Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

My Graduation Text.

"Know well the condition of your flocks, give attention to your herds."
Proverbs 27:23

Many long ages ago I graduated from high school. I went to a Christian school, so when I graduated I was asked to choose a text for the graduation ceremony. Well, this proverb was the text I chose. I chose it because it fit well with my chosen profession; dairy farming.  It may have not been the best text to graduate with, but it does teach us much about how God desires us to work in our professions.

While the text is directed to those who work with animals, the principle can be applied to every job and activity. Colossians 3:23 says, "What ever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men." This proverbs helps us understand how we can work heartily as we serve Jesus Christ so that He is pleased. Let us examine the text as it relates to caring for animals.

I have a book which takes the principle in this proverb and applies it to dairy farming. The book would explain this text very well. It is important when we care for animals to observe what is going on in the herd. We are to look at the group as well as the individual. Our sight, smell, and hearing are all to be constantly used to monitor what is going on among the animals. Our observation should then lead to asking why? Why is this happening or occurring? When we know why, then we can find a solution to the problem. For example: We need to examine the cow's coat, how she walks, and how she stands. Her eyes will tell you about her health. Is she chewing her cud?  How is her breathing? We should be aware of when she calved or when she was bred. Is the cow fat or thin? When we understand how the animals are doing, we can take care of them better. This takes time, effort, and care. But it is important, "for riches do not last forever." (Verse 24a). If we neglect to take care of our animals, they will be in poor condition. Shoddy management ruins the herd or flock. The performance of the herd will decrease and eventually the farm will not profit us. Wealth in the days of ancient Israel was in livestock. So this wealth needed wise and careful management, otherwise a farmer would become poorer and poorer without even enough food to feed his family.

Most people don't work with animals. But the truth in this proverb still applies. Paying close attention to the details will help you do your work well. If you are a parent, it is important to understand your children. Know their differences. Watch carefully their behavior so you can instruct, rebuke, or correct. If you are a carpenter, make sure your work is quality work. Measure twice and cut once. Think about how this proverb can apply to the responsibilities that God has given you.

 I wish all elders/pastors would consider this proverb. When  I chose this verse for grad, I was told that this was a verse for pastors. That is true although, not in the primary understanding but in its application. If we had more elders who cared about God's flock like some farmers care about their cows, our churches would be much healthier and more effective. The effects would be felt in our country and around the world. We need elders who care about the sheep. Elders needs to take time to know the members. They need to know their struggles, their hurts, their spiritual maturity, their gifts, and anything else that may help them to shepherd their souls. Ignorance about the members of the church will hinder the elder take care of God's people. You can't help or heal what you don't know. We need elders that know how to correctly handle God's word. The teaching and preaching of the Bible especially requires an attention and care to details. No sloppy work in this area please. We need to have elders who live out this proverb in their ministry. God, please give us these kind of shepherds.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Love Warns

"Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy."
Proverbs 27:5-6

This is a brief rabbit trail before I write about the proverb quoted above.

It is important when we read Proverbs that we don't think that the book just teaches us good morals. Proverbs gives us an expansion on the law of God. We see in Proverbs how we are to love our neighbor and love the Lord. As we read Proverbs, we will more often than not, see ourselves as the fool rather than the wise man. What is said of a fool and his folly could be said of us. Yet if we fear the Lord, we will turn to Him in repentance rather than run from Him. Also consider as we read Proverbs that Jesus Christ is the great wise man. Amazingly He acted in wisdom in every action, every word, every thought, every look, and in every situation. The righteousness He won for us who are not righteous in any way was not easily won. Living a life of wisdom is impossible for us sinners. Studying Proverbs should make that clear to us. Yet we can ever be filled with worship and thanksgiving, when we consider that Jesus Christ was wise in all things for our sakes.

My wife was walking one day on a trail in the mountains. I was behind her as I am so much older and slower than her. Suddenly I look up and see a mountain lion about to pounce on her from a large rock above her. I also see a bear coming though the trees to attack her. What is the loving thing to do? I would warn her loudly that she should get out of the way. Then the lion would pounce on the bear instead of my wife. This sounds like one of my wife's nightmares. But this nightmarish fictional story does help to illustrate the proverbs I want to write about.

