Shedding the past, pursuing the future …

We are at the midpoint of the book. The road we are on makes a sharp right, and uphill. Chapters one and two offered generic instruction and admonition. Chapters three and four shifts to specifics. The first word in chapter three, “finally,” begins that transition and cranks the steering wheel firmly to the right onto and by creating a higher road toward more specific principles for believers to grasp and grow in. For an exploration of this higher territory, we will use our outline for a map:

Believers should be:

Rejoicing: verse 1

We are to rejoice “in the Lord,” not in fleeting things such as ourselves, our stuff, or our situation. It is important to note that the Bible almost never mentions happiness. When it does it refers to a “blessedness,” or “blessed happiness,” that comes from knowing God and His Word, not from easy and fun times. Instead, the Bible focuses on joy and contentment. Both of those are rooted in Christ, trusting His promises, and walking with Him. Both of them endure, and they overcome circumstances.

Counting accurately: verses 2-11

  • Don’t count on yourself – 2-6

Paul describes for us that even through he was well-qualified to look inward for help or stability; he did not trust in his heritage, reputation, or himself. He counted on Christ. Before becoming a Christian Paul had an impeccable and impressive reputation as a zealous Pharisee and religious leader of his day, but apart from Christ it meant nothing. We cannot trust our religious heritage, or religious traditions, we must trust Christ. Do you have a religious tradition or experience that you hold onto more firmly than to Christ?

  • Do count on Christ – 7-11

There are some fascinating terms in these verses used to illustrate what Paul is saying in this section. While not present in English translations, the original language that Paul wrote in (Greek) uses accounting terms in verses 7. The term in verse seven for “gain” refers to a sizable profit by a businessman, and “loss” refers to a business that lost it profits, or ruin.

Paul knew that his reputation and religion apart from Christ equaled zero on the God’s spiritual ledger.

Paul could count his losses as gain because he saw what he had lost as something that could have been a barrier to knowing Christ and walking with him more intimately. The term for “knowing Christ” in verse 8 means more than having knowledge of (head knowledge), it means a relationship with experiential, intimate knowledge.

The word for rubbish is very specific, but not palpable term. It means manure or human waste. So, Paul was saying that he counted all that he left and lost as crap. Literally. He removed “crap” from his life so that he could know Christ better.

In verses 8 and 9 we see that we have more that forgiveness in Christ, we also have righteousness from and in Christ. The great news is that the righteousness of Christ is attributed to all who are in HIm by faith. This imputed righteousness is not one that we can attain or earn, it is granted to us in Christ by God’s grace. So, when God views you, He sees you as forgiven because of Jesus and clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. That demonstrates why we can have an eternal relationship and standing with God in Christ — it is all because of Who Jesus is and what He has done on our behalf!

Pressing on: verses 12-16

In these verses Paul uses specific Greek terms to make his point. He paints the picture of a sprinter exerting great effort and doing his best to reach the finish line. The word used by Paul for “pressing on,” has the idea of running hard and then stretching for the finish line.

In verse 13 he reminds us again not to rely upon ourselves, but to rely upon Christ and His Spirit for our growth.

One key to becoming more like Christ is outlined in verses 13. It has a two parts. First, we must forget the past. Those in Christ who are chained by their past are so because they choose to be (that sounds harsh, but it is biblical accurate). Christ sets us free completely from our past. To say that He does not is to say that He cannot. He offers forgiveness for and freedom from our past, all of it! Second, we must press on, which takes daily effort. Effort that is focused on reading His Word, praying, and living out what He teaches and directs us toward.

Watching: verses 17-19

Paul was an example, though he would admit, an imperfect one. We sometimes look to Christ who is perfect and can grow frustrated by our lack of growth. On the other hand, we can be encouraged to press on by the growth of a fellow flaw-ridden follower of Christ. We are to watch and learn from both.

Waiting: verses 20-21

All of this is possible because our Lord and Savior has made us children of God and citizens of His Kingdom. We look forward to the day when forgetting the past and pressing on toward growth in Him is no longer needed because we are with Him. As the old hymn says, “what a day that will be!”

Bow low to reach high …

I hope the outline of chapter two set the tone for your exploration of it. There are riches of truth in it. But one must bend low to grasp them.

