Culture

People—Simple but Complicated

A motive in the human heart is like deep water,

and a person who has understanding draws it out.

Who can say, “I’ve made my heart pure. I’m cleansed from my sin”?

Even a child makes himself known by his actions,

whether his deeds are pure or right. (Proverbs 20:5, 9, 11 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 20:1-13 GW)


People are people

Across cultures and geography, the basic needs and wants of people are the same. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, for the most part, are true any place among the peoples of the world.

And so, at a basic level, people are simple to understand. If we lack basic physiological needs, we’ll be motivated to fill those needs. Of course, this is in a general sense and there are always exceptions to the rule. But, as a general rule—people are people.

Beyond basic needs people get a bit complicated. The motives of a person’s heart aren’t always easy to discern, especially when the mind and heart of a person is in conflict.

Sociopaths and psychopaths are examples of people whose values and judgment are in conflict or turned upside down. Somewhere along the line, the development of their moral conscience was short-circuited..

What’s all of this got to do with these verses in Proverbs? Plenty!

Discernment and wisdom needed

Discernment and wisdom are required to know and understand a person’s motives. Psychology can help us with clinical observations but to discern at a deeper level we need help.

This is where the wisdom of God and God’s Spirit are valuable.

God—our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer—knows everyone inside and out—our deepest thoughts, motives, and feelings. We need His help and guidance to understand others, as well as ourselves.

As a leader and in counseling others, I learned how valuable it was to listen well.

I learned how valuable it is to listen well

Listening well includes hearing what is spoken, what is not said, and what is held back. Not just reading between the lines but listening at a deeper, spiritual level.

Self-deception

On the subject of motives, we often don’t discern our own motives. We fool ourselves into thinking our heart is pure and without sin.

For some of us, self-deception becomes our shield from reality. Self-deception can even become somewhat of an art form but not in a good way.

While counseling people and even while teaching or preaching, I often sensed the Lord asking me, “Are you hearing what you’re saying to them?” More often than I’d liked to admit, I needed to hear and heed my own counsel for others.

Sooner or later, who we are and what our motives are is revealed through our actions and attitudes. Others tend to know things about us before we’re aware of them—especially our parents, spouses, close friends, and children.

Even sociopaths and psychopaths are seen for who they are at some point though they don’t realize it themselves.

People are people. We’re all the same for the most part. Only God knows us and others at the deepest level of our being.

It takes patience and help to draw water from a deep well, as it does to discern motives and values in the heart of a person including ourselves.

Want to know your own or someone else’s motives?

Be patient. Be a good listener. Be humble.

And ask God for discernment and wisdom.

Reflection—

God alone knows us in the deepest sense. If we want to understand our own motives or the motives of others, we need His help. We also need to be patient, humble, and learn to listen well—to God and others.

Prayer Focus—

As you go through your day, ask God to give you discernment and wisdom in your dealings with others and for how you live and interact with others.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Good Sense

A person who gains sense loves himself.

One who guards understanding finds something good.

A person with good sense is patient,

and it is to his credit that he overlooks an offense.

Home and wealth are inherited from fathers,

but a sensible wife comes from the Lord. (Proverbs 19:8, 11, 14 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 19:1-14 GW)


Do we even know what good sense is? It used to be typical for parents to tell children to use good sense. Perhaps the expression is out of touch with our relativistic culture.

Even the expression common sense seems outdated and irrelevant today. But the need for good sense or common sense is greater than ever.

First of all, let’s consider what the phrase good sense means in these verses. In general, it speaks of sound judgment, discernment, or wisdom.

Within the context of Proverbs, the basis of good sense and wisdom is God—the One true and living God of Israel.

His revealed wisdom is found within the Scriptures. During Solomon’s life it included the first five books of the Old Testament, the history of Israel and many of the Psalms up to the time of his father King David.

These three verses give us insight into the benefits of good sense—why it’s valuable—personally, in all our relationships, and at home.

Personally

When we gain good sense and wisdom, we love ourself in the best way. Not in the popular self-indulgent or selfish way. The sense of verse 8 from the original language is to love one’s own soul. Another way of saying it is—the person who gains wisdom is his own best friend.

Relationships with others

An important benefit of wisdom and good sense is to help a person cope with difficult people and situations. The idea of patience here is to be slow to anger and to overlook an offense means to be not easily offended.

An old expression goes, “to take offense is to give it.” Wisdom and good sense enable us not to be hypersensitive and reactive when others say or do things that are offensive or irritate us. This is a valuable benefit in our times!

