“My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste. In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short.” Proverbs 24:13&14 NLT
I think about the little old lady who sits near me at church. Her face seems to exude wisdom, shining from her soul. I see her raising her hands in worship and wonder what her story is. She has a quiet trust about her. I am thankful for the wisdom of Christians who are farther along in their walk with the Lord than me. For their example and faith.
“A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” Proverbs 25:28 NLT
What am I letting into my soul that might be causing me to lack self-control?
“Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry. Trustworthy messengers refresh like snow in the summer. They revive the the spirit of their employer.” Proverbs 25:12-14 NLT
Lord, give me discernment to know when to offer advice. As well as to listen when someone offers criticism. I think of all the times I have been too easily offended. Help me to keep my heart open to hear what You might be saying through a trusted friend or mentor.
“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” Proverbs 27:9 NLT
Dear Father, Thank you that I can pray for wisdom and you will freely give it. Thank for for your Holy Spirit who counsels me in all things. Amen.
Some friends of mine are doing a challenge and asked me to be part of it. For 75 days, there’s a list of things they need to accomplish (exercise, food choices, reading, etc), or they have to restart. Seventy-five days is roughly two and a half months. I looked at the list of things. It was the mental (and physical) boost I was looking for because my current efforts felt stagnant. The tasks seemed reasonable. I joined them. Of the 25 of us in the group, several have not shared their progress, and in a smaller segment of seven people, a few of us have had to start over. That “us” includes me. Drinking a gallon of water a day was not as easy as I thought.
28 Now Jeroboam was a man of standing, and when Solomon saw how well the young man did his work, he put him in charge of the whole labor force of the tribes of Joseph. (1 Kings 11:28, NIV)
Solomon puts Jeroboam in charge of the whole labor force. A prophet encounters Jeroboam with a word from the Lord. I focus in on this part, mostly because I’ve seen it so many times in scripture.
37 However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 38 If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. (1 Kings 11:37-38, NIV)
The Lord is always clear about the terms. “If you do (this), I will do (this).” How many rulers were known for their obedience and heart for the Lord? A good amount. This tells me that what God requires is not only reasonable, it’s attainable.
When I read the scriptures from a distance of a couple thousand years, I can shake my head at what sometimes seems inevitable: a leader’s fall, an evil lineage, a poor choice. When God’s requirements resulted in a relationship with him that bore fruit, why would people choose over and over again to do the wrong thing?
26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”
28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other. (1 Kings 12:26-30, NIV, emphasis added)
I also thought of the 75-day challenge. I thought of the people who failed and quit. I thought of myself for the restarts. It seemed easy enough: just do (this) and experience/develop/achieve (this). There is a parallel between this story of a king and the story of a challenge.
So what do I glean from the reading? Big feelings can redirect a focus: doubt, fear, power, greed, anger, jealousy–even sneakier feelings like laziness and apathy can cause a downfall. Jeroboam’s fear for his life and his status caused to him to doubt or forget God’s promise to him. Not only did he seek out poor counsel, but he did not uphold his part in the relationship (obedience to God).
I think about my choices … the sometimes defeating thoughts in my mind … feelings of futility … plateaus in progress. Who and what are the advisors in my life? A friend reminded me that news sources, groups and other social media can influence as much as a close friend. Not only do I need to be careful about what I think, but I need to be careful about what I feed my thoughts with. If these outside influences have such a powerful effect on me, who is really to blame? If a leader can choose obedience to God, and a person can successfully adhere to the guidelines of a program, then in the end, it comes down to personal accountability.
Lord, help me to hear you and see you first. Whether it’s the latest chaos in the world or the doubting and defeating thoughts in my head, help me to cut through the distraction and maintain a focus on you. It is possible to be obedient and self-controlled. Surround me with those who are for you. Help me to guard my heart.
I have a goal planner that breaks goals down into “monthly” (big picture), “weekly,” and “daily” (habit building) activities. Sometimes I can get so focused on the daily habits that I lose sight of the big picture purpose. It takes effort for me to keep a big picture focus. And not just with goals, sometimes I can get caught up in a detail or distraction of circumstance, and then find myself off course of a kingdom focus.
Joab is in pursuit of Sheba, a man who turned against David.
19 “We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?”
