Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Proverbs 18:6-8 "Did you hear...?"

Today’s verses are ones that cause me to cringe because they speak of one of my personal areas of weakness, that I suspect might be an area for others:

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. (Proverbs 18:6-8 ESV)

Oh, my goodness!! Will we ever be able to control these tools of strife and hurt: our tongues??? Not completely this side of heaven! Just when you think you’ve made some growth, your mouth will send you to your knees! The first two verses are common themes of Proverbs, ones that I would be tempted to fly through. But that last verse stopped me cold!

The use of the word “whisperer” in the English Revised Version, sounds even more malicious to me than the New International Version word “gossip.” This isn’t the positive connotation of a “dog whisperer,” who calms and trains in good behaviors. This is the quiet, sneaky spreading of tales which surely come straight from the snake in the Garden!

Jon Courson says this about this verse: “If you’ve been wounded by gossip and rumor, you know this to be true. A tongue three inches long can destroy a man six feet tall.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament: Vol 2, P.233)

And the problem in Christian circles, as we know, is that these often come to us in the form of “prayer requests.” The fact that something is “true” does not mean that we need to “share” it! I would rather be blissfully unaware of any issues, rather than be given a piece of “news” that I shouldn’t know!! This verse compares these stories to “delicious morsels” that just slip down into our inner being. We feel compelled to share them! YIKES!

I don’t want to imply that we are helpless in this weakness. We know that God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9). We have been given the Holy Spirit to transform us and empower us. He is the guarantee that God is working in us and through us. But we need to confess this problem and ask for help! My awareness of this tongue problem causes me every single morning, before setting one foot on the floor to pray this with King David:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14 KJV)

LORD, help us to gag on these “morsels” until we no longer desire to partake in the spreading of whisperings!  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Proverbs 18:1-2 Don't be a lone ranger!

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;

    he breaks out against all sound judgment.  
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,

    but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:1-2)

We’ve noted before that Proverbs is filled with the theme of wisdom vs. foolishness. I decided to rest here today, because I like the particular way these two verses speak of this theme. There are people in this world who don’t enjoy the company of others. They would rather be alone for whatever reason. We have a neighbor across the street whom we have yet to meet in eleven years of living in this house. The rest of the neighborhood is very friendly, but this man has never acknowledged anyone on the street. In fact, when he pulls into his garage upon returning from work, he immediately closes the garage door while the car is still running. Frankly, I find it suspicious... :)

You don’t have to be that extreme to isolate yourself. You can stop going to church. You can make only superficial friendships, but go no deeper than greetings and small talk. Or you can just hide out in your home or cubicle at work all day. Some people, who actually suffer from agoraphobia, the fear of being in public places, can’t bring themselves to enter into the world. Some people just prefer their own company.

Proverbs says this person will not seek out wisdom, but will prefer his own opinions. This goes along with the second verse. The person who doesn’t seek wise counsel, will instead be led by his own heart or feelings over facts. And when we rely on our feelings for guidance, we are invariably led astray!

Our pastor has been stressing the importance of remembering that “the truest thing about you is what God says is true,” as he has led us through passage after passage that proclaims who we are in Christ. Yesterday he took us to Ephesians 1:3-14, in which Paul lists out the spiritual blessings that are ALREADY ours. He noted that there are many times when we don’t feel like we have these blessings - we don’t feel chosen by God, we don’t feel like we’ve been adopted as sons, we don’t feel like we’ve been forgiven, etc. But God’s Word says it is so. So what do we believe? Our feelings or God’s Word?

Satan loves to put seeds of doubt into our minds, and one of his favorites is that we have not been fully forgiven, and we think, “How could God forgive me of THAT?” Well, His Word tells me very clearly that ALL of my sins, past, present, and future were nailed to the cross, and it is FINISHED! I need to rely on His Word, not on how I’m feeling!

