So submit to God. 
  • He knows exactly how to work terrible into good. So submit to God. 
  • He loves you completely and unconditionally and will never let you go. So submit to God. 
  • He knows the well-deliberated plan for your life and how all things must fall into place for you to fulfill your destiny. So submit to God. 
  • He will never put to shame those who trust in Him. So submit to God. 
The Devil is trying to steal from you and destroy you and make it look like it was all your idea. So, Girlfriend, submit to God. (Moore,  James: Mercy Triumphs, P. 143)

I’m so grateful that my God is trustworthy! When I can’t figure it out, I know He already has it handled. I just need to trust and rest and then watch the God of the universe do His thing! Let go and let God. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Proverbs 3:1-4 A Balancing Act

This week in the Bible study I’m involved with at my church (Beth Moore’s study of James), we were talking about submitting to God. Our teaching leader talked about the many verses in the Bible that tell us to submit to our governing leaders, our bosses (masters), to our husbands, to each other as Christians, and, of course, to God. She pointed out that the Bible has no verses that explicitly tell children to submit to their parents. Instead they are exhorted to OBEY. Because submission requires an act of the will based on reasoning, children are not really capable of making this decision, so the Bible basically says, “Do what your parents tell you to do!” It’s an acknowledgement of their need to be protected from themselves.

And the problem really becomes full blown during the teen years, when children are moving from childhood to adulthood, when they are in a position to make all kinds of mistakes and they are in a non-listening mode! Teenagers, even the best of them, are convinced that their parents are totally STUPID! How many times have you thought about your teenager, “If she would just listen to me! I’ve been where she is, and I just want to keep her from making the same dumb mistakes I’ve made!” This seems to be where Solomon is as he continues to plead with a son to seek and cherish wisdom:

My son, do not forget my teaching,

    but keep my commands in your heart,  
for they will prolong your life many years

    and bring you prosperity.  

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;

    bind them around your neck,

    write them on the tablet of your heart.  
Then you will win favor and a good name

    in the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3:1-4) 

Solomon seems to be saying, “Son, just listen to me! Pay attention to what I’m teaching you. If you just cling to God’s Word, you will have a longer and happier life! God’s commandments aren’t meant to imprison you, but to actually set you free from sin’s entrapments and bondage. I want to help you avoid the pitfalls!”

After reading Jon Courson’s Old Testament Commentary, Volume 2, I did a bit of a word study this morning on the words in verse 3, love and faithfulness (NIV 1984), which are translated as mercy and truth in the King James Version. The Orthodox Jewish Bible shows the words as chesed, meaning kindness, and emes, which means truth. And these meanings seem to confirm what Courson has to say about verses 3 and 4. Courson says that the verses are telling us that we need to keep a proper balance of mercy and truth when dealing with people. It is important to show mercy and love to those trapped in sin, but we never shy away from also giving them the truth.

Courson uses the example of Jesus’ confrontation with the woman at the well in John 4. He treated her with dignity, gentleness, mercy, and love, but He honed in on her sin when He specifically called her out for having had five previous husbands and then living at that time with a man outside of marriage. Mercy and truth, kindness and truth, love and faithfulness to the truth must be balanced. This is wisdom! Solomon tells us to bind them around our necks and write them on the tablets of our hearts. Don’t forget them!

The promise? If we will keep God’s commands in our hearts, and deal with others in mercy and truth, then we will find favor with both God and man. I’m seeing every day at work how I must balance this attitude of mercy and truth, not just with my fourth graders, but with my coworkers. This is the only way I can possibly be a light. It’s one of the keys to my gaining Wisdom. I LOVE this book!  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Proverbs 2:12-22 Choose the Right Path!

Solomon finishes this second chapter of Proverbs telling us how Wisdom will keep us on God’s path and away from the path of destruction:

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,

    from men whose words are perverse,  
who leave the straight paths

    to walk in dark ways, 
who delight in doing wrong

    and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,  
whose paths are crooked

    and who are devious in their ways. (Proverbs 2:12-15)

We live in a world that is constantly pulling us in the wrong direction. We are bombarded with messages in the media that seek to reframe our world view. Resisting the world’s path takes intentional determination, because it so often seems like the right way - it’s alluring - offering pleasure and happiness. It takes wisdom to discern which path is God’s.

