Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Daily Word: Without a Vision

Proverbs 29:18 says: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV) The RSV translates the Hebrew as: Where there is no prophecy the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. The JPS translates the verse as: For a lack of vision a people lose restraint, but happy is he who heeds instruction. Many times I have heard this verse to support the idea that Christians need a fresh vision or prophecy from God, and without it, they will perish. The verse has been used to support new ideas not found in the Scriptures. The subtle threat is that if you oppose the new idea, you are opposing God and He is going to be really upset. However, when one understands the Hebrew meaning of this Hebrew Book of Proverbs, the difficulty disappears.

In interpreting this verse, you must understand that the second half of the verse is explaining the first half. Those people without a vision, prophecy, or revelation, will perish or lose restraint. What is the vision, prophecy, or revelation to be about. The second half of the verse gives us the guidance we need. The blessed or happy ones are those that keep the law and heed instruction. What is the instruction? The Hebrew word is torah! Now we can see the meaning of the verse. Those that cast off the torah of God, will act unrestrained. When we disregard God's instruction to us how to live, whose instruction do we follow? Generally, we become the author of how our lives are to be lived. I have discovered the blessing of obeying God's torah. Are there times that it interferes with my preferences? Of course it does! The point is that I choose to follow what God says versus what my instincts say.

People that choose to make their own rules are unrestrained. People that follow God's torah are happy and blessed. The choice seems obvious. Then why does the choice seem so difficult? And why don't more believers follow the torah? The choice is between who is going to be in charge: God or you. Your move.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Daily Word: Being Human

Proverbs 28:26 says: He who trusts his own instinct is a dullard (remember this means a "verbal cripple"), but he who lives by wisdom shall escape. (JPS) The JPS Study Bible explains: "Instinct, rather, 'heart,' meaning one's own mind, even if untutored and callow. One must rely on a mind infused with the principles and attitudes taught by wisdom." The conflict is between what we want to do and what wisdom says to do. Who makes the final decision in your life about what actions you take? Is it your own mind or is it the wisdom from God?

This is the exact issue in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve knew what was required of them, otherwise it would be unjust of God to hold them accountable. The serpent attempts and succeeds to get Eve to think for herself and follow her own instincts. The fruit looked good and pleasant, so she decided to taste it. Animals follow their instincts. No one has to teach a lion to hunt and kill for food. It knows what to do from its instincts, i.e. what is on his insides. Humans are to follow something on the outside that they bring inside. Wisdom from God is external to us. We hear the words of God and we place them in our hearts through choice. We choose to follow wisdom as opposed to instinct. The truth is the only way we can be human is to follow God's wisdom. If we behave like an animal, we will follow our instincts; if we follow wisdom, we are human. This, in part, explains why there is so much evil and violence in the world. People follow their instincts instead of the wisdom of God.

Today, get wisdom. Bring wisdom into your heart by reading, remembering, meditating, and speaking God's words of wisdom throughout the day. As you do, you are being human, which is what God desired for you from the beginning.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Daily Word: Obeying the Torah

Proverbs 28:9 says: If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. (RSV) The JPS translates the verse as follows: He who turns a deaf ear to instruction--His prayer is an abomination. (JPS) Based on this verse, most of the people I know that call themselves "Christians" have a prayer life that the Word calls an abomination. The notes of the JPS Study Bible explain the verse as follows: "If one does not listen to instruction ("torah"), God will not listen to him." The word "law" in the RSV and the word "instruction" is the Hebrew word torah. This should give us something to carefully consider.

Most "Christians" disregard the torah. The torah sets forth the seventh day of the week to keep, i.e. Saturday. The torah prohibits the eating of pork, shrimp, lobster, clams and oysters. The torah teaches us to say the shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:18-19; Num 15:37-41) during the day and evening. How many Christians do you know that obey the instructions of the torah? Perhaps we know one reason why the prayers of the church are rarely answered. This verse describes them as an abomination. It is time to confront the church with its failure to adhere to the torah.

Today, I challenge you to read the Scriptures without the pre-conceived notion of what you think they mean. I challenge you to read the torah and obey it as complete as you can. There are no more animal sacrifices because the Temple was destroyed in 70AD and Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice. Read about how God wants you to live. Then, ask yourself, do you want Him to describe your prayers as an abomination?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daily Word: The Confidence of the Righteous

Proverbs 28:1 says: The wicked flee though no one gives chase, but the righteous are as confident as a lion. (JPS) The JPS Study Bible comments: "The wicked live in constant fear, knowing that punishment is approaching but being ignorant of when it will arrive. The righteous enjoy a sense of security." Although there may be times that the wicked appear unmoved by coming judgment, the reality is that they do know that a day of reckoning is forthcoming. I was called to the bedside of a man who was dying. He knew he was about to leave this life. However, all he really seemed to care about was his money. He kept about $50000 in paper cups next to his death bed. He was a hardened military combat veteran who had seen the horrors of war. Yet, when I looked into his eyes, I could see fear. He would not admit it, but it was there. He had lived an ungodly life even taking the Lord's name in vain just days before he died. He left this world afraid, but unrepentant. His day of judgment is coming.

