Cross and Conniving

Proverbs 14:17

17 He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.

Customer Crossing

I have over ten years experience in retail customer service. There are always those customers who can find something to complain about no matter where they go (can I get an “Amen!” from my compatriots?!).

Firstly, it can be rather frustrating for all of the employees. When those employees get upset and angry, sometimes they do things not very nice. Some examples include giving faulty merchandise, doing something disgusting to their food, or giving bad advice. Sometimes, because these employees acted out their frustrations, they end up losing their jobs.

Secondly, these customers who are so easily angered do not realize the hidden punishment they could receive from those irate employees. If they could have just calmly stated the problem and waited for response, most problems between employees and customers could easily be avoided.

In both cases, someone is acting foolishly. Unfortunately, it is almost always the customer. (Is everyone out there listening?)

Conniving Customers

What is truly telling of the nature of our world is that some (maybe even many) of these customers get so angry on purpose. People have come to learn that if they throw a big enough fit, complain to just the right person, they can get so many things discounted or even free.

What some of those fail to realize or fully appreciate is how much others come to hate them. These people are not just “abusing the system,” but they are using people to get what they want. Nobody likes being used.

Churchianity

How often do we as Christians do this to each other?

There are complaints about what color the carpeting/walls/flowers/hymnals (if there are any, anymore!) are.

There are fights over how to reach out to people in the community (which is a big turn-off to people in the community).

There are floaters who never find a church-home, because they do not like something or are not getting something at every church they attend and then bad-mouth those churches.

What we are really saying is that we are better than everyone else (or most people). What we are really saying is that God needs to do everything we say and serve our every whim. What we are really saying is that God is not enough … even as we sing He is.

Gracious God, forgive us for always stabbing each other in the back and looking for freebies. Help us to live out Your command in John 13 to love each other, to sacrifice ourselves and our needs to each other for Your glory. Help us to love all people.


The Thinker

Proverbs 14:16

“A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.”

Warnings

As has been said many times on Proverbial Thought, the book of Proverbs is a book of warnings. Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived, has penned warning after warning to help guide and direct us in the our lives.

The ThinkerThe Thinker

One of Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculptures is The Thinker, a piece originally conceived to be part of another work. The Thinker was part of a commission by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris to sculpt a monumental door based on The Divine Comedy of Dante. Each of the statues in the piece represented one of the main characters in the epic poem.

Wikipedia describes the statue of The Thinker as the following:

“It depicts a man in sober meditation battling with a powerful internal struggle.”

Today’s verse reminds me of this statue. Here is why, and please stay with me. The name God is never mentioned in this verse. I thought of this statue because I believe that this verse is saying that a wise man is one who thinks before he encounters evil and is afraid of the consequences of his actions and therefore departs, or gets away from evil.

On the other hand, a person who does not think at all of the consequences just plows ahead no matter what it may cost him. He exemplifies the old saying: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” The ESV says our verse this way, “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.”

Count the Cost

When faced with evil, do you jump in with both feet before even thinking about what it may cost you? Or are you like the wise man, and ponder what would happen if you gave into the evil.

Solomon is telling us that we would be very wise to “think before we act”!

Next time you are faced with evil, stop and think about that it may cost you! Sin breaks our fellowship with God and when we really stop and think about what the results from that would cost us, I think you would agree with me that we would gladly depart from evil.

Lord, I pray that we would stop and think! In times of temptation and trials, help us to be cautious and turn from evil and back to you. I thank you for your grace and forgiveness for those times when I don’t think and plunder recklessly into evil. Thank you for your loving mercy toward me!


Don’t Be Gullible

Proverbs 14:15

“The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.”
Ah, the Stories…

There are so many stories I could tell about the stories I can tell. To paraphrase a saying, “So many stories, so little time.” Therefore, when I read this proverb I immediately began to think of a couple of good examples.

