Violence

Acts 23

May 11

Let’s start with some definitions.

Pharisee-felt spiritually superior; held themselves to the strict letter of the law; observed traditions to be as binding as the written word.

Sadducee- wealthy upper class; didn’t hold to tradition; denied there was a resurrection of the dead… which is why they were Sad-you-see

Sanhedrin- Jewish court of justice.  Made up of both Pharisees & Sadducees.

When the commander realized Paul was a Roman citizen, he wanted to unload this problem in a hurry.  When brought before the Sanhedrin, Paul took the bull by the horns.  As a Pharisee, he focused on an issue he knew was divisive:  resurrection.   So strong were their differences, the groups came to blows and even plotted to assassinate Paul. 

Violence is never the answer.  In our dealings we must remember to represent our humble Lord.       

Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath”.   Paul calmly stated his belief.  He didn’t shout down the opposition. 

James 1:20 “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires”.                      

I Corinthians 16:14 tells us to “Do everything in love”.   Paul didn’t bully people into his way of thinking.  We are called to preach the kingdom.  God will change men’s hearts.

-Annette Osborn

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How was God working through this situation so that what He wanted done would be done? (see verse 11 and the rest of the chapter)
  2. What groups today are in sharp dispute with one another, sometimes leading to violence?
  3. How will you practice a “soft answer” and “doing everything in love” next time you are in the middle of a dispute?

Naaman’s Ailment

2 Kings 5

March 17

I have a similar ailment to Naaman’s. No, not leprosy, but a pride that makes me want to be right, even sometimes to the point of thinking God (or the man of God) is doing it wrong if He/they aren’t following the step by step plans I designed. And, sometimes a pride like that leads to a bit of anger when our best laid plans are contradicted by an all-knowing and pretty creative God who also likes to witness our obedience.

So, here we have Naaman – the proud, leprous army commander of the country of Aram at the door of Elisha’s house. He had already humbled himself to listen to the captured Israelite servant girl who was sure Naaman could be healed of his dangerous skin disease if he got to the prophet of God in Samaria (capital city of Israel, Aram’s enemy). He had already secured from the king of Aram a very impressive payment (including 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold and 10 sets of clothing) for the one who could heal Naaman. He had already travelled by horse and chariot over 100 miles – first to the king of Israel (who was absolutely no help and was scared this was an enemy trap) – and now to the door of the prophet Elisha’s house.

Naaman has rehearsed in his mind how this is all going to go down. His life is about to be changed and the dreaded leprosy will be gone forever. So, he is completely caught off guard when Elisha instead of waving his magic wand (or hand) sends a servant out to him to tell him to go wash 7 times in the Jordan River which is another 30 miles down the road. 2 Kings 5:11 says, “But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. ‘” He went away angry because God’s plans didn’t match up with his. He had envisioned instant and easy healing – the wave of a holy man’s hand. He had faith it could be so – that was good. But he also had prideful arrogance that he should be the one to choose how God worked. And when his plans and God’s plans didn’t match up – then God must be wrong. God desired faith and simple obedience. Naaman had faith and a big helping of pride, arrogance and anger. Faith without obedience (deeds) is dead. He would rather live with his deadly leprosy than humble himself to obey and do it God’s way. And he walked away from the healing God had prepared for him.

Some stories tragically end this way. How devastating if Naaman’s story also ended with him angrily turning his back on the blessings God wanted to pour out on him in the dirty Jordan River. Luckily for Naaman, he had some bold and wise servants who calmly reasoned with him and convinced him to try it God’s way. And, when he had faith and obedience, he received the blessing and new life that he was searching for – because he humbled himself and did it God’s way.

God, please heal me of my pride. I don’t want my stubborn pride to get in the way of receiving your blessings. Help me to faithfully obey you, even if I had a different plan. I don’t have to be right – You are. Always.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Has there been a time your plans and expectations didn’t match up with God’s? How did you handle it?
  2. Why do you think people tend to get mad at God when they don’t understand or abide by His plan? Have you seen some angrily walk away from God and the blessings He wanted to give? What wise and bold counsel would you offer?
  3. How do you rate your own faith and obedience? How can you improve both your faith and your obedience?
  4. Later in this chapter Gehazi gets into trouble because of his covetousness. Explain what happens to him and why? What other sins did he commit? Has wanting what others have ever gotten you into trouble? How do we avoid the great dangers of covetousness?