The righteous can face today with confidence. In addition, we can face the day of judgment in the future with confidence. We need not be afraid. If we have faith in God and His son Jesus Christ, we can approach each day confidently without fear. Remember what faith is in Hebrew; it is action not mental assent to a creed. James says, "Faith without works is dead." James understood that for faith to be faith, it has to be a verb. Faith is not a noun; it does not describe a person, place, or thing. It is about movement. If you have faith in God and His son Jesus Christ, it will demonstrate itself in how you live. It will show up in how you treat the poor, the orphans, and the widows.

What do your actions tell us about your faith? I am not talking about what you believe in your mind about Jesus Christ; I am asking what you do because you believe in Jesus Christ? The answer to that question tells you what you have faith in. So, what do you believe?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Daily Word: Hearing Others

Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron so a man sharpens the wit of his friend. (JPS) The JPS Study Bible comments: "If this translation of the difficult verse is correct, it means that good conversation sharpens the wits." This verse is not about aggravating someone in the name of "sharpening," instead it is about improving the intellect of one another. The Hebrews believed that truth was understood as issues were debated. Whereas the Christian church divides and splits when there is a difference of opinion, the Hebraic approach was to engage the debate and try to understand the other view.

How might the modern day evangelical movement be different if the Hebraic approach was used? First, there would not be so many denominations. Second, I think we would treat each other better. Third, the emphasis would not be on our mental belief in doctrine, but on our actions. The emphasis on what we do is very Hebraic. The verse today would help us to appreciate differing opinions. The Jews didn't separate and create a new Temple just because there was a difference of opinion on the issue of life after death or the existence of angels. We could learn much from their approach to different viewpoints.

Today, ask yourself, "Do I listen to other opinions?" Or, do I think I know everything? If you belong to a denomination, you probably think that you do know everything. The reason is that the group tells you what to think. If you are willing to listen to the opinions of others you will find that you are being sharpened. Being sharpened is good. It will make you more useful to the Kingdom. Don't be afraid of differences, engage them and be sharpened!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Daily Word: Wounds From a Loved One

Proverbs 27:5-6 say: Open reproof is better than concealed love. Wounds by a loved one are long lasting; The kisses of an enemy are profuse. (JPS) If you think this verse is about hurtful comments from your loved ones, you have missed the point. This verse is about the words of loved ones that we might not want to hear, but we need to hear. The JPS Study Bible comments: "Friendship often takes the form of forthright reproof of faults. 'Long lasting' or 'trustworthy.' The wounds are verbal as in verse 5, and they are intended to be beneficial. In contrast, an enemy feigns friendship, but this, of course, means nothing." True friendship sometimes requires saying something that may create tension. However, if we approach the words of a friend giving them the benefit of the doubt, we will be better in the long run.

I have had occasions over the years to have offered advice or reproof to a person for his own good. Several times the response has been very poor. I regretted giving my opinion. My motives were questioned and attacked. The actions brought me to a place that I made the decision that I would no longer offer advice to that individual. That was a sad day. It was a day that the loved one lost the benefit of my past experiences, mistakes, and current wisdom. As I say, "It is better to learn from someones mistakes other than your own." However, after considering these verses, I saw that my approach was in error. I should continue to offer loving reproof and suggestions regardless of the anticipated response. When people react negatively to the words of a loved one, they are forgetting the meaning of today's verses. Wounds from a loved one are trustworthy; they can be trusted.

Today, if a loved one offers reproof, remember these verses. The words, though they may wound, are designed to help you. Regardless if you are the one wounding, or the one being wounded, consider the past relationship with the person. It is the enemy who cares little for you that will remain silent.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Daily Word: Bragging Rights

Proverbs 27:1-2 say: Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. (RSV) The JPS Study Bible comments: "Do not praise yourself for future achievements." This is wise advice. As the old saying goes, "Let your actions speak for themselves." It is not good to brag about yourself. People don't want to hear that from you. If you want to brag on someone, brag on your spouse, your family, your co-workers, or your opposition, and allow others to give you praise.

Do you find it easy to give yourself praise? The Family Bible Notes comments: "The blinding influence of self-love makes us poor judges of our own good qualities. For this reason self-commendation is always unseemly." It would appear that we may be too biased to accurately judge our actions. It would seem that we want to be judged by our motives while judging others by their actions. There is another old saying: "The closer we get to God, the more judgmental we are of ourselves and the further we are from God the more judgmental we are of others."

Today, examine how you present yourself to others. Do you brag about your future achievements or are you willing to defer to the praise of others. Draw closer to God and you will be harder on yourself and merciful to others. When you do, I believe that others will begin to praise you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Daily Word: What Goes Around Comes Around

Proverbs 26:27 says: He who digs a pit will fall in it, and whoever rolls a stone, it will roll back on him. (JPS) A holiness preacher Rev. "Bud" Robinson preached a message entitled, "When Chickens Come Home To Roost." That saying is generally not understood by those not connected when farm living. A more modern saying would be, "What goes around comes around." It is a Biblical principle that what you plan for others may come back to you. It would do us well to consider how we treat others and what our plans are. They will have an impact on our journey.

