Sunday, 31 May 2020

Proverbs for 2020

Proverbs 21:23 Archives - SermonQuotes
If you have been following this blog you will know that I have been reflecting on the book of Proverbs. What I love about God's timing and the wisdom of Proverbs is that they come to us just when we need the right things to say. 

As I write these words, we are literally caught up in the whirlwind of "Is there school tomorrow or not!?" We were waiting for an announcement from the Education department and then it was postponed at the last minute, only for utter confusion to reign in the homes of millions of South Africans. Sitting at home at 8pm on a Sunday not knowing if you must send your kids to school is extremely stressful - for the kids, for the parents, for the teachers and staff - for everyone!

So in the midst of this, I turn to Proverbs 21, which is the next one in sequence and this what I learnt:

"Watching what you say can save you a lot of trouble." - Proverbs 21:23

If you stop using good sense,  you will find yourself in the grave." - Proverbs 21:16 (CEV)

"Unscrupulous people fake it a lot;  honest people are sure of their steps. Nothing clever, nothing conceived, nothing contrived,  can get the better of GodDo your best, prepare for the worst— then trust God to bring victory." - Proverbs 21:29-31 (The Message)

Living in Grace
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Friday, 29 May 2020

The right thing

March 21, 2015 - Bible verse of the day - Proverbs 21:3 ...

"We may think we are doing 
the right thing,
    but the Lord always knows what is in our hearts.
Doing what is right and fair pleases the Lord
    more than an offering." - Proverbs 21:2-3

What is the right thing to do? That is often the big question we have to answer and there are seldom easy ways to figure it out. I find that using the Golden Rule from Jesus is usually the best place to start. 

"Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Love your neighbour as you love yourself."

If the 'thing' you are wanting so badly goes against one of these two commands, then there is every likelihood it is not what God would have us do. However, it is always best to ask the Spirit to help us discern this truth. Or speak to a trusted friend.

For those of you who do not know Him, choosing your eternal home is the most important decision you will ever make. Billy Graham

"You cannot make progress without making decisions. It doesn't matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes." - Jim Rohn

Living in Grace
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Thursday, 28 May 2020

Searchlight

Conductor adds Insight Stream to its Searchlight platform
"The Lord's searchlight penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive." - Proverbs 20:27

What image comes to your mind when you think of a searchlight? 
I have in my mind a massive bright light, scanning the surrounding countryside, revealing anything that may be hidden in the darkness. I guess a Lighthouse is a kind of searchlight, except it's function is mainly to reveal itself and thus warn ships of where the coastline is. A searchlight has a different function - it is to reveal and find.

Now, I want to ask us: what emotion comes to your mind when you think about a searchlight? 

Yes, it is a strange question perhaps, but let me expand. When the writer of Proverbs suggests that the Spirit acts like a searchlight for our hearts, this picture can do one of two things. It can either fill you with anxiety - oh man, what is God going to find in my heart? 

OR

It can fill you with relief and hope. Many of our hearts are feeling the weight and strain of Covid-19, and some of us are feeling lost. Our emotions are like a frightened animal hiding in the shadows, afraid of what is out there. The searchlight of God's spirit FINDS us again and reminds us that we are God's chosen and beloved. 

The Father sends the Spirit to bring comfort to the lost and bewildered.

Let God's promises shine on your problems. ~Corrie Ten Boom

Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message. ~Malcolm Muggeridge

Living in Grace
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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Self awareness

A Proverb for the Day (20:9) | Patrick Street church of Christ ...
The trouble with freedom of speech as that we can lose the sensitivity towards others and become a little preoccupied with ourselves. Proverbs reminds us to become more self-aware, as many of our troubles come from thinking we are better than we truly are. In today's reading, I was drawn to this verse:

"Can any of us really say, “My thoughts are pure, and my sins are gone”? (Proverbs 20:9)

It reminds me of the words of Paul, who argued that 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) When I comprehend that I am need of a Saviour, then I become more humble and understanding of those struggle with their personal sin.

Here is another verse from Proverbs 20 that runs along the same line of thinking: "Our inner thoughts are a lamp from the Lord, and they search our hearts" (v.27)

How self-aware are we?

"Self-awareness is a trait - or maybe 'practice' is the more accurate way to put it - that everyone can always improve at. It is part emotional intelligence, part perceptiveness, part critical thinking. It means knowing your weaknesses, of course, but it also means knowing your strengths and what motivates you." - Neil Blumenthal

Self awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, and our habits and tendencies."Stephen Covey
Living in Grace
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Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Feeling Lost during Lockdown

How to escape a maze – according to maths

Good day friends. I just wanted to share this article with you on some of my experiences during Lockdown. It is on the Scripture Union website, but you can read it here.

