Being tested?

As the refining pot for silver and the furnace for gold [bring forth all the impurities of the metal], so let a man be in his trial of praise [ridding himself of all that is base or insincere; for a man is judged by what he praises and of what he boasts]. ~Proverbs 27:21 AMP

Refining PotAre you being tested? Whether you recognize it or not, the correct answer is “yes.” This verse in the book of Proverbs, made all the more interesting by the fact that various English translations actually reveal different shades of meaning, speaks to how you are being tested.

Those who work with precious metals know that heating the metal allows impurities to separate from the silver or gold. The result is a more pure, more valuable end product. In the same way, as the crucible of life crushes impurities out of your life, you become more pure.

Every Christian must seek to become more and more like Jesus in character, thought and behavior. This doesn’t make God love you more – all people are loved perfectly by God, even before the beginning of their conscious lives. But living in righteousness and purity can enable you to be more effective in kingdom work.

In The Amplified Version above, the second part of the verse teaches that you are gauged by what you praise or boast about. But consider this rendering, from the New International Version (1984):

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.

In this translation, the verse says that you are tested not by what you praise, but by the praise you receive.

Regardless of which interpretation you consider, both offer a worthy way to measure yourself. On the one hand, ask yourself, “What is it that I continually speak of?” Are you bragging about yourself all the time, or about God and what he has done in your life?

On the other hand, ask yourself, “How do I respond when people say really nice things to me or about me?” When people pay you a compliment, how do you respond? Are you able to give God the glory for the good things people notice in you? Or do you reserve the praise only for yourself?

As you spend time with the Lord today, seek the humility of Christ and an appropriate opinion of your self-worth. May you be able to praise Jesus, who lives and reigns forever, in all things!

Advertisements

Don’t fuel the fire

Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood. ~Proverbs 26:20-21 NLT

“Tale-bearers are as bad as the tale-makers.” ~Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Are you a person given to gossip?

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “gossip” as:

  1. Rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature.
  2. A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts.
  3. Trivial, chatty talk or writing.

embersAccording to this verse, gossip causes quarrels. And the arguments all seem to evaporate when the gossip ceases.

Your speech is important to the Lord. Consider the wisdom offered in 1 Peter 3:10:

For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.”

Since gossip leads to quarreling. it should be considered an evil of the tongue. By dealing in rumors, you may be adding fuel to the fire of a quarrel without even realizing it. If you are the one whispering intimate or private rumors – or even facts – stop.

Feeling refreshed?

Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. ~Proverbs 25:25 ESV

water splash in a glassThere’s nothing so refreshing as a drink of cold water when you’re really thirsty. It’s refreshing, and somehow truly satisfying.

It’s no surprise that your body craves water. A majority of the typical human body weight is actually water. According to Dr. Arthur C. Guyton’s Textbook of Medical Physiology:

The total amount of water in a man of average weight (154 lbs) is approximately 42 quarts, averaging 57 percent of his total body weight. In a newborn infant, this may be as high as 75 percent of the body weight, but it progressively decreases from birth to old age, most of the decrease occurring during the first ten years of life.

This verse likens a good word from far away to a refreshing drink of water.

Have you ever received a good word from a friend or family member far away? Not so many years ago – before instantaneous communication made possible by the Internet and email – a phone call from over overseas was an expensive, big deal. A few years before that, a long distance call within the United States was expensive and somewhat extraordinary.

Imagine what it must have been like for Christian missionaries leaving their home in the 19th century. They traveled for weeks by boat to reach their destination. And once there, letters were the only means of communication with people they knew and loved. Many weeks might pass before the recipient opened the letter and read an encouraging word from the sender. But think how his sister, Amelia, must have felt when she did read Hudson Taylor’s letter about his efforts to reach China for Christ.

When Jesus began his earthly ministry, he traveled throughout Israel, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand. As you study the four Gospels, you’ll find the writers refer many times to Jesus speaking of God’s kingdom, and frequently this is tied to the phrase “good news” or “gospel,” (which actually means “good news”).

God’s story begins with creation and culminates in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as a substitutionary death for all who would be reconciled to God. This is not only good news from far away, it is the best news anyone can ever hear!

Jesus promised that when he left earth and returned to heaven, he would prepare a place for you. It must be some place:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. ~John 14:1-3

Good news, indeed. Feeling refreshed?

Look, and receive instruction

I went by the field of a slacker and by the vineyard of a man lacking sense. Thistles had come up everywhere, weeds covered the ground, and the stone wall was ruined. I saw, and took it to heart; I looked, and received instruction: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest, and your poverty will come like a robber, your need, like a bandit. ~Proverbs 24:30-34 HCSB

Old Stone WallDo you consider yourself an observant person? Everyday sights can contain subtle messages from the Lord. According to this passage, the writer looked, and received instruction.”

As you pass by a field, the writer deduces that the owner is a slacker – a lazy person. How? Because undesirable plants like weeds and thistles are everywhere. Even the stone wall, built to last for generations, is in disrepair. Just like the wall, the ground has been abandoned, allowing nature to run its course.

Sleep is a good thing, and God promises rest to those who place their trust in him:

In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. ~Psalm 127:2

But too much slumber may be a sign of laziness. And according to these verses, laziness leads to poverty and ruin.

