Monday, June 30, 2014

bound by sin - freed by wisdom

The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. 

Proverbs 5:22-23

Part of wisdom's reward is avoiding this fate. Sin is cruel. It binds and restricts while promising us freedom. It hurts and destroys us. Yet, there is a better way. God's wisdom can lead us far beyond this sort of experience.

Sin always promises what it cannot give. What is advertised as freedom is a kind of slavery. What seems like a fun choice becomes a controlling addiction. What promises "the good life" leads to death.

But fearing God, honoring His Word, obeying His commands and disciplining ourselves can lead us to avoid this. We don't have to be bound in sin's cycle of addictive pain. We can be set free by the wisdom of God! This is a compelling commitment. This is a vision for life that I will accept. I have found joy in it all my life and will continue to do so by God's grace.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

the dawn of wisdom

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. 

Proverbs 4:18

Wisdom will light the way for those who commit to following God's truth. I find that scripture is that light for me. With it I can see the path. Without it I am guessing at direction and stumbling in the dark. And the careful commitment to the "slow drip" of scriptural wisdom in my life has kept the path well lit. Any wrong choices on my part stem from not heeding to the light the God shed on my situations by His Word.

As I write this, dawn is breaking in the east. Soon the full light of a summer morning will be upon me. What started with a faint glow that awakened the birds will break into bright day. And I will not escape the heat and light of the risen sun.

And so it is with the wisdom from God's Word. It will illuminate and dominate my day in a glorious glow, and as I trust it and follow God's wisdom, it will light my way all the day long. God's truth reveals the way and my path gets brighter with each thought that I give to the wisdom that God gives.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

promises of wisdom

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. 

Proverbs 3:1-2

God's wisdom gives life. That is the promise given here to the person who will commit to diligent and personal obedience to the truth of God's wisdom. If we keep the principles of Proverbs in mind and bend our hearts to obey them, we will be blessed.

Three blessings are promised to us. First we are told we will be blessed with "length of days". I think this is more than longevity (given the other blessings mentioned) and more about a satisfying fullness to each day we live. As a general observation, God's wisdom brings satisfaction.

We are also promised "years of life". This is a full life. God promises to extend our lives through the practice of wisdom. Again, this is a general promise.

The final blessing is peace... peace with God and with others. God's wisdom brings a stability to life relationships that our selfish personalities will never know without God.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Giver of Wisdom

For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 

Proverbs 2:6

O Lord

Giver of wisdom

grant me understanding

so that I can discern

Your ways

Direct me in

Your paths

so that I may serv You 

in my days

My God

Who is all wise

May I make the best

choice in the 

best way

May I use words

that show that

I live out 

what You say

Wise Father

show the truth

to me in Your Word

so that in its pages

I may stay

Keep my path

straight so that

I will stay true

and never stray


Monday, June 23, 2014

wisdom for the wise

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 

Proverbs 1:5-6

Proverbs is written with a purpose. The collected sayings of Solomon and of other wise sages from Israel's past is meant to guide the reader into wisdom, learning, and life guidance. It is a source for "life coaching", in today's vernacular.

The book of Proverbs assumes that a wise person wants to increase in life wisdom. It calls us all to consider that we need guidance beyond just our own individual perspectives. And thus wisdom literature can help us grow. But only the wise will admit the need and thus learn, grow, and personally profit from the benefits of God's wisdom.

Success in life should be measured by the wisdom of The Lord living in a person. And that is an assumption of this book as well. Wealth, fame, personal pride, achievements... all are meaningless and amount to nothing without the wisdom of God guiding us.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

the last word on praise

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! 

Psalm 150:6

This is literally the last word on the Book of Psalms. And there is no more fitting way to end it. This collection of 150 songs of praise uses the gamut of human experience to Praise The Lord! The full palette of human emotion is mixed with the truth of God and His care to bring hearts to behold Him and worship.

We were made to worship The Lord. The psalms assume this and call us to live a life of worship. A life devoted first and always to God will praise The Lord with the breath that it has. God is worthy of that sort of devotion.