In "Uncle Bud's" message, he gave three illustrations of the principle. First, Pharaoh decreed that all the male babies were to be drowned in the river. At the end, Pharaoh's entire army was drowned in the Red Sea. What he intended for others happened to him. He lost face and his power in the destruction of his army. Second, in the book of Esther, Haman built a gallows to hang Mordecai. His plan to trap Mordecai back fired and he was hanged on the same gallows instead. Third, Daniel's enemies sought to have him thrown in the lion's den. The plan worked initially; however, when Daniel survived the night due to the intervention of an angel of the Lord, it was Daniel's enemies that were eaten by the lions. It is true, that what we devise will come back to us.

Today, consider your plans. Do you devise good or mischief for others? The best course of action would be to plan love, compassion, and mercy for others. That type of "coming to home to roost" would be welcomed!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Daily Word: The Fire of Slander

Proverbs 26:20 says: For lack of wood a fire goes out, and without a querulous man contention is stilled. (JPS) A "querulous man" is a slanderer. This is someone who likes to speak untruths about another to create strife. One of the themes of Proverbs is the avoidance of contention among people. In Hebraic thought, it was just as important that you be in right relationship with the community of faith, as it was to be in right relationship with God. In fact, you could not be in right standing with God if you had a problem in the community. Remember the words of Jesus: Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:23-24) God doesn't want your gifts if you are at odds with the family of faith. I doubt you will hear this on the "Christian" television shows that seek your money, but it is the truth.

I saw the truth of this verse first hand. I saw a young man and young woman, both in their 20's and not related to each other, begin to spread untruths about a pastor's wife. It wasn't long before both the young people were gone, but the cancer they created stayed long enough to eventually foster a church split. Families that had been close friends for years were suddenly at odds with each other. It all sprang from slanderous remarks made by the instigators. If you can get rid of the wood, the fire will go out because there is nothing to keep it going. If you can get rid of the slanderers, contention will come to an end. I suggest we adhere to this Scripture and put away those that gossip and spread lies about another. We have the authority of God's Word. Matthew Henry said: "We must not associate with peevish passionate people, that are exceptions, and apt to put the worst constructions upon everything, that pick quarrels upon the least occasion, and are quick, and high, and hot, in resenting affronts. These are contentious men, that kindle strife. The less we have to do with such the better, for it will be very difficult to avoid quarrelling with those that are quarrelsome."

Today, don't speak negatively about others. Admittedly this is a higher standard than just not speaking slander, but it would do us well to follow the Jewish rules concerning ethical speech. In addition, don't receive slander. If someone begins such talk, tell them you will not entertain such speech and calmly walk away. You will be blessed if you follow these instructions.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Daily Word: Avoiding Strife and Jesting

Today, we are going to look at two verses from Proverbs. They are full of wise advice for us all to follow. First, Proverbs 26:17 says: He who meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears. (RSV) Have you ever grabbed a dog that is passing you by? It probably isn't your dog so you can expect a startled reaction from the dog that includes some part of your flesh in his teeth. Grabbing a dog's ears is about as smart as getting into a quarrel that belongs to someone else. This Proverb speaks to the dangers of strife. We should avoid strife and conflict at all costs.

Second, Proverbs 26:18-20 say: Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I am only joking!" (RSV) Adam Clarke explained: "How many hearts have been made sad, and how many reputations have been slain, by this kind of sport! 'I designed no harm by what I said;' 'it was only in jest.' Sportive as such persons may think their conduct to be, it is as ruinous as that of the madman who shoots arrows, throws firebrands, and projects in all directions instruments of death, so that some are wounded, some burnt, and some slain." Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Words said in jest are still found in the heart of the speaker. We should eliminate any words from coming out of our mouth that are followed by the phrase, "I was only joking."

Today, we have encountered two wise statements. First, avoid strife, especially that belonging to another. Second, watch your words and don't speak to another in a manner that would necessitate the expression, "I was only joking." (Because you probably weren't.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Daily Word: Verbal Cripples

Proverbs 26:11 says: As a dog returns to his vomit, so does a dullard repeat his folly. (JPS) Remember that a "dullard" is a verbal cripple. The JPS Study Bible comments: "A deliberately disgusting characterization of the way some people repeat stupid behavior. Dogs for some reason often lick up their vomit, giving the impression that they like it." Admittedly, the picture is gross; however, the lesson to be learned is necessary. We must learn from our mistakes and not repeat them, i.e. do them again. The dullard will continue to make the same mistake time after time and be confused as to why bad things keep happening to him. The old saying has truth: "It is a sign of insanity to keep repeating the same action expecting a different result."

I have seen this occur frequently in personal relationships. A man or a woman will return to an abuser hoping for a different result. Sadly, the abuse continues because their has been no change of heart by the abuser. While people can change, they don't really change unless there is a transformation inwardly. It is not a matter of trying harder, it is matter of being different. The same can hold true in business relationships. If someone cheats you, and you continue to return to him, why should there be a different result? Proverbs is about wisdom. This is not some "pie in the sky" wisdom; it is about Godly principles that will instruct us how to be a success here, now, while we walk the earth. We need to be wise and learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.

