Archive for July, 2006

Sing & Be Glad! – Proverbs 29

With all that’s going on in my world, and the world at large, I was especially drawn to the words in verse 6 of today’s chapter:

6 An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad.

Doesn’t that sound refreshing? “Sing & Be Glad!” Well, God, you’ve got my attention – “I want that!”

It’s not that I’m not happy, don’t get me wrong. But, there seems to be something more in this verse that is tugging at my heavy heart. I sing to the Lord, but for the most part it is in total praise and reverance to Him. I’m so thankful for how He takes care of me each step of the way. I love Him and want to sing my heart out in gratitude and worship. When I lead worship or when I’m just worshiping Him in my home, I’m totally “in the zone” and something happens when I worship Him in spirit and truth.

But, that phrase “Sing & Be Glad” has captivated me. It reminds me of a child who is just singing and skipping along without a care in the world, no doubts, no debts, no dangers. Singing for this child is just a result of a happy heart – not a purpose, not an audience, not a hidden agenda, just singing for joy.

When is the last time you did that?

I was promted to look closer at how we can (or who can) sing and be glad. First, it’s clear that an evil man can’t – instead evil men will be snared by their own sin. Therefore, sin in our lives will prevent us from our reward. So – the first thing is to confess our sins to the Lord. He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cast them as far as the East is from the West. He will remove that heaviness that is caused by unconfessed sin.

Next, it mentions a “righteous man.” What is righteousness? On dictionary.com I see the word defined as “Morally upright; without guilt or sin.” Mirriam-Webster online defines righteousness as “acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin.” This makes sense based on what we said about confessing our sin to God and Him removing that sin – free from guilt or sin. That takes faith, doesn’t it?

What is a righteous man? I did a search for “righteous man” and here’s what I found:

“…for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” Proverbs 24:16

So, a righteous man has edurance. He does not give up. He stays in the race, no matter if he falls – he gets right back up and runs on toward the prize.

Reminds me of Philippians 3:

14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Here’s another from Proverbs:

“The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him.” Proverbs 20:7

Hmmm – “leads a blameless life”, huh? Sounds kind of impossible. I think of Romans 3:23 where it says everyone has sinned and fallen short. So how can I be righteous and, therefore, sing and be glad?

It’s very clear that we need the Lord. He is our strength. He is our source of righteousness. If we think there’s anything we can do to be righteous on our own, we are deceived and will never understand “sing and be glad.” We are made righteous only by trusting in Him, not ourselves, it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). That’s why we see people spending money on “stuff” like cars and houses and women and song, and that sometimes brings temporary gladness, but in the end, one is left in the same lonely, broken condition – only with less money.

The bottom line: even when we don’t feel like it, we have to pick ourselves up and keep praising God, trusting that He cares about us and loves us enough to not leave us to our own devices. By suffering, we are built stronger with His help. We must keep praising Him.

I’ll close with the words of one my favorite MercyMe songs:

Keep Singing by Mercy Me
Another rainy day
I can’t recall having sunshine on my face
All I feel is pain
All I wanna do is walk out of this place

But when I am stuck and I can’t move
When I don’t know what I should do
When I wonder if I’ll ever make it through

I gotta keep singing
I gotta keep praising Your name
You’re the one that’s keeping my heart beating
I gotta keep singing
gotta keep praising Your name
That’s the only way that I’ll find healing

Can I climb up in Your lap
I don’t wanna leave
Jesus sing over me
I gotta keep singing

Oh You’re everything I need
And I gotta keep singing

Lord, can I climb up in your lap today and sing?

peace,
e

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Letter to Osama – Proverbs 28

Well, I wasn’t going to do this for fear of giving the false impression that I’m some kind of political blogger, fixed on the war in the Middle East. As I already mentioned, I do find myself thinking about it, but this blog is not about that. This blog is about the daily reading of God’s Word and making application for my life, today. But, the chapters of the past few days have brought to mind thoughts of what’s going on over in Israel and Lebannon. So, here you go…

What if I could write a letter to Oama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda? Or, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah? Or, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the leader of Hamas? Who is the leader of the country-less “nation” of Islamic radicals? That’s the difficulty in warring with such a threat. So, it was interesting to find the following verse in today’s chapter 28 of Proverbs:

2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.

