Proverbs 5 – loose the cords of your sin

Proverbs 5:21 For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders all his paths.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
    and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline,
    and because of his great folly he is led astray.

In our great excitement for the things of God, in the passion of our faith and in our eagerness to share His Word, we sometimes often forget that God is also a god of justice.

God sees everything we do, nothing is hidden from Him. Take another look at verse 21. This is not a joke. All our thoughts, dreams, plans, all our actions are laid bare before the gaze of Almighty. We sin with impunity (or so we think) and then wonder why we struggle and suffer. It’s simple – there are consequences to our actions. Sometimes the consequences are immediate and painful, but when the effects of our sin are not outright and immediate we are lulled into a false sense of security, thinking we’ve ‘gotten away’ with it.
However, before we come before the throne of Grace to partake of that Grace, it is necessary and vital to confess our sin that we may be purified from it:

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Confession and thus repentance make a world of difference. I know, it’s hard. Some sin is stronghold and it can be next to impossible to break the hold it has over us. Note, I said next to impossible, which means we can be set free. That’s where Christ comes in. But you already know all this. So take this is a friendly reminder: if you’re not experiencing the peace and joy of God perhaps you are still holding onto unconfessed sin. It may be a weakness you have, something you struggle with but that you are enjoying too much to give up – an illicit relationship perhaps? It may be that you are harbouring ill-will in your heart, holding onto unforgiveness and bitterness. It may be that you are envious and jealous, or that you are a gossip and slanderer. You might be an adulterer, or a liar and a thief. Whatever it is, if you have not brought it to the foot of the Cross know that you are blocking your own blessings and not walking in victory. You are basically stealing your own joy.
The goal is to be more Christlike, bearing our crosses, confessing our sin. There is a world of difference between accepting your sinfulness then coming before God with an issue you are struggling with, and living with unconfessed sin. The former is what being a Christian is about; the latter will lead you down that wide path and be the death of you, in every sense of the word.
Examine your life. Accept God’s discipline and the leading of the Holy Spirit, repent and find life, abundant life.

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Proverbs 4: Hold fast to Wisdom; get understanding

-To believe I walk alone
Is a lie that I’ve been told.
So let your heart hold fast
For this soon shall pass,
Like the high tide takes the sand.

This is a verse from a Fort Atlantic song called ‘let your heart hold fast’. ‘Holding fast’ is the key to Proverbs 4.

Proverbs 4:7

Wisdom is the principal thing;therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Could it be any simpler? Get wisdom, bearing in mind what we have already learnt: that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. So start there. Seek to have that deep reverential fear of God; seek to be in the will of God always; desire to discern His will, His perfect and pleasing will. That is wisdom. And as you seek all these things i.e. wisdom, seek also to understand. Understand why Solomon placed such great value on Wisdom, why he said the following:

Proverbs 4:6

Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.

A fool cannot take instruction, and a fool cannot go beyond the exact meaning of an instruction. Wisdom is listening to advice and instruction, having a teachable spirit. So, get wisdom. But you need to also have a discerning spirit, you need to know when and how to apply what you have received and  learnt – that is the understanding. As the Word says: get wisdom and in all thy getting get understanding. So: be teachable and as you are taught, know when and how to apply what you have learnt. This is what it means to not forsake wisdom, to be preserved by her and kept by her.

Proverbs 4:13

Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go;
Keep her, for she is your life.

No really though, could it be any simpler? Be teachable and hold fast to what you have been taught. Will you have days of sadness? Yes. Despair and sorrow and days when you just want to cry out ‘Lord, why me?’ Yes. But hold fast anyway. Hold onto wisdom, grab a firm hold of instruction. Let your heart hold fast (please click the link and watch the song). Learn the lessons, get understanding, hide the word of God in your heart that you may not sin against Him: your feet will not stumble, your days will be many. (cf.Psalm 119:11; Psalm 4:4; Psalm 37:31)

May God bless you exceedingly and abundantly as you seek wisdom and understanding.

