Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Apple of the eye - part 2



My son, keep my words, And treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, And my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart.  – Proverbs 17v1-3

Back in February I researched the meaning of the phrase ‘apple of the eye used here.’ In Psalm 17 it was used to describe how God sees us. Here in Proverbs it describes how we are to see the word of God. I am just going to copy and paste what I had there and then apply it.

Though we all understand what the ‘apple of the eye’ means and it is a beautiful phrase, the origin of this old English word misses the point of what the psalmist was saying. The phrase seems to have come from the shape of what we now call the pupil of our eye and it was used by King Alfred in its modern figurative sense as far back as the 10th century. Apparently the Anglo-Saxons coined the word because the literal pupil of the eye was spherical, like an apple. Since the eye is so well protected in the head and so carefully guarded the phrase developed to mean anything that was precious and protected, something that was very dear.

A little look at the phrase will help us understand more of why it means what it does to us. It pictured someone who is precious and dear. Hebrew literature used ‘daughter of the eye’ and Arabic used the phrase ‘the little man of the eye.’ This is the literal sense of the Hebrew used here. The use of the word comes from the fact that the image of one being looked at supposedly can be seen is a mirror image on the eye of the beholder.

Believe or not the modern word ‘pupil’ actually captures the idea better even though we don’t normally connect it. It comes from a Latin word which means the ‘little boy’ or ‘little girl’ of the eye. We can now see the connection when we think of pupils in a classroom.  

I think it is interesting that in one case the term refers to how God sees us, and in this case it refers how we are to see His word. God’s word should be the one thing that we hold as dear and precious. It needs to be the one thing that holds our attention to the point that it is the reflection in our eye.

I like particularly this part of the definition – ‘This use of the word comes from the fact that the image of one being looked at supposedly can be seen is a mirror image on the eye of the beholder.’

When people look into our eyes what do they see reflected there? Do they see the word of God reflected in our eyes? Is God’s word so precious that people see it in us?

Is God’s word as precious to us as we are to Him? 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Things God hates


Things God hates
These six things the LORD hates, yea, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren. – Proverbs 6v16-19

It is rare to read about things that God hates. I also don’t think this is an exhaustive list. But it is interesting to read a list of seven specific things that God says He hates.

The book of Proverbs is full of principles, and I think that is what we have here. The wonderful thing about Proverbs is that it gives us so many little thoughts and principles to consider, mull over, and contemplate. No one could claim that this is all of the sins that God hates, but it gives us some things that He does hate and a chance to think about the kind of things that are odious to Him. These things are good because they give us a chance to examine our lives in the light of some of God’s standards.

So what are these things that God hates? Two of them deal with lying. One is basic pride. Three of them deal with evil and violence. The last one deals with sowing discord. They run the gamut of our being, our hearts, our attitude, and our hands and feet. It is not enough just to avoid evil, God hates when we mull these things over and scheme to do them in our hearts.

There is too much to deal with in just one entry, so I want to pause on just one, the last one. God hates those who sow discord among the brethren. Sowing of discord is put in the same category as shedding innocent blood, running to do evil, and devising wickedness.

One theme that runs throughout the word of God is unity. The Old Testament speaks of our good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. Whole books of the New Testament deal with unity. One of the purposes of the Lord’s Table is for us to dwell on unity.

And yet it seems like every time we turn around God’s people are finding something else to divide over. Sure, there is a need to maintain purity in the church. But let’s be careful that we are Biblical in our approach. Let’s be sure that in our strive for purity, we don’t do something that God hates. 

Monday, 29 August 2011

Lessons from the ant


Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler, Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest. – Proverbs 6v6-8

I would not consider myself a lazy person generally. However, I have to admit that I struggle with, shall we say, motivation, during the month of August. Ministries are cut back, church activities are barebones, and there just is not a whole lot going on.

I find that I get very little done when I am not busy. This can be especially difficult when there is no clock to punch and I have no ‘captain, overseer, or ruler’ to check up on me. I can get done with a day as wonder ‘Wow, what did I do today?’

There is nothing wrong with periods of rest and relaxation. In fact, I think a Biblical argument can be made for the importance of it. But when that pattern becomes our practice we are in trouble.

God knows that this can be a human trait so he uses an illustration that we are all aware of to teach us an important object lesson.

‘Look at the ant, you lazy lout. Think about her and learn a lesson. She has no one to supervise her, but she prepares for the future by working all summer and gathering food for the winter.’

