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.

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.

A heap of several things, and a hint of things to come …

Your journey through the Book of Proverbs will traverse interesting terrain as upcoming chapters swerve in new directions. The focus will shift from the attitude of the heart and mind to action. Along the way you will encounter intriguing images, satirical statements, and verses to memorize and pray through. On display will be varying descriptions of the differences in the way that the wise and foolish speak, work, and live. Make a mental note of those three categories, you will find stacks of examples of each of them.

Yesterday’s post focused on memorizing Bible verses. Proverbs chapter 11 is a perfect fitting room for slipping on some verses to wear out and about. A few suggested ones for you to consider committing to memory are verses 2 (humility), 13 (words/taming the tongue), 14 (wisdom), and 25 (possessions/giving).

As with chapter 10, I will not attempt to wrap all of the verses in chapter 11 around one theme. Instead, take it as it is: many principles with similar shades painting the same truths in different shapes. Think of it as one principle shown in its many hues. Repeatedly, the wise and unwise will be depicted by the way that they speak, work, relate to others, and live. Caution: you might be occasionally jolted  as God grabs your attention with a keen image. Often, the image will be somewhat odd, or even funny. Verse 22 fits that bill with God comparing a pretty woman who lacks discretion, or good sense, with swine with serious nose bling. Hilarious! He presses the point that beauty is internal (character and virtue) not external (appearance and adornments). Brace yourself. There are more of those images on the horizon. Key in on them. They are meant to arrest your attention. The many ways and word pictures God uses to reveal His wisdom are part of the beauty of the Proverbs.

As you sense the way that Solomon writes and communicates in the following chapters know that it is intentional. The book becomes more direct and down-to-earth. Enjoy the interesting images and pick out a verse each day to ponder and pray through. And, stay tuned, around the bend you will pick up a few pointers on how to pray through some Proverbs.

Glad that you have stuck around for 11 days. I am sure that God is meeting you in new ways in His Word. He delights to come near to you as you walk toward Him in His Word.

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)

Proverbs 7

In the first verses of Chapter 7 we encounter strong verbs that describe our responsibility to God’s instruction: keep it, treasure it within, keep it and live, and write it on your heart.

Why such strong commands? Verse 5 reveals to us that it is to “keep us from …” In other words, when God warns us we are to respond. Also, in verse 5 we find the “seductress” making her rounds again. The majority of the verses in chapter 7 are warning against sexual immorality, but those principles can help us fend off other sorts of temptations as well.

To help us digest it, let’s divide this chapter into three bite-sized portions:

 

Typical ways we go astray: verses 5b-13

  • Falling for flattery (verse 5b). The smooth, complimentary words of others can often lure us away from obeying God.
  • Being in the wrong place (8-9). While this can be a place of outright debauchery, It can also be a more common, yet subtle, venue such as the break room at work (gossip/complaining). Other places to avoid might include bars, casinos, church business meetings, and Arby’s. I don’t think Arby’s is sinful, but what it does to your stomach at 3 a.m. might cause you to think or say sinful things, and/or threaten bodily harm to whomever made you eat there.
  • Being with people that we shouldn’t be with (10-13). These verses provide a description of what these folks are like: loud, rowdy, immodest, crafty/schemers, and impudent.

If you sense that any of these three are taking place, it’s time to head the other way!

 

Tools used to tempt us: verses 14-20

  • Excuses or justification for the act are offered. (14). You can likely recall some that have been heaped upon you in the past.
  • Personal appeals to participate are provided. (15). This tool is double diabolical, it is uses manipulation through a relationship in order to reel you in.
  • Sense-exciting invitations are dished out. (16-18). Bad things require over-the-top advertisement to convince others to join in; good things do not require such titillating sales pitches.
  • An encouraging round of excuses is offered. (19-20). New excuses are used to seal the deal, or as a last resort.

If you take a moment you can certainly recall personal examples of these that have been used on you in the past. Recall them, identify them, and steady yourself to fight them in the future. And, do not get the double roast beef with “horsey” sauce. Just sayin’.

 

Attitudes that temptation preys upon: 21

Verse 21 provides remarkable insight for us to use to guard against temptation. Although we are enticed and flattered by others to yield to temptation, our internal attitudes cause us to give in. Specifically, discontent and pride can become the two rails that temptation runs upon.

Keep in mind, while the context of the chapter deals with the specific sin of snuggling with a seductress, the principles transfer to most any form of temptation. We can be tempted to become angry, indulgent, jealous, gossip, lust, or greedy in the same ways.

