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Day 23: Proverbs 23

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Day 23: Proverbs 23:17-18

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

Observation:

  • What might it mean to envy sinners in your life? 
  • The first verse (v17) contains two commandments. The first is a negative commandment (telling us not to do something). The second is a positive commandment (telling us to do something). 
  • The fear of the Lord has come up in previous verses in Proverbs. How do the past verses containing this phrase influence this verse? (Proverbs 1:7:, 2:5, and 10:27) 

Application:

One of the most powerful weapons that our enemy has in his arsenal is the appeal that sin has when we first come across it. After all, if sin didn't have any sort of appeal to it than we would never do it. That appeal might look different for you than it does for me, but what this verse tells us is that not only is that appeal real, but we need to be wary of it. 

In Addiction counseling there is a tool that is often used called, "substitution." When an addict is trying to break him or herself of an addiction it is often easier to substitute the unhealthy habit with a healthy one, than to simply stop the unhealthy one. For example, if your goal was to stop eating chocolate it might be easier to start eating apples instead of chocolate instead of quitting chocolate cold turkey. 

The second part of the seventeenth verse is God's way of, "substitution." When we stop our lives of sin we are going to sometimes want to go back to that life. That's the appeal part we were just talking about in the first part of this verse. God's substitute is to, "continue in the fear of the Lord all the day." Now this does not mean is that we should be constantly afraid of what the Lord could do to punish us. What this phrase does mean is that those that have a healthy love and respect for the Lord act in a certain way. When we come to know and love the Lord we substitute our sinful life with one that we know brings pleasure to the Lord. This looks different from person to person based on what the Lord calls you to do, but some universal things that a person walking in, "the fear of the Lord" can do is pray, read scripture, and worship just to name a few. 

Verse 18 is a promise. A promise we have from holy scripture. A promise that comes from God, and one that we should not take lightly. When we begin to substitute our sinful life with a life that is pleasing to God it can be a struggle at first. Reading your bible can be challenging or boring, you may not know what to pray for, and worship can seem awkward. What this verse brings to those people is a promise of hope, and of a future. As you begin to live your new life in Christ, rejecting your former sinful life, rest in the promise that there is a grace that covers all your mistakes, there is a love that is vaster than we can imagine, and there is a hope that greater than all the hardships of this life. 

Prayer:

Lord, thank you promises that you give me. Promises that encourage me and build me up. Remembering those promises, I pray that by the power of your Holy Spirit I can start to reject my life of sin, and to live into the life you are calling me to.

- Deacon Michael Schwandt

 

 

 

 

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Day 22: Proverbs 22

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Day 22: Proverbs 22: 1,4
 

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,

    and loving favor is better than silver or gold.

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord

    is riches and honor and life

Observations: 

  • We are told that both a good name and favor are better than riches
  • Humility and fear of the Lord brings riches and more
  • Humility and fear of the Lord lead to eternal treasures and blessings
  • There seems to be a temporal vs eternal comparison here

Application:

There are two things which are more valuable and which we should covet more than great riches: 1. To be well spoken of, to have a good name, a name associated with our actions and faith and 2. To be well beloved, to have an interest in the esteem and affections of all about us; this is better than silver and gold. Christ has neither silver nor gold, but he grew in favor with God and man (Luke. 2:52).

We should be more careful to do that by which we may get and keep a good name than that by which we may raise and increase a great estate. Great riches bring great cares with them, expose men to danger, and add no real value to a man. A fool and a knave may have great riches, but a good name makes a man easy and safe, supposes a man wise and honest, and reflects the glory of God. This should teach us to set our hearts upon those things that are lovely and of good report, (Phil. 4:8).

 
One could argue faith is walking in humility and the fear of the Lord (Micah 6:8). We must so reverence God's majesty and authority as to submit with all humility to the commands of his word and the disposals of his providence. We must have such low thoughts of ourselves as to behave humbly towards God and man. Where the fear of God is there will be humility. What is to be gained by humility (riches, and honor, and long life) is spiritual riches and honor in the favor of God, and the promises and privileges of the covenant of grace, and eternal life at last. This is INFINITELY more valuable than the riches described in verse 1.


Prayer:
 
Lord, I need you. Pride often keeps our eyes focused inward and not outward. Idolatry and greed keep our hearts focused on treasures that do not compare to your grace and the inheritance we receive as your children. Please change my heart to desire walking humbly with you. Heal my heart and mind with Your truth, and help me walk in diligence and generosity.  Focus my heart and eyes on the needs of others.  Thank you for loving me despite my selfishness.  In the powerful, saving name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.
 

- Deacon John Tucker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 21: Proverbs 21

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Day 21: Proverbs 21: 15,16, 21

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous
    but terror to evildoers.
One who wanders from the way of good sense
    will rest in the assembly of the dead.

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
    will find life, righteousness, and honor.

Observations:

  • Justice is linked to the righteous in one way: JOY.
  • Justice is linked to evildoers in another way: TERROR.
  • The contrast of joy and terror emphasizes the very different lives experienced by the righteous and the evildoers.
  • One can wander when one is not staying alert or mindful of one's path.
  • Wandering from the way of good sense leads to resting in the assembly of the DEAD.
  • This is contrasted to the LIFE one receives in vs. 21 when one pursues righteousness and kindness.
  • To pursue something or someone involves intention and strategic living.
  • It is interesting that one doesn't have to be "righteous" in order to pursue righteousness; it is the actual pursuing of righteousness that leads one to find righteousness.
  • The pursuit of righteousness and kindness leads to life, righteousness and honor.

Application:

At the very center of God's heart is justice, kindness, and compassion. God cares deeply for the right, kind, and just treatment of His creatures and His creation.  Read some examples from Scripture that show us glimpses of God's heart on this matter:

"This is what the Lord Almighty said: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.' (Zechariah 7:9-10)

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23) 

According to the writer of Proverbs 21, justice being done leads to joy for the "righteous."  We know that apart from God, we have no righteousness of our own.  We are anything but righteous.  Our righteousness comes from being in Christ, and His being in us.  We are given, gifted, His righteousness.  And there is something transforming about having the heart and mind of Christ working in us.  He wrecks us!  And in the process, our own hearts begin to break for the people and things for whom and which His heart breaks.  Our passions, desires, and loves, come more into alignment with His passions, desires, and loves. As we live more and more into who we are as those placed in Jesus, our own hearts increase in joy as justice is done through us and around us. 