When I think about that I am challenged. That little ant knows enough by instinct to get the job done, yet will all of my knowledge I often cannot get motivated to the do the same. If the ants did not prepare for winter they would starve. When we don’t do the work we need to do we find out ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.’
I need that reminder. The summer break is over. Ministries are starting back up. It is time to get up off my backside and get back to work.

Thanks for the reminder Mr (or is it Miss?) Ant.  

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Rejoice with the wife of your youth



Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, And be embraced in the arms of a seductress? – Psalm 5v18-20

Coming up in January Mary and I will have been married 34 years. When we tell people that they often a look at us in astonishment. People are surprised that a marriage can last that long. Of course we all know of marriages that last much longer than that as well. The sad thing is that couples in their 50s and 60s and 70s and older who are still married to their original spouses would cause surprise.

It seems in many of our societies that traditional marriage is breaking down. I don’t have the statistics in front of me at the moment, but I read in a reliable source recently that less than have of Irish homes consisting of cohabitating are married. If this trend continues the concept of one man and one woman spending their lives together will become even rarer as the years go by.

But God’s standards don’t change. And, in reality, He does know best. There is nothing more precious than a partner with whom we choose to spend the rest of our lives.  You get to a certain point where you start becoming more and more glad that you have someone to grow old with.

I think that’s one of the reasons, apart from the decency and morality and rightness of it, that God tells us to ‘rejoice with the wife of your youth.’ God tells us to be consistently enraptured by her love and embrace.

That’s pretty good advice for keeping a marriage alive isn’t it? Don’t be distracted by all the obvious 
distractions that come along. Rejoice with the wife God gave us when we were young. Keep the enrapture alive as the years go by.

Rejoice that you have someone willing to grow old with you. 

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Guard your eyes



Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. – Proverbs 4v25

Castles always have more than one gate. While we are keeping our hearts with all keeping and guarding what comes out of our mouth, there is another gate we must keep. At this gate we must protect ourselves from what is coming in. It is a gate that we all battle. We must guard what comes in through our eyes.

We are constantly assailed with bits and baubles that can draw our eyes away from our focus. I really think most of us want to do right. I think we want to dedicate ourselves to living for the Lord. I think we want to focus on our service for Him and living in such a way that our lives glorify Him.

But something always gets in the way. Some news story or bit of entertainment or sporting event grabs our interest and, though there is nothing wrong with any of those, they can become our new focus. What were meant to be a few minutes of diversion become a new focus and the things that we should be focusing on become our new purpose.

We cannot afford to get our eyes off the task before us. We need to be careful that our little diversions and distractions do not become new directions. Let’s make sure that even in our live and leisure we keep our focus on our Lord and His purpose for our lives. 

Friday, 26 August 2011

Guard your mouth



Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you.  – Proverbs 4v24

‘Me and my big mouth!’ How often have I thought or said those words? How many times have I said something and immediately wished I could take it back?

There is no wonder that the Bible addresses our speech so often. Job talks about setting a guard on his lips. James extensively addresses the danger and uncontrollable nature of the tongue. When describing how believers should live in Ephesians Paul reminds us that filthiness and foolish taking and course jesting are not suitable for the believer. We are told that our speech must always be graciousness and seasoned with salt.

If our heart is the keep of the castle, the mouth is one of the gates. As the residents of the keep control the forces at the gate, our heart is going to control what comes out of our mouths.

When there is deceit and perversion in our hearts it will come out of our mouths. As we guard our hearts we also need to guard our lips. We must put away the kind of speech that is going to damage us and hurt the name of our Saviour. The ESV translates this ‘Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.’

Our speech must be pure, open, and honest. There is no room for tricky words. Our words are never to be twisted or contrived in such a way that we are not open and forthright.

If we don’t learn to guard the words coming out of our mouths we are destined for trouble. There is a bit of good old-fashioned advice that fits here – ‘If you can’t say something good, don’t say nothing at all.’ 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Keep the keep



Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. – Proverbs 4v23

Castles are great. I love visiting them whether fancy and complete and kept up, or in ruins.

Castles had a purpose. They developed around the ‘keep’ which was basically a fortified home. As time went on the keep became the command centre of the rest of the castle. That is where the nobility lived and where the treasures were stored. It was truly the heart of the castle.