If you find yourself pulling away from the company of others, particularly of other believers, watch out. Take steps to get back into fellowship. We need each other! We need the accountability and the wisdom of godly friends. And they need ours! We need to constantly point each other back to God’s Word, where all wisdom and understanding lie. If you have been struggling with trying to do this Christianity thing all on your own, being good enough, read through Ephesians 1:3-14 this morning and delight yourself in all that is yours NOW!  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Proverbs 17:28 Keepin' my mouth shut...

I’m a member of several different committees in my school district. I’m in awe of the other members of these committees. These are REALLY smart people who fluently speak eduspeak! Most of the time I have no idea what they are saying. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and nod knowingly! :) So when I saw this final verse of Proverbs 17, I had to chuckle!

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;

   when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:28)

Yes, I’ve learned to just hang around the smart people and shut up! Of course, it took me a few years to learn that I was NOT one of the wise! It seems that when we are young, we are certain that we know everything (I think that begins to happen at about the age of 13). Then, as we move through high school and college, when we are only hanging out with other dummies who think they are wise, this confirms our opinion of ourselves!

It wasn’t until I had a strong-willed toddler that I was suddenly made glaringly aware that maybe I knew NOTHING that mattered! I could not figure out for the life of me how to handle the defiance of a two-year old stomping her feet!

The reality is that for my entire life I’ve been waiting for people to discover that I really know nothing! The “Peter Principle” was very evident in my early career, when, at the age of 23 I was given my own escrow office to open with Security Pacific Bank in Huntington Beach, after less than a year of training! I was scared to death! I had to drum up business with the local realtors and then had to do all of the paperwork on my own, as no one else in a bank knows a thing about escrow (kind of like how in teaching no one understands Kindergarten unless they are teaching it).

The first day I arrived at the branch, the manager handed me a file for a construction loan and said, “You don’t need to worry about this for a while.” Well, that file kept getting lower and lower on the stack of files as my business grew. Quickly I was promoted to Senior Escrow Officer (at that time I was the youngest Senior Escrow Officer in the Bank by about 30 years). Then one day when I returned from lunch, the manager came to me and said, “Mr. Smith is wondering when we can fund that construction loan!” I burst into tears and confessed, “I don’t know how to do that!!!” My poor manager was so flustered and looked completely baffled about how to handle me! I think I transferred to another branch before ever funding that loan, because I still have no idea how to do that!

When I began teaching at the age of 42, most parents assumed I’d been teaching for years. That age worked for me! However, I was actually so stressed out at first and filled with self-doubt. I’ll never forget a very sweet coworker who said to me, “Pray that you will look competent while you are becoming competent!” I began to relax and just enjoy the process! The reality is that 21 years later, I’m still doubting myself all the time.

Apparently, the shut mouth has fooled enough people! About a year ago one of my coworkers met a man with whom I’d grown up. When they discovered that they both knew me, he said to her about me, “She was the smartest girl at our school!” When she relayed that info I just cracked up and answered, “Yeah, in 4TH GRADE!!!!!” :) Too funny!

Yes, this verse in Proverbs rings true with me!!  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Proverbs 17:17 Friends and sisters

So many of the verses in Proverbs are admonitions, that I LOVE finding the ones that just bless me!

A friend loves at all times,

    and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)

I adore my friends! But being my friend requires a forgiving spirit, because I am so neglectful! When my girls were babies and school age, and I was an at-home mommy, I made some of the most amazing, lasting friendships! They are ones I cherish, because we did the hard job of parenting together! However, when I became a teacher at the age of 42 (Molly was a senior and Emmy a freshman in high school), I suddenly became isolated! I was so overwhelmed with just learning and improving my skills, I had no time left over for any kind of social life! If I didn’t see people at school, Bible study or church, I did not see them. I bless those friends that have hung in with me all these years of neglect!

I always joke with the volunteer parents in my classroom that they are going to be my new best friends, since I no longer have any! The truth is that some of them are now also cherished friends. I’m so thankful that I have worked at a school site for the past 21 years where God has given me so many beloved coworkers. We truly do life together!! I know I can count on them for support and prayer!

