Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wisdom Quest X- Beautiful Women, Deaf Ears, Anger and Contentment

This is my final post in Proverbs.  I have been reading three chapters a week and picking a favorite proverb.  I'll finish with the final four proverbs this week.  Thank you for reading along with me.

Proverbs 28
"If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law,
even his prayers are detestable."  Proverbs 28:9

We cannot sin unrepentantly and fool ourselves into thinking that we can still please the LORD.  See, turning a deaf ear to the law means that we know we shouldn't do something and still willfully do it.  I'm guilty of doing this at times and it is a serious offense.  The writer says that even our prayers are detestable if we do this.  All our "good works" mean nothing without repentance.  Repentance is key to the Christian life, especially our prayer life.

Proverbs 29
"A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control."  Proverbs 29:11

Anger is not necessarily sinful; anger can be a legitimate and even righteous feeling.  We, however, are not to be controlled by our emotions.  How someone deals with his/her anger speaks volumes about their character.  If you are close friends or dating someone who gives full vent to their anger, watch out!

You must control your anger, don't let your anger control you.

Proverbs 30
"Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God."  Proverbs 30:7-9

What a great prayer request!

This proverb is very self-explanatory, but I'll focus on one thing: Contentment.  Contentment is the key to monetary life.  Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread; we should do as He taught.  When is the last time you actually prayed for just enough?  We all want to be rich, but how many of us would be content even if we had everything?  As C. S. Lewis said, "The one who has everything and God has no more than he who has God only."  Strive for contentment.

Proverbs 31
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."  Proverbs 31:30

I have found such a woman and I am beyond thankful!  My wife fears the LORD and has beauty and charm, but when her youthfulness leaves her she will still be a woman to be praised.

Ladies, be this type of beautiful woman who fears and loves God.  Guys, search for this!  Stop being so shallow and you will get far more than you ever dreamed of... you'll get real lasting beauty, like I did.  Guys, if we do a better job of searching for this and praising this type of woman then I believe more women will be this type of woman.  It starts with us, so do it.

Don't be unrepentant.  Listen to God's law.  Control your anger, don't let it control you.  Strive for contentment in your financial life.  And women, be beautiful from the inside out and single guys, search for that type of woman today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wisdom Quest IX-Buring Coals, Sharp Iron and a Dog's Ears

This is my second to last time writing about Proverbs as my Bible study group will be moving on to another book.  I'll again choose my favorite proverb from each of the three chapters I read this week.

Proverbs 25
"If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burring coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you."  Proverbs 25:21-22

The phrase, "kill 'em with kindness" has a lot of wisdom in it because it really works.  Have you ever been a jerk intentionally to someone that responded kindly to you?  I have and it's annoying.  It makes me mad because they refuse to stoop down to my level.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbors and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  Proverbs tells us to do this, too but realizes that we are human and tells us to do it in part because it will drive our enemy nuts.

Proverbs also says that the LORD will reward us for returning good for evil.  Being kind to an enemy will grow us to love more like Jesus.  It is so hard to hate those we serve.  The reward of the LORD should be our main motivation but if that doesn't come right away then kill them with kindness first.

Proverbs 26
"Like one who seizes a dog by the ears
is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own."  Proverbs 26:17

My dad would paraphrase this verse like this:  "Butt Out!"  I heard that a lot growing up because I liked to get involved in other people's garbage and that is a good way to get hurt.  We're especially bad with this online.  We see two people in a comment war and feel the urge to join in and offer our "wisdom".  It never ends well.  No one ever responds like this, "Wow!  I never thought about it like that.  Thank you for getting involved and correcting us in our argument."  That doesn't happen.  You are not Mike Brady and everyone on Facebook is not the Brady Bunch kids.

It boils down to this... not everyone needs your opinion.  Butt out, especially when tempers are already flared.

Proverbs 27
"As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another."  Proverbs 27:17

This is why we do Bible studies.  This is why we are in community as believers.  To reach spiritual maturity we need one another.  So, for example, enter times of Bible study with others expecting to learn from others.

So, be kind to your enemies.  Butt out of other people's business.  And be in community with believes even though it is often difficult, because it is worth it.  Strive to gain God's wisdom by following His advice today.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wisdom Quest VIII- Debt, Sin City and Enemies

This week I'm picking a favorite proverb from Proverbs 22-24.  Please read these chapters because I will not touch most of the proverbs in them.

Proverbs 22
"The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is servant to the lender."  Proverbs 22:7

When you owe money you work for another.  Think about it.  If you make $10 and have a car payment of $200 a month you actually worked 20 hours for your lender.  The more debt you have the more you are a servant to another.  This doesn't mean that we should never take out loans, but this means that we are to be careful about debt and we should work hard to get out of debt.

Currently my wife and I are working to get out of debt.  We have a plan in place to pay off my car loan, my students and her student loans in around a year's time.  We've already payed off my car loan and the students loans will come quickly.  Does this mean we have to spend differently than we might like to?  Absolutely.  But we're doing this so that the money we earn will go to us and not to our lenders.  We want to not be ruled over by the rich lenders.  You can do this, too, but it will take work.

Proverbs 23
"Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off."  Proverbs 23:17-18

Ever feel like non-Christians have all the fun?  Feel like places like Sin City seem fun but that God is keeping you from the fun?  I'll admit that I have felt that way, but remember to be zealous for obeying God not simply gratifying yourself.  The pleasure of sin will pass and only the penalty will remain.  Those who fear the LORD have a future hope that will last forever.  There are plenty of great pleasures that are in the will of God and those outside the will of God aren't worth it.  Spend your energy enjoying God's ways and you'll be rewarded richly.