The keep was the heart of the castle complex. As the years went by it also became the heart of the town or city. Everyone knew that it was vital to keep the keep so the defences were built up and added to. No matter what happened in the battle, the enemy could not be allowed to breach the keep. The people had to keep the enemy out of the keep.

You get the picture. The keep had to be protected. The heart of the town had to be guarded.
So it goes with our lives. We too have a keep to keep. Everything in our livers originates in our hearts. All of the issues of our life come out of our heart.

We can spend a lot of time making sure the various walls are right. That is a good idea. We need to defend those walls. That is of course, unless those walls are nothing more than a fa├žade, but that is a topic for another day.

But at the core we must guard our hearts. Eventually what is in our hearts will manifest itself. It will come out. If our heart is not right, we have no strength.

If the enemy was allowed into the castle keep the defences were ruined. Defeat was imminent. It was only a matter of time.

If we allow the enemy into our hearts we too are inviting defeat. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Don’t go there!



Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on.  – Proverbs 4v14-15

We all face those times when we are tempted to head down the wrong road. There are plenty of opportunities. As we walk through today there are going to be plenty of chances to choose the right path or the wrong path.

If we had any sense we would avoid the wrong paths like the plague. We wouldn’t go anywhere near that part of town. Back during the last days of The Troubles in Northern Ireland going to Belfast was okay, as long as you didn’t go down the wrong road. There were places where people who lived up there simply said ‘Don’t go there!’ You were pretty much okay, for example, if you drove straight down the Shankill even in a car from the Republic. You did not, however, want to get off the road if you did not know right where you were going. So, for the most part, people driving cars from down here just avoided the Shankill completely.

Most of us know where the danger areas of our spiritual lives are. The smart thing to do is to not even go near those places. If we are smart we will not go that way, we will avoid it, we won’t go down that road, we won’t travel on it, we just pass on by. Later in the same chapter we have a few more words – ‘Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.’

The words are pretty clear. It doesn’t take a lot of sense to figure out what God is saying here. When it deals with evil God simply says – ‘Don’t go there.’ 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Get wisdom



Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. – Proverbs 4v7

Earlier in Proverbs we read about how important it is to gain knowledge. Knowledge of course is vital, we have to have it. We are fortunate to live in a time when knowledge is more available than ever before. The knowledge of every society in history and of all the schools of learning today is literally at our fingertips today. Gaining knowledge is easier than it ever has been.

But knowledge is not enough, not by a long shot. The wrong use of knowledge is extremely dangerous. Knowledge, to be truly useful and beneficial, must be controlled by wisdom. It is not enough to have knowledge, it is vital to understand what we know.

Proverbs 4 personifies wisdom as a woman. It tells us how to pursues wisdom. Get it. Do not forget it. Do not turn away. Do not forsake wisdom. Love her. Wisdom is the principle thing. Exalt her.

The result of pursuing wisdom is also clear – She will preserve you. She will keep you. She will promote you. She will bring you honour.

So pursue knowledge. Learn you can. Get every but of instruction that you can handle.

But in all your getting, get understanding.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Just like a good neighbour…



Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbour, "Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it," When you have it with you. Do not devise evil against your neighbour, For he dwells by you for safety's sake. – Proverbs 3v27-29

I remember an ad run by an insurance company in the States. I don’t know if they still use it, but the phrase sticks out in my mind. It was inspired by the idea of good neighbours and it went like this – ‘Just like a good neighbour, State Farm is there.’ (Actually, since it is an American company. The slogan was ‘Just like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.’) The idea is pretty simple, good neighbours take care of each other and there are there when you need them. State Farm wanted you to think that they are that kind of company.

I like that and I like the concept it presents. The whole idea of being a good neighbour is a Bible concept. One of the great stories in all of historical literature deals with neighbours and it comes from God’s word. Jesus had just stated that the whole Law could be summarised by this – ‘Love God and love your neighbour.’
Of course that elicited a question – ‘Who is my neighbour?’

What follows is a great story known as the Good Samaritan.  A Jewish traveller was injured on a journey. Those who should be his neighbours walked right past him. Eventually a Samaritan passed by.  Samaritans and Jews did not get along. No one would have expected the Samaritan to stop and help – but he did. He stopped, cared for the man, and took him to an inn offering to pay whatever it cost to make sure the man was cared for.

That’s what good neighbours do. The challenge comes in the fact that all people are our neighbours. When our neighbour has a need we do what we can to meet it. That is not just a part of the Law. It is carried on in the church. Churches took care of their neighbours. The thing that finally stopped Roman persecution is that Christians just kept giving and caring and loving their neighbours.

