Getting Back Up (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

“For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” ~Proverbs 24:16

The Bible often equates sin with stumbling. Even for a follower of Jesus, there are times that we lose our footing and find ourselves face down in the dirt. We are made new, but the old sinful nature still clings to us. We are being perfected, but we don’t fully make it there on this side of eternity.

Temptations come. Some we avoid; others trip us up. So, what happens when we stumble and fall?

As the proverb says, the righteous will rise again.

When we find ourselves in the dirt, we have a choice. We can keep wallowing in the filth, or we can stand up, dust ourselves off, and move on. Following Jesus leads us to do the latter. Being made righteous by him, we have new desires. No longer do we want to wallow, instead we want to keep pressing on. So, we rise, set our eyes on Jesus again, and follow.

Even more, we have strength to rise that we did not have before. The Holy Spirit within us gives us the internal strength to rise and pursue our sanctification in Christ. Other Christians around us give us accountability to help us to our feet and to avoid more potholes in the future.

Though you might fall, keep getting back up. Keep pressing on. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

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Don’t Envy Sinners (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. ~Proverbs 23:17

Sometimes people look at Christians and see us as the people of no. We become more known for things we’re against than things that we’re for. This perception sometimes is our own doing. We like to make lists, and often our ethical lists are don’t, don’t, don’t.

This proverb might seem to add to that perception. “Let not your heart envy sinners.” We have a negative here, a don’t. Yet on the other side of this is a do. In fact, when read with 23:18, we find a greater focus on the positive than the negative:

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Why might we envy sinners? We do it because sometimes we look around and it seems that the wicked do prosper. We do it because we look at the sin and we see the fun and the pleasure.

So, how do we grow to where we don’t envy sinners? One way would to see the destruction that sin causes. The wages of sin is death. And another way is to focus on the positive side of God’s commands.

“Continue in the fear of the Lord,” this proverb says. “Fear” in this sense is not terror but awe and respect. “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” The opposite of death is life. In God, though Christ, we have the hope of eternal life against eternal death.

And what does eternal life entail? The fullness of joy in the presence of God and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Here is fuel for desiring to live following Jesus and forsaking the path of our own sin and that of other sinners: superior joy and pleasure.

This is how we look beyond the negatives of the “do nots” and embrace in Jesus the “do this.” We keep our eyes focused on the end goal. Sin has its pleasures, but God has greater pleasures in store. We do not envy sinners because in following Jesus there is far greater joy than this present world will ever know.

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Ancient Landmarks (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set. ~Proverbs 22:28

When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment of the Law,” he answered, “Love the Lord your God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself.” If we summarize everything the Bible says about these two loves, it could be stated: Love God supremely and love others deeply. This is the whole purpose of life centered on Christ.

When we read through the proverbs and come to one like Proverbs 22:28, it can leave us scratching our heads for a moment. We don’t really think in daily terms of ancient landmarks. A more updated rendering might say: Do not move the fence or boundary markers.

But what does this have to do with love?

The commands of love positively state what the Ten Commandments often puts in negative terms. To love God is to honor him, revere his name, and believe in no other gods. To love neighbor is to not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, not lie about, and not covet. In other words, loving neighbor is, in part, about honoring them and the things that belong to them. When we love our neighbors we will not seek to steal their lives, spouses, honor, or property.

It is this last item this proverb considers. The “ancient landmark that your fathers have set” mark the boundaries of land and territory. That which is on your side of the landmark is yours. That which is on the other side is your neighbors. To move the marker, unless a mutually agreed upon act, is to steal land from your neighbor. This not only violates the command to love.

If we truly love Jesus and love others, we will give to their benefit, but we will not manipulate and rob to our benefit. We will honor and respect others and what belongs to them.

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Victory is the Lord’s (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord. ~Proverbs 21:31

Imagine the scene: You’ve been tasked to lead an army against an enemy force, but before battle your general informs you that your 32,000 men are too big of an army. He tells you to decrease its size with a variety of methods and in the end, you are left with just 300 men. How confident would you be?

Imagine: You are the servant of a man of renown, and when you step outside in the morning you find yourself surrounded by armies looking to arrest the man you are with. When you cry out, “What shall we do?”, the other man replies, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” With your eyes, you see no army with you. How sure would you be?

The first scene is the account of Gideon against the Midianites in Judges 6-8. The second is of the prophet Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6. In both cases, God gave the little in number a great victory.

No matter what we face in life, God is sovereign. No matter what enemies seem to stack against us, true victory is found through God.

