Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Word Study Wednesday: Introduction to the Proverbs 31 Woman

For many years now I have admired - and at times resented - the Proverbs 31 woman. She's described as a woman who fears the Lord as well as an excellent wife worth more than precious jewels. The chapter continues to describe her character and her actions. For the next few Word Study Wednesdays, I want to focus on this virtuous woman - comparing her lifestyle to the way we live today. Though written thousands of years ago, I believe we can learn from her.

I've always enjoyed reading about this woman because it gives me an idea of what a godly woman looks like. Though at times we are given glimpses of other women in the Bible, they seem to remain mysterious. This chapter reveals a godly woman's life, which I find interesting.

As I mentioned earlier, I have also resented this woman. It usually occurs during those times where I feel inadequate. She seems like a superhero, doing everything perfectly. I have days where I can barely get my act together.

I want this study to be encouraging and uplifting. I want to look at the Proverbs 31 woman as a role-model or at least an example of how a godly woman lives her life. I don't want to be intimidated by her anymore, only encouraged.

What are your thoughts about the Proverbs 31 woman? I know I am looking forward to delving into her life and gaining insight that will help me on my journey with the Lord.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Word Study: Healing our Land

Second Chronicles 7:14: "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (ESV)

Let's set the context of this verse: Solomon had finished building the Temple. The Israelites spent 23 days celebrating, feasting, observing the Day of Atonement and the Feast of the Tabernacles to dedicate the temple to Lord. Later, the Lord spoke to Solomon. He told Solomon He had chosen and consecrated the Temple as a "house of sacrifice" and that He would answer the prayers of His people when said in this holy place.

Though these words were spoken thousands of years ago, I believe they still apply today. When I observe our country as a whole, I'm saddened. Vitriol, anger, selfishness, and pride seem to override acts of love, patience, selflessness, and humility. Some degrade themselves by appearing on reality shows requiring them to be humiliated for fame. Others manipulate situations for their own gain. While still others burst into anger when they feel they've been wronged somehow.

I'm just as guilty as the next person. I quickly lose my temper when someone cuts me off in traffic (which is often). I'm sometimes drawn into the spectacle (or is it debacle?) of reality tv. And yes, I'm still guilty of wasting time.

The scary thing is how these shifts in attitudes seemed to have spread. I know greed and pride and other sins have been around since Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden. It just seems to be more intense now. It's like a black fog spreading quickly across the land. Maybe it's because we're not spending our days worshipping the Father.

Which leads me to another point that struck me while reading not only this verse, but the verses prior to it. The Israelites spent 23 days dedicating the Temple. Twenty-three days. That's just over three weeks. I am not aware of anything in this day and age where we as Christians are gathered together worshipping and celebrating the Lord for 23 days. Maybe that's where we have it wrong. I mean, yes, we may do something like that on our own as individuals, but I mean collectively (I know people observe Lent, but not every denomination focuses on the fasting and self-reflection. If you know of anything else, I would like to hear about it).

We can't change the world. Only God can. We can be the salt He has asked us to be though. We can live our lives worshipping Him and showing love and patience at all times. We can come together and pray for our country. There is hope when we humble ourselves before the Lord, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways. He will hear us and He will heal our land.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Word Study Wednesday: Knowledge

Hosea 4:6a: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."

As I grew up, I watched my mom sit down at the kitchen table with her Bible (sometimes with more than one version), concordance, dictionary, commentary, and a notebook and pour through scripture. Later, these skills I learned from my Mom were reinforced by my church. I'm grateful because my mom and my church provided me with tools to gain Godly knowledge.

Why is it important for us to know the Word of the Lord? To begin with, it leads to truth. There are so many misconceptions in the world regarding what the Bible has to say. For example, many believe the saying "God helps those who help themselves" is in the Bible. It's not - this quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. How can we truly follow the Lord if we do not know what His word says? If I lived my life trying to help myself, then it would be a flawed endeavor because I am human.

