Proverbs 23-24

“Apply your heart to discipline And your ears to words of knowledge.” (23:12)

I love this book. Carly and I were agreeing about this yesterday. It feels good. Our world is full of relative truth, slack discipline and a lot of foolish words. Reading the Bible is like eating a hearty breakfast. Eat up these nutritious truths to fuel your day!

We need His wisdom, we need to be ever growing in knowledge and understanding. The Apostle Paul prayed this for us. 

“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” (Colossians‬ ‭1:9-12‬)

Besides the Bible and, wise friends who have read the Bible/are filled with the Holy Spirit, you’re not going to find many other sources of wisdom and absolute truth. 

So let’s carry on! There will be times when you’re tired or busy or unmotivated to read your Bible, but keep fighting! Like we always say: it is central to our sanity. We want to be like the wise person in Proverbs, not the sluggard or fool. It’s way to easy to be that guy, and things never really work out for him.

-Bethany 

Proverbs 21-22

These chapters are very clear about God’s heart towards the poor. Those who are generous to the poor will be blessed (22:9), those who oppress the poor to get rich will be punished (22:16), God will ruin those who exploit the needy (22:22), and my personal favorite: 

“The rich and the poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.”(22:2) 

God made the rich, God made the poor. 

Here are a few questions I’m asking myself as I reflect on this text: 

-Do I view the lives of those who are financially stable as more valuable? 

-Is God sovereign over social class? Do I assume every person is either rich or poor at their own hand? 

-What does the Bible say about being poor? Is there something wrong with it? (Because the only finger-pointing I’m seeing is aimed at the rich.)

You might have different answers to those questions than me and we might disagree on the interpretation of it. But one thing is quite clear: both the rich and the poor were created in the image of God, and when it really comes down to it, he favors the poor.

I’m feeling humbled and convicted by this. My fearful humanity clings to the false security American money offers me. Human fortune won’t save us, let’s reach for the riches that God lavishes upon us (1 John 3:1). 
-Carly


Proverbs 19-20

“Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, How then can man understand his way?”‭‭ (20:24‬)

I’ve grown to love all the passages in the Bible about how involved God is in determining our steps.

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.”‭‭ (James‬ ‭4:14-16‬)

For how unpredictable my life is, you’d think I’d give up on being a planner, or at least announcing my plans with such certainty. 

Life is full, fluid, tragic, complex and beautiful. Nothing about where I am now, as a 32 year old, could have been predicted. God leads us constantly. We cannot ignore His involvement. So am I going to kick and scream and go forth in frustrated terror? Or will I surrender and go with the flow, making the most of everything along the way?

Late in 2012, I was at a crossroads once more and I laid everything out before the LORD. “Here is my life. I’ve lived all over, moving constantly, working, loving, getting heartbroken, laughing my head off, making friends, learning languages, supressing trauma and feeling directionless. Only you have seen everything. You have tucked me in, every where I’ve slept, my whole life. Only you have seen everything. Only you have been in all these seasons. No one else comes close. Only you can tell me where to go next, so speak up.” To my dismay, God really clearly told me to join staff at YWAM Salem and I said, “What? That’s a horrible idea, but okay, you’re the boss.”

These have been the fullest years of my life and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I have no idea what awaits me in these coming years, but I’m going to surrender!

Now, of course, there have have been times when I didn’t surrender and I have no idea what I missed out on. As the DTS speaker said this week, “Jesus is a gentleman, He doesn’t force us to do anything.”

There is a divine tension between God’s sovereignty and our own free will. We’ve got a million theologies and denominations to prove it. So what do we do?

Be honest. Make plans, but hold them losely. Ask God for advice at every turn, read the Word and become increasingly acquainted with His voice. Surrender to His ideas. Humbly admit limitations.

I don’t want to know what fullness I’ve missed out on because of my fear or pride. I don’t want to take any credit for the good things God has brought forth in my life, because “apart from Him I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2).

Humility is our friend, people. 

-Bethany

Proverbs 17-18

The verses 17:23, 18:11 & 18:16 all address bribery, but with slightly different tones.

Something I appreciate about the Proverbs is that it’s not a list of rules. It’s clever-written sentences of wisdom. Sometimes it paints a picture (nothing haunts me more than the comparison of repeating sin being like a dog gobbling down it’s own bile), allowing you to draw your own conclusion from the analogy given. Instead of “don’t nag or argue”, it says “better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house full of feasting-and conflict” (17:1).  That’s convincing enough for me to disarm arguments. Who wants to sit in turmoil at a beautiful dinner party? 

