Tag Archives: Proverbs

End of the Story – An Object Poem

The prompt over at dVerse Poets Pub Meeting at the Bar today was to write a poem inspired by someTHING — to write about the sensory and memory perceptions from an object old or new. A particular object immediately came to mind, and I tried to come up with something less obvious for me, but once an idea takes hold in my mind there’s no point in fighting it. So here’s my object poem about my favorite copy of the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs.

End of the Story

It holds only
half the story
but the better half
the ending
where peace and joy
reign with the King

Soft red leather
feels like velvet
in my cool hands
smooth as a feather

Parchment thin pages
slide through my fingers
and tiny words require
removal of my glasses
evoking a feeling of
closeness to the Word

And powerful
that’s how it makes me feel
And sad, and grateful

So many memories
of tucking it into
my purse or suitcase
heading to Vegas,
Hawaii, or Salt Lake City

Salt Lake stands out
reading next to my seatmate
heading off on his first
required mission trip
reading a book of his own
That led to quite the
interesting discussion

On my bedside table
a vision of comfort
a source of wisdom
a reminder that I am able
to know my Savior
like a best friend

Now I have a new memory
whenever I gaze
at my favorite little book
and see the tattered spine
chewed by a curious kitten
in his wild and crazy days

And though it is the
end of the Story
its story has not
come to an end
just because of a few
kitten nibbles

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Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, Poetry, Psalms

The Misery of Pride

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dwight Yoakam lately because I went to see him here in Portland last week with my cousin. The concert was awesome, but I wish he would have sung a few more of his slower songs. Although it is not Christian music, I love his style, his voice, and how he can so perfectly capture the mood of the song he is singing.

I want to share one of my favorite Dwight Yoakam songs called 1,000 Miles from his 1987 album Hillbilly Deluxe. This is a very sad song, but I just love how it shows off his wonderful voice. I love the tremor in his voice when he sings “A thousand miles of misery-y-y-y-y-y-y-y.”

There is also a lesson in this song. The first verse says:

Runway Four, Flight 209
Teardrop falls, we start to climb
This window seat proved a poor choice
It shows the dream that’s been destroyed
A little baby starts to cry
Hey, I would too, if not for pride
I owe so much to pride, it’s true
It brought an end to me and you

As sad as this song is, as heartbreaking as the situation of the singer is, it doesn’t have to be that way. He is in misery because of pride. Because of pride, he has lost the one he loved, which is not surprising. As scripture says:

Pride goes before destruction,  a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18 (NIV).

Pride brings a person low,  but the lowly in spirit gain honor.
Proverbs 29:23 (NIV).

The end of a matter is better than its beginning,  and patience is better than pride.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NIV).

How many relationships between husbands and wives, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters, or between friends are broken or lost because of pride? It prevents us from being forgiving, kind, and loving in our relationships, and keeps us from admitting our own faults and seeking forgiveness. It leads to a thousand miles or a thousand days of misery and loneliness.

What relationships are you jeopardizing today because of pride? It’s a question we all need to ask from time to time. May God help us all set aside our pride and leave misery behind.

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Grace Is Not New

Many characterize the Old Testament as a book of God’s wrath and the New Testament as a book of God’s grace. But as I read the whole of scripture, I find grace and wrath throughout. There is grace for the humble and wrath for the proud in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Two translations of a verse from Proverbs illustrate this truth.

Though He scoffs at the scoffers,
Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.
Proverbs 3:34 (NASB).

He mocks proud mockers
but gives grace to the humble.
Proverbs 3:34 (NIV)

This Old Testament verse is quoted twice in the New Testament, in James 4:6 and in 1 Peter 5:5. In quoting this Proverb, James and Peter are teaching the new church that humility is at the core of the Gospel of grace that they preach. We trust in the atoning sacrifice of Christ because we know we are unworthy to be able to earn God’s grace on our own. The proud, who believe they do not need Christ, remain under the wrath of God.

