Watch Your Words

Proverbs 10

Proverbs 10 8

This chapter contrasts the righteous person versus the wicked person.  There are so many things that could be written about, and I started to pick and choose a few to write about.  As I read the chapter a few times, I was struck by how many times the mouth, or what we say was mentioned.

Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence

The wise of heart will receive commands,
But a babbling fool will be ruined.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

13 On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,
But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.
14 Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.

18 He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,
The heart of the wicked is worth little.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of understanding.

31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom,
But the perverted tongue will be cut out.
32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable,
But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.

These are some of the verses, but maybe not all.  We can often see a lot about ourselves (and others) by what is said or not said.  Listen to what comes out of your mouth.  Are you listening, or receiving commands, or are you babbling and therefore unable to hear the instruction?  Are you choosing when to talk and when to refrain?  Are you speaking righteousness?  It is often hard to control what we say but doing this is a sign of wisdom and righteousness.

This topic is something that shows up several other places in proverbs, as well as other places in the Bible.  I think of James 1:19.

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

We often speak without thinking or think about what we should say instead of listening to the other person.  Then, what comes out of our mouth is either not appropriate or not helpful.  We often don’t like silence, so we say something just to have noise, even if it is not useful.

I encourage you to pay attention to what you are saying, and when you are talking.  Take time to listen.  Take time to gain from what others are saying.  Take time to allow silence to occur.  Our words are a good indicator of whether we are seeing wisdom or being fools.

Andrew Hamilton

The Battle Rages On

Proverbs 9

Wisdom vs. Folly

This chapter starts with wisdom again calling out to the naïve and the foolish.  Wisdom is calling for everyone to forsake folly and proceed in understanding.   This is very similar to what we saw in chapter 8.

Starting in verse 7, it changes topics a bit.

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.

It seems like we should try to help everyone gain wisdom, and that would be great.  However, is someone does not want to gain wisdom, or isn’t open to listening to you, you need to be prepared for their reaction.  You may be insulted or even hated for trying to impart wisdom.  I don’t think this means that you should give up on those who insult you, but possibly there are times to back off or change tactics.

On the other hand, we should each look at how we respond to someone who is trying to Proverbs 9 9 NIVhelp us seek wisdom.  Are we upset when someone points out that we are not making the best decision?  Or, do we appreciate the instruction being given to us.  This is a sign of where each of us are in our pursuit of wisdom.  Verse 12 says:

If you are wise, you are wise for yourself,
And if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

If we are scoffers, we are lacking in wisdom and will have to deal with that ourselves.

Then, starting in verse 13, we see another section where folly is being personified and calling out to people, trying to pull them away from wisdom.  There is a battle between wisdom and folly shown between the beginning and the end of the chapter.  This is showing us that gaining wisdom is not easy, even when that is what we want.  We know the outcome of seeking wisdom, and the outcome of folly.  So, we need to make sure we are continuing to seek wisdom and not be lead astray by folly.

Andrew Hamilton

Seduced by Temptation

Proverbs 7

Proverbs 7 25 26

The first five verses of this chapter again talk about how important it is to have wisdom.

My son, keep my words
And treasure my commandments within you.
Keep my commandments and live,
And my teaching as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
And call understanding your intimate friend;
That they may keep you from an adulteress,
From the foreigner who flatters with her words

This is re-iterating what a lot of chapter 1 talks about.  It is not enough to just know the commands and teachings.  You must consider them as some of the most important things you know.  Following the commands and having wisdom will allow you to live.  This implies that a lack of wisdom will bring death.  The rest of the chapter details how this can lead to serious harm, and death.

The rest of the chapter can be a literal case of a man being seduced by a woman, or it can be symbolic of any person being tempted and falling to that temptation.  This shows a pattern of falling.  The first step is going to a place where the temptation is found.  This is in verse 8 where it talks about passing near her corner, and then going all the way to her house.  Wisdom would show that we should avoid going around things where we know we will be tempted.

Then, verse 9 says that this is being done in the darkness, or when we don’t think people can see us.  In most cases, if we are going to sin, it is going to be when people are not watching, or at least people that we know would be bothered by what we are doing.  Again, if we are wise, we will surround ourselves with people who will help us avoid temptation and stay away from those who draw us in to sin.

Then, when we are close to temptation, the sin can look very appealing, and it appears that we won’t get caught – so it is okay.  Verses 17-21 are showing this when talking about the couch and bed being adorned, and when it talks about the husband being gone for a long period of time.

With all of this, the man being talked about in this passage falls into temptation and sins.  He does not know this will cost him his life according to verse 23.  This is not saying that falling into temptation once and sinning means death, but when we fall into a temptation and are not wise enough to run from that in the future, we are going to fall into that same temptation again and again.  Then, we will escalate the sin, and get sucked into it until it is a lifestyle.

