Peeking around the corner and looking to the past …

We begin this chapter with a memory verse:

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. – Proverbs 22:3

This verse is stuffed full of truth, and has solid handles to hoist it up and take it along with you each day. It teaches us that through godly wisdom we can anticipate what is coming, and practice a discerning discipline to avoid trouble. Combining this with other elements we have learned along the way, if flatterers, gossips, and trouble-generators are involved, stop, turn around, and head in a different direction. Quickly.

Speed round, go …

  • Verse 4 – The world loathes things that God loves, and vice versa. 1 John 2:15-17 illustrates this further:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life-is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

  • Verse 6 – God’s principles are always true, God’s promises always arrive; we must not confuse a principle with a promise.  This verse is not a promise though many latch onto it as one; it is a principle. We must not hang our hope on a non-promise, but we obey it as a principle knowing that it leads to good, not a guarantee.
  • Verse 10 – Separate yourself from scoffers and your life will develop a newfound peace and quiet.
  • Verse 13 – The lazy create imaginative excuses to not head out the door to work.

Note: In verses 17-21 the tone shifts from short snippets of instruction to dialogue. Note that the commands, “incline your ear, hear the words, apply your heart,” etc.

  • Verses 24-25 – Your friends’ character will shape yours, choose your friends wisely.
  • Verse 28 – New ways rarely generate spiritual good. Don’t drastically Change something that has stood the test of time.

“Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.” – Jeremiah 6:16

Now that verse is one that deserves to be read, re-read, memorized, and mediated on. How many “ancient paths” and “good ways” have been forsaken for that which is modern or fashionable. And we wonder why our society is like it is …

Profile of a Fool …

If you decided to place a want-ad for a fool, you could find many of the characteristics listed in Proverbs 18.

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:1-2

What a fool is like: verses 1-2

Verses 1 and 2 provide some steps for the making of an idiot (the Greek word for “idiot” literally means “one’s own,” or “seeking oneself.”). The formation of a fool is a straightforward process. He/she begins wrapped in a silky cocoon of selfishness. Over time the self-focus incubates and procedures self-obsession. Once fully self-focused the fool grows wings of self-deception, breaks free and flutters about pollinating, or polluting, any flower it can. The following are ways to recognize the flight path of a fool as it flits about.

  • They have no affection for others, only self. 1a
  • They have no affinity for wise judgement; they argue against it. 1b
  • They have no delight in discernment; they avoid it. 2a
  • They have no filter; they divulge everything they feel and imagine. 2b

What a fool does: 6-7, 14, 17

  • They can’t leave well enough along. They run full throttle into trouble. This is usually done with their tongue, or text messages. 6a
  • They can’t avoid an argument. They beg for contention and trouble. They see an argument as an opportunity to share their “brilliance.” 6a
  • They can’t help hurting themselves, and thus others. 6b
  • They can’t control their mouths, or text messages, even to the point of ruin. 7 The Hebrew word for this is “adolescent!” Hehe.
  • They cannot practice discernment, or listen. 13 They answer before they hear, they sound off before before they understand. They do not have “ears to hear.”
  • They cannot be trusted. 17 Typically, a fool has done wrong and is the first to plead his/her case about how he/she has been done wrong. This is a verse to study and bury into your mind and soul. Fools and liars (the same) are the first in line to plead their case. They will often not tell the whole story, or flat out lie. Here is the application: when someone seeks you out to tell their side of a situation, graciously get away.

As a discerning reader you have noticed that each of the characteristics and actions of a fool have been stated in the negative, “They have not/cannot.” That is on purpose. The reason is to help you see how self-focus, then self-obsession, and self-deception works. It weakens people to the point of them being unable to correct themselves, even to the point of self ruin. That is the sad truth. You can lead a fool to water, but you cannot make him drink from the Fountain of Truth.

Recognizing the characteristics and actions of fools listed above will equip you to spot them more quickly and run from them more swiftly.

Getting God’s Direction …

 

It seems that many folks grapple with finding God’s direction for their lives. Relax, verses 1, 3, and 9 begins to help us discern how God directs our steps. Keep in mind that it is a process, not an event. It requires a steadfast commitment to … waiting. Let’s read those verses, then rough in a structure for the process of learning God’s plans for you.