The older I get, the less time I seem to have. And any free time goes to the grandchildren! So, I have to MAKE time for friends. I have to set appointments to meet with the many people I love. I’m so grateful that Don understands my need to be with my girlfriends! He actually encourages me to meet with gals for dinner when I can.

I don’t want to ignore the second half of today’s verse! A brother or sister is the one we need during adversity! I am so blessed to have three sisters (all OLDER, by the way)! After many years of competing for the attention of our parents, we now lean on each other and pray for each other. We care about our nieces and nephews and love to rejoice with each other over their accomplishments. Even though two of my sisters live out of state, and we RARELY see each other, we have a bond that only we can have, because we share so many memories, both good and bad, that no one else knows. With both of our parents gone, we are now the “matriarchs” of the Frost clan. Instead of turning to Mom or Dad, we now turn to each other. It’s wonderful!

Jodi, the eldest, has been through so much the past two years, with the loss of her son, Justin, and battling multiple myeloma. It has been a reminder to the four of us how precious the time we have left together really is. It has also made any pettiness between sisters disappear. We don’t have time to do anything but love and encourage each other! God has blessed me with very dear friends - but He has also doubly blessed me with my sisters!

Do you have a friend who needs to hear from you or do dinner with you? Make the call and set a date! Time is too short!  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why don't you wise up??

Before we begin this morning, I want to ask your prayers for little Royce this morning. I received an update from his grandmother this week. Royce is going into surgery tomorrow morning (Wed. 4/24) to have two things done: they will close up the hole in his stomach left by the feeding tube; and they will finally do the circumcision that was delayed by his conditions as a newborn. I’m praying that the surgeons will be able to do it all quickly and that Royce will experience no pain in the recovery. Please pray for peace for the whole family during the procedures. Thanks for joining me in bringing him before the throne of God.

Today’s verse popped out at me, because I’ve been puzzling over the idea it expresses for the past few weeks as I’m dealing with a few students who cannot seem to learn from their mistakes.

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding

    than a hundred blows into a fool. (Proverbs 17:10)

If you have always learned life lessons fairly easily, if you never had to touch the stove or the wet paint, be very grateful for that grace in your life! Because, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have to learn things the hard way. And for some, no amount of discipline seems to penetrate! Jon Courson uses the example of David, who, when confronted by Nathan over his affair with Bathsheba that ended in the murder of Uriah, immediately broke down and wept and repented! Courson compared David to Pharaoh, who, in spite of numerous plagues, stubbornly refused to repent and turn to God.

I have been scratching my head lately over some students who seem to enjoy beating their heads against the wall. Neither negative consequences nor positive reinforcement seem to work to help these kids figure out how much easier their lives would be if they just made the good choices! Some of you may have a teen or young adult in your family who continues to make bad choices, that not only affect their lives, but throw the whole family into turmoil.

For some, however, they honestly CAN’T make the good choices. There are a lot of students these days who are suffering from attention deficit. This is NOT some made-up, over-diagnosed label freely given by teachers to describe normal rowdy, impulsive behaviors. This is a physical, bio-chemical disorder that needs treatment as much as diabetes. This is a painful thing to watch as a teacher. These poor students cannot organize themselves to save their souls. They cannot focus beyond 30 seconds. And they frequently have parents who are in complete denial! They are constantly “in trouble” at home and at school, and probably on the field in sports, because they just can’t control themselves. As I listen to parents sternly telling the child that they just need to try harder, I want to scream, “He CAN’T!!!”

By the time these students are in the upper grades, this problem has spilled over into every aspect of their lives. It impedes not only academic growth, but more importantly it becomes a huge social issue, as no one wants to sit near or hang out with these kids. They stick out like a sore thumb within a classroom setting. There has been so much research published just within the past couple of months that shows that, left untreated, the problems of attention deficit continue to put these kids at risk for all kinds of negative behaviors, even into adulthood. They have a 30% increased risk of incarceration, drug use, divorce, etc. Can you tell this is a push-button issue for me???