A quote by the great Bible teacher of yesterday, F.B. Meyer, points to this:

“I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them. I now find that God’s gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower.”

Following our outline for this chapter we see that being like Christ requires:

Looking out for others – verses 1-11

“Therefore” in verse one links the beginning of chapter two to the end of chapter one. Rewind a few verses into the end of chapter one to see the point that Paul is making in the beginning of chapter two.

There is an interesting series of similar statements in succession in verses 3, 4, and 5. Notice the three “let” statements in these verses:

  • Let nothing be done in selfish ambition or conceit – verse 3
  • Let each look out for him/herself AND for others – verse 4
  • Let the mind of Christ be in each believer – verse 5

In coming to live and die for our sins, Jesus, our Lord, took the role of bondservant or slave. Jesus showed His grace and glory through humility, not force or self-exaltation. Exaltation should come from others, and it follows humility; it does not precede it.

Verse 8 shows us that Jesus did not hold on to being exalted as the Son of God in Heaven. Rather, He emptied Himself of exaltation, took on the form of a servant (even though He is a ruler and King of Kings), became like us (a radical, un-get-a-hold-able truth), and humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross (the most horrible and humiliating way to die). He is our example.

Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16

Verse 12b can easily be misread, misinterpreted, and misapplied. To be clear: we DO NOT work for our salvation, we work because we have been saved. Our “works” do not save us or contribute to saving us from our sins and sinfulness. If one good work of ours contributed to us being saved then Christ, His death, and resurrection were not enough to redeem us. Re-read that, slowly. If we ever think that we did anything to contribute to us being saved, then we are demonstrating that we think that Jesus isn’t enough. Period.

Here is one — of the many — passages that drive this home for us:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9

Any good works from us are produced by the new birth in Christ and the Holy Spirit, now a resident in us. The working is the outflow of inward change caused by His grace and sanctifying work.

Verse 13 contains a precious truth, one that encourages and stabilizes us: God is the one willing and working in us. He changes the heart, mind, and will to align with HIs work and purposes. He is working in us to His own satisfaction. This stings our pride. We like to think that we generate and complete good works. No, He does. This verse shows that He continues his sanctifying work out to the finish, and for His pleasure and satisfaction. He does not work in us for our satisfaction, He does so to His. His work is effective work, it always accomplishes the goal, for His glory.

Verse 13 is a great memory verse! Tuck that one away for later.

Verse 14 hurts. Youch! Bite down and chew on it. Insert the opposite of what is stated for further impact: when we are complaining and disputing (that one really hits me) we are harmful to others and blame-laden.

The original word for “crooked” is the root word for scoliosis. The word for “perverse” refers to twisted, abnormal character that is at the point of being twisted in two.

Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30

We are to pour out our lives for others. Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus model this for us.

Take note of verse 21 and how it is the opposite of verse 4.

Paul writes of pouring his life out, like a drink offering. He also commends two fellow Christ-followers for living for others:

  • Timothy was one whose character had been proven through service, he was a fellow servant in Christ and like a son to Paul.
  • Epaphroditus was like a brother and fellow servant — even fellow “soldier” during hard times — to Paul.

Paul modeled sacrificing his life for others. Those who learned from him did the same. What are others learning from our lives? Service and sacrifice, or selfishness and self-preservation?

Some application points from chapter two are on their way to you on Thursday night.

Moving beyond ourselves, or away from ourselves.

Penetrating. Humbling. Although those words do not usually reside side-by-side, they reveal the tone and direction of Philippians chapter two. In this chapter, Paul describes a way of life — the Christ life — that directly contradicts the one promoted by our society nowadays.

As you saunter into chapter two — whistling, hands in your pockets, content from chapter one’s truths of joy and God at work in your life — you enter, unaware, into a small chamber. As your pupils dilate and pulse increases you realize that you are no longer in the comfy, couch-laden parlor of chapter one. You have meandered into a hall that seems to be shrinking with each step. Soon, the hall seems to be constricting, suffocating. As you move toward the room at the end you have to bend at the waist, then take to your hands and knees, and then resort to a belly-crawl. You finally make it to a small opening that allows you to peek through a portal. Through the pane-less opening you find yourself looking into the past. You are looking into the upper room scene from John 13. Jesus is on His knees, towel-draped, wash basin in front of him; He is washing the feet of His disciples, and of His betrayer.