Today, examine whether you learn from your mistakes or do you keep repeating them? The dullard keeps repeating the errors of the past without an understanding of what he is doing. He is the opposite of the wise. We are to be wise as our Father. We are to follow His principles for living. When we do, we are living wisdom.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Daily Word: Dullards

Proverbs 26:7 says: As legs hang limp on a cripple, so is a proverb in the mouth of dullards. (JPS) A "dullard" (Hebrew kesil) is not merely a man of low intelligence. He is the kind of fool who is foolish because of smug overconfidence. If you have ever meant someone that was a "know it all," and was arrogant, then you have met a dullard. The JPS Study Bible comments: "The dullard is a verbal cripple. To be effective, a proverb must be spoken at the right time and in the right fashion. Just as a cripple can not use his legs effectively, neither can a dullard use God's words to bring the guidance of wisdom."

Have you ever known someone that quotes God's words consistently, yet lives a life that is arrogant and condescending to others. When they speak Bible verses, you just cringe. If this has happened to you, then you understand the meaning of this proverb. It takes the right attitude and right timing for the wisdom of Proverbs to be effective. I knew of a situation where an individual wanted to go to someone that had just taken ill and tell him how he had brought the situation on himself. Now perhaps the person did have some influence on his present situation, but going to him at the point of deep pain was not advisable. I intervened and cautioned the person to desist from such actions. There was plenty of time later to provide the counsel. Wisdom needs right attitude and right timing.

Today, consider how you approach others. Do you have a spirit of arrogance about you? Do your actions match your mouth, i.e. your words? If you want the full benefit of God's wisdom, learn the right attitude and be humble.

NOTE: I have posted a small story on "True Humility" that would go well with this Daily Word. Please check it out at

Friday, June 18, 2010

Daily Word: Handling Insults

Proverbs 26:2 says: Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight. (RSV) The JPS Study Bible comments: "So a gratuitous [that is, undeserved] insult will not arrive. It will not reach and hurt the person it is sent against." Do you find this to be true in your life? Do you ever feel like you are wrongfully insulted? I think we all do at some time or another. The issue then becomes how can this verse be true? I think the answer lies in how we handle the insult. We are only insulted if we grant another that power to insult us. If we respond with confidence in who we are in God and agree with what He says about us, an insult will have no place to land. Notice that the emphasis is not on the one giving the insult, but on us to give the insult no place, i.e. give it no place to land.

Thomas Scott explained the verse as follows: "The birds which fly over our heads cannot hurt us, and they will soon return to their nests from which they wandered. In like manner, unmerited anathemas, imprecations, and calumnies, will not eventually harm us, but will slight on those who uttered them." If we can grasp Scott's point that insults really don't hurt us, it will impact how we deal with them. Just like it is unwise for a fish to "take the bait," it is unwise for us to take the bait of an insult. My Dad had an expression; he said let it be like water flowing off a duck's back. Have you ever seen a duck in a rain storm? The rain doesn't bother him at all. The rain just pours down his back. We should treat insults the same way. Let them just pass by and they will have no place to land.

Today, if you find yourself being insulted, just let it pass by. Don't allow the insult to land in your emotions. Resist the temptation to argue back. Be as smart as a duck in a rain storm.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Daily Word: Dealing With Opposition

Proverbs 25:21-22 says: If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou wilt heap coals of fire upon his head, And Jehovah will reward thee. (ASV) The JPS Study Bible comments: "Rather than seeking vengeance, treat a vulnerable enemy kindly. Then he will be ashamed and God will reward your kindness. Amenemope advises that when the wicked man is in trouble, 'Fill his belly with bread of your own, that he be sated and weep.'" Who or what is Amenemope? It is book of writings similar to Proverbs from Egypt. Amenemope’s text was a collection of maxims and admonitions setting forth practical instructions for living. In particular, many parallels have been drawn between the form and content of portions of Amenemope’s work and the Book of Proverbs found in our Bible, although the interrelationship between the two books has been debated. The point to emphasize is that the idea of helping those that oppose you was not such a new concept that would have been resisted. Yet, how often do we resist the idea of helping those that oppose us?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:44: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.... (KJV) Certainly, the verses in Proverbs would have been foundational to Jesus' words. When we see the Hebrew word picture for bless, the words of Paul in Romans 12:20 become even more powerful: Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. (KJV) One of the words for bless in Hebrew is a-shar and it means to place fire on the head. When we are kind to our enemies, we place fire on their heads, i.e. we bless them.

