Proverbs 15

pr15.jpgGreetings!

15     A gentle answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.

I encourage everyone to memorize and apply verse 1.  You can use it all day, every day with great success.  I don’t follow it all the time but when I do it works so well.

2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,

but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,

keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life,

but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.

Many of these verses emphasize the incredible power of the tongue.  This section reminds of James 3 where James powerfully explains how dangerous the tongue can be.

5 A fool spurns his father’s discipline,

but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure,

but the income of the wicked brings them trouble.

7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge;

not so the hearts of fools.

8 The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,

but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

9 The Lord detests the way of the wicked

but he loves those who pursue righteousness.

10 Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path;

he who hates correction will die.

11 Death and Destruction lie open before the Lord

how much more the hearts of men!

12 A mocker resents correction;

he will not consult the wise.

The section on correction seems obvious at first, but my pride often gets in the way of wanting to accept correction. 

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,

but heartache crushes the spirit.

14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,

but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,

but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord

than great wealth with turmoil.

How many awful lives of the “rich and famous” do we have to see to know that truth?

17 Better a meal of vegetables where there is love

than a fattened calf with hatred.

18 A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension,

but a patient man calms a quarrel.

19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,

but the path of the upright is a highway.

20 A wise son brings joy to his father,

but a foolish man despises his mother.

21 Folly delights a man who lacks judgment,

but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.

22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,

but with many advisers they succeed.

23 A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—

and how good is a timely word!

24 The path of life leads upward for the wise

to keep him from going down to the grave.

25 The Lord tears down the proud man’s house

but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.

26 The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked,

but those of the pure are pleasing to him.

27 A greedy man brings trouble to his family,

but he who hates bribes will live.

28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,

but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

29 The Lord is far from the wicked

but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,

and good news gives health to the bones.

31 He who listens to a life-giving rebuke

will be at home among the wise.

32 He who ignores discipline despises himself,

but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

33 The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom,

and humility comes before honor.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Notice how pride is at the root of so many of those warnings!

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Psalm 39

ps39.jpgGreetings!

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.

1 I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.”

2 But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased.

3 My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:

4 “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.

David exercised remarkable restraint in not complaining about his treatment.  He had to wait many years to become the King of Israel and was heavily persecuted during that time. 

Oh, that we would always remember how fleeting life is.  I know a guy who lost a 15 yr. old daughter years ago and just lost his wife fairly suddenly to cancer.  He said to hug them every day.  I try to appreciate them and thank God for every day of life.

5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah

Our world and even the church can be so man-centered.  We focus so much on this life and don’t think enough of eternity.  We should look to God as David does.

6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.

7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

8 Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.

9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this.

10 Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand.

11 You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth— each man is but a breath. Selah

12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.

13 Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.”

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Psalm 38

ps38.jpgGreetings!  This is a song of sorrow, where David is experiencing the consequences of his sin.  David didn’t deny that he deserved punishment, but he asked for God’s mercy. 

I don’t have a lot to add to this one.  Just take it in and consider the effects of sin and the thankfulness we should have that God is merciful and gracious in forgiving us of our sins.

A psalm of David. A petition.

1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.

2 For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me.

3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin.

4 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

5 My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.

6 I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.

7 My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.

8 I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.

9 All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.

10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.

11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.

12 Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception.

13 I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth;

14 I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.

15 I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God.

16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.”

17 For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.

18 I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.

19 Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous.

20 Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good.

21 O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God.

22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Psalm 37

ps37a.jpgGreetings!

Of David.

1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;

2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

God wins in the end, and 2nd place won’t even be close.  Tough times and evil people seem like such a burden now, but I must remind myself that in light of eternity they will mean very little.

3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Verse 4 is one of my favorites.  I currently use it in the header of my regular blog.  It isn’t that if you like God that He’ll give you all the things you want that aren’t good for you.  It is that when you know and truly delight in the Lord your heart will want far different things.  When I think about what truly delights me, it includes things like opportunities to share the Gospel or to encourage others, or to see my kids grow in their faith. 

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:

6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

When you commit to the Lord you will find all sorts of opportunities to serve and glorify him.

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Just as Jesus taught not to worry, so does the Psalmist.  It can lead to evil if it causes us to take matters into our own hands instead of trusting God.

9 For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.

11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

Just as Jesus notes in Matthew 5, the meek will inherit the earth.  But meek does not equal weak!  It is power under control.  It is humility and not exercising our power.  By submitting our wills to God we are being meek.  Just as a tamed lion or horse still has all of its power, so do we. Meekness does not equal cowardice!  Consider what Christians have done over the centuries for God that took incredible courage.