Solomon says that Wisdom will also protect us from being unfaithful, not only to a spouse, but to God:

It will save you also from the adulteress,

    from the wayward wife with her seductive words, 
who has left the partner of her youth

    and ignored the covenant she made before God.  
For her house leads down to death

    and her paths to the spirits of the dead. 
None who go to her return

    or attain the paths of life. (vs.16-19)

Look at the danger of following the adulteress: her house leads to death! Those who have been touched by adultery, participated in it, or lost a marriage to it know that, while there can be redemption and grace following repentance, the damages are nonetheless far-reaching. And yet, the world makes it seem so attractive! It’s a staple of movies, books, and television. And the lure is so subtle. It can start out as just a friendship at work, that leads to playful flirtation. But if you are not steeped in God’s Wisdom, His Word, you will miss the flashing warning lights and fall off the cliff!

In his epistle, James tells us there are two kinds of wisdom: worldly wisdom and wisdom from heaven. Worldly wisdom leads to selfish ambition and bitter envy. It is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic, and it leads to chaos. Contrast that to heavenly wisdom:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

Hmmm... DEATH or PEACE? Which one do you want? Stick with God’s Word, and you will find His Wisdom!  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Proverbs 2:6-11 We Ask, God Answers!

I’ve been enjoying having the week of Thanksgiving off, but it is back to work this morning! I wanted to let you know that my husband, Don, had the mole removed and the pathology report showed that the mole, though still a surface (and not nodular) type, was deeper than they originally thought, but still in the margin of surface. They are sending the results to the cancer committee that meets at the hospital this Friday to decide whether or not anything further needs to be done (most likely not, since they seem to have removed all of it with good margins). So, we are thanking God for early detection! I’ll let you know what the final word is after Friday.

When we last looked at this chapter of Proverbs, we saw that when we diligently seek after God’s wisdom, we will find it. In today’s verses we look at the God who promises us understanding/wisdom and why we should desire this gift:

For the Lord gives wisdom,
    and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  
He holds victory in store for the upright,

    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,  
for he guards the course of the just

    and protects the way of his faithful ones. 

Then you will understand what is right and just

    and fair—every good path. 
For wisdom will enter your heart,

    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 
Discretion will protect you,

    and understanding will guard you. (Proverbs 2:6-11)

Look at how God desires to protect us! He promises us victory. He is our shield, and He guards our way. His goal is to preserve us and keep us safely in His will. This is why He freely gives wisdom to all who ask and believe (James 1:5). He WANTS us to have wisdom! We know, then, that when we ask for it, He will deliver!

And the payoff? Wisdom, knowledge, discretion, and understanding will keep us on the right path. We will be protected from the assaults of the world, because we will KNOW God’s ways and His will. 

God longs for us to have wisdom, but He waits for us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-8). He wants us to be persistent in seeking wisdom - not because He wants us to beg, but because He knows that the continual act of asking, seeking, and knocking builds our desire and our appreciation for the gift.

My goal in turning to the Proverbs is to garner as much wisdom as I can, because the older I get, the more I realize how very much I need it! Thanks for coming along, because I need the company to encourage me to keep on keepin’ on!  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Proverbs 2:1-5 Start Searching!

Jon Courson points out that in chapter 1 of Proverbs, Wisdom cries out to be heard (vs.20), while in chapter 2, Solomon tells us that we are to cry out for understanding. We must feel the urgency to understand, and desire wisdom so much, that we are willing to work for it. And there’s a promise that we’ll find it if we genuinely seek it:

My son, if you accept my words

    and store up my commands within you,  
turning your ear to wisdom

    and applying your heart to understanding,  
and if you call out for insight

    and cry aloud for understanding,  
and if you look for it as for silver

    and search for it as for hidden treasure, 
then you will understand the fear of the Lord

    and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5) 

Look at all of the active verbs that indicate effort there! Store up, turning your ear, applying your heart, call out, cry aloud, look, search. These require intentional action and a passion. They speak of a hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6). Solomon is saying that we need to work to the point of sweating to find the treasure in God’s Word. It won’t come easily. It requires daily searching His Word for wisdom, praying for it, digging in like a miner searching for precious minerals and jewels.