Love compels us to warn people. We love people so we warn them about dangers. We warn our kids about crossing the roads or the boiling pot of soup. We warn about bad stores and bad merchandise. We warn others about con artists. We warn about diseases. We warn people because we don't want them to suffer harm. We don't want them to be hurt. We want them to avoid dangers. Warnings about the dangers of the world we can see are generally acceptable and appreciated. When we are warned we know that the person warning us cares about our well-being. But what about the dangers of sin?

Sin is dangerous too. Sin can have very terrible short term and long term consequences. Sin can have eternal consequences. Sin is far more dangerous than any wild animal or deadly poison. If we believe this, than wouldn't we want people to be warned about sin? Why are we often so quiet about the sins of others? If we really loved them, wouldn't we tell them the danger their sin is leading them into? The reason we don't is that our faith is weak and our love is weak. We don't really clearly see by faith the deadly effects of sin. Our love is weak towards others. We need to pray for greater faith and greater love.

True love will warn another about sin in their lives even if it hurts them. Rebukes wound us. They hurt our pride. We love our sin and are reluctant to give it up. But a true friend will rebuke anyway, even if it may result in losing a friend. The loving thing to do is to warn them about their sin because we know the danger of sin. We desire their spiritual health. A kind rebuke is indeed evidence of a good friend.

Let us warn others of their sin with humility and kindness and let us accept with graciousness the rebukes of others.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Learning from Barf Eating Dogs

"Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly."
Proverbs 26:11
   Some proverbs use comparisons to teach a truth. This proverb paints a very disgusting picture that teaches us some very important lessons. Who knew barf eating dogs could teach us some weighty theology; a theology that is not understood by many people--even some Christians? So, please read on.
 Dogs were dirty, dangerous, and disgusting animals in ancient Israel. They were not the cute, friendly, and loyal dogs we know today. Israelite dogs were not man's best friend. This understanding makes the proverb a little more repulsive. Dogs often get sick in the stomach. This is understandable considering the disgusting things that dogs can eat. So in order to relieve his sore stomach, he vomits out the food. Fido now feels better. So what does he do? Find some thing better to eat? No! He eats up his vomit even though it was the cause of his sore stomach. How bizarre and gross! Yet this is similar to when a fool goes back to his sin.
The sinner eats sin like bread. The sin causes his conscience to be troubled. Or he suffers the painful consequences of his sin. As a results he leaves off his sin for a while. He resolves to be a better person. He may attend church, start reading the Bible or take up prayer. Yet after the bad effects of his sin wear off, he desires again to be satisfied with that sin. So he returns to a sinful life again. This is as strange and disgusting as the picture painted above with the dog returning to his vomit.
Why do sinners return to their sin and the dog return to its vomit? It is what they do by nature. Dogs eat their vomit by instinct. It is part of their nature as a dog. Change the dog into a man and he will not eat his barf, we can be sure of that. So it is with the sinner. He sins because he has a sin nature. He loves sin. Sin in reality is even more vile than vomit. Sin is a horrible and hideous act. It is a deepest darkness. Sin is a disease that destroys us. Yet sinners love to sin even though it wounds their conscience and wrecks their lives. Think of the alcoholic who continues in his drunkenness or the gambler in the casino.  While many try to reform themselves in various ways, yet they cannot change their nature. Peter in 2 Peter 2:22 quotes this proverb as an illustration of false teachers who turn away from the truth and from godliness. These people were apostates. They knew the truth. They had been influenced by the truth. But they were not converted by the truth and so, since their nature did not change, they rejected the truth and returned to their vomit of sin. They were still sinners who wanted to sin. We see this apostasy described in John 15:6 and Hebrews 6 and 10.
 We need God to change us. We need God to give us a new heart that has a different attitude toward sin. We need God to cause us to be born again. When He does this, we will begin to hate our sin. We will begin to see sin as God sees it. We will consider it like vomit. Now this doesn't mean a Christian will not sin or return to commit some awful sin. We still have our flesh that desires to do evil. But the Christian won't continue in sin. He will repent and turn from his sin. He may jump in the mud and mire like a pig for a time, but since he isn't a pig, he won't stay in the pigsty. Thanks be to God who doesn't leave us in the mud of sin, but brings us out of it. Thanks be to God whose grace and love in Christ Jesus is so great towards us who often find ourselves back in the mire of our sin.