Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Pull of Folly -- Proverbs 9

Most people would agree it is better to be considered wise instead of foolish. In fact most of us seek after wisdom more than foolishness; yet the pull of foolishness, or folly, is strong. The writer of Proverbs uses the image of an immoral woman calling after men from her doorway. While it is important for men to watch out for such a thing, could it be possible there is more to the story than just the attraction of a woman?

I am sure you know there is more to the story than that but indulge me for a few moments. Wisdom will prolong and deepen the quality of your life, few people would debate that. At the same time the things which we know to be poor choices, or foolish choices seem to capture us. Folly has a way of beckoning us. Once drawn in we might know we are in a foolish situation, however, we thing we will be different than all those who have gone before us. For some reason we think we are more wise, or just different that those who have falling into the same trap. In Proverbs 9 the writer warns those who have entered the house previously are in the grave.

Often we see folly as being more fun than wisdom. For some reason we think if we choose wisdom life will be boring and uneventful. Both of those assumptions are dangerous. First it assumes happiness is the primary goal in life. Second it assumes there is no enjoyment or pleasure in wisdom. There is nothing wrong with happiness; still there is nothing in our scriptures which promises us happiness. Joy and contentment yes, happiness no. As far as the enjoyment and pleasure, those who have chosen wisdom have found greater enjoyment and pleasure in life, even if it has been delayed for a season.

Folly offers us happiness and enjoyment now. Wisdom often requires us to wait. This makes the pull of folly real strong. In the end folly leads to death, whereas wisdom brings life to you and those around you. The way of Jesus is the way of wisdom. Folly is found in going our own way. We must resist the pull of folly and seek wisdom.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Bugs God -- Proverbs 6

With a title like "What Bugs God" the field is wide open. This list and entry could get very long is I am not careful. Then the writer of Proverbs is kind enough to present a top six, I mean seven, list. I am pretty sure this is not an exhaustive list, yet it is a pretty good list. Resisting the temptation to take the list on one for one, I will look at the list as a whole. Additionally the list must be looked at in the context of the words around it. When this is done meaning well beyond the words is found.

At the core of all seven items is the treatment of other people. Carrying an appropriate understanding of how we relate to others is of utmost importance to God. All seven of the actions listed caution against looking down upon another person, or doing them harm. Pressing even further we can see the real root is making ourselves out to be better than other people. Perhaps not better than others, rather, diminishing others value while appearing to maintain ours.

As we remember the focus of Proverbs is wisdom and how to engage in wise living a conclusion to be drawn from the list given; Doing things like these bugs God. Diminishing the value of another person in our eyes really bugs God. Wisdom tells us living in such a way that bugs God is not a real good plan. Interestingly the passage just after the list reminds us the value and importance of not bugging our parents. As a parent, or as a child we have all had those moments where children live in such a way as to upset a parent. The usual result is a life more difficult than originally planned. Coincidence this is after the list of things God detests? Possibly if you believe in that kind of thing. Another view might be the two are related.

What things are we doing on a daily basis that bug God? In my life the limit is not with in the list of seven presented in Proverbs 6. My life long goal is to live a life in which I do not bug God. To do this I need to be on a relentless pursuit of God, and the heart of God.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why It Matters -- Proverbs 4

What is the big deal? The path of wisdom seems well, boring. Why does it matter if we follow a path of wisdom, or if we follow our own desires? That is the basic question being answered by the writer in Proverbs 4. The answer is not real long and drawn out. Wisdom leads to life, everything else leads to destruction and death. There are a few more words used than that; yet that is the message we can find in Proverbs 4.

Tucked into the last few expressions of the chapter are words which further illustrate what is on the line here. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do." v. 23. When we follow the path of our own desire there is more at stake than we often realize. Our heart is the center of our being. In our current age it might be thought that our minds are the center of our being, however scripture would tell us it is our hearts. When we do not follow wisdom, our hearts become corrupt. This leads us down paths we do not want to go.

Following wisdom matters. First it will keep us in a better relationship with God. Second, we will experience a more fulfilled life than if we chased after every desire that came our way. Wisdom matters.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Trust -- Proverbs 3

Trust in the Lord, words that are easy to write and are heard often by those traveling in church circles. These are very common words and are based in sound Biblical reasoning, and they are so very hard to live out. One of the greatest human dilemmas is whether we are going to trust God to provide and care for us, or if we are going to help God out with our plan. This dilemma is borne out in the a quote many think is Scriptural but is not, "God helps those who help themselves." We as humanity must do our part, however, God does not need our help to provide and care for us.

This trust we long for needs to show up in all of our ways as the writer states it. There are some things we are very good a trusting God with. Most of the time it the things which are outside our ability to impact that we trust God. When the diagnosis is cancer, or the natural disaster is beyond our scope of ability to help, we can trust God to be God in those moments. How about when the check book in more in the red than in the black? Are we willing to trust God with our finances? This would mean allowing God to determine where our money is spent. In my life this has often meant a need to radically rearrange my priorities and spending habits. My part of the equation is to follow the wisdom and lead of God more than my own want and desire. it means giving the first and best back to God in all things. Some would call this a tithe, and refer to the idea of 10%. The reality is a tithe is not the limiting goal, it is the radical minimum standard of those who would be Christ Followers. To do this requires trusting more than anything or anyone else.

Lack of trust will result in foolish living. It might not always seem like life is foolish, in fact, life might seem to be going pretty well. God has made humanity with a great amount of ability and has handed out through the Spirit gifts for the work of God. However, if all these abilities and gifts are used only for ourselves, or in our own wisdom, they will fall short. Trusting in the wisdom and knowledge of God will result in ongoing wise living and fulfillment. Trusting in ourselves may have temporary stability but will eventually result in our downfall, it will pass away.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Company We Keep -- Proverbs 2

When we are working with younger people, grade school, especially high school, good counsel is found in offering the reminder to keep good company. Rarely if ever would you hear a parent encourage a child to go out in get mixed up in the wrong crowd. This lesson is not reserved for those who have yet to graduate from high school. All of us need to be mindful of the company we keep.