So when our verse calls one a fool who doesn’t respond to discipline, I can agree that there are many who just refuse to learn, but there are also those who truly need our prayers because they can’t learn! With man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. He promises that He can change the heart of stone. May he work in the lives of those we love who continue to bang their heads against the wall!!!    And may He grant us an abundance of patience,compassion, and wisdom as we lovingly try to help them!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Proverbs 17:9 Cover it over!

Whoever covers an offense seeks love,

    but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9 ESV) 

Peter put it this way:

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Love forgives and keeps on forgiving! If you would have friends, you’d better be prepared to forgive a boatload of offenses, because friends will let you down occasionally. Your friends can’t be perfect anymore than you can. And when a friend has offended you in some way, you need to be full of mercy and grace, because you need that same mercy and grace daily! I can’t tell you how many times I forget to send the birthday greeting or return the phone call or answer the email in a timely fashion! If I did not have friends who are full of grace, I would have NONE!

It’s so important for me as a teacher to make my classroom a place of grace! Kids need to know that no one will die when they make a mistake (at least not at this level)! They need to know, after being chewed out for failing to do the homework for the tenth time in ten days, that my anger is because I care about them, not because I am offended that my rules were not respected for my sake. They need to know that the next day is a fresh opportunity to surprise me! :)

The other part of today’s Proverb is about the importance of keeping offenses to yourself! You do not need to go out and broadcast that someone has hurt you. Take that to God. Pray for that person - pray a blessing, not a curse! :) How much more damage will need to be repaired if you have spread the news about the offense! Now, when I’ve mastered the art of keeping hurts to myself, I’ll be immediately taken home to be with the LORD, because my transformation will be complete!

Is there someone who needs your mercy and grace today? Have you been holding onto a hurt or offense until it has become a full-fledged grudge? Let it go! Ask God to help you seek restoration and to give you the strength and desire to forgive. Remember your own weaknesses, and cover over the weaknesses of your friends! That is what love does. That is what Christ’s love did!  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Proverbs 17:6 Just call me "Nanny!"

When Molly and Emmy were little, one of Molly’s best friends was Erin. She’s the mommy of little Royce for whom we’ve prayed {by the way, he is doing so much better now - feeding tube removed! He still needs prayer for he has many hurdles}. Erin’s paternal grandparents were Nanny Betty and Papa Wayne, and her maternal grandmother was Nanny Dorrene. They were the sweetest grandparents ever! They were so good to their grandchildren, and they even treated our two girls as if they were their own.

So, Don and I determined that when we became grandparents, we wanted to be called “Nanny” and “Papa,” because we wanted to follow their model. There is no name I cherish more than “Nanny!” So far, little Penelope has trouble saying “Nanny.” It sounds more like “Daddy.” But she has no problem with “Papa,” and it warms Don’s heart every time she says it! So, today’s verse jumped out at me:

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,

    and the glory of children is their fathers. (Proverbs 17:3 ESV)

The NIV 1984 version says it this way:

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, 
    and parents are the pride of their children.

I like that version, because it still amazes me that my grandchildren are actually my children’s children! I love watching my daughters in the role of mommy! I often catch them looking at their children with eyes so full of love, and it just warms my heart!

Grandparents have that special role of just loving and nurturing the grandchildren. It is our reward for all of those years when we agonized over how to best raise our own children - for the times we fell on our knees in tears of frustration because we were sure we were doing it all wrong! This has been a week of tears and prayers for both Emmy and Molly as they attempt to shape the will of their two headstrong girls! Those of us who have had strong-willed children can so identify! Being a mom to little ones is such an exhausting job!!! So, all the more sweet are these years of being “Nanny!”