For evildoers, those who pursue a life away from the Lord, justice is terrifying.  Whether we belong to the Lord or not, we are all created in His image.  Therefore, our sense of justice, what is right, what is evil, comes from Him.  Deep down, the evildoer knows he is deserving of just consequences and punishment for his actions and evil heart.  Only by God' grace do any of us escape what we truly deserve.  

This way of righteous and honorable living is an intentional pursuit, not an aimless wandering.  I must confess that my own life has more aimless wandering than it should.  This Lent, may we pursue with intent righteousness and kindness.  And as we do so, we are promised in Proverbs 21 that we will find life, righteousness, and honor.  And belonging to Jesus, as those counted righteous, justice will be our joy!  

Prayer:

Father God, give us your heart, a heart that loves justice.  Give us the mind of you Son, Jesus, that we would be pursuers of righteousness and kindness.  Protect us from the evil one who desires terror for us instead of joy.  Continue to do your saving work in us that leads to our truly being all you have saved us to be.  In the powerful Name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.   

- Deacon Lisa Schwandt

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 20: Proverbs 20

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Day 20: Proverbs 20: 17, 28

Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, 

      but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;

      through love his throne is made secure.

Observation:

  • There is a sense in which our soul feeds on things that can be obtained by defrauding others.
  • Such "food" is pleasing initially.
  • The inevitable results however is distressing, disappointing, and turns out to be of no real nutritional value at all. 
  • The essential things needed for security are being oriented for the benefit of others and keeping your commitments.

Application:

The writer of these proverbs points out dramatically how different God's ways are from man's. Man's heart is strongly bent toward defending itself. Being a fraud (presenting ourselves in the best possible light) even if it means "white lies" or insincere speech to try to impress others or get something from them, can seem like the pathway to success.

In relationships this path may seem to promote popularity or earthly gain, but the end result is that the insincere person feels unloved and unknown. "If they really knew me they wouldn't like me."

In the same way, selfishness and deceit will inevitably produce disappointment and judgment in every area of life. Scripture tells us, "be not deceived, God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, he shall also reap."

By contrast, verse 28 tells us that the pathway to security and safety are found by focusing on loving others (the opposite of defrauding others) and being faithful. The king won't find security because of the abilities of a clever Army commander, or the position of his castle on a cliff, or by taxing his subjects as much as possible. Safety and security come from working for the best for others and keeping your word.

Prayer:

Lord, please work in my heart and mind in such a way that I will seek to be vulnerable, honest, generous and trustworthy. Amen

 

- Jon Sneed

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 19: Proverbs 19

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Day 19: Proverbs 19: 8, 20, 23

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.

The fear of the Lord  leads to life,
    and whoever has it rests  satisfied;

Observations:

  • Our heart and wisdom are equated. God is concerned that our heart-wisdom keeps growing.
  • The more understanding we have, the more our life path is evident
  • We are to be involved in life. We are to take, listen to, and accept the discipline that comes our way throughout our days.
  • Our peace and security depend on our fear and reverence of God. This is a path of life leading to a safe and serene sleep (resting in the Lord).

Application:

God is so good revealing ways to a peaceful and productive life. Wisdom and understanding are to be sought after in study, in the hearing of the Word, and through the examples of other Christians. We should be open to the counsel of others and the discipline (correction) that comes our way. - 1 Cor. 12:7 - It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons . . .

A peaceful life comes from the fear of God, revering, and worshipping Him. In this we find security and peace.

Being a believer in Christ Jesus is an active pursuit. These verses ask us to grow, keep, get, take, accept, live, listen, and revere. Each verse is a separate strand strong in itself: Wisdom, discipline, fear of God. Yet when woven together they become a stronger, beautiful braid of life.

Eccl. 4: 12b A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. - This verse refers to people joining together and supporting each other, but I think it can refer to the many strands that make up a mature Christian life. As each strand grows, our entire life is affected. So seek wisdom; accept correction; and love and fear our Lord.

Prayer:

Divine Teacher, show us your way through this Lenten season. Shine your light so that we may obtain Your wisdom. We know You only have our best at heart, so help us to take correction to keep us on Your path. Send Your Spirit to help us love you more and more worshipping in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen

- Sharon Ritze

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 18: Proverbs 18

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Day 18: Proverbs 18:10

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    the righteous man runs into it and is safe. 

Observations:

  • "The name of the Lord" - His character and all of His attributes and perfection are our true source of strength, security and safety from assaults of the evil one, the world, accusations and fear of death  . . . our salvation. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21). 
  • "A strong tower" - indicates a fortress that is unavailable to the enemy, thatprovides us absolute protection above anything that might destroy us . . .  for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy (Psalm 61:3)
  • "The believer in his high-days, and they ought to be every day, is like an eagle perched aloft on a towering crag. Yonder is a hunter, down below, who would fain strike the royal bird; he has his rifle with him; but his rifle would not reach one third of the way; so the royal bird looks down upon him; sees him load and prime, and aim; and looks in quiet contempt on him, not intending even to take the trouble to stretch one of his wings; he sees him load again, hears the bullet down below, but he is quite safe, for he is up aloft. Such is the faithful Christians state before God"

- C.H.Spurgeon

  • "Runs into it" -not walk or saunter, but run in haste and without hesitation, knowing our destination . . . running into and not up to and stopping

Application:

Our world is in turmoil and burdensome with persistent pressure to do more and have more. We have anxiety about our health, injustices, the national debt, unemployment rate, politics, and other unforeseen circumstances  . . . or are concerned about retirement years, the stock market . . . whatever.  We fear not only what we know but also what we don't.

Today's crisis of independence can lead us to trust in ourselves, the false security of wealth, or in earthly things and knowledge versus God . . .  trusting in what we can do and can accomplish. 

When our faith is tested, lives in conflict and hope gone . . . God is there.  He doesn't promise a life without trials . . . in fact, He promises the opposite ("I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33) . . . but He does promise to be with us through every trial.  

