Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Things that Matter

So you may walk in the way of goodness,
And keep to the paths of righteousness.
For the upright will dwell in the land,
And the blameless will remain in it;
But the wicked will be cut off from the earth,
And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.
Proverbs 2:20-22

One of the cruelest lesson my children have had to learn is that of choice.  Whether that is the choice of what dessert they will have or what they will do with the last remaining hour before bed time regret over decisions is a regular part of my children’s lives.  So frequently I hear the words “I’m bored” an hour before bedtime, and “I want to do this one last thing!” the moment the clock tells us that bedtime has arrived.  Yet, no matter how much my children wish to fit one last thing into the day, it cannot be done.  That time has passed and the opportunity to spend that hour is gone.  One of the things that the book of Proverbs teaches us is that our choices and decisions matter.  By the grace of Christ we have the forgiveness of sins and the ability to start fresh each morning, but we are never going to be given the opportunity to go and relive the time we wasted yesterday.  We are never going to be able to unsay hurtful words, only apologize for them.  One of the key subtexts of the book of Proverbs is that our lives and decisions matter.  While Jesus paid the full price for our sin at the cross, He will still allow us to experience the effects of our actions here on earth – for positive or for negative. 

There is always grace for tomorrow, but there is no reliving today.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Advent 5: Jesus

When God came to earth it was not with great pomp and circumstance.  He moved the great power of Rome to call a census so that the Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, as He had promised.  He came to a poor young Jewish girl who lived in a small village.  God chose for the birthplace of Jesus a barn, or possibly a cave, where animals were kept.  Rather than being greeted by the greatest powers and authorities of the Earth He was greeted by humble shepherds and some wise men from afar.  Jesus humble birth shows us something very clearly.  Jesus came for everybody.  Jesus is God’s greatest gift.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Things Remembered

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding…
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-2,5

How many song lyrics can you bring  effortlessly to mind?  How many quotes from books, movies or television shows?  Important dates from history?  Statistics and trivia regarding your favorite sports team?  We carry around amazing amounts of information in the supercomputer that God placed carefully between our ears.  We make a choice what information to collect and pursue and what information to forget and avoid.  Often times we value information simply for its own sake (as with a song lyric or a sports fact)  and other times for what that information can do for us.  We will value what we retain.  If it is difficult to read the Bible, or retain and apply the word of God, the question to be asking is not how to do better, but why don’t I value God’s word and wisdom.  This is a question for reflection and prayer.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Advent 4: Love

The human race knows very little of love, yet we long for it so deeply.  Most often we see true love displayed in sacrifice.  The father who, for the love of his family, works hard each day to provide and care for them.  The mother who sacrifices countless nights of sleep in caring for young children.  The friend who sets aside their own agenda to come alongside us and help us in our moment of need.  Yet the greatest sacrifice ever made was by Jesus Christ.  The Hymn Love was When gives us these words:
Love was when God became a Man,
Locked in time and space, without rank or place;
Love was God born of Jewish kin;
Just a carpenter with some fishermen.
For Jesus Christ to law aside His rights as God and take on human flesh was the ultimate act of love.  That act, however, was only a beginning.  The same hymn continues in the third verse:
Love was when God became a Man,
Down where I could see Love that reached to me;
Love was God dying for my sin
And so trapped was I my whole world caved in.

This is the love of God for the lost and perishing world.  It is concrete and demonstrated within time.  There is no question that Christ’s love is meant to be at the very center of understanding the character and plan of God.  May we all know that we are infinitely loved this Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wisdom is Calling

Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises she raises her voice in the open squares.
She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words…
Proverbs 1:20-21

Advertising is a major portion of modern culture.  It is quite common for more money to spent on advertising than on the production of a product.  Not only that advertising has taken on whole new forms.  From junk mail to email, from billboards to internet banners, there is a never ending stream of advertising that we can see to the point where we almost cease to notice it.  The purpose of advertising is to tell people about a product, increase appetite for that product and then instruct people on how to get the product.  We may often think of wisdom as something being impossible to find.  The cliché for seeking wisdom is to find some hidden wise man on a far away mountain top.  But here we see a different picture.  Wisdom is not hiding she is ADVERTISING!  She is not hidden but available and taking appointments.  The only thing that makes her seem difficult find is that we love our own simplicity and folly more than we value God’s wisdom.  The idea that we must travel to find wisdom is a sales tactic of another saleswoman.  As with all good things God is far more willing to give than we are to ask (James 1:5).