In the case of Elisha and his servant, Elisha prayed for the Lord to open his servant’s eyes. God did and the “young man saw the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” The victory came not because of the realities of physical armies but because of spiritual realities.

God is simply the biggest big and the strongest strong. No one can thwart his will. No one can overcome his power. Even when the authorities in the world killed Jesus and he went to the grave, the grave only held him for 3 days. When Jesus rose from the dead, he grasped hold of the keys of death and the grave (Revelation 1).

If death is our greatest enemy and it has been defeated by Jesus, then trusting in him will gain us ultimate victory. Even if enemies overcome us and kill us in this life, they cannot take us from God’s hand and they will not stop us from getting new, better, and glorified bodies in the resurrection.

We don’t have to worry, fret, or fear. We have a God who determines the victory.

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Vengeance is God’s (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you. ~Proverbs 20:22

One of the most counter-any-culture aspects of the Bible is how it calls us to respond to people who hurt us and people who set themselves up as our enemies. We, ourselves, are to strive to be no one’s enemy, instead doing all we can to seek peace with all other people and being quick to forgive and seek forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24, Romans 12:18).

But when we have been hurt or offended, we also are not to seek our own retribution. Yes, if appropriate, we involve the authorities, but otherwise we are to be quick to forgive, do good, and leave justice in the hands of God. We are not to be seekers of personal vengeance.

Consider what the Bible says in addition to the proverb above:

“But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” ~Jesus, Matthew 5:39-41

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” ~Jesus, Matthew 5:43-45

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” ~Jesus, Matthew 7:12

“Repay no one evil for evil… Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he his thirsty give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” ~Paul, Romans 12:17-21

We see time and again that we are not to respond in kind to those who have hurt us. Rather, we are to respond to them in the way that God has acted toward us. We are to pray for them and seek their good. In doing so, our acts of charity will either be a witness for them in order to lead them to Christ or a witness against them as they walk their path toward God’s wrath.

Either way, we are trusting the perfect God to carry out justice on our behalf.

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The Plans of Man (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. ~Proverbs 19:21

Each breath is a gift of grace. That is what the Bible teaches about life. God is in control over life and death. For those without Jesus, each breath is another chance to hear the gospel and repent. For those who have come to Jesus, each breath is another chance to love God supremely and love others deeply while walking this earth.

We can, and should, do all we are able in order to live long, healthy and happy lives, but we cannot guarantee our own life in the next minute let alone the next year.

So, we make plans of our days and weeks and years, but we do so with humility. Our plans will only come to fruition if God allows our next breath and the circumstances of life to lead us there. God’s plans, however, are fixed. We often try to turn against them and go our own way. Yet, it is God who accomplishes exactly what he desires.

Even when wicked men plotted the death of Jesus, they only succeeded (at least until the resurrection) because it was God’s will to use that death to save the multitudes who would believe in and follow Jesus.

So, we make our plans trusting that God has the best plans. We make our plans seeking God’s wisdom through his word, prayer, and the counsel of godly people whose wisdom we trust. And then with humility we say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15).

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We Need Others (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. ~Proverbs 18:1

There are some times in life where we need to get alone. We need to spend time just between ourselves and God, in prayer or in reading his word. We have times where we need to think and ponder in a quiet place.

But if we live in the habit of isolation, then we neglect the great reality: We need others. We need a community of people around us.

When God first created mankind, he started with Adam as the only human. Parading the animals before him, none was found to be a suitable companion to the lone man. Against this reality, God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

Adam didn’t suffer from a lack of being around other creatures. He was, however, isolated as a human being.

When we think of Jesus saving us from our sins, we often couch it in terms of a personal relationships with Jesus. This certainly is an aspect of it. We will not be saved from our sins because of our parents’, grandparents’, friends’, or spouse’s relationship with God. We need to know Jesus ourselves. We each need to repent of our own sins and place our own faith in Christ as Savior.

But when Jesus saves us, he does not leave us isolated in that “personal relationship.” No, he saves us to be a part of a people (Titus 2:14)—his people.

The proverb above considers this from the angle of wisdom and sound judgment. When we isolate ourselves, we have no one else to ask and no one to challenge our thought process. We essentially, then, set ourselves up to be our own god. We see our own knowledge and understanding as absolute, and don’t see the need to grow from the input of others.

But this is a fool’s errand as a wise person realizes their need for wise counsel from others. So, let us be those who realize that we need others in our lives, and let us embrace the community that God intends us to be.

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