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(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 5a: a heart that devises wicked schemes

(This is part 5a in the series.  For the start of this Proverbs 6 series, click here: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6)

 

A Heart that Devises Wicked Schemes

A heart that devises wicked schemes is very problematic because a problem with our hearts is a problem with the very core of who we are (Matthew 12:33-35, 15:18-20).  The questions below can help us root out some of our heart problems.  Next week we’ll look at some verses that can help us rend our hearts and turn them back towards God.

1. Do I do things I know are wrong?  [Lie, badmouth my husband, gossip, visit websites I know I shouldn’t visit, skip quiet time with God, etc.]

He who plots evil will be known as a schemer.  The schemes of folly are sin, and men detest a mocker.  (Proverbs 24:8-9)

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)

2. Do I say things I know are wrong?  [Things that aren’t true, or aren’t kind, or are otherwise against God’s will.]

A scoundrel plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.  (Proverbs 16:27)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:29-30)

3. Do I try to get others to join me in doing things I know are wrong so I don’t feel as bad about it?  [Maybe trying to get other women to complain about their husbands so I don’t feel so guilty for complaining about mine?]

A violent man entices his neighbor and leads him down a path that is not good.  (Proverbs 16:29)

4. Do I influence those under my authority or care to join me in things I know are wrong?  [Maybe encouraging employees or children to stretch the truth to avoid an uncomfortable situation?  Or maybe setting a negative example for others in general?]

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.  “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”  (Matthew 18:6-7)

5. Do I condone wickedness, even if I don’t actively participate in it?  That is, do I stand up for what is right, or do I pretend to not see injustices?

Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.  (Romans 14:22b)

6. Do I make plans that I know will cause harm to other people?  [Perhaps because I don’t like them?]  Do I make plans without considering whether or not they’ll cause harm to other people?  [Perhaps because I’m more concerned about what happens to me than about what happens to them?]

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 2:3-5)

7. Do I make plans that I know go against God’s Will?  [These don’t have to be plans that are “bad” per se.  They might just be things I want that I know God doesn’t want for me at that time.  Also consider: After I make these plans that I know go against God’s will, do I then ask Him to bless my plans?]  

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?  (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:14)

8. Do I make plans without consulting God?  [Maybe because I’m afraid of what His answer might be?  Or maybe because I just forgot to talk to Him?  And, again: after I make these plans without consulting Him, do I ask Him to bless my plans?]

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:13-17)

9. Do I think about doing things I shouldn’t?  [Maybe I think about big things – committing adultery, for instance.  Or maybe I just dwell on mean thoughts – the fact that I really don’t like a particular family member, or the fact that I’m happy that my neighbor’s kid got in trouble because she always goes on and on about how perfect her kids are, for instance.  Even if I don’t actually take any action based on these thoughts, do I spend time and energy that belong to God thinking about these things?]

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  (Philippians 4:8)  [In a few weeks I’m going to post more about this verse.  I think it’s one of those that we quote a lot without really thinking about.  I think it demands and deserves more thoughtful attention.] 

10. Do I look for ways to commit my pet sins that make them seem like less of a sin?  [Gossip in the form of “prayer requests.”  Nagging my husband, but only about “good” things, like going to church or spending more time with the family.  Etc.]

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  (Matthew 23:27-28)

11. Do I do good things with the wrong motive?  [Do I work at church for God’s glory or for attention/praise from others?  Do I ask after someone because I care about that person or because I want to hear the latest gossip?  Do I help others because God’s love fills my heart or so I can act like an overworked martyr?  Etc.]

All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.  (Proverbs 16:2)

12. Do I (secretly) wish bad things for people, even if I’m nice to them in person?  [Do I wish that my cousin’s kid would finally get in trouble for what he does so she’d stop acting like her family is perfect?  Do I wish that other people could see how fake my neighbor is so we could exclude her from get-togethers?  Etc.]

Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.  (Proverbs 26:23)

13.  Am I a little disappointed when good things happen to people I don’t like (or maybe even people I do like) because they didn’t happen to me?  [Do I have trouble being happy for my friend who got a promotion that I wanted?  Am I disappointed to hear that my neighbor’s kid got into a top college?  Am I jealous when my cousin gets more attention at a family get-together than I do?]

