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April 2015

Proverbs 25

  Almost give

Don’t Almost Give

Scripture

Proverbs 25:14

Like clouds and wind without rain
    is one who boasts of gifts never given.

Observation – What does it say?

This proverb speaks against the person who announces they are going to give but never follows through.

Understanding - What does it mean?

There have been many times that God has put it on my heart to give. Extra money comes in and I tell God, "I’m not going to spend that on myself but I’ll give it to the person you have brought to mind." There have been times though, where I haven't followed through. Whether I allowed myself to forget about it or I deliberately spent it on something else, there have been times I have almost given.

The truth is, whether it’s material or financial or a gift of time spent with someone or a gift of doing a favor to help someone, no one benefits from good intentions. The only gifts people benefit from are the ones that are actually given.

People who almost give are likened to clouds and wind without rain. Last week we had some cooler, cloudy and windy days that many Southern Californians were hoping to see rain from. The dark clouds rolled in but many of those clouds only ended in disappointment because they didn’t release a single drop of much desired water.

We’ve all met people who say they will do something or give something and don’t follow through. And, if we’re honest, we’ve all been that person at times too.

Just as people don’t delight in those who almost give, God doesn’t either.

Ecclesiastes 5:4

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow.

Life Application

Don’t almost give!

God, forgive me for the times that I have failed to follow through with my commitment to give to you or others. I don’t want to be like clouds that only get people’s hopes up and end up disappointing because I fail to give. Please bring to mind any commitments I’ve made to you or others that are still outstanding so I can make them right. And in the future, give me the determination and conviction needed to carry out my commitments. Amen.


Proverbs 24

Overboard-01

How Do You Respond When You Go Overboard?

Scripture

Proverbs 24:10

 If you falter in a time of trouble,
    how small is your strength!

Observation – What does it say?

This proverb seems to say that even those with a little strength won’t waver or weaken in a season where things are tough. In other words, you must not have much strength at all if you can’t handle a season of hardship. Those are some bold words. One translation puts it this way:

If you fall to pieces in a crisis,
    there wasn’t much to you in the first place.
(MSG)

Understanding – What does it mean?

Our faith is like a life vest. We wear it around on the boat when everything is calm and are proud of it. We study it, show it to others, and talk about it. But a life vest is only beneficial when you find yourself overboard. The unfortunate thing is that when many go overboard, the first thing they do is take off their life vest. “This thing obviously doesn’t work!” They discard the very thing that can keep their head above water, the only thing that can save them.

When Jesus’ disciples encountered the storm in Matthew 8, they freak out like it’s the end of the world. “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” His response was:

Matthew 8:26 “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

I don’t want Jesus to be surprised at my lack of faith. For the Christ follower, trouble and hardship should have no effect on our faith or our strength to endure. Our strength comes from God, in whom we have put our trust. Jesus said:

John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Life Application

Going through a time of trouble? This isn’t the time to crumble. Instead, hold tightly to your faith and draw strength from God!

God, I pray for all my brothers and sisters who are facing difficulty and challenging situations. Be their strength. Be their peace. When we find ourselves overboard, may we cling to our faith in you and trust in you. Amen.


Proverbs 23

  Zealous

A Future Hope For The Zealous

Scripture

Proverbs 23:17-18

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
    but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.
18 There is surely a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

Observation – What does it say?

In this 15th of 30 ‘Sayings of the Wise,’ we see the wise way to respond to sinners that seem to be happy and prospering. Although sinners may seem to be enjoying themselves and having fun in their sin, don’t forget the long-term consequences! If you remain passionate about serving and honoring God then you have a future worth being excited about. But those who indulge in sin with no fear of God will have their hope cut off.

Understanding – What does it mean?