Today, consider how you do with opposition. However, remember that the verse deals with a "vulnerable enemy." You are not required to assist the enemy that still seeks and has the ability to destroy you. The verse applies when the enemy is no longer a threat to you. Understanding this point makes the verse clear and applicable to our lives. It does not require one to be a "super saint," only an obedient one. (Is there any other type?)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Daily Word: Your Words Are Art

Proverbs 25:11-12 say: A word fitly spoken Is like apples of gold in network of silver. As an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, So is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear. (ASV) To the Hebrew, speech was very important. Words were not abstract concepts, they were tangible. The JPS Study Bible comments: "Eloquent words--even reprimands--are well-crafted works of art." Have you ever considered your words as "works of art?" What picture or sculpture would your words look like? You can begin to reshape your life by reshaping your words.

I struggle with words sometime. It is so easy to be negative. The world teaches us to be negative. God wants our words to "like apples of gold." He wants our words to be encouraging (even if they are in the form of a reprimand). There is something about human nature that gravitates toward the negative. It is almost like we plan for defeat in case things don't go well so we won't be disappointed. "I don't know why I am competing, I really don't want to win because I would have to travel for the next event." "I really don't want this job, but I will go anyway." Negative talk can defeat you before you ever get started.

Today, I challenge you to listen to your words. Consider what type of art they create. Are they a picture of compassion and mercy? Or, are they harsh and critical? The Talmud says: "Who changes one's place, changes one's luck." The word for "luck" is mazal and it literally means the constellation of the stars. To the Hebrew, the phrase meant, luck comes from coupling our own initiative with the direction and guidance we receive from God. Your initiative will be greatly impacted by your choice of words. So, what art are you creating today?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Daily Word: The Secrets of the Lord

Note: There is a short blog post I made on "True Faith" that goes together with today's Daily Word. It can be read at

Proverbs 25:2 says: It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (ASV) The Greek thinker needs to have everything fit together in a nice neat order. In Greek thinking, understanding precedes obedience. One must understand how what is being asked of him makes sense before obedience is chosen. The Hebrew worldview is the exact opposite. To the Hebrew, obedience precedes understanding. Once the duty is known, obedience is the choice of action even if you don't know why. This verse can be a problem to a Greek thinker; however, to the Hebrew, it poses no difficulties. The fact that God conceals things from us is not a problem. The Hebrew says, "God will cause me to understand when He wants me to understand. Until then, I simply obey what I know He wants me to do.

The JPS Study Bible comments: "It redounds to God's glory to create mysteries in the world...." I have pondered why the Holocaust occurred. Six million Jews, including one and one half million children, went to their deaths. Many would be quoting Scripture. Psalm 91 clearly promises protection to those that believe in God. Where was that protection to God's chosen people to whom He still had a covenant with? The answer is that I don't know. Why did over three thousand die on September 11, 2001? Where was God's protecting hand? I don't know. Why are children born with severe birth defects that render them unable to have a meaningful life? I don't know. However, there is something I do know: The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (KJV) (Deuteronomy 29:29) I know that some secrets are kept from us. My approach is Hebraic: "Lord, I trust you and I will obey you no matter what my eyes see or my ears hear."

Today, confront yourself. Are there issues that remain unresolved with you? Are there prayers that you have not seen answered yet? Do the secrets of the Lord trouble you? I urge you to arrive a station in life that you will trust the Lord no matter the circumstances or the reports of man. When you get there, you will be walking in faith.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Daily Word: Avoiding Poverty

Proverbs 24:30-34 says: I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man without sense; and lo, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. (RSV) The JPS Study Bible comments: "A little narrative illustrating the consequences of sloth. The sage passed by the field of the lazy man and saw it had gone wild. He draws a lesson by applying a proverb...." There is a direct connection between laziness and poverty. Laziness is the bridge to lack. These verses should be printed on a card and prominently displayed during the day so we do not neglect them.

I work in a secular business in addition to the ministry. My duties include the hiring of personnel. When I am interviewing someone, I listen to their words and I review their past work history. I am looking for indicators of either a solid work ethic or laziness. This verse guides me because I don't want a lazy person's poverty coming to me. Individually, we need to make sure that we are not allowing a little slumber to come on us. We need a solid work ethic. Whatever we do, we should do to the Lord. The lazy person that professes faith is telling the world that their God is also lazy. Our God is not lazy; He is actively involved in the lives of all men and women. We should imitate Him by working hard for His glory, regardless of the work being performed. You might be a doctor or a lawyer, or you might be a homemaker. The type of work doesn't matter, but the effort and ethic does.

Today, examine your work ethic. Don't allow sloth to be a description others can fairly attribute to you. Whatever job you have, do it unto the Lord. He has given every one of us talents. Whether you have one or one hundred, use them for His kingdom.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Daily Word: Honest Words

Proverbs 24:25-26 says: But it shall go well with them who decide justly; Blessings of good things will light upon them. Giving a straightforward reply is like giving a kiss. (JPS) The JPS Study Bible comments: "Them who decide justly, or 'those who give reproof.' Honest words, like kisses, are an expression of love and one who reproves others, though ostensibly harsh, will receive praise and good wishes in the end." Our society stresses tolerance and a "live and let live attitude." We are taught that as long as what you are doing does not directly affect me, I should be tolerant and silent. How does this approach match with the wisdom of Proverbs?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed to give someone some, "honest words?" I have and candidly, it has rarely been received in the short term. However, in the long term, the benefit becomes real. Years ago, I tried to help a young man. I gave him the truth he needed to hear. He got mad and said some things that were less than complimentary. He tried to undermine me in our business and it was very hurtful. Ten years later, he called me "out of the blue." He wanted to apologize. He thanked me for all my wife and I had done for him. He was a dad now and had turned his life around. He was genuinely sorrow and genuinely appreciative of the "honest words" I have given him a decade earlier.