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  (Romans 12:15)

Most of us can answer yes to at least part of one of the questions above, which indicates that our hearts are divided – divided between loving ourselves and loving God.  This week I challenge you to ask God to “create in [you] a pure heart” (Psalm 51:10).  Ask Him to search you and reveal any impure motives you might have (Psalm 139:23-24).  Next week we’ll look at why it’s so important to have pure hearts – and how to get them.

Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes, part 2

Last Week: hands that shed innocent blood

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Want to read more?

You know that annoying person you try to avoid?  Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people

Ready to ramp up your relationship with God?  Try: Quiet time OR Try: Constant Conversation

Feeling overwhelmed by all of your obligations?  Try: the superwoman complex or mary and martha

Can your marriage help the next generation?  I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours

Is nagging our husbands really a problem?  Why I think it is: How culture is sabotaging our marriages

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

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(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 4: hands that shed innocent blood

There are six things the LORD hates,
   seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.  (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Hands that Shed Innocent Blood

Given that murder is the ultimate bloodshed, it’s important to remember John’s words: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”  –1 John 3:15

This is a powerful statement, especially given the Biblical definitions of “love” and “hate.”  The rest of this post will be written with John’s definition of “murder” in mind.

I think the questions about this item can be broken into two categories.  First, do I actively participate in this sin:

1. Do I intentionally harm innocent people?

Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.  (Proverbs 23:10-11)

Remember that God is the Defender of the innocent.  If you’re not the innocent in a given situation, who is your defender?

2. Do I seek to serve myself despite knowing that my actions will hurt others?

A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice.  (Proverbs 17:23)

Are you willing harm others for the right price?  And remember, the “price” isn’t necessarily money.  It could be attention, preferential treatment, accolades, etc.  What is your price?

3. Do I seek to serve myself without considering how this might affect others?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

It’s so easy for us to take action thoughtlessly.  We don’t set out to hurt others, we just don’t care if we do – at least not as much as we care about our own interests.  In the verse above, God asks us to “consider others” and to look “to the interests of others.”  He’s asking us to actively concern ourselves with how our actions affect those around us – and those far away.

The second category of questions deals with passively committing this sin:  Even if I’m not actively shedding innocent blood, am I doing anything to stop those who are?  And am I applying tourniquets to the wounded?  Some questions to consider in this regard:

4. Do I look for ways to help and protect the innocent?

It is not good to punish an innocent man, or to flog officials for their integrity.  (Proverbs 17:26)

Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent — the Lord detests them both.  (Proverbs 17:15)

Seeking to right injustices can seem like an incredibly daunting task – and no one person can take up every worthy cause.  However, we should be asking God what cause(s) He wants us involved in.  (For advice about how to help without becoming overwhelmed by the problems in our world, click here: avoiding the superwoman complex.)

5. Do I look for ways to help those who are hurting?

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.  (Proverbs 25:25)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

While some people are certainly more gifted at offering comfort to those who are hurting, we’re all capable of genuinely showing an interest in and a concern for other people.  Do you shy away from those opportunities?  Most of us wouldn’t let a man bleed to death, but many of us will watch a man grieve to death.

6. Do I stand up for those who need an advocate?

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

As we discussed above, God is the ultimate defender of the innocent — but He wants us to be involved in this work.  In many situations, this means actively opposing their oppressors.  In such cases, there is a temptation to fool ourselves into thinking that we can remain neutral.  We can’t.  In such cases, remaining “neutral” is just a cowardly attempt to abandon the weak to their oppressors without making ourselves look bad.  God is not fooled:

 10 If you falter in times of trouble,
how small is your strength!

 11 Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?  (Proverbs 24:10-12)

God is not neutral in such situations, and when He calls us to advocate for the innocent, He has called us to His side.  We can accept His call or reject it, but we can’t stay neutral.  God has chosen His side.  Which side are you on?

Challenge: This week, go beyond not actively shedding innocent blood, and ask God how you He would have you protect the innocent and bandage the wounded.