If you have felt a little lost at some point during lockdown then you may find the article an interesting read. It also has some connection with dealing with our grief and the things we feel we have had to let go off during these strange days.

God bless you
Living in Grace

D3LM3


Monday, 25 May 2020

Teach, Instruct, Repeat

Proverbs 19 | Proverbs 31 Wanna-be
As one travels through the collection of Proverbs, we could be excused for thinking - Some of these instructions are repeated a lot! And that is true. You find a number of good proverbs come up again and again. Take these three from Proverbs 19 as an example:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – v.21
"The fear of the Lord leads to life;  then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” – v.23
 “A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!” – V.24

Don't they sound vaguely familiar? 
Yes, they do and it is because Solomon (and the other authors of Proverbs) want us to understand the importance of these key truths. In their opinion, once people grasped these principles and follow God with integrity, life will be very different.

Sometimes we just need to hear things more than once in order to allow them to sink into our minds and hearts. What do you think?

"Righteousness means right living. It means treating people right. It means living with personal integrity." - R.C. Sproul

“When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men's [children's] minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind.”― Cicero

Living in Grace
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Sunday, 24 May 2020

Kindess

Fundraiser by Jackie Uwadileke : The Provision Project: Proverbs 19:17 
 
Today's reading from Proverbs 19 reminds us that: "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,    and he will reward them for what they have done." (Proverbs 19:17)

We are facing up to a time in our history where poverty is very close at hand. As South Africans we have been exposed to the poor in diverse ways, but Covid-19 is slowly creating more opportunities for us to be kind to those who are struggling economically. Jesus made it clear that we would always have poor amongst us and urged his followers to treat all people with compassion, love and kindness.

On this significant day in the life of the Evangelical Church, where we remember the difference that John and Charles Wesley made to England (and the world), it is fitting to note a very challenging word from them on poverty and our call to address it:

"Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”- John Wesley

Perhaps his other quote which is well known is also appropiate at this point:

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

John Wesley 


How can we show kindness to others? 

Living in Grace
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Saturday, 23 May 2020

First to speak

WISDOM! Proverbs 18:17: “He who states... - Sid Roth's It's ...
"In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines." - Proverbs 18:17

This proverb is so true. How often have you been involved in a challenging conversation with people and been convinced by the initial ideas put forward? The more you think about what is being said, the more you feel 'This is right!' 

However, as soon as you have let those ideas settle in your mind, then someone else comes along and presents an equally compelling argument. And then you are stumped! Mmm, what do you make of that argument now?

I guess, it is always good to hear both sides of any story, before you make a judgement. In trying to discern the truth, it goes deeper than just two good speeches - knowing something about the characters who are speaking also makes a difference.

Proverbs 18:21 - The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

"We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork, you must make a decision." - C. S. Lewis

"Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come." -Robert H. Schuller

Living in Grace
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Friday, 22 May 2020

Strong Tower

40 Bible Quotes - Bible Scripture Verses of the Day

Each one of us will turn to different people or things to help us get through difficult times. The writer of Proverbs 18 contrasts two different extremes of this:

"The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;  the righteous run to it and are safe.
The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale." - Proverbs 18:10-11

For the person who loves God, they will run to the 'name of the Lord' which will be their security, refuge and strength. Once we hide in the name of the Lord we are safe and we can trust in God's promises to guide us through the troubled waters.

For the person who has a lot of wealth the temptation is to place their trust in financial security - I guess the underlying thought is "money can buy me everything I need and this will be my comfort and hope. No one can reach me over the high walls of this cover."

Sadly, there are many stories of how money, wealth and power all let people down in the end. I know that God will never disown us or let us down. It is worth thinking about!?

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into light.”- Hellen Keller

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.” —Robert H. Schuller

“With God, you are stronger than your struggles and more fierce than your fears. God provides comfort and strength to those who trust in Him. Be encouraged, keep standing, and know that everything's going to be alright.” - Germany Kent


Living in Grace
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Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Ascension of Jesus

Ascension Day celebrated/observed on May 21, 2020 ⋆ Cards ...

Today we mark Ascension day in our Christian calendar. It is a significant day in the life of the church for many reasons and I believe its appropriate for us to pause and remember this occasion.

7-8 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

9-11 These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.” - Acts 1:7-11 (Eugene Peterson's paraphrase)

For me, these are a few of the important things that Ascension brings:

1. Jesus' Ascension prepares the way for the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.
2. The promised Spirit brings life-giving power to the disciples and this also includes us.
3. Jesus returned to the Father and is interceding for us right now.
4. It teaches us that Jesus trusted us with the message of the Gospel. That is a great privilege.
5. Jesus will come again. 
6. All things are in His power and under His authority.
7. It is another reminder that Jesus keeps his promises. Remember what he told his disciples in John 14-16? This is a fulfillment of those promises. 

What does Ascension Day mean for you?

"At His Ascension our Lord entered Heaven, and He keeps the door open for humanity to enter."

Oswald Chambers

"Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor." - Charles Spurgeon

Living in Grace
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Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Shocked into reality

Start the Marketing Reality Check | TTEC
Some people listen to sound advice because they realise it is best for them to act, but others may need to be shocked into reality. In line with this statement, I think some Proverbs are written to create a 'jarring image' in the mind of the hearer, that hopefully they will listen and respond appropriately. Take these two for example:

"It is better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than to meet a fool doing foolish things." - Proverbs 17:12

"Starting a quarrel is like a leak in a dam, so stop it before a fight breaks out." - v.14

What do you think? Are you the kind of person who prefers to listen at the first warning bell, or do you need to be shocked into reality?

"Fools measure actions, after they are done, by the event; wise men beforehand, by the rules of reason and right. The former look to the end, to judge of the act. Let me look to the act, and leave the end with God." Joseph Hall

"The fool wanders, a wise man travels." - Thomas Fuller

Living in Grace
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Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Rumour has it....

Why the spread of a rumour is dangerous? | Globally Recruit

There is one thing I cannot fathom and that is why people intentionally create Fake News. I think you have to be a little egotistical (or crazy) to want to gain a measure of 'fame' from posting misleading stories and gossip that ends up doing a lot of harm. I know that 'bad news' sells and draws attention to the creator of these stories, but in the fragile days we find ourselves in, it is very sad to see how people like to cause trouble.

But, then again, nothing is really new, is it?!

"A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.
A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." - Proverbs 16:27-28

If you read this in the New Living Translation it says:

"Scoundrels hunt for scandal; their words are a destructive blaze.
A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends."

It takes a lot of restraint and self-discipline to make sure that all articles we read and stories we post are as legitimate as possible, but it is always worthwhile erring on the side of caution.

“How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.”
― Steve Marabol


“None of it was true but rumors are like germs. They spread and multiply almost in a breath and before you know it, everyone is contaminated.”- C.J. Tudor, The Chalk Man

Living in Grace
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Monday, 18 May 2020

2020 Plans?

Sometimes God makes better choices for us than we could have ever
 made for ourselves.  Jennifer Hudson

So how are your plans for 2020 working out so far? Terribly? Disastrously? Okay? Placed on hold?

We had some good plans for this year, but sadly they look like they are not going to happen now. One of those plans involved me flying up for my 30th High School Reunion, which was due to take place this weekend - well, sadly that is cancelled now.

Anyway, when I read through today's Proverb I was reminded how we need to surrender all of our plans and hopes to the Lord.

"Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. 
Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good.
Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place." - Proverbs 16:1-3

What does today's reading mean for you?

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”- Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

"Sometimes God makes better choices for us than we could have ever made for ourselves." - Jennifer Hudson

Living in Grace
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Sunday, 17 May 2020

Light in your eyes

Proverbs 15:30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, And a ...
A person's eyes can convey a message even before they have uttered a single sound. Have you ever seen that happen before? When reading through Proverbs today I was looking for words of comfort and hope and I found them in v.30 - it is the light in God's eyes that brings eternal hope to each one of us. Good news is such gift for all of us.  

“Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
    and good news gives health to the bones.
Whoever heeds life-giving correction
    will be at home among the wise.
Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
    but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.
Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord,
    and humility comes before honour. – Proverbs 15:30-33

In these dark days, let us hold onto the hope that comes from knowing Jesus. He is the Good News we need for our hearts and lives.

“The good news is as epic as it gets, with universal theological implications, and yet the Bible tells it from the perspective of fishermen and farmers, pregnant ladies and squirmy kids. This story about the nature of God and God's relationship to humanity smells like mud and manger hay and tastes like salt and wine...It is the biggest story and the smallest story all at once" - Rachel Evans 

Living in Grace
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Saturday, 16 May 2020

Plans may fail...

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success ...
According to Proverbs 15, our plans are doomed to fail if we don't get wise counsel from others.

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." - Proverbs 15:22

I am so grateful for godly people in my life, who have offered me wise counsel during my seasons of tough decisions. It is true that when we ask others for help and advice, that they can steer us in the right direction. 

