Truths flapping in the breeze …

We all like for things to end well. A book, a movie, or a story pleases us when it ends warmly. We like resolution, especially resolution that makes us happy. This allows us to tidy up the story, smile, and walk away.

Bible reading isn’t like that. We can never bring the Truth to resolution. Instead, it un-resolves us. God’s Word takes us apart, then stitches us back together, not in ways that we determine, or appreciate, at times. It’s this work in us that makes us more like Christ, whole, joyful. Those three are themes in the book of Philippians. Philippians is rich in truth for daily living. Truth that undoes us, then re-does us (yes, I know that is bad grammar, but it seems the best way to state it.). Let’s gather up the bits that we have whittled on in our month-long study of Philippians:

Chapter One:

  • We are to be thankful.
  • We are to “partner” in God’s work with others — pastors, fellow believers, your church.
  • We are to trust God as He does His sanctifying work in us, and submit to Him as He does.

Chapter Two:

  • We are to look out for fellow believers.
  • We are to surrender to God’s work in us. (There’s that one again … hmmmm)
  • We are to pour ourselves out for others.

Chapter Three:

  • We are to rejoice — find joy and contentment, and express it — in all things.
  • We are to forget the past and press on to the future. We do this through Christ, our Redeemer, Forgiver, Sustainer, and Power.

Chapter Four:

  • We are to seek unity in Christ.
  • We are to grow in knowing peace in Christ.
  • We are to develop strength in Christ.

Each of those truths alone stand out as day, week, or life-changing. As we survey them we see that they are made of solid granite, yet dripping with mercy. God wants us to live them out. By His grace and the power of His Spirit we can. As we close the study of Philippians there is an important application to make: As each of these truths flap and snap on the clothesline in our hearts and minds we must resist the urge to unclip them, fold them crisply, sort them into neat stacks, and put them away. Tucking truth away is a sure way to spiritual stagnation. We must allow the truths we learn to hold our attention.

We must restrain ourselves from seeking to resolve the truths of God’s Word or conform them to our wishes. They cannot be tamed, or domesticated. Let the truth roust and rough-house about with you. Let it do it’s firm, yet merciful, transforming work in you. As God’s Word rubs hard on us, pricks us, and nudges us, we change; we grow; we become more like Christ.

Thank you for being a part of this “virtual” study. My prayer and goal for this study has been to offer a small ray of light on this book. I hope that it has been helpful to you. I have not yet settled on our next study. So, stayed tuned. We will take a week or so off and then begin to walk through another short book of the Bible together.

Thanks again for reading along, your feedback, and comments. Catch your breath, we will begin another study in a week, or so. And, remember to let the loose ends of the truth dance in the wind …

This ain’t easy, and wasn’t meant to be …

As described in the post for the outline, this chapter is rich with verses that impact your daily living. Let’s take them out into the light for a closer look. We will use the outline as a guide and add some meat to its bones.

Just a heads up, Paul is dealing with some real life issues in chapter four. And, he doesn’t line it with lace and velvet. He is writing while in prison and suffering for his faith. This chapter has stout lyrics set to a terse tune. You might feel a couple of “ouches” along the way. There are on purpose. So, to reflect the tone of the chapter, I have written with a serious disposition as well.

Each Christian should be:

Seeking unity in Christ: verses 1-5

Where two or three are gathered together … someone will fuss. Paul implored two ladies in the church at Philippi to bury the hatchet, and not in each other’s back. They were feuding and it was time to stop. He longed for them to walk in unity, and he admonished them to do so.

Paul does not instruct them to be of the same opinion, or “perspective,” (I am so tired of that word, it seems like a $52 word for opinion or personal preference). He told them to be “of the same mind.” This more than just agreeing. This means that they are to agree in thought AND attitude. This is a commitment to God’s Truth and submitting to it to direct their thoughts and actions. It is a surrender of self and determination to be like Christ.

Also, the Philippian believers were to rejoice “in the Lord.” Genuine joy does not bubble up from warm, fuzzy circumstances. It comes from knowing, trusting, and relying upon God and His promises. The way verse four is constructed means that the rejoicing is to be continual, or a deliberate ongoing action.