In Psalm 73, Asaph expresses his frustration. The wicked and sinful seem to be doing great. They are having a blast, are healthy and strong and seem to be without worry. All the while he is struggling. Things were difficult for him and he felt as though he had kept his heart pure for nothing. He began to envy the wicked as he wrestled with these thoughts. Then he says this:

Psalm 73:16-17

16 When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.

Once he entered God’s presence, everything that weighed on his shoulders was lifted and it all made sense. Their final destiny is destruction while the final destiny of the righteous is being in the glorious presence of God!

Life Application

Don’t envy sinners or their pleasures. In the end, your pleasure and reward will be far greater and will last for eternity! Don’t grow tired of serving God and living for him!

God, when things get difficult remind us of the eternal reward for those who stay faithful to the end. When temptation to sin creeps in, remind us of the long-term consequences. May we always be zealous for the fear of the Lord! Amen.


Proverbs 22

  Prov 22

Excuses or Fruit?

Scripture

Proverbs 22:13

The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside!
    I’ll be killed in the public square!”

Observation – What does it say?

The lazy person always has an excuse.

Understanding – What does it mean?

Jesus once went to a fig tree looking for fruit and found none. Scripture says it wasn’t the season for figs. I'd say that's a pretty good excuse. But finding none, Jesus cursed the fig tree for it’s lack of fruit and it withered up. When I first read that story I felt upset and sided with the fig tree. “That’s not fair! It had a good excuse for not being fruitful!” But here's the moral of the story: If your Maker comes looking for fruit, you better have fruit. What’s the connection to the proverb?

We can either be lazy and make excuses or bear the fruit Jesus is looking for.  We can make attempts to justify our lack of fruit Jesus commands of us - the fruit of disciples being made, the fruit of the Spirit (peace, love, joy, etc.) that comes as a result of abiding in Jesus (Gal 5:22-23 and John 15). What excuses have we made for our lack of fruit? Some common excuses I have had and that I hear others share often:

  • Too busy – work/school/family stuff… I just don’t have the time.
  • Unprepared - Don’t have the knowledge, experience or training necessary.
  • Unqualified – I’m not perfect yet so I can’t make disciples. I have too many personal issues I need to work on first.
  • Fear –What will people think of me?

Life Application

Spend energy on producing fruit instead of making excuses!

God, forgive me for the areas I’m lacking in fruit. You didn’t buy the legitimate excuse of the fig tree and I know you don’t buy my excuses either. Forgive us for justifying our lack of fruit.  Thank you that you want us to spend time with you and abide in you despite knowing all our imperfections. Thank you that you want to use us despite our weaknesses and shortcomings.  Help us to be more fruitful. Amen.


Proverbs 21

Prov 21

Victory Rests With The Lord

Scripture

Proverbs 21:31

The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but victory rests with the Lord.

Observation/Understanding

As I read this, stories throughout scripture began to flood my mind; stories that show that God is the one who determines victory. These stories prove that it’s not the size of the army or the skill of the warrior that makes the difference. Consider a few:

  • David & Goliath. A young man, too young to go out with the army, with no armor or battle experience vs. a giant who had  the best armor and weapons at his disposal and who was an experienced fighter from his youth. The young man defeated the giant because the Lord was with him.
  • Samson & 1,000 Philistines. With a donkey’s jawbone, Samson killed 1,000 men because the Lord was with him.
  • Gideon & the Midianite army. Gideon and 300 men defeated an army that was so large scripture says they had more camels than sand on the seashore, much less soldiers! They had victory because the Lord was with them.

We can work hard, plan wisely, and have the best human resources at our disposal, but victory and success is up to the Lord.

Consider the following verses:

Psalm 147:10-11 10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Proverbs 20:7  Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

It doesn’t matter how strong we are, how wise we are, much money we have, how secure we think our job is, what connections we have, etc. God is the one who ultimately decides the outcome of every situation, big or small. He is the one who gives us victory. He is the one who provides. He is the one who protects. He is the one who saves.

Life Application

Trust in God!

Lord, forgive me for the times I trust in myself, my preparation, my wisdom, and anything else aside from you. My life and the outcome of every situation is in your hands. I put my trust in you and your unfailing love for me. May your hand rest upon us your church to walk in victory over sin and darkness and to usher in your kingdom on earth. Amen.


