PROVERBIAL APRIL, nearing the end, Proverbs 29
It seems now that we did it a lot, my dad and I, playing catch in the back yard, my little Manchester Chihuahua, José running back and forth with every throw.
Dad had played on the Monica Park church softball team.
Outfield. He could really run.
I don’t remember when it became a regular thing, so we must have started when I was pretty young.
The game was simple; throw the ball. Catch the ball.
I remember my dad’s quickness to catch my wild throws, sometimes having to leap high, stretching to keep that ball from going over the fence into the mouth of the neighbor’s slobbering boxer.
I could have played for hours. I never tired of the game.
Dad would mix it up. Grounders, fly balls.
“Be on the balls of your feet, knees bent, ready to go any direction.”
He would zip one to my right, I would stretch and sidearm the throw back to him.
“Runner’s out,” he would grin.
Pop fly, over my head. Back, back…
“Both hands whenever you can. Keeps the ball from popping out of your glove, and also makes you ready to throw the ball where it needs to go.”
Every once in a while, we would play burnout.
I would throw it as hard as I could. He would let it hit right in the palm of the glove, so it would pop, and take the glove off , shake his hand like it really did burn.
Then he would zing one back to me. I had learned to catch them in the webbing so they didn’t hurt, but, every once in a while, I would let it pop in the palm, take off my glove, and shake my hand up and down.
It really did burn.
On Saturdays, we would watch the New York Yankees on TV; Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Tom Tresh, Clete Boyer, Bobby Richardson, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford.
I learned the rules of the game from my dad. I learned the joy of playing by the rules, how to win. How to lose.
When I played, my dad would be in the stands. I could hear his voice, “ Two hands!”
“Be ready, balls of your feet.” “Keep your eyes on the ball.” “Good catch!” “Good throw!” “That’s my boy!”
He loved watching the son he loved playing the game he loved the way he taught him to play.
“A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father….”
Proverbs 29:3a NIV
When I was given new life from above, I discovered the God who made me, and learned the joy of being with him and hearing his lessons on how to live life, reading his book and learning more and more about his character.
He is a good Father.
I can hear Him in the stands, “Don’t be afraid, I’m here.” “Be alert, be ready.” “I’ve taught you this.” You can do this!” “You’re my son.”
He loves watching the son He loves, living the Life He gave him, the way He taught him to live
I came across an interesting little proverb today, one verse.
“Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.” Proverbs 27:11 NIV
We have all done it, carried pictures of our kids or grandkids and whipped them out whenever we saw someone we hadn’t seen in a while.
They used to be stuck in a wallet, but we found we could carry so many more in our phones.
But, we were proud of the pictures that represented the reality of our continuing legacy, our kids, our grandkids.
The love we held for them was unbreakable.
Wasn’t it easy to pull out these pictures when they were young, innocent, and not yet making the stupid choices we all end up making as we navigate the paths to our adulthood?
Here’s a concept.
Suppose this proverb is a direct quote from Almighty God.
And you are that son, or daughter. (It’s okay to substitute daughter.)
One of His enemies screams at Him, “If you are real show me some proof!”
His answer, “Have you considered my son or daughter (insert your name here)?”
Your life is evidence that God is good, that God is love, that God is mighty. (After all, He took that life when you were making all those stupid choices, and completely transformed your mind. That couldn’t have been easy.)
And now, I am that picture in His wallet that He uses to show His enemies that they, too, could be that picture in His wallet.
If He could change me,
Well, He can change anyone.
You are the proof of God.
When I learned that I couldn’t earn my way into God’s family, I sort of rebelled, thinking, ” Hey, I’m a pretty good guy, compared to him and her and him and him….”
I held onto that for quite some time.
I maintained the fantasy that God would love me just because I was a pretty dad gum good guy.
I couldn’t even tell that my heart was getting hard.
After all, I believed in God, (…you do well. The demons believe, and tremble. James 2:19)
but, I made all my own choices, keeping His teaching far, far from me.
My desire was for me, for what I wanted, my way.
Until that day, when my hard heart was shattered, I saw who I was, what I had become.
And I trembled as I prayed, “I am yours.”
That’s when the job description changed.
That day, I heard his voice and I did not harden my heart. (Hebrews3: 7, 8a)
The blessings came as my eyes and ears opened to that Voice that kept on speaking through the years.
Instructions on “working my land” (making my life a living sacrifice) started singing to my heart, and I found myself wanting to please the One who had quickened my heart to a new way of thinking, of living.
But, oh, the riches that followed, the Joy that ensued,
The pleasure of pleasing the One who loves me,
What more could I need?
“Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.”
Proverbs 28:14, 19 NIV
I only wonder why it took me so many years.
I prayed. Sort of.
I found that answer today, as well.
“If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.”
Proverbs 28:9 NIV
I recently heard that the responsibility of the press is to look for inconsistencies in the government leaders and to hold them accountable.
That seems right, doesn’t it?
But isn’t there some responsibility of the press to ask the hard questions to all members of government, even the side that they support.