Wisdom, specifically Godly wisdom, is critical to both avoiding unnecessary problems in this life and in having eternal life in the kingdom.  This can only be accomplished by treasuring scriptures and a relationship with God.

Andrew Hamilton

What Do You Owe?

Proverbs 6

Proverbs 6 23 NIV

This chapter can be broken into two sections.  The first section is about how we deal with situations where we owe something to someone.  Some of you may be thinking that you don’t owe anything to anyone, and you have not offered a security for what someone else owes, so this doesn’t apply to you.  That is good, but remember it is unlikely you will go through life without owing anything, so be prepared.

So, how do we deal with owing someone?  Verses 3 and 4 say:

So do this, my son, to free yourself,
since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go—to the point of exhaustion—
and give your neighbor no rest!
Allow no sleep to your eyes,
no slumber to your eyelids.

 

We need to work hard to free ourselves.  We need to repay what we owe as quickly as possible.  We also need to repay this through honest measures.  Verses 16-19 talk about this:

 

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

These verses by themselves are good wisdom, but don’t seem to have anything to do with owing someone.  However, in the context of working hard to repay what we owe, it could be tempting to scheme, or cheat our way out of what we owe.  Doing this would cause us to do at least one of the things God hates.  So, when we owe anything, we need to take responsibility for it , and work hard and honestly to pay it back as quickly as possible.

The chapter then transitions to talking about adultery.  This seems to be an abrupt transition to me, and I thought about that for a while.  Then, I thought of the 10 commandments, and specifically Exodus 20:17:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

So, both parts of this really come back to wanting what we don’t have.  We borrow to get what we don’t have, and adultery comes from wanting what we don’t have.

Acting on either of these will cause us trouble, but the problems caused by adultery will be much greater.  Verses 30-33 show this:

People do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.
31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,
though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
32 But a man who commits adultery has no sense;
whoever does so destroys himself.
33 Blows and disgrace are his lot,
and his shame will never be wiped away.

 

I think the chapter really shows the perils of not being content with what we have.   We can be content with everything we have in live because God is always with us as stated in Hebrews 13:5:

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”

 

Andrew Hamilton

What am I doing?

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

Romans 7

Do you ever find yourself doing things that you don’t want to do, or know that you shouldn’t?  Do you ever stop and think of something that you know you really should be doing, but aren’t doing?  I find myself in these situations, especially when I get busy.  I know that I should stop and take time to pray or spend time in scripture, but I am so busy that I put it off till later, and then to even later, and sometimes to the next day.  Paul talks about this same thing:

14 “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”

Paul apparently had the same problem at times.  He wanted to be filled with the spiritual things of God, but had sin in his life, just as each of us.  This kept him from being completely filled, completely focused on the spiritual things.

This is something that we will not completely overcome until the Kingdom of God is established.  It is something we won’t be able to do on our own, not even a little bit.  To make any progress on this will require help from God’s spirit dwelling in us.

I find comfort knowing that I am not alone in doing what I do not want to do, and not doing what I do want to do.  I also find hope in the fact that God has promised that He will help me and guide me, and that His power is available to me.  I encourage you today to reach out and seek God’s help, His power, and His guidance to do what you are called to be doing.

– Andrew Hamilton

More Grace?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6

In the past couple of chapters, we looked at how we are justified by faith, and being saved while we are sinners.  So, the natural question is whether it matters if we sin.  I love the way Paul answers this question after he asks it.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

In my head I hear this with a lot of passion in it.  Then Paul says basically the same thing in verse 15:

15 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”

Again, I hear so much passion in this statement.  This is obviously an important point, and something that needed to be talked about when Paul wrote this letter.  It is something that needs talked about and understood now too.  I am confident that Paul spent this much time on this topic because it is so easy to think that “this” sin will be okay.  I’ll be forgiven, and then I won’t do it again.  Then, the next time it is again easy to think that doing it one more time won’t hurt.  I’ll be forgiven again.

That is an extremely dangerous place to be.  It is easy to cross the line into sin, and can be very difficult to cross back.  We need to stay as far away from that as possible.

16 “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”

We are either slaves to sin or to obedience resulting in righteousness.  We each must make that choice.  We are justified by faith, and then that faith should lead to obedience.  It is all really summed up in the last verse of chapter 6:

23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Andrew Hamilton

Grace for a Sinner

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5

Have you ever felt like you need to get things straightened out in your life before you can ask for forgiveness?  Or before you can pray?  Or before you can draw near to God?  I know I have felt that way.  Is God waiting for us to get everything straightened out before we seek forgiveness or start a relationship for him?  Let’s look at a few verses that I think answer this question:

6 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

 8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

All three of these seem to show that God is reaching out to us and desiring us to reach out to Him while we are still messed up.  These verses say, “While we were helpless”, “while we were yet sinners”, and “while we were enemies”.  This sure doesn’t sound like “after we got straightened out”.

