Check Your Seed

 

Proverbs 19

prov 19 3

Wednesday

A person’s own folly (foolishness) leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19:3

When I was in college I remember sitting by a young lady who just loved Professional Wrestling. You know the form of athletic performance art with theatrical events and lots of shouting, not the sport of wrestling.  She could tell you in great detail about the striking attacks, holds, throws and acrobatic maneuvers that she had witnessed while attending the recent matches. One day while she was telling me about what had happened last night during the wrestling match we received our graded science papers.  That is when I saw her completely change.  She had received a failing grade and she was furious. She became so angry at the teacher.  She said things about him under her breath and in her mind he could do “nothing right” during that semester. Her reaction is still vivid in my mind.  She began hating this professor because he had given her a grade that indicated her level of knowledge on the material. She completely removed herself from the equation. She put all the blame on the professor, but did not see that her lack of interest and absence from study was the cause of her grade.

Today we are exploring Proverbs 19.  Verse 3 reminds us that oftentimes we are the ones deciding how our lives will go.  God has created the world with governing principles and laws that manage the earth. Human beings are given free will so there is cause and effect from our actions. We might think of it as sowing and reaping. As Galatians teaches us, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (6:7) Rewards or negative consequences are the result of our actions.  I think this statement says it best: If you don’t like the harvest you are reaping, check the seed you are sowing.

There are repercussions of our actions, but we want God to rescue us from the pain and consequences of our bad decisions. Many times we must experience the real pain to move us to the point where we desire to make lasting change.

Now there are many troubles that we will encounter in this fallen world and many of them we have no control over, but the advice of Proverbs is addressing the areas of our life that we can control. God is on our side and He wants us to make the best decisions. He provides correction through the scripture and if we want to be wise (and avoid a lot of pain and drama) we should follow it. Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise (verse 20).

By Rebecca Dauksas

 

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Scripture: Our Corrective Lens – Proverbs 12

reading-glasses-in-use

Today brings our weeks study of Proverbs 6-12 to a close.  Chapter 12 is a continuation of the antithetical Proverbs and there are some real beauties in here and they range through quite a spectrum of wise and unwise behaviors.

It leads off with a really good set of contrasts: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.”  It doesn’t get much plainer than this:  A wise person willingly accepts discipline, but if you hate to be corrected by another you are stupid.

ted williams

Everybody makes mistakes.  I’m a big baseball fan.  I’ve always enjoyed playing and watching baseball.  The amazing thing about baseball is that the BEST baseball players fail between 60 and 70% of the time.  That’s right!  The best hitters usually have batting averages around .300, sometimes .350 and very rarely (like Ted Williams was the last one who did it and that was more than 70 years ago) someone will bat .400.  But even if you’re the greatest hitter of all time, you still FAIL to hit the ball 6 out of 10 times.  What is it that sets great hitters apart from the rest of us?  They learn from their mistakes.  They study film of their mistakes.  And they listen to their coaches who help them to correct what would appear to us to be very minor mistakes.  You get to be a great hitter by accepting correction, from learning from your mistakes.  That requires a lot of humility.

The same is true in the rest of our lives.  We all make mistakes.  Often we catch our own mistakes and take steps to correct them.  But sometimes we don’t even see our own mistakes.  Sometimes someone else sees our mistake and offers a word of correction.  A wise person willingly listens to correction and attempts to change their behavior… a foolish person refuses to receive or learn from the correction of others and so they fail to improve their actions.

The whole foundation of the gospel message in the Bible is a openness to correction and a willingness to change.  Jesus himself began his ministry by calling people to “repent, and believe the good news.”  To repent means to change your direction.

As you read through the Bible, God will use His word to bring to your mind and heart his corrective word.  You will see areas where you need to change.  You’ll see a passage like “Diligent hands will rule but laziness ends in forced labor.”  You might read that passage and realize, deep down, that this is an issue in your life.  You might blame other people for some of your problems, you might make excuses for why you do or don’t do certain things, but the fact is, you might actually be lazy.  I’m not saying you are lazy because, well, I don’t even know you.  You might be a diligent, hard working person and that’s great.  But then again, you might be lazy.  Your laziness may cause you to procrastinate and put off doing things that you need to do but don’t enjoy.  Your laziness may be costing you good grades in school, or a promotion at work.  Your laziness may because causing conflict in your marriage as your spouse resents that they have to work harder to make up for your laziness.  Your laziness might be keeping you from going to Church on Sundays or serving in a ministry at your Church where you might be very gifted and very helpful.  I don’t know if you’re lazy or not, but you need to at least take a hard look and ask yourself “does this Proverb apply to me?”  If you’re not sure, ask someone important in your life who really knows you and isn’t afraid to speak truth into your life and ask them “Do you every observe laziness in me?”  And if they say, yes, then you might want to consider that you may be lazy and you might want to become more aware of ways that laziness manifests itself in your daily life.  And you might begin asking God to help you change, understanding that it won’t happen overnight.