Worship is a daily delight, not a Sunday morning duty to drudge through. And that is the best part of praise. When it is our life and our breath, it is a powerful, circumstance-changing source of life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

a faith that sings

Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! 

Psalm 149:1

A non-Christian skeptic recently asked me why Christians sing in their gatherings. She had been to other meetings of other faiths and philosophical groups. She attended secular lectures and atheist "dialogues". But she could not understand what motivated Christians to sing about God and the truth that they claim to have. She thought it embarassed our message. It was odd to her since she was trying so hard to be a pure secularist.

I agreed with her that it seemed odd from a certain viewpoint. And then I proceded to explain that Christians also engage faith at a heart level, not just as a knowledge base. That kind of engagement expresses itself in the whole person, including emotion. And that is what is behind the singing of songs of praise. We have scriptures in passages like this one that encourage us, even command us, to sing.

We are not, however, exclusively emotion. Christians find their faith engaging all of their lives, their hearts, their intellects, their actions, and their lifestyles. It is a good thing to have Christianity engaging the heart. We were made for it. It brings joy, comfort, peace, and strength. It is great to be always ready to sing to The Lord a new song!

Monday, June 16, 2014

CREATION: wonder & worship

Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. 

Psalm 148:5-6

At every opportunity that the Bible reveals God as Creator, it does so in worshipful terms, pointing to His mighty power. The issue is not so much just origins as it is praise. God made the universe by the power of His own will and word. He commands it and it happens. And His will is never unheeded by His creation.

I think that the focus of most creation debates misses the chance to do what this Psalm describes. We fail to praise God for what He has done. Instead we focus on museum exhibits, intellectual arguments, and trying to "scientize" the wonder of God's story of creation... a sacred story with deeper truths than just the facts.

I will stick with the wonder. God made a vast universe by His Word. I have no reason to doubt that based on what God has done for me. He fashioned people on a small dot of a planet. That observation conforms with reality and with observations today. And it all gives Him praise. It always has. It always will. No human attempts at an alternate explanation will ever change that.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Immense & Intense

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 

Psalm 147:3-4

God is as deep in His compassion as He is great in His power. The same God Who created the universe and gives each star in every galaxy its own name also tenderly cares for each person's pain on this planet. He controls the cosmos yet cares when a tear falls.

I am overwhelmed by the immensity of God as well as the intensity of His love. It is because I am so weak and so imperfect in my love that these truths get at me. I could not name the fraction of the stars I can see on a clear summer's night. I can barely understand the needs and pains of my own family members. But God gives a name to each new star that bursts into light. He reaches out to every heartache of every person.


You are immense and intense. And that powerful individual love arrests my thinking today. It leads to worship and wonder at Your creative care.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

only one trust

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. 

Psalm 146:3

People, even powerful people, cannot save you. The admonition of this scripture is to not place ultimate faith in the systems of this world. They are only illusions of happiness. 

Wealth, fame, power, and politics all look like paths to personal satisfication. But they end up being disappointments because they cannot help with our deepest personal needs and longings. They cannot save us. Only God can do that.

So the challenge is to evaluate just where I put my trust. And I must cultivate a faith that trusts God and keeps healthy suspicions about the ways of this world. Why? Because faith is a real issue. And putting faith in pure naturalism or in human efforts, no matter how well-intentioned, is a recipe for eternal, spiritual faiture.

As a Christian, I have only one ultimate trust. My faith is in Christ. I hold my belief in the gospel as a supreme shaper of all things and the ground of my existence. And in God alone will I trust. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

1971 to 2014

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. 

Psalm 145:4

As I think about this verse, I am both encouraged and challenged. I am encouraged by my past because this generational impact of the gospel reached to me through the lives of those who came before me. I understood the gospel as a boy because someone declared the greatness of God to my generation. That was in 1971... a lifetime ago at this point for me.

