Saturday, May 16, 2009

Confident Decisions and Direction

Proverbs 16

How can I be confident in my life's decisions and direction?

1) Realize God is in control of everything and works everything out for his own purposes (1, 4, 9, 33). Whatever path we choose God uses it for his own end (4).

2) When we choose God's way, the path of wisdom and righteousness, the path that pleases him, we will succeed and live a life of peace (3, 7).

3) Be aware that God knows what is in our heart. He knows our true motives, even when we don't (2). This is why it is so important to fear the Lord and to walk in humility (15:33; 16:5).

When we are walking down the path of wisdom we can be confident, as bold as lions, in our decisions and direction. "The path of life leads upward for the wise..." (15:24).

As I face the uncertainties of unemployment, I can be at peace, knowing my life's direction is in his hands. As I trust him and live according to his way, the way of wisdom, there is no way to go but upward.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Come Close, Dear Lord

"The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good" (Proverbs 15:3).

Never before in my life has the presence of the Lord been more real, relevant and relished. I want more of Him. The reality is, I already have all of Him. I just need to realize it and live it. Like a good marriage, we are one and becoming one. I've been working on several versions of my life mission statement. My latest version reflects our relationship with God.

"My mission in life is to start a God-given revolution of relationships that leads many people to grow in an intimate relationship with Christ and with one another, so that together we are impacting our world for Christ".

Life is all about our relationship with God. Our relationship with Him determines the course of life, gives it meaning, joy and purpose. There are four verses in chapter fifteen that made this reality jump out at me (8, 9, 26, 28). In these verses the relationship God has with the wicked is contrasted with the relationship God has with the righteous. The Lord keeps watch on them both, but with a greatly different perspective of each.

The Lord detests anything the wicked does, even if it is done in His name (8-9). God even detests the thoughts of the wicked (26). In the end, the Lord is far from the him (29). He is not heard. He is not loved. He is only looked at with disgust. But the righteous, that is another story. The Lord loves the righteous (9). God hears him and is pleased with him (8). His thoughts and words are pleasant to him (8, 26, 29). Best of all, God is near the pure of heart (29).

This relational contrast is beautifully portrayed in James 4:4-10:

4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?[a] 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."[b]

7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Enough said!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Be Zealous for Fear

Proverbs 14

The fear of the Lord is mentioned four times in this chapter (2, 16, 26, 27) and fifteen times in the entire book. The fear of the Lord is at the core of wisdom (9:10).

The word "fear" in association with God seems to be strange bedfellows. After all, fear is an emotion that can paralyze a person and often keeps one from growing and doing what is right and necessary. This confuses our understanding of the fear of the Lord. Just like so many other good things, man has a tendency to take what is meant to be good and distort it, change it, and abuse it. Sex, power, and wealth are all examples of concepts that were created by God and have tremendous potential for both good and evil. They become perverted when man worships them and covets them for his own selfish glory.

To understand the fear of the Lord we must focus on the purpose and benefits of fear as created by God. Fear is meant to protect us from harm. It keeps us in control so we don't do things that are stupid and destructive. It keeps us from extremes and danger. Fear also has a motivating effect. It keeps us moving forward, growing, striving and learning. After all, who wants to fail a class or be corrected or disciplined? Because we fear our parents, teachers, employers, law enforcement, accountability partners, and our friends, we are motivated to obey, learn, change and to refrain from what is harmful and often destructive.

If our fear is healthy, God-given fear, we will benefit. We will grow closer to the person we fear and we will move farther away from behavior and attitudes that are ultimately destructive. This all flows out of our love and respect of those we fear. We trust them and know they have our best interest at heart. We allow them to have control and influence on our lives because they know the best path for our lives.

Who but God, knows what's best for us. God-created, God-centered fear keeps us away from what is bad and moves us toward what is good. Fear is a controlling emotion. To fear the Lord is to allow Him to control the direction of our life, to move it in the direction of wisdom (9:10) and away from evil (8:13). He loves us and can be trusted. He has our best interest at heart. We wants to take us down the path that leads to wealth (3:7), length of life (10:27; 22:4), a secure fortress (14:26), a fountain of life (14:27; 22:4), honor (15:33; 22:4), contentment (19:23), a life untouched by trouble (19:23), and has a future hope (23:17).

Fear is a controlling emotion. Give God control of your life by fearing Him. Always be zealous for the fear of the Lord (23:17).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stay the Course

Proverbs 11

There are many reminders in this chapter to stay the course. Faithfulness will be rewarded (4, 6, 8, 18-19, 23, 28, 30-31). Conversely, "the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity" (3), and "the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires" (6). Don't be deceived, distracted or daunted. Staying the course will pay off.

This is a good reminder to stay strong and not be discouraged. For me, this means to not lose faith, God will provide a job in time and will provide financially in the mean time. It is easy to skid off track, especially with our attitude and focus. We tend to get wrapped up in this life and soon forget that we are just aliens, foreigners who are passing through this life. Heaven is our home.

Spring and summer, and the nice weather that they bring, are often seasons for drifting off course and getting distracted. In the words of Solomon, we are susceptible to being destroyed by our duplicity (3) and being trapped by evil desires (6). It is easy to get captured and enraptured by the "good" things of this life. King David is a good example of someone who was distracted and eventually, trapped by the "good" things of this life. When the weather got nice David should have taken advantage of it by going off to war. This was his responsibility as king. Instead, he was at home enjoying the sun on his roof top. You know the rest of the story. He got trapped by evil desires. He didn't stay the course.

Year after year I see men, including myself, start to drift at this time of the year. Let's face it, we love the warmth and sunshine, the outdoors and everything that comes with it. Lawns, landscaping, rides and recreation, all become distractions and can easily become traps. Soon our walk and talk with the Lord becomes a distant memory. Occasionally we give him lip service or a pat on the back just so he knows we haven't totally forgotten him. And, of course, we rationalize, "I'll get back to You when I have less important things to do. I'm busy now. You can wait. These things have to be done now. This season of the year flys by so quickly. I need to take advantage of it." Drift off the course and we're trapped. This is unfaithfulness.

Stay the course men! Be faithful! It pays big dividends.