Knowing peace in Christ: verses 6-9

Here are eight critical words: God does not want you to be anxious! He wants you to have peace. You thoughts and attitudes will be determined by what you focus your mind on. If you focus on yourself, your situation, or your ability to take care of yourself, you actually should be worrisome and anxious. We cannot take care of our lives. God can, and must. Verse six shows us how to avoid worry and anxiety:

1. Follow His command. God grants us the power obey. You must commit to changing the way you think and what you think about. God does not magically change it. You must work on it. He will provide grace, strength, and wisdom. But, you must work at it. Memorizing key Bible verses is a great way to catalyze, then augment this. Did I mention that you must be disciplined in your thinking and work at it? Pause here for some self-examination … then work at it.

2. Pray. Duh! When you begin to fret or fume, you can stop it, quit focusing on self or the situation, and pray. Pray through your memory verses. Pray about the situation. Pray for power to overcome your anxiety. Then, move on. Remember Philippians 3:13-14 — forget the past and press on. Did I mention to work at it?

3. Be disciplined. Here’s the itchy reality: if you do not commit to changing the way you think or what you focus on, do not memorize verses, decide to focus on self rather than praying, and keep going back to whatever bothers you, then you do not want God’s peace. He doesn’t magically change all of this for you. You have to want it. You have to be disciplined in pursuing His peace. It’s a process, not an event. It requires focused effort, not hoping and waiting. Did I mention that this takes work?

Notice what His peace does for us in verse 7: it guards our hearts and minds. It doesn’t zap our hearts and minds, or put sprinkle magical, Heaven dust on them. It guards your mind and heart; it stands guard as you do what you are supposed to: fill your heart and mind with Scripture, pray, forget the past, focus on God’s word, and press on. Speaking of what we should focus on, verses eight and nine follow up on seeking God’s peace by telling us what to focus our minds on:

  • Things that are true (God’s Word); not things that exist in our mind and might not exist in reality. Have you ever kept track of things you worry about. It has been stated that 90% of the things that we worry about never actually happen.
  • Things that are noble, reverent, dignified; not things that are irreverent, or profane, or folly
  • Things that are fair and morally pure; not immoral or unfair things
  • Things that are pleasing and grace-based, not things that are upsetting or un-winsome
  • Things that are worthy of honor and praise.

If you memorize God’s Word, focus on these types of things (not on, ahem, Netflix or Facebook), commit to turning away from worry/anxiety when it springs up, and to praying, you will come to know the peace of God. If you don’t do these things, well, then you are asking for what you will get — frustration, worry, and fretfulness.

Before we leave this section, it is important to see that unity among believers comes through:

  • Having the same mindset in Christ. 3
  • Having ongoing joy in Christ. 4
  • Culitivating and demonstrating gentleness toward others. 5 (Note: developing gentleness is an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, and discipline.)
  • Developing a non-anxious, peaceful mind. 6-7
  • Focusing on things that honor God and are wholesome.

Growing in strength in Christ: verses 10-13

Growing in Christ means pushing through our own emotions, thoughts, and motives. We must press on. Notice that Paul says in verse 11 that to be content in whatever circumstance required him learning to do so. Again, there is not a one time balm that God rubs on our minds for this. Paul said that “I have learned in whatever state I am in, to be content.” He learned it! Cringe alert: even though he had a hard life and was treated unfairly, Paul never felt sorry for himself or played the victim. He kept pressing on (Chapter 3:13-14). Did I mention that he worked at it?

So, the context for verse 13, which is often quoted, is one of learning to endure and gaining strength from Christ as we learn to press on and be content. I once saw a coffee mug in a Christian book store in Memphis that had a picture of a man playing golf along with Philippians 4:13 quoted on it. I laughed out loud when I saw it. Composing from a prison cell, Paul was not writing to the Philippians to say that Jesus would give us strength to improve at our hobbies, or be more successful in our leisure, or have an easier time with our easy lives. Paul was saying, “Hey, I am in prison for Christ, but I have learned to be content in whatever situation am I in because I draw strength from Him as I suffer for Him.” Jesus doesn’t care about anyone’s golf game. Really. He’s bigger than that. We should be too.