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” Proverbs 16:1

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

 

From these verses a framework for following God’s leadership develops:

  • Plan, but plan prayerfully – A bucket full of verses in Proverbs have shown us that we tend to think and move in directions that seem natural to us, but are not God’s plan at all. God’s ways are not our ways; His plans are not like our plans. See Isaiah 55:8-9
  • Submit to God’s Word and direction – Submission is continual surrender to God and following what He shows you. You cannot be “surrendered” to God until your will is neutral and you are happy with any direction that God provides.
  • Keep seeking Him in His Word. The primary way that God teaches and “speaks” to us is through His Word.
  • Be patient!
  • Move as God directs, one step at a time, and be content with only knowing the next step, not the ending.

 

Take a few moments and think back through each of those points. Ask yourself some tough questions from them.

I assume that you took a few minutes to revisit those verses. If not, shame on you. You will never know God’s plan for your life. I’m kidding, sort of.

 

Now, back to our routine that highlights some intriguing verses in a succinct and snarky fashion:

  • Verse 7 – Walking with God can help tame even your fiercest foes. This a remarkable kind of favor from God.  Keep in mind, this is not a passive process.

It’s not, “Hey God, look, I’m being nice, give me peace with the jerks around me.” You might want to review the summary of verses 1-3 that you brushed off earlier and read the verse below:

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6

  • Verse 24 – Being kind-worded helps others; it helps them down deep. It helps even more than we know.
  • Verse 25 – While doing dumb and destructive things might seem normal to us, it’s always best to check with God first. All the more reason to listen the counsel of others.
  • Verse 27 – People who stir the sewage are not a new phenomenon! Even Solomon had to put up with those types of no-gooders. Stay away from them. This verse yields a fine description of a trouble-maker — one who looks for trouble, digs it up, and spreads it at record speed.
  • Verse 32 – A cool, deliberate head has greater might than the biggest muscles.

 

As we close … Memory verse alert!

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

OUCH! That one stings, but it saves us from trouble. When we are most self-pleased we are most suited to fall, or fail. Rather than elaborating on this, just circle back, read that verse several times, and commit it to memory. You will be surprised how often it flashes to mind during the day. And, how it humbles you … which is the point.

Nags, Nit-pickers, and Next Month …

For the sake of all involved, I will tread lightly in this chapter. Why? Because there are two verses that paint vivid word pictures about fussy wives. Ladies, breathe deeply and relax, while this chapter points out a pattern for you to avoid, I will point out some for the men as well. I would be stupid not too.

Yesterday’s post was long. I promised a concise one today. So, let’s get to it.

 

Here are some main points from Proverbs 21:

  • Verse 5 – Wise plans carefully crafted and followed lead to plenty; sudden designs and endeavors rarely work out. As described in Proverbs, planning is more than developing a blueprint for your future, it requires prayerful planning that will walk in step with God’s Word. A well thought out brothel might make you some money, but it doesn’t met the criteria for what God desires for your vocation.
  • Verses 9 and 19 – It’s better to sleep in the attack or hide in the woods than to live with a nag or nit-picker. Settle down ladies, settle down. The only reason for offense here is if you actually are one who nags or nit-picks. Feel free to ask your husband if he thinks that you nag or nit-pick. After your “discussion,” please post comments here on the blog to let us all know how it went. Seriously, there is a principle here to embrace, not to clench your fists at. In Proverbs God often warns women about their words and attitude. This is not to be tough on you ladies. It is His way of promoting inner beauty and quietude; this will be displayed in a lovely fashion in Proverbs 31. Now, to be fair, in Proverbs God warns young men against chasing earthly pleasures, and all men about the ugliness of arrogance. The warnings that God gives in general, as well as those specific to men or women, are meant for us to gain wisdom and to grow more Christ-like in character. In short, wisdom should winsome in its ways, for men and women.
  • Verse 17 – Pleasures often bloom into vices; vices bear bushels of ruin. We can honor God with simple things in life, or cheapen them by overusing them. Verse 20 points out that fools squander simple things by indulging in them.
  • Verse 19 – The reason men like to go deer hunting or camping.
  • Verse 26b – Being generous honors God and helps others. 