 

Two take-a-ways for tomorrow:
1. When you sense someone beginning to flatter you, appeal for your involvement, offer excuses as approval, and tingle your senses with descriptions of what they are planning … run the other way!

2. Please do not think that temptation can’t break through your wall of resistance. Verse 26 registers a sobering statement: the weak and strong alike can fall prey to the wares of the worldly. We cannot withstand temptation in our own strength. We must run to Christ, He is our strength and wisdom! Seek him and sin loses it’s allure.

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?

Corrrection, please!

The headlines over the past few weeks, namely the Vanity Fair cover photo of Bruce Jenner and the maelstrom surrounding Rachel Dolezal (the caucasian NAACP leader in Washington who has pretended to be an African-American) shows us the state of our culture, its depravity, and stupidity. When a person thinks that he or she can “declare” his or her gender or ethnic background regardless of biology, and common sense, what are we left with? Answer: A mess.

We live in a country that thinks that all one has to do if he or she is uncomfortable with his/her place in life is to redefine it and claim it to be something that he or she likes better, or is more convenient. Jenner calls himself “trans-gender,” while Dolezal is “trans-ethnic.” With one sloppily coined statement folks think that they can alter or outright change who, or what, they are. Unhappy people making an unhappy mess.

This is where truth comes in handy. It sets standards, teaches principles, delineates boundaries, and clarifies life. In fact, that is what our culture is seeking to undo. And, they are doing it for a reason — to remove accountability and live as they please, and in turn try to make others agree with them. They call it tolerance. I call it “trans-sense,” oops, I mean sans-sense. Better.

I have read and studied the Book of Proverbs since I was a young Christ-follower. Two decades later I am better for having done so. I am currently digging into Proverbs in greater depth than I have before, and each morning I share a principle or application from it on Twitter (@JodySmotherman). Let me share three things about the Book of Proverbs with you. They are simple, short, yet stout, and provide a good map for the whole book.

  • The Book of Proverbs deals with two kinds of people: the wise and the foolish (though the “simple” are also mentioned as a sort of middle-ground, uninformed person who could go one way or the other. It’s usually easier to break and run for the team of fools than to work toward becoming wise).
  • The Book of Proverbs shares God’s wisdom for living with us in short statements. No long diatribes are present, just succinct statements for wise living. Bite-sized truth that will bite and hold on.
  • The Book of Proverbs shows a common theme that separates the wise from the foolish. It is found throughout the book and summarized in Proverbs 9:7-9 (read it carefully):

“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (ESV)

It all boils down to this: the difference between the wise and the foolish is their acceptance toward and application of correction. Period. Folks who will listen to truth — whether read for themselves or shared by godly people in their lives — and appreciate it, and follow the correction that it calls them to, will grow in wisdom. The Bible says that their lives will be marked by words such as “wisdom, instruction, discretion, insight, judgment, good sense,” and much more. Those who reject truth and correction are destined to become more foolish. To summarize, in the presence of truth and correction the wise grow wiser while fools will reject both and happily wallow in their folly.

So, the application is simple. As life unfolds, the wise will increase in wisdom while the foolish will grow more foolish, and more weird. If you keep this in mind it will help you to sort out the silliness and sordidness that surrounds us nowadays.

Here is an example of how it might look if you were to discuss a fool’s folly with him or her:

You: Based on what I know from the Bible, what you just did was pretty foolish (or who or whatever you just “declared” yourself to be).
Fool: Well, I am not foolish. I will tell you what is foolish. You are foolish, and you are foolish for thinking that what I think is foolish. And furthermore, you thinking that people who do not agree with you are foolish is the new definition of foolish.”
You: Huh? (you are really thinking that this is a fool spiraling in his senselessness, and you didn’t know what else to say).

All of this to say that there is Truth — God’s timeless principles of right and wrong. It cuts the culture’s ego and evil right into the quick. We live in a day of excuses, blame-shifting, short-sighted wrong-headedness, and a whiny it’s-not-my-fault victim mentality. God’s Word shows truth, wrong and right, cut and dried, black and white. There’s no room for side-stepping it, or running from it. It keeps coming in a sure and steady manner … while the un-wise cavort about in their soul-blinding, self-deceiving slop.

Here’s a helpful tidbit in closing, when truth and wisdom are escorted out of the life of a person or a culture, the next to exit will be principles, then reason, and then substance. If you wonder why some people, or our nation’s culture, have helter-skelter, up-and-down, superficial ways … Proverbs shows you why that is the case.

Now, you can see that their nonsense makes perfect sense to them. And, to the contrary, that God’s sense makes no sense to them…