Example One:

Back in the 1990’s I worked in the sporting goods section of a major retailer. One day a couple asked for my advice about a football. They wanted to know which would be better to buy, the one made of leather, or the one made of “Durahyde.”

For some reason I started with this nonsense about how the Dura was going extinct and how only the young duras were used because of their fur-less pelts. The more I talked, the more they seemed to believe me, so a vicious circle of humor-gone-bad and gullibility took over.

“So what do you recommend,” they asked? “Buy the leather,” I suggested. “It might be a little more expensive, but I just can’t approve of the way they kill those young, little duras for their pelts.”

The more I talked the more it became evident that some people will believe anything, no matter how outrageous. In retrospect, I am ashamed that I forgot to tell them I was only kidding. I was just so stunned that they actually believed me! (Note: the leather ball was the better one, and that was what they wanted.)

Example Two:

It was a Christmas dinner, and my mother-in-law (we could stop right there, I suppose) was complaining that someone had made meatloaf. “Why did [she] make meatloaf? Since when was meatloaf a traditional Christmas dish?”

“Well,” I said, “meatloaf is a very traditional Christmas dish, as a matter of fact.” “Really?” she asked. “Yes, it goes way back to around the year 1260 in England.” I went on to tell her that long ago there was a good king who prepared a great feast for all the peasants in his kingdom. Each Christmas he would invite all of them to come in and take part in a Christmas meal, the centerpiece being a large animal cooked over a fire.

As the story went, one year things got really bad. There was great poverty throughout the land, and when it came time for the annual Christmas feast, the king had no cattle, dear, or any such animal to offer. Saddened, the people of the local villages rallied together and decided to save the good king from embarrassment. They killed and cooked chicken, rabbit, and pheasant, combined them all together in to a large “loaf,” and offered it as a gift to the king who had been so good to them.

I told my mother-in-law, “That is why meatloaf is probably the MOST traditional of all dishes served at Christmastime.” “Is that so? I never knew that! Wow!” was her reply. “I guess I shouldn’t have gotten so upset,” she said (Then my wife had to spoil everything by telling her I was only joking).

Be Prudent

I believe Solomon was the first to say, “Don’t believe everything you read, hear, or see on television.” He did say that, didn’t he?

Don’t get me wrong, I love to joke around with people, but I hate lying. My stories are meant to eventually be understood as told in fun – like a grandfather who insists he has pulled a quarter from your ear. Nevertheless, it’s better to follow the words of Paul and “prove all things” (1 Th 5:21).

The gullible believe everything without question, and there are those who will take advantage of them. The prudent (wise), therefore, learn to check sources.

Let God be true, and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).


Just Reward

Proverbs 14:14.

“The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.”

Christian Karma?

There are many religions in the world who believe in karma. Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs for example all believe in the concept of “action” or “deed”, that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect. In other words, if you are a good person, good things will happen to you, and if you are a bad person, bad things will happen to you. You might be surprised to learn that this idea actually has its origins in the Bible. King Solomon wrote: “Backsliders get what they deserve; good people receive their reward.” (Prov. 14:14, NLT).

Now lest some of you begin calling me a heretic for suggesting that karma is a Christian concept, let me clarify. Karma is a twisted and imperfect understanding of the Scriptural principle of reaping and sowing which the Apostle Paul describes here: “Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.” (Galatians 6:7-8, NLT).

Consequences for our Actions:

Today’s Proverb teaches us that there are consequences for our actions. If you are a backslider, you will get what you deserve. If you live a life of sin and rebellion against God and His Word, don’t be surprised when life doesn’t work for you! But if you are a good person, and live to please the Spirit, you will receive a blessing from the Lord.

Let me illustrate. My dad was an alcoholic womanizer. He slept with many women in his life, and as a consequence, I have two sisters, two half-sisters, and at least three half-brothers that I know about (maybe more). My dad died about five years ago from a cancer that was caused from his excessive drinking and cigarette smoking. Sadly, this is an example of reaping what you sow.

