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

Two Roads Diverged – Proverbs 10

If you didn’t read yesterday’s devotion you should go do that now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…..

Ok, Proverbs 9 sets the backdrop for the next several chapters in Proverbs.  Proverbs 9 gives the contrast between the way of wisdom and the way of folly (foolishness).  One way leads to life, the other leads to death.  With that in mind, chapter 10 begins a lengthy section of Proverbs which give a very clear contrast between the way of wisdom and the way of foolishness.  These Proverbs are technically known as antithetical which is a very common rhetorical device used in ancient literature to hold opposites next to each other.

Chances are, at some point in your educational journey, you became acquainted with the following poem by Robert Frost.

two roads

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

 
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

~ Robert Frost

 

That is poetic and filled with all kinds of metaphorical imagery, and it leaves it to each reader to fill it with its content.  What do the two different roads look like and where do they lead?

Proverbs 10 leaves very little to our individual imagination.  It spells things out like Mapquest.

These are my paraphrases of Proverbs 10:

If you are wise, you make your Daddy happy.
If you are foolish you break your momma’s heart.
If you are lazy, you’re broke
if you work hard, you’ll have plenty of money.

 
If you are wise, you’ll take instructions from those in authority
If you are a fool you’re always running your mouth and you’ll ruin your life because you don’t listen.
If you do things the right way, you have little to fear
but if you cut corners and break rules, it will eventually catch up with you.

 
If you go around spreading hate, it leads to more hate, and fights.
If you love others, it puts an end to the hate and helps bring about peace.
If you willingly accept correction your life will improve
if you ignore correction, you’ll not only hurt yourself, you’ll hurt others too.

 
If you live the right way, you have good things to look forward to.
If you spend your life doing evil things, life eventually becomes a dead end.

 

wisdom verses foolishness

That was fun, putting that wisdom into my own words.

You try it.  Take some of the Proverbs which contrast the way of wisdom with the way of foolishness and put it in your own words.  That’s the practical,  analytical, left-brain approach.

If you are more right-brained, creative and artistic, then write a story or poem or paint a picture contrasting the way of wisdom or the way of foolishness.

And if you’re really into it… try doing both the left and right-brained approach- and then you’ll never forget Proverbs 10.

~ 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

What can wisdom do for you? – Prov. 2

Proverbs 2-6

Good Morning Everyone!

Today, we will again be delving into wisdom and what Proverbs has to say about it. Today’s reading comes from Proverbs 2.

The biggest point I hope you take away from this chapter is what wisdom can do for you. Yesterday we learned about where wisdom comes from, and why it is beneficial.Today we will see more about how important wisdom is in our Christian lives.

Wisdom is not something gained without work on our part. Proverbs 2:2-5 “turning your ear to wisdom and applying to your heart to understanding- indeed if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD.” We have to choose to listen to God’s word, and we have to choose to listen to the knowledge our parents pass to us. We need to apply our hearts, in order to reap the rewards that wisdom can provide to us.

Now, what happens once we have asked for wisdom, and we have listened to God’s word, gained knowledge and respected our parent’s teachings? Further in Proverbs 2, the word tells us. Verses 7-11 (paraphrased, and I encourage to read the full verses in your bible.) He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield….. he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones…. Then you will understand what is right and just… for wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you.

Wisdom and knowledge are given to us in order to protect us, guard us, give us success and to keep us on a path of righteousness. Having wisdom will help us to walk in the good ways and keep to the paths of the righteous.

The last few verses talk about upright and blameless being able to live in the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from the land.

The way to gain wisdom is to yearn for it and ask for it. Respect your parents, and understand the fear of the LORD. Be aware, and apply your heart to understanding. Once you have been given an understanding and wisdom, and you have accepted it, you will have discernment which will help you to stay on the paths of righteousness, and it will protect you, and guard you.

Thank you for reading today, and hopefully, you will check back in tomorrow. Have a great day and God Bless

~Jana Swanson

 

Feeling Hungry Yet? – Psalm 119:1-56

Bread of Life

I am just about the opposite of a foodie. Though my boyfriend has gone to culinary school and makes just about the best food I’ve ever had, when I cook for myself, normally my meals are limited to eggs or maybe pasta. This being said, I have a love-hate relationship with food. Though I can’t detect hints of cinnamon or nutmeg in my food, man, when it comes time for lunch or dinner (or breakfast), I’m ready to eat. I tried to fast once (yep! Just once.) and I remember getting halfway through the day and calling it quits. My stomach was starting to grumble and hurt. When I tried to run, I remember feeling a little faint. I felt like I needed that food, right then.

Yesterday, we talked about wisdom and how important it is to follow God’s wisdom and trust in God. Today, we are going to talk about what it means to desire that wisdom. If we look at Matthew 4:4, Jesus likens the word of God to bread, to our daily food. We need this spiritual food to live, just as we need actual food.

What is your relationship to God’s word? Stop and think now about how you think about God’s word. Do you long for it as you get up in the morning and as you go throughout the day? Do you pant for it like someone panting for water in the hot summer Sun? If you go without it, do you start to feel those spiritual pains of grumpiness, anger, and hunger? Do you get hangry? The daily nourishment of God is even more important than the daily nourishment of our bodies with food. This sounds like a cliché. But, let me remind you, if you go without eating for long enough, you will die! This is serious and important stuff!

