Personal Faith

Called Out

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Does not wisdom call out?

Does not understanding raise its voice?

⌊Wisdom⌋ takes its stand on high ground,

by the wayside where the roads meet,

near the gates to the city.

At the entrance ⌊wisdom⌋ sings its song,

“I am calling to all of you, and my appeal is to all people." (Proverbs 8:1-4 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 8:1-11 GW)


Many voices call out to us—to be heard—to capture our attention. Some are audible. Most are not.

We may need to listen to or shun the subtle and silent voices. Some of these are our conscience, God's voice through His Spirit and His Word, our own base, selfish nature, or the devil—our adversary and the enemy of our soul.

Our conscience is a subtle and silent voice we need to hear and heed. When we don't, we pay for it in the long run. Why? Because of choices we make or don't make in response to our conscience. When we ignore or shut out our conscience, we become deaf and hardened to it.

It's somewhat like the children's story of the boy who cried wolf. When a wolf did come, the people ignored his cry for help, thinking it was another false alarm. 

When our conscience—empowered with the wisdom of God—calls out to warn us, we need to hear and respond to it. Why? Because there is a wolf looking for an opportunity to pounce on us and tear us apart.

The wisdom of God is able to give us understanding and help us make sense of what confuses and confounds others. Its value is greater than silver, gold, or precious jewels—and yes, even cryptocurrency.

I've learned this lesson the hard way a few times. I remember buying a new car contrary to the check from my conscience and input of my wife. A few months later I sold it—at a small loss—when the Lord confirmed that my wife and I would be moving overseas for ministry.

The apostle James reminds us to ask God for wisdom when we lack it and he will generously give it to us (James 1:5). Or, we can be foolish and gullible and pay the price of our ignorance.

Listen. Wisdom is calling out. She's calling us out from the crowd who follow along with everyone else. When we listen to Wisdom—God's wisdom—we gain insight, knowledge, understanding, and foresight.

Reflection—

Wisdom is calling out. Can you hear her? Are you listening? She will give you insight, knowledge, understanding, and foresight that will benefit your daily life.

Prayer Focus—

Spend time each day listening in prayer. Put aside your list of needs and requests and take some time to just listen. God will speak wisdom to you if you're willing to listen.

©Word-Strong_2018


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My Sister—Wisdom

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My son, pay attention to my words. Treasure my commands that are within you.

Obey my commands so that you may live.

Follow my teachings just as you protect the pupil of your eye.

Tie them on your fingers. Write them on the tablet of your heart.

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister.” Give the name “my relative” to understanding

in order to guard yourself from an adulterous woman,

from a loose woman with her smooth talk. (Proverbs 7:1-5 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 7:1-27 GW)


Siblings have a unique relationship. It's more than the relationship of best friends—although I know siblings who are truly best friends. I've seen this with my mom and her sister and my own daughters. This can also be true of brothers and some brother-sister relationships.

The relationship of siblings is unique because they share similar DNA. This can be a good and bad thing and leads to what I call the love-hate element of sibling relationships. They can be each other's protectors or advocates then arch-enemies within minutes of each role.

I've seen this over and over again in my own family and with other siblings. It's no coincidence that Solomon says to call wisdom a sister—a close member of the immediate family. It characterizes the somewhat love-hate relationship we all have with doing the right thing at the right time.

Once again, this chapter is an admonition spoken by a father to a son. The father tells the son to stay attentive and focused on wisdom as if his life depended on it—because it does.

The father then tells an allegorical story of a young man who didn't keep wisdom in focus and falls prey to the smooth seductiveness of an unfaithful woman. The illustration pits loyalty to wisdom in contrast to the temptation that leads to unfaithfulness, which leads to destruction. 

Seduction is a process. It's not a simple choice but involves a series of opportunities where a wise choice could be made. When wise choices are not made the pull into doing something unwise grows with intensity. Eventually, an inescapable trap is set.

Immorality is a stereotypical example of temptation. But temptation can come in many areas of our lives and in many ways. We can be tempted to do something that jeopardizes our health, allows us to get away with something, or to seek influence or power for selfish reasons.

Temptations focus on anything that is a weak point or shortcoming in us. It's similar to the physical effect of stress. Stress can bring on migraines, backaches, an upset stomach, or fatigue. Once those set in, we lose the battle with stress.

God's Spirit can tap into any reserve of God's wisdom in us to awaken us to subtle dangers and all forms of temptation. Understanding spiritual truth gives us the ability to see beyond the immediate to the end result of what tempts us.

The discipline of keeping wisdom close to you like a sister can help you win the daily battles you face in life and prevent you from falling headlong into various temptations.

Reflection—

It's easier to resist the subtle pull of temptation in the beginning than later when it gets stronger. Better yet, to avoid a common temptation altogether is the wisest of all choices.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God to show you how He has already kept you from falling into temptation. Also, dailyask His help to be aware of and avoid whatever temptations may cross your path.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Avoiding Burnt Clothes and Burned Feet

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My son, obey the command of your father, and do not disregard the teachings of your mother.

Fasten them on your heart forever. Hang them around your neck.