God’s Business

Jonah 3-4

Yesterday, we saw Jonah’s reluctance to God’s call for his life. Actually, “active rebellion” against God’s call is more accurate! However, we saw Jonah pray to God during his time in the belly of the great fish. We were left asking the question, “Will Jonah finally answer the call to proclaim God’s message?”

He does. In 3:1, the word of the LORD comes a second time to Jonah. In 3:3, “Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.” As the story goes, which so many of us learned in our childhood Sunday school, Jonah preaches that Nineveh will be destroyed, and so the Ninevites repented. And our happy ending occurs in 3:10: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” 

But wait. There’s more.

Why was Jonah SO reluctant to preach to Nineveh? Why did he run in the opposite direction to avoid God’s call on his life? Why did it take a great storm, being thrown overboard, and three days in the belly of a fish to learn his lesson? And why did Jonah scoff at the mercy of God in 4:1? 

The truth is, we will never be able to see Nineveh or Assyria in the same way Jonah did. We didn’t grow up witnessing the brutality and evil that Assyria committed with every passing year, and we will never experience the same wars and terrible things that it did to Israel. But Jonah was very close to the evil that Nineveh did. In fact, Jonah had some really good reasons to really, really dislike Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to see God’s mercy extended to his enemies. He actually wants to see the destruction of a city with 120 thousand people because he dislikes them so much! In fact, he camps out at the edge of the city hoping that their repentance doesn’t last.

And so God decides to teach Jonah a lesson. He grows a plant that gives shade and comfort to Jonah, and then kills it. Jonah reacts with anger once again. And finally God teaches Jonah the lesson he needed all along: Nineveh is like the plant in this story. God grew it and has concern for it (see 4:11). But on the other hand, he scolds Jonah for caring about a plant he never grew in the first place. In other words, just like the plant, Jonah has no right to be angry about a people that are actually God’s business all along.

So what do we learn here? There are a lot of lessons that come out of Jonah: God’s ways are far higher than our ways. His sense of justice and mercy will sometimes be at odds with our understanding of justice and mercy. We are challenged to lay down our prejudice and serve others in the name of God. And when God calls you to Nineveh, don’t run away– just go!

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Jonah 3-4 and Revelation 7

How-To-Do-It Manual

James 1

We begin a new book of the Bible today—James.  James is one of my favorite Bible books.  I participated in Bible quizzing on James as a teenager in IL, and coached Bible quizzers on James in IN and MN.  More than half of the verses of this first chapter of James are underlined in my Bible.   

James’ writing style differs from the author of Hebrews.  He is blunt and forthright in his writing.

The author of James was most likely the son of Joseph and Mary, which made him the half-brother of Jesus.  Interestingly, James and other family members did not initially accept the teaching of Jesus.

In Mark’s account of Jesus, we find these verses.    

 “He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. And when His own people heard about this, they came out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, ‘He has lost His senses.’” Mark 3:20-21

The book of John tells us “For not even His brothers believed in Him.” John 7:5

However, after Jesus had risen from the dead, (“then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles” I Cor 15:7), James’ life was transformed.  He became an important leader of the church in Jerusalem and the surrounding early churches.

The first verse of James ties in with his widespread influence to the churches.  He addresses his letter “to the twelve tribes which are dispersed abroad.”  This audience was actually Jewish Christians, many of whom had been forced to leave their homeland due to persecution.  They were new in their faith and needed instruction and encouragement that was straight forward and easily understood. 

Think about the opportunities and choices available today for people who want to be a “do-it-yourselfer.”  Whether it is home building or remodeling, cooking, gardening, crafting, “you name it,” there is a book, a manual, a TV program, a YouTube video, or a website that can help you out.  (DIY network, HGTV, Craftsy, are a few that come to mind.)  Paul A. Cedar calls the letter of James a “how -to-do-it manual for the Christian life.”  James offers solid, practical instruction for Jesus’ followers.