We don’t really have an option. Just like a good neighbour, God’s people ought to be there.

Are we? 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sudden terror



Do not be afraid of sudden terror, Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; For the LORD will be your confidence, And will keep your foot from being caught.  – Proverbs 3v25-26

I think the thing I dread the most is the things I don’t see coming. I remember my first scary internet viral video. It was a beautiful scene with a car driving through the countryside. Lovely classical music was playing in the backgrounds. It made you want to be there. Suddenly, without warning, there was a loud screech as a demon like image came on the screen.

Everyone had a good laugh and it spread like wildfire because we all enjoy a certain kind of sudden terror.
But there is another kind of sudden terror that is no fun. Our family’s most recent ‘sudden terror’ came on the 20th of December, 2009. That was the day that the doctor told Matt and I that Michelle had leukaemia. That news too spread quickly, but it was not the exciting kind of sudden terror. It the life sapping, sucker punch, ‘I can’t breathe’, ‘what are we going to do now’ kind of terror. It was the kind of terror that knocks you back. A sudden terror is the kind that you can’t get ready for.

There are scary times that you can prepare for to a certain extent. It was this way with Michelle’s transplant. We had a few weeks to make plans, figure out transport, pack bags, decide where the girls were going to be and when and just generally get ready. Although the situation was its own kind of terror, at least we could prepare. Those are no too bad. Most of us can handle those with even the most basic faith.

But God wants us to get through those most sudden of terrors. The only way to do that is to have a constant abiding in Him. We need to remember that in those unexpected times God will be our confidence, and if we are trusting Him He will not let us stumble.

Only that deep abiding day-to-day faith can prepare us for that sudden terror. 

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Correction



My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.  – Proverbs 3v11-12

None of us like correction. I didn’t like it when I was a kid. My children didn’t like it. My grandkids don’t like it. I don’t like it when I get a traffic ticket. I don’t even like it when the stupid phone company sends me a letter telling me my phone bill is late, even when I have already paid it. A couple of years ago I received a ticket for fair jumping on the Luas. I had made an honest mistake, and they let me off, but I felt like a child when the letter said something like, ‘Now, make sure you log on properly next time you ride our tram!’

Correction always stinks, but it does so especially when we don’t deserve it. About the same time as the Luas ticket Louth County Council sent me a ticket for littering. As it turns out, we had taken a box of groceries to a family there and they had thrown the box on the street. It still had my name and address on it, so the litter warden blamed me! Eventually I worked through that as well, but I really hated being corrected for something I had not done.

Just correction is good. If I am speeding and get ticketed I deserve it. I need to slow down and maybe that ticket will make me a better driver. If we correct our children properly it moulds and shapes their character and makes them better people.

Unjust correction is bad. Too many times I have corrected my children and grandchildren unjustly. I don’t know the whole story; I don’t know why they did what they did. All I know at those times it that I am upset and want my upset fixed.

Proverbs 3v11-12 addresses correction. It reminds me of Hebrews 12. We can be assured that as God’s children we have the perfect Corrector. He is never going to correct me wrongly. His correction is always right and the result of properly applied and properly accepted correction is the ‘peaceable fruits of righteousness.’

Praise God for the perfect Corrector. May I learn to let His correction work in my life. 

Friday, 19 August 2011

Using what we have



Honour the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; - Proverbs 3v9

There is nothing wrong with having. We all have to a certain extent. Some of us have more and some of us have less, but we all have something. They question we need to examine is ‘What do we do with what we 
have?’

Proverbs 3v9 gives us the answer. Whatever we have, be it much or little, great or small, fancy or plain, extravagant or functional, has one purpose for God’s people. We are to honour the Lord with what we have. 
We are to honour him with what we gain.

Whether we have loads of stuff, a middling amount, or just enough to get by, God is honoured if we use it for Him, He is no more honoured by the rich man who uses his wealth to honour Him than He is by the poor man who uses his little. The widow who honoured God with her two mites was praised more than those who gave out of abundance.

Praise God that He doesn’t require much to honour Him. All He requires is what we have. 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Doing right



Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.  – Proverbs 3v5-7

Proverbs 3v5-6 is one of those passage that is so often quoted and is the life verse of so many people that we can get to the point where we take it for granted. Everybody loves this passage, and we should, but let’s 
make sure we remind ourselves of the blessing that is here.