Proverbs 3 – fear God more than you fear public opinion. That is wisdom.

Proverbs 3, continued. Because sometimes, there can be more than one post.

The first few verses of the chapter give you a way by which you can gain God’s favour, and come on, who doesn’t want that? It’s really quite simple:

Keep the commandments of God in your heart.

What commandments you wonder? Christ simplified them thus:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul with all your might and love all mankind as you would yourself.

Actually, those are the words to a well-known chorus (in my circles anyway :-p). The scripture goes like so:

Matthew 22: 39-40
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When you have hidden the greatest commandment in your heart, when you abide by it and by the second one which Jesus said is very like the first, you won’t (you shouldn’t) have any trouble finding favour with the Lord. All your actions will be judged by you against this standard: is this loving toward God? Is this loving toward the next person? If not, don’t do it, don’t say it, run away from it. Things really are quite that simple. It’s amazing how much simpler our lives would be if we just took instruction, which is wisdom, and, you guessed it, feared the Lord.

Whatever issue you struggle with, if you can honestly and without equivocation answer yes to both those questions then you’re pretty much safe.
Want to gossip about your colleague?
Should you loan your neighbour that money?
Should you go on that date?
Truly, if the action is not unloving, then go for it.
*whispering* the second might be tricky: loaning someone money that they can’t pay back will grow resentment between you and them -not a loving action. Loaning money you can’t afford to loan will do the same. Again, not a loving action. In fact, the bible says we are not to loan money but to give it. If you can’t afford to give the money (and you’ve prayed for guidance), then don’t. Yes, it’s that simple.

Too often we complicate our lives by worrying about how people will react to us and our actions, instead of fearing God more than we fear public opinion. We complicate things by taking matters into our own hands, instead of following His commandments, acknowledging His will and trusting God, no matter what we see, think or feel. These are not easy things but if they were then we wouldn’t require faith now would we? We wouldn’t need a blueprint for right living, we wouldn’t need it all laid out for us in black and white. God knew that we would struggle and doubt and fear and so He gave us the Bible. Read it, know it, hide it in your heart, and live by it. End of story.

Proverbs 3: trusting in and acknowledging God

If i were to tell my story in a certain way most of you would be wiping away tears of sympathy by the time I got to the end. I’m not gonna lie, some episodes have been pretty rough. Having said that, I can promise you that the way I actually tell my story usually makes people say ‘God loves you’ instead. While it’s fact that I’ve been through some tough stuff, what is truth is that every time I’ve called out to Him, God has come through for me. Yes, you read that right. Every. Single. Time.
This is not to say that I am immune to crises of faith – I’m not. I went through a period of several years where not only did I doubt the Bible, but the idea of a personal god seemed nonsensical to me, and don’t even get me started on what I thought about prayer as an effective anything, let alone a weapon. Yet, here I am, full almost to bursting with awe and wonder at how God has loved me.
What does this have to do with Proverbs 3? Stick with me.

As you know from my last posting, I’ve been struggling to write this post. Imma tell the truth about why: I didn’t want to write honestly because I felt that would be revealing too much about myself. And, as a result, I found that I couldn’t write at all. I tried and tried and failed time and again till I had to say ‘yes Lord’ and stop fighting.
What I didn’t want to share is this:
At the beginning of this year, the Holy Spirit led me to Proverbs 3, in particular this verse:

Trust in the Lord your God and lean not on your won understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight

The reason I didn’t want to share that is because I’m vain and I felt like that verse is too common for me to say it’s my verse for 2015. There were actually two verses and perhaps I’ll share the other one day. For today though, and for the purposes of this post, that one is enough.
Trusting the Lord in all your ways is easier said than done. However, if we do that, life really does become maybe not easier but definitely simpler. When you trust God you worry less, you should become less anxious and less fearful, understanding that your paths are being straightened, that all things are working together for your good. It means that everything you do, everything you think, is measured against God’s will and submitted to Him. It means letting go of what you want to do and not seeking your own will, but seeking at all times to be in the will of God. Not only that though, the verse speaks of trust and that is not easy because at every turn Satan seeks to subvert the will of God and each day, each decision we make is a fight to trust in God. Not easy. It requires mindfulness and a constant vigilance against anxiety, against fear, against all those desires that have not been submitted to the Most High. Not easy. But, what joy when we live this way, what freedom!
And so, Proverbs 3 is about trusting, about the wisdom of giving control to the Lord and not seeking our own way.
The rest of Proverbs 3 is pretty straightforward and I won’t go into it. I suggest you read it through and think prayerfully about its application.
Stay blessed, and here’s to trusting God and finding wisdom.

P.S. did I mention that every other time I tried to write a Proverbs 3 post something happened to make me quit and ‘save as draft’? My bible app would refuse to open or my keyboard would go laggy making me wanting to scream in frustration. One time I even fell asleep, tablet in hand. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I think it’s because I wasn’t writing what I was supposed to and so the Father in His infinite wisdom made it extremely difficult to follow through. This time, once I committed to writing, everything went smoothly. That is trusting God and acknowledging Him in all my ways, right up to and including the posts I write for this blog. It is amazing how even those smallest paths are straightened, isn’t it?

Stick to your truth, or, Why I haven’t posted yet

I have an incomplete Proverbs 3 post in my drafts folder. I haven’t published it because there is just so much to say but for some reason I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and unlike myself. I spent all of Thursday preparing for an interview I had on Friday, and as I prepped, I kept telling myself I’d complete the Proverbs 3 post, and move on to Proverbs 4 & 5.
Well, the truth is I did everything except complete that post and move on to the next, and it wasn’t until just now that I figured out why.
Writing the Proverbs 3 post wasn’t as cathartic as all my other posts on this blog have been. It felt like going through the motions, writing for the sake of being able to say I wrote something, and that is not how I want to run this blog, and certainly not how I want to experience the book of Proverbs. The mistake I made was in forgetting my mandate in blogging through the Bible: mine is not to teach you the Word or write expositions on the texts. Mine is to share how the various texts have made on impact me by giving real practical examples from my own life. This blog is not only for my readers to see the Word through my eyes, but it is a record of the times and the ways in which God has spoken specifically to me; a record I will need in times of stress and a record to refer to in times of praise. I was about to get caught up in the hype of blogging through the Bible, the validation of seeing those likes and ping-backs and getting comments and more views … I am so glad I did not publish that post because it would not have been authentically me.
A key aspect of this endeavour is maintaining my integrity as I write each post, and there are days when it feels like sticking to the schedule is the most important thing, which for it isn’t. I can’t allow the schedule to dictate what I post and when, so if I’m a few days late with a post, it’s because life is still happening and I’m not perfect, not even trying to be. If this comes across as me making excuses for not posting according to the schedule, so be it. I’ll be 34 soon (gifts welcome!), I need to be able to speak my truth and live it regardless of the commentary. As far as this blog goes, my truth is that I won’t always post on the day I’m supposed to and the reasons for that are many and varied, not least that some chapters are harder to get into than others and need a bit more time if I’m not going to post just for the sake of posting.
I just wanted to put this out there so that you know what I’m about. We can’t take this journey together if you’re in the dark about what drives me.
Stay blessed!

Proverbs 2: the value of wisdom

all verses from Proverbs 2, ESV, unless otherwise specified

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When I was still in primary school I came across Rudyard Kipling’s poem, ‘If’, and I fell in love with it. When I felt that he was old enough, my son and I went through that poem, discussing point by point what a good man is and how he behaves. I never mentioned to my son that the writer of the poem was an out-and-out racist because you know, priorities – there’s plenty of time for him to question things; imma let him enjoy his childhood a little longer. The reason I mention that poem is because in reading Proverbs 2 I was reminded of it and to my great delight here is a manifesto for right behaviour (or part of one, since we established that the whole of Proverbs is basically a guide for right living) whose author does not make me squirm uncomfortably. Here is something that I can study with my son and unequivocally support it without worrying about the day he finds out that it wasn’t intended for him and that the writer in fact did not think much of him. I mean, you gotta love the Bible!