{ Point of interest: Did you note that the second part of today’s verse says we are the pride of our children? I’m not so sure about that! I think I’m still more of an embarrassment! I used to tell the girls that it was my job to embarrass them, and I was going to do a great job of it! }

Our oldest grandson, Beau, age 10, is now at the point when he is nearly out of childhood! He has taken to texting me every night as he climbs into bed just to touch bases with me. I love it when my phone chimes at his bedtime! And last week, spending our spring break together in Washington, DC, was amazing! And at least a couple of times a week the phone rings and it’s Colin and Lucy checking in to see what Nanny and Papa are doing. I realize that there is coming a time when we will not have such an important place in their hearts, so I’m cherishing these years!

So, even though this verse in Proverbs lumps me in with the “aged,” I’ll gladly claim that name of “Nanny!” I only pray that I’m doing it justice to honor Nanny Betty and Nanny Dorrene!  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Proverbs 17:3 No stink!

The crucible for silver, and the furnace for gold,

    but the Lord tests the heart. (Proverbs 17:3 NIV 1984)

There are so many references in the Bible to the fact that God WILL test our hearts! Consider this promise of Jesus that we don’t normally like to claim:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

Having just guaranteed that we will face many trials, Jesus tells us we should “have peace” and we should “take heart.” He did not tell us that we would have trials in order to scare us, but to give us peace - because He has overcome the world! He has given us the final victory!

God uses trials of fire to test and refine us, just like silver or gold. The goal of God is not to crush us, but to perfect us.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

In her study on the book of Daniel (Chapter 3), Beth Moore talks about three scenarios when the people of God face a fiery trial: you can be delivered from the fire, in which case your faith is built up; you can be delivered through the fire, having our faith refined; or you can be delivered by the fire straight into the arms of Jesus, in which case our faith is perfected. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

The worst case scenario is going home to be with the LORD! What is there to fear then? Are you in the midst of a “fiery trial?” Take heart, because God is always with you in the fire! He will use it to either strengthen your faith or perfect it! Watch for His presence, believe that He is with you, and know that His purpose is to refine you.

One of the amazing things which Beth Moore notes in her study is verse 27 of Daniel 3, which tells us that when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came through the fire “their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” How exciting is that?? The heat was turned up to full blast, but when they came out they did not stink! Instead, I’m sure they were a sweet-smelling fragrance to God! Wow!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Better is a dry morsel with quiet

    than a house full of feasting with strife. (Proverbs 17:1)

It’s better to be eating crackers in a peaceful house than dining on lobster in a house full of contention! How hard it is, especially when you have a house full of children, to maintain peace! But I don’t think this verse is speaking of regular family noise. The dictionary defines strife as “bitter conflict.” This brings to mind a house in which the husband and wife are locked in a pattern of discord, where sarcasm or sniping has become a habitual norm. A house in which the children are allowed to verbally abuse each other. How easy it is to get into a negative spiral where neither spouse has something kind to say and where children are constantly picking on each other!

Often we have little problem remembering to treat strangers with courtesy and good manners, but how seldom do we apply common courtesies at home? Early in our marriage, after the girls were born, the LORD showed me that Don and I were beginning to develop a negative pattern of complaining about each other. If we had a disagreement, I would put on a sullen face and give him the silent treatment or huff and puff until he noticed. There were plenty of sarcastic remarks flowing from my mouth. 

Thankfully, the LORD graciously showed me what was happening, and prompted me to turn it around. All it took was one kind remark from me to reverse the pattern! A simple “Thank you” for something like taking out the trash was all it took. Have you ever noticed that men really NEED to be thanked? I don’t understand it, because I never expected a thank you for the numerous things I did every day around the house, but for some reason, whenever Don had done a chore, he needed me to thank him! He would say, “Did you see that I watered the plants?” I would come back with a, “Did you see that I did the dishes, did the laundry, did the marketing, got the meals, and took care of the kids all without asking you to notice???” { NOTE: that would be the NEGATIVE exchange!!! }

So, when the LORD showed me that Don actually NEEDED thanks, I began to make a concerted effort to show him how much I appreciated what he did for us. It’s amazing how simple it was! And the bonus was that it actually opened my eyes to the many little things he was doing daily to take care of our family.

