Category Archives: advice

Luck Has Nothing To Do With It

The lot is cast into the lap, but the response is from the Lord. –Proverbs 16:33

There is a mentality today that casting lots is superstitious at best and magic from the pits of Hell at worst.

We must remember, though, that many people throughout the Bible cast lots, most recently in Acts chapter one with the choosing of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot as an Apostle. Perhaps you have even drawn straws, which is very similar.

Most frequently today lots is seen as a game, whether for children or when gambling, like the lottery (guess where the name comes from). It is seen as something you wish for luck in.

But luck has nothing to do it.

God is in control. Lots can be used when you are really struggling with a decision (like which job offer to accept) or if you are simply feeling apathetic about a choice (like maybe where to eat out or what movie to watch … if you are into that kind of thing).

The key is to remember that you are asking God for direction. Otherwise, you are merely being superstitious.

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Have a plan

moses-2628535_1920Moses, what a guy.  Talk about job stress—the perks were pretty great but so were the occupational hazards.  (And I think I have tough days!)  At least there was clear communication with the Boss; no lost email trails or intra-office misinterpretation of body language, all that.  God’s instructions were always unmistakably clear, right down to what colors of decorative embroidery thread to use for the big church tent!

One year into their miraculous escape/rescue from centuries of Egyptian slavery, God now has them positioned to pull up the stakes and start their journey in earnest to the Promised Land. 

He has also promised to be their Guide, a cloud by day and something that looks like a pillar of fire by night.  Again, fairly distinctive, even for someone directionally challenged, like me.  When He moves left, they move left.  When He stops, they stop, and up go all the tents.  Kind of like a cosmic GPS.  What could be easier?

Then I read this short conversation sandwiched in the account of the Israelites getting ready to leave.  It’s between Moses and his brother-in-law, Hobab, (who is not an Israelite).  Moses is inviting him to join them on their journey, and that they will share all the blessings that God will give them. 

“But Hobab replied, ‘No, I will not go. I must return to my own land and family.’  ‘Please don’t leave us,’ Moses pleaded. ‘You know the places in the wilderness where we should camp. Come, be our guide.’”

Hold on.  I thought God was their guide…?  Has the great leader of the Old Testament who walked his people through the sea on dry land and spoken to God Almighty in the burning bush suddenly gotten cold feet?

As much as I love the “humanness” of our biblical heroes, I don’t think that is the case.  We’re talking about over a million human beings here, so “camping out” isn’t just a matter of taking over, say, an entire State Park.  It’s more like taking over Chicago.  God was going to guide Moses to a general area; a good leader was needing to prepare for at least some of the particulars.

Now, I’ll admit that one of my failsafe, fall back phrases is “God’s got a plan”.  Okay, true enough.  But many times, the very real question of the moment is,… do I?

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

In other words, God’s guidance does not preclude my personal responsibility.  Reasoning brain and redeemed spirit work hand-in-hand.  It may seem like push and shove sometimes, but God can still get His end result accomplished.

ThreadBecause sometimes He may just give us the pattern and let us pick out the color of thread.

Numbers 10:30; Proverbs 16:9 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


What’s on your summer reading list?

gossip

Another insightful painting by beloved Norman Rockwell.

Bob and I were watching a really interesting TV show on the top 100 popular books.  Now, how they came up with that short list, I don’t know, and it ranged from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress to modern day novels that have influenced people in, well, other ways.

One of the neat things about this program is that it’s interactive, meaning you go online and cast your vote for your favorite book (among the short list, naturally), and you can vote once a day until the show’s finale.  Which means you can stuff the ballot box, I suppose. 

During the show, different people were interviewed on their Number One choice, and I was impressed how this divergent sampling of human effort has influenced individuals, and in some cases, greatly.

Like me.  One of John Bunyan’s other books, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, was my door to deliverance in a very real way.  But that’s another story, and anyway, I doubt that’s on the list.

The point is that words, or communication of any sort, are powerful.  That includes not only what we put out but just as importantly, what we take in.  In Proverbs chapter 15, information transfer of some sort is mentioned at least fourteen times!  And they didn’t even have social media yet!  Here’s an example of output:

“The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing,
    but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.”

Most of us have probably been party to both—my hand is raised.  What we perhaps don’t emphasize enough is the personal responsibility of intake:

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice;
    many advisers bring success.”

What I choose to listen to (or read) is actually just as important as what I choose to say (or write, as it were.) We all know the damage done by slurs on social media.  But do we realize that the damage is done not only because those things are put out there, but because they are read? In other words, the reader is just as culpable as the writer.  Always.

I know that I can be quite impacted by stories, mental images both from descriptive writing and the silver screen.  It’s the way we are wired, since the word (lower case “w”) is powerful, being created so by God Himself.  Therefore, what I choose to listen to is also powerful decision.

Sometimes earplugs are a good investment. 

president-1822449_1920

Proverbs 15: 2,22 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


I Told You So

A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke. -Proverbs 13:1, KJV

My dad recently told me how proud of me he is. Of course, I took his advice on a few things, so there is that.

I guess it helps show I can be wise and just a wiseacre!

There have been times I have not listened to him. He and my mom would tell me what would happen if I followed through with my plans.

Then I would hear it: “I told you so.” I usually felt pretty silly, too, but my parents did help me to know that they took no pleasure in my pain nor being proven right.

The Big Rebuke

The biggest rebuke in history came when Jesus came to live and die for our sins.

