Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Relaxing in the Recliner of Life - Wake Up!

Our loved one speaks, but we're not listening, at least not whole heartily. We've all been caught doing this. Our mind is given to the latest sports program, newspaper article, or magazine interest. All we want to do is escape from the exhausting grind and pressures of daily life. Just for a moment. Just a little harmless devotion to our whimsical desires. But our love wants our attention, our devotion, our affection. There are important things to communicate. We say we are listening, but that is only a lip service lie.

At this point you are probably thinking, this is going to be about listening to and loving your wife. But no, the loved one I'm referring to is our Beloved Savior. I was challenged by verses 27 and 29 in today's chapter.

27 The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable— how much more so when brought with evil intent!
29 A wicked man puts up a bold front, but an upright man gives thought to his ways.

These verses provoked me to ask, "Am I in any way living like the wicked, who do religious things (27a), but with wrong motives (27b); who act as if everything is going great (29a), without giving any thought to the true state of things (29b)?" The wicked do "spiritual things" and put up a bold front without examining the reality of where they are at with God. Is that us? Are we relaxing in the recliner of life, pursuing our own comforts and desires, while at the same time saying, "Yes, Lord. I'm here. I'm listening"? We are like the husband who goes through the motions but is not fully engaged with his love.

Prior to reading Proverbs 21, I read the book of Jude which is a call to contend for the faith (v3) and to be on the alert for "godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ..." (v4). Jude paints a vivid picture of their deeds and demise. He concludes with a challenge to the called to be different, not to be men "who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit" (v19). He sounds the alarm to instead, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord...Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear -- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh" (vv. 20-23). Does that sound like me? Does that sound like you?

Buzzers, alarms, and maybe even your wife's voice, can be irritants. But ignoring these reminders and warnings can be perilous to our health. Ignoring spiritual warnings can be worse. The voice of God is one we dare not disconnect. Engage him fully. Listen to him closely. Be attentive to your relationship with Christ.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Love and Faithfulness

I have a question for you today. Why does Proverbs couple together "love" and "faithfulness"?

There are several occasions in which Proverbs simultaneously extols the virtues of love and faithfulness together. "Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?" (20:3). "Love and faithfulness keep a king safe" (20:28a). We also see these two virtues coupled together in 3:3, 14:22; 16:6. The Psalmist continually praises God for demonstrating these two qualities (Psalm 25:10, 40:10, 61:7, 85:10, 86:15, 89:1, 14, 28, 115:1, 138:2, 145:13). See also Ex. 34:6; Is. 55:3; 1 Thess. 3:6; 2 Tim. 1:13-18;; Col. 1:5).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Robbing the Offender of Glory

When you are hurt, offended, treated unjustly, you want to fight back, even the score, defend yourself. This seems normal and justified. And in fact, offenses usually do need to be confronted in truth and love. But is there a more glorious way, a way in which the glory is snatched from the hands of the offender? Proverbs says "Yes!", "...it is to his (a wise man's) glory to overlook an offense" 19:11b).

The offender offends because he wants to gain something. His intent is to hurt, use, control, and offend so that in some way he comes out on top, to seemingly better his situation. He believes the offense will give him the glory he seeks. He may want to feel better about himself, superior to another, more powerful, or to gain position, leverage and control. When the offended reacts, attempts to defend himself or to vindicate himself the offender knows he has accomplished he desired outcome. He expects and wants a reaction. He has mastered you. This feeds into his desire for greater glory.

A wise man can snatch the glory from his hands through patience and mercy. "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense" (19:11). Where is the glory in overlooking an offense? Patience and mercy demonstrates your faith in God. You believe in God's ultimate justice and vindication. Your patience and mercy demonstrates your belief that God is present, he knows your situation and is powerful enough to deal with it in his time. When you are patient and overlook an offense you are taking the control away from the offender and putting God in control. And when we shift the glory to God, he allows the glory-giver to share in his glory.

Though righteousness has a price, it also has a reward. The righteous who show mercy can anticipate a future reward that is certainly more glorious than immediate vindication or justice on this earth. "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven..." (Matt. 5:11-12). Overlooking an offense also has benefit in this life, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (5:7). When you are gracious to others who don't deserve mercy, people sit up and take notice for it is certainly not the norm. Your character and faith is gloriously displayed. Your mercy will beget mercy and your patience will be met with patience.

Go ahead, be a robber. Rob the glory from the offender and give it to God. Be patient; overlook the offense. God, who is most patient and merciful, will graciously share his glory with you.