From a Wise Mom

Proverbs 31

Proverbs 31 1 2 NIV

This proverb is the words of wisdom from a mother to her son, who just happens to be a king. She cautions him against giving into his desires. Her words advise against dulling the senses with excessive alcohol until no longer remembering what he is working towards and ending up mistreating those around him. Wise words for us all. Moderation or in most case, abstaining all together, are key to carrying out the will of God. I must admit though that verses 6 and 7 perplexed me. She is teaching her son one thing but advising something else for others? That made me dig deeper (Strong’s Concordance here I come!). While most versions say “Give” the Hebrew could just as easily translate as “Leave”. This would mean that she is acknowledging that others drink but he ought to avoid it. So that actually makes a lot more sense and hey guess what? I did not have to stretch or twist God’s word to figure that out. Score one for hard work and discernment.

In addition to staying away from mind numbing substances, she urges him to champion the cause of those less fortunate. To speak for those who have no voice and defend those in need. This is very near and dear to the heart of Christianity. Jesus himself uplifted the most destitute of peoples and worked to save those who others thought unworthy. Going out into the world and making disciples of all nations is, at its heart, administering to the lost and broken. It is what we are called as Christians to do for the glory of God and in the name of Jesus.

I saved the third verse for the end because it ties into the final two thirds of the proverb. She says “women”, plural. That he would be faithful to one woman and save himself the trouble and ruin that would come from chasing many women around. She then gives a thorough description of the qualities of a wife worth pursuing. Many look at this portion of Scripture and see an antiquated view of women, being in their proper place. Yet anyone with that mindset is clearly not reading or understanding what was written. This describes a woman who works hard alongside her husband. She is not the dutiful housewife but an equal. She is shrewd enough to make major decisions such as purchasing land and dealing in various business affairs. She is wise and praised as a teacher. She is a woman of God who is strong in faith and character. She is what I pray for all young women to grow into and what all godly men should be seeking.

Mothers are so wise! God bless them for putting up with us.

 

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

Contentment and So Much More

Proverbs 30

Proverbs 30 8 9 NIV

The author of this proverb, Agur, begins by belittling his understanding. The irony is that his words hold great wisdom. He is not bragging about his knowledge and understanding. He is declaring the LORD our God as unfathomably great. He asks six questions, five of which identify the power of God. The sixth is prophetic of the yet unborn son of God, Jesus. Additionally, his understanding of the perfection of God’s word and the refuge it provides us is astounding. This is a man of great wisdom who humbly recognizes his insignificance before God which in itself makes him all the more wise.

He then focuses on two requests of God; honesty and contentment. He asks that falsehoods and lies be kept far from him. He provides a variety of ways in which lies and deception can bring curses down upon our heads. They destroy our relationships and cause us to spiral ever further from the God who loves us. Entwined in these illustrations are lessons of being satisfied with what we have. Appreciating that our needs are met and being content with that is not easy when there is often so much more that we want. God provides for our needs, the author acknowledged this. Everything beyond our needs comes from our desires which are, more often than not, borne of our sinful natures.

Agur then contrasts contentment with greed. First pointing to leeches which will gorge themselves beyond their needs. Then he personifies four things which are never satisfied. Two of these are actually life-giving; the womb and land. These are bookended by destructive examples; the grave and fire.

Verse seventeen seems oddly out of place and more than a little disturbing. It actually goes with the theme of honesty. The person suffering such a creepy fate has been dishonest in action and words with their family, and likely with everyone else in their life. Ultimately they will be alone and everything they had will be scattered among the people around them.

How do the eagle, snake, ship and couple fit together? Is this what Agur did not understand? I doubt it. Each of these examples can be seen as somewhat mysterious in what path they will take. The eagle is not limited in the great expanse of the sky just as there are few obstacles that the snake could not overcome. Without a rudder and someone to steer, the ship would be tossed at the whim of the sea just as the whims of men and women often make courtship, that is dating for all those not familiar with the term, tumultuous. So how does this fit in with what Agur is trying to convey? It goes back to his self-proclaimed ignorance of, well, everything but specifically of God’s ways and will.

