Category Archives: Instruction

It’s Black and White

Proverbs 19:16

“He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die.”

Black

When we boil some things down to the basics we find that there are, in the bottom of every pot, little things called “black and whites.” Believe it or not, even though we live in a world of fifty shades of gray, blacks and whites are always among us.

It is not easy to label all the “blacks.” Nevertheless, some of the blacks have horrible consequences. When a man chooses not to keep the commandments of God he runs the real risk losing everything, including his life.

When will men and women ever learn that choosing to “despise” God’s way is not only selfish, but shows how messed up our priorities and preferences must be. How crazy is it that men will purchase destruction with their own rebellion?

Black and White

A wise man understands that there is a great price to pay when he breaks God’s commandments. The wise man keeps the Word of God because he knows his soul is more valuable than any temporary pleasures.

IMG_4120It is not always easy to tell between black and white, but God gave us his Word – in black and white. On those pages we can read what leads to life. We are warned of the things that lead to death. Yet, the fools of the world often choose to blur the letters on the page, smudging the ink until the page is gray and anything goes.

Dear God, we may not always keep your commandments, but we repent and ask for help to do what is right and holy. Even though we may fail at times, give us a heart with a desire to keep your Word, not despise it.


What I Thought Was a Good Thing Was Not

Proverbs 18:1

“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh [and] intermeddleth with all wisdom.”

Embarrassing

When talking through the Proverbs on one Wednesday night at church, my own wife, sitting on the front row, asked a question that caused me a little embarrassment. I had just read the above verse from the King James Version and was about to give my thoughts when she asked, “Why does my version read so differently?”

You see, I encourage my congregation to compare translations when doing a verse-by-verse study of Scripture, for, like turning a faceted jewel, a different perspective can bring out color and sparkle never seen before. It’s the same flawless stone, but from a different angle. Granted, not all translations agree on every interpretation, but where one might be off, a group of translations will clarify the proper meaning of the text.

So, my wife’s version read: He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom(NASB). At that, another church member volunteered her version’s take: “Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense” (NLT).

I didn’t have an answer. What’s even worse, my interpretation of Proverbs 18:1 and the application I was going to make was no where even close to the idea the other two versions were conveying. What we had here was a preacher who didn’t follow his own advise and got caught not doing his homework.

My Original Thoughts

My original thoughts on Proverbs 18:1, based simply on a cursory reading of English I thought made perfect sense, went something like this:

“Through desire,” because a man has to have the desire or drive to do something worthwhile, a man who wants to learn sometimes has to get alone, push aside distractions, and “separate himself.” It’s something that takes commitment – you have to want it. But it’s not simply the “getting alone” that makes all the difference; it’s the seeking of wisdom from multiple disciplines that gives one understanding in more than one area of life. Or, you could just say that learning takes hard work, but you can’t be lazy – you have to work for it.

But that wasn’t what this verse is saying.

The Real Meaning

Please understand, the King James Version’s translation of verse 1 is not incorrect; the way we say things and how we use our words have changed, that’s all.

The other translations I mentioned rendered Proverbs 18:1 in a way modern readers, such as myself, could better understand the original text. Where I thought “desire” and “separated himself” meant something noble, the actual meaning of the original text (and the way an Elizabethan reader would have understood the KJV) was something selfish and arrogant.

Where I thought “intermeddleth with all wisdom” was saying the man checked out more than one book in the library, the word “intermeddleth” means to “to expose, lay bare,” or “quarrel with anyone, especially in dice, drinking, or in dividing an inheritance” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon).

So, another way you could interpret Proverbs 18:1 might go like this:

“Loners and arrogant know-it-alls think they’re in a class all to themselves and make few friends. They also have contempt for any wisdom that doesn’t come from themselves and are always trying to meddle with or subvert it to gain an advantage.”

Would you have interpreted it differently?


Listen to the Teacher

Proverbs 14:6

A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.

Memories of School

When we were children we were regularly told that we would one day look back on our time in school as the happiest period in our lives. Really? As a child I knew that even a minute in school was wasted time. I was far happier outside the classroom playing on the rocks and the old fort at Grandes Rocques. It wasn’t that I scorned the wisdom of my teachers; it was just that I thought that I had better things to do with my time. I wasn’t the only one.

I recall the day that the headmaster took our class down to the old watchtower at Le Guet. The Germans used Le Guet during World War Two because of its commanding view out across the Atlantic. We were given tasks relating to the flora around the watchtower, but most of the class were back in the 1940s pretending to be either German or British soldiers engaged in a battle for the watchtower. When we returned to school and found out that we were expected to write an essay on the visit to Le Guet we had a problem because we hadn’t listened to our headmaster. To say that he did not appreciate our work is an understatement.

