Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On Proverbs

The Book of Proverbs is a good one to read every day. So I have been told, at various times and by various people, especially my father while I was growing up. It seems to leave traces of wisdom where it goes, and layers of understanding that build, with bricks and mortar, houses and rooms of knowledge that you can take shelter in.

Today is Novemember 13. What jewels are there in Proverbs 13? I'm going to lay some of them out here.

"He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin."

AAhhhhh, how many times have I wished I had stopped and thought before the words came tumbling out! I am a verbal thinker. Which means, frankly, that I talk alot....blah blah blah... For example. This morning I go into Home Hardware to get a can of paint. I know what I need, and the color, but I talk it through with the lady at the paint desk anyway, asking questions I pretty much know the answer to already, because as I'm talking it out the color, the texture, the brand of paint, the amount - gallon or pint- all makes sense. I now feel reasonably sure I'm buying the right thing. Bless their hearts, these people who listen to me.

Rash speaking gets you in trouble. Nobody will comment on it, perhaps, but a reputation is built, and others may trust you less, or be wary of your anger spray can that shoots acid at random. A life can come to ruin. Picture a ruined house or castle on a hillside. Where no care is taken, things fall apart; acid eats through stone, rain erodes the foundation, wind and leaves blow in windows left open and make a rotten mess inside.

It's rather important, this guard over our lips. And some of us have to post a stronger guard than others. heh heh...

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

Ain't that the truth. Do we always get what we want (or think we want)? Sometimes. Sometimes we force it and take what we shouldn't have, and that hurts too. Longing, hope that is always out of reach, makes your heart ache. We've all felt it at some point. This verse makes me wonder though, is a longing fulfilled always a tree of life? I mean, at the moment, it can make you feel vibrant, buzzing with life, on top of the world!!!! But if it is a longing for something (or someone) that you are not meant to have, the tree is rotten through and through in a short time. A short life. Proverbs has a lot to say about the human condition, and how we operate, how we deviate, and our propensity to destroy without meaning to, sometimes, like a child in a grocery store. Piles of neatly ordered cans come crashing down.
Our hearts are often NOT in the right place, they are devious, and lead us down paths of pain. This I know from experience, and I'm sure you also, reader, have tasted this.

"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."

Self-explanatory! It's interesting all the mention of harm, or destruction, or ruin as the polar opposite of wisdom. Like a cake that falls flat without baking powder. Like an instrument that hasn't been tuned. Like a castle built on sand, everything falls apart without it!

The thing with wisdom though is if you've never seen it you don't know you need it.
The aspiring musician who has never heard a symphony might know that something is wrong, but never think to tune his poor squealing violin. Does this not apply to raising children, running a home, and having friends? Mentors are so important, those people who show us a straight line before we build, and play us a song before we sing. If we learn to recognize wisdom, we won't be able to play the instrument of our lives without it. We will recognize the sweet sounds of harmony.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Trust and Twisted Motives - Devotional

Morning Devotions


READ Acts 1:21-26


        Recently the topic of selfishness has been on my mind. The thing that is insidious about selfishness is it has a lot to do with motives. And motives are notoriously hard to pin down, like nailing jello to the wall.

 Have you ever had that phone call, the person on the other end telling you how amazing you are, or how generous, or perhaps they are listing the frustrations of their day and What A Great Listener You Are? And the result of this rather one-sided conversation is you feel that person is a wonderful and generous soul rightbackatcha, and you just want to give some love back. And then the one-two punch comes, as the wonderful person asks you to do something for them. Makes a request that is pretty hard for you to fulfill, but not impossible.

Suddenly the air all blows violently and noisily from the balloon of your inflated ego and you realize that the motivation behind all the love is simply that the person wants something. Simply a little selfishness. I want or need something, and I know how to get it from you. The anger you feel at that moment is generally mixed with a large dose of confusion and prevents you from saying anything but a stuttered, “Yes, yes…of course. No problem.”

The point of this scenario is that motives are difficult to see, and hard to understand. What looks good from the outside can be kinda rotten on the inside. But God can see it. He weighs hearts, and he knows exactly what is on the scale. At the end of Acts chapter 1 the disciples are faced with choosing a new disciple to replace Judas Iscariot.

“So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas… and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen…’”

Fascinating! There is so much here to unpack!
For a start, the disciples used their own wisdom and experience, to a point, in settling on these two men. God has given us understanding, and we can certainly use it to test the waters of our own or another’s motives and character. They were confident that these two men were a good choice.
But they were wise enough to realize that only God can see the heart, the inner motives. They pray, and ask God directly. “Lord…show us.”

How many times do we by-pass this “little” step? Maybe because we wish we had the answer all by our amazing selves? Probably!  

Next, they believe that God is going to come through, and trust Him completely. They cast lots (knowing God can work through our simple devices) and when the lot falls to Matthias, the sentence concludes,  “so he was added to the eleven apostles”.
Not, “and they sat around and discussed whether Matthias was indeed the best choice.”

No second-guessing, no man-centered discussion, just trust that God has seen, has heard, and has answered. This is a great lesson in faith. Simply relying on God to come through, and being satisfied with His answer.

          Are you afraid to trust your own motives because you’ve seen the ugly weeds of selfishness twisting around your good intentions? Or does someone else regularly blind-side you with manipulation, otherwise known as twisted motives? We can use the disciple’s example and first use our own discernment and experience, to a point. Next we ask God for help to see as He sees. Then, we can trust what He shows us, through his Word or by His Holy Spirit. Trust Him, no second-guessing. We know we are flawed creatures, prone to wander, but we have a loving and faithful God, a God who sees.

PRAY  Oh God, it is hard to be human, as You so well know. Thank-you that You see me for who I really am, and help me to trust that YOU know the answers and what is best for me. Help me to trust and obey. Guard me from the selfish motives in my own heart, and the hearts of others. Thank-you for your faithfulness to me, your protection, your love.  Amen.