 

Full stop, here is an amazing memory verse:

“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs 21:23

That one hits me right in the snout, every time. Ladies, notice that it says, “his mouth,” and “his tongue.” Just pointing that out … the Bearded Acorn strives for equity in all things.

 

As an aside, several of you have asked what will happen once we finish Proverbs in January. For February, the ole Bearded Acorn is considering walking through a short book of the New Testament. Perhaps, James, Philippians, or Colossians. We could only cover a chapter per week. I could post three times each week to outline, unpack, and make application points from that chapter. What are you thoughts? Any requests (requests subject to approval, offer void where prohibited, Virginia residents must pay sales tax). Please share your thoughts or requests by using the “Comment” button below.

Congratulations! You have now read and studied two-thirds of the way through Proverbs. Good job …

Ladies, the guys have it coming in later chapters. Be patient …

Holy Hood Ornaments …

In this post we will whack a religious bee hive with our bare hands. The stings might hurt, but they will help.

Most life topics have been covered in the previous 19 chapters of Proverbs: gaining wisdom, honoring God, relationships, taming the tongue, work, etc. One topic that hasn’t come up thus far is that of drinking alcohol. For some reason I find that intriguing. But, I am not going to rattle a saber, or even a butter knife, on this topic.

But, I do want to point out a way of thinking, or believing, that flows out of this topic. It will involve us being willing to clear two hurdles to get to the conclusion. It won’t be comforable. In fact, if you harrumph at the thought of someone challenging your approach to the Bible, and how you arrive at what you “believe,” then you should click on the “X” at the top of this post and return for for Chapter 21 tomorrow. No kidding.

 

The Starting Line:

For those of you who didn’t dash for the nearest exit, and that is a good sign for you, here we go. Out of 525 verses thus far in the Book of Proverbs alcohol has been mentioned in one verse. So, 0.018% of the verses have dealt with drinking. There have been dozens of verses about seeking wisdom above all things, taming the tongue, working hard, treating others with mercy, and so on. Careful, we are approaching the starting point. From the entirety of what we have seen in Proverbs we can deduce this: Until we get the inside aligned with the Word — Scripture soaked-mind, upright heart, and wise soul — then we shouldn’t bang the drum about external things.

 

The First Hurdle: our ease creates a focus on the external.

I can sense your religious cheeks reddening.

God, in the Book of Proverbs, and throughout Scripture makes a big deal about things we ignore, but we often create a circus out of things that He says little about. Gossip, complaining, fibbing, and backbiting are things that Proverbs, and the rest of the Bible, shout about. Have you seen any “stop gossip” or “end complaining” campaigns by churches lately. I haven’t either. Perhaps we should focus on what God emphasizes and be discerningly cautionious on things He doesn’t stress as much.

Here is a point that might cause your back teeth to grind, or ache: Christians who live in luxury (think USA, not Indonesia) often stumble over issues of style rather than substance. It’s true. Christians who are being persecuted for their faith, and/or imprisoned for it, do not debate styles of church music, tattoos, or drinking. Think about it …

The reason that I jumped into this is to make a broad point (it follows this) and a deeper one (coming in the next paragraph): It is easy for Christians who live in comfort to skip past the basics of the faith and entertain ourselves with the non-essentials. We are exceptional at taking a minor Biblical topic, rendering judgement on it, and fashioning it into a religious emblem for full display. For example, if we spend more time protesting a certain movie than reading our Bibles, praying, and serving others then we have the whole thing upside down. This is due to pride — Proverbs has much to say on this — a pride craves creations of checklists used for grading others, or condemning things that we do not like.

 

The Second Hurdle: An old problem that is new to each generation.

The Gospels describe a group of people who lived comfortable lives, were schooled in Scripture, and ached to debate minor spiritual issues. This group missed the essentials of knowing and following God, and frustrated Jesus (and, ahem, they also crucified Him). Yes, you guessed it: they were the Pharisees — religious pugilists and moral legislators of the highest order. Jesus had nothing positive to say about them. He mocked them openly, publicly, repeatedly. The danger for us as believers who live in relative ease — compared to other Christians around the world – is us slipping into Pharisee-ism, aka legalism. If you invest more time in doctrinal and moral hair-splitting than loving and serving others, then you are on your way to being a Pharisee of the highest rank. BE CAREFUL!