Proverbs 2 basically lays out the benefits that will come with heeding the words of the wise; indeed the chapter is titled ‘The Value of Wisdom’.

1  My son, if you receive my words

and treasure up my commandments with you,

2  making your ear attentive to wisdom

and inclining your heart to understanding…

5  then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2 is still part of the introduction to the Book of Proverbs, and clearly lays out the value of wisdom, and the importance of fearing God as we discussed yesterday. Verse 5 says that you will find knowledge of God and understand the fear of the Lord but this is conditional on what comes before, in verses 1-4. Basically if you pay attention to these words and these commandments and hide these words in your heart and follow these words and live by these words…doesn’t this bring to mind the verse that speaks of faith coming by hearing and hearing the word of God?

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

If you want to know God, or, put another way, if you want the hidden knowledge of God and to walk according to His precepts and to be always in His will(as far as possible, let’s face it we mess up), then you must make a commitment to studying the Bible. There is no other way by which God reveals Himself to us and by which we can believe in Him except to hear the Good News preached. You cannot have faith, let alone grow it, if you do not regularly hear the Word, and I say this as someone who has not set foot in a church in almost four years. The reasons why I haven’t been to church are valid, but be that as it may there is no denying that my faith has taken some severe knocks since I stopped going to church. We need to fellowship with other believers so that we can grow in our knowledge of the things of God. We need to sharpen each other, we need to test our interpretations of God’s word and that cannot happen if you’re isolated. Don’t get me wrong, not going to church doesn’t mean I don’t fellowship, but it does mean that I rarely if ever fellowship in a space designed for that and that alone i.e. church.

Even a cursory reading of Proverbs 2 will show the good things that come from living a right life by living according to God’s word, and that’s all well and good. I mean, who doesn’t want a good life, a life of integrity, free from harm, protected by the Almighty, blessed and favoured with all kinds of good things, and, let’s not forget, wisdom? seriously, who doesn’t want that? that’s not the whole of the story though. There is also this:

21  For the upright will inhabit the land,

and those with integrity will remain in it,

22  but the wicked will be cut off from the land,

and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

It’s all good and dandy to go on about all the good things you will benefit by being attentive to these words and walking according to these commandments, but it’s equally important to be aware of the consequence of foolishness, that is, of not having a teachable spirit,not seeking the path of wisdom and not fearing God. This isn’t a game, people! We do ourselves and each other a disservice if we fail to acknowledge that there are real consequences for reckless and foolish behaviour: you will be cut off from the land, uprooted out of it. What does this mean exactly? I’ll tell you.

There is a question somewhere in the Bible along the lines of ‘what truck do darkness and light have with each other?’ I’d Google the exact verse but this WordPress app is playing games and I know you know exactly (or close enough) which verse I’m talking about. The point that I’m making is that you know full well that God cannot abide evil, and that if you continue along a path you know to be disobedient and out of God’s will you will be cast out into the darkness. This is real talk. So whatever you’re doing that is wrong (and you know full well what it is), just stop. I’m over here mentally going over my own missteps and failures and my own delicious sin that I’m loathe to get rid of because lets face it, if sin wasn’t so delicious getting rid of it wouldn’t be all that hard now would it? But you know what? We need to learn to fear God more than we love sin and that can only happen if:
1. we spend time in His word so as to learn to trust that He is who He says He is
2. if we confess our sin and turn away from it, and
3. if we truly accept Christ and by doing so, Grace.
Is it going to be easy? Come now, you already know that if it was easy you would have done it long ago. A more valid question is: is it going to be worth it? The answer to that is a resounding YES!