Next, it's important to have Godly knowledge so that we are not misled by the good or bad intentions of others. Hosea 4:6 originally applied to the Israelite priests (God was admonishing them for leading His people astray), but I feel it applies to all of us now. How many people have been led astray because they lacked knowledge and followed those who claimed to have knowledge? In Luke 11:52, Jesus admonishes the lawyers (according to my footnote in my ESV Bible, it is another phrase for the "scribes of the pharisees") who have taken the "key of knowledge" away from others. According to the Matthew Henry Commentary, these lawyers perverted the scriptures by adding their own interpretations.

Finally, knowledge is a supplement to our faith. Second Peter 2:5-7 says: "For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love." Peter continues in verse 8 explaining that these virtues keep us from being "unfruitful in the knowledge" of Jesus. I know I want to live a fruitful life (see my previous post about The Pruning Season) and knowing and living the way God wants me to will help me accomplish this.

He gives us knowledge and wisdom when we seek Him (Proverbs 2), but we have to be active participants. It makes us wise to those who may try to lead us astray and it adds to our faith. It keeps us fruitful and it brings us closer to the Lord. I pray we gain knowledge so that we are not destroyed.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Word Study Wednesday: Wasting Time

I recently started reading Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. I haven't read that much yet, but so far it is an interesting read. One part though has stood out because it seems to apply to me: wasting time. Miller claims it's the devil's greatest way of derailing us from our purpose. I agree. I quickly lose focus on my purpose because I get distracted by little things that have no eternal value. I'm talking about checking email when I should be folding laundry (folding laundry is a service to my family) or watching tv instead of writing. Think about it - if my purpose is to write and glorify God with my writing and I'm watching television instead, is God glorified?

Paul warned the Ephesians about wasting time as well. In Ephesians 5:14b - 16, it says: "'Awake, o sleeper, and arise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.' Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (ESV)

I like the way Matthew Henry's Commentary explains it: "Our time is a talent given us by God for some good end, and it is misspent and lost when it is not employed according to his design." (Matthew Henry's Commentary; pg. 1856) That brings me more than a twinge of guilt for all of the time I have wasted. We must take advantage of the time the Lord has given us.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got stuck in a routine that did not include my full purpose. After our move, I truly understood the meaning of "Awake o sleeper..." I felt as if I had been sleepwalking through life. That is not how the Lord wants us to live. He wants us to worship Him, fellowship with Him and others, walk with Him, with purpose and intent. He wants us awake to enjoy the grace He has bestowed upon us and to share it with others. He wants us to see the hurt others carry and do something to alleviate their burdens. He wants us to laugh and play with our children. He wants our hearts and our full attention.

The enemy wants to distract us from our true purpose. Let us be wise to his ways and be prepared for battle. Let us also be awake - no battles are won while sleeping.

Finally Settled and Chasing Discipline

Boxes are unpacked and items are put away - finally! Our house is looking more like a home now. This move has been an enlightening experience and I admit to feeling overwhelmed a few times.

The need for discpline has hit me again. By nature, I procrastinate. I set things aside and tell myself I will handle them later. This is not news to me. As we cleaned closets, drawers, and cabinets before putting our home on the market, I realized how my procrastination has spun out of control. Several times I wanted to quit and melt into a puddle instead of dealing with the mountain of junk. If I had been disciplined in dealing with my stuff at the time, instead of putting it aside, I wouldn't have stressed myself out (moving is stressful enough without adding to it).

This past year has been a lesson in discipline and how I lack it. I'll be honest - my undisciplined life has led me to unhappiness and unnecessary stress. My lack of discipline with eating and exercise has led me to being overweight and lacking energy. My lack of discipline in managing my household has led to a cluttered home offering no respite from the world, but only more stress. The worst part is, my lack of discipline not only affects me, but my family as well.

Hebrews 12:11 says: "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (ESV) I admit I do not like exercising and I do not like cleaning. But I know if I do these things then I will be healthy and my home will be a comfortable home, offering rest not stress.

Discipline is not elusive, but rather challenging since it requires discpline to practice discipline. So here is my action plan - pray, pray, pray. If the Lord wants me to have discipline, then I will have it. All it requires on my part is a daily surrender of my self and faith in Him.

Are there any areas in your life requiring discipline? Or, are you one of those who practices discipline? If so, could you share some of your ideas and tips to help those of us lacking discipline?