But, don’t bank on my thoughts about legalism. Here are some of Jesus’ words about the issue of religious high-mindedness:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:23-28

OUCH! If you read that with a mind and heart wanting to hear God, then it felt like the sting of a dozen wasps. If you felt nothing reading those words of Jesus, or worse thought of someone else to apply them to, then congratulations, you are the person that Jesus was referring to.

It is worth noting here the use of so many exclamation points in those few verses. That is very rare in the Gospels, and in the Bible in general. You know what that means … Jesus was making a strong point, very sternly.

I know that this post is long. But, it is a reminder of what Proverbs is really about. Proverbs teaches us to pursue God’s wisdom and discernment, not more religious knowledge, morality superiority, or self justification. It is about becoming like Christ, and relating to Him, not religious rule-making or keeping. You have likely picked up that wisdom has a loving side, not a judgmental one; an open hand, not a checklist; a kind word, not a whip-like tongue.

Take a few moments and consider the previous points. It was not about wine or beer — or, for us Arkansans, moonshine — at all, they were the topic that got us to the root of it: focusing on what God emphasizes and minoring on what He minors on. Please, go back through this. Ponder. Pray. Ask yourself hard questions. Then, have a glass of wine. Just kidding.

 

Now, let’s sum up the rest of the chapter with a wide array of principles:

  • Verse 3 – Any fool can start a quarrel, but the wise seek to end them. (even if they slipped up and started it).
  • Verse 4 – The lazy wait for the perfect day to do their work. The perfect day never arrives. You just have to work anyway.
  • Verse 9 – We all need a Savior who can cleanse our conscience, remove our guilt, and forgive our sins. His name is Jesus!
  • Verses 10, 14, 17, and 23 – Cheating for gain — at work or personally — dishonors God and harms others. Do not do it. You can cheat with your motives as much as with your money. Yikes!
  • Verse 12 – Our natural eyes and ears cannot receive from God, we must have spiritual eyes that see and ears that hear. God creates this by His Holy Spirit.
  • Verse 13 – You will never read a book called, “Snoozing to Success.” Work and rest must be balanced, but much rest without much work has a name … you know it.
  • Verse 19 – Gossips cannot wait to find your secrets, so they pry them out of you with flattery.
  • Verse 22 – Trust God to right your wrongs and deal with others. We do not see the whole picture, have the right motives, or possess the authority to decide punishment.

 

Whew, I am tired from writing and are tired of reading. Thank you for hanging on through this post. Here’s the summary: Do not take a moral trinket and turn it into your spiritual hood ornament. Legalists do that. Do take time to grow in wisdom and grace, and share them with others. Christ-followers do that.

So, let’s both get some rest. Tomorrow’s post will be shorter. Maybe …

A dripping faucet, nose hairs, and whack-a-fool …

 

Chapter 19 is a string of pearls with many truths. While some stand on their own, a few are linked together. Verses two and three are an example of this that pair up nicely to begin the chapter with a bang:

“Desire[a] without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.” Proverbs 19:2-3

Verse two shows us that quick responses, hasty words, and sudden acts lead to … harm. Verse three recites a familiar refrain, “Selfish people do dumb things.” Also, it teaches us that selfish folks can turn straight lines into spirals, then in their self pity they place the blame on God.

 

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11

Verse 11 contains some good, old-fashioned truth ready to wear. Wisdom and discretion can make us calm-headed and help us to know what to “let go.” The wise are not quick-tempered or looking for a grudge to hold. In fact, a grudge will not fit in the heart of the wise.

 

Let’s move on to the speed round of  wise lessons:

13a – A nagging wife = a dripping faucet. Guys, you are welcome. Ladies, those are God’s words, not mine. Is it the words or attitude behind the words that causes the aggravation? Answer: Both. We all have to be careful regarding our choice of words and tone with others. Will you fellows please stop giggling? Your wives might hear you, and then …

15 – God is hard on the lazy; they are soft on themselves.

16 – Pay attention! Keeping God’s Word is an intentional process; carelessness is long term ignorance in all directions.