Don’t you find that sometimes it takes a crisis to motivate us to truly grab a hold of God’s Word in search of answers? Solomon says we should not wait for trouble - dig in NOW. Then we will find ourselves armed for whatever comes our way. In fact, that is the guarantee of verse 5: then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 

As a teacher I see evidence every day that those who persevere to understand new concepts truly own them after their efforts. This is our promise. If we put in the effort, apply ourselves to searching through God’s Word so that we might claim it as our own, THEN we WILL find wisdom. Jon Courson says that we will know we’ve found it when we fear the LORD, when we have humbled ourselves before Him, because we finally understand who He is and who we are before Him.

Next time we will look at the wealth contained in this promise!  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Praise and Proverbs1:20-33

I have an amazing praise this morning! Karen posted that her daughter, Kristen, was released from the hospital yesterday, one day after she donated her kidney! And Karen is doing very well, and will probably go home this weekend! She is praising God for answered prayers. She has felt surrounded by the prayers of many, including all of you! What a miracle! Please continue to pray for her as she heals and as her body accepts this new kidney.

My sister, Jodi, is back home after a hard time in the hospital. She is weak, so please pray for her body to regain strength and for her spirit to be encouraged.

Today’s verses issue another stern warning - this one for rejecting wisdom, which is personified as a woman. She cries out a warning to fools and mockers who refuse to accept her:

“How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?

    How long will mockers delight in mockery

    and fools hate knowledge?  
If you had responded to my rebuke,

    I would have poured out my heart to you

    and made my thoughts known to you.  
But since you rejected me when I called

    and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,  
since you ignored all my advice

    and would not accept my rebuke,  
I in turn will laugh at your disaster;

    I will mock when calamity overtakes you—  
when calamity overtakes you like a storm,

    when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,

    when distress and trouble overwhelm you. (Proverbs 1:22-27)

 It seems to me that mockers of God are getting bolder. The media and entertainment industry love to make fun of God and those who believe in Him. They consider those who seek wisdom from the Bible as fools and judgmental bigots (now, maybe some actually act that way, so it may have something to do with the way we present the gospel). Nevertheless, they spurn any quote of scripture.

Proverbs calls these people fools. They will one day be overtaken by disaster and will then seek Wisdom, but she will not be found:

“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;

    they will look for me but will not find me.  
Since they hated knowledge

    and did not choose to fear the Lord,  
since they would not accept my advice

    and spurned my rebuke,  
they will eat the fruit of their ways

    and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. (vs.28-31)

There is a time limit on God’s offer of salvation. There will come a time, if we harden our hearts, when He will not be found. We don’t know when our end will come. We can’t wait, hoping to pursue our own will and carry on until we are old, then turn to God. For He may take us in an instant! We need to choose Him, to choose His Wisdom NOW! Only a fool rejects His offer.

Wow! These are powerful words to start us off in Proverbs. Solomon is saying, “Pay attention! This is important stuff!” I’m excited to see what is coming for us!  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Proverbs 1:8-19 Warning! Trap Ahead!

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction

    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 
They will be a garland to grace your head

    and a chain to adorn your neck. (Proverbs 1:8,9)

Now, don’t you wish our children would just listen to us? Why is it that children resist the instruction of Mom and Dad? We have so much wisdom to share, and they don’t seem to want it! :) We know what traps lie ahead of them, but they would rather ignore the blinking lights and find out for themselves the hard way! Hmmm... How many times have we ignored God’s warnings to us or even sought His wisdom before charging ahead???