Growing up, I did not long for God’s word. I would read it every now and then, but it wasn’t something that I read in order to survive, to make it through the day. I had a friend recently whose relationship with God and his word has completely changed. She mentioned how after she had made a point to daily meet God in his scriptures, she had begun to desire it. She needed it. And now, she can’t imagine life without it!

Our verses today come from the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. This psalm focuses on what the Bible does for us and how we should desire it. If we seek God with all our heart, we will learn to keep his commands. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” Do we believe that God’s word is such a gift that we treasure it in our hearts? Though discipline and commitment are incredibly important in every stage of our relationship with God, if we desire him and his word, our relationship with him will grow so much deeper!

To follow down the right path of life that we talked about yesterday, we have to make it a point to pursue God through his word. Psalm 119:2 says, “Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek them with all their heart.” Do you seek God and His Word with all your heart?

Keep Learning and Growing

I John

1-john-3-21-22

Saturday, July 15

As many of you head to FUEL either tonight or tomorrow, I challenge you to make new relationships with other Christians and enjoy the lifelong fellowship that follows. These new friends will help maintain your faith through encouragement, prayer, and love. FUEL is my favorite week of the year, when I can attend, and I always enjoy the lessons I learn through classes, family group, and each session that is offered. However, the sad thing that happens once the week of FUEL ends, is that we start to become complacent and fall back into our old habits.

The apostle John warns us to not love the sinful ways of the world and warns against people who deny that Jesus is the Christ. 1st John 3:9-10 states that “no one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” Luckily, all we must do is confess our sins and ask for forgiveness and “he will forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1st John 1:9 NIV).

To show that we love God, we need to obey his commands. According to 1st John 3:23-24, God instructs us “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” We are to lay down our lives for our brothers so that they may not falter. 1st John 3:18 tells us to “not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” If you know somebody who is struggling with anything- family matters, sickness, relationship issues, etcetera—pray for them or have a conversation with them and let them know that you are there if they need anything.

During this week at FUEL, at work, or wherever you may be, remember that God loves you so much that “he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him and that he sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1stJohn 4:9-10 NIV). It is a wonderful feeling to know that we are tremendously loved because Jesus Christ laid down his life for everyone in the world. 1st John 5:14-15 says “that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” I ask that God teaches the life lessons that you need to learn this week through whatever outlet possible—a song, class, general session, prayer, conversation, or while reading the Bible. I know that I always learn something about myself in this process while at FUEL and feel a lot better afterwards.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please keep everyone safe as they travel to FUEL from wherever they may be coming from. I ask that you guide them through whatever life issues they may be facing and heal them from those obstacles. I ask that everyone meets someone new and makes a new lifelong friend. Please be with all participants as they learn how much you love them while studying your word. I love you, Lord, and cannot wait until you return.

In Jesus’ Glorious Name, I pray, Amen.

-Cynthia Fyfe

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/1-john/3/21-22)

Praying Hard

James 1-5

James_1-6

Wednesday, July 12

I have seen several ruined relationships within families, friendships, and significant others due to not taming the tongue. Most of these situations would probably have been avoided if everyone were “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV). It is frowned upon to show favoritism to one person over another because it shows discrimination; instead we should be loving our neighbors as ourselves by showing them mercy and compassion.

Within the community that I live in, there has been a lot of (verbal) fighting via complaining, judgment, swearing, and insults. According to James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” The community dynamic would undoubtedly be a lot better to live in, despite having completely different personalities and interests, if the people involved thought before they spoke avoiding hurt feelings and strained relationships.

As Christians, our faith will be tested numerously throughout our lifetimes. This testing produces endurance and develops perseverance. Through the testing of our faith, it is imperative to follow what God’s word says while facing several trials. To live wisely, we need to show our faith to God and Jesus through our actions because “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17 NIV). We also need to submit ourselves to God and never have doubts when asking for His provision. If we have the right intentions in asking, God will provide. It is important to humble ourselves before the Lord and stop boasting about the future. As a planner—I love making lists, looking at events to attend, and making plans with friends. However, I have no idea if I will even be here tomorrow. James 4:15 says that we should say “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that,” instead of making plans that might not even happen.

Prayer is significant and powerful in every life situation. I know quite a few people who have given up on hope and stopped being patient in waiting for God. As Christians, it is our job to help those who have wandered away from the truth. James 5:20 states that “… whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” So please pray for everyone you know that may need God and Jesus back into their life.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that whoever reads this will ask you for help in whatever situation that they may be facing. I pray that people will stop fighting and instead listen to each other with better understanding. I hope that people turn from their wicked ways and “confess their sins and pray for each other so that they may be healed” (James 5:16). Please help me find a way to aid my friends back to you so that they may be saved. Thank you for sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. I love you, Lord, and cannot wait for your return.

In Jesus’s Glorious Name, I pray, Amen.

-Cynthia Fyfe

(Photo Credit: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/James-1-6_Inspirational_Image/)