It’s not that we don’t still argue! We can do plenty of that! But I try to stay away from remarks that crush his spirit - and I really try to get beyond the anger quickly rather than luxuriating in it! I learned this really through my daughters:

Years ago, when Molly was about 8 and Emmy was about 6, I was the children’s supervisor in Bible Study Fellowship (if you don’t know about BSF, you need to contact me so I can direct you to their amazing Bible studies). I was doing my lesson while the girls were playing in the family room. The verses I was focused on were Ephesians 4:26-27

In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (NIV 1984)

I called the girls over to me and read the verses to them and explained that when we argue with each other we need to get over it and make up quickly, because if we carry on our anger we are giving Satan a foothold in our family. Not a week later, as I was again doing my Bible study in the dining room, I heard the girls arguing about something and then saw Emmy march up the stairs in a huff and slam her door. I decided to let it go. About five minutes later, Emmy came downstairs and grabbed Molly by the hand and took her up to the room.

Within a few seconds, Molly leaned over the railing and called, “Mom! You need to come up here and see what Emmy wrote!” So I got up and investigated. Emmy had written on the wipe board in her room, “I will not let Satan make me mad. I am sorry, Molly.” I was so excited that she had internalized the verse I’d shared with them! So I had them make a bookmark for my Bible on an index card. Molly copied the verses from Ephesians on one side, and Emmy copied what she had written on the board on the other. It was a great reminder to me about the need for peace and the way to maintain it in a home!

Have you seen a negative pattern begin in your home? You can reverse it! Ask God to show you all of the ways in which you are part of the problem, then seek opportunities to turn it around through simple kindness! If you are having strife with your spouse, don’t let it go on for days, giving the cold shoulder and withholding affection. Be the one to begin the change. If your children are constantly arguing, don’t accept that as the norm. Help them find ways to end their conflicts quickly and prayerfully. Model it for them! How much better to live in a house with peace!  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Proverbs 16:31 Gray? What gray?

Gray hair is a crown of glory;

    it is gained in a righteous life. (Proverbs 16:31)

I was going to ignore this verse, in much the same way I’ve been hiding my gray hair for the past 20 years! If gray hair is such a “crown of glory,” why am I spending so much money to get rid of it???

My mother was a beautiful woman. In fact, she was a starlet under contract to Warner Bros. in the late 1930’s to mid 1940’s. However, I received none of her traits! I got my father’s curly hair and flat chest! And, apparently his early gray hair! My father was completely white by his 40’s. I think I might have been, too, had I not started to color the hair to hide it! Mom, on the other hand, had beautiful brunette hair late in life...

My husband would love for me to let it go white. Of course he would! He’s been completely white for years! :) Gray hair in men is distinguished, and, frankly, pretty sexy. Not so much in women... I don’t want to look like Auntie Em from The Wizard of Oz

So, I was going to just skip right over this verse. However, I feel a need to acknowledge how thankful I am to be 62! I love my age at this point in my life! I love that I have moved from the years of struggles in child rearing and the worries of building a career and home to the relaxed pleasure of being a grandmother!

I’m thankful that I now have 37 years of walking with the LORD and experiencing His great faithfulness in my life. I’m so very thankful that I now have two daughters and sons-in-law who are sprouting gray hairs of their own (misery loves company???). In fact, the other day Don was telling me a story about someone he had met, and when I asked him how old the guy was, he responded, “Oh, he’s middle-aged - about 35.” I laughed out loud and reminded him that, by that measure, both of our daughters are now middle-aged! Then, of course, I had to text the girls to tell them that story!

But, one of the things for which I’m so very grateful is that I have actually been given 62 years of life so far, when many others are given far less. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be given - the speed of life accelerates incredibly on this downhill plane! But I do know that God is not yet finished with me. Still so much work to do to transform this heart!