As I pecked out those words on the keyboard a lump formed in my throat. The image in my mind of Jesus on His knees, taking on the task of the lowliest servant in a household, placing His hands on the feet of His followers, to teach them, and to serve as the Model for them, moistens my eyes. I do not know why. But, it does. Every time.

With that scene of Jesus as foot-washing servant dialed into our minds. We are ready to settle into chapter two. Here is a working outline for breaking it down into manageable bits.

Being like Christ requires:

  • Looking out for others – verses 1-11
    • Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16
    • Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30
  • There is little else to say here. Go ahead and ease into chapter two. Go unhurriedly. May I offer a suggestion? Read the entire chapter slowly, perhaps out loud. Then, read verses 1-11 slowly a few times, take some notes, ponder, let it seep in. Do the same for the second section in verses 12-16, then the same for verses 17-30. There is much to marvel at there. There is much to learn. There is much truth to take in down deep, and allow it to do its work of sparking repentance, scraping away pride and selfishness, then developing humility and a focus on others.

    This chapter of Philippians cuts my feet out of from under each time that I read it. It might yours as well, unless, you breeze through it and miss what is being whispered.

    Where spark touches paper …

    One of the many benefits of reading the Bible chapter by chapter — as we did in Proverbs and are now doing in Philippians — is that you are teaching yourself to read the Bible better. How is it better? Glad you asked.

    1. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter through an entire book gives logical and rhythmic view of the book. Most books of the Bible — including Philippians, but not as much Proverbs, is written in a logical form. It has a message, along with subtopics, that unfold as you read. You are training yourself to pick up that message as you read chapter by chapter. This cannot be done by reading portions of a chapter or book, or random places in the Bible.
    2. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter places what you read in the proper context. The message is framed by the book, not by random or topical readings of it.
    3. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter, several times over, helps you to discern what is being said, and how it is being said. This can provide historical and grammatical (or syntactical) context that can yield insights that might have otherwise remained out of reach of casual reading.
    4. Reading the Bible chapter by chapter, perhaps several times over, can coax application points out of their warm resting places within the text.

    With those things in mind, here are some application points, and things to pray about from, chapter one:

    • Verse 3 – Which fellow believers are you thankful for? Hopefully, some will come to mind. If not, wow, you must be a crusty old … (insert uncouth noun of your choice here). When fellow believers that are dear to you come to mind jot their names down, send them a card or email of encouragement, or call them. Let them know that you are thankful for them. Be specific. Generic encouragement means little. It might be a bit awkward at first. But, their pounds of joy from it will outweigh your ounces of nervousness about it.
    • Verse 5 – Who are you currently “partnering with” in the gospel? You can support folks serving Christ with prayer, encouragement, and money. Consider taking your pastor out for coffee, or lunch. Send a small donation to a mission organization, or go volunteer at a Christian ministry. Consider sharing some spare hundred dollar bills with your favorite Bible study blogger. Hehe. On second thought, twenty dollar bills will do. Seriously, make it a point this week to encourage someone working hard for the Lord.
    • Verse 6 – Trust God to complete His sanctifying work in you and cooperate with Him. As He is doing the work in us, we must cooperate by submitting to His Word and Holy Spirit through Bible study and prayer.
    • Verse 7 – We are all in Christ because of God’s grace, there is no status or hierarchy among believers. Treat your fellow believers as better than yourself.
    • Verses 9-11 – Pray to grow in love (an informed and wise love), to learn to approve and follow what is excellent (see Philippians 4:8), to foster purity and blamelessness, and to bear fruit for Christ.
    • Verses 12-14 – View your situation through the wide angle lens of God’s vantage point and purposes, not through your keyhole-sized point of view.
    • Verse 21 – What/who are you living for? What needs to be thinned out or removed to unclutter your spiritual life?
    • Verse 27 – Pray for a life and walk worthy of the Gospel and Christ.
    • Verse 29 – As you grow in Christ anticipate hardship as the norm from today’s world — it does not honor or want to follow God — expect some persecution.

    As you prayerfully consider these points of application God will show you areas of your life for living them out more faithfully. Take some time. Sit still. Re-read the verses listed above. Listen. God takes delight in nudging and directing His children through His Word.

