Proverbs

Tuesday Devotional: Proverbs 19

bible

Desire without knowledge is not good—
how much more will hasty feet miss the way! -Proverbs 19:2

A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will not go free. -Proverbs 19:5

A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will perish. -Proverbs 19:9

A corrupt witnessmocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil. -Proverbs 19:28

 

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. -Acts 1:6-9

Do you call yourself a Christian?  Why?

A Christian identifies with Jesus Christ and believes confidently in his claims.  While those who actually saw Jesus in person have long since passed away, to be a Christian is still to be a witness.  A Christian is convinced in head and heart that what they have seen in the Bible and in their own life is evidence that Jesus Christ is who He said He is, and that His Spirit remains with us in the person of the Holy Spirit.  To be a witness, a person has to have seen someone or something personally.  To be a witness of Jesus Christ, and therefore a Christian, a person has to be a witness of His presence in history and in their own life.  Before you answer “yes” to the question “Are you a Christian?”,  ask yourself a much more important question: “Am I a witness?”

Have I personally witnessed the presence of Jesus Christ in my own life?  Do I believe that the Holy Bible testifies to the evidence of Jesus Christ in history as a man and the incarnation of the living God? Are YOU a witness?  If the answer is still yes, we must then understand and count the cost of what it means to be a witness.  We must understand that we have been shown the living God in Jesus Christ, and that we are commanded to testify to our experience in His life, death and resurrection and what we hear Him say in the Gospels.  Just as a witness in a court proceeding puts their right hand on the Bible and promises “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”  This oath poignantly and convictingly speaks from the place of Christian identity.  Jesus identifies Himself as, “the truth and the life.”  Therefore, as Christians we are not only proclaiming to the world that we have seen and believe in the presence of Jesus Christ, but we are also promising to share only what we’ve seen and heard, so help us God.  We not only share what we’ve witnessed in the Word, but we primarily show what we’ve witnessed in bearing the Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.  Our faith in Jesus Christ MUST replicate His spirit in our own.  If we allow His spirit to become our own, we provide the world with the most honest and powerful testimony to what we’ve witnessed.  If our lives bear witness to the life of Jesus Christ, we are loved by God as a true witness.  But if our lives conflict or contradict the life of Jesus Christ, we stand condemned before a God who warned us not to bear false witness, so help us God.

 

 

The Impossible Religion: Standards

This reflection series,  “The Impossible Religion,” reveals five specific problems that people have with the gospel of Jesus. These impossibilities arise when Christianity is a religion to achieve, rather than simply the “good news” of grace and redemption that will naturally transform us. Christianity outside of Christ’s redemption is in fact impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. For the next five weeks, we’ll go through Scriptures from five different areas of the Bible in order to confront these impossibilities:

  • Impossible Devotion
  • Impossible Standards
  • Impossible Trust
  • Impossible Power
  • Impossible Purpose

Impossible Standards (Proverbs 31)

Whenever I read the book of Proverbs, I always start pen in hand, intent on underlining “the good parts.” But every time, I quickly realize that to underline “the good parts” would find me underlining the entire book.  In 1 Kings we read about the gift of wisdom granted to King Solomon and the proverbs are proof of that gift.  The wisdom in the book of Proverbs is unique, different from anything else.

The Proverbs do not necessarily strike us as “impossible” as we read the sayings and feel intrigued, rebuked or encouraged.  That comes when we attempt to put these perfect words into practice in our admittedly imperfect lives.  The sayings in real-time and real-life swiftly transition from wise words in private to a burden too heavy to bear in public.  When faced with the challenges of this world, whether riches, anger, impatience, or pain, we tend to shake off “the good parts” as we indulge in our truly natural “human nature” and err on the side of the sinful flesh.

Throughout the entire book of Proverbs, Wisdom is depicted as a woman.  This woman of wisdom cries out to the passing pedestrians on the street, pleading with them to listen to her. All the while, she is challenged by an opposing voice from the opposite side of the street, also in the form of a woman, however, not a woman depicting wisdom and righteousness but rather “foolishness” or sin.  Throughout the entire book of Proverbs this woman of wisdom pleads for the people to listen, often to no avail.  It is her voice that we are meant to hear as we read the Proverbs and her words that we find perfect at one moment and burdensome at others.

The difficulty in taking advice stems from lack of trust in the source.  As we listen to the advice we are constantly evaluating the source giving the advice while perhaps making snap-judgments along the way.  “Does this person have a right to advise me?”  “What do they know about this?”  “Who are they to talk?”  It is from this mindset that we make our decision whether to follow the advice or not.

The proverbs are potent and almost hypnotic, small bursts of wisdom that captivate with their clarity. We chuckle from time to time as we read, saying things like, “That’s so true.”  But when the time comes to practice the sayings in our daily life, we take offense at the words and the source due to their unrealistic standards.  We don’t like to look like failures, and when we compare our lives to the wisdom of Proverbs, we often do. It’s easy to feel like a failure when confronted with the perfect advice and standard of Wisdom embodied.

Proverbs 31, the final chapter of Proverbs, is particularly fascinating: we finally get to meet the source of the sayings and words. At last, we meet this “woman of wisdom.”  Not only does she have wise sayings to offer us, she is, more importantly, an individual that puts the words into practice.  For all intents and purposes, she is perfect.

We might wonder how knowing that this woman practices the sayings is any help to us. “Good for her, but we still feel like the loser.” The only way to have confidence in advice is to trust the source, and to see the source likewise practicing the advice.  One of the things that hurts the church the most is that Christians fail to “practice what they preach.”  It is because of this careless, irresponsible and hypocritical approach to the Gospel that many avoid church, fall away from the church, or in general fall apart.  Superficial belief and worship was what most offended Jesus during his three-year ministry.  The idea that people tailored religion to fit their lifestyle led Jesus to call out the religious crowd, not the outcast sinners, as the hypocrites.

When it comes to practicing wisdom and these “perfect words,” the only way we can have confidence that we average people can reflect this wisdom is to understand the source.  In Proverbs 31 we meet the woman of wisdom.  However, as we know, this woman is not real, she is a literary device created to embody the sayings and to relate the words to us in a way we could understand. The true source of our wisdom is the “teacher of all teachers” and “shepherd of all shepherds.”  He is the one that said the sheep listen to his voice.  He is the one that promised and delivered the impossible.  He told us that we cannot do it alone, and that to attempt to reflect the wisdom of the proverbs using our own effort is futile.  With him, through him will we be awed by the wisdom, and ultimately overcome and transformed by it.  The voice of Jesus, the one that spoke the truth and is the true voice of wisdom that we can confidently follow.

ASK: Proverbs 8

Wisdom

source

This update is from a recent meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us.

Read Proverbs 8

Why do good people do bad things?  Why do intelligent people do foolish things?  Why is there a desire in our heart to shun wisdom for the sake of personal pride and ambition?

The truth is, they do and we do.

The heart of man is under a powerful delusion that nothing is more important than the self and the world.  From within this delusion it is not only difficult to pursue wisdom for wisdom’s sake, but we often view wisdom as the antagonist in our own stories.  We don’t like to be told what we need to do.  Even though we might quietly agree that the wise advice is good, for the sake of our pride we will pursue a path of potential destruction just so that we can ultimately discover and validate the advice on our own.

Ironically, even while we shun wisdom we lash out in anger that wisdom seems so far away when we need it.  We cry out, “Where is wisdom?”  We proclaim, “If only I had known.”  In doing this on a regular basis we come to the root of the issue at hand.  The heart.

Until we are willing to investigate thoroughly the shortcomings of our hearts, we will be trapped between self-sabotaging ego one day and hopeless vulnerability the next.  Until we realize that we are not simply lost, but that left to our own desire we will seek division and not peace, hatred not love, and death not life, we will continue down a path of a self-imposed delusion from which God pleads for us to break.

In Jesus Christ we have the embodiment of God’s character, word and wisdom.  We are, inevitably, offended by his words, because they are rooted in the reality that he is King and we are not.  However, only by accepting his authority will we discover that not only do we desperately need his wisdom, but also that his wisdom is for our benefit, personally and collectively.  His words judge, but do not condemn.  The wisdom of God in Jesus Christ identifies the disease in our heart, and offers the cure.  Why do we shun his words?  Why do you?

Tuesday Devotional: Proverbs 3

bibleMy son, do not forget my teaching,
    but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
    and bring you peace and 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.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.[a]

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth,
    with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.[b]

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
    by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
    and the clouds let drop the dew.

21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
    preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
    an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
    and your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
    or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the Lord will be at your side
    and will keep your foot from being snared.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
    “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
    when you already have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
    who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse anyone for no reason—
    when they have done you no harm.

31 Do not envy the violent
    or choose any of their ways.

32 For the Lord detests the perverse
    but takes the upright into his confidence.
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
    but he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 He mocks proud mockers
    but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
35 The wise inherit honor,
    but fools get only shame.

Advice that leads us closer to the desires of our heart is easy to take.  We seek the advice of people that we know will never discourage or disagree with us, not because we desire wisdom or truth but because we want to be right.  Likewise, it is difficult to stomach advice that not only contradicts our desires, but rebukes them.  While we might see the truth in the words, we reject them– not because they are wrong or unwise, but because by rejecting them we offer ourselves the freedom to remain unchanged and “correct.”  This cyclical routine can only be altered with the addition of immovable trust.  Trust requires that one put his or her life in the hands of another.  We are only willing to do this if there is faith that our life in the hands of another will not only survive but can thrive.  If we lack this faith, we will never be willing to hand ourselves over, limiting our ability to change.  God does not desire that we follow his decrees blindly or accept punishment void of understanding.  God wants us to see his advice in the same light as we see the air that we breathe.  With it we find life and happiness.  Without it we cease to exist, and the heart capable of overwhelming joy ultimately stops beating.