There have always been scoffers and proud mockers who deny the majesty of God. Until Jesus returns there will continue to be. These scoffers say that our faith is futile and useless because God does not exist, or if He does then He surely does not care about us mere mortals.

But there have also always been the humble, those who desire to know God and trust in His grace and strength. And as much as the mockers would like to think humble believers in Christ will someday cease to exist, that all religion will one day be irrelevant, we will survive because God has granted us grace and mercy.

I sometimes think about all the people who lived before Jesus walked the earth and wonder what their eternal fate was. They could not have trusted in the saving grace of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, because it had not yet happened. And yet I cannot help but believe that His blood covers the humble and afflicted of the Old Testament. It’s the ultimate time paradox – one that, for me, is answered by the timelessness of our dear Savior.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV). He lives outside the bounds of linear time as we experience it. His grace is sufficient for the humble who trust in Him.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 (NIV).

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Out of the Heart

I know that we are not supposed to judge others (see Luke 6:37), and that only God is able to see into the heart of a man (see 1 Samuel 16:7).

But right after command us to not judge, Jesus says:

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43-45 (NIV).

So even though we are not to judge others in terms of pronouncing their ultimate fate — for only Jesus is our ultimate judge — we can still sometimes tell what another has stored up in their heart, whether it be evil or good, by the things that they say.

One who stores up anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, and pride in their heart will often speak ill of others, revealing the evil that they cling to. They will constantly complain about and judge others. Having people such as this in our lives can be truly exhausting as they are difficult to love as the Lord has commanded us to love.

Each of us must be careful of the words we speak and be aware of any evil in our own hearts that words of bitterness might reveal. When we see such bad fruit in the lives of others it is a good time to take an inventory of our own fruitfulness. It is also a good time to practice the lessons our Lord has taught us about how we are to live and not allow such evil to spread to our own hearts.

Above all, I believe the Lord calls us to be a witness to and pray for those in our lives whose bitterness, envy, and pride can cause us such grief. Quoting in part from Proverbs 25:21-22, the apostle Paul wrote:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
   if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 (NIV).

When Paul, quoting from Proverbs, says being kind to your enemy “will heap burning coals on his head,” what exactly does he mean? According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, this phrase signifies “retribution by kindness, i.e., that, by conferring a favor on your enemy, you recall the wrong he has done to you, so that he repents, with pain of heart.” Vine’s pg. 107. In other words, by repaying another’s evil with kindness, you might cause him to return to the Lord and be saved so that Christ might reign in his heart.

But it is important to remember that it is only by the grace of God that we are able to treat the one whose bad fruit seems to plague our lives with love. It is Christ living in us who loves them and wants to change their heart, to destroy the evil in their heart and replace it with good, who is alone able to give us the capacity to show them love. For it is when we store up Christ in our own hearts that we are able ourselves to bear good fruit.

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Between Grace and Obedience

Last week I received the following quote in my daily Quotemeal from Heartlight.org. I really liked it and immediately copied and pasted it into a draft post for later writing. As I thought about what I would write for today, I was reminded of this quote.

It is not that we keep His commandments first, and that then He loves; but that He loves us, and then we keep His commandments. This is that grace, which is revealed to the humble, but hidden from the proud.
      – St. Augustine of Hippo

I found this quote to be a wonderful summation of the Gospel. It is a great reminder that we cannot earn God’s love, we cannot earn salvation. God’s love always was and always will be available to us. His salvation is a gift that we do not deserve, but that our gracious God desires to give.

This quote is also a great reminder of the effect that a deep understanding of God’s abounding love and amazing grace has on the human heart. Such an understanding — sometimes referred to as “heart knowledge” — of God produces in the heart of the believer a profound appreciation for God’s saving grace. “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (NIV). This appreciation leads to a desire to show God’s love to others, and loving others is God’s greatest commandment after loving God Himself. Jesus said that these two commandments summed up all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:40.

It is a wonderful thing that God loves us first, because if we needed to keep His commandments before He would love us, we would all be lost. I am thankful that He first loved me, and that He has changed my heart.

