July 21 / Proverbs 21 / Matthew 21

moving-mountains

Proverbs 21:4

Haughty eyes and a  proud heart–the lamp of the wicked–are sin. [NRSV]

The saintly Scottish preacher James Denney said, “No man can bear witness to Christ and so himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.” That quotation should be printed in large letters and displayed in every church sanctuary and conference auditorium where God’s people gather. It might humble some of the preachers and musicians who call so much attention to themselves that the hungry sheep can’t see Jesus. If the greatest sin is the corruption of the highest good, then people who use the Christian religion to promote themselves are guilty of great transgression.

-Warren Wiersbe

Does your life point to Jesus as the answer for everything? Or to yourself? Or to a book? Or to a method?

Matthew 21:18-22
The fig tree represents Israel, having the appearance of holiness, but not doing what they were really made to do.
We are made to glorify the Father by producing fruit–giving truth and acts of good; to have a fruit producing life.
The Father is glorified by this: that you bear much fruit… (John 15)
“Mountain” could represent power, the earthly Jewish power of the day. In Christ, we can remove any earthly power God would will to have removed. With faith, we have nothing to fear. In faith, we can be confident that we can do whatever it is God would have us to do.
Whatever “mountain” may be in your way, can be removed. Mountains turn into mere excuses over time because of fear. Because of the avoidance of the effort it will take to remove it. Tho it is in Christ’s power, it is a different kind of effort. A heart effort, which takes a different kind of energy than we may be use to putting forth.
I know I have probably grown most thru meditation and contemplation these past three and a half years since Jesus really got a hold of me. In one sense, meditation is very simple, seemingly effortless. Seemingly. It does indeed require a level of presence and awareness to God in the moment that takes great focus and even training to dial into. But it is so worth the effort.
So these mountains in our way can be removed, and it is worth every ounce of work involved to remove them. Ask anyone who has lost a significant amount of bodyweight if it was worth the effort put in.
 

July 20 / Proverbs 20 / Matthew 20

integrity

Proverbs 20:7

If you want to raise happy children, you must be a man of integrity.
You cannot be a double-minded man unstable in all his ways.
This inequity will pour out into your children.
Many fine leadership organizations teach that the #1 leadership “skill” is integrity. To do what is right in all situations because it is right, from your heart, not for self or pleasing others. You lead by who you are even more than by what you do.
Who are you?
Matthew 20:25-28
“It should not be this way among you”
His ways are not the world’s ways
The world loves to lord their authority over people, but that authority is allowed by God. The world’s way is to show their power, and this by withholding what is available to all by God.
I believe part of serving is making readily available all of God’s truth and goodness instead of holding some back to keep a position of authority or to be looked up to. We equip all we come into contact with with what is there for all who seek it. We realize we have only taken hold of something great that can only come from our Creator and not from ourselves. So naturally we should desire to show this greatness and healing and its availability to all others out of the love He has put in our hearts for people.
We have nothing to brag about, nothing to keep to ourselves.

July 19 / Proverbs 19 / Matthew 19

UnOffendable

Proverbs 19:8,20,27

Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.

Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

We must never stop learning, never stop sharpening ourselves. Whoever keeps on gaining understanding of God and life will surely “dis-cover” good. He will uncover more and more goodness available to all who search for it.

He who searches, finds.

He who sits on the couch, finds nothing.

Proverbs 19:11

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

As we become a person of good sense via seeking God daily, we become “unoffendable.” I have found that when I listen to God more than people, I am unoffendable. When I listen to people more than God, I am a stressed out, anxious basket case.

Proverbs 19:23

The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.

I’m wondering if this means that nothing will seem like harm to the one who truly rests in Papa YHWH. Because he trusts in God, His goodness, and His perfect care of His children no matter what it may look like.

This person listens to YHWH in every situation and in every person, uncovering the good and deeper meanings that are always there, that we normally are not tuned into. Every circumstance is an opportunity for growth. At the same time, it is also an opportunity to keep paving the old path we’ve always taken, further solidifying our paradigms of death.

If we could just learn to ask what God is saying or doing in every situation, how much better off we would be mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, for we would live in so much more joy, knowing God is always with us and happy to be with us as well.

“His ways are not our ways” is not just some bumper sticker-type cliche. It describes the deeper meaning of life. We cheat ourselves out of so much by keeping our eyes on the surface of everything, talking about football and the weather.

Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to.

Matthew 19:26

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible, but with God everything is possible.”

As much as we can do in our human power, and it is quite a bit really, there is much we simply cannot do.

We cannot save people.

We cannot regenerate a person’s heart.

We cannot make someone believe in Jesus.

We cannot force someone to follow after God daily.

We cannot, by command, have someone read the Bible, pray to YHWH, or participate in Christian community and partnerships.

So what the hell can we do???

We can choose to follow Jesus.

We can love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We can love others deeply.

We can interact with God about everything.

We can obey God.

We can listen to God daily, at all times, and do what we hear.