all scripture is God-breathed

But know this, no positive change can happen in any area of your life until you are ready to receive correction.  God’s Word, the Bible is powerful.  In one place the Bible refers to itself as a double-edged sword.  It’s able to dig deep inside of you.  It is able to help you change if you allow it to do it’s work in your life.  II Timothy 3:16 says it very well: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (New Living Translation).

Almost exactly a year ago I had surgery to remove cancer from my body.  I let a surgeon cut through my skin and muscle to get to where the cancer was and very carefully cut it out.  Why?  Because I don’t want to die from cancer any sooner than necessary.  As I think about it today,  I gave that surgeon an awesome responsibility.  And to be honest, before the surgery I was afraid.  Who is this man with a knife that I’m entrusting with my body, my life?  I’m glad I did it, because here I am a year later and I’m still alive and I have a whole lot less cancer in my body then I did then and I’ve got a whole lot better chance of living longer now because I trusted him to perform surgery on my life.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of Wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”. (Proverbs 9:10).  I trust my awesome God to use His word to go to work removing all the bad stuff in my life and bringing me to wholeness and salvation.  God does this through his word and through Jesus Christ, who was pierced for our transgressions.  It takes some cutting and some bleeding to bring us life, and to bring us eternal life.  I trust God my awesome God, do you?

~ Jeff Fletcher

Pursue Wisdom – Proverbs 8

wisdom more precious than rubies
per·son·i·fi·ca·tion
/pərˌsänəfəˈkāSH(ə)n/
noun
1. The attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.

The ability to make observations of all things whether physical or abstract and transform them into practical understanding that helps us to live better lives is an important aspect of wisdom and wisdom literature.  It certainly is a time honored tradition.  If you’ve ever read Aesop’s fables you are familiar with this kind of use of metaphor, here’ an example:

The Ants and the Grasshopper

THE ANTS were spending a fine winter’s day drying grain collected in the summertime.  A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food.  The Ants inquired of him, “Why did you not treasure up food during the summer?’  He replied, “I had not leisure enough.  I passed the days in singing.”  They then said in derision:  “If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter.”

It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.

Proverbs 8 is a textbook example of personification.  The writer takes Wisdom as an idea and personifies it all over the place.

Wisdom calls out and raises her voice.  Wisdom takes her stand.  She cries aloud at the city gates.  Wisdom speaks truth and rejects lies.  Wisdom is older than the earth, she was alongside God before the creation.  Wisdom has children and imparts blessing to all who listen to her.

I’m a big fan of metaphorical language and so this kind of personification of wisdom is very appealing to me and how I think and communicate. To me, the theme which rises above all in Proverbs 8 is that Wisdom should be highly valued:

  • “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold.  For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”
  • “My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver”
  • “Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.  For those who find me find life and receive favor from the LORD.”

The importance of wisdom can’t be overstated.  It’s essentially giving high value to common sense and good judgment.  The writer of the Proverb wants the reader to value common sense and good judgment so much that he or she looks for it every day.  Where can I find valuable insights that will help me to live a better life?

Here’s the problem, there’s an awful lot of foolishness in the world and our entertainment industry and now social media traffics in a lot of foolishness.  Now, don’t get me wrong- technology is a double edged sword and there’s a lot of wisdom to be found at our fingertips.  I’m not the most skilled mechanic or carpenter in the world, but when I have a household repair job I need to tackle, I can usually find at least a dozen Youtube videos showing me how to get the job done.  But there’s also a lot of stupid stuff on there that can be an extreme time waster.  We all have the same amount of hours in a day, we need to be wise in how we use it.  We can eagerly use it to search for wisdom where it can be found… or we can waste it on foolishness.  Do you value wisdom enough to eagerly pursue it like it was gold?