Even though I pay a small fortune so that others see me as a blond, I have a feeling that God sees me as completely white-haired! Thank you, LORD, for that crown of glory!  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Psalm 121: The 24/7 God

I’ve just returned from spring break! I lead a group of 12 students (4th-6th graders, including my grandson, Beau) and 6 parents to Williamsburg and Jamestown, VA and Washington, DC. It was a whirlwind tour that began at 7:00 each morning and ended at about 10:30 each night! Like a five day slumber party without donuts! It was a blast and we saw and learned so much! Amazingly enough, I’m actually not tire as I head back to school this morning!

I’m taking a quick break from the Proverbs today, because in my studies this past week, I read a favorite psalm that I just wanted to share. A few weeks ago I wrote about the fact that God is always watching over us, which I find very comforting. Well, this morning, I want to look at Psalm 121, which proclaims that very thing:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,

    who made heaven and earth.  

He will not let your foot be moved;

    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.  

The Lord is your keeper;

    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,

    nor the moon by night.  

The Lord will keep you from all evil;

    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep

    your going out and your coming in

    from this time forth and forevermore.

Talk about security! God will not let my foot slip! He will watch over every move I make throughout the day, and He will lovingly watch over me while I sleep. I can rest in complete peace knowing that He guards me 24/7!!!

I have some major decisions coming up, and as I pray about the path to take, I am so encouraged by the fact that He will not let my foot slip. I may enter the wrong path, but I know that, if I do, it won’t be disastrous since my heart yearns to be in agreement with His heart. He will correct me and reorient me so that I fulfill the purpose for which He created me. He’s going to keep my going out and my coming in FOREVER!

Hidden in the middle there I find another encouraging note: in verse four He promises to also be watching over Israel continually. In view of the present circumstances of that nation, I am comforted to know that in spite of Israel being surrounded by enemies that would love to annihilate the nation, God has His eye on all of it - and He will protect Israel, as well.

God is sovereign! He has plans for me - He has plans for Israel - He has plans for you! He is at work around the clock keeping us (the words “keep,” “keeping,” and “keeper” appear six times in just eight verses). That lifts a bundle of stress from me about the decisions I face! I hope it blesses you, too!  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Proverbs 16:18,25 "I did it my way!"

I found two verses in Proverbs 16 this morning that seem related and which are the kinds of verses that your great grandmother would have embroidered on a pillow, because they are so true:

Pride goes before destruction,

    and a haughty spirit before a fall. (v.18)

There is a way that seems right to a man,

    but its end is the way to death. (v.25) 

If there’s one thing our culture seems to admire, it’s a self-made, self-sufficient man! The kind that sings with Frank Sinatra at the end of his life, “I did it my way!” This is the song of the man who never considers God in his life. He is convinced that he alone is responsible for his fate and for his accomplishments. So, when he achieves some success, his pride swells. When he makes decisions, he only considers what HE thinks is right and good. He never measures his actions against God’s Word, because he doesn’t need the “crutch” of faith! [I don’t know about you, but I don’t need a crutch - I need a wheelchair!] He sees believers as weak people who need “fables” to bolster them. He, on the other hand, needs nothing and no one! That kind of pride surely leads to destruction, because the one thing this man cannot prevent from happening is death! It’s guaranteed! And without God, it means complete destruction.

Now, I’ve chosen an extreme example, yet we all know people, family, friends, who may not have the outward appearance of pride, yet inwardly they do actually deny that God has anything to do with them. They believe they are responsible for making their own way. And without a foundational faith, they make their way through the world with no absolutes and no true compass to guide them. They THINK they are being “good” and they try to be righteous - but by their own faulty measure, not by God’s. They may not shake their fists at God, but they certainly don’t give Him a thought.

And there are certainly times when ALL of us seek our own way over God’s - even in ministry! We have fixed in our minds what we want to do for Him and how He can best use us. And we resist His pull in a different direction. I know I did that when He called me to work with children many years ago. I so did NOT want to work with kids, and I was sure I could be more useful working with women instead. So I resisted all of His clear signs He was giving me that His plan was to have me work with children. Even when I finally submitted to His call, I did it with gritted teeth! It’s called pride. What blessings I would have missed had I gone my own way!

