Just Start – Proverbs 15

Proverbs_15-3

Today’s devotion is on Proverbs 15.  When I look through all of these verses I think wow this chapter has a lot of verses (33 to be exact).  Sometimes our ‘want to’ apply wisdom is met with an overwhelming fear of where do I start?  What do I do?  If you are reading this devotion you have started in a good place.  its always good to start with the word of God.  You can’t go wrong with Proverbs (the book of wisdom). 

But do these verses apply to you today?  They do.  Here’s how you can get the most out of Proverbs.

1.  There is the setting in which they were spoken; this is largely the context of the young men in the royal court of the king.

2.  There is the setting of the book as a whole and how its teachings are to be understood in light of the rest of Scripture. For example, there is much to be gained by comparing the wisdom Solomon taught with the wisdom Christ personified.

3.  There is the historical context in which the principles and truths draw on illustrations from their own day.

A final area of challenge comes in understanding that proverbs are divine guidelines and wise observations, i.e., teaching underlying principles (15:27) which are not always inflexible laws or absolute promises. These expressions of general truth (15:22) generally do have “exceptions,” due to the uncertainty of life and unpredictable behavior of fallen men. God does not guarantee uniform outcome or application for each proverb, but in studying them and applying them, one comes to contemplate the mind of God, His character, His attributes, His works, and His blessings. All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge expressed in Proverbs are hidden in Christ (Col.2:3).

When you study the proverbs in this way it really helps you understand just what God is trying to say to you.  But more than that which verses resonate with you?  Where are you lacking?  Remember a timely word is delightful (15:23).  I hope these verses meet you where you are at this week.  God bless and I am praying for you.

Pastor Andy

Recognizing Wisdom – Proverbs 14

Prov 14-12 corrected
Have you ever found it easier to see the right thing for someone else to do than for yourself?  There is a reason for that.  We often times can tell someone what to do but can’t seem to do it for ourselves.
For example:
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
But he who utters lies is treacherous
 
In this proverb we see that lying only brings destruction.  We ourselves hate being lied to.  We hate seeing people live a lie. We know how much damage it can do.  We know this but I bet if I asked if you have ever lied or lived a lie you would probably say yes.  I bet if I asked you if you knew how to correct that in someone else’s life you would have an answer almost immediately.  It is so easy to see the foolishness in someone else.  Its easy to know what to do to correct their wrong behavior.  But I bet it is harder to correct in yourself.  Why can we see the answer to foolishness in others easily but have such a difficult time correcting it in our own lives? 
   The answer is we have no emotional ties to their sin.  We won’t have to deal with the consequences of trying to correct our behavior.  I can tell you how to correct your behavior all day long because I don’t have to do it.  I don’t have to deal with the mess.  But if I have to correct a sin I know what that will take, and often times I don’t want to deal with the pain and hurt that comes with going back and fixing issues like lying bring about.
Read Proverbs 14 and see if you can see any foolishness in your life that you need to correct.  Are their verses in this chapter that really resonate with you?  Can you see the foolishness in those verses?  Can you recognize the wisdom it takes to realize that some of these verses apply to you.  Are you willing to recognize the wise thing to do and apply it to your life?  Your foolish ways become harder and harder to stop the longer you wait. 
The very first verse illustrates this perfectly:
The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.
 
Are you tearing your life apart by not recognizing wisdom?
I’m praying for you.
Andy Cisneros

Who Are You Walking With?

Proverbs 13

He who walkswith the wisegrows wise,but a companionof foolssuffers harm.Proverbs 13-20

The recurring promise of Proverbs is that generally the wise (the righteous who obey God) live longer (9:11), prosper (2:20–22), experience joy (3:13–18) and the goodness of God temporally (12:21), while fools suffer shame (3:35) and death (10:21). On the other hand, it must be remembered that this general principle is balanced by the reality that the wicked sometimes prosper (Ps. 73:312), though only temporarily (Ps. 73:17–19). Job illustrates that there are occasions when the godly wise are struck with disaster and suffering.
So if the two major themes which are interwoven and overlapping throughout Proverbs are wisdom and folly. Wisdom, which includes knowledge, understanding, instruction, discretion, and obedience, is built on the fear of the Lord and the Word of God. Then folly is everything opposite to wisdom.

The portrait of the fool emerges as a contrast to the one who seeks the wisdom of YHWH.

  • In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. 13.16

The fool is an undisciplined scoffer of God and His wisdom. The fool in his folly is reckless in his anger — worse than a Momma bear on the prowl for her cubs! Even worse, he is proud of his foolishness, wearing it as a badge of honor, unaware that the cycle of folly is destroying him each time he returns to it.