Each phrase probably deserves its own separate entry, but I think the whole package is vital. There is a couplet in each verse.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart – don’t lean on your own understanding.

You can’t do one without the other. We either trust God or we trust us. If I trust me not a whole lot is going to make sense. Things rarely go the way I think they should. If I had my druthers everything would go the way that I think is right.

Can you imagine the mess I would make?

In all your ways acknowledge Him – He will direct your path.

If I really do trust God and forsake my own understanding I will acknowledge Him in everything I do. When I face a fork in the road I don’t go the way that seems best to me at the moment. I compare the paths in the light of God’s word, seek the help of the Holy Spirit, and go down His path. I can be assured that if I am acknowledging Him, He will direct.

Don’t be wise in your own eyes – fear God and forsake evil.

And here we have the application. Don’t trust your own wisdom, it will always fail you.
Instead, we simply trust him. We fear God, we forsake evil, and we trust Him with the result. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Security



But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil." – Proverbs 1v33

Security is a big issue today. You can’t go anywhere without encountering some type of security. It is, of course, a major part of air travel. Scanners and metal detectors and friskings and searching are all a part of travel in the name of security.

The problem is that I really don’t feel any more secure with all that security. We all like to feel secure, but men’s efforts at providing security only do it to a certain extent. Man is not perfect and anyone who really wants to break down security will probably find a way to do so. Flyers though we were secure until explosives were hidden in shoes and underwear and even water bottles. Chances are, sadly, that even todays security will fail again.

It is not only flying that can feel unsafe and insecure. Life is a lot like that. We don’t get up every morning and go through a full-body scanner before we go out into the world. We face all sorts of dangerous and fearful situations. Life can be fearful, and with good reason.

But ultimately God’s children can rest in security no matter what is outside that front door. Sure, we are not promised physical safety. We can’t say that nothing bad is going to happen. But we can rest in total security that our God will still be there for us no matter what we face. No matter what the ‘bad guys’ have planned, I am secure and safe in Christ. I can dwell safely in Him and do not need to be afraid of whatever evil comes my way. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Life stealing greed


So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners. – Proverbs 1v19

Children playing together can be a real reflection on society. We are seeing a lot more of that now with our grandkids. Two of them, Maddie and AJ, are something to see. They seem to always be in conflict over toys or food or anything else that either one has. If one of them has it, the other will try to take it, even if they already have the same thing. It is a pretty constant battle. The only reason that one needs to take something from the other is because they have it.

I don’t get too concerned about greed in 3 and 4 year olds. We work to train and teach them, but the reality is that one day they will outgrow that childish greed.

Or will they? The Bible often addresses the topic of contentment. It is a vital Christian virtue. Discontentment, or covetousness, is referred to as idolatry. Greed, discontent, or covetousness is idolatry. It will lead to further sins of heart and mind, or of action.

This passage in Proverbs addresses another aspect of greed. Instead of the impact on others it addresses the impact on self.

Greed takes away the life of its owner.

If greed goes unchecked it takes total control It runs our lives. All we can think about is what we don’t have and how we can get it. It is tragic to see lives that are controlled by greed. Nothing else matters and before you know it life is gone.

We can’t let greed steal our lives, we need to learn the lesson the ‘be content with the things that we have’ because Jesus gives us all we need and He will never, ever leave us or forsake us. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Say no



My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. – Proverbs 1v10

Don’t give in. It sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? If we are tempted to sin by peer pressure all we have to do it say no and not give in.

If it is so simple, why is it so stinking hard? You would think by the time a guy was 56 years old and saved for 37 years and preaching and teaching and all that he would not need advice like ‘If sinners entice you don’t give in.’ You would think – but you would think wrong.

I have learned to do pretty well and not succumb to peer pressure when I am around people. That is not the problem. It is not when my ‘sinner’ friend and associates entice to me sin that I have a problem giving in.
That doesn’t mean that sinners and sin don’t still entice me. It is sinners in general and a sinful world around me that entice me to sin. Sinners don’t have to be friends and associates. Sinners can use television or books or the internet to entice me to sin.

The principle doesn’t change though – don’t consent, don’t give in.