Home

Lasting wealth and security depends more on who rather than what. This verse is the positive contrast to the verse that precedes it (verse 13). A sensible wife is a gift from God. I know this firsthand! Don’t have a spouse? No problem! This could be a applied to wise parents and children, as well (see download below).

Here’s how I see these verses applied in my life—

The Lord gave me the gift of a sensible and wise wife. She helps me see others in a better light than I tend to do at first. I’ve personally gained from her wisdom and good sense.

Being thankful for her and loving her is like loving my own soul. After all, as it says in the Bible, we are “one flesh” (Gen 2:24), and when I love her as myself (Eph 5:28), I’m not so easily offended when she points out my lesser qualities, if you get what I mean.

Reflection—

How would you apply the insight from these verses in your life? When you gain good sense and wisdom, it’s much easier to live with ourselves, others, and those in our family.

Prayer Focus—

Start each day being thankful and ask the Lord for good sense and wisdom. God promises to give us wisdom when we ask Him for it (James 1:5). Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance on how to benefit from it in all your relationships.

©Word-Strong_2018


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What Are You Thankful For?

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What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Are you thankful?

Each Thanksgiving it’s good to take stock of all we have to be thankful for in the midst of all the hoopla of the weekend—food, family, friends, football, and Black Friday.

Sadly, a holiday set aside for national gratitude and reflection has been usurped. It's typically referred to as Turkey-Day and become an excuse for excessive eating, spending, football watching, and beer drinking. 

It's easy to become cynical and pessimistic about the state of our nation and the world around us. Inevitably, this breeds the same in our heart and mind, permeates our thinking, and leaks out through our words.

The only solution is a resolve to choose to be thankful—grateful for what is good in our life.

A little history

This was the intent of the first national observance by President George Washington and the proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. The observance of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November was set in 1941 by an act of Congress and there’s much more to the history of Thanksgiving in America.

Perhaps it's my 60's-era perception of it, but it seems like the whole weekend has become way too focused on materialistic pursuits.

Black Friday used to start at 5:00 am but now it starts at midnight, maybe even earlier. The weekend bargains are capped-off with Cyber Monday. Sadly, I must admit, I'm not immune to it. But it still bothers me to be so preoccupied and seduced by it all.

I choose to be grateful

Sad, mad, or glad? It's a choice. So, I'll choose to be glad through gratefulness.

Some of my favorite verses in the Bible on thankfulness are found in Colossians 3:15-17. I’m intrigued how within each admonition of these three verses (in most versions) is the exhortation to be thankful. And a practical element of these verses speaks to how we are made.

In the margin of my Bible I wrote three words— heart, mind, and body.

Thankfulness in Heart, Mind, and Body

  • Heart— The encouragement of verse 15 is to let the Lord's peace rule—like a football referee—in our heart and be thankful.

  • Mind— The next verse admonishes us to let God's Word dwell—live in and permeate—our thoughts in a full and deep way. And don't forget—with thankfulness!

  • Body— And finally, whatever you do—words, deeds, actions—do it so God is honored in your life example. Again, do it with thankfulness.

This isn't a self-help formula. It says "let…"—allow this attitude to govern and prevail in your heart, mind, and actions. It's a choice. You can choose to be thankful every day not just one day out of the year!

What input do you choose for what rules your heart, mind, and actions? The kingdom of the world around you or God's kingdom? Cynicism or thankfulness?

I know what I choose, especially when I find myself drifting into the prison of pessimism—I choose the prism of praise. It's healthier and much more fun.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

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.

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. (Col 3:15-17 NIV84)

Extreme Opposites

Whoever approves of wicked people

and whoever condemns righteous people is disgusting to the Lord.

To punish an innocent person is not good.

To strike down noble people is not right. (Proverbs 17:15, 26 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 17:15-28 GW)


Polarization is the current buzzword used to describe the toxic political and social environment of America. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground based on the loud rhetoric that shouts down any differing opinions.

Even a sense of what is right and wrong is in question. Truth and justice have become relative terms dependent on personal persuasions and feelings.

This is how it appears on the surface but I don’t believe it’s accurate. The north and south poles are at opposite ends of the earth but small in comparison to the world in between.

When the focus on a certain issue or concern emphasizes an extreme perspective, it comes at the cost of the truth. Focus on two opposite extremes obscures the truth which exists somewhere in between the extreme positions.

If this becomes the norm rather than the exception to the rule, truth and justice are set aside and replaced with a distortion of what’s true and just.

Then, those who are guilty and corrupt are tolerated while those who are innocent and righteous are ignored or crushed and oppressed.