Receiving provision from Christ: verses 14-20

It is through fellow believers that God often provides. Notice how the Philippian believers had helped Paul by encouraging him, serving alongside him, and supporting him financially. We should do the same for other believers.

I will save a summary and wrap up for the post on Friday on application for chapter four. In the meantime, as a way to tie chapter four together I offer these wise words shared by a saint from years ago regarding living the Christian: God will provide the fish. But, you have dig the worms, bait the hook, and go fishing!

Well said. When it comes to developing unity in Christ, knowing peace from Christ, and growing in strength in Christ, did I mention that … you have to work at it?

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 …

Proverbs 8

This chapter kicks off with great news. Wisdom is readily available (1-5), wisdom is God-honoring (6-8), and wisdom is get-a-hold-able (9). Yes, that last word isn’t really a word. It’s phrase that might reflect my hillbilly upbringing, but it makes the point. If you rewind and re-read this paragraph it has astonishing truths in it. Many folks imagine that God is angry at them — much like an aggravated parent — or not truly on their side. This could not be further from the truth. For those of us in Christ, God is fully out for our good, and delights to do good to and for us. This includes making His wisdom freely available to us — for the asking and seeking — and assuring that we can understand and apply it by His Holy Spirit.

Let’s press the “pause” button on Proverbs 8 for a moment. I want to serve up some hearty truth that might help you in your walk with God. God is not fickle, His perfect character and ways never change; God’s promises to you and for you in Christ never decrease or diminish. This is true even when we are not walking in obedience.

Here is a personal example to help make the point. I have three children. I love them dearly. When they disobey, or do unwise things, I might discipline them, but I do not disown them. They are my children regardless of whether they are being polite or acting like knuckleheads. Because they are  my children the parent-child relationship is permanent, it cannot change. When they fuss, or complain, or disobey, our relationship does not change, but our fellowship does. In other words, while our relationship isn’t altered by their behavior, our fellowship can be.

The same is true for you with God. When you are honoring Him and walking with Him the relationship and fellowship are intact. When you dishonor Him, or fail to walk with Him, the relationship is still eternally intact, but the fellowship will suffer; and, as a Good Father he will discipline you to restore your fellowship. Does that make sense? Hopefully that helps you feel more secure in your relationship with God, and it helps you appreciate that he is for your good at all times, even in His discipline.

Now, let’s press the “play” button and return to Proverbs 8. Wisdom is readily available to us — calling from the high hills and at the places we frequent —  so, we have no excuse for failing to pursue it. Verse 17 tells us that God is delighted when we seek wisdom and rewards us when we do.

The last half of this chapter takes an interesting turn, or tone. You will notice that wisdom is no longer referred to but rather is speaking in the first person, “I, I, I …” Being a sharp reader with a keen mind, you remember from chapter three that Jesus is the Wisdom of God to us.

Check out John 1:1-3 and see how it parallels Proverbs 8:12-31:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

Let’s fold these thoughts as Jesus as the Wisdom and Word of God onto the promises of wisdom in Proverbs 8:1-11 and see how it fits:

  • Wisdom (Jesus) is readily available to us (1-5)
  • Wisdom (Jesus) honors God the Father (6-8)
  • Wisdom (Jesus) is get-a-hold-able (9)
  • Wisdom (Jesus) is all surpassing and we should pursue it (Him) (10-11)

Troublers of many types …

Congratulations! You have completed 5 days of the Proverbs Challenge. Great job! I hope that you have gained a new appreciation for the Book of Proverbs, an enriched time in the Bible each day, and a desire to spend more time in it.

Proverbs 6 is a series of brief bursts of observations and instructions. A title that ties it together is: types of troublers and why to avoid them. In this chapter there are three categories of no-gooders to avoid. If this were a high school “who’s who,” the categories would be:

  • Most likely to never get a job (6-11)
  • Most likely to create trouble for those around them (12-15)
  • Most likely to get an STD (20-35)

As we read those verses we might be prone to think, “thank the Lord, those do not apply to us.” And, hopefully, that is true. But, and you knew that there would be a catch, we have to be careful with this type of thinking. In Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus shows us that we are to avoid committing sinful acts, and to also avoid the attitudes that fuel them. So much for our high-minded judgement of others. So, let’s apply what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:21-48 — you might want to take a few minutes and read those verses — to the three types of folks listed previously. We will do so with some very penetrating, yet profitable, questions that will assist us in removing those attitudes before they have time to act.

