Month: January 2019

What makes you happy when you find it?

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Proverbs 3

13           Happy is the man who finds wisdom,

And the man who gains understanding;

14           For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,

And her gain than fine gold.

15           She is more precious than rubies,

And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.

16           Length of days is in her right hand,

In her left hand riches and honor.

17           Her ways are ways of pleasantness,

And all her paths are peace.

18           She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,

And happy are all who retain her.

 

Have you ever found something that made you really happy? Last night Bobbi left her drink cup at a small shop in the mall. We went to dinner with a family and on the way out she stopped at the shop and her drink cup was still there. She found it and she was happy. I remember losing children in malls and being overjoyed when we found them. You have had the same lost and found moments. In this verse we are told that when wisdom is found happiness is the result. Gaining understanding also makes us happy. The writer goes on to explain that wisdom is more precious than great wealth and all that can be humanly desired.

When we find wisdom we also gain length of days, true riches and true honor. Think about it, how often do we get happy when someone wins the lottery, gets a clean bill of health, or gets something they always wanted? The gain of something we wanted brings us joy. How much more joy should we get when we gain God’s wisdom and gain His understanding for life’s situations?

We don’t usually think this way. We don’t think about gaining something intangible that is of great value to us and to others. So Solomon writes to bring us clarity about that which really matters. The book of Proverbs is a good place to start in the search for wisdom that matters. I began reading a Proverb a day in high school and did so through high school and college. This month I found myself back in Proverbs and still learning God’s wisdom and His knowledge for life’s situations. Rejoice in the finding of wisdom and knowledge. Most everything else we get happy about is temporal.

 

Good news and God’s answer to our prayers: my dad went home Thursday. He passed the PT test and so did not require a stay in a rehab facility. We talked this morning and he is really glad to be out of the miserable hospital. If you live in the area and have a chance to go see them, please do. It means a lot when friends stop by.

Pray again for Sunday. Wherever you attend church the pastor is preparing to bring a message to you from God’s word. This spiritual preparation is not without spiritual attacks. Pray for all of Sunday’s preparations so that as the church gathers around the Word of God that the Spirit of God will meet with us all.

 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

 

None of us like to be corrected, yet God corrects His own

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Proverbs 3:11–12

11           My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,

Nor detest His correction;

12           For whom the Lord loves He corrects,

Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

Hebrews 12:7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

None of us like to be corrected, much less chastened for our disobedience. In fact, we usually bristle up when we are corrected, become defensive, and want to justify our words or actions. And then, if we are taken to the next level and chastened, punished along with the correction, we really get upset. Having raised six children and worked with countless other children, no one likes to be corrected even from the youngest point in life. As a pastor of 35 years, I have never known an adult who liked correction either.

So do you find these passages difficult to digest? First of all, notice that the writer is talking about the chastening and the correction of the Lord. When God corrects us, we fully deserve and need to be corrected. God corrects us for our good and for His glory; God protects us from ourselves when He corrects us. While there are times when a simple word of correction is sufficient there are also times when a painful correction is needed. God chastens us with many different painful elements to get our attention. When He does, we are not to despise Him nor His correction, but we are to realize that He loves us and is correcting and chastening us for our good.

The writer of Hebrews quotes Solomon and then adds vs 7-8 that God only chastens His own children. Those who do not get corrected by God are not His children. Once again, let us be thankful for the loving correction and chastening of God who as a loving Father cares for us and corrects us to keep us from greater pain and sorrow.

 

Pray today for our friends in Chicago and Wisconsin who are facing record cold temperatures. Temperatures of 30 degrees below zero are dangerous to the body. In this cold the power grid comes under great pressure and neighborhoods lose electricity, as Bobbi’s sister did yesterday. Pray for my friend Dave who works for the power company and may be out right now restoring power to very cold people.

Thank you for praying for my dad and mom. Mom is in better spirits today. We did not take her to the hospital today because of the cold. It would not be good for her to breathe these temperatures. Dad slept well but was a bit disoriented. He does have pneumonia yet they hope to send him home tomorrow. Join us in prayer for his quick return to his wife in their apartment.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

 

Looking through better eyes; getting a more clear perspective

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Proverbs 3
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
8 It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
10 So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.