Legalistic or Simplistic?

While there are often pupils in school who are difficult to teach, surely that is part of the daily challenge for a teacher? This was a problem that Jesus would have recognized. Strangely, many of those who failed to listen to Jesus or benefit from His wisdom were the most educated men of the day. These Pharisees and teachers of the law were so focused on their legalistic approach to religion that they failed to grasp the simplicity of Jesus’ words. If only they had remembered this verse from Proverbs. “Knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23: 23-26 NIV)


Woman-hater

bubble-19329_1920And one parting post on Proverbs 31 and God’s view of women, from this Macbook at least.

It fatigues my already tired mettle when that worn out rag of an opinion resurfaces that Christianity is somehow anti-female. Of course, now that the definition of “female” is under debate, I suppose that is, itself, a shifting deck in a storm of opinion.  No matter, because at least, historically, there is in my mind (admittedly, for what that’s worth…) substantial evidence that feminism has its actual roots in true Christianity. 

Note the word “true”.  Not necessarily organized religion, because most people never bother to check out the Source Document for themselves, and if they do, it’s merely a cursory study without much in depth “what’s-really-going-on-here” desire to know truth.  I realize that’s a scathing indictment, but there it is.  

Case in point, here’s a story that can be easily misunderstood, but in reality, it’s one of my faves:

“Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret.”

Duh.  He’s at the height of His popularity.  He and His crew can barely eat or get a moment alone to rest.  No wonder He fell sound asleep on the boat in the middle of a gale!!

“Right away a woman who had heard about him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit, and she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter. Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia…”

Okay, stop right there.  There’s an old saying in ancient Judaism that goes something like, “thank God I’m not a dog, a Gentile, or a woman.”  OUCH.  In addition to these three, children in this era were also not exactly seen as high on the social scale, especially daughters.  So here’s where Jesus’ comment can be taken as confusing to our 21st century sensibilities:

 “Jesus told her, ‘First I should feed the children— my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.’”

HOLD IT!  Call in the ACLU!  Protest marches!  Pink hats and speeches!  Massive Facebook posts!  NOT FAIR!  Most of us (me included) would be offended and walk away. 

But not this mom…

“She replied, ‘That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.’”

BINGO.  This gal chose, CHOSE mind you, to not be offended.  Her need, her love for her child, was more important than her selfish pride.  You want to call me a dog?  Fine, call me what you want, but this is what I’m asking for.

Except that Jesus wasn’t actually calling her a dog.  Look again.  Look at the company He was in, the dinner party of the other Jewish men.  With those words, Jesus was holding a very clear mirror up to their faces, spewing their filth back at them. When He said those words, however, I can see His eyes transfixed on the mother’s eyes, unblinking, waiting, encouraging, hoping,…

C’mon, girl.  Don’t give in to this cultural trash.  Don’t be offended with these words.  Reach out to the real Me.  Push through the pain.  Push through the confusion.  Forget your pride, it’s not worth it.  Think of your precious child.  Here I am. 

“Good answer!” he said.  “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.”

So actually the question about feminism, in this post at least, is rather moot.  The real point is the pressing compassion of the Christ, to every human, in every culture, in every time period, as well as our extreme need to not give up when it’s so very much easier to just throw in the towel and be offended, confused, or just too fatigued to press on. 

Because no matter what, His eyes are fixed on us.  Waiting for our response.

Mark 7:24-29 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.


T-i-i-i-m-b-e-r-r-r!

autumn-2726242_1920Bob’s been trying to get in touch with our tree service guy to come out and take a look at a particular sugar maple in our back yard.  It’s been trimmed back more than once, and even had one major branch amputated and sealed years ago.  This summer there has been a nest of (I believe) woodpeckers in a hole on the main trunk; it’s very cool to watch the little avian family, but probably doesn’t bode too well for the tree.

The concern is, regardless of how pretty the maple is on the outside, (and I do love them, especially in the autumn), this one is close enough to the family room roof that toppling over could do some serious damage, and not just to the woodpeckers’ cozy little abode! Continue reading


Trying Not To Be Fools With His Words

Many readers of Proverbial Thought may enjoy the thoughts we share each day.

Maybe you do not understand some our thought process.

I for one do enjoy writing out these devotional thoughts for others to enjoy, but it weighs heavy on my heart.