Running into the tower is an action and takes effort on our part.  How we run and how fast we run depends on our knowledge of Him and our resulting faith and trust.  We must go to Christ, giving Him our heart and letting Him enter our lives . . . surrounding us completely to where He is in us and we are in Him.  The question is . . . do you believe that the name of the Lord is your strong tower?

God is our source of security for all eternity - He always has been and He always will be.

Prayer:

Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.  Psalm 61: 1-3

Lord, thank you for giving us the understanding of the power in your name.  Let us never forget that you are our helper and let us never trust in anything else.  Protect us from lies of the enemy that might make us doubt.  Let your name be our shield from all attacks internally, externally, physically and spiritually as we run to You.  Your name is our strong tower.  When our children fear . . . help them to run to You first.  We are righteous by the blood of Jesus and we proclaim this truth over our family's life.  We pray this in your name.  Amen

- Sandy Rambach

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 17: Proverbs 17

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Day 17: Proverbs 17: 9, 14 & 17
 

He who covers a transgression seeks love,
      But he who repeats a matter separates friends.

The beginning of strife is like releasing water;
      Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts. 

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

Observations:

  • Continuously throughout the Bible we see this theme: forgiveness at all costs. 
  • This chapter also has a theme of wisdom - we must be wise then to forgive. We must have an eternal perspective. 
  • We are all called to be peacemakers. 

Application:

These scriptures are so much easier said than done - especially when you have to forgive someone who isn’t remorseful, repentant or self-righteous. 

Christ calls us to be peacemakers: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God (Matthew 5:9). Not peace keepers, but peaceMAKERS. If we allow that to sink in, we realize that holds us to an entirely different standard. 

This means we are called to PURSUE peace and not just respond to it. “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (Romans 14:19) I would challenge you to think of that coworker “you just can stand to be around,” or the family member that is “so hard to love”, or even that fellow church member who makes you run into the other direction. Those are the people we should actively be loving. The Lord puts people in our life to smooth out the rough edges, to refine things in our character that are not a part of His likeness. So, instead of running the other way, ask them out to coffee and get to know them better, there is a lesson to be learned from them. 

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for the people in our church family that are peacemakers. The only that set the example of chasing You with all that they have to pursue those who are unlovable.  I thank you for those who wise enough to “stop contention before a quarrel starts.” I pray that we, me included, learn from them. I pray that you bring to mind people that we need to pursue reconciliation with; people that we need to make peace with. I pray for softened hearts and tender souls. I pray that we as a church listen to the Holy Spirit, and seek out the unlovable and invite them in to sit at the table, Your Table, with us. Amen.

- Amanda Poole

 

 

 

 

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Day 16: Proverbs 16

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Day 16: Proverbs 16:1-2

The plans of the heart belong to man, 

      but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. 

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, 

      but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Observations:

  • Man can choose the plans for his life, but at the end of the day the Lord has the final say.
  • Man views everything they do as pure, but the Lord knows the true intention, thought, and motivation behind every thought and action.
  • While man can desire and believe everything they do is pure and righteous the Lord can see the true location and desire of their heart.
  • Humbleness, wisdom, and trust in the Lord are reoccurring themes in Chapter 16.
  • Pride is a dangerous attribute for followers of Christ to possess as it can lead us astray and down the wrong paths.

Application:

It is easy for us to justify and believe in our actions and the desires of our hearts. Even when we try to hide what is in our heart, it is still made known to the Lord. When we are constantly justifying why we are doing what we are doing, it is hard to turn away from our sinful behavior and follow the Lord fully.  Often it is hard for us to understand what we are doing is sinful because a man sees his actions as pure. We need to take a step back and allow the Lord to direct our steps. Verse 9 tells us, “the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” We know the Lord will have his way in our lives one way or another. For some reason we often take the hard route but that is not what God wants for us. He wants us to trust fully in Him and to seek His will for our lives as we take steps. If we are prayerfully taking the steps He directs life will be so much more peaceful.

Unfortunately, pride has taken root in man. Many of us will admit there are some aspects of pride in our lives. Others will say that it is a constant daily struggle. Verse 18 tells us, “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” The Lord wishes for us to seek wisdom and act with humble hearts and thanksgiving. Pride leads to many other difficult circumstances in our walks with the Lord. If we ever want to seek Him fully and walk completely in His calling, we must first lose the pride that has taken root in our lives. 

 

Prayer:

Lord, I need you now, more than ever. I need you to help me become aware of where pride has taken hold in my life. I need you to help me humble myself and walk away from the pride in my life. Lord, please help me seek wisdom over all other things. I ask you to direct my steps. I want to lay down my pride and stubbornness before you today. I no longer want to fight you in this journey. Lord please have your way in my life and direct me according to the will you have placed upon my life. May my heart and actions be focused on you and where you want to lead me rather than what I think is best for me. Lord you are what is best for me and what I need now and forever. Amen.

- Chris Poole

 

 

 

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Day 15: Proverbs 15

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Day 15: Proverbs 15: 9, 24, 31, 33
 

“The Lord detests the way of the wicked
but he loves those who pursue righteousness.

The path of life leads upward for the prudent
to turn him away from Sheol beneath.

He who listens to a life-giving rebuke
will dwell among the wise.

The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.”

Observations:

  • Rebuke has one of two outcomes: 
    • Reform: recognition of error, repentance, and correction of action.
    • Rejection: refusal to acknowledge error, continuing to act in sin, and consequence [death (v 10), the grave (v 24), despising of self (v 32), and foolishness].
  • Foolishness is the result of rejecting rebuke, and wisdom is the result of accepting rebuke
  • The Lord rebukes us because he loves us and wants us to live our best lives
    • If the Lord loves the righteous (v 9, v 26, v 29), and if rebuke leads to wisdom and righteousness, then the Lord must be showing us love when he shows us rebuke.
    • If we live our best lives when we live according to wisdom, then when the Lord corrects us, it is because he wants us to be living our best lives. It is because he wants us to be fulfilled and to flourish.
  • Rejecting the Lord’s rebuke is rejecting the Lord’s love

Application: 

It’s one thing to understand rebuke as love; it’s another to respond to rebuke in love. Responding in love means responding in wisdom, but often I feel stuck in this circular cycle: if I don’t have wisdom, how do I get it? If I’m not wise, how do I know if I’m pursuing wisdom, or acting in foolishness? As Proverbs 1 tells us, and Proverbs 15:33 reminds us, “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” To fear the Lord, I have to know him, and I can know him through his Word. 

