Check out a few more practical reminders from the book of Proverbs.
5. Be Honest
Proverbs 11:1 (NASB) says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”
According to one survey 90% of children have grasped the concept of lying by aged 4. According to another survey, of those who replied affirmative to lying, 86% of those lies are told to parents, 75% to friends, 73% to siblings, 69% to spouses. Crazy right?
We’ve convinced ourselves that a “little white lie” never hurt anyone. Here’s the problem with a culture of dishonesty. We cheat ourselves out of the process of becoming fully developed Christ followers. What we’re looking for when we lie is a shortcut. We’re looking for a way to basically have the same outcome with less effort and we do this because we’ve bought into the bigger lie that, “that’s just the way the world works”.
Christian read these next words slowly, "As a Christ follower you don’t operate in the same economy as the rest of the world. You are called to something higher."
“Well Andy, you don’t understand, things were getting tough at work and I had to fudge a little here and there to make the numbers match.”
Or maybe you've rationalized it this way, “My kid was getting a little out of control so I had to promise them some things I had no intention of actually doing, but they were just so aggravating, I told them what they wanted to hear.”
You see we’ve convinced ourselves that lying is a healthy method for dealing with stress and getting out of a pinch. But listen to what Romans 5:3-4 (NASB) says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope…”
Dishonesty is a short-cut that will only serve to cheat us from developing into the men and women God has called us to be.
6. Surround Yourself With Wise People
Proverbs 14:7 (NASB) says, “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.”
This is the heart of the words I heard from my mother on countless occasions as a teenager, “Andy, you are who you hang out with.” It’s a lesson that we as parents likely share with our kids on a regular basis. Our goal of course is to protect our kids and teenagers from falling in with the wrong crowd, we want to shield them from a lifetime of heartache and wrong choices so we closely monitor our kid’s friends, we scroll their text messages and social media feeds keeping a close eye on any activity that might indicate that they are hanging with the wrong crowd or getting into something that they shouldn’t.
But I wonder how we’re doing at applying this same principle to our lives as adults? How are we doing at discerning words of knowledge? You know sometimes we read a verse like this and we focus in on the, “leave the presence of a fool” portion and that’s true, we should surround ourselves with wise people. But how do we know if we’re being influenced by foolishness? How do we know if we’re in the presence of foolishness?
The litmus test for whether or not foolishness is present is whether or not we are discerning words of knowledge. What’s the word of knowledge? The word of knowledge is God’s Word
"If we’re not discerning words of knowledge, if we’re unable to discern God’s Word, if we’re not hearing from God, if we’re not perceiving the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives perhaps we’ve allowed foolish people, foolish ideas and foolish ways of thinking into our hearts and minds and that foolishness has started to outweigh the wisdom that comes from above."
What do I mean by foolishness? When compared to the truth of God’s Word, foolishness is the latest personality test. When compared to the truth of God’s Word foolishness is the latest magazine article that’s supposed to revolutionize our marriage. When compared to the truth of God’s Word foolishness is the endless stream of social media opinions telling you how you should feel about what’s happening in our world.
Everything is foolishness when compared with the truth and righteousness of God’s Word. We spend countless hours safeguarding our kids and teenagers and reminding them that they are who they hang out with but allow me to remind us as adults that we are who and what we allow into our hearts and minds.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Check out two more practical reminders from the book of Proverbs. If you missed the first two, you can check those out here.
3. Run From Temptation.
Proverbs 5:8 (NASB) says,“Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house…”
Proverbs 7:21-23 (NASB) says, “With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life.”
Perhaps you can recall the “less than wise” years of your life where you failed to map out anything beyond point A. You saw something in front of you and you just went for it. You failed to realize that A leads to B and that B leads to C and C isn’t so good. What at first appeared to be a good idea, what at first appeared to not bring any harm to anyone suddenly takes a turn and we find ourselves being sucked into a series of choices that develops into a lifestyle, a lifestyle that certainly doesn’t bring glory to God.
Why do we flirt with temptation? I want to suggest to you that we do so because we fail to think critically about our choices.