“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials,knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” 

Verse 2 tells us to be joyful when we face trials.  It seems like a difficult thing to do, but remember, the Christians who first received this letter had experienced extreme trials to the point they had fled their homes to survive. 

Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

This is the joy we should have when trials confront us.  And, as verse 3 says, “the testing of your faith produces endurance.”  When we experience trials, our faith grows in the Lord, as we work towards our “perfect self” in God’s Kingdom.  (verse 4)

James’ brother Jesus, our Savior, often told parables, or simple stories to help his audience understand his teaching.  I find it interesting that James, like his brother, uses several illustrations in his letter to further explain his instructions to his readers. 

If you lack wisdom, ask God for it, but don’t doubt you will receive it.  One who doubts “is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  Let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  (verses 5-8)

Blunt and to the point!  No commentary by me needed! 

Story/illustration #2–Verses 9-12

“Now the brother or sister of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; but the rich person is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so also the rich person, in the midst of his pursuits, will die out.  Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

A Christian with limited means for livelihood “glories” in his coming inheritance in God’s Kingdom.  A rich man/Christian should glory in the fact that his wealth is temporary, only of this world.  Verse 11 gives us a visualization of the fleetingness of this life—hot sun, scorching wind, dead grass and flowers.  (This picture reminds me of the drought areas around the US this past summer.)  Both men are equal in their future reward, a “crown of life,” IF they “persevere under trial.”

James continues with straightforward, sensible instruction.

“No one is to say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it has run its course, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

God, the Father of Lights, loves us, and is a generous giver.  His greatest gift was His Son Jesus and the plan of salvation, but He has also given us the beautiful natural world to delight in and discover its wonders each day.  God has given us our families, friends, jobs, food, homes.  How blessed we are.  And His care, His protection, His love never changes—“with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  This phrase reminds me of one of my favorite verses, Malachi 3:6a. “For I, the Lord, do not change.”

James continues with his direct approach in verse 19.  He tells his readers to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”  Why? Verse 20 says, “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (Insert drum rimshot here!)  Obviously!

Quick, Slow, Slow.  In other words, 30 seconds to think and respond during a contentious conversation.  Even Thomas Jefferson had this sage advice.  “When angry, count to 10 before you speak.  If very angry, a hundred.” 

Verses 21-25 bring us another story/illustration to make James’ point, if we still don’t get it!  The guidance is repeated with action words this time to begin the illustration. 

  • Put aside filthiness and the remains of wickedness.”
  • Receive the word”
  • Prove yourselves doers, (not merely hearers, who delude themselves.)”

Don’t hold back, James! 

Here comes the explanation/story.  “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does.”  (verses 23-25)

A man looks at himself in a mirror, walks away, and immediately forgets what he looks like.  This man is like a person that listens to God’s Word, hears what “the preacher says,” and then leaves church on Sunday and lives his life the rest of the week not connected to God. 

However, one who not only looks into God’s Word, (the perfect law of liberty) abides in it, and follows through with appropriate actions, is truly blessed in his life.  Paul said it this way, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” Galatians 5:4.  Where do you start? 

James gives us an example in the last verse of James 1, verse 27.  “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” 

Simple love in action.  The Bible is our guidebook/how-to manual.  We can’t just read it and not follow through.  James 1 is direct instruction for the do-it-yourself generation. 

-Paula Kirkpatrick

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 45-46 and James 1

New Identity: Be like God

Ephesians 4

Caitie has been writing all week on our identity in Christ, but as a busy Bible College student she needs the day off to concentrate on her other Bible responsibilities. She’ll be back tomorrow to finish off her series.

Today, let’s look at Ephesians 4 with an eye for who we are created to be – and a little bit of who we are NOT created to be. We don’t have to go far to start creating our list. In verse 1 Paul reminds us he is a prisoner – not an identity we usually strive for – but he wears it rather proudly as a prisoner for the Lord. We must remember to not seek to fit in with what the world may tell us is good and proper and respectable – but what GOD says. Are we living worthy of the calling we have received from God? Even if it puts us in a position that the world doesn’t commend?