And then we get back to a verse that makes us scratch our head. The mention of the adulteress is actually an example of someone who is neither content with their relationship or dealing honestly with others. Additionally, she is completely without remorse as she sees nothing wrong with her actions. My prayer is that none of us would get caught up in this specific type of behavior but even more so that we would be remorseful of any actions that we take or words that we use which hurt others.

Up until verse 21, Agur has been consistent with themes of God’s power and majesty, honesty, and contentment. Somewhat enigmatic but consistent nonetheless. Beginning with verse 21 though he expands his words of wisdom. First to include the injustices of the world or what he refers to as four things by which the earth cannot bear. Of the four examples the first and last are of one who is raised to a higher position, likely without the benefit of knowledge or understanding of their responsibilities. This type of unfair promotion can lead to disaster in most cases. It is not uncommon though to see someone with little knowledge of how to manage situations or how to lead people placed in a high position. Additionally it is a warning to us not to seek after something we are not prepared or equipped to handle. I guess that goes back to one of the main ideas as well, contentment.

Agur then reminds us that wisdom and understanding are not reserved for anyone. Young and old, big and small may seek after these great treasures. His specific examples are of course of the small creatures and the wisdom found in how they act. The contrast however is of larger creatures and their “stately bearing.” The imagery used is of pride and arrogance. Perhaps a reminder of humility in our own positions, whatever they may be. Given how this proverb concludes that would certainly seem to be the final lesson.

So what have we learned from Agur, other than that he has a pretty cool name? Humility is greatly valued, especially in light of our amazing God’s power. He was in awe of the gift of God’s word that has been given to all men. He esteemed honesty and contentment as the greatest gifts to request from God. And he reminds us that it is not our age or size that matters but our willingness to seek after wisdom that counts.

 

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

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

Sin Jenga

Proverbs 28

Proverbs 28 14 NIV Jenga

Proverbs 27 was like an onion, or a parfait because everyone likes parfaits. Proverb 28 however is more like a banana. It is more straightforward in its message. It could rightly be summed up as the destiny of good and evil. It is a series of contrasts between those who do what is right and those who do not.

The author calls out those who are well acquainted with poverty and suffering and yet, given the chance, oppress others suffering in the same ways. This sin is greater than those who have never known hunger and are oppressive. For a poor man to be placed in authority who becomes oppressive utterly destroys the hope of the poor. This is like a game of sin Jenga, stacking one sin upon another and hoping that it does not fall down.

In many facets of life we see sinful people praising sinful ways. They promote sin as something to be desired. Truthfully they have great advertising though. Sin is often that which is most physically pleasurable and is easily obtainable. It often helps people to temporarily forget their troubles and sorrows. Temporary is the key to all of this though. Each way that man chooses to sin is fleeting and temporary. The pleasure ends and emptiness is left. The good times come to a close and the pain returns with a vengeance. They believe that the easy way through life is to not care or get involved. But that ultimately leads to a life of loneliness and sinful ways that leave us numb to the good and the bad.

Another point from this passage is that evil men do not understand, or do not want to understand, the judgement of God. Knowing God makes us accountable to someone other than ourselves. It is painful enough for some to deal with their own conscience. It is as inescapable as our shadow after all. Then you add on the thought of God knowing everything that we do. For some people that is just too much. They can numb themselves of their guilt through drugs, alcohol, and other activities but they can never numb themselves from God’s presence. This is why, for some, it is preferable to give in completely to sin and run from God. It is better for the moment but God’s word tells us that it is better to be with Him. All will eventually stand before Him to be judged. At that time they will realize the futility of their efforts to numb themselves in sin’s embrace.

I mentioned earlier that our conscience is unescapable. It is the conscience of the guilty that cages them with bars of fear. A fear that haunts them night and day. They live in fear of being discovered in their sin. Those who are truly bold in their sin are in fear of being proven wrong in their assertions. They make excuses for actions which no one has challenged or questioned. The righteous however are freed from such fears. They can be bold, not because they are without sin, but because they admit their sins and make attempts to remove them from their lives.

