Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations. Proverbs 27:23-24As we look at this passage in Proverbs 27, we are examining the Ministry of neglect. This proverb is encouraging us to know the condition of things in our lives well! The example used is for our flocks - and yet many of us do not have any livestock. The wisdom that is offered is that we know well the things that are important in our lives. Over the next week we'll be looking at six different areas of our lives in which it is wise for us to avoid the "Ministry of Neglect" that just seems to come to naturally to us all.The first area we will look at is our personal lives. In this area we need to know well the condition of our heart. This speaks to our spiritual condition before God. How are you doing spiritually? Are you being more Christlike in your actions and attitudes? Are you showing spiritual growth so that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in how you live? On a different level, are you reading the Word of God daily? What about prayer - are you praying? Are you sharing your faith with others - and being an instrument of God's grace and love in your local fellowship? A good thing to do, if you want to keep up with such things, is to occasionally have a brother or sister in Christ lovingly, yet honestly, answer these questions. Want a real challenge? Ask your wife and your children. Another area of our personal lives is our health. This is one that if often overlooked - and yet according to 1 Corinthians 6:19 - our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. So the question is applicable - how is your health? Are you eating well - or is the sin of gluttony resulting in health issues for you? Are you exercising regularly? Are you getting enough sleep and resting on a regular basis (God suggests 1 out of every 7 days for this). If you do not take care of yourself - you should not be surprised if your body - and even your mental state begins to fall apart. I am not saying that we should turn into health and fitness fanatics - just that we should do a basic job of caring for ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Are you practicing good mental health? Do you live in reality - or is most of your time spent in a fantasy land - either on television or in an online game. Are you living for online relationships more than those around you in your home? Too many find themselves locked into the online world rather than the real one. Then there are mental habits. How are you doing with your mind? Are you reading and learning anything? This is something people don't grasp in our society. We are becoming a society of morons - because we don't do anything to benefit our minds. There is so much out there besides television (and especially besides reality TV) that can help you become a smarter person. Are your reasoning skills advancing - or are you letting the TV, radio, and others think for you? Oh, how much we lose when we don't practice good mental habits. The potential here is massive - and few if any of us tap into it. One last area that I'll meddle in is our personal finances. How are they going? Are we exercising wisdom in how we are handling the money God gives to us? Do we look like a wise or a foolish steward of what God places into our hands? It is actually wise to occasionally take a step back and see if we are being wise - and are practicing self-control over our spending habits. If not - we can suddenly find that our bank account will not sustain us at a level we are currently living. I can only imagine how much many have been offended by this particular post. We are not exactly an honest people when it comes to stepping back and taking a real look at ourselves. If it helps any - I was pretty convicted in several areas of my own life just writing this. Doing this can help us so much though. Remember - this post is about the Ministry of Neglect. It is too easy for us to forget areas of our lives - until they come back to bite us in the rear. That is why I would encourage you to schedule a quarterly check-up . . . for yourself. You might be shocked at how it helps keep you on track. I know that writing this has made me consider a few ways that the ministry of neglect has been active - and - I can see how if I continue to neglect things - I'll end up paying a lot more than I want to in my future.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life. Proverbs 6:23
Today we are going to cover an amazing proverb that applies to every area and every aspect of life itself. Here, like in the gospel, we are told of "the way of life." Unlike in the gospel, this "way of life" is not one that can redeem us from sin - but it can be used by the Holy Spirit to make us a lifetime learner - a disciple who knows how God works through His Word and through the way that it is taught to us by the Spirit. If there was ever a day to listen closely - today would be that day.
We are told of two things at the beginning of this proverb. We are told of the commandent and the teaching. These two things are compared to a lamp and to light. First we have the commandment. This is the same word that is used for God's 10 commandments. It refers to God's Law - and I believe beyond the Old Testament it can be applied to the inspired Word of God anywhere in the Old or New Testaments. We are told here that the commandment is a lamp. A lamp is something that can emit light if used properly. The lamp will always have the potential for light to come from it. It is something that holds light - and if lit it will radiate light. Interesting for us who understand the figures and types that are used for God's Holy Spirit, a lamp is filled with oil which is a type throughout the Old Testament for the Spirit and His work. When that oil is lit - the lamp produces light. In much the same way, the Word of God always has within it the teaching of the Holy Spirit - His leading and His instruction, warning, and rebuke. When we come to God's Word, the lamp, we have the wonderful working of the Spirit of God as He illumines the Scriptures for us. But before we think that simply reading or hearing the Word will always produce light, we need to remember that the commandment is a lamp. It can produce light - but it can also remain unlit and just be a lamp. There are those who misuse God's Word and no light comes forth. The devil himself quoted the Scriptures to Jesus - to try and get Him to sin. In that instance the lamp did not produce light - but it was abused to promote darkness. There are also professors even at semniaries who do not believe the Bible is the Word of God. The teaching they do promotes darkness. This means that we cannot make a blanket statement that when the Bible is taught or read that it always results in light.