  • Are there parts of your life where laziness is hiding, or napping? Are you doing what you should to develop spiritual depth, healthy relationships, a healthy lifestyle, financial freedom, or service to others? Everything we have is a gift from God (James 1:17) and we are to be good stewards of His gifts. To not do so is … sin (James 4:17).
  • Are there attitudes that you harbor, or things you say, that wish or cause trouble for others? Christ-followers are to be know for serving, helping, encouraging, and building up others. (Ephesians 4:32, 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Are there thoughts that you foster about the opposite sex, or forms of entertainment you watch, that you should avoid? Even if you have loved all 87 seasons of The Bachelor, or bing watch Game of Thrones, it’s never too late to stop.

Those are tough questions.

While actions are often easy to avoid, attitudes set up residence in our hearts, make themselves at home, unpack their troubles, and do so unseen by others.

In Proverbs 6, God is clearly showing us to avoid those three types of people — which if you are doing the Proverbs Challenge it is unlikely that you are a lazy, back-stabbing, gossiper who hangs out with prostitutes — He is also warning us to avoid the attitudes that cultivate that type of living. People rarely run full speed into sin. Their attitudes slowly nudge them into it, almost imperceptibly.

You might wonder which specific attitudes generate such a gravitational pull into ungodly living. They are listed in verses 16-19 of Proverbs 6. In those verses Solomon introduces seven things that God despises. You will quickly notice a pattern in verses 17-19. In each of those verses Solomon names the ungodly attitude(s) then the action that it causes. Keep in mind that the attitude does not usually cause the action instantly. It takes time. Those attitudes can simmer in the Crockpot of our souls long before the action emerges.

An implied lesson in this chapter is: guard your heart and mind by filling them with God’s Word. You might recall the following verses from Proverbs 4 that apply here:

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:20-23

An amazing aspect of the Proverbs is that they build upon and shed light upon themselves. It’s remarkable how God speaks to us, teaches us, and does it so incredibly. He intends to show us Himself, His ways, and to do so in amazing fashion. Stay tuned, it gets even better!

Get this … and gain freedom

What would you do if God showed you there is something that you need to get? Would you ignore it, delay it, or go immediately and lay hold of it?

In Proverbs 4 God is telling us all that there is one thing that we should get. It’s not better behavior, improved church attendance, or a religious activity. He tells us to pursue wisdom. In Proverbs 4:7 God exhorts us to get wisdom. In fact, the repetitive way that this is stated in verse 5 is a method that Solomon used — remember the mention of Hebrew poetry in the post from day one — to place great emphasis on a topic and reiterate it. He is saying that of all the things in the world to pursue, we should pursue wisdom, and double our effort in doing it.

Here is where this becomes astonishing. Take a deep breath.  Here it is: the pursuit of wisdom is not a journey toward religious rules. It’s not at all. Pursuing God’s wisdom is not about becoming more religious (those of you who are 10th degree black belt, industrial strength Baptists might need to reach for you heart medication or inhaler now). Pursuing God’s wisdom is about pursuing a Person. God’s Wisdom is found in His Word, and even more so, found in His Living Word: Jesus. Consider these two verses:

“but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:24

“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,”1 Corinthians 1:30

Get a dose of this: We find wisdom in God’s Word; Jesus is the Living Word of God (John 1:1, John 1:14), and Jesus is the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). Does it seem like someone just turned on the truth defroster and your foggy spiritual windshield cleared up a bit? Here is the knee-buckling, heart-sparking part: We are to pursue Jesus, and we do so by reading the Word of God, as we do the Holy Spirit then makes the Living Word (Jesus) alive to us in the written Word (Bible). Think of it this way, you are not reading the Bible to accumulate wisdom; as you read the Bible you get to know Christ and in getting to know Him you grow in His wisdom. He doesn’t drop wisdom pellets into your soul as you read the Bible. He reveals Himself to you and as you grow in knowing Him you become more like Him and receive His wisdom. Allow Ephesians 1:17 to pull back the curtains a little bit and let more light in on this:

“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,”

Don’t zip past this. This verse shows us that it is in knowing, and growing in knowing, Jesus — “in the knowledge of him — that we receive wisdom. Holy Saturated Fats! That’s incredible. We gain wisdom through knowing Christ. It’s not about religion, it’s about your relationship with Him.