Next Week: a heart that devises wicked schemes

Last Week: a lying tongue, part 3c

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Want to read more?

You know that annoying person you try to avoid?  Yeah, me too….: what to do about annoying people

Ready to ramp up your relationship with God?  Try: Quiet time OR Try: Constant Conversation

Feeling overwhelmed by all of your obligations?  Try: the superwoman complex or mary and martha

Can your marriage help the next generation?  I think so: why YOUR strong marriage matters to kids that aren’t yours

Is nagging our husbands really a problem?  Why I think it is: How culture is sabotaging our marriages

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 3b: a lying tongue (continued)

As we discussed last week, breaking the habit of lying is very important.  However, even for those of us who don’t consistently lie, this occasional sin can still be very damaging.  [To see the list of questions from last week, click here: lying questions.]

First, I think it’s important to recognize the ramifications of lying.  Many of us start out with small lies — lies designed to avoid some small conflict or to get our way in some petty matter or to present our side of some minor disagreement in a slightly better light.  One problem with this is that once people know we lie, they know we’re liars. 

If I know a person will lie about a minor event just to avoid facing a small consequence, I have no reason to believe that person will be honest with me about important issues.  As Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).  And while I still have a responsibility to love that person, I can’t really trust her, and we can only ever be so close.  This is unfortunate when it happens between casual acquaintances, but it’s heartbreaking when it happens between close friends or family members.  When you can’t trust your husband or wife — the person in the world you should be closest to — it’s often much more difficult to trust anyone.  And when children can’t trust their parents, their ability to trust others is often distorted as well.  The ramifications of lying aren’t small.  Even when a lie seems small, the effects are big. 

And lying doesn’t just erode trust; it can also corrupt the character of those around us.  As Proverbs 29:12 reminds us: “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.”  If parents (or others in positions of authority) listen to, believe, and even reward lies, those under their care will be much more likely to lie.  If my students see a classmate lie to me, and see that lying gets him out of trouble, other students may be tempted to lie to me too.  This is one reason why it’s so important for parents and others in positions of authority to be discerning.  It also stands to reason that if those under our care see us lying, they will also be tempted to lie.

And this corrupting of others’ characters is problematic for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right”  (Proverbs 20:11).  When our lying or acceptance of lies corrupts the character of our children (or others under our authority), their reputations and relationships eventually suffer as well.   This process backs up what we’re told in Proverbs 26:28a: “A lying tongue hates those it hurts.”  When we properly understand “love” as in terms of selfless service, it’s easy to see the hatefulness of our lies – which are almost always told out of selfishness (for self-preservation, self-esteem, etc.).

In the end, lying is sin (selfishness) that puts our (often short-term) desires in front of the best interests of others (often others who have been placed in our care).

The consequences above focus on others.  It’s important, too, to look at what lying does to the liar.  For instance:

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.  (Proverbs 11:3)

Our lies will eventually catch up to us.  Even if no particular lie has catastrophic consequences, the erosion of trust in our relationships often does – consequences such as divorce, a choice that damages everyone involved in the process.  And lying damages the most important relationship in our lives: our relationship with God.  Sin separates us from God.  With each lie we tell, we take a step away from God.  [Consider how far away your lies have taken you from God.]

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only for a moment.  (Proverbs 12:19)

A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble.  (Proverbs 17:20) 

It often doesn’t take too long (in the grand scheme of things) for a lie to be found out, even here on earth.  But even lies that are taken to the grave have extreme eternal consequences – because even lies that fool those around us don’t fool God.  Lies will ultimately cause us to “fall into trouble” with the one who has the power of life and death over us, our ultimate Judge.

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”  (Matthew 12:36)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.  (2 Corinthians 5:10)

As we discussed in the previous post, one fear liars often have to live with is the fear of being found out.  God assures us in the verses above, we’ve already been found out.  And one day, we’ll have to own up to each lie.  There is no getting out of this, no moment when you’ve finally outrun your lie.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  (Galatians 6:7-8)

When we fool those around us with our lies (at least temporarily), we often think we’ve gotten away with something.  We haven’t.  God cannot be fooled or mocked.  Our concern for concealing our dishonesty is a mockery to God.  Either we think we’ve gotten one over on God (we haven’t), or we’ve forgotten about His role in this entirely (bad idea).