Certainly, this verse jumped out at me as relevant to the war in the Middle East. It has become even more clear that these radical Islamic terrorists will stop at nothing until “every Jew has been pushed into the sea” and until Islam is the only religion. Pure rebellion as verse 2 indicates. As a matter of fact, this chapter is full of references to evil, tyrannical leaders:

3 A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.5 Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.

10 He who leads the upright along an evil path will fall into his own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance.

16 A tyrannical ruler lacks judgment, but he who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long life.

19 He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.

28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

I don’t claim to know the entire history of the Jews and Muslims. I don’t know how all this started or when. But, when I read today’s verses in Proverbs 28, there is much to say about what’s really going on. Evil has raised its ugly head and the innocent of those areas are suffering.

Lord, I don’t have any answers. I don’t understand the history or the method to stop the shedding of innocent blood. But I pray for the leaders of the nations – those that hear from You, the One True God, for guidence. May Your will be done and Your Kingdom be glorified through all this. Send Your warring angels to help put an end to all this evil, and bring Your perfect peace back to us, Lord. Your Word says that if we will humble ourselves and pray, that You will hear and heal our lands. May that be, Lord. – amen

peace, please?
e

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Death & Destruction – Proverbs 27

I’ve said it before, I’m a news junkie…particularly when there’s something huge going on in the world. Currently, of course, my browser and my TV are set to news channels that are covering the Israel / Hezbollah situation over in Lebanon and the Israel / Hamas situation in Gaza.

I find myself wondering how things would be different if I lived in an area like Israel and this was happening to me and my family. What if Chicago and New York City received a rocket or two? I usually spend too much time just watching the news reports and the videos of what’s going on.

Today in my reading, I came across this:

20 Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.

At first, I applied it to what’s happening in the Middle East. It’s clear that the terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaida are bent on death and destruction. Some say the Palestinians just want their own land, but it seems to me that the radical Islamists will only be satisfied until the Muslim religion is the only one left and that everyone is converted to Islam. Then what will they war about?

Then, upon further meditating, it occured to me that my eyes might be more what this is about. Could my fascination (obsession?) with watching the news reports about the IDF and the IAF bombing runs be what this verse is talking about? Certainly, watching the news brings me little satisfaction. More often than not, it brings me anxiety and distraction from what I need to be doing. And, it’s not like I can do anything about it. I’m too old to join the armed forces and I have things here I’ve been given to take care of.

Instead, I need to be looking at what God has given and how to take care of those relationships. Today’s chapter also has some valuable advise for this:

23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; 24 for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. 25 When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, 26 the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field. 27 You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed you and your family and to nourish your servant girls.

Granted, I don’t have servant girls or goats – but if you look at this from a different perspective, we do have things God has given us to give careful attention to: our families and our communities.

I’m going to be working on turning off that TV and that talk radio when I need to be doing other things. We just need to trust Him that He is aware of what’s happening across the globe.

peace,
e

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We Need Friends – Proverbs 18

If someone asked me what has helped me in my spiritual growth the most, I would have to say a few close friends that God gave me. Only a few years ago, I had come to a place where I had few people that I could call friends.

Patrick Morley, a Christian author with several great books for men, once wrote, “Most men could recruit six pallbearers for their funeral, but hardly anyone has a friend he can call at 2 a.m.”

That was me. This is mostly because I had become so wrapped up in my own world and family that I made no time for friends. But, when I suddenly found myself out in the wilderness, standing there face to face with that toothless, old lion, I knew that the rest of the pride was not far behind. I was about to be destroyed. That’s the way lions hunt, you know? Ever watch Discovery Channel and see how the lions pick off the tired, sick wildebeast by isolating it from the rest of the herd?