The last part of this St. Augustine quote is also important. It is the humble, those who understand their need for a savior, who can understand the truth of God’s grace. But the proud refuse to admit that they cannot be good enough on their own merits. The proud believe that they can earn God’s love but that others who are not as good as them cannot.

Throughout scripture God has expressed His disdain for the proud and His love for the humble.  “He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34 (NIV).

God’s grace is available to all, but pride prevents many from accepting His free gift, from even understanding how awesome it is. Humility is the lens through which you will find our Lord’s love.

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Satisfied – A Poem

Mick Jagger sang “I can’t get no satisfaction.” What a sad way to live, but many people do live like that. Some people, no matter how much they have, are never satisfied and always strive for more. I much prefer Johnny Cash’s “A Satisfied Mind,”  knowing that “I am richer by far with a satisfied mind.”

A satisfied mind comes from being thankful for the blessings of God. When we realize that we have all that we need to live, and appreciate what we have been given, we will have a satisfied mind. And when we appreciate the gift of salvation that Jesus offers, we will enjoy a satisfied mind eternally.

Satisfied

Salvation is enough for me
Abundant joy a bonus
Treated like a daughter
Invited by the King to be
Safe from the stress and fuss
For He says, “I bought her”
Immanuel is mine, you see
Ever a love I long to discuss
Divine peace I truly prefer

I’m not sure I’m completely satisfied with this poem, but I am deeply satisfied with my Savior and His love. Satisfaction has long been a desire of mankind. Even Solomon, who had riches greater than any king, asked the Lord for satisfaction in Proverbs. He asked for just what he needed and for the peace for that to be just enough.

“Two things I ask of you, 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 (NIV).

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The Perfect Woman without Photoshop

A friend posted this video on Facebook this morning, and it got me thinking about what we are teaching our sons and daughters about what constitutes a beautiful woman. Do we tell them the truth about what is important, or do we allow them to be duped by the lie that perfect physical beauty is the most important goal.

The lies exposed in this video are lies of the devil promoted by the media and advertising industry. They are everywhere we look, in magazines, on billboards, and on television. They are subtle lies that suggest that women can, in fact, be like the perfect images we see in pictures and in videos. The truth is, as the Jean Kilbourne says, such external perfection can only be achieved through Photoshop and other manipulative software.

But where can we look to find the truth about what the perfect, or at least beautiful and exception woman, looks like? What should we be teaching our daughters to strive for? What should we be teaching our sons to appreciate in a woman? The truth can be found in God’s Word. Proverbs 31 describes the woman we should teach our daughters to desire to be and teach our sons to seek out for a wife:

A Wife of Noble Character

 10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
      She is more precious than rubies.
 11 Her husband can trust her,
      and she will greatly enrich his life.
 12 She brings him good, not harm,
      all the days of her life.

 13 She finds wool and flax
      and busily spins it.
 14 She is like a merchant’s ship,
      bringing her food from afar.
 15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
      and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

 16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
      with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 17 She is energetic and strong,
      a hard worker.
 18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
      her lamp burns late into the night.

 19 Her hands are busy spinning thread,
      her fingers twisting fiber.
 20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
      and opens her arms to the needy.
 21 She has no fear of winter for her household,
      for everyone has warm clothes.

 22 She makes her own bedspreads.
      She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
 23 Her husband is well known at the city gates,
      where he sits with the other civic leaders.
 24 She makes belted linen garments
      and sashes to sell to the merchants.

 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
      and she laughs without fear of the future.
 26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
      and she gives instructions with kindness.
 27 She carefully watches everything in her household
      and suffers nothing from laziness.

 28 Her children stand and bless her.
      Her husband praises her:
 29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
      but you surpass them all!”

 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
      but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
 31 Reward her for all she has done.
      Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

In this passage, inner beauty and character are prized over external beauty. As verse 30 says, beauty does not last. As illustrated by the video, what is portrayed as beauty by the media and advertising industry does not even exist. A beautiful character, however, is real and achievable. The woman with a beautiful character will bring happiness and contentment to those around her, and will last an eternity.