The first warning that Solomon gives as parental wisdom is to avoid the enticement of those who plot evil:

My son, if sinners entice you,

    do not give in to them.  
If they say, “Come along with us;

    let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood,

    let’s waylay some harmless soul;  
let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,

    and whole... 
my son, do not go along with them,

    do not set foot on their paths;  
for their feet rush into sin,

    they are swift to shed blood... 
These men lie in wait for their own blood;

    they waylay only themselves! (vs.11-12,15-16, 18)

Now, most of us are not going to encounter people who try to involve us in a plan to actually murder or rob someone, but what is gossip if not murder or the robbery of someone’s reputation? Whether we actively participate or passively listen to gossip (even that which is framed as a “prayer request”), we have to bear the stamp of “guilty” on this one! Okay, we are only in the first chapter, and I’m already feeling the punch of God’s Word!

Notice that Solomon says here that those who do these things end up harming themselves - they will fall into the very trap they set for others. Have you been the victim of a vicious gossip campaign? Well, if you’ve ever been a junior high school girl, you certainly have been on both sides of this one! Unfortunately, it doesn’t end with junior high! It may not be as overt when we “mature,” but the ramifications are the same. Both the gossiper and the gossipee (making up a word here) are left battered and bruised. No wonder this is the first warning given!

The Bible tells us that this is not as much of a tongue issue as a heart issue, for “out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) This is why, before I ever even set a foot on the floor when I get up each morning I say with David, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)   It’s the guarding of our hearts that we need to worry about. If we aren’t thinking evil thoughts, evil won’t come out of our mouths!

Oh, help me, LORD!  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Immediate Prayer Needs!

Hello, dear friends! I am asking for prayers for my friend, Karen, who is having her kidney transplant this morning (Tuesday, 11/13/12) at UCLA. Her older daughter (and my former student), Kristen, is the donor, so we need to pray for both of them! Pray that God’s amazing peace will surround them, that the surgeons‘ hands will be skillful and sure, that the surgery and recovery will be miraculous, and that all of the personnel at the hospital will minister God’s love to them.

Continue to pray for my former student, Jacob, who just underwent his fourth round of chemo for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Pray that the tumor will be GONE when they perform the scans after Thanksgiving! Pray that Jacob, who turned 15 yesterday, will be strengthened and completely healed. Pray for his family, especially his mom, as they go through all of this with him.

Please pray that my sister Jodi will regain 100% of her strength. She keeps facing a new wave of problems, just as she comes up for air after the last one! She was taken to the ER last night after a day of vomiting.  They admitted her and are giving her massive antibiotics for a urinary tract infection!  She should be coming home today, but I know she is exhausted!  She continues to suffer pain from the shingles!

Finally, my husband, Don, was told last Friday that a biopsy on a mole on his arm proved that it is melanoma. It appears to be in early stages and merely superficial, thankfully! We see the surgeon next Friday to determine what needs to be done. Thank you!!! Please let me know how I can be praying for you!  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Proverbs 1:7 Fear God!

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
 but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)

 Solomon also wrote this in Ecclesiastes:

Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body Now all has been heard;
 here is the conclusion of the matter:
 Fear God and keep his commandments,
 for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:12-13)

If we desire wisdom, it all has to start with reverence for our Almighty God and with an attitude of humility. As a Christian, fearing God is not actually being scared and running from Him. It’s an awareness of Who He is, of His power and His holiness that fills us with awe and makes us fall on our faces before Him. The fear of God makes us hate sin and desire to be more like Him.

I like how Solomon is constantly posing contrasts throughout this book. When I was a new Christian I had a friend who had studied the “buts” of the Bible. She had looked up the word “but” to see where God was making contrasts. Since she told me about it, I’ve circled the word in my Bible when I come to it. Here is the first one in Proverbs: but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Only fools thumb their noses at God and bristle under His discipline. The wise person desires to know His will and sees His discipline as the path to maturity and completeness.

Sometimes when we read God’s Word, we find something that really hits us between the eyes and makes us wince because it is so pointed in its judgment of our hearts. The wise man and woman, rather than turning away in anger, turn to God for instruction at such times, because they know that God only disciplines those whom He loves. Our Heavenly Father wants to make us better! Let’s make a pledge to welcome such discipline as we proceed through this book. It’s the only way we can become wiser!  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Provverbs 1:1-4 Give me wisdom, LORD!