What does He call us to be? COMPLETELY humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love (4:2), making EVERY effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (4:3). In other words – be nice. Put away prideful, rough and rude, easily irritated selfishness. There is no place for it in the church family. In any group or partnership made up of individuals it is easy to have the individual needs, wishes, personalities, selfish desires dominate. And, pretty soon, people aren’t playing nice. Paul reminds us of all the things we have in common with the other members of the body of Christ. ONE body, ONE Spirit, ONE Hope, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all, and that God is the biggest and the best – remember that! (4:4-6). All on the same team – the BEST team. Don’t destroy yourself. You, the church, are ONE body – take care of it.

You all have different roles to play: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, etc… Don’t neglect yours. Do it the best you can, and appreciate others who are doing their role. Only when we are working together can we create a healthy, growing, maturing body becoming more and more like Christ. (4:11-13)

Wisdom will be needed. We don’t want to stay babes in the faith who are easily led astray. It will take work and wisdom to grow up. Beware of men and women (in and out of the church) who do not speak the things of Christ. Don’t let yourself, or your brothers and sisters, be deceived. Search for God’s truth. Know the truth – and share it – in a loving manner. “Speaking the truth in love.” (4:15).

Remember to ALWAYS keep Christ as the Head. It’s not about you – it’s about Jesus. Keep his mission, his vision, his voice, his dedication, his words, his wisdom, his passion, his love for God and others, his focus foremost. That’s the only way to be a church that brings glory to God. Keep God’s beloved Son as the Head. Do your part, support the other parts, and keep Christ as the Head. (4:15,16)

You will be surrounded by worldly people engaging in worldly ways. That is NOT who you are to be. Put off the old self with its wicked ways. Be the new person you were meant to be. Your new self was, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24) That’s huge! My new identity is to be LIKE GOD! First we were told to be nice. Then we were told to keep Christ as our Head. NOW, we are told that our new identity is to be LIKE GOD. Not to be like God in His supreme power, majesty and sovereignty. We are not expected to become all-knowing and all-powerful like the Creator. We are told our new self was created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Do what God says is right and set yourself apart from the world. How’s our righteousness and holiness looking today? What tweaks – or major construction projects – can you and I begin today to become more and more Godly – by doing the right thing and by being set apart from the world?

Paul gives some suggestions.

Is there an area where we need to practice being more truthful to our neighbor (perhaps even to save their life)? Do it. Become more like God and more set apart from this world.

Is there an area where your anger is controlling you and leading you to sin? Stop giving the devil a foothold. Become more like God and more set apart from this world.

Is there an area where we need to replace harmful habits and lifestyles with time and energy spent doing good to benefit others? Stop leaving the work for others. Get busy helping others. Become more like God and more set apart from this world.

Are there times when our mouths (and hearts) are full of unwholesome talk: put-downs, complaining, lies, swearing, negativity, coarse joking, or slander? What do we do and say that saddens God’s Holy Spirit? Stop it! Get rid of it! Replace it! Be nice. Be kind. Be compassionate. Forgive. Because you have also been forgiven. Become more like God and more set apart from this world.

“Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)

-Marcia Railton

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at Bible Gateway here – Isaiah 1-2 (what can you find referring to the old and new self in Isaiah 1?) and Ephesians 4

Who are You Imitating?

Matthew 5-7

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 5-7.  You may know this as “The Sermon on the Mount”, and this may be among the most well known passages in the Bible.  The Jews Jesus was teaching knew the Old Testament laws really well.  Jesus took this opportunity to focus on what God really requires – he focused on matters of the heart, not just following the letter of the law.

For example, the old law said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  Jesus took it further and taught, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  This is a difficult teaching, but wait – there’s more.  