I needed friends – and God sent me some unbelieveable friends just in time. Not just any friends, but His chosen and elect who were able to hear His voice and carry out His will. You can read about them in today’s chapter:

24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NIV)

I used to think that this was referring to Jesus. Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. That’s true. There is no doubt that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus even calls Himself our friends in John 15:

14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

But, this verse in Proverbs seems to be talking about our human friends. Look at a few other translations and see if you don’t agree:

24 There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. (NLT)

24 Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. (MSG)

God sent me a few true friends just when I needed them. Now, I’m involved in a men’s group and I have many friends. God is using me to be friends to others, too, and to help rescue them when they face their lions.

So, who are your friends? Are you an island like I was with lots of acquaintences but no real friends? Bro, I hope not. I hope that when trouble comes (and it will) you have a few true friends who can hold you up and help you through. If not, I encourage you to seek out a men’s group in a local church that understands about relationships. Ask God to send you some true friends who can help, and who you can also help.

And then, become accountable to each other. My friends do this by asking each other the following accountability questions:

• How is your relationship with God?
• How is your relationship with your wife?
• How is your relationship with your child (ren)?
• What have you done this week to spend quality, relational time with your family?
• What did you do this week to take care of your body (exercise, diet, and rest)?
• What did you do this week to maintain your joy in spite of life’s daily circumstances?
• What temptations are you facing and how are you dealing with then?
• How has your thought life been this week? What steps have you taken this week to guard yourself against lustful thoughts, actions, and/or materials?
• Are you giving your best at work or at school?
• Have you been above reproach in financial matters this week?
• Have you been investing regular time in the Word and in prayer?
• Who have you been sharing the Gospel with?
• Have you answered these questions truthfully?
• How can we pray for you and help you?We can’t do this on our own. We need our true friends, our band of brothers. It’s the way God intended.

peace,
e

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Cover Over An Offense – Proverbs 17

Have you ever been reading along in the Bible and suddenly you got pounded by the Holy Spirit? I always enjoy looking for “hidden treasure” in the Scripture, but there are times when it’s not hidden at all. I’ve read through Proverbs several times and it’s easy to see how you can get different insight each time you read. But, today it was very clear what God was teaching me through the reading of His Word.

Many of you reading this have gone through John Bevere’s “Bait of Satan” and you’ve heard him explain about offense. The bottom line is if we let ourselves be offended, we “take the bait” and satan has us in his trap. The fancy greek word for offense is actually related to a “bait stick” (the part of a trap where you put the cheese or meat to attract your catch). It’s a must-read for Christians and I highly recommend it. Find out more by clicking here.

John’s teaching on offense has been a life-changing revelation to me and has helped me through some difficult times. Today, God added some more understanding to this teaching. It’s simple and probably quite obvious but I guess I’m just now at the point I’m ready to receive it. What is it? Look at verse 9:

9 He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (NIV)9 Disregarding another person’s faults preserves love; telling about them separates close friends. (NLT)

You see, it’s not just about avoiding or not taking the bait. Our greatest commandment is to love and sometimes it’s about covering up the offense, not just ignoring it. Do you see this?

I’m not there yet, but I’m starting to get to the place where I can ignore it when someone does something I dislike: cutting me off in traffic, talking behind my back, telling lies about me. But it’s one thing to not let it bother me (so I’m not taking the bait) but it’s quite something else to actually attempt to hide (or at least not announce to the world) the offense. I am suddenly caught in the heavy realization that I sometimes take great pride in pronouncing my newly-acquired skill of offense-avoidance. And, therefore, I am also ignoring the greatest commandment: to love.

Remember Paul’s teaching about love? We can be gifted beyond belief in speech or talent or wisdom, but if we don’t have love it amounts to nothing.

So, the next time someone does something to hurt me (whether intentionally or unintentionally) it is my new goal to not only avoid being offended, but to go a step further and attempt to cover up the offense. Instead of calling my friends and boasting about how I victoriously avoided satan’s bait (and in turn spewing poison about who did what to me), I will try to cover up the offense and promote love.

Can you imagine if every time God forgave us of a lie or a lustful thought, that He would phone His friends and tell them what a loser we were?

