September 26 – Erasing the Scarlet Letter

Proverbs 7:4,5 MSG

Talk to Wisdom as to a sister.
 Treat Insight as your companion.
 They’ll be with you to fend off the Temptress—
that smooth-talking, honey-tongued Seductress.

As long as time has been, the grass has had a tendency to look greener on the other side of the fence. It’s “human nature,” as Michael Jackson once sang, but still, NOT okay. If you’re wondering if our present national divorce rate and number of wandering spouses is something new, check out the Old Testament and look for David, Solomon, and Gomer (more about her later.)

Even though Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines, he still was obviously inspired to write these scriptures warning against the “seductress.” (Check out all of Proverbs 7 for a clearer picture.)

And this is refreshingly encouraging! Since we can easily identify with making mistakes, sometimes very serious ones, it is so sweet to know God still loves us and cheers for us . . . much as He did for King David of old.

No, this is not to say that the consequences won’t be severe. But as we’ve been seeing this past week in Proverbs, God hates a gossiper or a haughty look just as much as a murderer (Proverbs 6:16).

Hang on, I’m going somewhere here.

Look at the following verses in Proverbs 7:

Proverbs 7:19, 20 KJV For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.

After we are heavily implored to stay away from the “harlot,” verse 19 and 20 says the goodman is away from home on a journey and he will come at an exact and special time. Hmmm. My thought is that the “goodman” represents Jesus. And the rest of this chapter’s instructions about the harlot are for everyone, no matter what the distraction might be.

As with Gomer (the consistent adulteress married to Hosea – their story is the book of Hosea), God’s message is abundantly clear: WE are the adulteress. WE are the unfaithful. But HE is faithful, and unconditionally forgiving!

Yes, Jesus the Good Man is returning. And the distraction level is at an all-time high. So no matter the sin or level of depravity, He is willing and able to erase it all and restore us.

And just as importantly, it’s the time to offer mercy and forgiveness to those around us who are knee-deep in the distractions.

Because, but for the grace of God, there go I.

Jennifer 🙂

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September 24 – Judge Not

These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: Proverbs 6:17 AMP

The other day, my five year-old Abby came running in the house all up in arms about Libby Nell’s latest “misbehaving” moment. Apparently her little sister wasn’t playing by the rules and she needed correction, in her professional estimation.

However, at the dinner table, this same sweet herald of copious conduct eloquently falsified information concerning a dinner she didn’t prefer. It mysteriously found its way into the wastebasket, but she assured us it was accidental. Thankfully, little Miss Joan of Arc ain’t our first rodeo!

The truth is, all of us find it more natural to look out rather than in. Even when we battle self-esteem issues, passing judgment on how people are treating you and the reasons why is “hair-trigger easy.”

That’s why today’s Proverb grabs me. Check out the order of the things God can’t stand…note, murder is third on the list:

A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], a lying tongue and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren. Proverbs 6:17-19 AMP

How about that proud look? Guilty, right…every last one of us?! And without knowing it, most of us are guilty of number seven, stirring the pot of discord among kinfolk. And we justify it in many different ways.

That is why He gave us His Spirit and His Instruction to guide us and protect us from unnecessary correction. He doesn’t hate us, He hates the things that keep us from enjoying life as He intended for our us and our fellow man.

May I be found looking in and judging myself and not so much the mistakes of my brethren.

September 23 – Smooth Operator

A worthless person, a wicked man, is he who goes about with a perverse (contrary, wayward) mouth. Proverbs 6:12

There was a season of my life when my work had me traveling the Midwest quite a bit. And one of the joys of the journey was those occasional eating establishments along the way with their down- home cookin’!

So, one day I come upon this rustic joint on the side of the road with junkyard relics plastered everywhere. I walked in and there were autographed portraits of nearly every “somebody” in the country and their mama all over the walls. And I thought, “Oh, heck yeah!”

It was a midweek night after eight so I just looked past the emptiness of the place. I mean, the layout had me sold that this was the “jack” of all jackpots.

I get to the counter and nobody’s there. TV’s were on round about, so I just waited. Finally this fast-talking “gentleman” came to the counter telling me how lucky I was to be in his joint and in his presence. “Didn’t you know this place is famous?” He bellowed.

At first, I was agreeable…until I looked at his prices. Even for premium eating, they were ridiculous! So I said, “Um, are these prices legitimate, or am I reading the menu wrong?”

“What do you mean, my man? Those are bargains! But I tell you what, I’m in a generous mood tonight and about to close, so, (the door sign said ten o’clock and it was just a tick after eight…I was the only one in the place!) I’ll cut you a deal.”

To this day, that night was one of those moments I refer to when I should have gone with my gut and RAN out of that place. When that fork-tongued fella got finished with me, my trip funds were almost depleted.

For a few days, I was pretty upset at how he took advantage of me over some sub-par food. Then I remembered a moment from my childhood when I, too, took advantage of an unsuspecting soul. Lord, forgive me.

May today find us focused and aware of the slimy and deceptive, and yet still be merciful in our judgments. We might be reaping a little harvest from days gone by.

 

Riffraff and rascals
 talk out of both sides of their mouths.
 They wink at each other, they shuffle their feet,
 they cross their fingers behind their backs.
 Their perverse minds are always cooking up something nasty,
 always stirring up trouble.
 Catastrophe is just around the corner for them,
 a total smashup, their lives ruined beyond repair.               Proverbs 6:12-15 Message Bible

September 18 – The Blame Game

His own iniquities shall ensnare the wicked man, and he shall be held with the cords of his sin. Proverbs 5:22

I’ve done some really dumb stuff…I mean life threatening stuff, in my lifetime. Like the time I almost fell off the side of a cliff. I was about forty feet up on a nice rock climb when, all of a sudden, everything went negative. There was nothing to grab and I had no harness. I truly thought I was about to die. All I could see underneath me was a sea of trees growing out of the side of the mountain.