Today, do not shy away from situations that require you to give someone some honest truth. Pray before you speak, but don't be afraid to speak. The words of Scripture give us the best advice, even though it may be a bit bumpy. Know that when you give someone some honest words, it is like a kiss. It is a tender act. It is act of love.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Daily Word: Don't Quit

Proverbs 24:16 says: For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity. (RSV) Notice that a righteous man is not defined by not falling, but by getting up when he does. The JPS Study Bible comments: "The righteous have a 'future' because they can recover from misfortune, but the wickedness is a dead-end road." Have you experienced "falling?" What was your response? Some people go into denial: "I can't believe this is happening to me." Some people become proactive: "I'm not going to let this defeat me. I'm going to do something about it." The righteous man (or woman) is one that is proactive and does not allow defeat to win.

I have written previously about personal trials my wife and I have experienced. So many times, we were sorely tempted to give up. When defeat and despair surround you and begin to close you in, the easy thing to do is just quit. However, I can testify from experience of the truth of today's verse. The righteous get up, and I like to add, "keep fighting." Don't allow the voices of others to convince you that you are too slow, too stupid, or not capable of getting up. Proclaim your righteousness by getting up and trusting God's Word. The wicked allow one misfortune to defeat them. The righteous never allow one defeat to end the battle.

Today, consider your walk. Do you allow one fall to stop you? Don't allow the negative voices of others to stop you. Rise up and continue the fight until victory is secured. Don't forget, the potential for righteousness lies in your hand, not those that oppose you.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Daily Word: Get Involved

Proverbs 24:10-12 says: If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, "Behold, we did not know this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not requite man according to his work? (RSV) The JPS Study Bible comments: "The obligation to fight injustice: It is not enough to refrain from committing injustices; you must actively try to prevent them. Rescuing may refer to standing up for an unjustly accused defendant in a capital case." Hebraic thought has consistently focused on preventing injustice to those that cannot help themselves.

How do we approach the cause of injustice? There is a tendency to focus on just a few issues like abortion and homosexual marriage. However, there is far more injustice in the world than just those two. How about the plight of the poor or the sick (even if they brought the sickness on themselves, e.g. cancer from smoking or HIV). This verse is calling us to compassionate action. It is not a call to just have pity; it is a call to get involved in the lives of those that are suffering some type of injustice and do something about it.

Today, look around you. Be proactive and look for incidences of injustice. When you find it, do something about it. Get involved. You might volunteer to work with the homeless or feed the poor. Yes, you might make a public stand against abortion and seek to protect the lives of the unborn. Regardless of the injustice, make a decision to get involved.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Daily Word: Staying Away From Evil Men

Proverbs 24:1-2 says: Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; for their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of mischief. (RSV) The JPS Study Bible comments: "Of the various dangers that evil people present, Proverbs emphasizes their bad influence on those who consort with them rather than the harm they inflict directly." Remember that Proverbs consistently praises wisdom and condemns the schemes of the wicked. Does this seem like the "Christian" thing to do with evil people? Shouldn't we go to them with some tracts and Bibles and try to get them saved? No, the Hebraic approach is that it is God's business to draw others to Him and it is our business to do what we are told. And, we are told not to desire to be with them. That does not mean that we cannot pray for them and be kind to them when we are with them. However, we are not to desire to be with those that oppose God.

Thomas Haweis said: "The sinners’ prosperity is little to be envied, and their company far from desirable; their present study and talk is mischievous and destructive, and their end perdition; they are therefore rather to be shunned than courted, and should raise our indignation, not our envy." As we continue our journey with God, we should try and imitate Him in greater ways. We should attempt to really love the evil men the way God does. However, we should not allow their ways to influence our lives. One of my children had a friend that seemed to have a greater impact on her than she did on her friend. Some of the traits that we did not find desirable began to appear in our daughter. My wife spoke to her and explained that she should be influencing her friend for God, and not the friend influencing her toward a life centered on the things of the world. Once she saw the truth, she adjusted her behavior as her Mother instructed.

Today, consider your associations. Do you desire to be in the company of evil men and women? If so, the verse instructs you on the change you need to make. Remember, God knows best and if this is how He wants us to act, we should instantly obey. If we don't, then we have not heard the word.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Daily Word: Watching Your Ways

Proverbs 23:26 says: "Give your mind to me, my son; Let your eyes watch my ways." (JPS) The word "mind" is often translated "heart" in our English Bibles. The Hebrew word is leb, and means the seat of feelings, affections, and emotions. It refers to our mode of thinking and acting, as well as our purpose and determination. In this verse, the writer is asking for our entire emotional being. He wants all our thoughts and purposes to be his thoughts and purposes. The connection to God's desires for us is obvious.

The second part of the verse is a call to obey the writer's ways. Again, the connection to the call of God to watch His ways is an appropriate interpretation of the verse. God wants us to watch His ways. This is not the call to passive observation. In Hebrew, to watch is to actively follow. You are not hearing, learning, or watching something unless it impacts your actions. In Hebrew, it is all about action. Whereas Greek thought emphasizes intellectual assent, Hebrew emphasizes what you do. What are God's ways? They are found in His Word. It starts in Genesis, not Matthew. The words of God contained in the Hebrew Scriptures are eternal and should not be dismissed. Rabbis in the first century liked to summarize the 613 Commandments into as few as possible. Jesus did this in Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (KJV)

Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because Jesus summarized the 613 Commandments into two, that He dismissed the rest of them. He was summarizing them, but He would never do away with them. Remember Matthew 5:17: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (KJV) Most of God's commandments are still binding (those referencing the Temple and sacrifices are not binding since there is no Temple). They are His ways and we are to watch them.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Daily Word: Don't Quit

Proverbs 23:19-21 says: Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your mind in the way. Be not among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. (RSV) These verses provide guidance that can lead to abundance or poverty. We are to hear the words of wisdom and apply them to our lives. Whereas drunkenness will lead to poverty, wisdom will enable you to be successful in the way. We are to be thankful to God that He has given us the ability to understand His wisdom and the free will and ability to practice it in our lives.

Recently, my wife and I went through some very deep waters financially. We were at a point where in the natural things looked hopeless. However, we did not quit. We continued to press forward with the words of wisdom from Scripture. After a while, there was a breakthrough, a big one. One day we remarked about how wonderful it was that God had brought us all the new business and success. Then we considered what happened again. God would not interfere with the free will of others to do business with us, but He would give us the ability, drive, and desire to be a success. Therefore, instead of thanking God for the new business, we thanked Him for giving us minds and bodies to follow His words of wisdom. We thanked Him that He made us with a will that chose not to give up. Our thankfulness to God did not change; however, what we thanked Him for did. We gave Him greater glory for making us in His image that would not accept defeat.

Today, regardless of where you are on your journey, thank God for His making you in His image. If you find yourself in difficulty, don't quit. If your life is smooth, thank Him for His wisdom that has guided you. The main point is to be thankful to God for your life and your next breath.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Daily Word: Community Involvement

Proverbs 23:15-16 say: My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My soul will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. (RSV) Hebraic thought focuses on community and not our individual successes. Greek thought promotes individual thinking and achievement. To the Hebrew, it was all about community. The covenant at Mount Sinai was with the entire nation of Israel, not individual members. Christianity focuses on our personal relationship with God, whereas the Hebrew saw the relationship as your being part of a community that had a relationship with God. It is not a subtle distinction. You can't be right with God if you are not right with the other members of the community. Perhaps Jesus' words make more sense now: Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Matthew 5:23-24 (KJV) Community had to be in right relationship before approaching the altar with a gift for the Lord.

Consider the modern church; people can sit in the pews holding grudges against each other and think nothing about it. We need to restore the concept of community to our walk with God. Actually without it, you can't walk with Him. There are no "Lone Rangers" in God's kingdom. Look at the words of the Lord's Prayer. Did you notice that the pronouns are plural, e.g. Our, us, those, us. There is no individuality in that prayer. If you pray it, you are praying on behalf of a group, i.e. a community.

Today, ask yourself about your relationship with your community of faith. Don't think that you can be right with God and at odds with your church family. Seek peace with all men. Follow peace with all men. These verses should mean more to you now. They are about community and community is important with God.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Daily Word: Speaking with Fools

Proverbs 23:9 says: Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words. (RSV) The JPS Study Bible comments: "Some people just cannot learn." Have you ever tried to speak to someone and no matter what you said, they disagreed with you? They just refuse to listen. I have learned the hard way the truth of this verse. In some situations, it is just better to remain silent. This seems to go against our Greek thinking that insists that we impart our superior knowledge to everyone in our path. The Hebraic approach recognizes that some people just don't want to learn. Our response should be to not speak to them just like the verse suggests.

What about evangelizing? Should we not continue to batter the one with the truth of our words for their own good? It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are just trying to get them to agree with your church doctrine on salvation, then go ahead. However, if you are seeking to "make disciples," then you should desist from speaking to the resistant one as the verse instructs, and live your life by loving God and your neighbor. The best program for evangelism is not the passing of a tract that describes the four spiritual laws. Instead, it is living an obedient life before the world. People notice when you live according to God's laws. As the old expression goes, "You may be the only Bible someone reads today."