Oh God, what have I done? Forgive me for being such a slow learner. Thank You for how You relentlessly pursue me with Your love. Thank You for continuing to try to teach me and help me understand how to be more like You. Forgive me for the times I’ve hurt others by not covering up their offense, and for all the times I offended others myself. Undo the damage I’ve done, God, and pour out Your love to me so that I can understand how to love others. I’m thankful for how You uncover what I have covered up, and more thankful that You cover up what I uncover. -amen

peace,
e

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Fear of the Lord = Life – Proverbs 14

Just think about all the stuff that’s going on in the world around us right now.

Politicians exchange accusations and the media reports with “spin” and with bias. People are divided as to who they believe.

Countries in the middle East are demanding their rights and forcing their opinions with rockets and bombs. Nations are split in how it should be dealt with.

Left-wing extremists verbally duke it out with right-wing radicals. Talk radio and newspaper media battle to make their point leaving the public spinning with wonder as to who is right.

Everyone has their own opinions about what happens and if you’re like me, you have trouble figuring out how someone else can think like they do or believe what they do. How can people think that abortion is okay? How can people think that to leave Iraq right now is the right choice? How can people demand a cross be taken down from a historic war memorial? But, the people who share these confusing paradigms must also be thinking the same thing about me – or they would say nothing.

Today’s reading has a verse that jumped off the page to me:

12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

So, who’s right? I certainly don’t claim to have all the right answers. I’m sure that if I’m standing before my Maker on the Day of Judgement that I will not receive a reward for the smartest man on earth. How are we to react to all this? How does someone cut through all the bias, the evil influence, the hidden agendas and get to the Truth? Look at verses 26 & 27:

26 He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. 27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.

The world is continuously spirilaing towards certain suffering and eventual death. Our own bodies are slowly wasting away. The only hope we have for us and our children is the fear of the Lord.

Feel like you need to do something? Pray. I know it sounds to some like a meaningless thing you resort to when you can’t think of something substantial to do. But, there is power in prayer. God answers prayer. When faced with controversy, we need our answers from the Lord, not Fox, ABC, NBC, CNN, IRS, ACLU, NAACP, NFL, NBA or EIEIO.

Don’t fear what’s happening in the world around you. Rather, fear the Lord. Not fear as in tremble and shake, but as in put your cares on Him, live for Him, trust Him. He is a fountain of life for you and your children.

peace,
e

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Bad Company – Proverbs 13

I just started reading the book entitled “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. It’s one of those books I hear so much about. It seems like every day for a while, I heard this book mentioned. I decided I’d find out what the hubbub is all about.

I’m only in chapter two, but so far it tells about this guy’s childhood – how different people in his life shaped his perceptions and his realities. It mentioned his father, who left his mom early on and disappeared all together when he entered middle school. It mentioned his childhood friend who introduced him to his first view of a pornographic magazine. It mentioned his friend, Tony the Beat Poet, and how they protested at an event President Bush had attended. I couldn’t help think of how these people had shaped this author’s life when I came across this verse in today’s chapter:

20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

Do you think his life would have turned out differently if his father had been an upright man and had been faithful to his family? What if his young friend would have encouraged him to not look at that magazine? Do you think his life would have been different if his friends would have been more interested in being a part of the solution (volunteering in a homeless shelter, helping out at an orphanage, or raising money for hungry people, for example) rather than pointlessly protesting just so they could appear socially active?

We can’t waste time blaming our current condition on the past, but it is important to realize how we have been shaped in live by the company we keep. And, more importantly, set our minds to surrounding ourselves with people with good character and morals as Solomon suggests in today’s Proverb.

How? Get involved in a men’s group and find a few men who love Jesus. Get a few godly men to be accountable to. Pray for people in your life who will influence you for good. Grow wise by hanging out with wise people.

peace,
e

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The Perfect Man? – Proverbs 12

See if you can find the common theme in all these verses in today’s chapter in Proverbs:

 

6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them.

13 An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble.

14 From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.

17 A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies.

18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

22 The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

23 A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.

25 An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.

 

Do you see it? Each of these verses has to do with the tongue or the mouth. Like James says in chapter 3 of his book:

“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” James 3:2

Who can do that? Who can be perfect? Not one of us, of course. But James is pointing out (as is Solomon in this Proverb) that our words have power to build and power to destroy. The encouragement for me today is to be careful what I say, how I say it, when I say it and why.