He is a faithful God and if you sincerely call upon Him in the name of Jesus, He will not forsake you. Come on, try it. Try Him. Taste and see that the Lord is good, because until you do, you will never know or even be able to imagine the sheer goodness of what God has for those that love Him and because they love him, obey his commandments. A gold star for you if you correctly identify all the verses that make up the sentence in italics. Hint: there are three.

Proverbs 1: the beginning of wisdom

all scripture is from Proverbs 1, KJV

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7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

It is not possible to share my thoughts on Proverbs 1 without mentioning the all-important verse above. I remember one of my old high school teachers who would thunder this verse in his very loudest voice while wielding a cane painfully and expertly across some luckless student’s palm. I am convinced that he thought he was God’s representative to our school and really, that fearing him, the teacher, would lead that most unruly of student bodies to all wisdom. Didn’t work, but I never forgot the verse, so perhaps even back then a seed was planted for me to come to accept the fact that fear of God really is the beginning of wisdom.

I’d like to say that I’m sure you all understand why it is necessary to have a healthy fear of God, but i’m sure of no such thing and so, here we go. Fearing God means exactly what it says: be afraid, be very very afraid. You see, the reason we don’t fear God the way we should is that pastors and the church have in recent years brought us a god who is quite unlike the God of the Bible. Nowadays we have a wishy-washy god, who bends to our whim if we just shout loud enough, name it and claim it, and participate in any number of weird and dare I say ridiculous activities. This god is so far from being God that really, it’s not even funny.

If you want to know why you should fear God just look at any atheist manifesto: they speak of a God who ‘murdered’ countless thousands, demanded impossible things of anyone unlucky enough to cross His path and basically terrorised the enemies of his chosen people. Feel free to go through the Old Testament if you don’t believe me. God is still the same God, and really, someone should warn those atheists – they mock to their own peril. So what am I saying? I’m saying an acknowledgement of who God is, what He can do and what He has done is the beginning of wisdom. You cannot, absolutely cannot come to a full knowledge of who God is and not have your knees knock together in mindless fear.

That fear will keep you from doing evil because you know the wrath of God is real and it is terrible, but even more importantly, that fear will drive you into the arms of the One who loves you – Christ. Try as you might, you cannot on your own avoid messing up and earning the wrath of Justice. It is impossible because ‘the heart of man is evil.’ With Christ you step into Grace, you are justified and sanctified and instead of a recalcitrant child cowering and hiding after misbehaving, you have every right to call yourself, literally, a child of God – and we all know that parents love their children and want only what is good for them. How much more does your Father in heaven want only what is good for you? That terrible God of the Old Testament becomes the loving God of the New only if you are clothed in Christ. That’s what salvation is all about after all – saving you from the terrible wrath of God.

And that was just from 1 verse.

10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. … 15 My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: 16 For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. … 18 And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. 19 So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

The next important section of the chapter is an admonition to flee from evil. Not only should you flee evil because you know and fear God, but because no good can come from it. Obviously. A lot of the bad people do is done to get more money, but according to these verses the actions you undertake are really just a way for you to spill your own blood, destroy your own life. No get-rich-quick scheme is without a catch, no rule-breaking without consequence. Let the fear of God keep you from the company of evil-doers, and let the power that comes with the name of Christ keep you from doing evil, from giving into temptation.

23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

It’s not all bad news though. If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, you have undoubtedly experienced what I like to call ‘the believer’s high’. If you turn away from evil, badness and wickedness, if you seek the face of God and His counsel, He will pour out His Spirit upon you and you will live a life free from fear of evil. More to the point though, God will begin to reveal Himself to you and you will know, really know, what a personal relationship with the Almighty looks and feels like. That moment when you realise that something has happened that can only be explained in terms of God is a beautiful, affirming moment. It’s a pity that we are a fallen people and we quickly lose that awe and return to our old ways – a great pity indeed, but that is where the book of Proverbs comes in. The entire book exists to help you design and live a ‘right’ life. I hope you will join me as I blog and pray my way through the Proverbs of Solomon. It is my prayer that you find these posts helpful, useful and encouraging. And finally…

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