A Preserving Parable from Proverbs

Proverbs 13

Proverbs 13 4 NIV

Despite the fact that I’m an adult, I still occasionally give into peer pressure. Years ago, my friends were all into preserving fruits and vegetables, so I thought I should, too.  I didn’t want to miss out on the fun. Not knowing what I was doing, I was happy to find the book, Canning for Dummies, at the local bookstore. Reading through the book, I realized that what makes the book “for dummies” was the use of the pedagogical tool, repetition. Every important step was printed in bold, circled, and repeated…repeatedly.

I suppose you can call Proverbs 13, “Wisdom for Dummies.”  The writer, inspired by God, wants the readers to take into consideration the differences between the wise, upright, righteous, and hardworking versus the foolish, wicked, and lazy.  In this chapter, 6 verses point out the rewards of being wise, 6 verses point out the rewards of being righteous, and 7 verses point out the rewards of being disciplined and hardworking.  Clearly the author believes these values to be highly prized and worth remembering. Thus, the repetition! Read it, Know it, Live it, Repeat. Hide these words in your heart.

It turns out preserving food is hard work and messy (maybe that’s just me). But it’s also very satisfying.  I feel great at the end of a day of canning. I also feel great months later when I serve my family home-preserved corn and green beans while it’s snowing outside. And because I’ve read Canning for Dummies so often and done it so often, I can tell you how to can green beans and blanch corn by heart.

Similarly, there is much satisfaction in learning and living the importance of wisdom, discipline, hard work and knowing it by heart.

Maria Knowlton

Dark Ways

October 2 – Proverbs 2 (& surrounding chapters)

Proverbs 2 12 13 NIV

Let’s continue to look at Proverbs 1-4.  Today we are going to focus in on the sections dealing with avoiding sin and living a righteous life.

Proverbs 1:10-19 issues a warning about hanging out with the wrong crowd.  “My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.”  (Proverbs 1:10) It is critical to quickly and firmly resist even the smallest temptation.  Immoral people are often not satisfied with just doing bad things on their own, but they will instead often try to persuade others to join in their wrongdoing.  But Proverbs warns, “My son, do not walk in the way with them (sinners).  Keep your feet from their path, For their feet run to evil, And they hasten to shed blood.”  (Proverbs 1:15-16) The wise will not give into negative peer pressure, but they will quickly flee from temptation and those doing wrong.  It is dangerous thinking to believe that you can associate with habitual sinners, but not be affected yourself.  Verses 18 and 19 then explain that those that set out to do evil will ultimately harm themselves.  “But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives.  So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.”

In chapter two Solomon continues to stress that a wise person will resist evil.

12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
13 who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
14 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.

However, it is not enough to just avoid sin, but it is important to go beyond that, and treat others with goodness and generosity.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you. (Proverbs 3:27-28)

In chapter four a stark comparison is given between the righteous and the wicked.

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble. (Proverbs 4:18-19)

How important to realize that with every choice we make, we are choosing to either live in the light or the darkness.

Then Solomon ends chapter four with some straightforward advice about how to keep choosing to live in the light.

20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.

We must read the word of God, not only looking on it, but keeping it in our heart, or following through and acting on it.  We have to guard our heart and mind, always being vigilant of our thoughts, actions and priorities. We must be careful of what we say.  We must keep our eyes focused on God and his plans for our lives.  And finally, we must make sure that we are always moving in the right direction, drawing closer to God, and never turning away from him.

Jill McClain

 

Don’t Just Save Yourself

Deut 6 7

FREE THEME – The rest of the story in Deuteronomy 6

Yesterday we looked at the beginning of Deuteronomy 6 and saw God’s blueprint and purpose for spiritual education: God makes the rules and sends Moses to teach the people so that they will obey and receive God’s blessings.  God’s people need to be learners who study what is right and do it – not just once or twice – but continually.  Are they really God’s people if they don’t believe and act like it?  And how can they believe and act like it if they haven’t truly learned what God requires?  And, not just what others say God requires, for there are many who distort God’s Words and have not learned from Him.  God’s word needs to be a vital part of us – “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” (Deuteronomy 6:6).   It is our connection to God Almighty.