Proverbs 24
"Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the LORD will see and disapprove
and turn His wrath away from him."  Proverbs 24:17-18

I was at a Christian concert the night that Suddam Hussein was hanged.  People saw the news on their phones and passed it along; and people cheered.  Something didn't feel right about that.  And these verses are why.

Christians are to hunger for justice but we are not to gloat over our enemy's misery.  We aren't to be glad that ISIS members are killed (this is so hard for me), but we are to pray that the murders are brought to justice while not being glad when they are killed.  For instance, football player Ray Rice abused his wife, but we aren't to cheer that he lost his job.  This doesn't mean that Rice shouldn't have lost his job... he deserved his punishment.  What it does mean is that we Christians shouldn't cheer about this, rather we should pray that God uses this punishment to perfect him and to protect his wife.

Christians we are not to be jealous of those sinning and seemly having a blast.  We aren't to be ear deep in debt.   We aren't to gloat when our enemies fall.  Rather, we need to work hard to be debt free, we need to pray for our enemies and be zealous for the fear of the LORD today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wisdom Quest VII- Zeal, Beer and the King

I'm continuing my study on the book of Proverbs.  I've chosen one proverb from each of the three chapters I read this week.

Proverbs 19
"It is not good to have zeal without knowledge,
nor to be hasty and miss the way."  Proverbs 19:2

I love watching someone do what they're passionate about.  Passion is an important aspect of being successful in whatever it is that you're doing.  Passion alone, however, is a waste; passion must be coupled with knowledge.  Likewise, knowledge without passion isn't much good either.  Our life and our faith must have knowledge and zeal together.

Fools rush in and the stagnate have no heart; but the victorious have passion and knowledge married.

Proverbs 20
"Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise." Proverbs 20:1

If I had to make a rule regarding alcohol that everyone had to follow it would be this: Don't drink.  Luckily no one has put me on the Over Reaching Rule Committee.  I, like many of you, drink beer or wine on occasion and enjoy them both.  I, like many of you, am appalled by the damage alcohol has caused many people.  I have seen lives ruined by drinking, but at the same time the Bible tells us that wine and beer are a pleasure from God.

Here's my general rule: Have a drink, don't let the drink have you.  When the drink has us we lose control.  Drunkenness takes away our mind but not our passion; it puts us in direct violation of the advice given in the the previous proverb I wrote about.  Beer can give us beer muscles that cause fights.  Wine can make us say things we regret.  Wine and beer are for our pleasure but a pleasure misused is a sin and it will hurt us and those around us.  If alcohol has control of your life, in any way, give it up.  If you do drink, please drink in a matter that pleases God, not just in a way you think He can tolerate.

Proverbs 21
"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD;
He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases."  Proverbs 21:1

Our leaders, whether good or bad, are tools of God.  Does this mean that all of our leaders do what is right in the eyes of the LORD?  No.  But this does mean that God will accomplish His purposes using the leader(s) that He has put in place.

Christians living in a republic/democracy, this means that we vote and are active in government but it also means we aren't afraid when things go against us and our party.  We never have to fear that our leaders will stand in God's way.  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were leaders that accomplished the will of God; Pharaoh Ramses and Pontius Pilate also were leaders that accomplished the will of God.  We Christians must trust in God's omnipotent sovereignty more than in the effectiveness, or lack there of, of our politicians.

So, have zeal and knowledge together in your life.  Beware of alcohol and it's effects on you; don't let the drink have you.  And have faith in God, not fear of man.

Live wisely today.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wisdom Quest VI- Sovereignty, Pain and My Functional Savior

For today's post I'll highlight a favorite proverb from Proverbs chapters 16 through 18.  I'm not even close to covering all of each chapter so I encourage you to read them.

Proverbs 16
"The LORD works out everything for His own ends...
even the wicked for a day of disaster."  Proverbs 16:4

This proverb speaks of God's sovereignty.  When I say God is sovereign I mean that He rules over all things and causes all things to be for His glory.  This proverb reminds me of what Joseph said to his brothers, at the end of his life after all he had suffered and all he had accomplished.  He said in Genesis 50:20: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."  God is sovereign over all things and all things are for His glory!

Proverbs 17
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but the LORD tests the heart."  Proverbs 17:3

Pain and trials in and of themselves may not be good, but God uses them to accomplish His good.  As the previous proverb says, God works out EVERYTHING for His own ends... EVERYTHING.  God redeems everything, even evil, to carry out His good and perfect plan.

Peter says it this way, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith... of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."  1 Peter 1:7

Pain and suffering suck, but God is sovereign over EVERYTHING even pain and suffering and He will accomplish all things for His glory and the good of His beloved.  This is a hard and sweet truth.

Proverbs 18
"The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe.

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
they imagine it an unscalable wall."  Proverbs 18:10-11

Who is your functional savior?  I stole this question from somebody but I'll use it because it is a fantastic one.  Who is your functional savior?

The righteous know that God is the true strong tower and the only source of real rest.  But the rich can be fooled into believing that their wealth will save them.  Before you point a finger at someone else think about your own life.  Is your security found in your 401K, your bank account, your insurance policy, your job?  Or is your security in Christ alone?  I'll admit that this is really hard for American Christians because we have so much wealth and our wealth does give us some security.  We have to remember that all earthly wealth is temporal, but God is eternal.  Make God not just your proclaimed Savior but your functional Savior, too.  Actually lean on Him and see what He will do with your life.

So, remember that God is sovereign over all, even the pain in our lives.  And make your functional savior the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, not wealth today.