    Adding muscle to bone …

    Having read the chapter we can begin to add muscle to the skeleton of the outline. A tip for reading your Bible is to read a chapter with an outline of it close at hand. Many good study Bibles have an outline for the book and its chapters at the beginning of it. Having an outline for the chapter serves as a road map for you reading; it keeps you between the ditches. Once you have read through the chapter with an outline in mind, you can then go back and read the chapter again and allow the text to emerge. This is where you begin to gather meaning from the text. So, let’s do it.

     

    Paul’s fellow believers: 1-11

    A key to Bible study is letting the text show you what is there, not you inserting your meaning or thoughts into the text. Knowing the context of what is being said  — an outline helps this — keeps you from getting off the road and into the weeds with odd interpretations or applications.

    So, remember that the context for these verses is Paul writing to fellow believers. Let’s see what he had to say to them.

    In verse one he makes a distinction in the officers of the church. He addressed two different types of church offices: overseers/bishops and deacons. Overseers are also referred to as elders and bishops in some translations. The idea is that they are the leaders in the church set apart for leading and teaching. The second group was “deacons.” In the original language of the New Testament the word deacon means “servant” or “table-waiter.” (See Acts 6:1-7 for background on how deacons came to exist in the church.) This differentiation is one of office and role. Overseers lead and teach; deacons serve and assist. For you dyed-in-wool Baptists this might come as a shock, but, deacons are not the leaders or overseers of the church. They are to be servants.

    Verse two is a greeting used often by Paul. You see it in most of his letters. Notice that “grace” and “peace” are linked. Apart from grace in Christ we cannot know the peace of God.

    Verse six contains a great promise to us. Once a person has been born again in Christ, God initiates and continues the work of making him/her more like Christ. This is an ongoing process, not a series of singular events. This process is called sanctification. This process is God at work in our lives through His Word and Spirit to develop Christ-likeness and Christ-like character in us. It is not dependent upon us, it is dependent upon Him, but we must cooperate with Him for it to bear the proper fruit.

    In verse six the security of our salvation in Christ is heartily implied here.

    Paul prays for the believers of Philippi in verses 9-11. He specifically prayed for

    • Their love to grow and abound. How would it? Through knowledge and discernment. Biblical love is not sentimentalism or emotion, it is affection anchored in truth.
    • Their discernment to grow. He wanted them to discern and approve and hold to what is excellent (no room for a negative or fussy attitude here). He wanted them to grow in testing and determining what is right, and then following it.
    • The genuineness of their faith to grow. We wanted them to become more sincere and genuine. The word for sincere here comes from two words in the original language. In Paul’s day shady pottery merchants would fill in cracks in the pottery with wax. Wise customers would hold the clay pots up to the sunlight to check for wax filling. The pots that were solid and honestly made were called “sine cera” — without wax. Do you have wax-filled cracks in your life and faith. Or, are you sine cera?
    • Their lives to be bearing fruit for Christ. See also Galatians 5:22-23 and John 15:1-5

     

    Paul’s circumstances: 12-18

    We must keep in mind that every detail of life is ordained and directed by God. He is overseeing all things. Whatever situation you find yourself in does not surprise God. He allowed or directed it. We cannot let the short-sightedness of our perspective — often selfish or self-sustaining — to shape us, we must look at our situation from God’s wide-angle, eternal viewpoint. A lesson here is that hard times can produce great things — greater faith, growth, etc.

    Paul hadn’t experienced the best of times in Philippi, and he didn’t complain. See Acts 16 for more details.

     

    Paul’s future: 19-26

    From verses 19-20 we see that Paul believed that he would be delivered from the Roman prison.

    Verse 21 is a great statement of faith, and of Paul’s life focus. Knowing and serving Christ was his reason for living. His love for and service for Christ was his singular purpose. What are you living for? Are you singular in your life or spread out across many lanes?

     

    Paul’s advice: 27-30

    Paul issues a set of exhortations in these verses. He longs for the Philippians to

    • Have conduct worthy of the gospel. Likewise we are to have integrity with what we belief, teach, and live. This. Is. Hard. All of us trip and fall. The idea is not a life of perfection, but a life of increasing growth in grace in Christ.
    • Stand in unity for the truth of the gospel. They were to be united together and in their defense of the gospel against false teachers (more on this in later chapters).
    • Be courageous.
    • Believing in Christ will lead to challenges, some hardship, and perhaps, persecution.