I don’t have to give in. In Christ I have power over sin, it is no longer my boss, it has no dominion over me.
What a powerful challenge – ‘when sinners entice you, just don’t give in, say no, say no.’ That’s a kids song. So why do I have such a hard time getting it right? 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A wise man will


A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.  - Proverbs 1v5

We really do live in an amazing age. We have the answer to any question we want with just a few swipes and clicks on our phone. Anything we want to know is only a mouse click away. I love that. I love being able to google the answer to any question, any time. If I have my phone, am away from the country, and not near a wireless connection I get antsy because I can’t get my answer immediately.

There is a lot of debate about whether this is a good or a bad thing. Does it make us smarter or lazier? Do we know as much as we used to, or do we just have a quicker way to the answer?

I don’t know for sure. I do know that I love it!

I don’t think there is anything wrong with having easy access to knowledge. I think it can be a great tool. We get ourselves in trouble though when we forget about the basis for that knowledge. If our desire for knowledge is only so that we can know more and pride ourselves in that we are headed down the wrong road. If we just want to show off how smart we are, then are our goal is to glorify us – and that is wrong.
I think the key here is our motivation and our basis. Here in Proverbs we read that a wise man will increase his learning. He will seek counsel. He will try to understand the little mysteries of life. He will want to understand the words of the wise and all of their ‘riddles.’

But verse seven has a disclaimer. There is a foundation and a basis for knowledge that must be observed. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.. Our desire for knowledge must be rooted in a fear and respect for God. Our desire must be to glorify Him in our quest for knowledge. If our motivation is anything else our quest for knowledge will lead us down the road described in Romans 1 – ‘For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves,’

Get all the knowledge you can get. But make sure your quest is based on the fear of the Lord. 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Praise the Lord


Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! – Psalm 150

Psalm 150 is the perfect way to wrap up the book of psalms. Almost all of Psalms is about praise. It deals with praise in good times and bad. It deals when praise when we can see God working and when we cannot. It deals with praising God even when we cannot see Him or understand what He is doing.

So we wrap up the book with Psalm 150. Praise the Lord. Praise Him in church and out in nature. Praise Him for His mighty acts and praise Him for His greatness. Praise Him with trumpet, lute, harp, timbrel and dance, stringed instruments, flutes, and with loud and clashing cymbals! Whatever has breath praise the Lord!

There is a lot about modern ‘praise and worship’ that doesn’t suit my taste. Like anything else in church, not all that is done in the name of praise and worship is done with the right heart or right motivation, but we can all be guilty of similar hypocrisy. But it seems like God will accept a wide variety of praise styles.

What can we take from the psalm? It seems pretty general in its call for praise. I may not prefer some of what I see, but it seems to me that if the heart and attitude behind the praise are right, it is hard to see God being angry at genuine praise.

So, dare we say it? PRAISE THE LORD!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Beautiful salvation



For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. – Psalm 149v4

I have the incredible privilege of ministering regularly in a couple of home that do a great job of ‘drug and alcohol rehab.’ Actually they are Christian homes where Christ is introduced, people are saved, and they grow in Christ.

I think the thing I enjoy the most is watching folks come in still heavily burdened and broken from the effect of their sin. We all have that problem; the difference is that is in these cases it is more obvious. Some are literally just off the street where their lives have been devastated and nearly destroyed by the effects substance abuse.
I only minister there every couple of weeks, but have been there a couple of years. I have seen men and women come to chapel in terrible shape. When they come to Christ they start to grow and change. Faces soften, scars don’t seem so obvious. The ugliness of sin is slowly, but very surely, replaced by the beauty of salvation.

I didn’t know our Karen before salvation, but I do know her testimony. It sounds like her life had been wrecked by the ravages of sin. You would never guess it to see her now. She now wears the beauty of salvation like a crown.  

Though it may more visibly dramatic in the lives of some folks, we all have it. It is the kind of beauty that can make us identifiable to each other as soon as we meet. Praise God for giving us that wonderful beauty of salvation! 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

All Together Now



Praise the LORD from the earth, You great sea creatures and all the depths; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; Fruitful trees and all cedars; Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and flying fowl; Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and maidens; Old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven. – Psalm 148v7-13

From the creatures of the sea to wonders of weather to the beauty of nature to the beings of earth and sky to rulers of the earth to men and women to old people and young all are called on to praise the Lord.

We were at Glendalough again this week. We have been there scores of times. It is a place of amazing natural beauty. All by themselves the lakes and mountains cry out in testimony to the perfect design of the perfect Designer. To the believer God is praised just by seeing the result of His design. No wonder those monks went there all those years ago to get alone with God and reflect on Him. It is easy to praise God we see the marvels of places like Glendalough.