There is, of course, good news!  The end of the verse above reminds us that when we live in the Spirit (which will produce honesty, among other things), we reap eternal life.  Nothing is better than that!  There are, however, other advantages to telling the truth, even for our lives today.  We’ll look at those next week!

Next Week: a lying tongue, continued again

Last Week: a lying tongue

Start of the Series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

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Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 2: haughty eyes

Prestbury war memorial - northern face "G...

"God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Haughty Eyes

Of course the list of things God hates starts here.  Just in case I thought I was going to go into this series of posts feeling pretty proud of my ability to hate the wicked things God hates, I have to start with the one I have the most trouble with.

The first item on the list in Proverbs 6 of seven things God detests is “haughty eyes” – proud eyes, in other words.  The question, then, is this: Are there areas of pride in your life?

Below are some questions that might help us focus on this area.  (And it was helpful to me to really try to answer these as I wrote them.  I didn’t always like the honest answer, but as we’ll talk about in the next post, God also hates dishonesty.  So trying to cover up my pride with dishonesty is probably not a good choice. 🙂 )

1. Do I feel superior to others with regard to intelligence?  Or education?  Or accomplishments?  Or finances?  Or appearance?  Or patience?  Or wisdom?  Or holiness?  Or ……..?  (And am I too proud to see the irony in almost all of this?)

2. Do I look down on others because of these perceived differences?  Do I ever treat others differently because of this?  Am I less likely to associate with people I see as less intelligent, attractive, etc.?  Do I avoid people who look or dress a certain way?  Etc.

3. Do I take pride in my gifts and accomplishments (or the gifts and accomplishments of my husband or children) without remembering to give God the honor and credit and thanks?

4. Do I feel that I “deserve” certain things?  A certain size of house?  Certain clothes?  A certain amount of respect because of my job or wisdom or other gifts and accomplishments?

5. Do I act like I want to help people, but secretly enjoy thinking I’m better than them?

Most of us can answer “yes” to at least one part of one of these 5 questions.  So, if that’s the case, how do we start fixing our haughty eyes?

First, I think it’s important to remember whom we are apart from God: No one.  We are condemned, helpless souls.  With God, though?  We are children of the King.  We are recipients of His blessings.  That’s where we get all of our intelligence, wisdom, holiness, wealth, beauty, patience, and so on.  From God.  Each of these is a blessing that He’s chosen to give us.  And this is true of “the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).   All blessings come from God – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17) –  whether or not we decide to acknowledge it.  So, no reason for pride there.  God tells us this in Jeremiah 9:23-24:

            This is what the LORD says:

   “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
24 but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD.

What do we have to boast about?  Knowing God!  And the more we know God, the more we know we don’t have anything else to boast about.  Think you have something else to boast about?  Use that as a motivation to get to know God better!

Paul knew where his pride should be too, when he said in 2 Corinthians 12:9:

But he [God] said to me [Paul], “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

So there’s another thing we can boast about: God’s strength in our weaknesses.

And Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

So there’s another thing: the cross.

Finally, in 1 John 2:16, John reminds us where our desire to boast about ourselves comes from:

For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.

So, to summarize: God hates selfish pride and boasting.  Our desire to boast about ourselves (or our families, etc.) comes from the world, not from God.  The only things we really have to boast about are knowing God, God’s strength in our weakness, and the cross.

So what does this mean for us in our daily lives?  A couple of things:

1. We have to get rid of our selfish boasting.  This doesn’t mean we can never tell our friends that our son scored a goal or our daughter got an “A” or our husband got promoted.  What it does mean is we have to do those things prayerfully.

Before the words come out of your mouth, ask yourself (and God) these two things:

 a. Can I honestly say that I am sharing this information in a way that encourages someone else or brings glory to God?

b. Does God want me to share this information right now?