But, it is not enough for you to be connected and learning.  Your next job – is to be a teacher.  For Moses continues, “Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. ” (Deuteronomy 6:7).  It’s not enough for me, or for you, to be full of God’s Word – just for our own health and benefit and blessing.  It must be shared.  It must be passed on to others – and specifically to the next generation.  They need to know about the One true God.  They need to know about His love and faithfulness and also His requirements and even His anger.  They need to know about the blessings and curses He laid out for His children – so they can choose wisely.

Further along in Deuteronomy 6 Moses reiterates – be sure to follow God’s laws for your life so you will “do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you.” (6:18).  But, it’s not enough to save yourself.  In 6:20 we are to have an answer for our son (perhaps a teenager – or a college student) questioning why we live the way we do.  We are to tell about God’s goodness and faithfulness and the promises we have seen Him keep.

We see this over and over again in Scripture.  Learn – and teach.  Listen – and speak.  Live it – and Give it.  In Psalm 78 we read:

Listen, O my people, to my instruction;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.

For He established a testimony in Jacob
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers
That they should teach them to their children,
That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
That they may arise and tell them to their children,
That they should put their confidence in God
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments,
And not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not prepare its heart
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

 

The battle is real – and it is for the lives of our neighbors, our children, even the children yet to be born.

If your excuse is that you don’t know enough – see part 1 from yesterday – be a learner.  Get into God’s Word and then pass it on.  But don’t wait until you think you know everything (never) – start with what God teaches you today – and share it.  And don’t be surprised when you learn even more as you seek to share it with others.

 

Keep Growing – and Helping Others Grow

Marcia Railton

 

A Lifelong Learner

FREE THEME – Deuteronomy 6

Deut 6 6

Go ahead give it a read – even if you are pretty familiar with the chapter of Deuteronomy 6 already.  It is the well-known home of the Shema – a declaration of the oneness of God.  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”  (Deuteronomy 6:4).  But, it doesn’t start or end there.  Let’s look at the rest of the chapter, too.

First off, the word Deuteronomy means “repetition of the law”.  Moses had already written down the events of his own life and the commands of God in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.  Now, close to his own death and the time for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land led by Joshua, Moses uses the book of Deuteronomy to retell what is MOST important for God’s people to remember and live by to receive His blessings.  It’s a great book for God’s people today as well.

Deuteronomy 6 begins with Moses telling the people that these are the laws and commands that 1.) were God given,  2.) which Moses was to teach,  3.) so the people and their descendants would fear and follow God and 4.) thus experience blessing from God.  The blessings come to obedient people who listen to the teachers who teach what God requires.  This sounds like a great description of Christian Education – as designed by God.  But, sometimes we don’t do such a great job of following what God designed.

God’s people were – and are – to be learners.   They need to be hearing God’s Word (daily Bible reading, sermons, Sunday School classes, youth group, small group Bible studies, email devotions, etc…).  I am so thankful for those who have taught and are still teaching me God’s Word and the importance of knowing who the one true God is and how to follow Him and His Son.  I immediately think of my parents, pastors and Sunday School teachers as those who have poured God’s Word into me faithfully and consistently.  I am certainly still learning and correcting and learning some more.  It is a lifelong task to be a learner of God’s Word and His way.

Verse 18 says, “Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you…”  God’s people can only do right when they know what is right.  And, unfortunately there is a whole lot of confusion and mixed messages in the world about what IS right.    We need to be wise enough to know who to listen to – who is speaking the words of the one true God and what He requires – and who is a false teacher.

Sometimes the false teachers look pretty smooth and appealing and gain a popular following, all while twisting and perverting God’s Word.  They quote Scripture and try to make it say all sorts of ungodly things – even that abortion and homosexuality is approved by God (Does that sound familiar from any presidential candidates you know? Or, maybe a college professor, or a friend?)   And Satan smirks and cheers.  And God, I can only try to imagine, perhaps the sadness, anger, jealousy, patience and love mingled together as He watches and waits.  His judgment will be coming.