While in the States we went to the Chattanooga Aquarium. It was amazing to see the variety of beauty and design in the creatures of the lakes, rivers, and seas. There can be no doubt that God had active hand in the design of it all.

Nature does its job. God is praised though it. The question is how do the people of God's design respond. Do the kings and peoples and princes and judges and young men and maidens and old men and children praise Him in the same splendour as the mountains and lakes?

Sadly, while creation clearly shows God's glory it is sad that His people often don't. We walk around in doom and gloom and act like things are hopeless.

All together now! Let us join in together with the marvels of God's creation and praise Him with our lives!  

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Who to trust?



Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. – Psalm 146v3

If we were to listen to what the world is telling us we would be convinced that it is all over. We are headed to a double-dip recession at best or world-wide financial collapse at worst. The situation is unfixable. There is no hope. We are defeated.

President Obama tried to inspire American this week by reminded the people that no matter what a financial institution says about the US credit rating, they can go on because the United States is AAA in its character.

I don't know if it helped or not, but I like what he said. The United States should stop trusting what Standard and Poors says trust the character and resiliency of her people. He is talking about something greater than what people are saying. He is asking the people to trust something that has proven itself for over 200 years.

Of course, he is talking about people who still fail, but I think we can illustrate a truth here. Unlike the American people who can still fail, we have a perfect God who has never failed. If
the US can depend on her status as AAA in her character, we can go much, much further. No matter what the world tells us we can, instead of trusting them, trust our AAAA++++ God.

If we trust men, if we trust political leaders they will let us down (Sorry Mr President) but if we learn to truly trust God we will not fail, ever, no matter what.  

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Lord is near


The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. - Psalm 145v18-19

‘Where is God?’ may a question on many people’s minds today. The last couple of mornings the news has been all bad. The seeming start of a ‘double dip’ to the world recession dominates the news all day long. There is rioting on the streets of London and other English cities. The war on terrorism took a massive blow when a special operations helicopter was shot down. Jobs are threatened here and around the world. The unemployed can’t find work. And while all this goes on we still have cancer and heart attacks and all sorts of 
illness. People are dying unexpectedly. The wickedness of man is as obvious as it has even been.

So, where is God in all this? I remember trying to witness to a friend’s brother one time while we were at a BBQ. We were talking about God and how He works and that fact that He is real and active. His response, cleaned up a bit, was ‘Well, if God is here He really has messed things up, hasn’t he?’

As rough as that was in its original form, I think it expresses the attitude that many people have toward God. 
‘If He really is here He is not doing a very good job.’

This kind of thinking comes from a wrong perspective. We tend to blame God for man’s choices. God did not create a world full of beings that He forced to follow Him. He gave man choices and far too often man makes the foolish choices and turn from Him.

Where is God is all this? He is right where He always was. He is right here and ready to answer anyone who will call on Him.

All men have to do is call on Him.

There is an important thing for us Christians to remember – God is here, no matter how bad it seems. We are already His. All we have to do is ask. 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Expectancy

The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. - Psalm 145v1

People have been expectantly looking to the Lord for a long, long time. We have been living everyday looking for Jesus to come back and we continue that expected hope day after longing to go home with Him. I love 
that kind of expectancy as we wait for His coming.

In the meantime I think we miss the point of another kind of expectant living. The psalmist writes of the eyes of the people looking expectantly to the Lord, and that when they do so He will provide their food in due 
season.

Beth brought Kian over for a week last month. We popped over for a couple of days last week to see them. Several times Kian and I were up early and I had the pleasure of getting his breakfast ready and feeding him. While I prepared the cereal and mashed his banana he was, let us say, anxious to be fed. I put him in his chair and sat down. Even before I was done his mouth was wide open. I can’t feed him fast enough. He has a bite, swallows, opens his mouth, and looks at me with full expectation that I am going to give him more. He is 
ready and waiting for me to feed him.

When I read this verse this morning I thought about Kian. I also thought about me and how much I really expect the Lord to take care of me. Kian trusts me implicitly. He expects me to meet his need and his trusts me to do it. He doesn’t doubt that he is going to be fed.