And isn’t there a responsibility to report the actions of the leaders when they get it right?
And isn’t the whole purpose of the press to expose the lies, and seek after the truth?
And us, don’t we have the same responsibility?
To seek the Truth above all else?
To allow wisdom and knowledge and the ability to “search out a matter” to lead us into a wise understanding of what is going on in the world we live in.
Sometimes, it is hard to find the truth.
Sometimes you have to think, “ What is not being said, and why is it not being said.”
We have to be careful who we believe.
And we have to be careful to love first.
And we need to be mindful of who the true enemy is.
“Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit.
Though their speech is charming, do not believe them, for seven abominations fill their hearts.
Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.”
Proverbs 26:24-26 NIV
April 26, 2017
When I was a kid, probably nine or ten, I decided to buy some Christmas presents. I didn’t have much money, so I was with my mom in Big Town and went into some place like a dime store.
My grandmother, Mimo Epps (I had another Mimo, Mimo Mac (for McCrory), always dressed nice, and she usually had on some kind of fancy broach.
So I found her a fancy broach. (Maybe, fancy to me, but it had jewels. I cannot at this time ascertain their genuineness.)
My grandfather, Poppy smoked a pipe, and an occasional cigar. I found an ashtray, and, proud of my practical gift giving capability, went to the register to pay.
I could hardly wait to show my mom my proficient shopping skills.
She looked at my purchase, didn’t smile, or encourage me.
“Why did you buy that,” she asked.
“Well, it’s an ashtray, and Poppy smokes, and I thought it was perfect.”
Silence, at first, then, “Do you not know what that is?”
I’m thinking, “ashtray” but, I look at it, and horror grips my gut.
It was a toilet.
It was an ashtray, shaped like a toilet.
I can’t give Poppy a toilet! (They didn’t even show toilets on tv.)
I took it back, got my money back, and, instead, bought Poppy three Lovera cigars.
That’s right folks.
A nine year old boy, in 1960, could go into a store and buy cigars.
April 26, 2017
In part 1, a friend pointed out to me that I got off subject.
Oh, yeah, I did.
He also told me that I should get out into the community and talk to people to open up my understanding.
So, today, I did an interview.
It was my friend from my Bible Study. We will call him “James” to make the story flow.
I asked James if he thought the U.S. has a problem with racism.
He said, no, maybe 5%, but….
I asked if he had ever been stopped because he was black.
He said back in 1969, he and his wife were looking to move and they drove into Mesquite, to look at a house.
As soon as they got into the city limit, a police car pulled behind him, beeped his siren, and James pulled over.
The policeman asked him what he was doing, and James said they were looking at a house.
“Well, it might be a good idea for you to get back into your car and head on back to Dallas,” suggested the policeman.
James said, “Okay,” and left without an argument.
A similar thing happened to him and his wife a few weeks later as they pulled into a Realtors office in another little community east of Dallas.
Similar question, similar suggestion.
James said, “Yes sir.”
James tells me, “You know, I realized that those policeman were hired to keep peace in their neighborhoods. They were doing their jobs. They knew their town, they knew way more than I could ever know, and they were just trying to keep trouble away.”
“There was prejudice, but I figured that my attitude toward all this stuff was the important thing. Racism is up here and in here.” He pointed to his head, then his heart. “All that I was responsible for was my own reaction.”
I love this guy.
To be totally transparent (figuratively, not literally. I am literally not invisible)
James’ first three choices for president, in order, we’re Cruz, Trump, Carson.
He knows people who hate the white man.
He knows people who hate the black man.
But he told me that a person who wants to succeed in this country can, if he has the right attitude “up here.”
James tell me, in so many words, that the power of racism lies in the response of the receiver.
When James was born again, he began to see his value in the eyes of the God who loves him.
When someone looks down on him because of his race, we’ll, he feels sad for that person,
That person doesn’t know the God who James loves,
Nor does he know the love of God.
Thanks, James, and I was only 30 minutes late to my appointment.
April 26, 2018
The ideas were bouncing around the room.
“Because of free will, some will never enter into the kingdom.”
“Do we give up our free will when we become Christians?”
What do you think?
Do we really have the free will we say we have?
The freedom to make our own choices.
The freedom to do our own thing.
I will say this: I believe we can choose our paths.
But, I doubt we have much power beyond that choice.
I can’t control what happens to me.
And, it is so hard to control how I respond to what happens to me.
Have you ever tried to go through a whole day without committing a sin? (If you believe in the concept.)
I mean, setting your mind, your will, your “free will” to say to yourself, “Today, I will make no mistakes .”
Can’t do it…I just can’t.
So what if I choose the path to make me a follower of Jesus.
Do I at that point give up my right to choose for myself?
Let’s say, I walk through this gate. The sign above it says “JESUS WAY.”
I didn’t get here on my own, and I know it.
Believe me, I tried…couldn’t make it work.
So, I made myself a prisoner to this new set of rules.
Except, for the first time in my life I felt free.
Free to live the way I had tried to live, and failed.
It was like, all of a sudden, everything in me changed.
