A Dose of Reality

Moving from one book to another, as we do in today’s reading (Proverbs 31-Ecclesiastes 1-2) brings a jolt, a strong shot of reality.  While Proverbs ends on a high note exalting the blessings of a virtuous wife and mother, Ecclesiastes sounds a somber note that “all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

Which view is correct?

Both are correct in their own way. Marriage can be delightful.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  But even when it is as good as it can be, it is never the ultimate experience.  Its pleasures however glorious are not permanent.  The accomplishments of the wife and husband are, at best, limited to a lifetime and no more.

Is this all there is?

Somehow it’s not enough. This is what we learn from the Preacher.  He had it all. He tried it all. It didn’t satisfy.  What is his solution?  Spoiler alert: there is a glimmer of hope ahead. Keep reading.

 A better inheritance

Meanwhile, keep in mind that God’s word equips us for everything for His service including a dose of reality in the midst of the pains and pleasures of our earthly lives.  Ultimately, we have a better inheritance than all this world can offer (1 Peter 1:3-9).

[For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

A Warning against Stereotyping

Why is it so tempting to engage in stereotyping?  With a little reflection on today’s reading (Proverbs 28-30) we can see that there are exceptions to the profiles we tend to develop.   For example,

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
    than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. Proverbs 28:6 (ESV)

Rich people may be honest or deceptive.  Poor people may be lazy or diligent.  Although society tends to honor material success, God holds up the honest, hard-working poor as better than a wealthy swindler.

We stereotype because we resist thinking deeply about truth and reality.  In the present atmosphere of my country, deep divisions and animosity rock us.  These are often based on this dangerous practice of painting with a broad brush various categories of people based on ethnicity, political views, gender, religion,  or socioeconomic status.

What can we do?

Christians are commanded to pray. Paul wrote:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV)

Pray for our national and local leaders. Pray that we will not fall prey to a simplistic way of seeing everything.  Pray that God’s people will model wisdom and speak the truth in love.

[For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Hunger for Growth

The path to spiritual growth leads straight through hard things.  Look at this passage in today’s reading (Proverbs 25-27):

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
One who is full loathes honey,
but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.  Proverbs 25:5-7 ESV

What hard thing do you need to do today?  Maybe it is to rebuke a friend.  Or do you need to be more receptive and grateful for a friend who seems to be wounding you.  A hungry person will eat the bitter thing and be nourished by it.

Hard things bring growth if you are hungry to grow.  Stay hungry, my friend.

[For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

The Lost Virtue of Humility

Whatever happened to humility?  Can you imagine a candidate for some high office being introduced with the description “above all, he is a humble man” or “she excels in humility”?  I don’t think so.

But in today’s reading (Proverbs 22-24) we find this:

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
    is riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4

Once again God’s Word turns conventional wisdom on its head.  God calls us to believe Him and to seek Christlikeness, the characteristics of the Son of Man who exemplified what is truly praiseworthy.  He died for our sin to make us His own, new creations in Him.  Be humble. Fear Him.  Your reward awaits. Riches and honor and life.

[For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

 

 

Counter Intuitive Wisdom

Biblical wisdom feels backwards to our human nature. Over and over the Bible gives a different perspective on life and truth.  Jesus said things like “...the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16 ESV).

The Truth

Here in today’s reading (Proverbs 19-21) we find another example of the difference between biblical teaching and conventional human wisdom.  Where society tells us to assert ourselves and look out for number one, Proverbs 19:11 tells us to be slow to anger and to overlook faults.

The Challenge

In this age of social media, anger spews forth and faults pile up.  Will you be sucked in to the fray or be slow to anger and overlook wrongs done?

God is glorified by those who resist the temptation to blast away and let anger fly.  Take heed to this warning when pressure to erupt comes.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Fools and Friends

The godly man or woman knows the difference between fools and friends.  Psalm 1 tells us that the blessed man does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly but delights in the law of God.  When we delight in God’s word, we have less time and motivation to seek the viewpoints of the wicked. We gain wisdom to find and keep truly worthwhile friends.  I hope that this summer you are delighting in the Bible more than any other book.

Here are our weekend readings along with verses on which I chose to focus:

Saturday, July 16 Proverbs 13-15 Handling Fools

Leave the presence of a fool,
    for there you do not meet words of knowledge. Proverbs 14:7 ESV

Sunday, July 17 Proverbs 16-18 Friendship that Sticks

A man of many companions may come to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 ESV

May you be blessed and delighted as you grow in Jesus Christ,  deepening good friendships and avoiding fools.  See you again Monday.

For more on these passages see Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 Days available on Amazon in either Kindle ($4.99) or print format ($12.99).

The Other Meaning of Black Friday

What a strange term, Black Friday. For many it means a chance to buy stuff at reduced prices.  Merchants hope to see black numbers in their ledgers. A profit.

But it also provides an opportunity for impulsive buyers armed with credit cards and motivated by the desire to impress others to go into debt.  Today’s reading (Proverbs 10-12) addresses this.

“Better to be lowly and have a servant
than to play the great man and lack bread”  Proverbs 12:9 ESV

Beware of the seductive power of pride. Don’t be found “playing the great man” on the stage of life. It can lead us down a path where our ledgers are filled with red ink and we lack bread.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Wisdom: True and False

Scripture, particularly passages like today’s reading (Proverbs 7-9), calls us to seek wisdom.  New Testament books like James emphasize the importance of wisdom.  Paul in I Corinthians 1 distinguishes between worldly wisdom and wisdom from God.  Not all wisdom is wisdom.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” ( I Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV).

To seek true wisdom is to seek Christ.   Beware of worldly wisdom that is really foolishness in disguise.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Seven Things God Hates

Did you know there are things that God hates?  The list of seven of these despicable behaviors in today’s reading (Proverbs 4-6) are not controversial.  These hateful things abound in society and people consider them bad, if not evil.  I’m afraid, however, that we condemn them in others but not much in ourselves.

Lying and being a false witness are two behaviors we hate when our opponents do them, but we tend to give ourselves a pass on them.  Politicians sow discord, but that is acceptable if we agree with that politician.

I am challenged to resist these seven sins.  By God’s grace and strength, let us rid ourselves from them for His glory.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Resisting our Default Position

As we continue today in Proverbs 1:8-3:35, it’s clear that this book is filled with warnings and promises about how to live in a way that pleases God.  Our default position is to give in to peer pressure and to avoid anything that is uncomfortable.

Believers in Jesus Christ have the command to “… be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10b ESV).  We are not strong in ourselves but only in Him and in the strength of His might.

Be strong in the Lord and have a blessed day.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].