The writer of the second Proverb contrasts the "immoral woman" with the "good men." I am not sure this is a gender issue as much as it is a character issue. An admonishment is being offered to a young man from his father, and there is a strange and dangerous allure of immoral women and young men. Our greater lesson is found in taking care of the company we keep. Just a few questions to get us thinking; Do the people we spend the most time with draw us closer to God, or create distance? Do my relationships give life or steal it? Am I tempted to do things I know to be inconsistent with Scripture as an influence of the company I keep?

Clearly we must spend time with people who are not as convinced of God as we might be. Jesus spent significant time with those others thought to be immoral and of bad influence. Light is required to pierce the darkness. The challenge is not to have the opposite effect. The goal is for us to influence others to draw close to Christ, not allow others to draw us away. Building relationships with others is essential and the main act of God in creation. We must find ways to ensure we are not allowing the company we keep to hinder us from reaching "the paths of life" v.19.

Keep good company. Find people who can lead in the the paths of life. Reach out to those who might be choosing another path. Guard your heart, mind, soul and strength that you might not get drawn into their path. Keep good company.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wisdom and Consequences -- Proverbs 1

Today begins a journey of 31 days through the book of proverbs. It is not a complicated thing, there are 31 proverbs, so in 31 days a person can read through them all. Essentially the proverbs are a collection of sayings and short teachings on the topic of wisdom, more specifically, wise living. The first proverb outlines why it matters to pay attention to wisdom, form there we will journey into the lessons of wisdom for our lives.

"The fear of God is the beginning of all knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline." v. 7
This idea of fearing God can be difficult for many to grab a hold of. Often God is thought of in terms of love not fear, so why would we need or want to fear God? Understanding what it means to fear God might cause some clarity to emerge. Fearing God does not mean we hide, trembling. No, it means we remember who God is and who we are. God is all powerful, and can do all things. The magnitude of God's power and authority are beyond our comprehension. Fear in this instance is more about awe, and remembering the greatness of God. Verse 7 could be written, remembering the greatness of God is the beginning of all knowledge...

For some wisdom is claimed to be elusive, according to proverbs wisdom is readily available. The difference is whether we are willing to pursue wisdom or not. For those who pursue wisdom, there is great reward and benefit. For those who disregard wisdom, there are consequences of that choice. As we make our choice our relationship with wisdom develops. For those who seek wisdom, our ability to engage in wise living increases. For those who ignore wisdom, wise living becomes more distant, and harder to find.

Over the next 31 days the opportunity to chose wisdom is before us, may we choose wisely.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Resisting Institution -- Acts 15

It is so true that whenever two or more are gathered there is conflict. God had begun to move in a new way among people who had thought to have been outside of God's chosen people. The Gentiles were experiencing the fullness of faith. Now some folks who champion the way we have always done it wanted to make sure the new believers and Gentiles went through the proper hoops and loops to show their belonging to Christ. However these were no simple hoops and loops, it was the act of circumcision.

This was a crucial moment for the young church. In this moment the choice between becoming an institution and remaining a movement was at hand. Rather than focusing on preservation of what has been the decision is made to allow God to move and not place human burdens on people God might not be imposing. While years later the church would not be able to resist the pull and ossification of institution, in this moment the movement was preserved.

All too often the church then and now makes decisions based on preservation. Unfortunately it is often to preserve the wrong things. We must always preserve the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must always preserve the life which Jesus taught us. The resistance should come when we begin to preserve the church for the sake of the institution rather than for the sake of Jesus Christ. When a church exists to simple preserve its livelihood, death has already occurred. Sure there might people people gathering for activities, but the movement of Jesus Christ has died in that place. All that remains in a human effort to keep the institution running.

The early church resisted becoming an institution. Since then many times over there resistance has been absent. Once again we are faced with the choice. What will we choose?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Never Lets Go -- Acts 14

I am not sure how many times I have read Acts 14, and in how many different translations or settings. This morning as I read it from the NLT, I found myself captured by verses 16-17. Let me refresh your memory, Paul and Barnabas have been preaching and teaching in several places throughout what might be called Asia Minor. While in Lystra the people think they are the gods come to them. Preparations are made for a great sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas. As Paul is explaining why they should not do this these two verses, 16 and 17 show up;
"In earlier days he [God], permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but he never left himself without a witness. There were always reminders, such as sending you rain and good crops and giving you food and joyful hearts."
While it may appear that God is absent from a situation or setting, this is plain just not true. God will not all there to be a void of witness. God never lets go of the people that have been created by the hand of God. One of the great questions that arises regarding the exclusive nature of Jesus as the way of salvation is, "What about the people and tribes in places where the Gospel has never been preached?" God will not go without a witness.

It is an amazing level of pride to think God will allow those who have been created to go without a witness to the greatness of God offered to us all through grace. This does not mean we should not go out and proclaim the Good News of Jesus both with words and actions. What it means is we must not assume we are taking God to a godless place. Wherever there are people, God is there and at work providing witness to the greatness of God. It seems once again God is so much bigger than our human brains can make room for.

Go never lets go. Whether it is a person in the United States who writes God off, or the person in the jungles who has never heard the word preached, God is giving witness. The ways God provides witness is so much greater than we can imagine. However, remember it is Paul who utters the above verses. Paul the great missionary of the church, who went to place where the witness might not have been verbal yet. Knowing God will not go without a witness does not give us an excuse to sit back in our comfy love. We must go where we are sent by God.