 

17 – Memory verse alert! Here is a great verse about generosity:

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

 

18 – Skipping discipline is a commitment to destruction.

20 – Wisdom doesn’t always arrive with age; age often shows up alone. Old age sometimes waltzes in with its fly unzipped, and, lots of untrimmed nose hairs. Listening to counsel and receiving instruction are prerequisites for attaining wisdom. It’s an active process.

27 – The best short cut to trouble is around God’s word.

29 – The chapter closes with … Let’s grab a stick and use a fool for a piñata! Amen!

 

So, the lessons from chapter 19 for the guys are:

  • Listen to wisdom
  • Never say “nagging” and “wife” aloud in the same sentence.
  • Regularly trim your nose hairs!

 

Have a good weekend!

 

This one will stick with you …

As an astute reader, you have noticed that there are some repetitive themes in the Book of Proverbs. The reason for the repetition is to re-emphasize important points. It is one of the techniques used in the wisdom books of the Old Testament (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes). It is used in this chapter. To highlight the effectiveness of this technique (and to make it stick with you), here is a present day equivalent used by mothers from Arkansas (or other parts of the South):

Scenario: A mother calling to her children to come in from playing for dinner.

First attempt: “Babies, y’all please come in and eat.”

Second attempt: “Y’all need to come in, wash up, and eat supper.”

Third attempt: “Are y’all deaf? I ain’t screaming out of this kitchen window just to hear myself make noise. Get your butts in this house, wash your grubby little hands, or I will come out in the yard and drag you in to eat. I didn’t stand here slaving over this stove so y’all could ignore me.”

Last attempt: “Do you hear me? DO you hear me? DO YOU hear me? DO YOU HEAR ME?” “These kids are killing me,” she mumbles as she stomps back into the house.

Like a frustrated mom, Solomon uses repetition to drive the point home.

It’s time to play short summaries of important verses:

  • Verse 4 – The ungodly have ears that itch to hear troublesome talk. And, their mouths will run in overdrive to spread it.
  • Verse 5 – Never take pleasure in someone’s difficulty. God knows when we do, and He doesn’t care for it at all.
  • Verse 9a – Friends do not keep score of wrongs. If they keep score, they are not your friends.
  • Verse 9b – The wicked gossip in order to separate friends. When have you ever met a gossiper spreading good tidings as a way of uniting people?
  • Verse 10- You can whisper wisdom to the upright, but you cannot beat it into a fool.
  • Verse 14 – Shutting off the spigot of strife stops trouble. Extra tidbit – Gossip turns the spigot on full stream.
  • Verse 27 – A person of discernment speaks little and stays calm. Ahem, the opposite is true: fools overreact and can’t shut up. Which do you do? This one stings us all a bit.
  • Verse 28 – The best way for a fool to go unnoticed is to keep his mouth shut. Oddly enough, they can’t keep their mouths shut.

There is not a memory verse alert that I recommend today. You might want to go back and look at yesterday’s verse. It is one of the best ones in the entire Book of Proverbs.

I hope that today’s post made you smile, smirk, or blow some iced tea out of your nose from laughing. Verse 22 says:

“A joyful heart is good medicine …”

Some versions translate “joyful heart” as “merry heart” or “laughter.” I wanted to offer you a dose of the elixir of laughter. It cures many ailments, and helps those around us too. Give it a try …

Small salads and gluten free muffins — Proverbs 15 (sort of)

 

If you are up-to-date through today — and Bravo if you are — you will get a break. Yesterday’s post was a long one. This one will be more succinct. Today, we will zoom in on two topics that are emphasized in Proverbs 15.

 

But first, a memory verse alert! Here is a nice one to tuck into your noggin:

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

 

Now, let’s revisit the format from yesterday that highlights a verse and attempts to summarize and apply it in one sentence (“Brevity is the soul of wit,” said ole Billy Shakespeare).

 

Possessions/Contentment:

  • Verse 6 –  How you earn it is more than important than how much you earn. The ungodly might make a killing, but it might feel like a killing, too. What the ungodly gain can often be tiresome and troublesome.
  • Verse 16 – Having Christ can bring contentment in little; having much can result in much trouble. In fact, with more wealth comes more worries.
  • Verse 17 – It’s better have a small salad with loved ones than a high class meal with the hateful.