Sometimes we live a sinful life and then experience the consequences for that sin, and we get mad at God and say, “How could you let this happen to me?” But it wasn’t God punishing us for our wrong decisions, but rather leaving us to the just reward of our own choices.

A Harvest of Blessing:

The good news today is that God is a merciful, gracious God. All of us have sinned, rebelled, and disobeyed His commandments, but we can confess our sins to Him and receive His free forgiveness. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he added an action plan for all of us. In light of the fact that there are consequences for our choices, he says, “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” (6:9, NLT).


Tears of a Clown

Proverbs 14:13

13 Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.

Covered Up

In 1970, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles released the song “The Tears of a Clown“.

The Tears of a Clown” is a song about a man whose girlfriend left him. He is singing to the girl so that she knows he is utterly saddened by her leaving, so she should not be misled by the act he puts on in front of others. Like a clown, he covers his emotions and puts on an entertaining show.

How many times do we play this game in our own lives?

There are times when this is okay, such as when Jesus told us to keep ourselves looking happy and healthy when fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). However, this is to keep ourselves from seeking the attention of people rather than God.

Torn Down

On the other hand, in those times when our joy is stolen from us, we should not hide it.

Like Nick said the other day, we must be willing to share all of our joys and hurts with others. The only thing guaranteed to happen if hold in our hurts is that we will become bitter and lonely.

The authors of these devotionals have been able to help each other, because we have confided in each other our joys and our hurts. I have made it through over a decade thus far in ministry, because growing up I kept my hurts to myself. Eventually I stopped sharing my joys, as well. I learned how much pain and bitterness grows within, gradually eroding mind, body, and soul. Therefore, as a new believer I made the commitment to share my experiences with others I could trust (and sometimes anyone who would listen).

Without confiding in someone, especially God, it weighs down on you. It builds up and tears you down to nothing.

Built Up, Again

Fortunately, there is a God who cares. There is a God in the restoration and peace business. Jesus calls us to take off those masks that burden us and find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30); for Jesus is the only source of true peace (John 14:25-27), a peace that we may never fully understand but that brings that rest He promised (Philippians 4:6-7).

God not only restores us, He makes us more. He builds us into the likeness of Jesus. But we must be willing to share our joy and pain.

Merciful God, grant us peace in our troubles and release from our pain. Help us to confide in You and dearly loved ones. You did not create us to handle things alone, so we ask that You help us by changing our hearts and minds to be willing to remove our masks.


Playing God

Proverbs 14:12

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”

Marco Polo

Growing up, I played a lot of “Marco Polo” during the summer at my grandparent’s pool. If you are not familiar with the game, let me explain. It is a game that you play in water. One person is “Marco” and everyone else is “Polo”. The person that is “Marco” must keep their eyes closed while they swim around in the pool. They would call out “Marco” and everyone else must answer “Polo” and the one that is “Marco” has to listen to where the voices come from and try to swim and tag the “Polos”. Got it?

Well, one day, my brother and I were out in our neighborhood playing with a group of friends when someone suggested we play “Marco Polo”. I had never played outside of water before and was very interested in how the game would unfold. We decided to play in between my parent’s brick/concrete home and my neighbor’s brick/concrete home. It was a very small area with a downward slope toward my neighbor’s house.

The group of kids that were playing were all older than me, so you can guess who got to be “Marco” first. You guest it…me! Instead of us just keeping our eyes closed, the game rules were that the “Marco” had to wear a paper grocery bag over their heads. I took the bag and placed it over my head and quickly removed it and looked straight at my brother and said, “If I go down the slope and straight to the neighbor’s house, you better yell at me and stop me”.

You might be able to finish the story from here, but I will continue. The game was only a few minutes old when I just knew that I heard a voice straight ahead of me. Instead of trying to be aware of my surroundings, I just took off running toward the voice. I did not even think about the fact that I was running down the slope and straight toward my neighbor’s house.

