Monthly Archives: April 2014

Proverbs 19: Following the Plan of God

I am a planner. I like to know where I am headed and know what I am going to be doing. I don’t necessarily mind modifying my plans, but I like to at least have that blueprint in my mind. Proverbs 19 talks about blueprints as well, but it doesn’t necessarily put a lot of value in my blueprints.

Pro 19:21  There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

I know this from experience. There are plenty of plans that run through my mind. I have all kinds of things I think about doing or might want to do. Some of them are great things, and some of them are kind of average. Admittedly, I know that there are some plans makes that never should be made at all because they are simply a waste of time.

All of these plans hurry through my mind, but very few of them are acted on. However, I still think that I fit the first part of that verse. There are many things that go through my mind and my heart. There are plenty of things that I want to do or want to say.

The second part is interesting. Out of all of these ideas that go through my mind, I wonder what percentage of them actually work. Which ones are actually good for me to act on? I bet most of them are not that great. As much as I like to make all these plans, I don’t know how well my own counsel goes.

This proverb is claiming that God’s plan will actually stand. It won’t be like my millions of plans that are not all that great all the time. His plan will do more than my plan could ever do. That really makes me more comfortable trusting in God. I know from experience how well my plans work or do not work, but what if I can follow the plan of God? I am following a plan that will work out. That sounds a lot better to me.

Proverbs 18: Follow Your Heart?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I grew up watching a lot of the traditional Disney classics. I still like them now, but there is one thing that is theologically troubling about most if not all of these films. It seems as if every character is always advised by some old-mentor type person or animal to follow his or her heart. Just look inside, and you will find the answer you’re looking for.

I have a problem with that because the human heart is not a very good thing on its own. Apart from God, there is nothing good in us. Proverbs 18 has some strong words to say about this kind of thing.

Pro 18:2  A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

A fool doesn’t really care about true understanding. A fool only cares about his or her own opinions. A fool only looks into his or her own heart to find out what course of action to take. Sorry Disney princesses, but your mentors did not have the best advice.

When it comes to decision-making, we have already gone over some very Biblical advice. If we want to make good decisions, we need to start with the fear of the Lord.

Pro 1:7  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The answers to making decisions do not come from your heart. If you are on your own making decisions without God being involved, then it isn’t going to work out all that well. God brings the wisdom, and by reading the Bible and by being sensitive to that wisdom, we will get a lot farther than we would by listening to our heart.

I totally understand the idea of listening to your heart, and I understand that the intent of those movies is more to teach young people and not be swayed by others. It seems to be more of a message against peer pressure, but in actuality, I think that we need to be careful with this message.

Jer 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Proverbs 17: Covering Transgressions

Proverbs 17 presents what looks like a pretty major challenge to all of us. Think about a time that someone has hurt you in some way. It is certainly not a good time, and you probably did not feel very good about the whole situation. I know I have been there, and the first thing you want to do in these types of situations is to go and talk to someone else about it. You want to have someone to talk through it with and try to come to some understanding of whatever happened.

Pro 17:9  He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.

This is a difficult challenge. While I do think that it is helpful to talk to other people when we are having problems, this is definitely true advice. If I tell you negative things about a third person over and over again, it will certainly affect your relationship with that person as well.

This particular passage doesn’t delve into individual situations. For example, say someone came up and started beating me up. Maybe that is not the type of transaction I should be covering. Why am I making an exception? Well, if I love you, I would probably want to protect you from harm. Perhaps that is a situation where I need to seek love by protecting someone else from a “friend” that they might as well be separated from anyway.

However, rather than play with all of these exceptions, I think that we can understand what this verse is talking about. If someone has hurt us, we need to go to that person and make it right. It doesn’t help if we start repeating the story over and over again for anyone who will listen. All it does is create more attention when perhaps it needs to be an issue that could be resolved immediately. That is certainly more loving.

Proverbs 16: Finding Our Calling

I think that it is interesting to think about the idea of having a calling. It is something we talk a lot about in Christian vernacular. We talk about God calling us to do something, but I don’t know if that means a lot to people who are outside of Christianity. It might not make sense to them. Was it just some kind of bizarre voice that you heard in your head that told you to quit your job and go do whatever you are called to do?

In Proverbs 16, we find an interesting verse that might help explain this idea a little bit farther.

Pro 16:9  A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.

We have these desires. We have things that we like and don’t like. I like mathematics, but I would not be so great as a physicist. We also have certain talents. God has given us these things so that we might use them in our everyday lives. That involves our careers.

As humans, we know what we like what we don’t like for the most part, so we begin to plan out the way that we feel God has naturally pointed us in. God gave me certain talents in certain areas, so it is my job to learn about them and use them.