When I could hold on no longer, I let go. Well, almost. Right before I did, a belay rope hit me on the top of my head. Somebody heard me and came to my rescue. What a miracle, right? I mean, I wouldn’t have been here to write this account if that “angel” hadn’t come to my rescue.

That’s true, but I left out some pretty significant details. See, I was a counselor for a group of boys. And as they were doing their climbs (secure climbs) I decided I would break off from the group and show my buddies (the other counselors) my “climbing skills.” Though I had very little experience, my first climb felt so natural and I felt confident I could do it solo.

Now, doesn’t that shed a little light on the subject? If I had broken my neck that day, it would have been tragic. And a host of people (my kiddos!) would have never graced this planet with their beautiful faces. But it would be quite irresponsible of me or anybody else to lay that potential misfortune on God.

I played the fool and God played the gracious Judge. We all have our “cliff-hanger” moments, but freedom comes when we can see our foolishness and mismanagement as the culprit and not God’s “mysterious ways.”

The Message Translation puts it this way…I like it:

Mark well that God doesn’t miss a move you make; he’s aware of every step you take. The shadow of your sin will overtake you;
  you’ll find yourself stumbling all over yourself in the dark.
Death is the reward of an undisciplined life;
  your foolish decisions trap you in a dead end. Vs.21-23

I’m so ashamed of the times I’ve played the “blame game,” Lord. Today is a new day. Amen.

And thanks for all the times You’ve “saved my bacon!”

September 12 – Turkish Delight, and Other Sweet Nothings

The lips of a seductive woman are oh so sweet, her soft words are oh so smooth.  But it won’t be long before she’s gravel in your mouth, a pain in your gut, a wound in your heart. Proverbs 5:3-4 MSG

Any of us may battle some sort of addictive challenge. And though today’s Proverb refers to the “seductive woman,” the picture in view is anything that takes possession of your mind, will, and emotions.

No one is exempt. It may not be alcohol, but it might be anger. It might not be drugs, but it might be greedy gain…never enough. And it might not be pornography, but it might be religion. We all are susceptible to some type of subtle seduction.

In my own life, I have had to shake myself out of a few unconscious comas over the years. And no matter what it was, I first had to see it was a problem for me. Verse 2 of Proverbs 5 talks about exercising discrimination and discretion in order to guard and keep wisdom. Therefore the realization often came when I got tired of the bad taste of something that used to seem so sweet.

At that point, the lion’s share of the battle was won. Then God could spiritually nudge and navigate me step by step to wholeness and health.

All around us is divine destiny calling us to live life “loud” and unencumbered. And all around us there is a devious deception crawling about lusting for just the right moment to steal a piece of freedom from each and every one of us.

If today finds you pushing through the dark clouds of addiction, know that God has not forsaken you, we are all here, and you are not alone. When you are desperate to be done with the deception, say it! Then watch for the way out. . . from within.

September 1 – Like a Good Neighbor

Withhold not good from those to whom it is due [its rightful owners], when it is in the power of your hand to do it. Proverbs 3:27 AMP
Some time ago, God helped me see that when it came to my fellow man, instead of seeing them as my brother,” I treated them like “just another.” My attitude could be characterized as “that ain’t my problem.”

Then something happens like your wife and your little ones have a flat on the highway and you are several hours away. You’ve got insurance, you’ve got AAA, but you have no control over the situation.

Will anybody stop to check on her? What kind of “anybody” will that anybody be? How will the service people treat my precious cargo in my absence? All of a sudden, you find yourself thinking and praying really hard about your “brother.”

Today’s Proverb is a bit stiff and sobering. But I think it’s a tad more digestible contextually in the more laid back Message translation:

Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person. Don’t tell your neighbor “Maybe some other time” or “Try me tomorrow” when the money’s right there in your pocket. Proverbs 3:27-28 The Message

My hands, our hands, are God’s hands for our neighbors, our brothers, and our fellow man. From time to time on this journey, even the king’s carriage breaks down. So may we be found being neighborly to the brother, who in God’s eyes, is not just “another.” He is a major part of the story.

August 13 – Vain Attraction

 

My son, if sinners entice you, do not con­sent.   Proverbs 1:10

entice– attract to tempt by offering pleasure or advantage.

I feel as though God would be pleased if I dug a little deeper beneath the surface of this Proverb and acknowledged some of the places and some of the things that steer me off course. At this very moment, I am on high alert with my diet. Some time back, I got in the habit of eating quite a bit of pure “junk.”  My justifiable ex­cuse was “I’m too busy to sit down and eat right now. I’ll just grab these cookies and coke for lunch.”

And the sleep factor in this stage of my life is an ongoing battle. Even though I know how important a full night’s sleep is to my health, if I am not paying strict attention, 10 PM turns to 2 AM in a flash.

You and I are the same in that “sinners” are constantly before us begging us to trade ageless wisdom for temporary pleasure. Don’t be discouraged. Half the battle is in the identification of the problem.

God is not ashamed of our human-ness. But on the other side of that coin, He knows what we are capable of and He chooses not to leave us “stuck on stupid.”  We wear wis­dom well when we wear it. So these in­structions are here to help us excel to higher heights and at the same time protect us from sly self-destruction at the hand of a masterful enticer!