Bribes will get you places, it reads. But later, it also adds that being able to dole out gifts to get yourself places provides false security. Bribes might get you places, sure, but the text quickly concludes that they’re not places you want to be going. 

Where else do you notice the Proverbs seemingly contradicting itself? Do the analogies help you, or do you prefer a more Deuteronomy-style text? I’m so thankful that God’s word has depth, different styles of literature and wisdom within wisdom. 

What was your favorite verse today? 
-Carly 

Proverbs 15-16

“He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.” (‭15:32-33‬)

Chapter 15 has a lot to do with the wise accepting discipline and the fool rejecting it. We all want to be born right, but that is never the case. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD, which presupposes humility. It all starts, continues and ends with humility. 

Humility isn’t self deprivation, it’s an honest look at God and yourself. 

“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (16:9)

In all our efforts we cannot control life’s outcomes. I’ve had many plans, expectations, goals and dreams throughout my life and I never would have imagined my steps would lead me here. I love it.

Being proud is human. It feels correct to believe in ourselves and be confident, but:

“Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” ‭(16:18‬)

“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (16:25‬)

Confidence must be in the LORD. Lately, I’ve been singing to myself an old song:

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand! All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

I feel under a lot of pressure. My next steps in life are daunting. I AM IN OVER MY HEAD. So I must daily set Christ at the center. I must stand on Him. Not my cleverness, friends, connections, good luck, blah blah blah. HIM! All other ground is sinking sand.

Let’s take an honest inventory of our hearts and weed out some pride, today. We need Him for Everything. He is the only sustainer. 

-Bethany 

Proverbs 13-14

“Those who control their tongues have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” 13:3 

There isn’t much to add to this verse to help it ring true more than it already does. Everyone can relate. The reader who struggles to filter their thoughts. The cynic. The gossip. The careless romantic, blurting their feelings to the most inappropriate recipient. And the Bible is not vague about this struggle! It openly warns us against our greatest foe: our own thoughts spilling out of our mouths. James 3 gives relatable comparisons of the tongue being like a wildfire, spreading without our control and burning everything down. 1 Peter 3:10 chimes in, telling us that controlling our speech will grant us a life protected from evil. 

The proverbs are the only part of the Bible that extend a tangible how-to on this topic. How do we control our tongues? Shut your mouth. 

But seriously, how? I often find myself mid sentence, my inner self pleading STOP TALKING, DON’T SAY THAT as my lips fail me. 

Prayer, people. Prayer is our friend. Sometimes I just ask God to “let me be marked by your control, not mine”. I harp on myself daily for my lack of self-control, but truly I am wildly successful at letting my Self be in control. What I need measurable growth in is being controlled by the Spirit. 

Take inventory of your actions the rest of the day. What prompts the things you say? The Spirit, or your Self? Here’s my list so far: 

-Greeting my toddler at 5am this morning, just a handful of hours after I slipped into sleep. Spirit. 

-Snapping at my husband to just LET ME FINISH MY COFFEE PLEASE before we problem-solve today’s tasks. Self. 

-Offering a gracious answer to the customer service representative who rudely asked me the same question three times. Spirit. 

What’s your list so far? 
-Carly 

Proverbs 11-12

Now we are deep in to the one-liners. What are some indicators of a righteous person?

  • Fair
  • Hardworking 
  • Humble
  • Wise
  • Care for animals
  • Honest
  • Just
  • Respectful 
  • Generous

These attributes are deeply intertwined, as though they are ripple effects of each other. 

It all starts with humility. Will I lay aside my sinful itches to live by my own advice and do whatever most benefits me? It is the nature of mankind to want to judge for ourselves and be self preserving. 

I notice, however, the acts of the righteous greatly profit both them and those around them. There is a overflowing goodness, which comes from humbly living as God intended. It spreads out to benefit all surrounding (including animals!). Now imagine if we all lived this way! Wouldn’t that be heaven??

Sin seems to be forever linked to short sightedness. Having the patience to do something God’s way will be what deeply satisfies, not only you, but those around you as well. 

“By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.” (11:11)

-Bethany