This post might have been a bit long. Sorry, sort of. But, the one thing that I hope that you receive in this post is this: Solomon wasn’t wise because he was religious or supremely moral (in fact, he kind of messed up a lot on both of those), he was wise because He knew and depended upon God. The same is true for us. You will not become more wise through religious somersaults or moral pull-ups, you grow in wisdom through knowing Jesus Christ.

In the first post I suggested that you watch out for three regular characters in Proverbs: the wise, the simple, and the foolish. Let me introduce the main character of Proverbs: Jesus. He is the One who is the wisdom of God and imparts it to you as you get to know Him.

Grasping this will help you see how the blessings of growing in the wisdom of God listed in Proverbs 4:22-27 become reality in your life. They are not formed by rule-keeping, they are received from a Person — Jesus. He is the One who:

  • Gives you life (22)
  • Keeps your heart (23)
  • Guards/restrains your words (24) — I sure need this one!
  • Keeps you on track, focused, and moving straight ahead (25)
  • Helps you consider your steps and life-direction (26)
  • Helps you bear true on His course for you (27)

A set of rules, or religious activity, cannot do those things for you. But, Jesus will do them in you and for you! As you read the Bible, you are getting to know the One who is eager to do those things for you. Bible reading takes on a whole different meaning now, doesn’t it?

It hinges on a single word …

One of the most critical words in our language consists of only two letters. Hopes or fears, plans or problems often teeter on this tiny word. The word is “if.” Take a minute and think about all the “ifs” you encounter, or say, in a day.

When God’s “if” is met with your prayerful pursuit of Him, the trajectory and tone of your life can re-begin. In Proverbs 2 God outlines great benefits for those who move from “if” to “I will.”

Proverbs chapter two begins with, “My son (or daughter), if you receive my words …” It’s an opening statement that combines a challenge with a promise. Likewise, verses three and four begin with “if” as well. God is prompting us to pause and ponder what He is offering. He affords specific blessings to those who take heed to His word. Let’s line up what He requires so that it points us to the obedience He desires so that we can receive those benefits.

Three “If” Statements:

  • If you receive my words and treasure my commandments. Verse 1
  • If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding. Verse 3
  • If you seek it (His word and wisdom) like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures. Verse 4

With these few words God opens the way to His wisdom and knowing Him better. Here’s a summary of it: When we receive His word we are to treasure it, pray for insight, and continue to seek Him; then, He shows us Himself, His wisdom, and His ways. We must take care here: our pursuit of Him and His word is to have a earnest and singular focus (verse 4). This process of pursuing Him cannot happen every now-and-then, or by happenstance. It’s deliberate.

A real life example might help here. I am an avid — but not very fast — runner. My oldest daughter, Emma, and I often run together. The best part of our running is not finishing big races or earning medals, it is the time spent together, challenging each other, talking, and laughing. The meaningful part of our running is pursing it together, not the completion of it.

The same idea follows in the “if” statements. God is giving us these statements to get us to Him, not to get us to a spiritual achievement. The treasure is in growing closer to Him, not performing spiritual exercises for Him.

He delights in us as we draw near to Him. He joyfully gives Himself, and His wisdom, to us as we take joy in Him. It’s true. It is that simple. As you read Proverbs chapter two, mull over this question, “what will happen when I draw near to God in His word and seek His wisdom?” The answers to that question are found in verses 5-12. They will amaze you. Go ahead, read them, and find out for yourself. There is a treasure trove in those verses.

Speaking of a treasure trove, and of treasuring God’s word (verse 1), allow Matthew 13:44 to demonstrate what a singular and relentless pursuit of and joy in God looks like:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

It is worth noting that the pursuit described in Matthew 13:44 is not one of guilt or grit, duty or demand, rules or religion, no, our pursuit of God in Christ is to be one of joy. As you take joy in Him in His Word, He will take joy in drawing near to you and showing Himself and His wisdom to you.