This disgusts the Lord and it ought to do the same for those of us who trust in Him.

Cultural shifts take place frequently. A wind of new wisdom and insight blows in and people get swept up and away with whatever the popular current may be. This is not new. History reminds us of this if we pay attention to it.

But, when the cultural current flips our moral standards upside down and ethics are mocked—the people of God must take action.

“What can we do about it,” you might ask?

We need to stand firm in what we know to be right and true and good. This is a continuing message in Proverbs (Prov 1:1-7). This is what the Lord expects of those who trust in Him.

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Does it sound too simplistic, even weak? It isn’t.

Try standing in a swift-moving stream while standing on a rocky and sandy riverbed. You’ll find it’s not so easy.

How about standing in the ocean in knee-deep water where the waves break near the shore with the back and forth movement of the tide? If you’re not careful, it will knock you down and pull you out into deeper water and stronger waves.

Stand firm!

Stand firm in what is right and true and just. Stand up for the innocent and oppressed. Move beyond ideology and rhetoric when confronted with a distortion of truth and justice.

As it says in the book of Romans—

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good. (Rom 12:21 GW)

This is difficult to do in many real-life circumstances but God will honor it. The more you and I stand firm, the stronger we become.

Reflection—

We need to stand firm in what we know to be right and true and good. The Lord expects all people who trust in Him to do this. Let’s move beyond ideology and rhetoric when confronted with a distortion of truth and justice.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for God to make the truth of His written word more clear to you, especially when He speaks of how we are to live and act as His living representatives in this world. Ask for discernment, discretion, and wisdom for how to stand firm for what is good, true, right, and just.

©Word-Strong_2018


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When Fear Is Strong

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In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,

and his children will have a place of refuge.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life

to turn ⌊one⌋ away from the grasp of death. (Proverbs 14:26-27 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 14:14-33 GW)


The fear of God is often misunderstood. Western culture typically portrays fear as a weakness. It's certainly not seen as a strength. Think of the stories in horror and sci-fi movies that feed off fear as the main attraction and intrigue to keep viewers watching.

Some relegate the fear of God to being an Old Testament concept that no longer applies to followers of Jesus under the New Covenant of grace.

After all, when we see Jesus in the Gospels, we see a man who gives Himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of humanity—a gift of perfect love, and who heals people and has concern for the outcasts.

2 different fears

It's common for people to confuse the general idea of fear with the fear of God but they're different. The fear of God is not what is more typically in mind which is a fear of anxiety.

The simplest definition of the fear of God is reverence. But the fear of God, as expressed in several places in the Bible, speaks of respect, awe, holiness, and so much more. Similar phrases are found throughout the Bible, such as godly fear or the fear of the Lord, probably more than you might think. 

In these verses in Proverbs, the fear of God is "a fountain of life," and a place of refuge and strong confidence. The fear of God as a fountain of life is based in relationship with God and a personal response to His sovereignty as Almighty God.

The "strong confidence" comes from a trust in God because of who He is—much like a young child who looks up to and trusts in the strength of a parent. How many times has a child said something like, "My dad is bigger and stronger than your dad!"

Many times in Scripture, the Lord is described as a place of refuge. This is not an actual physical place of security but a sense of safety and rest based on a trusting relationship with God. God is sovereign, He rules over all and is greater than all and He can always be trusted.

How can the fear of God be a "fountain of life?"

God is the Creator and Originator of all life. When a person has a worshipful awe and respect of God, they tap into the One who truly holds our life in His hands, as the children's song goes.

Here is something Jesus said about fearing God and anxious fear—

Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission. Every hair on your head has been counted. Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows. (Matt 10:28-31 GW)

Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others. So, the fear of God—reverence for God—is a counter to anxious fear.

This is what the apostle John refers to when he says—

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

One last thought on the fear of God as a fountain of life—the book of Proverbs begins with this—

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Prov 1:7 GW)

The fear of God—or the fear of the Lord—is a loving awe and respect for Him—a perfect love that pushes out anxious fear when we choose to trust in the Lord.

(see below for more on the fear of God)

Reflection—

Which do you choose to rule over your heart and life? Anxious fear or the fear of God? Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others.

Prayer Focus—

If anxious fear seems to have a strong grip in your life, consciously and prayerfully remind yourself of God's greatness, His sovereignty over all, and His perfect love. Look up all the references to the fear of God (fear of the Lord) and consider these truths as you pray and entrust your life to the Lord.

©Word-Strong_2018


Here are some previous posts related to the fear of God—

The Purpose and Value of Proverbs

Honor and Respect

Taste and See

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