"Figuratively speaking we keep our heads down and we shuffle along only lifting our gaze to see the heels of those right in front of us, while we never stop to lift our eyes enough to see what’s coming on the horizon."
God’s Word maps out for us a model that encourages us to identify those temptations in our lives and to not make an effort to just skirt around them but rather to completely steer clear of them all together. The passage in Proverbs 7 speaks of the stag not being killed instantly but first being trapped. Likewise, the bird is first ensnared. In the same way you and I are cautioned to avoid at all costs those things that would lure us towards evil, we are called to avoid those areas that at first seem harmless but ultimately serve to trap us and bind us up in sin. Flee from temptation.
4. Don’t Hold Grudges
Proverbs 10:12 (NASB) says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.”
This doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone but conflict is a normal part of our lives. We experience conflict at work, at home with our spouses, with our kids, with our crazy in-laws, with friends, we experience conflict within the church.
Allow me to suggest that the conflict we experience in our lives doesn’t have anything to do with any of those people. It’s not sourced in your moody spouse or your misbehaving kids or your jerk of a boss.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us that conflict is sourced in the adversary of our souls. 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB) says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Learning to not hold a grudge becomes a lot easier when we realize that it’s not really about me versus them. It’s not about me getting my way or being mad that they got their way.
When we realize that it’s really about the devil’s desire to sow discord, we suddenly understand the long-term negative impact that our grudge has not just on the relationship (horizontal) but also on our relationship (vertical).
We have to figure out through the power of the Holy Spirit to sow not hatred but love into the lives of those we disagree with and that’s accomplished through realizing that our tongues carry power. James 3:5 (NASB) says, “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!”
We must come to a better understanding of the power of uncontrolled anger in our lives. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NASB) says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
We must learn to listen more. James 1:19 (NASB) says, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…”
We must learn to forgive as we have been forgiven. Ephesians 4:32 (NASB) says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Check out these two quick thoughts from the book of Proverbs.
1. Wise Men Never Stop Learning. Proverbs 1:5 (NASB) says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.”
Kari Jobe sings a song entitled, “The More I Seek You” and I love the lyrics because it paints a perfect picture of this idea.
The more I seek you, the more I find you
The more I find you, the more I love you.
I want to sit at your feet, drink from the cup in your hand
Lay back against you and breathe, feel your heart beat
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand
melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming.
Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Jesus said, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28 (NASB)
“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB)
In case you have forgotten, allow me to remind you that God gave you His Word that you might have a roadmap of how best to follow Him. Seek the wisdom that is mapped out in His Word. God gave you the church that you might seek the wisdom of those who have traveled the road before you and ultimately God has given you the Holy Spirit that you might be continually be directed in the paths He would have you take.
How are you continuing to learn?
2. Stay Humble. Proverbs 3:7 (NASB) says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
I think we could all agree that we live in a society that doesn’t place a high value on humility. If you watch or listen to any level of news reporting, ranging from politics to sports to current events, television, radio and internet are jammed full of talking heads that espouse their opinions as facts. Seldom do you hear someone even acknowledge the possibility that their idea or their opinion could be wrong.
Listen, you are entitled to your opinion. You can prefer this political party over that one. You can prefer this team to win the Super Bowl over that team. You can prefer this city tax plan over that city tax plan.
"Your preference is your preference but when your preference for that party, that team or that city tax policy brings with it a lack of love and a genuine concern for the spiritual well-being of other people you have gone astray. When you become more passionate about your opinions than demonstrating the love of Christ to those around you, you have allowed evil to enter in to your heart."
I am a passionate person, I’ve got opinions on things I didn’t even know that I cared about. But here’s the thing, those are just my opinions. You see we have started to confuse our opinions with the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is fact. My opinion is not.
What would it look like for us dial back our social media opinions on this or that and to ramp us our declaration of the truth of God’s Word? What if instead of flooding social media with our opinions we chose to flood social media with Scripture and post about the goodness of God and His faithfulness to us in the midst of struggle. Here’s my encouragement to us on this topic. Perhaps we should seek ways to become more humble in our own opinions and at the same time more confident in our declaration of God’s Word and God’s truth.