Then, in Matt 5:42-45, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – This is even harder to follow.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us more of the reason behind his new rules.  God loves even those who hate him, and he does them good – in spite of their hatred for Him.  And we should imitate this characteristic of God.  Jesus takes this even further in verse 48, where he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  – Ok, now this isn’t possible to obey without some serious help from God.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Basically, this is asking God to forgive me only to the extent I forgive others.  Jesus then told us plainly in Matt 6: 14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  – This is a pretty good reason to forgive others! – But still not easy to do.

Then, Jesus tells us in Matt 7: 1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  – Did you catch that?  I will be judged in the same way I judge others.  This is a pretty good reason for me to not condemn others!  This goes back to the old saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

As I read these passages, a couple things jump out to me.  First, I need to imitate God as much as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at doing this, so I need to beg for His forgiveness.  Fortunately, He is loving and extends grace.  From His example, I recognize I need to be loving, and extend grace too.

Second, once I recognize I am a worthless sinner, saved only by the grace of God, it’s suddenly easier for me to be less eager to condemn others.  Then, if I can see them through God’s eyes – as other sinners in need of grace – that makes it even easier for me to extend grace to others.  And that grace may take the form of forgiving them, or of not judging them, or even turning the other cheek if they hit me.  On our own, this isn’t possible, but we can do these things with God’s help.  Ultimately, we can (again with God’s help) come to the point of loving or enemies, and blessing those who persecute us.

Jesus closes this section talking about the wise builder (who built on a rock) and the foolish builder (who built on sand).  The wise man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and put it into practice – building his life on the rock.  The foolish man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and didn’t put it into practice – building his life without a foundation.  In both instances, storms come.  But only the house built on the rock survived.  By analogy, only the life founded on Jesus’ teachings will not be destroyed.

So again, we find that today’s reading has implications for us today, and for eternity.  And just knowing these truths isn’t enough, we must put them into practice.  Please join me in taking this seriously.  Apply this to your life.  Ask God’s help living up to these requirements that are impossible to accomplish on our own.  Become an imitator of God.  The reward is eternal.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 5-7.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 8:1-13 and Luke 7 as we continue on our Bible reading plan. SeekGrowLove.

Don’t Be a Hater

Proverbs 10-12

Proverbs 10 12 NIV sgl

I have a lot of thoughts and emotions swirling in my head after the death of George Floyd and all the events surrounding it afterward.  There is a lot to dig into and talk about, but I am going to keep this devotion simple by sharing some very pertinent verses from our reading in Proverbs today.

Proverbs 10:12 starts out by saying that hatred stirs up conflict.  Well, that has certainly been proven true.  If you want to dig to the core of this whole problem, racism, you will find hatred there.  People have chosen to hate someone based on the color of their skin.  Some of this hate is intense, and unfortunately leads to death at times, but there are also many people that carry with them a milder form of hate that still makes the problem worse even though it may not be so blatant.

So how should we combat hatred?  The second part of verse 12 says that love covers over all wrongs.  Love is what is needed to make this situation better.  Considering everything that has happened, you might not be feeling that right now.  There is a lot of anger out there, and it is ok to get angry sometimes.  Some things are worth getting angry over. However, that anger can’t last.  It will ruin you and those around you if you hold on to anger for too long.  There have been many wrongs through the years that can’t be undone, but love can cover those wrongs, and forgiveness needs to be part of that love.  The wrongs can be forgotten with forgiveness and love.

You have a choice to make.  Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?  Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  You can speak harshly and blame people for their wrongdoings.  You might even be accurate about what you are saying, but if your tone is cruel and insensitive, it is like piercing them with a sword.  A wise person’s words are softer, gentler, loving, and empathetic, which brings healing.

I think it is safe to say that most people have been feeling anxiety over what has been happening.  The first part of Proverbs 12:25 says that anxiety weighs down the heart.  I’m sure many of you have experienced that during these trying times lately.  The good news is that there is a cure for your heart.  The second part of verse 25 says a kind word cheers it up.  Again, you can choose to speak harshly to others about what they have done wrong and make the wounds worse, or you can say something kind to help make their heart glad.