As a result, we are kind of finding our way through life, but at the same time, we have this phrase where God is directing our steps. Steps seem to be the actual action. When we plan our way, we have not moved yet. We might find out what we are good at and what way we want to move in, but when it actually comes to moving, it seems like God is the one who is moving us and directing the actual steps that we take.

I think that the imagery here makes sense. As people, we try to figure out what is the best way for us to go. We figure out what we are good at and what we like to do. However, when actually comes to taking the steps towards those plans, God is the one directing us. Sometimes, those steps might not be what we expect of course. We might know the direction that we are going to be going in, but God will take us down the path specifically where we need to go.

I hope this helps clarify this idea a little bit more. We certainly might know what we are good at, and that will definitely help us decide what direction we are going to head in. However, when it comes to the actual fulfillment of that plan and taking positive steps towards what we are meant to be doing, God will lead us where we need to be.

Proverbs 15: A Reminder for Myself

I know that I write a lot for you, and Proverbs 15 reminded me of something that I always need to keep at the forefront of my mind. The reason for that is because when I write for you, I hope that I am able to provide something of value. I am not claiming to be the greatest theologian of all time, and I would rather be thought of as a lay-person who is reading the Bible with the intention of learning rather than the intention of telling you everything I already know.

However, in this process of learning, there are times I need to do research, and there are times I need to seriously think about what I am about to write. Some issues are complicated, and some theological positions require more than a surface level understanding.

That is where this verse from Proverbs comes in.

Pro 15:28  The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

I don’t just want to write for you for the sake of putting something on the page. Obviously, I have committed to writing every day, but I need to remember that it should not be hasty. I need to seriously ponder how I am communicating and what I am communicating. The last thing I want to do is pour out evil things because I did not seriously try to understand what God was communicating through these passages.

Again, I don’t claim to be a perfect theologian, and if you haven’t found something already, I am sure that there is some point where we will disagree on a certain Biblical interpretation.

However, I think that the message of this Proverb hits right near home at least for me. I hope that I can remember that I’m not just writing for the sake of putting words on the page. I am writing because I think the Bible is important, and I think it is important for people to engage with the material from the word of God.

Before writing anything or even speaking, we always ought to remember that a little bit of thought and contemplation will help. It is important to make sure that we are communicating what we intend.

Proverbs 14: The Existence of Sin

I know that people don’t want to admit it, but I think that one of the most obvious facts in the Bible is that people do make mistakes. There is sin in this world, and no one is immune from it. I know that some people may argue what is a sin and what isn’t, but that’s not so much what I want to talk about today.

We are in Proverbs 14, and there is one verse that stood out to me.

Pro 14:9  Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.

The English is a little bit awkward in the King James translation, so let me provide you with the English Standard Version as well.

Pro 14:9  Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.

Fools are the ones who don’t seem to understand this sin nature. Using the word mock is very strong here. It isn’t just fools are ignoring their sin or are not participating in the guilt offering. They are actively making a joke of these things that are actually serious.

I would go as far as to say that these people are in denial. Again, I think that sin is rather self-evident. I think that we all recognize that we all have done something that wasn’t right at some point in our lives. We can all think of some person that we did not treat right for example.

Perhaps these people don’t think that they need any kind of forgiveness. To be honest, that might be the biggest problem here. These people do not realize that by committing that offense, they are guilty before God. They might make amends with the person they hurt here on earth, but they don’t understand that they need forgiveness from the Lawgiver that they have violated as well.

I don’t know which of my two hypotheses are true. I don’t know if these people actually deny the existence of sin or if they only deny the need for forgiveness from God. For the first ones, I don’t know how to help them. For the second ones, I think this is where you need to begin by explaining the existence of God and why the Christian God is the one true God. If you can establish that, then the fact that we need His forgiveness should come out from that based on what we now about the God of the Bible.

Proverbs 13: The Company We Keep

I know it is sometimes easy to think that we are on this journey of life alone. Obviously there are people around us, but on some level, I think that we all think that we are independent people who are capable of making our own decisions.

That is true at some points, but we also can be influenced heavily by the people that we choose to associate with. Proverbs 13 has some pretty straightforward advice regarding the company we keep.

Pro 13:20  He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

There are two choices. We can either be wise, or we can be foolish. If we associate with people who make us better, then we are probably going to be better. If we associate with people who makes us worse, then we are going to spiral downhill.

I think that this one is rather straightforward, and even non-Christians will agree with this sentiment. However, there might be another specifically Christian level to this verse that bears exploration.