So, God’s People – will we be ready for His judgment?  Is it perhaps time to wake up?  Look in God’s Word and read the whole thing!   See who God really is – and isn’t.  Don’t be led astray.  What does He require?  What does He love?  What does He hate?  What is God waiting to teach you today?  Look in His Book.  Seek out wise teachers.

What is on your heart today?  How about some more of God’s Word.  It brings blessings.

Marcia Railton

(Tomorrow let’s continue in Deuteronomy 6 – there’s a lot more there.  Give it a read and I will see you tomorrow.)

 

 

 

Opening My Eyes and His Book

psalm 119 18

FREE THEME WEEK –

Today I do not have an amazing, earth-shattering verse to tell you about that will change your world.

Rather, I want to tell you that when you faithfully seek God, and His wisdom, truth, and love in His Scriptures, He responds in what may feel like earth-shattering ways that will change your world.

Let me give an example from just a few weeks ago, with a little background information first . . .

I have been working on reading 5 Psalms a day (as suggested by Pastor Jeff Fletcher in the Grow16BibleReading devotion a few months ago – https://grow16biblereading.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/just-two-choices/).  I have always been impressed with Pastor Jeff’s spiritual wisdom and figured if this was one of his techniques for growing, then I wanted to try it, too.  He explained, “Whatever day of the month you are on, read that (numbered Psalm), and then add 30 and keep going up by 30.  That way, in 30 days you will read all 150 psalms. On the first day of the month read Psalm 1, 31, 61,91 and 121, the next day read Psalm 2,32,62,92,122.”   Jeff spreads his Psalms out through the day so that his whole day is immersed in Psalms.  I like that idea, but am currently just working on being faithful with all 5 in the morning, along with the Proverb of the day and the Grow16 devotion chapter.

But, this particular morning I was already into the nitty-gritty of my day – my cute daycare kids had been dropped off in my home daycare, my husband and kids were off to their scheduled activities, and I was . . . clipping coupons and finding the best grocery shopping deals.  If you’ve ever tried it – you know it takes some time.  While I have always been frugal with my finances, my couponing goes in spurts – because of the time it takes.  Currently, I am trying to make a dream trip to Israel a reality so I am in super-saver mode which for me includes getting out the scissors and Sunday ads and digital coupons.    As I was snipping and clipping I was wondering if it was all worth it – should I actually be spending my time doing other (probably, more valuable) things?

WAIT – STOP!   All of a sudden I remembered – what about my morning Bible reading – how did that get missed?  Of course there was more valuable things to be doing than saving $1 on 2 boxes of General Mills cereal!  I put my scissors down and curled up in my favorite Bible reading corner of the couch.  I love having digital versions of God’s Word readily available at my fingertips and able to quickly do online searches to find just what verse or topic I am seeking out.  But, for daily Bible reading I am a huge fan of the comfortable, marked-up, leathery Word of God in my lap.

So, with a bit of guilt for not doing it sooner, I was flipping pages to begin with my Psalms of the day. I can not explain why my eyes FIRST took in one single verse from Proverbs 13 – it wasn’t even the 13th of the month.  Besides, I always start with the Psalms first.  The verse was not highlighted or at the top of the page.  There was nothing that should have pulled my attention to this Proverb.  Nothing – But God.  My eyes read: “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” Proverbs 13:11  WHAT!   I read it again and again -now with tears in my eyes.  I had JUST been questioning if my time couponing was of any value at all – and God sends me “accidentally” to this verse.  God sure got my attention – because He deserves it – so much more often than I willingly give it.   God told me – “Make sure you don’t steal your coupons – but go ahead and save your money little by little – it’s okay if it takes some time.”  Little by Little.

That morning I received God’s reassurance and promise – FIRST – keep FIRST things FIRST.  Come to Him and His Word FIRST – with every little need and worry and question.  And He is Big Enough to provide all we need.  Faithfully seek Him daily.

This was written thousands of years ago – for me at that moment in time.  I wonder how many others through the ages have found THAT specific verse at just the right time for them.  And then, to consider, that is just ONE tiny snippet of the truths stored up for each of us that seeks Him.