Wouldn’t it be great if we looked to the Lord with that kind of expectancy? Instead of fearing and doubting and worrying and wondering should we not just trust Him, sit there with our mouths open, and wait to be fed? 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Good to all

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. – Psalm 145v8-9

I have a good friend who is always reminding us that 'The Lord is good, everyday, all the time.' Last week we saw this dear friend. He is 75 years old and has just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. It made me sad to realise that this may very well be the last time that I see him alive.

And yet, in the midst of that, his attitude is the same – 'God is good, every day, all the time.' He spent the time encouraging and blessing others and reminding them of God's goodness.

This world can be a very, very, very bad place. It is full of troubles and illness and hurt and pain and bad news. We can be tempted to wonder where this good God is in the midst of all this badness.
The truth is that He is right here. We live in a sin cursed world. These are troublesome times.

Living by faith would not be so hard if it did not require, well, faith. In the midst of all this trouble we have to trust God the same way we ask our children to trust us. Our kids don't always think that we are good. We expect them to trust that we are even when they don't get it.

God is good, every day, all the time. God is gracious. He is full of compassion. He is merciful. Finally, His works are covered by His mercy.

If it were not for God's goodness and mercy the evil would be simply overwhelming. It would be unbearable. It is God's goodness that gets us through all the bad.

I am so grateful God is here. I am grateful that He is good, everyday, all the time

Saturday, 6 August 2011

From one generation to another


One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. - Psalm 145v4

While I am not an old man yet, I am afraid that the term 'young man' cannot possibly be applied to me any more. I have one full generation of descendants and we are well into the generation after that now.

Generations bring the greatest joys and the greatest heartaches. They do that because they are so special to us. I am not writing about generations in general, but about our own personal generations. As Christians we rejoice when our generations follow the Lord and our hearts break when they turn away.

We do our best, hopefully, to teach our generations about the Lord. We try to show them the mighty acts of God and include them in seeing His great works. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't. We are not perfect. We mess up. We don't always reflect the Lord's greatness. Our generations don't always see Jesus in us.

I when my heart breaks I wonder where I messed up. I wonder what I could have done differently. I can beat myself up when my generations don't follow the Lord.

I have to trust the fact that God's word will not return void. I have to believe that all I can do is keep trying to praise God's works to my own generations and let them see His mighty works.

We have to follow the Lord and trust Him with the results. Let me strive to show God's great works to the generations, especially to my own generations.  

Friday, 5 August 2011

A passing shadow


Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. - Psalm 144v4

We spend so much time and focus so much on this present life. All we do is focused here and now. It is obvious why we do this – it is what we see and where we live now. It is what seems important. We have jobs to do, bills to pay, news to keep up with, grandkids to visit, trips to take, and so on and so on. In other words, we have life to live.

And yet, the scary this is, this life is as fleeting as the Bible says it is. I am 56 years old. That fact amazes me. I remember things about being a child and a teen that can seem like yesterday. Matt, our oldest, will be 33 this year. As I sit here and play with 9 month old Kian it seems like I was doing the same things with Matt when he was that age. When Matt was this age it was 1979. Jimmy Carter was president. No one had home PC’s. Not only did we not have ‘smartphones’ no one even had dumb mobile phones yet. No one had heard of the internet.

But is seems like yesterday. It seems like that breath that vanishes on a cold winter morning. It is like that shadow that dashes across the grounds as the clouds zip by on a sunny day.

Beyond this we have eternity where time is meaningless. The years will pass by without notice.
Why is it then that we spend so much time preparing for this life and so little preparing for the one that counts?

In the light of this I like Paul’s advice. Don’t look at all the stuff you see around you. It is all going to pass away. Instead look at the life you can’t see – that is what counts. 

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Teach me


Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. - Psalm 143v10

There are times in our lives when we all really need some teaching. Something comes across our path that, even if we knew it might have been true is finally confirmed. It leaves us now knowing how to handle the situation, what to do next, or what God’s will is. We want to do the right thing, but are not sure what it is.

It is for times such as this that we have this wonderful little phrase from Psalm 143v10. We can pray with the psalmist, ‘Teach me what Your will is. You are my God. Your Spirit is good. Lead me to do the right thing.’ 

If I could learn to pray that prayer instead of worrying and fretting I would be much better off. If I could quit trying to act so quickly and sit back and let the Holy Spirit teach me I would not make so many mistakes. Jesus tells us later on that the Holy Spirit is the one who guides us into all truth. He is the One who will give us the instruction we need. He is good, and He knows what is best. 

In times of confusion and turmoil and not understanding it is time to go back to the classroom and let the Teacher teach.