And what will come of doing these things we can do, with God?

Oh, not much, other than CHANGE THE WORLD!!!

And you’ll have and live in joy and shalom flowing from the Source of Love itself.

With God, everything is possible.

With God.

EVERYTHING.

July 18 / Proverbs 18 / Matthew 18

beard questions

Proverbs 18:2

Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinion.

Proverbs 18:6-7

Notice the relationship between the fool’s mouth and the resultant effect:

Words–>constant quarrels

Asking–>beating

Mouths–>ruin

Lips–>trap

It is our mouths that get us into most trouble. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t gone up and kicked anyone in the belly recently. It’s not my kung-fu feet that usually get me into trouble. It’s my mouth.

Sometimes it’s helpful to view how absurdly a verse reads when you make opposite only some of the words. It does not read “Fool’s listening gets them into constant quarrels.” Or that their “open receptivity is begging for a beating.” Nor does it say “The ears of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their deep listening.”

Ridiculous. Our receptive listening ordinarily will not get us into a fight. Like the old corny, yet memorable line goes, “God gave you two ears and one mouth because you’re suppose to listen twice as much as you speak.”

Also, you can usually make opposite all of the action-type words in a passage in order to see the positive side (in this case) of a truth. We might say:

Wise people’s listening helps them connect with others; their open receptivity fosters healing.

The ears of wise people are their restoration; they free themselves with their deep listening.

Or something like that.

 

Matthew 18:1-3

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

We ask the dumbest questions and from my reading of the Bible, humanity has a long and significant lineage of fools asking the wrong questions. To this day I ask God for understanding in this situation and clarity in the face of this injustice and that injustice and for what? What answer to such situations and wordly faults is ever going to satisfy my lust for understanding? And that is exactly what it is–lust–and therefore sin and therefore not of God. “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” How foolish a question and how ridiculously simple, beautiful, and cutting the answer.

July 17 / Proverbs 17 / Matthew 17

 

reaching

Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves you at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

As friends, we love each other all the time, even when we’re being stupid. We don’t stop loving one another. Ever. This is the great comfort of true friendship, is it not? This is the great comfort of Jesus’ friendship with us, knowing that when we give Him the finger, He just hugs us more tightly. Now, if we act stupid long enough, He may back up, but still remain open-armed. Either way He is loving us.

Our brothers are born for tough times. That’s what we’re here for as far as our Christian brothers and sisters are concerned. To be with one another during the tough times. That’s so much of life. That is so much of comfort. In one sense, I was born to be there for others. I was not born merely to please myself. Paradoxically, when I am there for others, I am very pleased.

Proverbs 17:28

Even fools seem to be wise when they keep quiet; if they don’t speak, they appear to understand.

What’s that old quote?

Better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Sometimes we all need that.

Matthew 17:7-8

“Then Jesus came over and touched them, ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ And when they looked, they saw only Jesus.”

I often wonder how easier my life would be if I just looked up and saw only Jesus. How the fear, doubts, anger, and resentment would all melt away if I just quit and looked up. How many times have I just not had faith in the One whom has always seen it through? How many times has he asked me “Why?” when I get distracted, or look at other places for help, or even worse rely on my own broken nature and lies? At times like those I feel prepared for the lash or the hit in the face, but it never comes. Tenderness, grace, and comfort are there to meet me in my most selfish and prideful of times. Vengeance is not for those that love him, but peace, love, and strength if we just stop and look at Him.

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is actively relieving others of payment for their wrongs against you. Our punishment of others, which is their payment, most often comes in the form of our silence, but may also be our disgusted stare, slander, defamation, or simply our inner resentment.

Forgiveness refuses to punish with silence.

Forgiveness does not punish with a disgusted stare.

Forgiveness does not punish with slander.

Forgiveness does not punish with defamation.

Forgiveness does not nurture inner resentment.

Forgiveness is not easy.

July 16 / Proverbs 16 / Matthew 16

ER

Proverbs 16:18

The road of right living bypasses evil; watch your step and save your life.

Prudence- Taking the trouble to think out what you are doing, and what is likely to come of it. And then making the wise choice.

I often think back to when my good friend Jeff was in medical school, and the wild stories he would share while he did his rotations in the ER downtown. He amazed me by telling me that people are shot and stabbed every single night here in Indy. Most are just never reported on the news because there’s probably just too many to report. (And let’s face it, if they reported all of them, it would get boring after a while for the viewers.) Though it is not literally funny, we could not help but crack up at the recurring tales he would hear nightly from these victims of violence, “Man, I was just minding my own business, walking down the street and these dudes starting hitting me with a baseball bat and stabbed me in the leg!” Every time, Jeff said, this was the basic story. They didn’t do anything to anybody and then someone came up to beat them down for no reason at all.

Well, as Proverbs indicates, this is rarely the case. In the ER, they would inevitably come to find out that these patients either owed someone drug money, stole someone’s girlfriend, stole someone’s money, or usually some combination of those three.

Generally the road of right living does indeed bypass evil, at least here in Indy. There are some parts of the world where it is much more dangerous, obviously. But the principle does apply generally I believe.

Matthew 16:2-3

Jesus answered, “At sunset you say we will have good weather, because the sky is red. And in the morning you say that it will be a rainy day, because the sky is dark and red. You see these signs in the sky and know what they mean. In the same way, you see the things that I am doing now, but you don’t know their meaning.

We take the time to repetitively observe cause and effect in the world and make predictions, and sometimes even adjust our life accordingly. Yet we rarely use the same amount of energy to observe our Creator, to get to really know Him and work hard to understand
what He meant on earth and means to us now. And adjust our life accordingly.

I often think of the effort, money and time spent on sending things to space, or on weapons and war, or on better video games, and how better that energy could be spent on caring for people who are so in need of God’s love shown to them through touch and experience.

July 15 / Proverbs 15 / Matthew 15

gentle or harsh answer Proverb 15 verse 1

Proverbs 15:1-2

A gentle answer will calm a person’s anger, but an unkind answer will cause more anger. Wise people use knowledge when they speak, but fools pour out foolishness.

Think before you speak.

Respond instead of react. This requires much intentional training, but if you want it, you can have it. We do what we really want to do.

Matthew 15:6

You reject what God said to follow your own rules.

These people show honor to me with words, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is worthless. The things they teach are nothing but human rules. -Isaiah 29:13

I am convinced that the only thing God wants from us is our hearts, because when He has your heart, He has all of you.

You don’t need rules to please someone you truly love. You please them out of your heart’s desire for them.

This is why seeking God is so very powerful. It cultivates a knowledge and desire for God that is greater than any ritualistic act, yet can and does include recurring acts of communing and worship. How do you love someone you don’t really know or spend much time with?

Get to know the God that Jesus revealed, for to know Him is to love Him. Get to know Him by spending much time thinking of Him, reading of Him, talking with Him, talking to others about Him.

July 14 / Proverbs 14 / Matthew 14

solitude time

Matthew 14:13,23

I love that Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand was a gracious response to a giant interruption to His “alone time.” He had received word that John the Baptizer had been killed by Herod, and being the healthy, emotional human being He was, no doubt was very upset by this news.

So He got away to a deserted place to be alone. Perhaps to process it all. But the crowds found out where He was and interrupted His precious time. How did He respond? He had compassion on them and was present with them, even in the midst of His emotional anguish over His cousin’s violent death. Maturity has been defined as always acting like your true self in every situation, no matter the situation. Jesus is our perfect example of this definition of maturity.

How much of Jesus’ ministry that we read about in the gospel accounts was response to interruptions? How much of our life is interruption? And how do we respond to it? How much do we probably miss because we are so put off (and therefore shut down) by being interrupted from what we would rather be doing? From what we want to be doing? Or even from what we think we need to be doing?

Much goodness and growth can come from interruption and our responses to it. It’s been reported that the average person is interrupted seventy-two times per day. It’s part of life. Maybe it’s God’s way of teaching us something and growing us, if only we would listen to each situation (interruption) as it arises, instead of blowing it off or doing whatever we can to get past it quickly.

Perhaps what we call interruptions are simply divine appointments.

And I love how in verse 23 that Jesus got right back to His solitude after He took the time to feed and politely dismiss the large crowd. He didn’t give in to distraction and keep on plowing ahead in ministry, making up for His lost time that day. He went right back to what He was doing before the interruption because He knew what He needed from His Father–time with Him.

Proverbs 14:15-17,29

Always stop and think for two seconds (or more). This is much of the wisdom of Proverbs.

Before you react, think and pray.

Before you speak, think and pray.

We would do ourselves, and all others we come into contact with, a wonderful service by employing the great effort to make this our new default setting. And we can, since we have been given new hearts of flesh to replace our old hearts of stone from God Himself. It’s just a matter of us doing our part to cultivate this new heart of thoughtfulness.

Anyone can do this. Some may just have more old, bad habit to work thru than others. So what. Get to work. Spend quality time with God to allow Him to change you. He will, if you want Him to. If you let Him.

July 13 / Proverbs 13 / Matthew 13

avg of 5

Proverbs 13:20

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but  Companion of fools suffers harm.

You become the average of the three to five people you spend the most time with.

This is a quote my workout partner shared with me one time that has always stuck with me.

Such a penetrating observation on life and people.

Matthew 13:1-9

The value, benefit, and effectiveness of the few who actually listen and act upon the word of God far outweighs the pain and any discouragement from detractors or those who just don’t listen or refuse to act upon God’s truth.

Where our focus lies is so very important, especially for those in ministry. Will you choose to focus on those who flounder, reject, and blame? Or will you put your energy in the good and positive place of focus on those who are hungry for God and who are teachable?  Those who receive God’s word and act upon it as tho it is true? Those who are “good soil” as Jesus describes them.