One gold nugget from Proverbs 8 to close “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” (vs. 13).  If we fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, then we need to love what God loves and HATE what God hates.  So pay attention to the things that God hates: “pride, arrogance, evil behavior, perverse speech.”  If God hates it, so should we. So we need to reject attitudes and actions in ourselves that are offensive to God.

So let’s learn to love wisdom (even if it isn’t a person).

~ Jeff Fletcher

Don’t Fall for the Bait – Proverbs 7

son this is bait

Imagine the following conversation between a daddy bass and a child bass: “Now son, there are all kinds of delicious things for you to eat down here.  There are bugs and mosquitoes that float up on the surface of the water, and when it rains sometimes big, fat, juicy worms are swept from land into the lake and they are delicious for sure.  But you’ve got to be careful with those.  I’ve seen good friends latch onto a worm and then just shoot straight up through the water and disappear altogether.  One tiny little friend came back and shared the most amazing adventure.  He said he bit on the worm and felt something sharp go through his top lip.  Before he knew it, he was being dragged up faster than he could have ever swum. A huge hand grabbed him and pulled on him, he was held up in the air for a few seconds gulping for air, and then, wham, he was thrown back into the water.  Some of the fish didn’t believe his story, but I saw the scar on his lip and I believe it.  So, before you go biting into a big juicy worm, look to make sure there isn’t anything shiny poking out, and no thin little string going up out of the worm… or you might never come back to us.”

bait stop falling for it

Bait!  It’s the worm we use to trick fish to bite on a hook so we can catch, kill and eat it.  Bait!  It’s the cheese we put into the mousetrap so that a steel rod will smash their neck and do away with them.  Bait is all about predator and prey.  Bait is about seduction.  It’s about getting someone to put down their common sense and natural defenses so that we can lure them in for the kill.

In Proverbs 7, the writer provides a scenario of predator and prey.  In this case, it’s the young man and the prostitute. (I know, pretty racy stuff in the Bible).  The young man goes out onto the street in the evening, on the edge of danger.  Maybe he’s not intending anything bad, but he’s curious.  He’s heard that this is the “bad” part of town.  His parents have warned him to stay away, but maybe his friends have told stories about the fun that’s to be had there.  So he goes out to see.  And out comes the prostitute with her seductive clothing and seductive words as she seeks to lure him back into her house where she promises to show him a good time.

Her body and her words are the bait.  How will it end for the young man?  About the same as it does for the fish who bites the worm or the mouse who goes for the cheese.  It usually ends in death.  Oh, maybe not right away.  Maybe the death is slow.  Maybe it’s not the death of the body, but the death of the heart, the inner person, the death of innocence, the death of purity.  It could lead to the death of a relationship.

As I seek to apply this wisdom to our world today, I can’t help but see the comparisons to this story and pornography.  Instead of physically going to the bad part of town, one needs simply to click on a website.  In fact, there are websites that have ads that pop up on your browser trying to lure you in.  Pornography starts off by looking enticing but ends in death.  It kills purity, it kills relationships. It kills marriages.  Sometimes it kills one’s soul.

Sexual seduction comes in many forms and faces.  How many women are pulled into literary pornography (ever hear of 50 Shades of Gray?- that’s literary porn for women).  Seduction is everywhere and it’s impossible to avoid.  Even on Facebook, I get friend requests at least once a week from young women that I know I don’t know and they are usually wearing something seductive.  They are trying to pull me in.  In fact, there’s a thing now known as catfishing, which seeks to pull people in and then take advantage of them.

I once met a patient in the hospital who had been catfished.  He was in his 60’s and had lost tens of thousands of dollars, his marriage, his home and all his friends and had attempted to commit suicide.  Yet, he was still convinced that this poor little young woman from Russia was going to come and marry him if he could just send her a few thousand dollars more (than the thousands he had already sent her).

Proverbs 7:21 warns: “With persuasive words, she led him astray, she seduced him with her smooth talk.”  Of course, this is targeted at young men.  But young women can also be targets of predators, and often are.  You are never too young or too old to be the target of a predator.  Seducers can be male or female, young or old.  They lure you in with whatever bait they think you will go for.  They look for areas where you are vulnerable.

When the Bible illustrates evil and temptation from the devil (or the serpent in Genesis) it operates in the same way.  The serpent uses the forbidden fruit as the bait and seductive words to convince Eve (and Adam) that God is a liar and that they won’t die if they eat the fruit.  In the wilderness, the devil uses Jesus’ hunger and his ability to transform stones into bread as the bait.