Earlier in this book, we read a lot about how wisdom comes from God and the fear of God. In other words, these wise people are people who have a right perspective on God. They fear Him, and they have that relationship in place.

As a result, I think that this could be a reminder as well that we need to have Christian friends. We need to have community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Please don’t take me out of context and feel like we can only talk to believers. Obviously I would never say that or else evangelism would be impossible.

However, I am saying it is important for us all to have some kind of Christians support network. If we walk with these people who love God like we do, they are going to encourage us on this walk. They’re going to help us move nearer to God and develop in our relationship there. That is definitely a wise thing to do.

Proverbs 12: Where’s Your Foundation?

I think that deep down we all want to have some kind of foundation. We want to know that we are standing on something that is worth standing on. Proverbs 11 tells us something about finding our base in the foundation from where we want to live our lives.

Pro 12:3  A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.

Basically, if you are basing your life on wickedness, you’re not going to be established. You are going to have a hard time having the kind of philosophy that you need to make good decisions in your life.

Alternately, if you base your life on righteousness, you will then have something that adds value to your life. You will have something that you can use to evaluate the other aspects of your life.

Obviously, since we are reading the Bible, we are talking about rooting our faith and our lifestyle in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the One who is righteous, and He is the One who came to earth to die as a sacrifice.

His teaching is what we need to be putting our faith in. If we are basing our lives on anything else, then the Bible doesn’t have good news for us. It tells us that we are simply going to have to deal with instability. When times get tough, we’re not going to be able to stand firm because we do not have a proper footing.

Jesus had something very similar to say about this.

Mat 7:24  Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

Mat 7:25  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

Mat 7:26  And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

Mat 7:27  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

I know it is not always popular to have a commitment to a particular belief system. I know that the world wants to affirm that there are many truths that all lead to same place. The Bible does not provide for that. If you want to stand in truth, then you need to stand and be rooted in Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 11: The Needs of Others

I found an interesting little piece of information in Proverbs 11. I have to admit that it sounds a little bit odd off the top, but if we think about it a little bit, I think that it makes quite a bit of sense.

Pro 11:26  He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.

I thought this sounded odd. Why are we spending valuable time in the most important book in the world talking about produce sales? I think that we need to step back and take a look at the situation that is being described here.

Obviously, there is a demand for corn. We don’t know why. Perhaps there is a famine in the land, or perhaps where some other reason, but it seems that people want corn.

There are generally two responses in this situation. On one hand, we can withhold anything that we have. Perhaps there is a famine, and we are thinking about ourselves and providing for our own needs. Perhaps we hide everything that we have so that we can guarantee our own survival for years.

On the other hand, we can sell the product that we have. We can give people the opportunity to get what they need. We can satisfy the demand by making what we have available. Sure, we might not be stockpiling as much for ourselves, but the people around us will also be able to get some of what they need.

I think our response to this ought to be pretty clear. If we have something in excess, perhaps we ought to think about those around us. Maybe we ought to think about how we can use what we have been blessed with to help other people rather than to build up a stockpile for our own potential future needs.

I am definitely not trying to urge anyone to go out and irresponsibly burn your entire life savings. I think that this is more about what we are attached to. Are we so concerned about our own stuff that we can’t even see beyond our own situation? Do we not realize that there are needs that we are able to meet in the world around us? Are there any ways that we can be especially charitable right now?

Proverbs 10: Attitudinal Starting Point

Proverbs is one of those books that I seem to find a lot of application in. Obviously, that was the purpose it was written for, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but Proverbs 10 is home to one of the more well-known verses from this book that I think we all need to keep in mind from time to time.

Pro 10:12  Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.

I want to approach this one in two parts. The first part talks about hatred stirring up strife. Thinking back over my life, this is a pretty obvious statement. If you don’t like someone all that much, it seems as if it is so easy to find even more ways to disagree with them. The little things that they do drive you crazy simply because you don’t like them all that much. You are starting from the wrong point in that relationship. You are starting from a point of hatred as opposed to a point of love.

The second part of the verse talks about love. It talks about how love covers over sin. It doesn’t mean that it absolutely erases the problem, but it covers them over. It allows you to move on. You don’t need to become hung up on that. The offense still happened, but it is not in the forefront anymore. Because you are starting from the spot of loving people, you are able to have that healing.

I think that it is important to remember these two starting points. On one hand, you are dealing with someone that you might not like very much. If you approach them with that attitude, only difficulty is going to come out of that. On the other hand, when you are dealing with someone that you love, you are able to have the reconciliation that you really need to have in these situations.

We need to have the right attitude when we relate to other people. We need to remember that God did command us to love other people. This proverb brought that thought back to the front of my mind.