    I hope that this fuels your reading and studying of chapter one. It’s a great chapter. Soak in it, splash around and see what all is there.

    On Thursday, I will post some points for application and prayer from chapter one. Happy Reading!

    Verses that make you feel like a crash test dummy …

     

    The post on this chapter will focus on two things: what/who we listen to and what we say/do not say. Steady yourself. The impact of these five verses might cause the airbags might deploy.

     

    Verse 1: When we resist instruction and correction we welcome destruction. A stern warning indeed. Shying away from, or deliberately avoiding, instruction might appear to make things easier for now, but without fail it will make things hard later.

     

    Verse 5: Flattery deceives, and can destroy, others. For the weak-minded or weak-willed flattery can first snare, then enslave them to the approval others. This is why we must develop our identity from God’s word and in Christ, not allow it to be shaped by our culture or others around us.

    Verse 11: Let’s stop and stare at this one for a while. It’s an excellent memory verse that packs a wallop.

    “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11

    I do not have a clever summary statement for this verse. If I did have one it would take away from its pointed and poignant truth. It says much with few words. This kind of truth is easy to read but hard to live out. Take a moment and think about all the applications from this verse — social media, “venting to others,” speaking without thinking it through, etc. Ouch!

    Those who “vent their feelings” often are unwise, by God’s standard, but affirmed and applauded by our culture. To be wise we must exercise discernment and determine what we should and should not say.

     

    Verse 18: When God’s teaching is absent, or ignored, people lose restraint, then harm follows.

    The New King James Version translates this nicely:

    Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.

    God’s Word being put aside, or rejected, people casting off restraint … does this sound like a country you know? That country’s name rhymes with Erica …

     

    Verse 20: Hasty words erupt from foolish hearts. See “fools with leaky mouths” in verse 11.

     

    Verse 25: Seeking the approval of and relying upon others en-shackles; seeking God brings safety and surety.

     

    In summary, our ears should bend toward the truth and shut around those who flatter; our tongues should be governed by discernment, and our path should be directed by God’s Word. Simple truths. Difficult truths to live out consistently. Thankfully, God comes to us and empowers us by His Holy Spirit to live them out.

    Chew on this …

     

    Yesterday’s post was a bit long. Today we will be more brief. Let’s jump in. Or, knowing that the topics include the conscience, confessing sin, and the corruption of our own hearts, maybe we should ease in …

     

    Verse 1: A guilty conscience causes one to do odd things; a God-honoring conscience builds boldness.

     

    Verse 9: Disobedience disrupts answer to prayer.

     

    Verse 13: Un-confessed sin will bird-dog you, and run you up a tree. Why run from it. Confess it, deal with it, God desires to and is eager to forgive you in Christ.

    “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

    Remember, confessing our sins to God does not improve or restore our relationship with Him, it restores and renews our fellowship with Him. Our relationship with Him is always secure in Christ.

     

    Verse 23: We are to seek truth and correction from our friends, even when it hurts. Honest correction builds us up. Flattery deceives and derails. Sound familiar from yesterday?

     

    Verse 26: The Bible says that only a fool “trusts” in his own heart! Our culture today prompts us to trust our “heart” or “feelings.” The Bible says, “Heck no! That’s crazy!” Actually, it doesn’t say that. It implies it though. Jeremiah 17:9-10 tells us why we shouldn’t trust our own “hearts.”

    “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” 

    This verse, and other verses, show us that our sinful hearts will deceive us. We have listen to God’s Word, not ourselves.

    This chapter isn’t easy to chew, swallow, or digest. But, it is good for us. It has been said that strong teaching makes soft hearts. Very true …

    Dabbing, Cats Licking, and …

    Congratulations! As of today — unless you are trailing behind, which is ok — you have completed 25 chapters of the Book of Proverbs. It is likely that some of you have now read more consecutive days in Proverbs than ever before. That is terrific!

    My primary goal for the Proverbs Challenge was to encourage folks to read their Bible each day in a systematic fashion. When you complete the challenge one week from today you can spike the ball in the end zone of Proverbs and do a funky dance. You can give “dabbing” or “flossing” a try. If you attempt to “dab” or “floss” (those are short dance moves performed by young ‘uns nowadays) rest assured that your children, or grandchildren, will video you, show it to their friends at school, and they will all laugh at you to the point of wetting their pants, or ripped jeans, or jeggings, or whatever they wear.