The challenge is to continue to declare God's mighty works to the next generation... a generation so distracted and confused. I'd like to say that I have done that well. But I can't know that... at least I can't know the reception of the gospel. I can faithfully declare the gospel. It is up to God's Spirit to do the rest.

I have seen the gospel become the light and salvation of many. But I have also seen strong resistance to the gospel from the generations following me. Resistance has been true of every generation, but today it is a much more aggressive resistance than when I was growing up. That is why people need to see God at work in my life. I know He will draw people to Himself (not to me) as I am faithful to declare and to show His love in my life.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Blessed by God

Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD! 

Psalm 144:15

David writes about the longing for all the covenant blessings to come to Israel. He begins with a request for God to grant him victory over the nation's foes. He moves on to describe God's blessings in the form of healthy sons and daughters, and abundance of grain and produce, and healthy livestock. These were all promised to Israel as they obeyed God's Law.

In these blessings the nation thrived. And everyone knew the care of The Lord upon them in tangible ways. They knew God was the source of such abundance. And they worshiped the Giver of all good things.

So it is today. Every good and perfect gift still comes from above! God blesses me with the stuff of this life and the assurance of eternal life. And it moves me to praise, as it should.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

light I need

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. 

Psalm 143:8

David never wanted to be without God's clear presence, care, and direction. His plea to The Lord was for God to keep daily reminders of faithful love before him. He asked for God's guiding hand to keep His will in front of him so that divine direction led him forward at all times.

I too want to know God's steadfast love and clear direction. It is why a morning investment in the pages of scripture is always worth the time it takes to begin my day in the word and in prayer. As magenta glows in the east at sunrise, so God's faithful love shines a light on my day. My goals and plans always need the illumination of God's truth in order to align with God's purposes.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

handling hard times

With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. 

Psalm 142:1-2

The inscription to this psalm attributes this to David who wrote it while in a cave, probably hiding from the wrath of king Saul. This was why David cried out to God for mercy. His life was threatened. The complaint and trouble that he talked to God about in his prayers were found in this situation where David ran for his life as a fugitive warrior.

So we are shown how to handle the hard stuff: Don't. Pray about it instead. Give your difficulties over to God. Don't try to use your own intellect or abilities to manage the situation. Wrestle through the pain by talking to God about it. Turn to trusting The Lord, not to your own power to perform. Expect that God will take care of it. He is wiser and stronger than you are!

If David could trust in God by prayer while in the cold, dark stone of a Judean cave, I think that I can trust Him with my uncertainties. When my life is hard or simply does not make sense, or when things happen that are adverse and are not what I ever wanted, I will pray. I WILL pray. I will PRAY. It is the best way.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

struck by a good man

Let a righteous man strike me-it is a kindness; let him rebuke me-it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds. 

Psalm 141:5

I need someone

who is brave enough

who loves with the right stuff

to tell me I am wrong

so that I can turn

from sin or error stray

and return to the way

I value the words

and the truth that stings

but healing brings

to my errant soul

joy in being restored

someone must stand

with truth and love

wisdom from above

peace-bringing friend

rebukes stopping me in my sin

from evil doing me in

struck by a good man

I will know peace

and forgiveness' release

I no longer turn away

but my sin I now spurn

thanking God, I return

Monday, June 2, 2014

You Never Let Me Down

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence. 

Psalm 140:12-13

Sometimes those who are faithful to God will find themselves afflicted by the actions of sinful people. It is inevitable. The world system of human design and implementation is broken. People will hurt people. But God is never absent from such moments. He is always there.

God knows that our system is broken. That is why He will maintain the cause of the afflicted person. He hears our prayers. He brings justice. It is always there in Christ, and God never leaves even His most persecuted children.

The God Who heals us when we are caught up in society's broken grip always deserves our praise. He will keep us. He will make His presence real and strong in our most difficult moments. That is what God does for us. In Him is our everlasting trust. He will never let us down.

And now, an Andy Gullahorn song that reminds us that God never lets us down.