Proverbs 12:20 goes one step further by saying those who promote peace have joy.  Peace feels so good and it is what most of us strive for.  If you can promote peace, even in very small ways, it will bring joy to your heart.  The only thing that will completely end racism is the return of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we should just give up until then.  I encourage you to make this world a better place one person at a time.  You can’t solve this whole problem by yourself, but you can make it better by being a light to the individuals you come into contact with in your daily life.

I am not saying we all need to pretend nothing happened and try to live happily ever after.  There are many conversations that need to take place and changes need to occur.  I am saying that we need to embrace the wise words from scripture and go into those conversations with love, not with hate boiling on the inside.  You also need to search your own heart to see if there is any hatred there, no matter how strong or mild it may be, and rid your heart of that hatred.  Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.

Rick McClain

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+10-12&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 13-15 as we find more of God’s wisdom on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Sucked into Sin

Proverbs 29

Proverbs 29 16 NIV

This chapter of proverbs continues the thoughts from the previous one – speaking on the contrasts from the wicked and the righteous. Proverbs 28 and 29 give us wonderful examples, not only of recognizing sinful ways but, of the habits that could sneak into our own lives. Many a good man and woman have been corrupted in time by the allure of sin. Additionally, it is noted in this proverb that those who we surround ourselves with can lead us into sin. We must choose carefully who we associate with and be wary that they do not drag us into sin and away from God.

In my youth I hung out with people that did a lot of things that I knew were not good. Drugs, alcohol, and other activities were happening all around me. I hung out with them because I liked being around them but I never let myself fall into their ways. I always thought that made me okay but all it would have taken is one encounter with law enforcement and I would have been found just as guilty as the rest. Wow! That hit me like a ton of bricks when I first realized that. God was watching out for me but I was really pushing the boundaries of His grace and I realize that now. In that I am reminded that we are not to put our God to the test. Yet that is exactly what I was doing for years. He truly is merciful and gracious!

One last thought from this passage that actually ties back to what I wrote about for Proverbs 27 concerning anger, check it out if you missed it. Giving full vent to our anger as this proverb points out is bad. Yet I said before that it is good. No, not is good, but may be good and can help. Verse 11 says that a wise man keeps himself under control. Anger released rationally, controlled, is what I spoke of the previous day. This is talking about rage. Rage is uncontrolled, irrational, and violent. There can be no compassion or concern in rage but you can have both while angry. Understanding this is important for our relationships. That is why we have the saying, “Count to ten before speaking.”

In closing, I urge you to be aware of the various ways in which we can get sucked into sin. Be careful to not place yourself into a situation where you become guilty by association. And remember that we were created for relationships. They are vitally important to our God and to our daily existence. Treat them with the care that they deserve.

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

In This Moment – Our Relationships

Proverbs 27

Proverbs 27 1 NIV

How often do you think about tomorrow? What is it that you think of? Are you hoping for certain things to happen, praying for a specific outcome? Are you dreaming of what might be?

The implication from James 3:13-14 and 4:13-15 as well as Matthew 6:34 is that tomorrow is promised to no one. Ecclesiastes 9:11 tells us that time and chance happen to everyone. With billions of people each doing their own thing for their own reasons it is easy to see how true that last statement is. So we truly cannot boast about tomorrow for we do not even know if it will come to us and if it does, what it will bring.

We are to prepare for tomorrow, but not presume it. When we dream of tomorrow we may find ourselves imagining our own plans being better than God’s. Additionally, thinking to the future is more often than not the primary source of our anxieties. So again I say, prepare for tomorrow but always trust in our incredible God’s will. If He has called you to Him it is to succeed in His will, not to fail in it.

Of the 27 verses of the 27th Proverb, 16 deal directly with relationships (2-6, 9-11, 13-18, 21-22). It is telling of the importance of relationships to our amazing God. He places the greatest emphasis on our relationship with Him and one another all through the Scriptures.

The three points on relationships that this chapter of proverbs focuses on is a humble heart, the sting of honesty, and the destructiveness of things left hidden.