The voice was right in front of me and then it happened. I ran straight into the neighbor’s house.  I then heard my brother call out, “Jason, watch out for the wall”.

Needless to say, a trip to the doctor’s office and the diagnosis of a concussion kept me from playing anymore “Marco Polo” that day.

Playing God

Why did I tell you the story about me playing “Marco Polo”? Because I just knew that the voice that I was hearing was coming from straight in front of me and that I was heading in the right direction. Was I? No, but I thought I was.

What happened? Remember how I told you that where we were playing was a small area between two homes? Well, what I did not take into consideration was in a small area between two concrete homes, there was going to be an echo. My friends were all calling out “Polo” and the echoes were bouncing off the walls and coming straight at me.

This verse reminds me of the day I got my concussion. I thought that I was heading in the right direction. I thought that I heard voices right in front of me. I thought, and that was the problem. We think that we know better and that our way is the best way and we just know for sure that “the voice is coming from this direction”! What does it come down to? We are playing God, and we think we know what is best for our lives.

Solomon is warning us to make sure that we do not try to do things our way, but depend upon God for everything. He is telling us if we decide to take things into our own hands that death will be the result.

My brother yelled at me after I hit the concrete wall. Solomon is yelling out to us before we experience death and trying to tell us to listen and follow what God wants for us because it is so much better than our plans or ideas for our lives.

Lord, help us to listen to You. Keep our eyes focused on You and may our hearts be soft enough that when You begin to talk and move us that we would hear Your voice and heed Your words.


I’d Rather Live In a Tent

Proverbs 14:11

“The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.”

House vs. Tent

There is a huge difference between a house and a tent. At one point in our marriage, my wife and I actually contemplated buying a nicer tent (one with rooms) and living in it during the summer. We briefly wondered if doing that could help us save money, as opposed to renting a house. The only problem with that was air-conditioning and running water – a tent has neither.

Another thing or two that a tent does not have are solid walls, doors, outlets for electricity, and appliances for washing clothes and cooking food. A tent is not the kind of dwelling you want to hang pictures inside, either. Tents are not meant for long-term, settled living; they’re only good for temporary stays, like at the lake, or in one’s back yard while on a dinosaur-hunting safari.

Houses are solid buildings meant to last. They are meant to be left for an inheritance  They are meant to be places where roots are dug deep and social identities are made. They are ideally meant to become permanent homes. Tents are for pilgrims.

Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom leads one to believe that the more sturdy a house is, the better the investment. Conventional wisdom says that a tent is not the kind of dwelling in which to raise a family and secure a future. But when we are talking about the wicked and the upright, conventional wisdom is worthless.

Conventional wisdom teaches that in order to have longevity and a solid future, one which will insure one’s name is passed on from generation to generation, one must be tied down to the world. It makes no sense, therefore, to rest at peace in a temporary dwelling, like a tent, which is what the word translated “tabernacle” means. But godly wisdom is anything but conventional.

Godly Wisdom

In this proverb the writer wants us to understand that in order to “flourish” and grow we must be pilgrims in this world, not “house builders.” The “house” of the wicked will never be as secure as the temporary “tabernacle” of the righteous.

The Apostle Paul said, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). Followers of Christ are “strangers and pilgrims” on this earth (Hebrews 11:13). The upright knows this world is not his final home, therefore he is always ready to pull up stakes and move.

Storm Shelters

If you have every been in a severe storm, you understand the value of a storm shelter. Storm shelters are meant to be ultra-strong and immovable. But when it comes to the teaching of this proverb, the opposite is true. When it comes to the storms of life, the one that will be overthrown is the one who is tied down to the world. The pilgrim living in a tabernacle (tent) will not be swept away, but “flourish.”

When the worst weather of life comes, it is better to dwell in the flimsiest, most temporary structure built by God, than in the strongest, most secure castle built by man.


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