However, there are two things I want to add, as a way of clarifying this proverb. 

1. Even though it is important to seek counsel from many wise friends and family, we are still the ones who have to make the decisions in the end. If I follow someone's advice without truly believing it, then I am going to fall into the trap of blaming those people. 

2. If I consult too many people, I may find conflicting opinions and this can make me even more confused (just think of the President for an example of this). In seeking counsel we should place more weight on the opinions of those we trust the most. Those who love us, will want what is best for us.

What do you think?

"He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other." - Francis Bacon

Living in Grace
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Friday, 15 May 2020

Not as it seems

Things are not always what they seem. You can be really fooled by ...

Things are not always as they seem.
This word 'seem' very simply means 'to give the impression of being a certain way' and it can be used in all kinds of different contexts. The important thing for me, is that when I look at a particular object or scenario, it may 'seem' in a certain way to me, but I could be wrong. Let me give you a few examples:

The world may seem to be flat if I look at it from the perspective of a few hundred meters. However, when I look at it from outer space, then I realise that it is far from being flat.

The earth may seem to be stable and not moving at all. However, we know that in fact our planet is constantly moving around the sun and also rotating around it's own axis.

Lockdown may seem to be going on for eternity, but in truth it has only been 50 days!

The writer of Proverbs says it like this:

"There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death." Proverbs 14:12

In following Jesus, we can't always see the bigger picture, but I believe that it is important for us to trust in God's ways and plans. Even if things seem to a mess, we must believe in Jesus' willingness to guide us into the path of peace and righteousness.

Phaedrus - "Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many."

Living in Grace
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Thursday, 14 May 2020

The empty Manger

O holy night! | The Cripplegate
We are so accustomed to hearing the word 'manger' only around Christmas time, but in today's reading from Proverbs we note that it pops up again.

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
    but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests." - Proverbs 14:4

What Proverbs is referring to is when there are no animals to work the fields, then the manger/crib/trough will be empty. This is not speaking about the feeding trough of the animals, but rather the collection of the food that is stored in the manger. 

The second half of the proverb then reminds the listeners that when you have oxen to plough the fields, then there will be a harvest in the right season. The strength of the working animals helps the farmers to get their work done and so secure food for their future. There is a lovely synergy between the farmer and his animals. They both depend on each other. 

I couldn't help relating the huge impact of Covid-19 on the ability of people to work at the moment. Although we are slowly moving down the stages of Lockdown, there are still many millions of people who are not able to work. And when there is no one working, then families are experiencing 'empty' mangers.

Let us pray that people are soon able to get back to work and provide the 'harvests' for their families.

Living in Grace
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Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Discipline

Proverbs 13:20 Illustrated: "He who walks with the wise grows wise ...
Nothing worthwhile ever comes for free and without some effort. This principle applies to almost all aspects of our lives.

If you want to do well in a sport - you need to train and discipline yourself to achieve your goals.
If you desire to get good grades in your studies, you must put in some hard hours of study.
If you are keen to learn an instrument, you will need to go for lessons and practise, practise, practise.
If you want to become wise, you will need to learn from those who have gone before and be willing to listen to instruction from people who can guide you.

It seems to me that Proverbs 13 is a chapter that keeps gravitating to this idea of discipline, instruction, learning and being willing to grow. Take a read:

"Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it,
    but whoever respects a command is rewarded." - Proverbs 13:13

"Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame,
    but whoever heeds correction is honored." - Proverbs 13:18


"Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm." - Proverbs 13:20


"A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
    love your children by disciplining them." - Proverbs 13:24 (Message)


What aspect of your life needs to be more disciplined at the moment?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Hope deferred

Proverbs 13:12 - Hope deferred makes the heart sick | Tree of life ...

How are you coping with this Covid-19 pandemic? I mean - how are you really doing?
What I am finding the most difficult is that there is no timeline - there is no end goal in mind. I think that I would be able to get my mind around each stage of Lockdown if I knew there was an end to each stage. However, for obvious reasons, there is no timeline for any of us and this is the frustrating part for me.

As I was reading through Proverbs 13 today, this is the verse that stood out for me:

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." - Proverbs 13:12

This is becoming many people's reality at the moment - our hearts are becoming 'sick' in some ways. Many people are struggling with anxiety, depression and mental health is starting to become a real issue for many citizens. Can I ask us to pray for people today who are struggling along these lines. Perhaps you even know of a friend or family member who is wrestling with this right now.

"Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around." - Eugene Peterson (The Message)

"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness." - Desmond Tutu

Living in Grace
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