If I ever needed wisdom, I need it now! So I am thrilled to know that when I ask for it, God is ready to pour it on:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

So, I’ve decided to delve into the book of wisdom, Proverbs. When Solomon became king, he asked the LORD for wisdom, and the LORD gave it abundantly! Solomon was known as the wisest man in the world. These sayings of Solomon, who wrote the majority of the book, are practical, for living life in the real world.

The book is meant to provide advice to young people. In fact, we’ll see that Solomon directed these words to his son. Jon Courson reminds us that the book was written before Solomon ”would forsake his own wisdom in an attempt to find satisfaction in partying, material possessions, women, and intellectualism – only to conclude it was all empty.”

So, because I’m still yearning to actually come to the point in my life where I could be considered “wise” (at 62 you’d think I’d be a little closer, wouldn’t you???), I’m diving in to see what I can glean from God’s Word!

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for attaining wisdom and discipline;
 for understanding words of insight;
for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
   doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to the simple,
 knowledge and discretion to the young— (Proverbs 1:1-4)

I don’t know about you, but I’m at a place where I really need to know what is the right, just, and fair thing TO DO! Sometimes I seem to know the right thing to SAY, but I’m desperate to know the right thing to DO! So, my ears are pricking up, and I’m going to apply myself to actively listening, then with God’s help, actually DOING what God says! Anyone else up for the challenge?  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Do not let your hearts be troubled...

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

I woke up at 2:30 this morning with these words in my head: "Do not let your heart be troubled…” I was never able to get back to sleep, because I kept thinking about those words and that no matter what my circumstances, no matter what assails me, I can be still and know that He is God. He is on His throne. He is sovereign, and there is nothing that comes my way that He has not allowed.

I’m currently studying James’ epistle, and I can heartily agree with his exhortation:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

God is in the process of completing us (Phil 1:6), and through the hardships, heartaches, betrayals, attacks, whatever we face, He is working FOR us, because He loves us! And if He is for us, who can be against us? Hallelujah!

I’m so thankful that He is on the throne, aren’t you?  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

John 21:23-25

Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple [John] would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:23-25)

As John’s gospel closes, he reminds us that, as an eyewitness of Jesus’ earthly ministry, John can verify the truth of what he has written down. And he assures us that he’s only included a small part of all that he saw. There is no way any book could contain all that Christ did! Here’s where we need to go back to the previous chapter to remember why John recorded what he did:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

I know I keep harping on this, but this is where we need to add the action of believing to the mental ascent. If we believe what we’ve read in this gospel, we need to put our faith into action. It needs to make a difference in who we are and who we want to become. It should show up in our behavior, and it should be evident to all who know us, live with us, and work with us.

What did Jesus tell us this would look like? He said that people would recognize His followers by their obedience to His Word (John 14). People would see that we abide in Christ, that He is the source of our strength, peace, and joy. They would see our love and devotion, not only to Christ, but to each other (John 15). We would be people identified by our complete and abundant joy (John 16), and by our unity in purpose as we seek to glorify the LORD (John 17). And to me this year, He has specifically told me through this study that I need be demonstrating forgiveness and reconciliation. This has not been a gentle prompting, but more like a glaring spotlight on my own need! There was nothing subtle about it!

And what is it that we are to believe? That Jesus is the very Word of God, the Creator. He is the living bread from heaven, the light of the world, the gate to salvation, the resurrection and the life, THE way, THE truth, and THE life. He is the Son of God and God the Son. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Now that just makes me want to shout “Hallelujah!”

We are finished with this book for now. But it has become such a dear source of wisdom and strength to me, I’ll be back here OFTEN! I’m not sure where I’ll be going next, but I’m open to suggestions. Please pray with me for guidance on where exactly the LORD would have me turn in His Word.

We live in such perilous and significant times. As we see the devastation on the East Coast from hurricane Sandy, and we look forward to the election next week, let’s all be in prayer for God’s hand to be on our nation, that we would humble ourselves and turn to Him, and that our leaders would be godly. Pray for those who have lost so much in the past 48 hours! And, of course, let’s do what we can, as God enables us, to actually provide for needs of those affected.

Thanks for joining me in John!