Contrast this with the 60+ references to “the wise” in Proverbs alone. Again, this is far from an exhaustive list, but the character of the wise emerges with even a quick look from Proverbs 13.  When you read Proverbs 13 you will see fools and wise in the context of money, parenting, friends, the list goes on like a warning sign or a blaring horn warning you of danger.  Take a look at some of the examples:

  • 11 Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles,
    But the one who gathers by labor increases it.
  • A wise son accepts his father’s discipline,
    But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
  • 20 He who walks with wise men will be wise,
    But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
  • 14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
    To turn aside from the snares of death.
    15 Good understanding produces favor,
    But the way of the treacherous is hard.

The wise man exercises discernment and self-control, a distinct alternative to the reckless behavior of the fool. Wisdom is also the measured way of life, guarding against impulsiveness by counting the cost of one’s actions. He who is wise seeks counsel, is quick to listen, and is thoughful in his speech.

Which one are you?

Read Proverbs 13 and decide for yourself who you are walking with.

-Andy Cisneros

Commit to Live Wisely

We are all on a journey, a quest.  Somewhere between our quest for truth and facts, and our desire for virtuous character, lies a quality that is rarely considered these days: wisdom. Wisdom is competence with regard to the complex realities of life. It is the ability to know what is the best thing to do in the majority of life situations which the accepted moral rules do not clearly address. The course of our lives is greatly determined by the many daily choices we make, and the Book of Proverbs is a guidebook to help us navigate those choices wisely.

The two major themes which are interwoven and overlapping throughout Proverbs are wisdom and folly. Wisdom, which includes knowledge, understanding, instruction, discretion, and obedience, is built on the fear of the Lord and the Word of God. Folly is everything opposite to wisdom.

I will be taking you through chapters 13-16 and the verse that best encapsulates all of those chapters is Proverbs 16:3: “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

What plans are you pursuing and are they on the wise path?  Join us on this path of discovery this week.

~ Andy Cisneros

 

 

 

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

Beautiful in God’s Eyes – Proverbs 11

pig-with-nose-ring

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”  Can’t you just picture that dirty old barnyard animal running around with an expensive gold ring in its nose?  How ridiculous!  What’s the writer of this Proverb trying to communicate?

You can be a gorgeous woman who catches a man’s eye with your beauty, but if you don’t have the proper judgment and right behavior to go along with it, that beauty is as wasted on you as a gold ring would be wasted on a pig’s nose.  Now, we can flip that if you like.  You can be a strong, handsome, hunky guy, but if you don’t have good character, you’re nothing but a handsome fool and that’s not much good to anyone.

Proverbs 11 has 31 different Proverbs, and I could have chosen any one of them to write about today, but this one jumped out at me.  First, because who doesn’t like trying to picture a 1000 lb hog with a gold ring in its nose (and for good measure, why not add lipstick and mascara?).  Good luck getting that image out of your head.  But even more so, I think it’s important for you to think about something that’s important.  Now, I know some of you who read this are old like me, but for those of you who are younger I hope you are listening.  If you’re 18, or 21, or 25 you are probably as physically attractive right now as you are ever going to be in your life.  You’ve gotten past the awkward teenage years, and you’ve not yet hit the middle age spread when things start to bulge and sag and wrinkle and gray and… oh stop, I’m depressing myself now.

We live in a society that worships physical beauty.  Now, that’s nothing new.  Physical beauty  is culturally determined and can change from generation to generation.  What’s attractive to one culture may be different in another culture.  Just go to an art museum sometime and compare what was considered beauty at one time with what you see today on TV, in movies, in magazines and on the internet.  Beauty is subjective.  Hugh Hefner made large breasts the symbol of desirable female sexuality back in the 50’s and 60’s and women started going and getting breast augmentation surgery.  Then in the 90’s rappers of a certain ethnicity made large female bottoms the new standard for desirability  (Remember, “I like big butts and I cannot lie” ?).  Suddenly, women were going out and having their bottoms increased.

Men, if you want to be desirable to women “you’ve gotta have a six pack.”  That used to be the standard of masculinity.  I’m happy that now having a “dad bod” is becoming more highly valued.  This Proverb holds all of this up to ridicule. (Remember the pig with the nose ring?)

charm and beauty

Here’s the bottom line: what you look like is not nearly as important as your character.  How you live your life matters far more than what you look like.  Now sure, we all want to make sure that we’re physically healthy and well groomed up to a point.  And there’s certainly nothing wrong with honoring other people by making sure that you are well groomed and decently clothed.  I’m certainly not a fan of people wearing their pajamas to shop at Wal-mart or wearing your grungiest jeans to go to church.  No, don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have a lot of money and grungy jeans are all you have and can afford then I’d rather you wear them to Church instead of not go to Church at all.  But, at the same time, if you’ve got nice clothes in your closet that you could wear to church, but you decide it’s not worth it, or you want to make some kind of statement by wearing tattered clothes, that’s between you and God.  I think it’s a sign of respect to others to wear decent clothing when you are around other people and to appear modest and presentable.

With all that being said, you can spend way too much time fixated on your appearance, but if you don’t invest time in wise living and godly character, you’re really no better than a pig with a nose ring… you’re not fooling anyone for very long.

~ 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