When you walk around, they will lead you.

When you lie down, they will watch over you.

When you wake up, they will talk to you

because the command is a lamp, the teachings are a light,

and the warnings from discipline are the path of life (Proverbs 6:20-23 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 6:20-35 GW)


The early chapters of Proverbs have several admonitions addressed to a son but they are not gender-specific. Yes, it sure seems like it but they were written during ancient times. Women did not have the place they have now in most societies. 

Many admonitions also focus on the dangers of immoral women, which sounds hypocritical coming from King Solomon who had a thousand wives and concubines. But figurative language is used a lot to emphasize a point, even overstating it.

The main point of this admonition is to avoid a destructive path by remaining on the path of life enlightened by God's Law. This is illustrated by getting involved with an immoral and seductive woman, which leads to several things beyond the person's control.

A person who seeks out a prostitute is reduced to "the price of a loaf of bread." But a man who commits adultery hands his life to the woman. This gives us a picture of the ripple effect of sin. It's not limited to one action but sets in motion a series of reactions.

If you throw a stone in a small pond, ripples go out in concentric circles from the entry point of the stone. But these ripples also return back to the center point as they rebound from the edge of the pond.

Graphic and painful figures of fire burning clothes and feet are given to emphasize the nature of committing adultery with your neighbor's spouse. Once a fire starts it spreads quickly and destructively—whether it's catching your clothes on fire, a building, or spreading through a field or forest.

The point of the illustration is that there's no resolution to the problem. The offended spouse's jealousy can't be quenched in any way. As a pastor, I've seen this play out in the lives of several people over the years. Things can never go back to how they were before.

So, how does this relate to present time and what are other destructive paths to avoid? Prevention is powerful. Avoidance is often a smart and valuable tactic when it comes to temptations or potentially compromising relationships and situations.

The truth of God—a lamp and a light that reveals the path of life—needs to be embedded and alive in our minds and hearts if we want to avoid burnt clothes and burned feet. God's Word comes alive and gets embedded in us as we read, reflect on, and apply its truth.

This requires discipline on our part—that's the difficult thing. But developing discipline is much easier than an attempt to put out a fire that's out of control.

Reflection—

Consider the paths you've taken in life so far. Are there some you wish you'd avoided? Learn from your mistakes and let them be motivation for you to develop the discipline to avoid destructive paths and stay on the path of life.

Prayer Focus—

Read God's Word prayerfully. As you read, ask God to give you the insight to understand it and for wisdom to see how to apply it in your life.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Good Intentions and No Ambition

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[When] you are trapped by the words of your own mouth, caught by your own promise.

Do the following things, my son, so that you may free yourself, because you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:

Humble yourself, and pester your neighbor.

Free yourself like a gazelle from the hand of a hunter....

How long will you lie there, you lazy bum? When will you get up from your sleep?

“Just a little sleep, just a little slumber, just a little nap.”

Then your poverty will come ⌊to you⌋ like a drifter, and your need will come ⌊to you⌋ like a bandit. (Proverbs 6:2-3, 5, 9-11 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 6:1-11 GW)


An old English proverb says the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Intentions are like ambitions without action. Unless there is follow-through, intentions become rash commitments or poorly conceived plans.

A common example is the New Year's resolution that sounds good and useful but isn't carried out or sustained. Intentions can be rash—not thought through carefully or without consideration of possible consequences.

How often have you told someone you'd pray for them but forgotten to do it? It's embarrassing when you see them and they say, "Thanks for praying for me!" It's then you realize you didn't follow through on your intention to pray.

Neither is writing out a to-do list the same as taking action to do those things.

The two admonitions in these first 11 verses of Chapter 6 may not seem related but they're like intentions—either a rashly made promise or laziness—a lack of ambition and follow through.

In the first situation, the person means well but makes a foolish commitment. The wise thing is to humble oneself at the cost of our pride and annul the promise we can't keep. Better to admit wrong than be proud and foolish.

The second illustration reminds us of the danger of good intentions with no action. When this becomes a habit the consequences are dire. It's like when you get too much sleep—you wake up groggy and unmotivated. Ambition becomes a daydream that never wakes.

Don't make rash promises you can't or won't keep. Don't make a habit of putting off what you need to do. Be wise and be diligent!

You're more likely to be blessed and a blessing to others when you are both wise and diligent.

Reflection—

If you find yourself making rash decisions or committing to things you can't follow through on, then make a point to discipline yourself to think before you speak. Also, discipline yourself to do more than just think about doing something—do it!

Prayer Focus—

Pray for wisdom and include the Lord in your decision making—even with small decisions. Commit your goals, ideas, and plans to the Lord on a daily basis and ask for wisdom and clarity on how to move forward with them.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Whose Water Are You Drinking?

The Bible is anything but boring. It's filled with stories that rival the pop sci-fi, action, adventure, and mystery books and movies of today. Some Scripture is graphic with both sexual and violent encounters that would require ratings for "mature audiences only" if put on a TV or movie screen.

The blunt and honest account of many stories, poetry, and prose found in the Bible confound many. The depravity of people is not sugar-coated. There's no spiritual spin on God's part.