Green Apple In Woman Hands

What can we do to protect ourselves from such seductions from evil?  Jesus used God’s word.  Every time he was tempted he used the truth of God’s word to counter the temptation.  This is where Eve missed the mark.  She didn’t have a foundation of trusting God’s word to help her resist the seductive words of the tempter.  Jesus did, and it made all the difference.  Proverbs 7 begins here: “My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you.”  When we embed the word of God deep into our hearts by reading it, studying it, meditating upon it, and living it out, we create for ourselves a foundation of truth upon which we build our lives and it will protect us in times of temptation.

Just remember, worms are delicious, but make sure they don’t have a hook hidden inside before you bite.

~ Jeff Fletcher

Guard Your Heart – Prov. 4

Hello, and welcome to Thursday!

I hope your week is going well, and I’m so glad you’ve decided to stop by and read this today.

This week we have been reading the first chapters of Proverbs, one chapter each day this week. Today we will be reading chapter 4. Throughout this week I have been talking a lot about wisdom and some of its different facets. I’ve also talked about its importance in our lives as Christians. Today I will again, be talking about wisdom. I will be focusing on how and why we should hold on to wisdom and treasure it.

heart guard The first part talks again about how wisdom is taught by parents and passed down from generation to generation. Wisdom and knowledge are gifts given to us by those who have lived or existed before us. Chapter 4:4 “Then he taught me, ‘Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.'” This is the reason we are taught by our elders; so that we may live. This is why we are taught by religious leaders, and our parents, so that we may live.

I really want to focus on the last few verses of chapter 4, which say, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:23-27.

You need to guard your heart because your heart should be the center of who you are, and who you represent. Your heart is very important, and everything you are, everything you share with other people, and how you share God’s love, comes from your heart, guard it fiercely. Keep your mouth free of perversity. Be careful with the words that you say, and remember that you represent our creator. Do not perpetuate lies that people tell you, do not get caught up in drama with friends or at school, or work, or at home, because all of them distract from what you are called to be. Look straight ahead- stay on the narrow path. Do not stray from God, call out to him if you feel yourself straying, he wants a relationship with you, and he wants you to let him be a part of your life.

Wisdom is more than just advice given to us by our parents. It is how we discern right from wrong, it is how we know when to ask God into our lives, (which is all the time). We know how to help people, and we know when we need to guard our hearts. Wisdom is a gift, but it is also a tool to help us in our faith walk.

Thank you for reading with us today, and hopefully, you will join us tomorrow.

God Bless,

– Jana Swanson

 

Bible Study Crash Course: Part 1

 

Bible-Reading-2-3-John
Shar’s Bible Journal from http://www.womenlivingwell.org 

 

This week, we’ve been talking a lot about the Bible and its importance in our lives. Even if we know how big a difference daily reading the Bible can make in our lives and we desire to know God’s word more, it can seem a bit overwhelming to actually dive into reading the Bible daily. Luckily, these devotions, regardless of whether you have spent the past year with us, have helped to give you some direction as to how to study the Bible. Still, it can be daunting to really dive in to creating this habit that can literally change your life. So, today, we’re going to be talking a little bit about how to study the Bible. For some of you, this will be old stuff that you already know. For others, some of this might be a little new. But, that’s okay! Wherever you are at in your walk with Christ, it’s always important to be intentional about your time with God. So, let’s dive in!

 

Today, we will talk about one aspect of studying the Bible: What should our daily time with God look like? Before we begin studying the Bible each day, it’s a great idea to pray. Why? During this time, we want to make sure we are coming to our studies with the right attitude to get the most out of it, and we should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit while we are studying. Prayer helps us to keep those things in mind.

SOAP-Method-of-Bible-study-1

Then, we dive into our actual studies. If this is your first time reading the Bible, it may be helpful to you to just mark some interesting passages with a pen or highlighter as you read. If you’ve been doing this for a while, you may ‘code’ your Bible, marking topics that are similar across texts. Even if you don’t do this every time you read the Bible, once you begin reading regularly, you’ll start to see the ways that the different books of the Bible interact with one another. If you see something, it’s a great idea to write it down in your Bible! This is called cross-referencing and can be a great way to go deeper in your Bible study. Plus, think of all the notes and ideas that your Bible can hold if you keep doing this over a long amount of time! Another way to go deeper in your study is to look up the meaning of words using a dictionary. If you are unsure why an author used a certain word, look it up! You may find something really cool about the original Hebrew or Greek words.