Meekness does not equal timidity or passivity!  Consider all the exciting and energy-requiring things people do for God. 

12 The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;

13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.

15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;

17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever.

19 In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish: The Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish—vanish like smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously;

22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off.

23 If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm;

24 though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

26 They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.

27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.

28 For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;

29 the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.

31 The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives;

33 but the Lord will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,

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; there is a future for the man of peace.

38 But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off.

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.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Colossians 4

col4.jpgGreetings!

4     Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Further Instructions

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

There is so much I could say about prayer.  Sometimes I think it gets over-analyzed.  I read a book called Prayer by Philip Yancey, who is usually one of my favorite writers.  But if it is possible, I think I knew less about prayer after reading it! 

I heard a great sermon by John MacArthur that emphasized some basics of prayer and the freedom we have with it.  Pray to any member of the Trinity – or all three!  Pray any time, or all the time.  Pray with eyes open or closed.  Structured or unstructured prayers.  And so on.

3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

What great things to pray for – that God will give us opportunities to share the Gospel in a clear fashion!  I am convicted by the admonitions towards wisdom with outsiders.  Blogging is a challenge with so many hostile views out there.  I try to write the truth in provocative ways (especially on my other blog) without deliberately offending people.

Final Greetings

7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

Onesimus is the runaway slave written about in Philemon, a very short but impactful book of the Bible.

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

Luke is the one who wrote the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts.  He was a close friend and traveling companion of Paul.

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Again, Paul was in prison when he wrote this.  Yet consider his attitude!  We may not always be happy, but having true joy is one of our birthrights as Christians.  I have to remind myself of that because it is so easy to get pulled into the worries of the world.

Grace and peace to you all!

Colossians 3

col3.jpgGreetings!

Rules for Holy Living

3     Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

That passage reminds me of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We focus way too little on Heaven, in my view.  Focusing on Jesus and the glory to come can help us keep things in the right priorities here and now and help us endure.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Those are long lists of things to avoid!  But Jesus has given us freedom from sin if we will let the Holy Spirit work.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Verse 15 is sometimes taken out of context to justify decisions that we feel a “peace” about.  But this isn’t about how to make decisions.  We may make many Godly decisions that we don’t have peace about.  The proper interpretation is that we are to resolve conflicts with fellow believers. 

If you are here then you are obeying v. 16!

Rules for Christian Households

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Peter and Paul give roughly the same marriage and family advice in several places.  Once again, our culture tends to overreact to the word submit but when they got this letter in Colosse it was probably just as controversial for the opposite reasons.  Women were property then, yet here Paul is telling husbands to love their wives and not to be harsh. 

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

“Slaves” would be any employees in our culture.  V. 23 convicts me, because I often wonder if I’m working hard enough at my job.  The results are great, but they come so easy I feel like I should be doing more.

Colossians 2

col2.jpgGreetings!

2     I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

Just before I started this chapter I was reading a blog comment by a postmodernist who denies the traditional definition of truth (that which corresponds to reality).  He claims to be a Christian -and perhaps he is – but his idea that there aren’t universal truths is not Biblical.  His logical conclusion of his beliefs is that all religions are valid paths to God.  But this is intellectually bankrupt.

Paul’s purpose was for the church members to be encouraged and to gain an understanding of Jesus who has all wisdom and knowledge, and he wanted to prevent us from being deceived. 

The Bible teaches over and over that some things are true and some are not.  We should seek truth and hold onto it.

Freedom From Human Regulations Through Life With Christ

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

I love verse 8.  It describes the challenges of this culture so well.  There are so many false teachings.  The world’s philosophies are indeed hollow and empty.  They are meant to deceive.  They are not based on Christ.

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

V. 9 has another direct claim of Jesus’ deity. 

The circumcision of our hearts is compared to the physical circumcision done by the Israelites and with the sacrament of Baptism.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

He forgave all the sins of believers – past, present and future.  One of the most destructive heresies is any concept such as purgatory where we have to do “our part” to have our sins taken away.  Jesus did it all on the cross.  The cross trumps sin; sin doesn’t trump the cross.  Hear the Good News!

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

It is interesting that the Sabbath day is mentioned in this way.  Observance of the Sabbath is the only Commandment not specifically reiterated in the New Testament.  I think it is still a great habit, because God created us to need rest one day per week.  If you haven’t tried setting aside a day for minimal or no work and to focus on God, you’ll be amazed at how beneficial it is.  But it is not something we should be legalistic about. 

18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.