 Asking these two questions has kept me quiet on numerous occasions.  And it’s HARD.  Boasting is a really natural thing to do.  We want to feel good about ourselves and our families, and we want others to as well.  But whose glory are we seeking in this case?  We should be seeking God’s glory and helping point others to Him.  Does what you’re about to say meet either of those goals?

2. We have to get rid of pride.  Boasting is the outward manifestation of a prideful heart.  Getting rid of boasting is important, but it doesn’t solve our heart issue.  The pride in our hearts (maybe even pride about the fact that we aren’t boastful!) is the real problem.  Remember, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

A couple places to start with this:

a. Focus on building others up.  When you’re talking with a friend, for instance, resolve to only ask questions about what she’s talking about, instead of steering the conversation toward yourself.

b. Memorize some of the verses above to defend yourself against the devil when he tempts you to be prideful — and he will.  Don’t let the devil turn a gift or accomplishment God has blessed you with into an occasion for sin!

What have you found that helps you guard your heart against pride?

Read Part 3a of the series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 3a — a lying tongue

Missed Part One of this series?  Click here: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6, part 1

Want to read more?

Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one

Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

(becoming) wise, part 1

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,                                                                      and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)

This post started when I was praying about what to say to a younger friend.  When I first started praying about what to say, God laid the verse listed above on my heart.  I was reading through Proverbs at the time, so it wasn’t too surprising that He would call this to my mind.  What was surprising was the persistence of the verse.  I acknowledged that He had brought it to my mind, and then tried to shove it aside for more ideas.  He wouldn’t let me.  I was asking, “What else, LORD?”  And He was saying, “Just this.”  I found that interesting, and important.  So that’s where I started.

I’d read through Proverbs before, but that time they meant more to me.  This seems to happen to me with books of the Bible: I have trouble getting through them one time, and the next time, they speak to me in profound ways.  Proverbs had been doing that to me for days leading up to the encounter with my young friend.  And perhaps my friend was one of the reasons God was illuminating His word for me in a new way.  Of course God knew I’d have to counsel my friend; perhaps He just let me get a head start in the days leading up to it.  (Incidents like that make me so thankful that we serve an ALL-KNOWING God!)

But back to the verse.  This verse struck me when I read it initially for its simplicity.  This verse is often quoted, and we sometimes overlook such “common” verses in an attempt to get at “deeper” Biblical truths.  I think this is often a mistake. 

In its simplicity, this verse doesn’t leave room for haggling or negotiating.  It just states what “is”:  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”  It doesn’t say, “the fear of the LORD is often the beginning of wisdom,” or “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of certain kinds of wisdom,” or “the fear of the LORD is one beginning of wisdom.”  It just states that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”  We have no other starting point.  We’ve been left no alternative.  If we are to be wise, we must start by fearing the LORD. 

“Fear of the LORD” is sometimes swept under the rug in churches because Jesus is our friend and God is our good-natured heavenly Father.  And both of these things are true, but they leave out the other part of the Truth: God is God.  He is sovereign.  He is spotlessly holy.  He is our Master.  We are His servants.  God is the One we answer to ultimately.  Not our friends.  Not our family.  Not our parents.  Not our teachers.  Not our government.  God.  It’s hard enough answering to those people.  I don’t think we have any clue what we’re in for when we are forced to answer to a perfectly holy God.  And this should cause us to reverentially fear God.  Because He’s God, and we’re not.  And He has some things for each of us to do.  And we need to do those things.  But we’ll get to that later.

So, the beginning of knowledge is a fear of God based on an accurate understanding of who God is –  and, I believe, an accurate understanding of who we are, in light of that.

I’d encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the awesomeness of God.  Try to renew your awe of God, if you feel you’ve lost some of it.  Below I’ve put some verses to get you started.  I know the first two are a little bit longer that what I usually post, but remember: Time with God is never wasted time.

Jeremiah 2:1-19:

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:

“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the desert,
through a land not sown.
3 Israel was holy to the LORD,
the firstfruits of his harvest;
all who devoured her were held guilty,
and disaster overtook them,’”
declares the LORD.

4 Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob,
all you clans of the house of Israel.