When we read the Word, we understand God’s character, we trace his faithfulness throughout history, we know his will by his example in Christ Jesus. The Word shows us God’s sheer power in speaking creation into being, his omnipotence and might as he vanquishes the foes of his people with a jawbone or a mere stone from a brook. But it also shows a tiny baby in a manger laid, and a man stripped of skin, sagging from bloody beams, begging his Father to forgive us. I fear this magnificence, but I love this Christ. 

This is the image that compels me to humility; the face that I hope to please with my thoughts, words, and deeds. The rebuke of Christ is the rebuke of the God-man who takes my face in his nail-scarred hands and invites, “Come, live your best life.” That is the love I refuse when I reject the rebuke of the Lord, because rebuke is an invitation to wisdom, to righteousness, to love, and to God himself. 

Prayer: 

Father, thank you for loving me enough to correct me. Allow me to see the challenges of my day through your eyes, and show me how to respond in love, with wisdom. Give me opportunities to reform my failings, and to trust that you will help me to live a life worthy of you. You have called me into your kingdom and glory, and are faithful to fulfill your promises. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen. 

- Sarah Moon

 

 

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Day 14: Proverbs 14

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Day 14: Proverbs 14: 21, 31
 

Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,

    but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,

    but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

Observations:

  • Notice how v. 21 speaks about an individual’s righteousness and blessedness in relation to his/her orientation toward the poor
  • It’s tempting to assume that the sinfulness is caused by their mistreatment of the poor. It’s also tempting to assume that the blessedness is a result of the generosity. However, the verse doesn’t outline this, explicitly. Instead, it seems that the despising and the generosity are simply manifestations of these internal realities.
  • Looking at v. 31, we see a direct connection between our orientation towards the poor and God. To oppress the poor, it says, is the same as insulting God, Himself.
  • Conversely, to treat the poor with generosity honors Him.

Application:

These verses from Proverbs 14 highlight two significant themes in the Scriptures regarding the poor. The first points us to a dynamic we all experience: that our outward, visible treatment of the needy reflects internal, invisible realities. The one despising the them is identified by his/her unrighteousness, whereas the one who is generous is identified by his/her blessedness. Those of us living on the other side of the resurrection can more easily understand how this happens, for the person who has been united with Christ and freed from their sin now adopts a radically new orientation toward the people around him/her; particularly the people with nothing to offer. Similarly, the person who has not experienced this takes on the natural orientation we’re all tempted toward, which is to serve ourselves above others. Remembering this provides a helpful barometer for our hearts. When we sense within us a hostility toward the poor, whether it be an unwillingness to help or even a resentment, this should draw attention to the fact that something is askew in our walk with God.

The second theme this touches on is what some scholars call “God’s preferential treatment of the poor”, or the reality that the God of the Bible identifies so closely with them that because He is (and our) Maker, to treat them a certain way is to treat God the this way. This reality challenges any temptation we might have to think of our own personal relationship with God being distinct from our relationships with others, especially the needy. Since He has chosen to minister to them through us, such a distinction is impossible.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, have mercy on the ways I might overlook those you have placed around me. Please make me conscious of my identity in You; the righteousness You have given me in uniting me with Christ, and the joy with which You have filled me. And make me so aware of this that I would not help but be able to honor You in how I treat those whom You have made. 
 

- Fr Bryan White

 

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Day 13: Proverbs 13

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Day 13: Proverbs 13: 1, 10
 

A wise son hears his father's instruction,

    But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

By insolence comes nothing but strife, 

    but with those who take advice is wisdom.

 

Observations:

  • Parents can be a source of wisdom for their children.
  • In healthy families, parents care for their children and want what is best for them.
  • A child who is able to listen to his/her parents and open to learning is sensible.
  • A child who scoffs at or mocks his/her parents raises a barrier to listening and learning. 
  • If two people are having a discussion and one of them is acting in an insolent matter, the stage has been set for conflict. 
  • If someone who cares about you offers you advice, it makes all the sense in the world to listen carefully to that person.

Application:

A common thread in verses 1 and 10 of Proverbs 13 is listening. We have a listening God who has given us the gift of listening and wants us to listen carefully to our brothers and sisters. "...let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." James 1:19 (ESV). 

Sadly, however, many of us are very poor listeners. If you beg to differ with this conclusion, sometime this week, take careful note of as many conversations as you can and grade all of the listeners in those conversations. Are the listeners resisting distractions, looking the speaker in the eye, being empathetic, concentrating on everything that is being said, asking insightful questions to ensure their understanding of what is being said and letting the speaker finish speaking? 

In his book, "The Listening Life"  Adam McHughposits that listening is essential to a healthy relationship with God and others and places listening at the center of our mission in the world. How do we equip ourselves to hear carefully what God may be saying to us through others? One of the many things that struck me about McHugh's book is his reference to and explanation of a portion of King Solomon's prayer for wisdom. "Give your servant...an understanding mind to govern your people that I may discern between good and evil..." 1 Kings 3:9 (ESV) McHugh notes that in this passage the Hebrew translation of "understanding mind" is "a listening heart". What is a "listening heart"? It is a servant's heart. More specifically, McHugh tells us "... the listening heart is one that seeks to give, to learn, to welcome, to serve..." 

Wow. I don't know about you, but having a "listening heart" sounds very challenging and time intensive. In his book "Life Together" Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes it clear that listening generously is indeed ministry. "We do God's work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. So often Christians...think that their only service is always to have to 'offer' something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening."

Would others describe you as someone who is "quick to hear" and "slow to speak"? Are you a radically compassionate listener?  If your answer to either of these questions is "no", this Lent consider asking the Lord to help you develop a listening heart in order to more effectively and compassionately serve your family, neighbors, co-workers, brothers and sisters, and strangers in need. 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father- Thank you for being a listening God who has given us the gift of listening. I need your help, Lord. I want to be able to listen generously, but in order to do so I need more of you. Lord- please give me more humility, patience, selflessness, wisdom and concentration when others are speaking to me. Oh, Lord- please create in me a listening heart.
 

- Jack Lewis

 

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Day 12: Proverbs 12

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Day 12: Proverbs 12: 17, 19, 22

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,

    but a false witness utters deceit.

Truthful lips endure forever,

    but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,

    but those who act faithfully are his delight.

Observations: 

  • There is a tie between truth and justice
  • Speech reflects a person’s character.
  • Those who speak truth are upright and can be trusted.
  • Those who speak lies are duplicitous and cannot be trusted.
  • The truth is changeless and timeless.
  • Lies can be challenged and unravel over time. 
  • God hates lies.
  • Truthful speech and actions bless the Lord.

Application:

It is frightening to imagine a world in which NO ONE can be trusted to tell the truth. Making informed decisions would be impossible. Social cohesion would be significantly weakened, if not destroyed altogether. 

God is well aware of the danger associated with telling lies. From Genesis 3, we know that sin came into the world after Satan lied to Eve. In the Ninth Commandment handed down to the Israelites through Moses, God went so far as to expressly forbid lying (Exodus 20:6). 

We know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). And as his followers, we should be a people of truth. But sometimes we are tempted toward a  “little white lie,” possibly to spare the feelings of beloved family member or friend. However, if Jesus is the One we are following, being changed more and more into His likeness, we must take note that we see no “little white lies” in His earthly ministry.  Instead, we see, always in His words and actions, truth, encased in love.  Before falling into the temptation to say a “little white lie,” trust that our God will show us a way to escape this temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).  

Is it ever morally permissible to lie? 

No. Though God did deal well with the midwives who lied to Pharaoh about why newborn Hebrew babies were not being killed (Exodus 1:17-21) and with Rahab, the prostitute, who told a falsehood to protect Israelite spies (Josh 2:1-7), these situations showcase faithful followers of God standing for God’s truth at their own peril. 

The bottom line is that God detests lies. We are an imperfect people, but we should always strive to act and speak in a way that would be pleasing to the Lord. 

Prayer:

Lord, I desire to be your delight. I desire to speak the truth in love in all circumstances. In those instances when I might be tempted to lie, remind me to call upon your Holy Spirit to give me the words to speak that would be pleasing to you. In your precious Son’s name I pray. Amen.

- Melanie Lewis

 

 

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Day 11: Proverbs 11

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Day 11: Proverbs 11: 14, 19, 30

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, 
     but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. 

Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, 
     but he who pursues evil will die. 

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, 
     and whoever captures souls is wise.

Observations:

  • When people don’t have others to give the direction, advice, instruction, counsel, then they are likely to fall. This could mean lapsing into sin, transgression, or wrongdoing.
  • It’s not a person that falls, but a people. 
  • Safety comes when there are a lot of people trained to give guidance, advice, or counsel.
  • If we remain unwavering in doing morally right, then we will have life. This is not limited to any particular person. This is for anyone that is steadfast! 
  • If we pursue evil, or in this case sin, then we will die.
  • When we are morally right, then we produce a tree of life. Jesus said that we are to abide in him and will produce
  • Those that capture souls are wise. When we thirst after this spiritual part of a human being, we show knowledge, experience, and good judgment. 

Application:

In Proverbs 11, we see the need for having those beside us to counsel us as we grow in our faith. Counsel could be someone that gives advice, direction, or guidance. This passage speaks to a people that will fall, not a person. I remember growing up hearing from my parents, “You are who you are associated with.” I think it’s easy to get caught up in the “I don’t need anyone” mentality, but we were all made for relationship and this passage speaks volumes to me about what happens when I don’t have those counselors and what happens when I do. I can choose to fall by letting pride sneak it’s way in, or I can choose safety by relying on each other. I know that I need others to speak truth and encouragement, but also to hold me accountable. The other aspect that I like about this passage is that an “abundance” of counselors provides safety, so that’s not just one, or two. Did you know that an abundance is a very large quantity of something, a bountiful amount! So, this encourages me to ask myself, “Do I have an abundance of counselors in my life?” Think about who you could ask to step along side you today if you are in need of counselors. 

What does it mean to be steadfast? I like to think of this as being loyal, faithful, dedicated, dependable, steady and unwavering. What does it mean to be righteous? This is a person that is morally right, ethical, and virtuous. I think that these are very strong words to fulfill. When we are dedicated to being that morally right person, then his Word says we will have life. This makes me think of Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Sometimes I think it’s easier to go with the flow of the world than to be steadfast and righteous. Can you think of a time when you gave into your own desires that were not righteous? 

I not only need Jesus, but I need others to support me in prayer, guide me in wisdom, and show me loving accountability so that I can capture the souls around me that God has placed in my circle of influence.

Prayer:

Most gracious Father, I come before you and I give you every unrighteous thought, word, or deed and I place those at the foot of the cross and repent right now in the name of Jesus. Father, I set aside my own desires and ask you to replace them with your desires. Renew my heart and my mind to be steadfast in righteousness as I produce this tree of life. I ask for an abundance of counselors to provide safety in order that I will not fall and I ask the same thing for my church community. Provide us with an abundance of counselors. Open my eyes and my heart to those around me that you have placed in my life and give me your wisdom to capture their souls. Thank you for supplying me with everything that I need to do your will to further your kingdom here on earth. In your son Jesus’ name I pray, Amen. 

- Katie Kerbow

 

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Day 10: Proverbs 10

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Day 10: Proverbs 10:25 - 30
 

When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
    but the righteous is established forever.
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
    so is the sluggard to those who send him.
The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
    but the years of the wicked will be short.
The hope of the righteous brings joy,
    but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless,
    but destruction to evildoers.
The righteous will never be removed,
    but the wicked will not dwell in the land.

Observations:

  • The vivid imagery used by Solomon between good and evil paints a great visual picture here and gives hope to believers in the lord.
  • These verses reinforce the story and the promise throughout the bible of the return of the king and eternal life for believers in HIM.
  • The actions of the wicked/evildoers are a good gut check to remind you to guard your actions and heart and mind against evil thoughts, words and deeds.
  • The protection offered and afforded to us by God’s grace is really strong throughout Proverbs 10 and especially in these particular verses. 
  • There is a lot of reinforcement of God’s love and joy that he takes in his people
  • Living a righteous and faithful life will bring great things!

