Small, yet wise

Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: the ants are not a strong people, yet they store up their food in the summer; hyraxes are not a mighty people, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; locusts have no king, yet all of them march in ranks; a lizard can be caught in your hands, yet it lives in kings’ palaces. ~Proverbs 30:24-28 HCSB

HyraxIn these four verses, God encourages you to look for spiritual truth in the animal world. Jesus often used animals as illustrations when imparting spiritual lessons to his followers:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? ~Matthew 6:26

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. ~Matthew 10:16

Ants work hard to store up their food during the right season. Instinctively, they know that a time is coming when food will be difficult or impossible to find. Similarly, Christians should be aware that a day is coming when it will be too late to work in the Lord’s harvest fields. According to 2 Cortinthians 6:2, today is a day for work:

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

“Hyraxes,” also translated as conies, rock rabbits, or rock badgers, look like rodents. But these unusual animals – found in Africa and parts of Asia – are actually more closely related to elephants and manatees. The size of a small dog, a hyrax has hooves capped with moist, padded skin, which it uses like suction cups to climb, navigating rocks, trees, and a variety of other terrains.

The point made in this passage is that hyraxes are wise enough to take advantage of the protection God offers them. A Christian lives in dangerous terrain, but Psalm 18:2 says the Lord offers you shelter:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Locusts demonstrate the power of unity. A single locust is of little consequence. But a swarm can competely devestate many square miles of vegetation. Jesus himself prayed that his followers would be unified. And in 1 Corinthians 1:10, the apostle Paul reminds the reader of the importance of unity among believers:

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

The lizard cited in verse 28 demonstrates boldness. Although it is small, and can easily be caught, it has the audacity to move right inside the king’s palace. 1 Timothy 1:7 reminds you that a Christian should also be marked by wise boldness:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Perhaps you consider yourself to be a small person – of little reputation or influence. This passage encourages you to remember that godly wisdom is much more important than physical stature or fame.

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Strife or peace?

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. ~Proverbs 29:22 ESV

Do you know someone who has a reputation as a strife-stirrer? Perhaps you have been the one who caused friction between or with others.

Synonyms for strife include conflict, battle, struggle, row, clash, clashes, contest, controversy, combat, warfare, rivalry, contention, quarrel, friction, squabbling, wrangling, bickering, animosity, discord, and dissension. None of these are listed as fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Strife would seem to be quite the opposite of peace. In John 14:26-27, Jesus describes peace that is found only through a personal relationship with him:

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Paul ends his second letter to the church at Thessalonica with this benediction in chapter 3, verse 16:

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

If you know a person given to anger and contention, stay away from them. The transgression they cause in abundance will affect you – and not for the better. Pray for them – from a safe distance.

If you are the source of conflict, repent (change your mind), and gain control of your anger. Ask the Lord of peace to forgive you of that sinful behavior, and replace it with the peace that only Jesus provides. His promise is that you can live in peace “at all times and in every way.”

A land of transgression

When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but when the ruler is a man of discernment, understanding, and knowledge, its stability will long continue. ~Proverbs 28:2 AMP

The United States of America was founded by men who, for the most part, embraced the teachings of the Bible. Judeo-Christian morals and values informed their decisions about how 13 colonies would govern themselves after winning independence from Great Britain.

But as a society, the US has fallen dramatically. We have become a people of licentiousness, blasphemy, and excessive sin. Our collective transgressions against God’s laws continue to mount, and we are not even close to repentance. Sadly, this is true, to a degree, even within the Church.

  • Although the divorce rate among self-professed Christians is lower than American society as a whole, more than one-third of Christian marriages in America end in divorce.
  • Abortion is legal, and widely practiced in all 50 US states.
  • Homicide rates are far higher in the USA than any other nation.
  • Sexual immorality (including adultery) is excused and even celebrated, rather than condemned.
  • Religious illiteracy is at an all-time high among Americans. Most of our citizens are completely ignorant of the teachings of the Bible. Even believers fail to read the Bible for themselves regularly.

Blasphemy is defined as “an act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for a religious deity, or irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things.” Consider this astonishing, blasphemous statement by actor Jamie Foxx, in which he names the President as “our Lord and Savior.”

This post is not intended as a condemnation of any particular person or statement, but rather a broad lament that our culture has descended to a point where anyone would call a politician “Lord and Savior” – a title reserved exclusively for Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:1-6 clearly instructs believers to pray for their leaders:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time.

Godly leaders make it possible for us to live peaceful lives. We encourage you to pray today for our nation and our leaders. Pray that people’s hearts will be turned toward the real Lord and Savior, Jesus. Ask God to strengthen and encourage believers who are faithfully witnessing to others today about their faith in the One, True, Living God – Jesus. And intercede for all of those in authority over you, asking God to show them mercy and draw them to himself. Ask the Lord to give us leaders who possess a strong faith in God.