The Scriptures were meant to be tied together not read as random thoughts of application. In verse 7 we are admonished to not seek the wisdom of our own line of sight. That which we see often looks right to us. Remember the passage that talks about us doing what is right in our own eyes? Just because we see something and see it clearly does not mean that it is the right way to go or the right thing to do. Do not be wise in your own eyes. Another place we are told that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. That would be looking at life’s situations through the eyes of many others to gain a better perspective on what we see.
Then in verse 9 the author seems to change topics and talk about money and possessions. Perhaps the author is still on the same topic. For when it comes to money, we must not only look through our own eyes. Those who only spend their money and possessions on themselves are not looking through the eyes of others. When we look through others eyes we will care for them first and honor the Lord with our money by caring for others before we care for ourselves.
Through human eyes, giving stuff away is not smart. But through the eyes of wisdom God prospers those who honor Him first. We do have a continual line of sight here. Look through the eyes of others, not just your own, fear the Lord and depart from the evils of selfish looks. The result is that you will honor God by giving to others in need and God, in turn, will prosper you.

You will not hear this advice from your financial planner so you need to look through another set of eyes.

We had our first family outing Sunday evening through Tuesday. As Caleb and Lindsey are with us, and as it was Caleb’s 29th birthday on the 29th, we found an Airb&b in north Jakarta near a section of the city called Ancol. From the Ancol marina we took off Monday morning for a day trip to an island 90 minutes, by boat, away. At the island we hiked, swam, and enjoyed a place called Starfish Beach where there seemed to be a hatchery of starfish. We ate some really good local noodles and beef in a bowl and then came back to Ancol where we found a really reasonable Indonesian restaurant with amazing food. This was our birthday present to Caleb, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Because of the exchange rate here, the whole outing cost about the same as a trip to Chicago, some sightseeing and a dinner.

Do pray for my dad and mom. Dad went to the hospital on Monday with an infection that left him weak. They are still identifying the infection. Mom is having trouble in her mind with dad being in the hospital. We spent time together talking about God’s peace and God’s care and waiting on him. Pray for both of them to know God’s presence and peace and strength. On Facetime last night mom asked Jared to pray for grandpa. Immediately, Jared closed his eyes tightly ready to pray. It was a precious moment and a sincere prayer.

The church gave us a wonderful reception on Sunday. Thank you JIBC for your amazing care and sacrifice for us. Bobbi and Jared and I all know your love and support of our being here. Every so often I have to pinch myself to make sure this is all real. We are rejoicing in God’s goodness and kindness.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

A familiar verse revisited and applied

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Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV)

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

    In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

 

There are a few verses that are well known in the Bible, this is one of them. The problem with well known verses is that they are often thrown at a situation with a “you are supposed to know this” attitude and everyone in the room is supposed to bow down to that verse. One such verse is Romans 8:28. We know and love the truth that God is supposed to work all things out for good, but at the moment of a great trial, throwing Romans 8:28 into the room is less than helpful. Proverbs 3:5-6 is in the same category. Now, don’t get me wrong here, the problem is not that we know these verses too well but that we do not know them well enough.

What does it mean to trust in the Lord with all of your heart? What does it mean to not lean on your own understanding? What does it mean to acknowledge the Lord God in all your ways? We like to think of the Lord directing our path, or as the ESV puts it, to make straight our path, but how often does the Christian and the Christian church give God full trust, not look to man’s wisdom, and fully seek His guidance? Yes, God has given us minds that we are supposed to use but here we are directly commanded not to use human understanding first.

When it comes to trusting the Lord with our lives and not giving our own logic the first right in decision making, this verse is a relic, something on a shelf of our lives. In the book of Acts, when the church was seeking the mind of God, they would often fast and pray together. They would talk about what to do but would collectively seek the mind of God. When they believed they knew what God wanted they put aside their human logic from their own backgrounds and accepted the mind of God. Their commitment to being directed in all their ways by the Lord dictated how they got there.

I have to tell you this, when you commit to trusting the Lord regarding your life’s decisions, when you stop looking to human logic and experience first, when you actively acknowledge the mind of God in your decisions, others, even other Christians, will tell you that you are making a big mistake, maybe even the biggest mistake of your life. But, when you have the mind of God on something, you are best off to put aside all of that human logic stuff, trust in the Lord, and do what He has placed before you to do.

When a Christian or a Christian church finds themselves in a bad place the first thing to do might be to come back to Proverbs 3:5-6 together, surrender their human thoughts of how it should work to the Lord, seek Him in a new way, maybe even in prayer and fasting, and trusting in His leading according to His word do what He leads them to do. It might seem counterintuitive but in the end you will see your path directed, made straight, and even make sense.