Application:

Proverbs 10 makes it very plain which is the correct path to choose. It is very black and white. We can use this clear delineation between the right and wrong things to say or think, or right and wrong ways of acting or thinking, as indications of the life to come.

If we really believe that He is King and will return again, we can see that if we do not fully live that out, then the consequences will be severe. There is very clear language to the consequences of each action throughout the chapter. You can either bring honor or dishonor to your family. We can either submit to or reject what we have read or been taught.  

It gives us a clear choice. We can both read this passage and put it down and walk away like nothing happened or think “aren’t they nice words” or “wasn’t that well written” ignoring what God is saying in our lives. Or you can read, digest, believe and receive and apply His truth to your life. Walking the walk and not just “talking the talk.” This is a great way for us to build our spiritual house; with God as the Rock and foundation and Jesus as the cornerstone.

If nothing else, we should take away the following fundamentals from this passage:

1.  As believers, we should receive an eternal source of joy, energy and peace from the promises of God.  We should have full confidence in who he is as you enter each day.

2.  We should want to share God’s goodness with those that don’t know him or have forgotten what it is like to be truly in his presence. 

Doing so in a way reflecting his son and allowing God’s love to pour into you so you can pour so you in turn can pour it out to those around you like the cracked.

The message is clear.  The Father desires you to live long and strong with HIM as your source of strength! But, you have a say in the matter. He has given you the blueprint/the plan and if you apply it, you will enjoy the benefits of it.  But if you don’t and ignore it, then you will have to deal with the consequences.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, We rejoice in our hearts with your promise of eternal life. For your encouragement and reassurance, that our journey through life with you by our side, will bring us joy, peace and so much more! When we let doubt or thoughts that are those akin to the evil doers, we pray you will sting our eyes with smoke or give us a taste like vinegar in our mouth as a reminder of where that path will lead. I thank you that by your grace, I am able to pursue a life of joy, Love and integrity confident in the knowledge of your promise of the world to come. Lord please continues your sanctifying work in me and in my family of Hope Pointer’s, that we would fully reflect an image of you and your son through our actions and word.  In the mighty and majestic name of your precious son Jesus, I pray.  

Amen.        

 

- Mick Bailey

 

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Day 9: Proverbs 9

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Day 9: Proverbs 9: 1-2, 13-14
 

Wisdom has built her house; 

   she has hewn her seven pillars.

She has slaughtered her beasts; she has

mixed her wine; 

   she has also set her table.

The woman Folly is loud;

   she is seductive and knows nothing.

She sits at the door of her house;

   she takes a seat on the highest places of town

Observations:

  • Notice the way the author contrasts two women who personify wisdom and folly.  Wisdom is active and constructive.
  • The author uses the words “built,” “hewn,” “slaughtered,” “mixed,” and “set,” when discussing Wisdom.
  • By contrast, the author is descriptive of who the person Folly is, but not of her constructive works.  Folly is loud, seductive, and knows nothing.  When the author does describe her actions, she is passive, she sits and takes, she is not constructive.
  • Wisdom’s actions are completed, not ongoing.  Wisdom is established, not establishing.  This suggests Wisdom is not set as an example we should emulate, but as a voice calling to us to follow.  As Christians we have not built, we are building.  We have note hewn, we are hewing.  Wisdom calls to us (see vv. 4-6) to follow her.
  • Folly, on the other hand, is the example to flee from.  She substitutes volume for action, she is seductive without content (“...and knows nothing). And Folly is lazy.  She sits and takes a prominent seat, rather than sending out her followers (v. 3).  This is likely because her followers are dead (v. 18).

Application:

We will have two voices calling out to us, Wisdom and Folly.  They both have their house, they are both established.  But we know what Wisdom offers.  Wisdom offers sustenance (her table is set, the beasts slaughtered, the wine mixed) and protection (her house is well supported by seven hewn pillars).  And Wisdom’s followers are called into the work of Wisdom and her insight (v. 3-6).  Wisdom is life (v. 6).

Folly is calling too, and we know that Folly is seductive, and that Folly is death.  Proverbs 9 makes devastatingly clear in its final verse that Folly’s house is filled with the dead.  Her guests are “in the depths of Sheol.”  There is no protection or sustenance at Folly’s house, only death, only the depths of despair.

So how can you know, when you hear the call of Wisdom and Folly, which voice is which?  Proverbs 9 offers life-giving guidance.  Wisdom’s followers point to her, to the fear of the Lord (v. 10), and to the Holy One (v. 10).  Folly is selfish, she doesn’t point towards the Lord, she points towards herself, or to the listener (v. 17).

There is no ambiguity in Proverbs 9, not suggestion that the choice between Wisdom and Folly is unclear.  Wisdom is the call to life, and Folly to death.  While Folly is loud and seductive, she is ignorant and lazy.  Proverbs 9 has, “set before you life and death, blessing and curse.” And Proverbs 9 invites you to choose life. See Deuteronomy 30:19.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, you are the start of wisdom and insight.  I need your guidance to discern the voice of wisdom in my daily life, and the work of your Holy Spirit to resist the seductive ignorance of folly.  Every moment of every day I need your help to choose wisdom; to choose life.  Direct my path today towards Wisdom’s house, towards your protection and providence.  Amen.

- Philip Harris

 

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Day 8: Proverbs 8

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Day 8: Proverbs 8: 10-11

Take my instruction instead of silver,

    and knowledge rather than choice gold, 

for wisdom is better than jewels,

    and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

Observations:

  • Wisdom is a choice.
  • Being instructed/teachable, humbles us, giving us the ability to receive wisdom.
  • Absolutely nothing of earthly value compares to the benefits of choosing wisdom.
  • Wisdom is precious, a substance of great value not to be wasted or treated carelessly.
  • Loving wisdom brings a rich inheritance and full treasuries. (v 20-22)
  • Blessed are those who seek wisdom daily. (v 34)
  • With wisdom we find LIFE and receive favor from the Lord.
  • Verse 11 is similarly stated in Psalm 73:25 and in Proverbs 3:15.