It all begins with “if.” Today, take the leap from “if” to “I will.”

More life in your living …

Of the 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, two verses seem to be quoted the most. They are Proverbs 3:5-6. Those verses are rich. But, there are amazing truths in the verses that come before and after them as well.

In particular, verse two says that God adds length of days (quality), years of life (quantity), and peace to those who heed His word — more life in your living! Verse four teaches us that God also shows His favor to those keep His word. So, how do these blessings become ours? By writing them down. They could be written in your journal, or on a note card for your bathroom mirror, or even on a sticky note on your computer screen. But, truly, verse four refers to the best place for God’s word to be inscribed: on your heart. Proverbs 3:4 actually says that we are to write God’s word on our heart.

Be aware that someone is writing on the tablet of your heart each day. Is it God, you, or someone around you? Is it TV, social media, or our culture? Who is scribbling their thoughts and beliefs onto your heart? Why are you letting them? Tough questions, but necessary questions. It’s time to erase what others and our culture have written on our hearts and let God pen His principles and truth on our hearts.

How does this take place? The answer is found in those famous verses five and six:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Are you ready to erase the world’s graffiti and self-engraved nonsense from your heart? Here’s how:

  • Turn your entire heart over to Christ; He makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Trust in Him instead of relying upon yourself; He never breaks the trust you place in Him (Hebrews 13:5-6, Matthew 28:20).
  • Walk away from your “wisdom” and seek His; He wisdom is without limit or end (Romans 11:33)
  • Follow His ways, forsake your ways; He is the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6).
  • Follow the path He creates, instead of creating your own (Psalm 23:3, Psalm 31:3, 1 Corinthians 7:17)

All of those principles are compacted into Proverbs 3:5-6. No wonder it is so beloved and often quoted.

When you yield to Christ as the only Author allowed to put pen to the paper of your heart, He will:

  • Add life to your soul. 3:22
  • Help you to walk through each day securely and prevent you from stumbling. 3:23
  • Remove anxiety and give you sound sleep and rest. 3:24
  • Offer you hour-to-hour and day-to-day peace. He keeps you safe from the “sudden fear” that creeps into all of our minds. 3:25

In summary, He becomes the confidence, peace, direction, and surety that we all long for. He can cleanse our hearts, remove what bothers and embitters them, and provide direction and protection for them. His pen is ready.  Are you ready?

It’s simple, but true …

Many of us have several children. God has one Son. Just one. He sent Him to die. The previous three sentences — just 11 words — hold many truths from God’s Word. They are simple, but staggering, plain, but potent.

It seems that God prefers the simple and plain. He is grand and glorious, yet shares His love and truth in ways that are well within our reach. I am grateful for that. Consider the announcement of the birth of Jesus. It was delivered by an angel, regal and resplendent, to … shepherds. Simple shepherds. In those times shepherds were humble folk, the least and lowly. If Bath and Body Works released a Christmas candle in tribute to those shepherds it would be called, “Reeking Ragamuffins.” And, those fellows were chosen as the first to hear of the birth of our Savior. Grin, smirk even, because that is how God works. He bypasses the lofty bee-lines right to the regulars, regular folks knee deep in need and steeped in stress. I would guess that you are catching the lyrics and picking up the tune here. God comes to the common and coarse. That’s us.

Soak in one of Jesus’ first sermons. It was fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2 as well as the proclamation of the mission of Jesus. It is the Gospel unpacked and applied:

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21

Please re-read it slowly. Read it aloud. Breath it in. It’s direct, and directed to us. It is God through Christ focusing His favor on rag-tag folks. Hear the heart and mission of Jesus spoken plainly:

  • He came to proclaim and purchase redemption, forgiveness, and salvation.
  • He came to repair broken hearts and lives.
  • He came to untether the tangled.
  • He came to open eyes to Truth and hope.
  • He came to bend open the bars and usher us to freedom.
  • Then, He said, “this is why I am here.”

To summarize each and all of those — He came to save us. He came to save us from our sins, our struggles, and … ourselves. God’s great gift is salvation through His Son. Though it came at a great price, it is freely offered.