After this, it’s a great idea to write down some of what you found in your study in a journal. Writing things down (1) helps you to work through problems in your mind and (2) will help you remember it later on. If you skim through something, it will be hard for you to really write about it. Or if you read something, but are confused with what the author is trying to say, you may be able to work it out in a journal. Then, like you did in the beginning of your study, it’s great to pray again. Remember, you don’t read your Bible just to know more of what it says. That’s important. But, the main reason why we do it is to get closer to God! Bible study without real heart-changing conversations with God can lead us down the same road as the Pharisees.

Whew! That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Once you’ve done all this, it’s awesome if you can find a group of friends or a mentor to help you work through what you are studying. Have questions? You can ask them about it! Sometimes, it may be hard to find times to sit down and read for 30 minutes, or you may be thinking that you would never journal your insights and prayers. That’s okay too! Listening to your Bible in the car or online can be a great way to learn more about what God is trying to say even if you don’t enjoy reading.

 

Tomorrow, we are going to look at another aspect of studying the Bible. In the mean time, take a moment to put some of these Bible study tips into practice as we read the context around a verse (2 Tim. 3:16) I mentioned yesterday in 2 Timothy. Read through 2 Timothy 2-4. While you do this, think about the importance of learning what God’s word has to say. Like 2 Tim. 3:15 says, the Bible is “able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Let’s get in the Word! And, if you still feel a little overwhelmed, you can be reminded of what Richard J. Foster writes in his book Celebration of Discipline:

“Study produces joy. Like any novice, we will find it hard work in the beginning. But the greater our proficiency, the greater our joy. Study [of the Bible] is well worth our most serious effort.”

 

Does your Bible study look different than this? Do you have any other Bible study tips you would like to share? You can share them in the comments below!

 

(Check out more about Shar’s Bible Journal at http://womenlivingwell.org/2014/09/good-morning-girls-bible-study-journal-amazing/)

Word Power – Psalm 119:57-120

path-of-dawn-bible-journaling

This week, we’ve been talking about the importance of choosing life. How do we choose life? By gaining godly wisdom and following God’s commandments, we can choose the path of life for our lives that our memory verse for this week talks about (Duet. 30:19-20). Though discipline and commitment are good for creating and sustaining a good relationship with God, it’s also incredibly important to long for that relationship, to desire it. Yesterday, we talked about what it means to desire God and his word and how that can transform our lives. Like Psalm 119:107b says, “LORD, give me life through your word.” When we choose to invest in God’s word, we are choosing life.

Today, we are going to continue talking about the Bible and its importance for our lives. Specifically, we are going to talk about what the Bible can do in our lives, according to what it says. In our reading passage for today, verse 105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” One important way that the Bible gives us life is by shining a light for us to find our way through this dark world. Matthew 5:14-16 describes the Christian believer as a light shining on a hill for the world. If we don’t know God’s way of light through prayer and his word, then we are still living in darkness. How then can we be the light that Jesus describes? Paul describes us as the children of light, who do not belong in darkness (1 Thess. 5:5). Because of this, we need to dedicate ourselves to seeking that path of light, and we do this by pursuing God’s word.

Why does the word of God have this power? We can think back to the beginning in Genesis 1 where God spoke and the world came into being! His word is just as powerful now. We have been given his inspired word. This means that though people wrote it who were not God, the message that it says comes from God. This message now is just as important as it was 2,000 or 3,000 years ago. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” If we want to train in righteousness, we need to commit ourselves to learning and internalizing God’s word!

When we do this, we have to be prepared for a major heart change. If you remember what we talked about on Monday, we can see how the heart is fickle and doesn’t always follow the right paths of righteousness. We need something to test our ways against those of God (Isaiah 55:8-9). That is what the Bible can do! Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” When we test our thoughts and actions against God’s word, we can begin to discern if we are following God’s ways of light or the world’s ways of darkness. The Bible can truly be a light to our path towards living a righteous life that mirrors Christ!

Tomorrow, we will talk more about some practical ways to study God’s word. But, today, let’s rest in the power that comes from God’s word. God’s word accomplishes what it sets out to do in our lives. If we can speak his truth over our lives, we will begin to see him working in them in mighty ways.

“For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing see to sow and food to eat, so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I sent it to do.”                -Isaiah 55:10-11