For starters, read Proverbs 26. It will only take a few minutes. What really strikes me is the number of verses about the wastefulness, follies, and even dangers of fools speaking proverbs.

We are basically putting it put there that we are responsible for affecting the way people think!

In fact, when I was a new believer of Jesus Christ, I knew I should “do my part” and read at least something in the Bible. I chose James, for “not being too long and possibly boring me, nor too short and making me look lazy.”

Ouch. This was the first thing that stood out to me (in my NIV Bible at the time):

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
James 3:1

I understood that to teach others means I would be scrutinized myself, both by other people and by God.

That terrified little 16-year-old me! (Even at six feet tall at that time …)

Honestly, it should be intimidating to all of us.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

God has an expectation. If you teach others about the Word of God – which all believers should in some way – you are expected to know what it says and how to explain it adequately.

This is the struggle we deal with every day for Proverbial Thought, and for many of us, who are pastors and ministry leaders, as a daily concern.

Therefore, we write to help others (you, dear reader!) to be better equipped to share your faith, even if mostly about the Proverbs.

If you are a follower of the Lord, you should be able to share the reason for your faith. Use any tool available to you to grow, starting with regular Bible study, researching what others have said, and meeting with fellow believers (by going to church, attending Bible studies, meeting together just to talk, and serving togwther).

Hopefully, we have played a role in your growth and not written foolishly.


Church is not about you.

Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house. –Proverbs 24:27, KJV

Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. –Proverbs 24:27, ESV

Are you a member of your church?

Do you even attend a church?

If you do not have a legitimate physical reason for not going, why? (Disabilities or a work schedule can be good reasons.)

Not liking the decorations or the music are not good reasons (unless, maybe, because the music is theologically horrible! That usually happens in churches teaching the same fluff.)

If you claim that you are not being fed, there is good reason to believe that – sorry to be the bearer of bad news – you are the problem.

If you find yourself saying things like “The message just doesn’t resonate with me” (unless it is for the reason mentioned earlier) or “I have not found something to plug in to,” this is not good enough.

Perhaps the issue is that you keep looking for all of your needs to be met. That is not the purpose of Church.

Church is not all about you.

Maybe you need to start meeting the needs of others, start a Bible study (and, based on your approach thus far, ask a pastor, elder, or someone who is spiritually mature to help), or start asking your pastor questions about the lessons and messages.

If you refuse to actively work the ground of your faith, you may never “feel it” in any church – at least not for long. The most surefire way to “feel it” is to build up the church, to make those around you better by pointing them to Christ.

Then you will find that you have also been building up your house for worship.

Church is not about you. It is about letting Christ use you for His Church, to work the field of souls and build up His Temple of saints.


Knowledge Grows In Community

Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge. -Proverbs 23:12, KJV

People wonder why our Western culture is slipping deeper into chaos and hatred.

The short answer is that we largely have given up on listening to instruction and seeking knowledge. We have promoted an individualistic approach to life, that we are each special and can make our own truth. If we just look I side ourselves, they say, we can find real truth.

It has even infiltrated the Church.

In truth, God’s Word tells us that we are all sinners in need of repentance (changing our way of living and thinking), and we need a Savior to help us … according to His standard, not our own.

If you do not have knowledge of the Savior, seek out a friend (like a pastor or another devout Christian) who can show you Christ.

If you do not follow the instructions laid out in the Bible for godly living, you need to repent.

If you are unsure of what the instructions mean – or even what they are – start by going to church. We learn to listen to others without injecting our own truth and to interact with others meaningfully.

In fact, go to church. Knowledge grows in community. And God is all about community.


Spoon-fed

study 2Dad is a retired engineer, a graduate of Purdue University, a true Boilermaker is ever there was one.  He was the first of his family to go to college, not a small accomplishment having been born at the start of the Great Depression.  After his stint in the Navy, and a bit of disgruntlement with the union’s treatment of his hard work ethic, he decided to go back to school.  So here was a seasoned vet in his early twenties heading off to classes with fresh-faced high school graduates in a post-Korea university setting.

The stories are hilarious, and quite enlightening. Continue reading


How to Keep Your Soul

He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die. –Proverbs 19:16 KJV

The are two ways to take this verse. Both are simple.

Don’t break the law.

Obey laws, and things should go well in your life. Break the law, and you will suffer the consequences.

Obey God’s Law.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22:37‭-‬40, KJV

If you truly want to keep your soul, love God and love others.

The Bible explains how. Read it.