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent 3: Joy

While the Christmas season is a joyous time for many, the stress and busyness of the season can sometimes distract us from the joy we have in Christ.  For many the holidays can be a time of loneliness and missing our lost loved ones.  However, we find in Scripture that the only source of true joy is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  True and permanent joy flows naturally from knowing and believing the truth that God valued each of us so highly that he would send Jesus, His only begotten Son, to die for our sins and to reveal God most clearly to us.  While many things will make us happy this Christmas season Christ alone gives us joy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Company You Keep

My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
Proverbs 1:10

It is so easy to be deceived.  When a person is tried in a court of law, they are tried for a crime.  They are tried for their choices and actions.  If found guilty they are then punished for that crime.  We may wish to ask them their motivation, but a great deal of the time the person on trial is there simply because they threw in their lot with the wrong crowd.  We are limited little beings and we get to choose with whom we will spend our time, but make no mistake – we will be shaped by the people with whom we associate.  This warning works in the reverse, as well.  A student of average intelligence who chooses to spend time with good students often performs closer in grades to the company which he has chosen.  The question is there for each of us.  With whom do we choose to associate?  This is a seemingly small choice with monumental consequences. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent 2: Peace

Christmas can certainly be a time of chaos and busyness.  With gifts to buy, parties to attend, church activities and family activities it can easily start to feel as if a vacation is needed after surviving the Christmas season.  However, celebrating Christmas is a celebration of peace – The Peace of God.  Consider those precious Christmas moments when the soft glow from the lights on the tree illuminates the while snow peacefully falls outside.   In the person of Jesus Christ we see very God made man.  Jesus came to earth for the very specific purpose of providing a peace with God that mankind had no way of creating, earning or maintaining.  Peace with God can only be found through Jesus Christ, because of His death on the cross to pay for the sin which separates us from God.  It is only because we are clothed in His righteousness that we may have peace with the righteous God of love.  Because Jesus dealt with the sin problem we also look forward to a time when His peace will rule on and over the entire earth.  We look to Jesus and see all of the peace we can ever know, and we look forward to seeing His peace manifested upon the earth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent: Hope

Christmas is a special time of anticipation.  It seems as soon as autumn sets in our minds begin to drift towards Christmas day.  We may look forward to the songs or to the lights and decorations.  We may look forward to the exchange of gifts, or holiday parties.  We may even spend a sweet moment anticipating a Christmas meal shared with loved ones.  Whatever we look forward to each holiday season it is a time to remember that Jesus Christ, the long promised Messiah was anticipated for thousands of years.  As soon as sin entered the world the Lord made the promise of the coming Savior (Genesis 3:15).  From that day forward men and women who trusted God longed to see His provided Savior.  For years they waited, hoped and prayed and then Jesus came to the earth.  Simeon – a man who longed to see the Savior prayed this prayer of joy when he first saw the baby Jesus:

29"Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
And the glory of Your people Israel."
Luke 2:29-32 NASB

The Fear of the Lord

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” - Proverbs 1:7

I have worked at several large companies over the years.  There is one scenario that I saw repeatedly that never ceased to surprise me.  I call it the lesson of the overconfident underling.  This would happen when someone at the lower level  of the company would get fed up with their lot in life and then would decide that they were going to take it to the boss.  They would go in with all of their pride, their reasons and their anger.  They finally had the privilege of “telling the boss off.”  There were only ever two results that I ever noticed to follow.  Either, the employee was humbled to find out that their small part in the company was actually not as important as they had thought, or the employee “won the fight” and was fired.  In these cases the universal attitude of the employee was a lack of appropriate  reverence and respect (fear) for the boss either led to them to be a fool growing towards wisdom (as in the case of the employee who was humbled) or of the loss of their situation (as with the employee who was fired).

Our earthly authorities and supervisors are all terribly fallible.  They can be wrong, misinformed and mistaken.  Yet, God is never wrong, misinformed or mistaken.  Our understanding of this reality, and our humility and submission to Him through all circumstances and instances of life will determine the quality of our time on this planet.  Fear of the Lord and humility lead to wisdom.  Pride and arrogance lead to destruction.