Lord, help me think before I speak. Help me to use my words to help heal and not harm. Fill my heart with Your love and my lips with kind words so that I can be used to cheer people up.

peace,

e

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Prosperity Through Generosity – Proverbs 11

As we read through Proverbs, it’s difficult to summarize the entire chapters into some kind of meaningful cohesive thought. Afterall, the word proverb means “A short pithy saying in frequent and widespread use that expresses a basic truth or practical precept.” And each chapter is full of ’em.

Today as I read chapter 11 there were two verses that stuck out among the rest:

24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

To be blunt, I know what my spiritual gifts are and giving just isn’t among them. However, as I read these verses last night and again this morning, I was reminded of a concept that I heard in a sermon long ago: when we’re needy in a certain area, pray for others with that need and God will, in turn, also bless you in that area. Now, that’s not the exact words, but I hope you get the idea.

For example, verse 24 talks about giving. Solomon is teaching the concept that a generous giver gains even more, but one who hoards will end up broke. How can this be? I’ve been told to “save, save, save” all my life. If I give it away, won’t I end up broke? Not if God is telling you to give. That’s the key. Listen to God conerning giving and He will provide your increase. Trust in yourself (or your bank) and you’re on your own to deal with the likes of theft, unforseen repairs, unnecessary expenses, divorce, or any number of rust/moth-driven expenses.

The real eye-opener for me in these two little verses was that this is not always just about money. Look at verse 25 again: “he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” How do you refresh someone? Perhaps it’s a word of encouragement, or praying with someone. Perhaps it’s blessing someone with an anonymous surprise or leaving a note under their pillow (as my little one is famous for).

As you listen to the Holy Spirit for guidence, look for opportunities to refresh someone. You’ll find that you, yourself, will be refreshed. Are you sick? Pray for someone who is sick. Are you financially strained? Pray for those less fortunate than you.

peace,
e

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The Wise Man and the Fool – Proverbs 10

Can some of you remember back to your childhood days, watching a black & white TV show called Romper Room? Each day the teacher would present a situation and the kids would decide how the good “Do Bee” would handle it compared to how the “Don’t Bee.”

One of my favorite things to do lately is sit down with my little one and go through the latest “Highlights” magazine with her, working out the puzzles, reading stories about science, animals and adventure. They also have a series called “Goofus and Gallant” where Goofus is always getting into trouble, but Gallant always makes the right choices.

I think Solomon had the first of these children’s teaching tools called “The Wise Man and the Fool.” Solomon’s motive was the same as the creator of Do Bee and Gallant – to encourage kids to get used to making wise choices that would benefit them in their future. The book of Proverbs is full of them and chapter 10 is no exception:

3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

4 Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.

5 He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

7 The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.

8 The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

9 The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

I guess what’s hitting me most about today’s chapter is that we really need to spend time with our children, teaching them to make wise choices, using our lives as examples (both good and bad). The truth is, we already are whether we realize it or not. I love what precious time I have with my children. I try to maximize both fun and learning whenever we’re together. I look for teaching moments at every turn. I know how fast they grow up, so I appreciate any opportunity to sit and talk because as they get older, these are farther and fewer between.

A guest speaker at my church yesterday gave a staggering statistic. He said of the boomer generation, about 63% are expected to come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. But, only 35% of the buster generation and only about 4% of the millenial generation is expeted to. Do you see a downward spiral?

One way to help reverse this is for the Solomons among us to reach our kids. We can make a real difference in our children’s lives (or in the lives of other kids in our coommunities and churches) by doing what Solomon is doing: spending time and teaching kids. Solomon chose to write his thoughts down. Perhaps you are a gifted writer – how can you make this available to your kids or those in your church? Perhaps you teach – volunteer at church or VBS or camp. Perhaps you are gifted in sports or music – use those gifts to reach kids, then look for teaching moments. Perhaps it’s as simple as encouraging them to start their own dBrag or Bible Study at school.

Don’t be a “Don’t Bee” and plug along in live ignoring the opportunities God is giving you to reach a younger generation. Ask God for some inspiration and make a difference.

peace,
e

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