I have often been frustrated at people who I know from experience are horrible ungodly people yet they prosper far more than I do. You know who I am talking about. They are the ones that seem to have it all and everything always goes their way. Yet they are the most vile, slimy, loathsome examples of humanity. As my faith and understanding of God’s ways increased, I began to understand that they think that they are successful. Others see them as being successful as well, even I did for a time. But what they are building has no foundation. Everything that they gather around them is perishable. They might as well be gathering bread which will rot and mold. Ultimately, they will be clinging to nothing more than fuzzy green clumps of rotted material. That is what they place their hope in. The righteous however place their hope in God. The one who is eternal, imperishable. I like that image a whole lot more than the image of what the wicked will be holding onto.

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

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires of the Mouth

Proverbs 26

Proverbs 26 20 NIV

The Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign started in 1944, and in 1947 the slogan that is familiar to many came to fruition; Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires (updated in 2001 to Wildfires). It is the longest public service campaign in the United States’ history. A campaign was derived to help the prevention of forest fires. Years of education gave the ownership to the general public to be more careful and to care for the world around you. The catchphrase reflects your responsibility.

 

Our family does not do “traditional” camping (unless a cabin with running water or hotel room is traditional camping to you). This doesn’t mean that we don’t love a good campfire.  This summer we spent some time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at our family cabin. The week was filled with cleaning out the overgrowth of trees and brush on the property, which meant a BIG campfire. Our burn pit is close to the lake, but is really in the middle of the woods (like most campfires). Being in the heart of the woods means being surrounded by a plethora of “fuel” if a fire is left to its own devices. So, before we left the cabin or went to bed, we had to make sure that the fire was out.

 

The wisdom from Proverbs 26:20 resonated with me. It says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” You see, a fire is only going to burn if it is fed. Our tongue is the fire and when you remove gossip or the “fuel,” it dies down. The best way to end (avoid) a quarrel? Keep your mouth shut!  Don’t get involved in what doesn’t concern you. Don’t take up offenses of others and don’t be easily offended. Don’t talk about what you don’t know and be very slow to talk about what you do know. Practice self-control in the moment and show Christ-like love at all times. Don’t be the fuel for the fire and the fight!

 

James 3:5-6 says “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire and is itself set on fire by hell.” This just reinforces that our small tongue can do big damage.

 

Don’t fuel the flame of gossip and cause fights, only you can prevent wildfires of your mouth!

 

Erin Bormes

A Humble View Leads to the Best View

Proverbs 25

Proverbs 25 6 NIV

Have you ever been to a big sporting event and had tickets in the “nose bleed section?” As you are watching the game, you notice there are seats available courtside (tickets you would never be able to afford) and you decide that you are just going to move yourself to those seats instead!  We like the best seats. The view is better, and even more so is the appeal.  Sitting in the best seats makes us feel a little bit superior to “ordinary” people. Until the owner of the seats shows up with an attendant and asks to see your tickets and then ultimately asks you to move!  With your tail between your legs, you quietly pick up your drink and popcorn and head back to your original seat!

 

The wisdom I gleaned from today’s proverb was the importance of humility. Others may view it as a lesson on being presumptuous. Proverbs 25:6-7 says “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say to you, ‘Come up here,’ than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.” I think being presumptuous and humility go hand in hand. Sometimes we assume we have the “right” to do something and that boldness and self-confidence can get us into trouble. This can ultimately lead to “being humbled” by someone publicly and causing embarrassment. Whereas if you start with a humble heart, your impact will be long term and the benefits will be many.

 

We can see a similar situation in Luke 14 where Jesus is teaching about humility.  He notices the guests trying to pick the best seat at the table and he warns that sitting in the best seat might ultimately find them publicly humiliated when they are asked to move to a lower place at the table. He suggests that they seek a lower place at the table and the host might give them a public honoring by moving them to the best seat.  He says in verse 11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way, “A great man is always willing to be little.” Don’t worry about having the best seat at the ball game because in the end, your kingdom seat will have the best view EVER.

 

Erin Bormes