What would it look like for you to become more humble in your opinions and more confident in your declaration of God's truth in your life?
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I finished reading "Trazan of the Apes" and the author's plan to bait the reader into reading the next in the series worked perfectly, I was hooked. I quickly jumped online and filtered my way through Burroughs' original copies priced in the thousands and eventually made my down to the less than $10 reprints of book number two, "The Return of Tarzan". Thanks to Amazon Prime I started reading book two in just under 36 hours.
The story picks up exactly where book one ends with Tarzan feeling sorrowful yet confident with his choice to forsake his birthright in the name of love for one Jane Porter. He finds himself with his friend D'Arnot in Paris reliving his growing up years in the jungles of Africa. As Tarzan speaks of his adoptive mother Kala, the she-ape he speaks with words that fail to connect to the heart of the other human man listening to him. D'Arnot cannot understand Tarzan's unwavering love for and vast sorrow over the loss of Kala the she-ape. To D'Arnot she was just an ape. To Tazan she was his mother.
As I read through this exchange I came across a powerful line that immediately reminded me of God's outlook on you and I as His children. Tarzan said, "To you, my friend, she would have appeared a hideous and ugly creature, but to me she was beautiful--so gloriously does love transfigure its object. And so I am perfectly content to remain forever the son of Kala, the she-ape."
It's my belief that God views you and I in much the same way. While others can perhaps view us as hideous and ugly, God sees something much deeper. God sees beyond what we are to what we could be. God doesn't see us as we see ourselves, He doesn't even see us as we hope to one day see ourselves. He sees us in perfectly clarity as we were created to be. God sees past your hideous behavior, past your ugly actions and hurtful words and still He chooses to love us.
Paul tells the church at Philippi in Philippians 1:6, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." In other words, God sees the completed version of you. He knows you as you will one day be. God isn't finished with you yet. What others see as an incomplete piece of junk, God, because of His great love for you, sees as perfection. May we remain content to forever be sons and daughters of the Most High God. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I often read what most would consider weird books. Perhaps a better description would be boring books. To me there is something thrilling about finding an old bookstore or a little, out of the way, hole in the wall shop and searching for something written years ago that likely hasn't been read by anyone in decades. I've read book on a wide variety of topics that are usually all centered on some obscure and often forgotten point of world history. While I mostly read non-fiction I occasionally pick up something from the world of fiction to give myself a break from the bleakness of our world's history. Recently, while visiting a small bookshop in Canada I came across a re-print of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan of the Apes". Having watched the cartoon on multiple occasions with my one time toddlers I was familiar with the overarching theme but since I'd never read the book itself, I figured now was as good a time as any to give myself a mental break.
You're likely familiar with the story so I'll save you time and cut right to the words that jumped off the page to me as I was reading last week. Speaking of Tarzan's heightened ability to see, hear and sense his surroundings Burroughs writes,
"Man's survival does not hinge so greatly upon the perfection of his senses. His power to reason has relieved. them of many of their duties, and they have, to some extent, atrophied, as have the muscles which move the ears and scalp, merely from disuse."
As I read those words I was struck by the similarity between that idea and my own atrophied muscles. After a few weeks of summer camp, I can certainly identify with unused physical muscles but beyond that my mind went to the realm of spiritual muscles. How often do I allow my spiritual muscles to go unused because I choose to rely on my own reasoning in their place? At those times in my life when I have felt as though God were distant and had become non-communicative was it perhaps just my own inability to continue using those spiritual muscles.
Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 13:16-17 (NASB), "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."
Jesus tells them this in the midst of a crowd of onlookers who couldn't understand His parables because of their atrophied spiritual muscles. They desired to see and hear but they were unable. Listening to God, seeing His work around us, sensing His presence in our midst are spiritual muscles that must be worked and utilized. With time and practice it's these spiritual muscles that become toned and defined and afford us greater ability of use.
Tonight I'm asking myself the questions: How am I using my spiritual muscles? Have I replaced the muscles of seeing, hearing and sensing God's presence with my own human reasoning? Does my existence depend on the perfection of those spiritual muscles or have I carved out an existence for myself apart from God? Be encouraged and keep moving forward.