That verse – Proverbs 13:11 – probably isn’t THE verse you just needed to hear this morning.  I don’t know what your questions and needs are today.  But God does.  God directed me to the answer I was seeking that morning.  And, he has – and will – do it again and again.  The answer may not always come quite so immediately – but remain faithful – it will come – because He is faithful.

Our God is Big and Mighty and He lives and breathes in His Word.  Open it up and take in God.  He is not a foreign, distant God.  He has the answers and He wants to share them when His children come humbly and faithfully before Him.   He is waiting for me and you to draw near to Him.

Sit down and open up His Book – so He can reveal Himself in marvelous ways.

Marcia Railton

 

Agents of Hope

Psalm 37 37

Happy Saturday!  Some of you have been walking with me on this slow and steady journey through Psalm 37.

We started reading and chewing on and praying and resting with God in these verses on Sunday.  Hopefully you have found times when you were able to delight in God.

Today we come to the final portion of this magnificent Psalm.

Once again, let us read it Lectio Divina Style: Read, Meditate, Pray, Rest in God.

1.  Read through verses 35-40 slowly, at least 3 times.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man

flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,

36 but he soon passed away and was no more;

though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;

a future awaits those who seek peace.

38 But all sinners will be destroyed;

there will be no future for the wicked.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;

he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

because they take refuge in him.

2.  Meditate.  Choose a word or phrase and spend some time thinking deeply about what it says and what it means.

For me, two contrasting phrases stand out and speak loudest to me.  “A future awaits those who seek peace” and “there will be no future for the wicked.”

I have spent a considerable amount of time in recent months studying the phenomena of despair and the state of depression.  Life expectancy in the United States has declined for three consecutive years.  More younger people are dying from what has been labeled “deaths of despair.”  These are deaths that result from drug addiction, alcohol related deaths and suicide.  The rate of deaths of despair is massively increasing.  Despair can kill a person.

In the story, The Inferno, Dante has the gates of hell have a sign over it that says “abandon hope all ye who enter.”  Dante wasn’t really talking about an afterlife here, but more likely a state of being.  Hell is where people find themselves when they are living without hope.  The absence of hope is despair.  When a person lives without a meaningful hope for the future it is soul destroying.  As I see it, as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be agents of hope who are called to share that hope with a world of people who are in despair.

In a world in despair and hopelessness we bring with us a message of hope and with that, the opportunity to bring people into a state of shalom or peace.  People need not live in alienation from God, from others or from themselves.  People can be reconciled to God, to others and selves.  They can be made whole.  They can experience salvation/wholeness from God which results in healing and hope.  The Psalmist rightly says “the salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord.”  Only God can save us, heal us, make us whole and bring an end to our existential despair.

God, I want to continue to be one who lives life with a hopeful future.  I want to be one who seeks peace/shalom.  Jesus was probably thinking about this Psalm when he spoke in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (See Matthew 5:9).

3.  Pray.  Whatever your meditation brings up, bring that to God in prayer.  For me I pray- “God, am I living as a peacemaker?  Am I acting as an agent of your shalom/healing/wholeness/salvation in this world.  Am I living life out of the deep well of hope?  In what ways do you still want me to seek peace in my home, in my church, in my workplace, in my neighborhood and community, in my country and in this world?

4.  Rest in God.  Living as a peacemaker and an agent of hope in this divided and despair filled world can be spiritually and emotionally (as well as physically) exhausting at times.  We need to draw our strength from the deep well of God’s love and mercy.  As you prepare for whatever the day may bring you as you prepare to be a peacemaker, spend a few moments resting in God’s love.

This concludes our slow and deep reading of Psalm 37.  We have divided the 40 verse Psalm into 7 smaller sections and, within each section we have read, meditated, prayed and rested in God.  I hope that you have come to appreciate how this form of reading and praying the Bible can deeply enrich your spiritual life as you seek to serve God.  I encourage you to practice Lectio Divina prayer/scripture reading on a regular basis and note how it helps strengthen your life of prayer with God.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

[Insert Your Name] Here

Psalm 37 31.png

We continue this intentionally slow journey through Psalm 37.  I use the word “intentionally” intentionally (see what I did there?)  Why intentionally slow?