I was not doing things because I felt like I had to.
I actually wanted to do these things.
It was like, I was making Jesus happy.
I knew he loved me…he paid my way in.
But, when suddenly, for the first time, I realized that I loved him…man, all I wanted to do was to show him that I loved hanging out with him, doing the same things he did.
And, as time goes on, I like being with him more and more.
And I still make choices.
They just work out better for me when they agree with his plans.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
2 Corinthians 3:17NIV
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
Romans 8:29 NIV
He will give you the desires of your heart.
April 26, 2018
I had scheduled this window cleaning job yesterday.
The pollen was down.
Her windows were dirty.
She was ready.
“I have to leave at 11:00,” she had told me.
I would do the inside first.
When I got there today, she said, “There’s no rush. I trust you. Just go out the back door and lock it as you leave. And don’t let the dog out! I promise you you cannot catch her!”
Now, I’m still pretty quick, but, if I had to chase her and bend over, well, that’s a whole other skill set.
About an hour passed.
“Well, I’m on my way,” she said.
“I’ll lock the door when I’m done.”
I was through inside in less than five minutes. I went to the back door, set my bucket and step ladder out.
She was out in the driveway.
“The dog is out!”
(Shoot! I had forgotten to watch for the dog. I’m glad it sneaked out when she went out.)
I answered, smiling, “I’m glad I wasn’t the one who let her out.”
I swear, I never saw her.
She was really quick.
Now, I’m remembering that she squeezed by me to escape the last time I was there to give a bid. Oh, man.
“She will come back and wait by the back door. Then you can let her in.”
I watched that little black shih-tzu go chase some birds, some squirrels, a deer, chat with the neighbor’s dogs.
I’ll probably be here for awhile.
A few minutes later, there she was, sitting by the back door. I walked up the steps to open it.
She ran off.
I cleaned a few more windows, walked to the back door, saw her watching me, and said in my highest pitched puppy calling voice, “Hey, you wanna treat? You wanna treat?”
Yep, it was a lie.
A bald faced lie.
She knew I was lying.
But I continued the act.
I walked inside, all the way back to her bowl, shook her feed bag for effect.
I saw her out of the corner of my eye.
I put a couple of pieces of dog food on the floor, and gingerly maneuvered around her to get between her and the door.
She took a step toward the food.
I bolted for the door.
Every time I entered the house and left the house I remembered that dog.
I watched that dog.
I would not let that dog better me again.
But, I could hear her thinking, ” There never was a treat. Was there?”
PROVERBIAL APRIL, Proverbs 25
Mankind has been searching for answers since the very beginning. Finding food, new ways to prepare food, fire ; its destructive and helpful powers, finding shelter, building shelter, strength in family, benefits in community, problems in community, good leaders, bad leaders, allies, enemies….
All throughout history, we have been growing in knowledge, looking for answers, finding solutions, learning to survive hard times, learning to get along, learning how to defend ourselves from those we don’t get along with.
A few have not been satisfied with the physical quests to make life better and have sensed an emptiness gnawing inside.
A light of understanding has been switched on, and a still, small voice begins to lead these few into a search for this invisible, powerful, creator.
“Come to me, and I will give you rest for your soul,” he says. “Go out into the whole world and teach others to look for me and become followers of me. Love your enemies. Pray for those who despise and mistreat you. They will hate you because they hated me first. And I am now occupying you. There is no greater love than one lay down his life for his friends. If you abide in my love, you will display my love.”
It was a new kind of warfare, a battle against an invisible enemy of our invisible king.
Human weapons weren’t sufficient to win this war.
One had to rely on the strength of his king, the instructions of his king.
The weapons of his king, the invisible ones; love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control.
It wouldn’t be a quick war. It would last through the ages.
Nations wouldn’t be won.
It would be individual victories, one person at a time, who would see the light in the creator’s people, hear that still, small voice of the creator, and seek that rest promised if they would only come to him.
“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.
Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel;
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”
Proverbs 25:2, 4, 28 ESV
“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. “
I don’t think we are talking about houses here.
I remember a time when everything I did was really for one purpose; that I might preserve my own peace and happiness.
When I was kind, I would get kindness in return.
If I was generous, or thoughtful, or caring, or hard-working, I would get “strokes” of praise and approval.
And, that seemed to work for the first twenty six years.
When my life was shown to me by The Wise One, I lost my sense that everything is fine, and that I had any control over what came my way.
He showed me that life is more than food, fun, and the praise of man.
He made me an offer that I didn’t want to refuse any longer.
He wanted to make His home in me.
“Put your outdoor work in order and get your field s ready; after that, build your house.” Prov. 24:27
Jesus talked once about having faith as small as a mustard seed, that when planted, grows into a massive plant.
My faith was probably more microscopic than that, but I planted it that day.
He provided the blueprint, the materials, the labor.
All I had to do was what He told me to do.
JOY became a fruit of my life.
He moved into my house way before construction was done.
He’s still building new rooms.
“A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
Proverbs 24:3-6 ESV
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Cor. 6: 19,20