 

Tonight is our second small group in our apartment. You are welcome to join us. I will be introducing a book that we will be studying called, “Living the Christ-Centered Life.” This book applies the gospel of salvation to every part of our lives and draws our attention to how the Cross of Christ needs to be and can be the center of all that we do. If you are unable to attend with us at 7:00, please pray for God to use this time to strengthen those who can come.

Be in prayer for Sunday. Pray for your pastor, those involved in teaching, singing, playing music, ushering, and serving the church. Pray for God to use this Sunday as a time of great spiritual encouragement and growth in the lives of those who come to church with you.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

 

God’s promise of long life and respect from man and God

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Proverbs 3
1 My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
2 For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.
3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
4 And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.

When we read the Bible, it is good to remind ourselves that this is the Word of God we are reading. As such, this Book has the authority and the wisdom of God in it. So when we read Proverbs, we are reading more than the musings of an old man who had wisdom, we are reading the very words of Wisdom that God has for us to know. When we read today that the benefits of wisdom are length of days, long life and peace as well as favor and high esteem in the sight of God and of man, we are reading something of great value.

People spend a lot of money to live longer and to live better. Quality of life is something everyone desires and works toward. When we do not forget God’s laws and we keep them in our hearts thus exercising them outward from there, our very lives improve. No wonder the enemy of our souls wants to discredit God’s word and wisdom to us. No wonder our enemy takes so much effort to lift up naturalism and human logic above God’s word and ways. Satan loves death and will do all that he can to take away life and life abundant from all of us. This is why it is so important that we place high value of God’s wisdom and God’s words.

Mercy and truth give us favor and high esteem in the eyes of both man and God. There is no word of revenge here; there is no place for small lies; no, we are to love mercy and truth. Caring for those who need mercy is our calling. Exalting God’s truth above the folly of this world is our mission. And as we do we gain favor and high esteem with both men and with God. All of the people of this world, everyone made in God’s image, need mercy. Just try to offer mercy to those around you. Show them the lovingkindness of God and you will be amazed at what you see in return. Stand up for God’s truth and over time you will be respected for your unchanging values. And then, when you die, God will receive you with His good favor. As I said, we have God’s word on this.
Jared was pretty excited to see Caleb and Lindsey yesterday. When Jared is glad to see you he comes to you and hugs you, that is, he just holds on to you. So it was when he saw his brother and sister yesterday. (With Jared there are no sisters-in-law, just sisters.) Things are settling down in the apartment now. We have had two air conditioners replaced, a leak in the shower ceiling worked on, furniture bought and brought in, and the cable switched from Pastor Bob to us. I think we are about done with all of this. Bobbi found some end tables that were display models and got two for the price of one. (She is only happy when she gets a bargain.) We have had to get bed spreads and sheets and all of this stuff as well. All is done. Whew!
Do pray with us for Sunday as we have been working on it since Sunday night. This Sunday the church is having a welcoming lunch for Bobbi and Jared and me. It will be a nice relaxing time of reception as the church has worked so hard to get us here and to get us moved in. I am thankful for all that they have done to make us feel so welcomed.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Consequences of Not Listening to Wisdom

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Proverbs 1

24    Because I have called and you refused,

I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,

25    Because you disdained all my counsel,

And would have none of my rebuke,

26    I also will laugh at your calamity;

I will mock when your terror comes,

27    When your terror comes like a storm,

And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,

When distress and anguish come upon you.

28    “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;

They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.

33    But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,

And will be secure, without fear of evil.”

Have you ever said to your kids, “I told you not to do that, now look what you have done.”? I both heard this from my father and my children heard it from me. It is the nature of our nature to reject instruction and to learn the hard way. In this section we find a strong warning from Wisdom. She says that if we reject her call and don’t pay attention to her counsel and don’t turn away at her rebuke that we will wish we had. It’s one thing when our kids got a little cut or a bruise from not listening; it is quite another thing when we feel the full consequences of our adult foolishness.

Notice here that when we reject Wisdom’s counsel and rebuke that when we ask for it, it won’t be there. Once we have turned away from Wisdom and found ourselves in trouble, Wisdom is not going to be at our beck and call. We will try to find her but she won’t be there. Once you are in jail, it is too late to seek Wisdom; once you have become chained to your sin, it is too late to seek Wisdom; once you have ruined your life, it is too late to seek Wisdom. The prime example of this is King Saul who rejected Samuel the prophet’s instructions from God and when Saul decided he needed Samuel’s help, Samuel was dead, and Saul had no way to contact his God.