 

Growth:

  • Verse 12 – Scoffers have no taste for correction, and avoid the wise like gluten-free muffins. Scoffers harbor disdain for the ones who correct and advise them, and will walk a long way around the wise. Why? You know, it’s pride, again. They cannot bear being wrong or found out as foolish. You might want to skip ahead and read Proverbs 16:18. It will cast a 400 lumen LED light on this idea.
  • Verse 22 – Godly counsel helps avoid missteps and misfortune.
  • Verse 28 – The wise have deliberate, principled responses; the ungodly are a gushing fountain of foolishness. 

 

It should come as no surprise that this chapter pairs up possessions/contentment and growth. They are joined at the heart, your heart. If you are content with God’s allotment in your life, you will be better equipped to grow closer to Him. If you are discontent, expect distance between you and Him.

As contentment increases, so does your joy in Christ. As your joy in Christ grows, your contentment will as well. You see how it works. It turns the other way too. Be careful. You can have possessions and gain, but do not let them have you.

 

There are two kinds of people in this world …

My grandfather said it, my dad said it, and I say it. My children hear the familiar refrain, “there are two kinds of people,” more than they wish. That statement is true. Given any matter of life, it holds up. It holds up because it is biblical. On most any topic in Proverbs, we see how two kinds of people — the wise and foolish — think, speak, relate, work, and act. The same is true in life.

This post will be slightly longer than usual. That is because chapter 14 is like a sock drawer, it is stuffed full and things pop out when you open it. Let’s plan our walk through this chapter. First, we need to shift gears down and move slowly. Second, as we tour more slowly we will take in more scenery. This will result in us examining more verses than we have in previous posts. Third, we will circle back and dig into verse one. Fourth, we will gather up some verses and pray though them. This last step might be new to some. I’ll gladly demonstrate how to wrap a verse around yourself and personalize it through prayer.

So, before we set off on this hike through chapter 14 you might want to visit the restroom, pour a cup of hot tea or coffee, and light a cigarette (just kidding).

 

 

Base Camp: Verse One

Verse one will serve as our home base.

“The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” Proverbs 14:1

This verse has it all: striking word pictures and penetrating truth scrunched into 16 words. The general idea here is that some people build and others destroy. We know who is who here. In fact, someone in each of those two categories of people might have flashed in your mind. Let’s move along the trail and take in some eye-opening principles.

 

 

Strolling and Studying:

As we meditatively mosey along I will attempt to offer a summary and application of a few key verses:

  • Verse 4 – Excuses aid the lazy in remaining sloth-like. It goes like this, “I didn’t get an ox to plow with because I would have to clean up after it; cleaning stalls is hard work. Even though I do not have grain stored up in my barns, my ox stalls and troughs are clean.” Some people exert greater effort in manufacturing excuses than in working.
  • Verse 6 – As you grow in wisdom, further growth is more attainable and consistent. See Matthew 13:10-13
  • Verse 8- The wise live deliberately by knowing what they are doing and why; fools stagger along with no direction.
  • Verse 11 – A fool can fail in a fancy house; the wise can thrive in a tent. In other words, it’s not your situation that brings, or ruins, abundance, it’s your character.
  • Verse 23 – Big plans and words do not put food on the table; the wise see work as honorable and profitable. Remember, God speaks highly of work and doing work well. He commands us to work, and to do our work for His honor. See 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and Colossians 3:23.
  • Verse 30 – You cannot have a satisfying life with envy (or bitterness) slithering around inside you. When envy, then bitterness, invades your heart it will strangle your life.
  • Verse 33 – Wisdom rests quietly in the heart of the wise; foolishness constantly drips out of the mouth of fools. Consider this verse and apply it to talk shows. Hmmm …

Now that we have made the loop around the chapter we arrive back at base camp – verse one. Let’s unpack it, and apply it through prayer.

 

Building or Breaking:

Verse one teaches us that wise women (or men) are builders. In particular, whether it is family, friends, or those in need, wise women and men encourage and build up others. (See Romans 15:2, Ephesians 4:28, and 1 Thessalonians 5:11). God wired us for relationships; we were created to relate. We are relating at our best when we are building up others.

Verse one also shows us that the foolish are destroyers. They divide and tear down others and poison relationships. This is because they cater to themselves in everything, at all times.

 

Applying and Praying:

We have seen many first-rate truths in this chapter. Reading and appreciating them isn’t the end of the exercise though. It’s the beginning. As with any time in the Bible, application is the end point. How do we link reading and marveling at God’s Word to living it? Through prayer. As you finish your reading in Proverbs 14 select a handful of verses and personalize them through prayer. Here are three of the verses from our previous list with a prayer of application to prime your pump:

“The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.”Proverbs 14:8

*God, please help me to examine what I do and why I do it so that I can discern how to follow you better. Please use Your Word each day to keep me from focusing on myself and following my plans.

“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23

*God, please remind me to work hard as a way to honor You and help others. Help me to do my work as service to others. And, please provide me with a huge raise this year. Just kidding. I’m making sure that you are still paying attention.

“The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” Proverbs 14:1

*God, please remind me that a mark of wisdom is to build up others. Help me to be a builder and to stay away from those who divide and destroy. Give me opportunities today to encourage, build up, and love others as Jesus would.

 

Wrapping it up:

There are two kinds of people in this word: the wise who are building and the foolish who are breaking; those who are listening and applying, and those who are ignoring; those who are doing and those who are making excuses. There are two kinds of people in Proverbs, you know who they are. There are two kinds of people in your life, are you recognizing them with greater clarity now?

Good Things Come in Pairs …

When the bank vault of Proverbs 13 is opened mounds of truth spill out into view. Truths that outline differences in the way that the wise and foolish work, speak, live, and listen beckon us to come and gather them up.

Let’s turn the spotlight on two verses to consider, two verses worthy to be memorized, and two verses that are easy to apply.

 

Two Verses to Consider:

  • Verse one of chapter 13 categorizes two types of people, within the context of children (“son…father”). The first half of verse one describes a wise son (or daughter) as one who listens to his/her parents and follows godly instruction. The back half of verse one portrays the opposite — one who scoffs and and ignores correction (someone who scoffs and huffs at instruction is also called a “teenager.”)
  • Verse four gives bone -jarring insight into why some folks gain and some are lacking. Why? The lazy are heavy on desiring but light on doing. They have dreamy heads but slothful souls. In working toward nothing and gaining nothing, their effort and outcome match. On the other hand, the diligent enjoy increase because they plan, do, and keep doing, even when it is hard. Some folks are hoping for their ship to come in. The only ship that comes in is the one that designed, built, then sailed.

You might be tiring of the constant comparison of the wise and foolish and go-getters and no-getters, but God is repeating these truths many times in many ways for our good. We do well to slow down and ponder them each time.

 

Two Verses to Memorize:

Memory verse alert! Look over there — verses 3 and 10 are raising their hands and screaming, “Pick me, memorize me!” Don’t hurt their feelings. Go ahead, memorize them.

  • “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

Uh huh, that one cuts to the heart, and tongue, with surgical precision. Memorizing it will keep you from a great deal of harm.

  • “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.” Proverbs 13:10

Insolence. Now that is a peacock of a word strutting around with its meaning and intent full-fanned and flaming in the light. As a word nerd, I will tell you that is a genuine $12 word. A specific word is used here instead of “pride.” Insolence goes beyond being prideful. It is being insultingly contemptuous (a $16 word) toward others; in this case it is being impudent (a $14.75 word) toward God’s truth. What a deal, you just picked up $42.75 worth of good words by reading one verse and a nerdy blog post.

Back to the point. This verse exposes where strife comes from — insolent people. When you linger around insolence, you should expect strife to show up soon.

 

Two Verses to Apply:

Verses 20 and 24b are ripe with truth ready to put into action:

  • Verse 20 – Friends are like escalators, they either carry you up or take you down. Choose them wisely.
  • 24b – Discipline should arrive right after wrong-doing. Discipline that is delayed (whether with a child, an employee, or correction of a friend of family member) hardwires bad behavior.

I can’t think of a good way to summarize and close here. So, see you tomorrow.