Application:   

Choices!  Its easy to think of wisdom as some magical mystical thing that “some” receive.  Like a pair of ruby slippers to click, or a gold ring to rule them all, or even a lamp to rub.  Proverbs 8 is teaching us that we must personally choose wisdom, it doesn’t choose us. But it’s also about choosing the right thing. It’s not about seeking an item. God gave King Solomon the choice for anything his heart desired. What would you choose? Money? Fame? Education? 

Solomon CHOSE wisdom. He humbled himself, knowing as a young man, he would need help to rule God’s people. Not only did God give him wisdom, but He gave him riches and honor as well.  We need wisdom more than a 401K, luxury car, or latest Apple item. Those things alone are not bad but they will not compare to the fulfillment of seeking wisdom.                                                                                              

Jesus tells us in Matt 6:33 “To seek first his kingdom, his righteousness and ALL these things will be given to you as well.”  We are not all promised fancy cars, big houses and big bank accounts, but when we choose to truly seek the Wisdom of God, He promises that we will receive “treasures” beyond our imaginations.  Treasure of knowledge, peace, understanding, love, mercy, and so much more. To be able to be in a hard circumstances and  be able to respond in the fullness of His wisdom and His Glory. Wow! Choose Wisdom!         

Prayer: 

Lord, I humble myself and confess that I often seek wrong treasures rather than seeking You and Your wisdom. But help me through the Holy Spirit to CHOOSE You and Your wisdom, so that I would bring Honor and Glory to You.  Amen

- Amber Gallaway

 

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Day 7: Proverbs 7

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Day 7: Proverbs 7:1-4

My son, keep my words

    and treasure up my commandments with you; 

keep my commandments and live;

    keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;

bind them on your fingers;

    write them on the tablet of your heart. 

Say to wisdom, "You are my sister,"

    and call insight your intimate friend

Observations

  • Chapter 7 provides a sharp contrast of the Simple Man to the Wise Man. 
    •            The Simple Man is "devoid of understanding" (v. 7) and follows his senses without regard  to the long-term impact (v. 27). He is "simple-minded" - naïve, childlike.
    •            The Wise Man diligently seeks and actively pursues understanding and wisdom (v. 1-4) and lets this be his guide. He is prudent, sound, judicious - wise.
  • God has provided His wisdom freely to us. To avoid worldly pitfalls the Wise Man treasures and protects God's wisdom at all costs and seeks His commands as instructional and life-bringing.
  • The Simple Man is easily manipulated by his senses (vs. 10, 13, 17 and 21), emotions (v. 14), intellect (v. 14), desires (v. 17) and vulnerability (vs. 19-20).
  • The Simple Man does not think through the situation. He listens, entertains her offers and is persuaded in his thoughts, then "immediately" follows his emotions without control (v. 22). He succumbs to the harlot's offers over time until he cannot control himself any longer.
  • Chapter 7 closes with a warning to everyone (v. 24-27) - that no one is immune, even strong men have fallen (v. 28).

Application

The world is full of temptation and would have us believe that the fulfillment of our desires is our right and should be our focus. Our senses are constantly bombarded by what we see, hear, smell and encounter, for example through billboards, TV, movies, music, internet and books. The Simple Man is controlled by his senses and what he takes in becomes embedded in his inner being. 

In contrast, the Wise Man pursues God, adhering to the Lord's commandments and wisdom result in spiritual growth. The Wise Man avoids temptation of the world by focusing on God. 

Simplemindedness is not a sin. It is a stage we pass through in our spiritual development, much as a youth passes into adulthood. But to progress in our spiritual walk with God - to grow spiritually from the Simple Man to the Wise Man - we must protect our hearts and actively pursue God's commands and wisdom. This is summed up in Psalm 19:7-8 (ESV):

The law of the Lord is perfect,

    reviving the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure,

    making wise the simple...

How does the Wise Man respond in times of temptation? Proverbs 7 gives us the answer - he turns to God and listens to His command, and God will grow him in wisdom.

Prayer

God, I desire to bring You honor and glory through my life, my thoughts and my actions. Please open my eyes to those things which cause me to stumble rather than focusing on You. I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit my heart will be protected from the world and fleshly thoughts, and with Your help, I will grow in the wisdom You freely and generously provide.  Amen.

- Philip Gallaway

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Day 6: Proverbs 6

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Proverbs 4:20-21

My son, be attentive to my words

incline your ear to my sayings.

Let them not escape from your sight;

keep them within your heart.

 

Observations

  • It is interesting that a list is used to clearly and succinctly communicate the things the Lord hates or that are an abomination to Him.
  • Both “hates” and “abomination” are strong words to describe how the Lord responds/reacts to the things on this list.
  • The first five things on the list are describing parts of the body, moving from the top down: eyes, tongue, hands heart, feet.
  • Each body part is connected to a sin:  
    • Eyes—haughtiness/arrogance
    • Tongue—lying/deceit
    • Hands—shedding of innocent blood
    • Heart—devising wicked plans
    • Feet—can’t wait to run to evil
  • The last two on the list are kinds of people:  a false witness and one who sows discord.
  • Both of these are harmful to communities.

Application

When God created us in His image, to be His image and kingdom bearers, He declared us (all of our created being) to be VERY good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31)

God doesn’t merely dislike the things listed in Proverbs 6, He hates them; they are an abomination to Him.  We know that a Holy God abhors all sin, but there is something that goes to the very heart of God regarding the sins that are listed here.

We were created in God’s image, given instructions to bear Him and His image in all the earth, sent out as His kingdom ambassadors.  It not only grieves His heart when we use that which was created for His glory in sinful and image-distorting ways, He HATES these sins.  We were given eyes, tongues, hands, hearts, and feet that were created to bless others on His behalf.  Instead, our own arrogance, deceit, devaluing of human life, anger, attraction to wickedness and evil, all work to hurt others, twisting God’s good Name and image in the process. 