If there is something that you are really good at you are probably accustomed to receiving praise for it. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that we need to remember not to let it go to our head. If you let it, it can inflate our ego. A brilliant writer receives critical acclaim but it is likely that their talent was developed and nurtured by their parents, numerous teachers, and peers. The passion to do what they do is fueled by hundreds of authors that have come before them. Likewise a superstar athlete has family, teachers, coaches, trainers, teammates and even their competition to thank for honing their abilities. As you can see there is nothing that we do that we could honestly boast about. Everything we do and are capable of comes from others guiding us and believing in us. Ultimately this is all traced back to our LORD and Creator. In His image we are strong and creative. We are intelligent and powerful because of Him.

The second point made in this proverb deals with the pain of honesty and how good it can be for us. It can hurt when someone tells you, “You sing horribly!” Well, not so much for me because I already know that. But you get the picture. When someone tells you in such a point blank manner or preferably in a more caring way a truth that you need to hear that is for your benefit. Sometimes it is an honest remark about something we said or how we acted that we know was not right. We need to be called out from time to time over our words and actions. This is what the Bible calls a rebuke, a correction of what we do and say.

One of the honest expressions this passage speaks of is anger. Anger can be cruel, to the one who is angry as well as the one at which the anger is directed. But a sudden outburst of anger may allow us to clear the air. It can move us into a place of reconciliation and forgiveness so that healing can begin. The point is that open and honest communication is not always nice and polite. Sometimes it is not possible to be honest in a demure, quiet way. There are times when honesty hurts. Actually, most of the time honesty hurts. But can we truly grow and mature if everyone around us is sugar-coating and shielding us from the reality of a situation?

The third and final point I took from this proverb goes hand-in-hand with honest communication, burying things away. I mentioned the point of anger and the author continues by asking the rhetorical question, “Who can stand before jealousy?” Jealousy, envy, and the like are like smoldering embers. The heat is held inside, never dying down and ready in an instant to ignite at the first opportunity. They are not easily vented or burned out. While anger may subside soon after being released, jealousy and envy grow stronger the longer they are held. They feed off of our relationships, slowly burning them away to nothing. Be careful of what you hold inside for this is the very reason we have the expression, burning bridges.

There is so much more within this wonderful passage that we could have covered. The significance of being in this moment and trusting God for what may come as well as the importance of relationships is what really stuck out to me. So remember, not only do we owe God but many others for all that we are capable of. Honesty hurts but, when coupled with compassion, is helpful. And finally, be careful what you hold hidden inside for it can destroy your relationships and do great harm to you as well. We were created to be in relationship with God. Our Savior, Jesus, spoke of how vital our relationships are. He simplified the incredibly convoluted system of 613 laws that man had in place to two – love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. The heart of these is relationships. Never forget that.

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

Birds of a Feather Will Flock Together

Proverbs 22

Proverbs 22 24 25

My parents often reminded me while growing up that I needed to choose my friends wisely. They were not shy about sharing with me when they did not care for a particular friend or friend group.  This often would cause strife between us because I thought I was strong enough to be the “influencer” in my relationships. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that it was easy to fall. A friendship principle of the old west says, “Those we hang with may be the reason we are being hanged” or simply put in today’s terms, we learn behaviors of our friends. For better or worse, our friends greatly influence our decisions and choices.

 

Today’s wisdom is gleaned from Proverbs 22:24-25, it says “do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself.” This is specifically speaking about an angry person but I think that it can be used in general terms, “birds of a feather will flock together.” Simply put, birds congregate with birds of their own species. So, if you surround yourself with friends that are not making the best choices, then you can ultimately find yourself in a similar situation. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good character.”

 

I liked this illustration of the strength of influence. Take the biggest person in a room and you have them stand on a chair while a smaller person stands next to them. It will be easier for the smaller person to pull the big person down off of the chair than it will be for the big person to lift the small person up on the chair. It just shows that it doesn’t take much to bring you down, even if you think you have strong faith. Proverbs 13:20 says “He that walk with the wise shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

 

Hang out with a brawler, you may get a black eye. Hang out with a drunkard, you may find yourself drinking too much. Befriend a thief and you may find yourself in trouble with the law. But, befriend a wise person and you become wise. Your company determines your character. Show me your friends and I will show you your future.

 

Erin Bormes

 

 

 

 

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