This is the truth we must impart to our sons and daughters so that they will desire inner beauty that is achievable rather than external beauty that is unachievable and destructive. It will take effort to impart this wisdom because we must combat the many lies that bombard our children every day. More and more videos like the one above are being posted on the Internet everyday. It is wonderful that they are there to expose the lies about physical beauty. But we must do more than just expose the lies; we must replace them with the truth. We must teach our children that character and godliness are the most important traits for them to desire and prize above all else.

If you have a son or daughter, share this important message with them. Jean Kilbourne says she has been sharing her message for 40 years and things have only gotten worse. Maybe if we add to her message the truth of what God’s Word says is the woman who “will be greatly praised,” then maybe in another 40 years things will be much better.

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Unity on the Foundation of Christ

I feel like I am on top of the mountain with God! I just got home from a Beth Moore simulcast and it was awesome. I know I have to come down from the mountain eventually, and probably sooner than I’d like, but before I do I want to share what I learned.

The live event that was simulcast was held in Chicago, but it was simulcast to 596 different locations, in 11 countries, at host sites comprising 30 different Christian denominations. In all there were 125,000 women and “a few brave men” attending this event, which consisted of worship time and Bible study led by Beth Moore. The topic of the day was Proverbs 31:25 and the “law of kindness.” But I don’t want to write about the eight points about kindness that Beth talked about. You’ll just need to take one of her courses to hear about that, or maybe I’ll write about it in another blog post. It was really good stuff, so I probably will.

What I wanted to share was what God showed me about the unity of His Church through this event. As I’ve mentioned before, I am working through a Bible-in-a-year reading schedule, and right now I am in 1 Corinthians. Something I read the other day really bothered me.

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) `For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.

The reason this bothered me is because there are so many denominations and divisions in the world. In addition, the church I attend recently split from another church and it has been very difficult for everyone involved. I wondered what God must think of all these divisions and denominations.

But today, women from 30 different denominations were united in worshipping our Lord and in learning from God’s Word about kindness. We were all united in our faith in Jesus as our Savior, as the appearance of God’s kindness and love on earth. Beth Moore mentioned Titus 3:3-8, which shows God as the first and greatest philanthropist because He gave more to the cause of mankind than any other when in Christ Jesus He died for us on the cross. Paul wrote in Titus:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:3-8.

This is what unites us — our trust in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus and our recognition that we can do nothing on our own. As Beth Moore said, “This [life] is a war and we have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the truth that Jesus is Lord!” Paul continued in Titus to talk again about division.

 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:9-11.

None of us is capable of keeping the law on our own, but can do so only by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we must stand united on the truth that the good works we do are God working in and through us. The kindness we show is a fruit of the Holy Spirit living in us. Christians may be made up of many denominations who have different ideas about how they want to worship or differ on some minor aspects of the law. But as long as we all stand firm on Christ as our foundation, we remain one body of Christ in opposition only to the world and the evil one. Today, I saw that in action as 125,000 women from 30 different denominations in 11 countries worshipped together in peace and love.

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Choosing to Hear Wisdom or Folly

This week I started reading Proverbs, the words of wisdom passed down to us by King Solomon, wisdom which was granted to him by God. In the New Living Translation the heading at the beginning of Proverbs 8 is “Wisdom Calls for a Hearing.” In this chapter, Wisdom stands on the hilltops and at the crossroads calling out for all to listen.

4 I call to you, to all of you!
      I raise my voice to all people.
 5 You simple people, use good judgment.
      You foolish people, show some understanding.
 6 Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you.
      Everything I say is right,
 7 for I speak the truth
      and detest every kind of deception.
 8 My advice is wholesome.
      There is nothing devious or crooked in it.
 9 My words are plain to anyone with understanding,
      clear to those with knowledge.