5 This is what the LORD says:

“What fault did your fathers find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
and became worthless themselves.

6 They did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD,
who brought us up out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness,
through a land of deserts and rifts,
a land of drought and darkness,
a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
7 I brought you into a fertile land
to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land
and made my inheritance detestable.
8 The priests did not ask,
‘Where is the LORD?’
Those who deal with the law did not know me;
the leaders rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
following worthless idols.

9 “Therefore I bring charges against you again,”
declares the LORD.
   “And I will bring charges against your children’s children.
10 Cross over to the coasts of Kittimand look,
send to Kedar and observe closely;
see if there has ever been anything like this:
11 Has a nation ever changed its gods?
(Yet they are not gods at all.)
But my people have exchanged their Glory
for worthless idols.
12 Be appalled at this, O heavens,
and shudder with great horror,”
declares the LORD.
13 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
14 Is Israel a servant, a slave by birth?
Why then has he become plunder?
15 Lions have roared;
they have growled at him.
They have laid waste his land;
his towns are burned and deserted.
16 Also, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes
have shaved the crown of your head.
17 Have you not brought this on yourselves
by forsaking the LORD your God
when he led you in the way?
18 Now why go to Egypt
to drink water from the Shihor?
And why go to Assyria
to drink water from the River?
19 Your wickedness will punish you;
your backsliding will rebuke you.
Consider then and realize
how evil and bitter it is for you
when you forsake the LORD your God
and have no awe of me,”

declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

Hebrews 12:14-29:

14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Revelation 22:3b-5:

3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

John 1:1-5, 14:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. . . . .

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Stay tuned for next week’s post: I’ll talk about the second part of the Proverbs verse .

Want to read more?

Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted

Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife

Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward

Start of the role model series: (becoming) a role model, part one

Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6

Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful

Have trouble saying no?  Try: (becoming) a good volunteer: the necessity of “no”

Struggle with worry?  Try: (becoming) less of a worrier

Prayer Requests

Please pray for an event we’re having at church tonight.  Part of it was supposed to be outside, but the weather isn’t cooperating.  Regardless of the weather, location, etc., please pray that the event would bless and encourage those in attendance.

Thanks, y’all!

Are You a Student in Parks’s XIDS Class?

If you’re one of my students and have inadvertently been routed to this blog, please follow this link to get back to the site you’re looking for: My Daily Cross.

Thanks!

Prayer Requests

Hi, all.

Quick praise report: Henley celebrated her 3rd birthday this week!  Please continue to pray for this brave little girl!

If you have any prayer requests or praise reports, please feel free to post them below.

(prayer) warrior wednesday

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Below are some prayer requests for this week.  Please pray for God’s Will and for His Presence and Peace in these situations.

1. Please pray for Dawna’s friend.  Here’s the information from Dawna’s comment last week: Dawna’s friend Rachel (mid-30s) has cancer in several areas.  The situation has progressed to the point where they can’t give her any more treatments, so she’ll be put on hospice care (the doctors estimate that she may live up to a month).  Please pray for peace and comfort for Rachel, as she is concerned about leaving her husband and their 7-year-old son (who has autism).  Please pray for her husband and son, too, during this incredibly difficult time.  (We know God can perform miracles.  Please pray one for this family.)

Dawna: Does Rachel have a CaringBridge page (or something similar) where people might be able to leave words of comfort and encouragement for her and her family?  If so, I’d love to post that information.  Thanks!

2. Please continue to pray for healing for Henley as she begins this new round of treatments.  Please pray also that the whole family would be able to be home together for Christmas.  Here’s the link to Henley’s CaringBridge journal page: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bravebee/journal

3. Please also pray for strength, healing, and a reduction of pain for my friend, Garland, who has been fighting bone cancer for almost 4 years now and has recently had some complications.  He has been such a great example of someone who loves God, loves God’s Word, and loves others for so many people throughout his 70+ years.  (Please also pray for his lovely wife, Pat.)

4. Please pray for Matthew (12 years old) who will have heart surgery on the 20th.  Please pray wisdom for the doctors and protection and peace for Matthew.