Proverbs 20

Harvest-01

Don’t Expect A Harvest If You’re Too Lazy To Plant

Scripture

Proverbs 20:4

Sluggards do not plow in season;
    so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

Observation – What does it say?

The Message Version translates it this way:

A farmer too lazy to plant in the spring
    has nothing to harvest in the fall.

Those who spend the time preparing the soil, scattering the seed, watering and cultivating the plants don’t see anything for a season. But they do it, laboring day after day in the field, because they know that the harvest will come and it will all be worth it. And in the fall, as they are joyfully reaping the fruit of their hard work put in months before, the lazy person is looking around in frustration and envy because they have nothing to harvest.

Understanding – What does it mean?

A girl in my youth group, Mariana, spent a year sitting next to a guy in math class who had no interest in God.  Despite his negative responses, she would talk with him week after week about God. She shared about what God had done for her, she shared the gospel, she invited him to church. By the end of the year it was as though he hadn’t changed a bit. But a couple years later Mariana received a phone call from him. “Hey, Mariana! I know we haven’t talked in a long time but I just wanted to call and tell you that I recently became a Christian! And I wanted to say thank you for all that you shared with me that year in math class about God.”

Mariana didn’t see anything come from her planting for a long season, but the harvest came in due time! Many I’ve told that story to have expressed to me something to the effect of, “That’s so cool! I wish I could experience something like that!” And my question for them is, “Who are you sharing Jesus with?” Because, without working in that 'field' of evangelism, the closest you’ll get to a harvest is hearing the great stories of others.

Life Application

Plant! We can’t look around expecting a great harvest from fields we haven’t been intentionally planting in.

Consider the fields in your life:

  • Your relationship with God
  • Your marriage
  • Your job
  • Your education
  • Your church family
  • People around you who need Christ
  • Etc.

In this present season, how much are you sowing into each of those fields? Are the seasons to come going to be filled with joyful harvesting or frustration?

God, forgive me for my laziness. Of course I want to see good fruit in every area of my life but I often push the most important areas to the back burner when life gets busy. Help me to be intentional and hard working in each field you’ve given me. Give me the wisdom to plant well and the patience to persevere until the harvest comes. Amen.


Proverbs 19

Cardboard

Will You Lend To The Lord?

Scripture

Proverbs 19:17

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will reward them for what they have done.

Observation/Understanding

Throughout this chapter there are several proverbs that point to the fact that the poor are often alone. Complete strangers try to hang around the rich, but even the closest family members desert the poor. This proverb tells us that if we show kindness to the poor, it accomplishes much more than just blessing the poor person. It’s hard to wrap our minds around but, whenever we are kind to the poor, we are actually offering kindness to God himself!

The language here is strong. Solomon goes far enough to say that we are lending to the LORD. And he will pay us back, rewarding us for what we’ve done. What the reward is isn’t specified. But one thing we can be sure of is that our God, who overflows with love and is the source of every good and perfect gift, will reward us well! (for deeper understanding of this reward, check out Matthew 25:31-46)

God convicted me a few years ago about my tendency to judge instead of give. “That person with the cardboard sign looks like they’ll probably spend this money on their addiction, so I’m not going to give.” Our job isn’t to determine someone’s worthiness of our gift, our job is to give! We won’t be rewarded for what the poor do in response to our kindness, we will be rewarded simply for the kindness we show. If you still struggle with feeling like you are enabling someone's addiction, I suggest having either $5 McDonalds gift cards or granola bars and waters in your car so that you always have something to give.

Life Application

Lend to the Lord by showing kindness to the poor!

Lord, your heart is for the poor. I’m always desiring to please you, but sometimes miss the opportunities you give me because I don’t recognize them. May I view every poor person through your eyes of love, and may I not pass up an opportunity to show both them and you, kindness. Amen.


Proverbs 18

 Are You Headed Toward Honor or a Downfall?