            Maybe it is just my own personal preference.  Most of the time I’m more of a plodder.  I tell people “if you ever see me running, you should run too ‘cause something really bad must be about to happen and I’m trying to get away.”  When I walk with my wife I’m forever telling her to “slow down!” She has one speed and it’s always full throttle.  Someone sent me an article one time that said science has proven that people who walk faster usually live longer than people who walk slower.  If that’s the case my wife will be around for a long time.

            Walking fast may be better for your physical health, but when it comes to your spiritual health and reading the Bible, I find it pays to slow down.  Lectio Divina* forces you to slow down.  Think of it as a fancy, 5 course meal.  Don’t rush through it.  Take your time to slowly savor and enjoy each bite.

  1.  Read Psalm 37:30-34  slowly at least 3 times…

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

  1.  Meditate- choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time ruminating on what it says and what it means.

As an example: As I was meditating on this portion of the Psalm, I saw it on one level as a prophetic picture of Jesus.  Instead of “the righteous” I insert “Jesus”.

      The mouth of Jesus utters wisdom.

      Jesus speaks with his tongue what is just.

      The law of God is in Jesus’ heart.

      Jesus’ feet do not slip.

      The wicked lie in wait for Jesus (think of the scribes and Pharisees, and Judas).

      The wicked are intent on putting Jesus to death.

But the LORD (YWHW) will not leave Jesus in the power of the wicked (Jesus was only temporarily in the grave under the control of the wicked.  God rolled away the stone and set him free to everlasting life.)

Or let Jesus be condemned when brought to trial (Remember, Pontius Pilate said “I find no guilt in this man.” Jesus had done nothing worthy of condemnation. His death was due to the sinful hearts of others, not his own guilt.)

Jesus hoped in the LORD and kept God’s way (without sin).

He will exalt Jesus (At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord)

To inherit the land (Jesus will rule as King over all the earth).

When the wicked are destroyed Jesus will see it (In the end, Jesus rules as King, the wicked come to their final judgment).

            As I continue to meditate on how Jesus fulfills every bit of this Psalm, I’m led to think about what Jesus calls me to be and to do.  Jesus says “follow me.”  Jesus says “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”  Jesus said to Peter “get behind me.”  I want to follow the path that Jesus laid out.  To be a follower or disciple (student) of Jesus means to hear his word and do what he says.  If I do that, then that which was prophetically spoken of Jesus here in Psalm 37 will also be true of me:

            “The mouth of Jeff utters wisdom”

            “Jeff speaks with his tongue what is just”

            “The Law of God is in Jeff’s heart.”

            “Jeff’s feet do not slip.”

            “The wicked lie in wait for Jeff and are intent on putting Jeff to death”

“The LORD will not leave Jeff in the power of the wicked or let Jeff be condemned when brought to trial”

“Jeff hopes in the Lord and keeps his way”

“God will exalt Jeff to inherit the land.”

“When the wicked are destroyed Jeff will see it.”

Now, it’s your turn.  Insert your name or personalize it…

The mouth of ________________ utters wisdom (or my mouth utters wisdom)

“_____________speaks with his tongue what is just”

 “The Law of God is in _______________’s heart.”

 “__________________’s  feet do not slip.”

“The wicked lie in wait for _________________ and are intent on putting _________ to death”

“The LORD will not leave _________________ in the power of the wicked or let __________ be condemned when brought to trial”

“__________ hopes in the Lord and keeps his way”

“God will exalt ____________ to inherit the land.”

“When the wicked are destroyed _________ will see it.”

See how reading slowly and savoring it opens up all kinds of new flavors?

What emerges for you as you meditate on this part of Psalm 37?

  1.  Pray- As you go through this reading, what does it stir up within you?  Thoughts? Questions?  Concerns?  Does it make you want to raise your hands and worship God?  Does it make you want to fall on your knees and confess your sin?  Does it drive you to go to Jesus and seek his mercy?  Does it make you want to follow Jesus more closely in your daily walk?  Bring those things to God in prayer.

  1.  Rest in God.  After you have brought these things to God in pray, simply enter into his rest.  Be present to God as God is present to you.

Now go follow in Jesus’ footsteps today.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.