Consider the condition of your spiritual fields today. Are the walls in good shape, or overgrown and collapsing? Are weeds overtaking the grass, or are there signs that the owner is taking care of the fields? Things tend to fall apart when neglected. Heed the advice offered in Proverbs 27:23-24, and keep a close eye on your own world:

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.

Their Redeemer is strong

Do not move the ancient boundary Or go into the fields of the fatherless, For their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you. ~Proverbs 23:10-11 NASB

Ruth GleaningAccording to Old Testament Mosaic law, a kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, in danger, or in need. The Hebrew term (go el or goalam) can mean one who delivers or rescues, such as in Genesis 48:16:

the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth.”

It can also mean redeeming property or person, as described in Leviticus 27:16-21:

“‘If a man dedicates to the Lord part of his family land, its value is to be set according to the amount of seed required for it—fifty shekels of silver to a homer of barley seed. If he dedicates his field during the Year of Jubilee, the value that has been set remains. But if he dedicates his field after the Jubilee, the priest will determine the value according to the number of years that remain until the next Year of Jubilee, and its set value will be reduced. If the man who dedicates the field wishes to redeem it, he must add a fifth to its value, and the field will again become his. If, however, he does not redeem the field, or if he has sold it to someone else, it can never be redeemed. When the field is released in the Jubilee, it will become holy, like a field devoted to the Lord; it will become the property of the priests.

So this passage warns you not to take anything that  belongs to someone else just because you imagine them to be weak. The fatherless have God himself as their kinsman redeemer. If you try to take advantage of them weak, you will find your actual adversary infinitely more formidable than you imagined.

In addition to redeeming a field or estate, a kinsman-redeemer could also avenge the blood of a murdered relative (by slaying the murderer). He was expected to marry his brother’s widow, if he died childless, in order to preserve the family.

The redeemer’s strength mentioned here refers not to physical prowess, but to the justness of his claim, the extent of his influence, and the powerful abettors of such a cause. Orphans have no human kinsman, so the Lord of Hosts takes up, vindicates, and avenges their cause.

Ruth 2:1-20 offers insight into the Old Testament Jewish concept of the kinsman redeemer:

Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, from the clan of Elimelech, a man of standing, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they called back. Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?” The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”

So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.”  At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”

When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”

So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough. 

Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said. “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.”

If you’re a Christ-follower, you have been adopted into God’s family. Jesus is your kinsman-redeemer, having rescued you when you were in great danger. He pleads your case effectively before the Father, defending you against the constant accusations of the enemy. Give thanks to God your Redeemer today as Nicole C. Mullen sings:

Avoid the treacherous road

Corrupt people walk a thorny, treacherous road; whoever values life will avoid it. ~Proverbs 22:5 NLT

Thorn BushesIf you’ve ever encountered thorn bushes while walking through a field, you know what a painful experience that can be. No matter how slowly or carefully you move, sharp, needle-like thorns pierce your clothing, scratch your skin, and slow – or even stop – your progress.

Like many verses in the book of Proverbs, this one offers simple insight about the realities of life: The road traveled by a person lacking in integrity is both thorny and treacherous.

According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word “corrupt” can mean:

  1. lacking in integrity; open to or involving bribery or other dishonest practices
  2. morally depraved
  3. putrid or rotten
  4. contaminated; unclean

The Lord takes notice of corruption, and will act against it. In Genesis 6 you can read the story of how Noah survived the great flood. Verses 11-12, however, make it clear that God saw just how morally depraved people had become:

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.

You know the story. Noah found favor in God’s eyes. He and his family were spared when the Creator undid much of his creation. In similar fashion, you can avoid many painful experiences in life by avoiding corruption.

Proverbs 22:5 is a warning. Sacrifice your integrity, live according to the world’s influences instead of scripture, adopt a lifestyle of hedonism, or walk away from God’s wisdom – any of these choices will result in you walking a most difficult path through life. If you value life, decide today to avoid corruption.

Pray for the President

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. ~Proverbs 21:1 KJV

Intercessory PrayerPresident Barack Obama isn’t a king, but he is the highest-level elected political leader of the United States of America. He begins his second four-year term as President today. This verse serves as a reminder that even a king’s heart is subject to the direction of the One True Living God.

In Daniel 2:20-21, the Bible explains that God himself is the one who establishes earthly authorities. Consider this statement, spoken as Daniel praised the Lord for answering his prayers about an interpretation of the king’s dream:

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them.

Just as Daniel did, Christians believe that God listens to and answers prayers:

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. ~Psalm 5:3

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. ~Psalm 40:1

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. ~Matthew 8:2-3

We are commanded in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 to pray for our President and other 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.

Many politicians have changed their views on key issues while in office. In the 19th century, some leaders who favored slavery later denounced it. In the 1950s some who opposed racial integration later became champions of it. President Obama was elected, in part, because of his radical support for abortion. But the Lord could soften and change his heart at any time.

Determine today to do your part as one subject to various elected and appointed authorities. Pray for them regularly. Plead with the Lord to direct the President’s heart – and the hearts of other leaders – in the way God sees best.