Scripture

Proverbs 18:12

Before a downfall the heart is haughty,
    but humility comes before honor.

Observation/Understanding

Solomon, the writer of this proverb, presents us with two paths, each with their own destination. We can take the path of haughtiness - arrogance, being blatantly and disdainfully proud - which will lead to a downfall. Or we can take the path of humility, which will lead to honor. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have God honor me than end up like the guy in the above video.

Philippians 2 gives us insight into the humility God honors:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

He goes on to describe the ultimate example of humility in Jesus:

[Jesus], being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

It's one thing to compare ourselves to others and feel proud. But it's impossible to compare ourselves to Jesus and feel proud. Need some help getting on the humble path? Compare yourself to the perfection and holiness found in Jesus.

 

Life Application

Take the humble path!

God, forgive me for the times I’ve had a haughty heart, comparing myself to others and having an exalted view of myself. Forgive me for the times I've valued myself and my interests over others and their interests. Jesus, you became the servant of all. You were always for others and never for yourself. Change me to be more like you, Jesus. It's all about you. Amen.


Proverbs 17

True friendship

Scripture

Proverbs 17:17

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

Observation/Understanding

A true friend isn’t just a fair-weather friend. A true friend is there when times are tough, when you aren’t easy to love, when you are more draining than life-giving to be around.

My favorite Old Testament example is David and Jonathan. Jonathan, the rightful heir to the throne, laid his life down for his friend David who would be king instead. When his father Saul was trying to kill David, Jonathan traveled many miles (In the days where the best transportation had 4 legs instead of 4 wheels!) across the wilderness to help David find strength in God. David didn’t just see Jonathan when it was time for feasting and when things were great. But even when David was at his lowest, Jonathan was there.

The best New Testament example is obviously Jesus. Doesn’t he love us at all times? Even when we’re hardest to love? As Scripture says, he is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. And he is present, not to be a burden, but to lift our burdens. And, not to shame us but to love us.

Then Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:12 (NLT), This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.

Do you spend more time desiring others loved you more or desiring to love others more? Rather than reading this and asking God, “Why don’t I have more friends like that?” we should be asking, “How can I be a friend like that to those in my life?” and, “What opportunities do I have to love others like you have loved me?” The best way to gain good friends is to be a good friend to others.

Life Application

Love others at all times.

Who do you know that is going through a hard time that could use your friendship and love?

God, help us to be like Jonathan and ultimately like you Jesus. Bring to mind those in our lives who are struggling. And rather than avoiding them, fill us with your heart of compassion that would lead us to pray for them, to pursue them, to reach out to them, to support them and to show them your unfailing, unconditional love. Amen.


Proverbs 16

Plans

Want Your Plans To Succeed?

Scripture

Proverbs 16:3,9

3Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

Observation/Understanding

Have you ever had something not go according to plan?

A while back I was putting my son Noah to bed and before we prayed together I asked him, “What do you think you’re going to do tomorrow?” He replied after a short pause, “I’m going to Disneyland.” I chuckled, “I don’t think so. You have preschool tomorrow.” “No, I’m going to go to Disneyland.” Well you can guess what happened the next day. Let’s just say he was disappointed when I made him bring his backpack when we left the house that morning.

If he wanted things to go according to his expectation and plan, he should have planned to do what I told him.

It’s a simple analogy. We can plan whatever we want, but ultimately it’s the Father's plans that will succeed and be carried out. So if we want our plans to be established and for things to go according to our expectations, there’s only one way that will happen: Align our plans with God’s plans. Live for God’s glory and not our personal happiness.

The Message Version puts verse 3 this way: Put God in charge of your work,
    then what you’ve planned will take place.

If I let God sit on the decision making seat of my life, if I put him in charge of making the plans, only then can I know that my planning isn’t a waste of time.

Life Application

God, I seek you for your will for my life. Grant me and your church wisdom and guidance and help us to do your will. Give me the strength today to die to my desires and to live to glorify you. Amen.