The second statement made here is that the teaching is light. First off we need to note here that we are not reading that the teaching is THE light.
"THE" light is reserved for references to Jesus Christ Himself - God - and amazingly enough, us when we are manifesting God's character to others. Here we read that the teaching is light. The word for teaching here is the Hebrew word "torah." Here torah means instruction or direction. In the Old Testament the word mean instruction in a general manner from God Himself. The idea here is that the command is the lamp - and when the Spirit or a Spirit-inspired teacher is instructing from it - the lamp becomes light - or begins to illumine with light. This is so important for us to grasp because it is the very way that God will instruct and teach us. We come to the Word, but we covet that when we do the Holy Spirit instructs us as we read and as we meditate upon what the Word says. Do not misunderstand me to say that the Bible becomes the Word as it is taught. That is false doctrine. The Bible is always the inspired Wofrd of God that gives us the revelation of God. It is just that we are blind to it without the instruction of the Holy Spirit who opens our hearts and spirits so that we can receive what God says. That is why I think it is important to consciously ask the Spirit of God to teach us when we come to the Word of God.
There is one other thing this passage teaches us about the functioning of the Word in our lives. Today there are many who teach that the major reason for God's Word is that we can "confess who we are" in a positive way. There is a potential problem with this doctrinal view. We can get to the point where we only receive "positive" messages about ourselves from God's Word - and not conviction of sin. When we read this passage though, it seems that we are learning something contrary to the positive confession doctrine.
"And reproofs for discipline are the way of life." When we read this we have to come to the conclusion that a large part of what the Word of God is going to do is reprove us. It is probably at least one fourth of what it does because we read in 2 Timothy 3:16 that the Word of God is profitable for reproof. Actually the 2 Timothy passage says not just reproof, but also correction as well. The Word of God comes to us often to reprove and correct us. One of God's complaints against the false prophets is that they would whitewash Israel's sin. They would constantly talk about blessing without helping Israel and Judah to see that they had sinned against the Lord. It does not matter how many "positive" confessions you make to yourself, God, and others - if you have unconfessed sin in your life - God will not bless you. And since we are fallen creatures who live in a fallen world - we need for God to reveal to us that when we are acting "fallen!" If you read Romans 7 - you do not come away with the thought that Paul just needed to be more positive. He was wrestling with very real sin - and a very real fleshly, sinful nature that could not be defeated except through Jesus Christ. That is why we need desperately to see that we need to be reproved and disciplined by God to become all that God desires for us to be in Christ. Without that reproof and correction, we will not know from what we need to turn.
The way of life is through being disciplined by God - and that involves the Lord reproving us for our sin. When we come to His Word - His commandments - He is going to reveal to us how we have sinned against Him. He does not do this because He hates us. Contrary to that thought, He does it because He loves us! He desires for us to share in His holiness (Hebrews 12) - and that means He wants us to share in His life.
Wisdom is coming to God's Word in the right way each day. It means that we approach the Lord each day being open to what He wants to teach us. As we do this we also open ourselves to His Spirit to reveal to us that we may have sinned - or we may be lacking godly character - or a good attitude toward an authority. There are any number of ways that God might speak to our hearts and help us to abandon sin - and embrace His holiness. Regardless of what specifics are involved, God desires to bring blessing into our lives through this process. Remember - the reproofs and discipline are the way of life! He is bringing you life when He does these things. Be wise therefore and receive what He is saying each day - whether it is encouragement, exhortation, teaching, or reproof. They are all in his arsenal of blessing to conform you to the image of His Son and change you to be a better vessel for the blessing of not just yourself - but everyone around you.
How blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding. Proverbs 3:13
Happy is the man who finds the wisdom of God. That is what our proverb says today. But the happiness spoken of here is no mere good mood - it is a happiness rooted in spiritual things - in knowing God Himself.
The word "blessed" here is the Hebrew word "eser" and it means to be in a state of bliss. This word is almost exclusively used in a poetic context and is usually used in an exclamation. "Oh the blessedness!" would be the normal expression using this word. This word is used several times to speak of the joy and blessedness - indeed the bliss enjoyed by someone who has a relationship with God. Here though, the word is referring to one who finds the wisdom of God. Even more so, the blessing refers to one who not only gathers wisdom from God - but who can use it to discern. He gains understanding from God's wisdom entering his life.
When we find wisdom, we learn to turn from the worldly ways of this present life and seek out God's answers for things. We come to see life from the perspective of God. What God thinks and what God wants becomes paramount in our lives. Oh, what a blessing comes when we finally turn from our own selfish thinking and learn to look at things His way. We turn from the insanity of a self-driven life to a life guided and led by a loving God who knows what is best in every situation.
When we gain understanding we are even more blessed. This is the ability to discern - to distinguish between things that differ. We can know the difference between our will and God's will. We know what is right and what is wrong. We can discern between two or three different options which one is God's will. In a world where we have to make hundereds of decisions each day - that is a wonderful gift.
If you have found wisdom - and are gaining understanding - don't take it for granted. It is a rare thing for a man to have wisdom come into his life. It is an act of God's grace and mercy. For this you should fall to your knees and thank God for such a fantastic gift!
My son, if your heart is wise, My own heart also will be glad; and my inmost being will rejoice When your lips speak what is right. Proverbs 23:15-16
What should matter most to us when we think of our sons? I know for a period of my life what mattered most to me was seeing my sons excel at sports. I could have sadly rewritten these two verses with the following foolish edits.
"My son, if you do well at football and soccer, my own heart also will be glad; and my flesh will rejoice when I can cheer at your games for your goals and touchdowns." (Dopey Father 23:15-16)
First of all I want to state that I am not against sports or competitive activities. When God graciously broke me he still allowed my sons to compete in sports - and I continued to cheer for them on the sidelines. Oh, but how I grieved for the years that I had lost - and for the way I had skewed their minds on what was a priority in their lives. During that time period we set everything aside for their sports careers. We spent tremendous amounts of money following them all over the mid-south (which, by the way, put us into debt). I had my sweet wife miss church along with my sons, so that we could go wherever the coach told us to go. We basically had a very clear idol in our lives - and it is was the dream I had that maybe one day my sons could play college ball - or even make a pro team. But the most devastating problem that was growing all the time was the misplaced priorities that I was putting before my sons. My own lack of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in my life - carried over into my son's lives. This story ends well - because of two things. First and foremost because of God's mercy and grace. But secondly, because of some serious repentance on my part - repentance and brokenness that led me back to a proper life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ - and with proper biblical priorities. Let me get back, though, to the proverb at hand.
The father here is speaking of what makes his heart glad. The father here was glad, and later even rejoiced that his son had a wise heart. Wisdom was what this father valued most in his son. And it is a wisdom that sees life as God sees it. The father here lived to see his son one day with a very wise and discerning heart. He labored to see that one day his boy would be a man who longed to do the will of God above anything else in his life. This places before us a very important question. Are we as fathers seeing our most important job as laboring to see our sons become wise, godly young men?
Wisdom comes from God. We learned this back in Proverbs 2. If we are going to have wise sons, it will be because we have taught them the things of God. Wise sons come from wise fathers who both know the Word and apply it in our everyday lives. The passion that often drives a "sports-dad" will be re-directed into being a "godly-dad." If the Christian fathers who spend hours trying to hone their son into the next Peyton Manning or the next Landon Donovan, would devote that much time to honing their sons into the next Paul - we'd watch a revolution in the church - and in our society in general. Instead of working on passing and catching skills alone - we'd find ourselves spending time also reading the Word with our child. We'd be working on wisdom skills - on memorizing Scripture - and on being able to take the Word of God an use it to properly discern good and evil as they walked through their lives.