Know your king

A king detests wrongdoing, for his rule is built on justice. The king is pleased with words from righteous lips; he loves those who speak honestly. The anger of the king is a deadly threat; the wise will try to appease it. When the king smiles, there is life; his favor refreshes like a spring rain. ~Proverbs 16:12-15 NLT

These four verses provide fascinating insight into the motivations and mindset of a monarch – or perhaps, more accurately, what should be the motivations and mindset of a ruler.

  • First, a real leader is aware of justice. This implies an equal awareness of injustice. Verse 12 even states that a king “detests wrongdoing.”
  • Second, an authentic ruler loves people who speak honestly with others. The very words from the lips of people who are righteous are pleasing to a king.
  • Third, when a monarch is truly angry, wise people do all they can to calm and quiet that emotion. Because a king has great power over others, unchecked anger can be fatal – for his subjects. Exodus 32:9-14 explains how Moses once interceded successfully with an angry God on behalf of the people of Israel:

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

  • And fourth, when a ruler casts his or her favor on you, it has the refreshing effect of a cleansing spring rain.

The Bible says Jesus Christ is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He detests wrongdoing, and his reign is just. Jesus loves those who speak without deception. His anger is rare, but thoroughly righteous. When Jesus smiles, there is life; his favor is the definition of refreshment.

Have you acknowledged that Jesus Christ is your king today?

Treasure without trouble

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it. ~Proverbs 15:16-17 ESV  

In this season of Thanksgiving, these verses help provide some much-needed perspective.

Curious how your annual income compares with everyone else in the world? If your annual income is $45,000 a year – the median US household income – you’re among the top 1.7% of earners worldwide. (Try visiting www.globalrichlist.com to see how wealthy you really are.)

North Americans are without doubt the wealthiest, most materialistic culture ever to appear upon the earth. Yet despite our great financial wealth, ours is a society suffering desperate poverty when it comes to godliness, inner peace, and contentment.

Consider these statistics on domestic violence in the United States, provided by the Office of the Clark County, Indiana, Prosecuting Attorney:

  • One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
  • Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States – more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • There are 1,500 shelters for battered women in the United States. There are 3,800 animal shelters.
  • Many batterers learned violent behavior growing up in an abusive family.

These simple facts that describe how some Americans treat women sound a lot like “great treasure and trouble with it.” Of course, most American men are not beating up their wives or girlfriends. But we cite these numbers to illustrate the fact that America is full of trouble and hate, because we are lacking in the fruit of the Spirit, described in Galatians 5:19-23:

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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Quite a contrast. And sadly, the former characterizes American culture more than the latter.

In 1 Timothy 6:6, the apostle Paul asserts, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” If you are a Christian, is your life marked by the fruit of the Spirit? Or have the acts of the sinful nature begun to dominate your daily life? What will you do today to allow the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in your life?

We are disgraced

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. ~Proverbs 14:34 HCSB

National elections include more television and radio commercials than you can count. The speeches are seemingly endless. Candidates promise that electing them will make your life happier, make your life circumstances better, and bring order to the universe.

What does God think of all this posturing and pretension? Probably not much.

Scripture does tell us, however, that those in authority over us are placed there through God’s divine direction. We are encouraged to obey our civil authorities. Consider Romans 13:1-7:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

But what are Christians to do when our society is content to allow – or even embrace – great evil? Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Roe v. Wade that the Constitution included a previously well-hidden “right” to abortion, Americans have killed more than 50 million unborn children.

In Genesis 4, God confronts Cain after he murdered his brother, Abel. In verses 9 and 10, The Lord explains to Abel that what he thought he had done in secret is no secret to God:

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

“Listen.” Can you hear it?

The ground we call the United States of America is soaked with the blood of 50 million victims of abortion. Like Cain, we pretend not to know anything about it. But killing unborn babies is sin, and Americans are disgraced because of it.

Do you value the scriptures?

Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded. ~Proverbs 13:13 KJV

Do you value the scriptures? Is the Bible important to you? Important enough to read it? Significant enough to meditate on the words? Valuable enough to memorize portions of it?

Proverbs 13:13 reminds you that viewing God’s word with disdain leads to destruction. People who reject the wisdom of the scriptures for everyday living – not to mention understanding how to live eternally – are destined for misery, rejection, sadness, despair and disillusionment.

So what, exactly, does it mean to “fear” God’s commandments? It doesn’t mean cowering in a corner because you’re frightened of God or his instructions. This idea might be better expressed in 21st century English as “having a healthy respect for God’s word.” You show respect for God’s word by reading it, pondering its meaning, praying through it, and seeking to apply it in your life.

Take God’s word seriously, because the God himself takes it seriously. In Psalm 138:2, the Lord allows us a glimpse into his perspective on the importance of his word:

I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

He has elevated his word and his name above everything else. Everything else. That makes the Bible sound pretty important, doesn’t it?

Lastly, 2 Timothy 2:15 offers advice about how you are to handle the scriptures:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Are you committed to a daily time in God’s word? If not, what prevents you from it? Determine today to invest time in the scriptures, claiming God’s promise from Proverbs 13:13 that a reward awaits you.