The first chapter of Proverbs ends with a contrast: “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.” The benefits of Wisdom far outweigh the apparent difficulties. In fact, when we say “no” to ourselves because we are following Wisdom’s instructions, we will dwell in safety, security, and apart from evil’s painful consequences. Are we walking in Wisdom’s instructions today? Are we paying attention to the fear of the Lord and the instruction of Wisdom? This is a good question to ponder.

 

Don’t you wish you could pass this devotional on to your government leaders? What a mess our governments are in because they have rejected the fear of the Lord and the Wisdom of God.

 On the one hand today we are praying for Jane, who found out that her father died 45 days ago. He lived quite far away and they could not get a hold of him over Christmas. Yesterday they drove out to his town and found out that he had gone to the hospital and died. Pray for Jane as she grieves over this loss. Her father was a Muslim. Julie’s mom died suddenly on Friday back in Illinois. Pray for Julie and her brother and aunt as they work through this sorrow. On the other hand we are rejoicing with Rachel and her family. Rachel’s progress has been continual and she is to be coming home this Saturday. All of her stitches are out, the port has been removed, and she is going through daily physical therapy. Thanks to God for this continual miracle of healing.

 We rejoice in another wonderful day with God’s people. We walk in the Light just as Christ is in the Light and we have shared fellowship one with another. Thank God for this glorious fellowship we enjoy as His children in His Light. The people of JIBC sweetly welcomed Bobbi and Jared with open arms and open hearts. Thank you for your kind welcome.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Wisdom, Listen to Her

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Proverbs 1

20    Wisdom calls aloud outside;

She raises her voice in the open squares.

21    She cries out in the chief concourses,

At the openings of the gates in the city

She speaks her words:

22    “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?

For scorners delight in their scorning,

And fools hate knowledge.

23    Turn at my rebuke;

Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;

I will make my words known to you.

 

As we study the book of Proverbs, we will see that the person of wisdom is always referred to as a woman. “She raises her voice in the open squares, she cries out in the chief concourses, she speaks her words.” This does not raise a question of why, this is just how it is done. We are then to listen to the Woman of Wisdom as she cries out with words of instruction, warning, and rebuke.

Notice with me that Wisdom does not hide her message. In the NT we read that men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Wisdom does not hide her message, she does not speak in the shadows but boldly in daylight. There is nothing to hide about the instructions of wisdom. We hide our sin and its consequences, but we rejoice when we follow wisdom and enjoy its benefits.

Wisdom speaks in the open and she speak in the main places of travel. We might say that wisdom shouts from the billboards and the radio stations. She cries out through social media to make her messages known. Wisdom is not afraid of being seen, in fact, she puts herself out in the central public square and calls all men and women to follow her ways.

Wisdom also speaks in the gates of the city. We would say that wisdom speaks in the courthouses and in the government houses. Unfortunately, today the voice of wisdom is not always heard in the courthouses and in the government houses. Too often men and women of foolishness are trying to persuade with their godless philosophies. “When the wicked bear rule the people mourn, but when the righteous are in authority the people rejoice.” The people of a country rejoice when their leaders are listening to the voice of wisdom.

And so, when we or anyone else turn our ears and lives to listen to Wisdom’s cry, she fills us with her spirit and makes her words known to us. All that it takes to be a person of wisdom who lives a wise life is to make certain that we listen when Wisdom speaks and we turn when Wisdom calls.

 

As we prepare for Sunday, take time to both pray for the pastor and teachers who are preparing their hearts and minds to preach and teach and pray for ourselves to be ready to walk into the house of the Lord to spend time with His people lifting up His name. As you know, I always look forward to Sunday, its what pastors do. But I remember when I wasn’t pastoring a church, I still loved Sundays. I loved the fellowship, the singing, the praying and especially the opening of the Word of God. My pastor, Pastor Dennis Walton, week after week opened God’s word to us and I looked forward to our time with him. Pray for Sunday.

Pray also for one another. We have an enemy of our souls who hates all the things of God, especially God’s church. Pray for each of us to have spiritual victories as we prepare our lives to come to church together.

The neurologist we met did not specialize in epilepsy treatment. She gave us the name of a doctor here who is and epileptologist. Still looking.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS