I have always been amazed at God’s creation here on earth. The beauty. The creativity. The grandeur. In fact, I have always wondered a little bit about the the new heaven and new earth that Revelation 21 records will herald the new Kingdom of God. Could God really create something more majestic than what we have already seen? Is there a chance that the new heaven and earth will be a little bit of a let-down? I am after all a tad attached to what we have here and now.
And then, I saw pictures of Jupiter! They are breathtaking! NASA’s space probe Juno has been on a carefully routed 5 year trip to reach Jupiter – and in August 2017 Juno sent back to Earth stunning pictures of the planet it is now orbiting. Here are just two pictures … many more can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/images/index.html
And all of a sudden, I am again in awe of Him and His creations. And I know I can trust Him. I can trust Him to create a spectacular new heaven and earth and I can trust Him today with my life. There is so much He knows that I do not. There is so much power that He has that I do not. He is a great Big God and sometimes I forget how much I need Him because I think for just a few minutes that I have this world figured out. And then my mind is once again blown away by how many stars there are and the new-found beauty of a planet we are just beginning to really discover.
David says it well in Psalm 19. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4). God’s masterpiece speaks for Him. His works of art tell us about the artist.
In the New Testament Paul writes similar words to the believers in Rome. This city was proud of what they considered their superior culture, amazing architecture and roadways (some of which can still be seen today), and numerous temples to foreign gods (amongst them, Jupiter and Juno). In many ways it was not too unlike our society today. Paul writes to the church in Rome: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20). His artwork proves the power and majesty of the artist.
And yet, as we well know there are those who prefer to be blind and create their own explanations for the intricate and beautiful creation. Interestingly, not one but two psalms begin with these words: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” (Psalm 14:1 and 53:1). You get to decide which camp you will set your tent in, but there will be a day when everyone will acknowledge God (Romans 14:10-12).
This brings us back to the rest of Psalm 19 which you can read or listen to here – (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+19&version=NIV).
The first six verses of Psalm 19 speaks of God’s magnificent creation and how it points to God. The next 5 verses give us a little foretaste of Psalm 119 which we talked about yesterday: the superiority and importance of God’s Word and commands. “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:11). And the final three verses emphasize watching my own actions, attitudes, words, and thoughts to see that they are in line with God’s laws and desires for his children – and seeking forgiveness and change when they are not. I love the final verse of the Psalm as much as the opening verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14).
We serve an awesome Creator God who has provided a detailed guidebook for our lives and a brilliant plan for the future – which will include everyone acknowledging him. May we always strive to be pleasing in his sight.
(Stars photographed by Chris Mattison – thanks for sharing!)
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.
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.
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
Thursday, January 26
So, how has your mouth been doing this week? Today is a great time to make some positive changes. One of my favorite Proverbs about our mouths is in today’s reading: “The tongue has the power of life and death” (18:21). Life or Death – you can’t get more powerful than that. Life or Death – what life-giving words will you use today? Life or Death – which will you be dishing out today?
And, just like your momma always said, “If you can’t find anything . . . to say that brings life . . . then DON’T say anything at all.” I’m pretty sure she got that from Proverbs. Maybe from 17:28 – “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” So, consider this the next time you open your mouth to speak words with the power of death – if you close your mouth before speaking it just might be a win-win for you and your listener alike. You might avoid proving yourself foolish, and your intended audience might be spared a deathly blow. And, if you do spit out those deathly words that are fighting to get out . . . does anyone win? Other verses also remind us of the importance of listening and how it leads to wisdom:
18:13 – He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.
19:20 – Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise
Today’s chapters also repeatedly speak of the wisdom of overlooking an offense, or on the flip side, the foolishness of quarrelling. Do you more often find yourself holding onto a grudge or forgiving and moving on? Do you find your feelings easily hurt and hold it against others? Are you quick to start a quarrel, or let the moment pass in peace?
17:9 – He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
19:11 – A man’s wisdom gives him patience, it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
17:14 – Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.
17:19 – He who loves a quarrel loves sin.
I think we could all benefit by evaluating how well, or poorly, we do with 18:2: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” Which do you find yourself more interested in – understanding others or speaking your mind? One little note on covering offenses – I am sure this is not referring to ignoring immoral sins. We know that unrepentant sin leads to death and it is not loving to ignore that. Galatians 6:1 has some wise advice in that case, as well as Proverbs 28:23 and Matthew 18. No doubt, it takes much wisdom to know how to proceed in various situations. Good thing God gives wisdom (James 1:5) and thank goodness we have the book of Proverbs to help us grow our wisdom.
A few more Proverbs that are just too good to not mention briefly . . .
On Zeal – typically considered a good thing – however . . . “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” (19:2) Can you think of a project you may have jumped into . . . and then realized you should have done more “homework” first? What about those facebook posts we have all seen where a very zealous person is on a rampage because of the latest outrage . . . only to have a friend point out the errors in their information (thank you, snopes). Very zealous, but not very helpful without the true knowledge – and God’s Word is even more reliable than snopes.
On Disciplining Children/Youth – “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (19:18). No one likes to be disciplined – and the parent doing the discipline isn’t too thrilled either. However, discipline sure beats death. As a parent I need to remember that I do NOT make their life better by being their best friend and making things easy for both of us. I make their life better by firmly and lovingly teaching rules, consequences, boundaries, how to listen and follow directions. By teaching our children how to obey their parents we are also teaching them how to obey God and that is the most important lesson, that leads to life not death. So teens out there reading, next time you are disciplined by your parents, surprise them – give them a giant hug and a great big thank you for saving you from death. Then, watch them faint!
What would our relationships and family look like if we lived out all of these wonderful Proverbs everyday? Keep praying for wisdom and working at the lessons learned in Proverbs. They bring life – and who couldn’t use more of that.