Proverbs 28

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“To have respect of persons and to show partiality is not good, neither is it good that man should transgress for a piece of bread.” (v21, Amplified Bible)

How many different ways do we show favoritism? I would run out of fingers and toes if I tried to count them all! My flesh will always veer toward those I perceive are ‘like’ me or that I want to like me. Christ instructs us to love the unlovely, the poor, the dirty, the overlooked, the hard to love, those who never return love, those who return hate for love, those who can’t love. Those who are black, brown, yellow. Democrats, Republicans, Communists, bigots, racists, gays, abortionists and gluttons are all on Christ’s most likely to love list. My most likely to love list doesn’t have a lot of overlap with Christ’s.

I sure don’t have anyone on my list that has cursed me in public, accused me falsely, spread lies about me, slapped me, beat me, executed me. All those people are on Christ’s most likely to love list. Matter of fact, I am on that list and I am hard to love. I have returned hate for love, I have completely ignored love.

I am the very kind of person God calls me to love.

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Proverbs 27

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“The crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by the praise accorded him.” (v.21)

This is one of those verses that you carry in your pocket or tape to the wall or leave on the top of your dresser — really any place where you can easily see it.

What does the heart do with praise?

To the negative side, the heart listens to the praise. To enjoy it. To lather it all over oneself. To draw value and importance from the praise. Ultimately, to begin to believe that “I” am important. I am needed. Others can’t do without me. You should appreciate what I do for you. The heart begins to believe “I am.”

Where have you heard that before?

To the positive side, the heart listens to the praise. Appreciates the kindness that generates the praise. But realizes nothing good comes from you. Anything of beauty is Christ in you. The praise is acknowledging the outworking of Jesus in your life. The praise reminds you that you only did your job. That all the work was really done by Christ in His sinless death. The praise should compel us to point to “I am” who is alive and well in our life.

Proverbs 26: Did you really mean that? part 1

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(Today’s post combines verses from chapter 26 & 27.)

“Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot.” (26:23)

“An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” (27:5-6)

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” (27:9)

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (27:17)

My closest friends are those who will risk our friendship by sharing hard observations about myself with me. I want to be that friend to others as well. I want people to know that I will say what is right and true to them even if is unpleasant or risky. It seems some people are easier to be like this with than others. My goal is to be consistent with everyone. I’m not there yet.

I have lots of thoughts about these passages. I really want to grow in the principles they speak of. I have in many ways. I haven’t in others. My thoughts are so spread out on this. I can’t collect them. I have written several drafts to post but they all begin to go into circles and seem incoherent. The issue of candor, of honesty is full of passion for me. I feel that I have been burned by people who weren’t honest. I feel I have withheld honesty from others, thus burned them. I’ll have to meditate on this longer. Look for a follow up post in the coming days!

Proverbs 25: Call me Faithful?

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We recently finished reading a children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress. In the book many of the characters have names that reflect their character. I often wondered as I read the book to the boys, “What would my name be? What would reflect my character?”

Chapter 25 highlights a character trait that I hope I would reflect – faithfulness.

“Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his masters. (v. 13)

I especially like that last phrase, ‘he refreshes the soul of his masters.’ Wow, wouldn’t that be cool! To hear your parent, your boss, THE LORD say, “I love that guy! Knowing he’s taking care of that project sets me free to do other tasks that need my attention.” Or if it was the Lord, I would want Him to say, “This task needs someone who will see it through. I need someone I can depend on. Is Tim available?” (OK, He knows if I am available or not. I know that. Work with me will ya!!) I want to please Him!

But verses 14 & 19 are more true about me than I would like to admit. I don’t want to be one that takes on a responsibility and then doesn’t deliver (v.14). Nor do I want to be someone that others don’t want to deal with. (v.19) “This is a big job. Who is available? Tim? Is there anyone else available?”

I believe God’s grace gives me the strength to ‘refresh the soul of my master.’ May I grab that grace and be found faithful!

Proverbs 24: How Little League brings out the worst in me!

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Last Saturday was Little League tryouts for Grant. Every aspiring baseball player had to attend a “skills assessment.” So there they were, 20 or so eleven year old boys all lined up waiting their turn. When their name is called they step into a batting cage and hit ten balls. Then they move to an area where they caught a few balls. Then it’s over.

Every year I stand there and watch all the kids do their thing. You can tell which ones are still getting used to swinging the bat and the ones that probably had a personal trainer work with them over the winter. (Yes, they do that – at this age!!!) One mom was telling me how her Danny was so nervous. He hit really well. Afterward she said he was so glad it was over. So I walked over to Grant and said in his ear, “Are you nervous?” He looked at me like I was crazy. “No, Dad!” he said. And he really wasn’t. He was just there to hit the ball! What was there to be nervous about?

I just wanted him to make contact with the ball. He did fine. Got some good hits and put some wood on the ball with the others.

This was our 4th year doing this. I hate it every year! Why I hate it has nothing to do with Grant. It has everything to do with my heart and all the comparisons and hateful thoughts I have as I watch every kid put on that batting helmet.

The truth be told I am glad to see some poor boy miss the ball. Then there are the kids who wallop the ball every time it comes near them. I imagine how arrogant they must be about their hitting prowess. I look to find the mom or dad on the sideline who is standing taller or smiling bigger as the boy at the plate hits every ball thrown. Then I begin to evaluate them with all kinds of assumed motives and ill conclusions.

I really tried to figure it out this year, but to no avail. I think I lack the perspective on myself to understand the motives of my heart and the resulting evil that oozes from it. It seems too complicated.

With that background info you can understand why verse 17 was like a cruise missile that targeted my dark heart!

“Do not rejoice when your enemy fails, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”

They aren’t even my enemies. They are just kids who want to play baseball!

I am asking God to let me understand where these thoughts come from and why I struggled with them. I want to attend baseball tryouts next year and enjoy it!

Proverbs 23

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I am always drawn to the commands to act that I find in Scripture. I love 1 & 2 Timothy for that reason. Proverbs has much of the same characteristics in it.

In this chapter I found these verses that stood out to me:

    “Apply your heart to discipline, and your ears to words of knowledge.” (v.12)

    “But live in the fear of the Lord always.” (v.17b)

    “Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” (v.19)

    “Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding.” (v.23)

    “Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.” (v.26)

Apply
Live in the fear of the Lord
Listen
Direct your heart
Buy
Get
Give me your heart
Let your eyes delight

The area that keeps coming to my attention is that of discipline. Doing the right things at the right time. Learning how to place priority on those things of utmost importance and allowing the others to filter in as able.

For me, being in the Word, “getting wisdom and instruction and understanding” has to be the priority of my day! God, help me when I am weak and don’t follow through!

Proverbs 22

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Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. (v.6)

How does this verse work? Am I a pastor today because my mom dropped me off at church on Sundays or let the church bus pick me up? As far a spiritual training goes that is about all I got as a child from mom and dad. I got lots of training about how to work. They started that when I was in first grade.

I just had a thought. I have always read this verse and assumed parents were doing the training. In my case that wasn’t so. But there were many others who did pour into my life. A very special aunt. A junior high football coach. Junior high youth group leaders. My best friend’s mother (she is still training me via email and phone!). Finally, later in life my mother did some training that was very intense and special in the last few years of her life as she struggled with cancer.

Today I am the trainer. Two little boys, one with autism that demands wisdom and strength that I don’t possess, are my primary responsibility. It has been very cool to see how useful Proverbs has been in training the boys. Grant especially is beginning to pick up on bits of wisdom. When you think of it, the greatest ‘trainer’ is God’s word. I am so grateful for it in my life! I would be so lost without it!!

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