Today, don't use the verse to ignore people that refuse to learn. Instead, use the verse today to change your tactics around one that is resistant to truth. This is not a call to disregard. It is a challenge to be persistent and consistent in our walk before the Lord. Remember, you are always in His presence.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Daily Word: Learning From Sages

Proverbs 22:17-18 say: Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. (RSV) The JPS translation uses the word "sages" for "wise." It is very common for Jews to listen to the words of the wise sages from the past. Today, too many think that they can take the words of Scripture, not knowing the original languages, the grammar, the syntax, the historical setting, or the culture and determine what something means because they, "prayed about it." It is that kind of "thinking" that teaches women that they can't put on a pair of pants because Deuteronomy 22:5 says: A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God. (RSV) Example after example could be given of man misunderstanding Scripture and making a nonsense rule for people to follow. It is vital that proper study be made that includes the historical setting to proper interpretation of Scripture. The Bible was written primarily by Jews to Jews. An understanding of who the Jewish people were is essential.

If one wants to really understand Scripture, one should find someone who is wise in the study of the Bible and listen to their words. There are many good study tools available today that do not require you to be a Hebrew or Greek scholar to use. A few clicks of a mouse and you can know the meaning of words in the original language. Listen to verses18-19 that describe the benefit of hearing the sages: For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the LORD, I have made them known to you today, even to you. (RSV) There is a link between hearing the sages and trusting in the Lord. I encourage you to discover that link.

There can be even a greater issue involved. If you find yourself with no desire to study the Word, you need to discover the cause. Do you have the desire to pray? Or, has that also departed? The journey in this life can be exciting and fulfilling even in the midst of boredom. Have you discovered the joy of listening to the sages? If not, start today and enjoy the journey.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Daily Word: Training Children From a Hebraic Perspective

We will review Proverbs 22:6 in several translations:
(KJV) Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
(ASV) Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.
(NKJV) Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
(RSV) Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
(WEB) Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
(YLT) Give instruction to a youth about his way, Even when he is old he turneth not from it.

The translations are very consistent and seem to indicate that if we will teach our children about God, no matter what happens in their lives, they will eventually return to the Lord. Is this what the verse is really saying? No, and without a proper understanding of the Hebraic meaning, it can look like God's word didn't come true.

My daughter Danielle is home schooled in part by me. In the course of teaching her, I was always trying to figure out the best way to instruct her. Children learn differently, and I needed to discover the best way to teach her. She had been having a difficult time on her vocabulary tests, so I decided to make some note cards for the words. The words on one side and the definitions on the other. She went upstairs and studied the cards. The next day she took the test. She received a perfect score. I had learned the best way to teach her. That is what this verse means in Hebrew, It means to find the best way to teach your child, and when they are old they will not depart from that method. The verse is not about a promise of righteousness for your children. If you want your children to end up righteous, the best approach is to teach our children about God, and also live your lives for God in front of your children. Teach not just with words, but with actions. That is the Hebraic way.

Today, if you have children, find out the best way to instruct them. If you don't have children, remember this lesson as it may come in handy advising others that do have children. Remember to live and speak for God always mindful that you are in His presence.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Daily Word: Guarding Your Mouth

Proverbs 21:23 says: He who guards his mouth and tongue guards himself from trouble. (JPS) The Jewish Study Bible comments: "The importance of controlling one's speech, to avoid blurting out offensive or stupid things." The power of speech is almost beyond our ability to comprehend. Have the words of Jesus loss any of their power today? When you speak His words, do they have a special power? They do, because words have power. If you speak a kind word to someone, do those words have the power to create love or joy? If you speak harshly, can you create anger or frustration? Yes, your words have power, and the writer of this Proverb gives us specific advice concerning our mouths.

When I was a young man, my parents took me to Canada. I remember watching the changing of the guard. The soldiers were dressed in special uniforms with red coats and tall black hats. They looked funny to me, but they were so serious. People would try and get them to laugh or smile, but they would not. They were very somber. They marched carefully and deliberately in front of their assigned post. They would not be deterred or distracted. The writer of Proverbs tells us to guard our mouths. We need to have the same approach in regard to our words that the soldiers had about guarding the building. We need to be diligent, serious, and continual in the watching of our words.

Today, ask your self, do you have a guard over your mouth? Do you watch carefully what you speak? We need to because the verse teaches us that if we will do so, we will guard ourselves from trouble. Notice the obvious, your speech can lead to trouble. We know that, so why don't we do something about it?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

When Torah Is Removed

There seems to be a variance between the teachings of Yeshua and James, and Paul. James followed the teaching of his brother Yeshua, including Torah observance. Paul, at a minimum, advanced the cause that the Torah was not required of the Gentiles. What was a result of such a teaching? Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (NIV)

Further, consider Galatians 5:19-21:

"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (NIV)

I submit that a reason that Paul had to deal with such issues is because his ministry abrogated Torah observance for Gentiles. Both Yeshua and James insisted on Torah observance. What did Paul think about that? Consider 2:4-6:

"This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message."

Consider the bold part. What does that sound like to you? What attitude is being manifested? I suggest that the ones coming in to spy on Paul's work were sent by James and the Jerusalem assembly. Paul wanted everyone to be free. They were free; free in sin which is why he had to rebuke them to bring to repentance.

Would not it have been better for the followers of the Way just to be told to keep the Torah? I think so.