Please pardon the solemn tone of this post. Christmas is joyful, a time of celebration, but remember, it was costly. Embrace the problem of our sin and separation from God. Embrace Jesus’ stepping from heaven to here, a demotion on all counts. Embrace His teaching, His death, His love in both.

As you enjoy your children this Christmas recall that God only has one Son. His Name is Jesus. He sent Him to die. Now, we can be God’s sons and daughters. Embrace your adoption into His family.

Embrace the Gift. Embrace Him …

Merry Christmas to you all!

Happy Birthday to our Redeemer-King!

Look, and see ….


It happened yesterday — a minuscule moment hidden in a dandy day. I almost missed it.


Yesterday was one of those days that started out wonderfully and grew better by the hour. Emma, our oldest daughter, and I woke up before dawn to get ready for the Little Rock Marathon 10K race. It was our first 10K together, as well as our first road race (the others have been trail races, we are more naturally suited to off-road, root-and-rock-hopping, hill-scrambling sorts of races). We were excited, to say the least.


The cold air that greeted us as we left our hotel did not deter us. We knew that we would warm up soon enough. As we lined up with the 3,000 other participants in the 5/10K we encountered friends from our hometown and my workplace. As a dad-and-daughter running team we were glad to start the race alongside a coworker and friend of mine who was running with her daughter as well (a shout out to Robin and Hannah for a race well run!).


During the race Emma and I talked, ran with other home town folks for a bit, laughed, thanked volunteers along the way, talked even more (she is a teenage girl, after all) encouraged each other, and looked forward to a big post-race breakfast. As we neared the finish we kicked it into high gear — high gear is required for me to keep up with Emma as she approaches the finish line. We finished at the same time, enjoyed post race pictures, and collected our medals for completing the race. Soon after, we found out that of 1600 10K participants we had outrun 1197 of them. To add to our excitement we also learned that Emma had won 3rd place in her division! Make no mistake, this paragraph does function to build the narrative to the point of this post, but it also serves a huge, and well-placed, “dad brag.”


Sporting our medals and salty with sweat we made our way back to the hotel for showers and breakfast. We later checked out of the hotel and ran a few errands before heading home. Then, it happened. We stopped at a garden center/nursery in North Little Rock. As I browsed for a new plant for my office Emma said, “Dad, let me have your phone.” One never knows what is on a teenager’s mind when that request is made. She took my phone and began taking pictures of plants. She hunkered down over a few that I had already moved past. Then, smiling from ear to ear — a smile that will soon feature braces — she revealed her pictures. I was stunned.  One of her pictures stopped me in my tracks, which wasn’t difficult considering how stiff I had become after the race. I lingered on her photo, savored it, and admired her eye for beauty and ability to capture it. Her is Emma’s picture:





If I offered a title to this picture it would be “God’s Hidden Jewel.” Here’s why. I had walked past that tiny plant saucering a single drop of water. I hadn’t noticed it at all. Emma had. She had spotted it right away, and then acted on her excitement in seeing it. What a life lesson. How often do I walk by these God-saturated moments and gifts? Each of the many times that I have looked at her picture I have been reminded to slow down, focus my attention, and spot the “hidden jewels” along each day’s path. A child’s giggle, an encouraging word, or a lavender sunset are grace-gifts from our Heavenly Father that can slip by us if we are not on the ready.


“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” exclaimed the Psalmist in Psalm 34:8. The lesson gleaned from yesterday was “Look, and see that LORD is good!” Sometimes the biggest part of the day lies outside of the most exciting moments, and is hidden among the smaller ones.


As I pondered this lesson another passage of Scripture sprang to mind:
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17)


A simple, and stern, reminder. We come to Christ and into His Kingdom with “child-like” faith. We also recieve God’s gifts as children do — in humble, simple, grateful trust in our Father in Heaven. This reminds us that in order to recognize God’s gifts, and to walk through each day at His pace, we would do well to observe how our children move through moments. As they stop and gasp in wonder, so should we. They miss nothing, neither should we.


Today, and tomorrow, let’s set our minds to walk at a child’s pace, to look, and to see …