I still feel at times that I need to fix something myself before turning to God and asking for forgiveness.  I also know that sin causes problems in a relationship with God.  However, if we are justified through our faith as we saw in Romans 4, and if we look at chapter 5 closely, we have our order wrong.  We need to turn to God immediately.  We need to accept his grace, and then focus on Him to straighten out whatever our problems are.

Paul closes the chapter with this:

20 “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

No matter what sin we have, no matter what laws we have broken, no matter how far we have turned away, the grace of God is sufficient if we will turn back to Him.  God is seeking us out, and we need to seek Him also, whether things are going well, or everything is falling apart.

– Andrew Hamilton

Justified by Faith

If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say_ “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness

Romans 4

When I think of the old testament versus the new testament, one of the differences I tend to think of is law versus faith.  In the old testament, the people were under the law, and judged by the law.  Then in the new testament, Jesus changed things up so that we could be saved by our faith, with his sacrifice.  No longer were people required to perform sacrifices under the law.

Is that the right way to look at it though?  I’m not sure because I still find scripture that makes comparisons which lead me to the same conclusion.  However, in Romans 4, Paul talks about Abraham being credited by faith.  Verses 2 and 3 say:

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ “

Paul goes on to say that David also talks about blessings that are separate from works, or in other words, by faith.  Verses 7 and 8 say:

“ ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been coveredBlessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.’ ”

So, how do I get this to fit with the laws and required sacrifices and such that were required for forgiveness in the old testament.  While the laws were all required to be followed, there had to be faith included with it for it to please God.  I can’t help but think of Matthew 5:17 as I am talking about the law of the old testament versus faith and grace in the new testament.  It reads:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”

So, with our forgiveness coming through faith, it does not mean the law has been thrown away.  Instead, it means this is the perfect fulfillment of the law.

Why is this important to us?  Verse 16 says:

For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

We are all descendants through the faith of Abraham.  We can also have our faith credited as righteousness.  What a wonderful blessing this is.
– Andrew Hamilton

Guilty, but Justified

Romans 3 23 and 24

Romans 3

In the first 2 chapters of Romans, Paul talks a lot about our actions, and our failures.  Since we have all sinned and failed, these two chapters by themselves would paint a very bleak picture for each of us as individuals.  Thankfully, even though these contain very important teachings, they lead to much more.

Everyone of us is guilty under the law.  Romans 3:9-12 gives us a clear picture of this:

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;  as it is written,

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.’ “

So, where does this leave us?  We are all guilty under the law.  We need something else.  We need grace.  This is exactly what we are offered. Verses 23 and 24 say:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”

This grace is offered freely to all of us if we accept it and follow Christ.  So, while we strive to follow God’s commands, and honor Him in all that we do, there are times we will all mess up, and therefore the law cannot justify us.  The law condemns us.  God has given us another way out through Jesus.  We have to accept the gift, and follow Jesus throughout our life.

-Andrew Hamilton

Looking Inward

Romans 2 6 (1)

Romans 2

As I read chapter 2 of Romans, I see it as a call to look inward instead of at those around us.  The chapter starts with talking about judging or condemning others.  Verse 3 shows us the danger of looking at others faults instead of our own:

 “But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?”

So, when we condemn others for their actions, we are actually condemning ourselves for our sins.  It continues that God will judge us each for the deeds we have done.  However, from my reading of this, and other scriptures, those deeds have to be done with the right attitude in our hearts.  Verse 8 talks about those who are selfishly ambitious.  I have met people who do a lot of the “right things”, but only because it helps the way they are seen or because it helps them feel good about themselves.  These people are selfish, and generally ambitious.  I believe these actions will be judged as selfish ambitions rather than service to God.  Because of this, I think we all need to look at the reason behind our actions.  Are we serving God with what we do, and with our motives behind what we do?

Paul then continues by talking about those who have the law and those who are without the law.  In Chapter 1, Paul talked about no one being without excuse about believing in God, since the things around us make it evident there is a god.  So, in the same way, not knowing the law is not an excuse for not knowing the law.  This is clear in verses 14 – 16:

 “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

We will all be treated equally based on our actions.  Obviously, other parts of scripture show that the blood of Christ covers our sins and the acceptance of that gift, and following Christ will be the largest question in that judgement.

Paul’s final points in this chapter are outward things versus inward things.  Both in what we teach versus what we do, and in holding on to the physical following of the law versus the following of the spirit/heart of the law.  Verses 28 and 29 sum this point up:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”

Again, are we hanging on to some outward appearance of following the law, or are we looking inward toward following God’s teachings, growing closer to Him, and imitating Christ in our lives.

My takeaway from Romans 2 is to look inward at my own life.  I need to see if I am living a life that shows God in all I do, and when I find areas where I am not, making changes in them.  I am not able to do this all on my own, but I know that God can change me.
-Andrew Hamilton