The last two on the list refer to people who harm communities.  False witnesses and those who sow discord cause destruction to all, but the worst is the damage caused the innocent lambs we are called to care for, feed, and protect, all in the Name of our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

This Lent, I am asking the Lord to show me how I am distorting Him to others, instead of reflecting the fullness of His goodness and glory, that others would see and experience Him, that which is VERY good.  And I am humbled that Jesus is working this out in me, redeeming all of me—my eyes, my tongue, my hands, my heart, my feet—through the sanctifying and freeing work of His Spirit (Romans 8).  And I am asking Him to give me His Shepherd’s heart for all those with whom I am in community.

Prayer

Dear Lord, shine your light into the dark places of my life and soul where it needs to shine.  Help me to see where I distort your image to others.  Thank you that I am covered by your blood, and that in that grace, I am able to live fully as your child, unafraid of the judgment that I am due.  But do not let me take lightly those things you hate.  Continue your sanctifying work in me and in HopePointe that we would fully reflect you and your goodness to others, your kingdom and image bearers, blessing and not cursing.  In the mighty and saving Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen. 

- Deacon Lisa Schwandt

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Day 5: Proverbs 5

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Day 5: Proverbs 5:20-23

Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
    and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
    and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
    and because of his great folly he is led astray.

Observations

Although all 23 verses of Chapter 5 impart wisdom on the topic of adultery, we are given fundamental truth about sin and its power in this chapter. We can see in the final four verses three fundamental truths that are echoed throughout Holy Scripture: 

  •  sin is intoxicating and deadly; 
  •  sin is seen by God
  •  sin is defeated by discipline in the life of a true disciple of Christ.

Application

Adultery, or idolatry, is clearly sin. Tragically, our 21st century, American society is set up to allow our hearts and minds to travel away from God. Our culture is built for instant gratification. But even with the opportunity for and display of gratification all around us, many Christians are inclined to dismiss Proverbs’ words as obvious, elementary, or inapplicable to their own holy, scandal-free, personal life. In doing so, they fail to recognize the more common manifestations of this sin, and do not have a weapon ready to fight it.   

“Adultery” does not only encompass a physical “affair” of sexual infidelity. Our Lord says that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Furthermore, God’s Word uses the term “adultery” to describe all sins of unfaithfulness. Our English translation of Holy Scripture uses the term “adultery” to refer to idol worship, wrongful divorce, a nation’s lack of faith, and being a “friend of the world.” 

Yes, it’s true— many of us have not “cheated” on a spouse. But we all must ask ourselves personally: in what ways have we cheated God? As the Church, our Lord’s Bride, in what ways have we cheated our Bridegroom? 

The sanctifying power of discipline is eternally effective in the life of one who has been justified by God’s grace, through faith in His son. It is not a coincidence that the words “discipline” and “disciple” both stem from the same Latin root word, discere, which means “to learn.” A disciple is a person who follows Jesus and learns from him. In what ways does Jesus teach us to stay disciplined when it comes to defeating sin? He teaches us to sever all ties with the sources of our idolatry. He teaches us to immerse ourselves in Holy Scripture. He teaches us to confess. He teaches us to repent. He teaches us to fast. He teaches us to pray. And He teaches us to live by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and Sisters— if we are to defeat adultery, we must ask ourselves: what TV shows do I need to sever from my weekly routine? What websites do I need to block? When was the last time I memorized a Bible verse? Have I ever taken the time to confess my sins to a priest? Have I ever practiced fasting? How is my prayer life? How often do I seek the help of the Holy Spirit? Answering these questions and acting upon our answers will initiate a habit of discipline, by the grace of God. 

Come, fellow adulterers and idolaters, and heed the words of our loving Savior: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.”

Prayer

Most faithful Father, You hear my lustful thoughts and You see my unfaithful actions. I humbly confess that I have failed to resist the temptation to cheat You— in my marriage, my finances, my choices in entertainment, and my daily walk with Your Son and Spirit. I ask that You would forgive my adulterous and idolatrous behavior, and I ask for Your Holy Spirit to fill me at this very moment with renewed stamina for a life of discipline. I pray this in the name of the Great Bridegroom, Your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

- Andrew Figliuzzi

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Day 4: Proverbs 4

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Proverbs 4:20-21

My son, be attentive to my words

incline your ear to my sayings.

Let them not escape from your sight;

keep them within your heart.

 

Observation:

  • The author seems to be addressing his son with some sense of urgency. Several times throughout this proverb, he encourages his son to “be attentive” (v. 1) and “keep hold of instruction” (v.13). 
  • He’s attempting to convince his son that this wisdom and insight is to be sought out like precious treasure and never lost or forgotten! 
  • Verse 21 refers to both the eyes and the heart. God’s instruction should be read, recited, pondered, memorized, and lived out.

Application

    I remember many instances as a child when I came to my mother with a question or request but already knew her response in the back of my mind. These were simple questions: whether or not it was too close to dinnertime for a snack, if I could make a certain purchase, if a friend could spend the night. I could almost always guess her answer before I even asked, because I’d closely experienced her patterns of daily discipline and living and learned from the experiences of asking her previously. I knew her heart and her mind. 

    As children of God, we have access to HIS heart and mind through the Word made alive to us by the Holy Spirit! The more we come to His Word with our simple requests and small confusions, the more closely acquainted we become with His commandments and His ways. Just as a small child grows in understanding of her parents’ wisdom and ways, we have the opportunity to grow in deeper and deeper understanding of God’s character through spending time with Him, particularly in His Word. We read the Word with our eyes and trust the Holy Spirit to implant it in our hearts, for “from [the heart] flow the springs of life” (v. 23). 

    God has stores of wisdom available to us, not only practical wisdom for leading our own lives, but unique insight into His kingdom work and Christ’s ministry of reconciling the world to Himself. We need only lean in, incline our ears, and hold fast to His instruction.

Attentiveness to God’s instruction requires that we forsake the instruction of others (the ways of the world) and anything that might distract us from our Father’s Word. During Lent, as we turn away from sin and toward the cross, let us also cleanse our diet of worldly wisdom and fill our plates with God’s sayings, instructions, precepts, commandments, and teachings.

Prayer:

Father, increase our hunger for Your wisdom and Your ways. Make us more attentive to Your Word! May Your Holy Spirit do the work of taking what we read with our eyes and planting it securely in our hearts, that it may truly direct our lives. Thank you for giving us such unique access to your wisdom, Father God. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

- Katie Dearman

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