     

    Today we will bite off this chapter in two big chunks: dealing with fools and minding your own business.

     

    Dealing with Fools:

    Verse 4: Arguing with a fool reduces you to his level, and he will beat you with his vast experience in idiocy. Although it is tempting to correct a fool, it won’t work. Proverbs has shown us that fools hate wisdom and correction. You cannot cure them because they love their ailment. So, don’t try. That is hard to accept, but it will save you frustration and trouble.

     

    Verse 10: A hot tip for hiring employees: If you hire a fool you will harm your co-workers and yourself. And, your co-workers will eye-roll and sigh when you turn your back. They will do this for weeks, and it’s probably justified.

     

    Verse 11: Fools, out of ignorance and on instinct, repeat their mistakes over and over. This verse uses a gross image to sear this truth into our minds. It works. For you feline-inclined folks, it’s too bad there are no images of cats in Proverbs. But, let’s try to remedy that with a few home spun cat-based comparions of our own:

    • A fool among the wise is like a hair ball on your hardwood floor.
    • A fool’s words sound like paws raking in a litter box.
    • A fool’s ramblings resemble Mr. Whiskers hacking up a hair ball.
    • A fool repeats his folly just as a cat continually licks his ….
    • Seriously, from this verse I often tell our daughters that wise people make mistakes, but, only fools repeat them!

     

    Verse 12: Fools have more hope than the arrogant. Yikes! Why is that? A fool can recognize his/her limits, while an arrogant person believes he/she has none. A fool is often lazy, thus will affect a limited few; an arrogant person often wreaks havoc on many. From your experience you can likely come up with other reasons for this as well.

     

     

    Minding your own Business:

    Verse 17: When you meddle in the affairs of others, you often walk away with bite marks. To get involved in the goings-on of others is enticing, but it will not end well. There are many applications for this verse regarding social media usage. I encourage you to take a moment and come up with some for yourself.

     

    Verse 20: In the absence of gossip there is an abundance of peace.

     

    Verse 21: Strife is sparked, and continually fueled, by the contentious.

     

    There you have it: two important topics for life and work, and some proverbs about cats. Truth flavored with wry wit … Bearded Acorn style!

    Now, go “dab” or “floss,” you have earned it. I can’t wait to see the videos of it online.

    Principles gettin’ up in your personal space …

     

    This chapter gets personal, quickly. It features topics that stride up to you and stand too close for comfort. We will look at three topics stated as warnings and one presented as an endeavor.

    Three Warnings:

    • Warning against greed: verses 4-5

    Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. Proverbs 23:4-5

    The word for “toil” in verse four can also be translated “over-work.” It has the idea of exhausting oneself in effort. Solomon, a remarkably wealthy king, advises against working too hard or too many hours for the sake of piling up money or gaining wealth. That’s a slap to the forehead. Even though he didn’t know it then, he is warning against the American dream of  “work hard to get more.”

    Verse five tells us why we should not toil for money or riches: it all goes away eventually. Yep, there you have it in clear and vivid pictures. You long for it, you see it, it is within your reach, then it sprouts wings, and flies away. Unlike quail which fly a few feet, then land, and offer you a chance to chase them again. Wealth flies away fast, up high, and never returns. This is a stern truth to save us from hardship. Let’s add a few more verses to bolster this point.

    “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 5:10

    “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

    “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:10

    Notice that Paul does not say that money is the root of all kinds of evils. He says that the “love of money” is.

    Not much left to say after reading those verses; on with the other two warnings.

     

    • Warning against envying the success of others: verse 17

    We are instructed to not envy the ungodly, their success, riches, position, or possessions. Why? See the first warning. And, envy is a trait of the selfish (aka fools).

    • Warning about over-indulgence: verses 29-35

    Big drinkers can become big complainers who harm themselves, and others, in big ways. Be wise. Be careful.

     

    A endeavor worth pursuing:

    • What to chase after: verse 23

    If we are to pursue something, we are to work toward wisdom and truth. The greatest treasure is one that lasts, and grows, and helps others as well. That treasure is the wisdom of God in Christ.

    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 …