He told us that the Father’s standards are not ours, and we need help. He told us He would send a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would convict us of our son and lead back to Him. He told us He will return to finally judge us.

If you reject the Spirit’s prodding and Jesus’ warnings, one day you will hear Him say very sadly, “I told you so.”

And there will be no more time to change your mind.


Instructionless Brutes

It might be nearly the end of the week, and one might think we’d already gotten past the first verse of the chapter, but Proverbs 12:1 stood out to me this morning, and I’d like to tell you why.

Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish. – Proverbs 12:1

There are a lot of people who feel like there is no need for preachers, teachers, instructors, professors, or pastors. I read their comments any time I write something having to do with the ministry and ministry needs.

Often, and usually with poor spelling and grammar, the irate and biblically-illiterate employ arrogant language and out-of-context verses to “prove” their point. Consider a brief excerpt I copied from one particular conversation…the write goes by the name of Paradox7:

I don’t need an operator to call my LORD , and I have been reading the Bible since I was a child , don’t need an interpreter either…

Jesus actually spoke of wolves in sheep’s clothing , referring to religious leaders of his time , the same people who set him up for murder because he asurped their authority .If you have read the Bible , you can’t really disagree with that sentiment… It is a common bibical theme to be wary of authority figures , but of course many do not get the message , even as Jesus predicted ” for wide is the gate that leads to destruction , and there are many who will walk thru it .”

There is more to being instructed than simply reading the Bible. Many people do that, just like the Ethiopian Eunuch who asked Phillip in Acts 8:31, “How can I [understand], except some man should guide me?”

Godly teachers are a gift from God to the Church (Ephesians 4:11). Some people need them more than others.

 


Safely across to dry ground

buckley

The Mighty Wonder Buck enjoying his outing.

Buckley and I enjoy terrain hiking in a tiny semi-secluded patch of the planet belonging to the college where my husband works.  It’s private land, so I’m thinking the town’s leash laws are not in effect. It’s also one of the few places I can let him range, and he loves it!

So do I.  Not only for myself, but I get such a kick out of watching him enjoy the freedom, and I marvel at the sure-footedness of this rescue pound-puppy of ours.  Not that I can say that about myself, mind you.  No, this one carries a walking stick, wears special insoles in trail running shoes (in which I walk, not run), and even then I have to pick carefully through leaves and creek beds, using that opposable thumb to grab and hoist myself up the hills.

Buckley, the barefoot creature without the opposable thumb?  Right.  He leaves me in the dust. 

I have to be especially attentive when crossing a brook.  Picking my way safely can be challenging (it’s part of the fun), and watching for slippery moss on the rocks is imperative.  If I’m not careful, I’m all wet. 

Hold that thought for a sec.

Proverbs chapter ten is largely concerned with my words, which is a pretty good indicator of what’s in my heart.  Here is a running commentary contrasting the attitude (as shown by their words) of the wise person versus the fool.  Just a sampling—

The wise are glad to be instructed,
    but babbling fools fall flat on their faces…

People with integrity walk safely,…

This isn’t just an observation, (Solomon was quite good at that), but more importantly, a warning.  It’s easy to be drawn into a foolish argument; that is, an argument that is void of the primary foundation of wisdom—

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.
    Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”

Without this, the encounter can become slippery at best, treacherous at worst, causing confusion, rancor, and division (to name a few.)

Here’s another comparison—

The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain;

…but the babbling of a fool invites disaster.

Are my words giving life?  Or are my words making safe passage unattainable?

Or is it a discussion I should even enter into at this place?

When one of these conversations presents itself, the godly participant does well to stand on the shore and survey how to get across safely to the other side. 

Otherwise, you’re all wet.

Proverbs 10:8,9,11,14; 9:10 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


“Before Abraham…I Am”

I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. – Proverbs 8:23

Before we leave Proverbs chapter 8, I want us to notice one of the most glorious truths displayed in all of Scripture: the eternality of Jesus Christ.

Notice in verses 22-31 that at least six different times Wisdom is mentioned as having been with God from before the foundation of the earth. Carefully read through these verses in Proverbs while you consider the following:

  • In John 1:1-2 Jesus is called the Word of God who was with God and was God.
  • In John 8:58 Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.”
  • In John 17:24 we read where Jesus was praying to the Father and said: “My glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
  • Speaking of the coming Messiah, Isaiah 9:6 calls Him “the Everlasting.”
  • Micah 5:2, also speaking of the coming Messiah, said: “His goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.”
  • In Hebrews 13:8 we read that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
  • In Revelation 1:11 Jesus says of Himself, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last…”
  • And if it was ever a question that Jesus claimed to be God, when you compare John 8:58 and Revelation 1:11 to Isaiah 48:12, then there should be no doubt: “I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.”

Make no mistake, the parallels are too similar to deny…Jesus, the Power and Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24), is being prophetically referenced here in this chapter. As the Holy Spirit moved through the prophet David, Solomon’s father, to write Psalm 22 in anticipation of the crucifixion, so does He move through Solomon to describe the glorious, eternal nature of the Messiah, Jesus.

But there’s one more thing I want you to see… His delights are with the sons of men (Proverbs 8:31).

The Word of God made flesh…the Wisdom of God who was there before the foundation of the world…the Savior who came and dwelt among us (Emmanuel – see Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23)…

He delights to be with you and me! He literally wants to spend time with us because he loves and cares for us.

Therefore, considering what we’ve read, we should all the more take seriously the closing verse in this chapter.

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death. – Proverbs 8:36

To seek Wisdom is a choice, but failing to do so can have eternal ramifications.