5. Praise for the season we’re in!  How wonderful to spend time celebrating God’s saving love for us!  I’m praying that each of you will feel His joy and presence over the next several weeks.  It’s neat to know that even though as Christians we may have a lot of different personal traditions, we’re all celebrating the miracle of Christ’s birth!

English: Nativity scene on the Buenos Aires Me...

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Please feel free to add your prayer requests below or email them to me at awomanforhim@gmail.com. 

(becoming) a good gift-giver

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.  –James 1:17

Ah, the perfect gift.  What we’re always after.  That elusive perfect gift for each person on our list.  When we find it (or think we do), there’s that initial excitement – that sort of ta-da! moment.  That moment when, if we were in a movie, the edges of the screen would blur and a spotlight would shine on our treasure. 

While our motivation for finding the perfect gift is usually love for the person for whom we’re shopping, I wonder if we sometimes miss the point of gift-giving.  If our goal is to love the people on our lists, then it makes sense to consult the One Who loves them the most.  Ideally, when we look at the people on our lists, we should ask: What would God give this person? 

God’s main gift to us is His Son and His salvation.  If the person on my list doesn’t have that, then that’s what God would want to give him/her.  My question then becomes: how can my gift help with that mission? 

If the person on my list does have the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, then my question becomes: what does God want to give believers?  We’re told He came to give us life and give it to us abundantly.  How could my gifts contribute to a more abundant life in Christ for this person? 

By scanning the verses in which the word “gives” occurs, we can get an idea of some other things God gives us: light, encouragement, grace, freedom, strength, endurance, peace.  While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it does give us an interesting starting point in picking out gifts.  Consider ways to give these gifts that might be tangible or intangible.

Encouragement might come in the form of a Christian book that addresses a struggle your friend is having.  But consider, too, a gift that keeps giving past Christmas.  These are often much harder to follow through on (but we can do all things through Christ, right?), but are often incredibly meaningful.  Perhaps you commit to sending your friend an encouraging or comforting note each month.  That sort of persistent attention can show God’s love in a way that a single gift might never be able to.

I’d encourage you to make a list of those you have to buy for (if you’re like me, you already have this list).  Those you don’t have gifts for yet, prayerfully consider what God would have you give them, and how.  If all good and perfect gifts are from God, a good place to start when looking for “perfect” gifts is on His list of gifts! 

Those you have gifts for already, prayerfully consider whether these gifts share God’s gifts with their recipients.  If it not, how might you alter them so they do?  Maybe this can be done with the addition of a Bible verse and note.  You might, for instance, give a cookbook with Psalm 34:8 attached (“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him”).  (Or you might embroider that verse on a kitchen towel, if you’re really ambitious).  Something like this may act as a reminder of God’s bountiful provisions, and might encourage your friend to see her daily “chore” of cooking as a way to serve God and serve her family.

Again, all of this should be prayerfully considered.  No one wants her gifts to be taken the wrong way or to sound like lectures.  Gifts should not be heavy-handed sermons, but they should be expressions of God’s love.

 

Another option for gifts:

I imagine most of you have heard of Samaritan’s Purse.  They do Operation Christmas Child and disaster relief at nearly every large-scale disaster (in the US and abroad), among many other things.

If you’re looking for a Christmas gift with eternal impacts, check out Samaritan’s Purse’s gift catalogue.  You can purchase a sheep or goat or honeybees or a fruit tree (among other things) for a family.  You can buy sports gear or blankets or milk.  You can also teach a child how to read and write or feed a hungry baby for a week.  So no matter whom you’re giving this gift in honor of, you’re likely to find something that will be significant to him or her.  Here’s the catalogue: https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/

 

What is the most creative way you can think of to give someone one of the gifts on God’s list?  Share your ideas in the comment section below.

 

Previous Christmas Post: (becoming) joyful

Next Christmas post (on Monday): (becoming) ready for a Savior

To read the fully submitted series, click here: (becoming) fully submitted

To read the wife series, click here:(becoming) a godly wife

To learn more about this blog, check out the About page or the first post.

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