It seems in our world today no one listens to wisdom, though it is available to all who seek it. Verse 9 says that if we have knowledge, wisdom will be clear and plain to us. But so often people gain human knowledge and believe that alone is enough. They don’t consider whether ideas and advise are wholesome, truthful, and right. Deception and devious motives abound.

Just the morning on the news I saw a story about how diet frozen dinners often had more calories than the box indicated. A seemingly plausible reason was given, but the essence of the company representative’s comment was that it didn’t matter if the nutrition information was wrong.

Another story highlighted potential misinformation provided by BP regarding the Gulf oil disaster. It seems BP executives knew they were cutting corners on safety before the leak started and didn’t do anything to avoid the risk. Many Gulf-area residents have been financially damaged because of this disaster, but it is taking government action to force BP to see the wisdom of setting up a fund to pay them for the damage done.

Yesterday I read a blog about human trafficking that brought me to tears. Evil people use deception to lure young women and children into slavery for the sex trade. Often the lure is through a fake job offer, other times it is through preying on the poverty of parents in poor countries. These evil people despise wisdom and do not listen to her voice.

Even in our daily lives most of us cannot avoid having to deal with lies and deception. The world puts more emphasis on winning or succeeding at any cost than it does on truth and justice born of wisdom. People use knowledge to gain riches at the expense of others or the environment or our children’s futures.

In her call for a hearing, Wisdom goes on to say:

18 I have riches and honor,
      as well as enduring wealth and justice.
 19 My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold,
      my wages better than sterling silver!
 20 I walk in righteousness,
      in paths of justice.
 21 Those who love me inherit wealth.
      I will fill their treasuries.

The wealth that Wisdom promises is far better than all the money, all the gold, all the jewels, and all the oil in the entire earth. It is treasure that is stored up in Heaven, but it is also the treasure of peace and joy in your heart. It is the treasure of a mind that is content and satisfied with the gifts God has seen fit to grant us. It is the treasure of a heart free from always striving for more, then when more is attained, striving yet again.

Will you give Wisdom a hearing? Will you heed her call? Will you enjoy the treasure of peace, hope, love, and salvation?  The alternative is to listen to Folly. This is what she has to say in Proverbs 9 as she calls for a hearing, too:

 13 The woman named Folly is brash.
      She is ignorant and doesn’t know it.
 14 She sits in her doorway
      on the heights overlooking the city.
 15 She calls out to men going by
      who are minding their own business.
 16 “Come in with me,” she urges the simple.
      To those who lack good judgment, she says,
 17 “Stolen water is refreshing;
      food eaten in secret tastes the best!”
 18 But little do they know that the dead are there.
      Her guests are in the depths of the grave.

It seems to me many in the world have chosen to listen to Folly. They mistakenly believe that stolen water is refreshing and food eaten in secret is sweet. But I choose Wisdom for her ways are just and good, and she is a gift from God. How about you?

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God Is Love

There are Bible verses that can stand alone as pearls of wisdom and strength, such as:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6.

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10a.

But generally it is best to read any passage of scripture in the context of the entire book it comes from and the message of the Bible as a whole. Sometimes the best revelations about God come when we look at two passages together and ponder how they complement each other to exalt God’s message of mercy and redemption.

1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I like to take the last thought here — that God IS love — and bring it together with other passages regarding love. For example, consider the famous love passage from 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. What if the noun “love” was replaced with God in this passage, since God is love?

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not [GOD], I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not [GOD], I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not [GOD], I gain nothing.

[GOD] is patient, [GOD] is kind. [HE] does not envy, [HE] does not boast, [HE] is not proud. [GOD] is not rude, [GOD] is not self-seeking, [GOD] is not easily angered, [GOD] keeps no record of wrongs. [GOD] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [HE] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 [GOD] never fails.

Truly God is love, the greatest love we can ever know. Without Him I am nothing but a resounding gong. Without His saving grace, I have nothing of any value because I have not my eternal soul. He has been exceedingly patient with me and always kind. Because of Jesus, He keeps no record of my wrongs. He is forever my protector and my strength. His glory will never fail.

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