There is a way that SEEMS right, but it leads to death. We want our way. Jesus says HE is the way. And His way is narrow - but it leads to life! If you are at a crossroads in your life, wondering which way to go, let God direct you! Don’t rush in the direction that YOU think is best. Wait for God to make His way clear. It’s always the best way!  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Proverbs 16:3-4 Guaranteed success!

Commit your work to the Lord,

    and your plans will be established. 
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,

    even the wicked for the day of trouble. (Proverbs 16:3-4)

These verses tell me I have a purpose. God created me for HIS pleasure (not my own), and He has a plan to use me. He thinks I’m useful! The NIV 1984 Bible translates verse 3 as “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” I think some have hoped that this meant if we make plans, then ask God to bless them, we will have guaranteed success in our ventures. But since verse 4 makes it clear that it is God who has the plans, it is HIS plans, not necessarily mine that will be successful. Therefore, if I commit myself to Him first and to seeking His plan, I will be part of accomplishing His work.

Rather than going ahead of Him and plotting out my life, I need to turn to Him and seek His direction. I’m currently in a period of seeking, wondering what He has for me next. There are a few doors that I could go through, or I can stay put. I’m seeking His leading, because I don’t trust myself! I’m not afraid to choose the wrong door, however, because I know He will ultimately close off the wrong avenue. But I’m also willing to wait. The reality is that WHATEVER I’m doing at any given moment in time needs to be done for Him, not for myself, because it’s NOT about me!

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)

There is great peace in knowing that God is sovereign and that His plans will always be accomplished. I just want to be part of that, don’t you?  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Proverbs 15:23 Doubly blessed!

To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,

    and a word in season, how good it is! (Proverbs 15:23)

Has someone ever helped you by giving you the exact word of encouragement that you needed at the exact time? It’s such a wonderful blessing - for both the encourager and the encouraged. I’ve been on both the giving and the receiving end of an “apt answer,” and you know when it happens that it is a God thing.

When I read this verse this morning, I immediately thought of my daughter, Molly. Her prayer card business/ministry is all about giving out the right Word for the right moment. Throne of Grace produces prayer cards and prayer journals with the goal of helping people find the exact words from God’s Word for the exact occasion in order to encourage people.

When Molly first started this business, the number one benefit she received from it was the implanting of God’s Word in her heart. As she searched for just the right verses for people to use for prayer in specific situations, she found that she was committing all of these great verses to memory as she printed them on cards. A friend would call her for advice, and she had the exact verse on her tongue for her friend, because she had just been searching the Scriptures.

Jon Courson pulls out a verse from Isaiah 50, a messianic passage, to go with this Proverb:

The Lord God has given me

    the tongue of those who are taught,

that I may know how to sustain with a word

    him who is weary.

Morning by morning he awakens;

    he awakens my ear

    to hear as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50:4 ESV)

Courson points out that Jesus got up very early to commune with His Father that He might be prepared to minister throughout the day, and he writes, “How much more do you and I need to get up and seek the Lord if we want to be those who have the right word at the right time to say to a world burdened down and burned-out by sin.” (Courson, Application Commentary: Old Testament, Vol 2, P. 224)

If ever the world needed an encouraging word it is now! We are living in a time of such discouragement. We know people all around us who are losing jobs, losing homes, struggling in their marriages, fighting cancer, grieving over loss, or just plain worn out! More than ever, we need to heed Peter’s exhortation:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)

Peter tells us to do this gently and with respect. How can we be prepared? We need to be prayed up, studied up, and read up! As we continue to meet Him in the morning, with our Bibles opened, praying for and waiting for a Word from Him, He will prepare us to use what He’s given. Look for an opportunity to encourage someone with God’s Word today. You will both be blessed!