20 “Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bikri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.” (2 Samuel 20:19-21, NIV)
Joab keeps his focus: he was after Sheba, not intent on destroying an entire community. That type of focus is a sign of discipline, self-control, and maturity. Joab kept his word and left once he obtained his goal. (Also very impressed with the “wise woman” who cut through all the distraction of an army to get to the point, avoiding mass casualties and destruction.)
During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” (2 Samuel 21:1, NIV)
In the detail of the immediate (a famine), a bigger picture is revealed (the consequences of Saul’s actions as catalyst). Not only am I impressed by David seeking the Lord’s face, but I also notice that God uses immediate issues (like a famine) to bring about (bigger picture) justice. It would take a man after God’s heart to go deeper, to seek understanding, and then have the ability to take action.
But I linger longest in these verses, slowing to take in the meaning. David’s song of praise, of all that the Lord has done for him, and how David lives his life in response.
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, 27 to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. 28 You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. 29 You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. 30 With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
31 “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. 32 For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? 33 It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. (2 Samuel 22:26-33, NIV)
Lord, how often do I lose you in the details? How often do I forget to see with a kingdom focus? I pray that it would be my habit to praise you daily, to seek your face, to give you glory, and to live with discipline, self-control and maturity. May I not be moved by emotions and distractions, but instead live like the “wise woman” who keeps an end goal in mind, despite the circumstances.
Had Abigail not intervened, David’s response would have been swift and severe. He recognizes, however, that her intervention was from/by/through God, and he gives praise where it’s due. In one moment, he is stirred to slaughter, but in the next, he exercises great control and submission to God. Two very powerful stances. In the heat of a moment, I wonder, would I choose words and actions rooted in the intensity of the moment or would I relinquish my passions in obedience to the Lord? In this reading, I emphasize God’s sovereignty. He sees a big picture. I see just a fraction.
32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” (1 Samuel 25:32-34, NIV, emphasis added)
God handles things in the big picture. I can walk away when he calls me elsewhere. I can trust he’s working all things out.
38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died. (1 Samuel 25:38, NIV, emphasis added)
David stood over sleeping Saul and exercises restraint through humility. Lord, am I humble to the point of leaving things in your hands? Am I confident in you or myself?
23 The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.” (1 Samuel 26:23-24, NIV, emphasis added)
In a time of trouble, Saul consults a medium, to consult the ghost of dead man. And Samuel’s spirit gives all sovereignty, power, and glory to God.
16 Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. 18 Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. 19 The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 28:16-19, NIV, emphasis added)
In a time of trouble, David holds to the ephod to inquire of the Lord.
7 Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, “Bring me the ephod.” Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” (1 Samuel 30:7-8, NIV, emphasis added)
These scriptures are timelessly relevant. Human passion, emotion, and weakness are still the same. And so is my God–still the same. Trustworthy. Sovereign. Mighty. Just.
Father God, I’m thankful that your example shows me over and over again of who you are. My emotions can be fierce and fleeting, based on limited information and charged by my own bias. But you see the full picture, around the world, beginning to end. I pray that I always seek you, rely on you, honor you, and glorify you by word and action. I want to grow to maturity in you, with evidence of your hand and guidance in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I took a Saturday self-defense workshop recently. I learned a lot (I’ve forgotten a lot, too!). Our group had hands-on practice and drills. At the end of the session, we formed a circle, and one by one, each of us took a turn in the center to “battle” those of us forming the outside ring with kicks and punches. It was a simulation of a situation where one stood against several. The instructor had a way of encouraging us to take action when we hesitated. He bellowed loudly, forcefully, and commanded, “GO!”
I think on moments in life when I had felt uncertainty, fear, hesitation, intimidation. Moments (at a table instead of encircled in an alley) where I had to face a foe–whether human or situational: to take on a responsibility, to address a conflict, to speak truth, to be accountable. In some of the most stressful moments of my life, I can practically guarantee that I wouldn’t have wanted to be there. But want or not, there I was.
Paul found himself in situations I could only describe as outrageous. How many times had he stared death in the eye? How many times did he go head-to-head with evil? He spoke from experience and reality. I read his words in The Message:
Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,
I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help.
Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.
11-13 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (2 Corinthians 6:1-13, MSG)
Paul didn’t waste words. There’s a lot he wanted to share, and his message is concise and urgent.
Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, MSG)
Lord, help me to carry your word with me every day of the week.
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