I know I may be laboring the point a little bit, but think about this for a moment. How many sons are actually going to be playing sports at the college level? How many truly have a shot at the NFL or MLB or the MLS? And how many who make it to those levels of sport will have a wise and discerning heart there to keep them out of the trouble that seems to be following sportsmen in these sports? The truth is very few will make it to these teams, but everyone single one of those young men will need to be able to live a life of wisdom. All of them - even those who do make it - will need "wisdom skills" to walk through life worthy of their calling in Jesus Christ. If you think your son will make it to a college or pro level - have at it. But Dad, make sure that the most important goal you have for your son is to live a life of wisdom an godliness! Make sure HE knows that this is the true goal - and that which would most delight your heart and soul!
The father her also states that his inmost being will rejoice when he hears his son speaking what is right. The inmost being spoken of here is literally kidneys in the Hebrew. Dads, your kidneys need to rejoice over your son! Now there is a phrase you don't hear much anymore. "Hey Bob, man my kidneys just rejoice over how Bob Jr. is growing into a godly young man!"
The kidneys were thought, along with the heart, to be the deepest seat of emotion and joy in a person. It referred to the innermost and most private part of a person's life. When you are moved to rejoice at that level, you are rejoicing at the deepest level possible. You rejoice because your heart is blessed at the core level of your beliefs and principles. This leaves me with another loaded question. What is your deepest rejoicing about in life? If you find yourself rejoicing deeply at the touchdowns and sports achievements of others - but yawning at the things of God - the exhibition of godly character and true manhood - you are rejoicing about the wrong things. Let me say, I love a good touchdown like most guys - but God has worked to where I get more excited when I watch my sons make godly decisions.
The reason this father was rejoicing in his kidneys was because his son was speaking what is right. This is not that his son was parroting some phrase or some rote speech he knew would make dad happy, but that his son was speaking normally - and was saying what was right. This is an important step for our sons maturity wise. Jesus taught us that it was out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth spoke. So when we hear our sons speaking what is right in their normal conversation - it tells us that God has worked in their hearts. It is easy to get a son to say what YOU want him too when he is around you - but it is far more difficult to rear him to say the right thing (the godly thing) as a matter of normal living. This requires God working in his heart. That is why the father was dancing in his kidneys when he knew his son was speaking this way.
Fathers, this proverb is vital for us to grasp. We are called to take boys given to us by God, and rear them to be men. This requires doing far more than just bringing home the bacon - and re-living our desires for sports grandeur through them. Taking a boy and making him a man requires that we put wisdom and godliness at the top of our own priority list, and helping our sons to do the same. It means laboring to see a heart-change in our boys by the working of the gospel and the Spirit of God. It means training our sons to love a woman properly - and to have a vision of what God desires for their lives to be. But I will tell you by the mercies of God that when you watch your sons begin to make godly decisions - no sports achievement in the world can come close to the sensation you will get in your kidneys! Live therefore for the glory of God and the blessing of your kidneys as you labor to take boys - and give the world men of God.
A righteous man who walks in his integrity— How blessed are his sons after him. Proverbs 20:7
What is it that will bless our sons while we are live - and more importantly after we die? Some thing that leaving them a huge inheritance of money, stock, and real estate would be the best thing. Actually, Proverbs says that an inheritance quickly gained will be lost in the end. So what is it that will bless our sons now and far into the future?
Solomon tells us that the best thing we can do for our sons is to be a righteous man who walks in integrity. The first thing we see here is that this father is a "righteous man." This means that he does what is right in the sight of the Lord. He lives in a way that honors and glorifies God. It also means that this father has looked to Jesus Christ for salvation - since that is the only way we can truly be a righteous man - by grace through faith. But this father also is one who lives in integrity. The word integrity here is the Hebrew word, "tamam" which means to walk in a completeness and moral innocence. This man walks through life in complete obedience to God as well as complete submission to what God's Word instructs him to do. He also walks in a moral innocence that comes from desiring holiness and spiritual maturity in his life. The last way that this word is used is to speak of someone who walks in simplicity. When I read this I am reminded of Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians that he was jealous for them with a godly jealousy. He desired for them to walk, "in simplicity and devotion to Jesus." This would wonderfully describe the kind of integrity that the righteous father would want his children (especially his sons) to see in his life - an integrity of devotion to Jesus Christ - simple devotion to Him.
When a father walks in this way - how blessed are his sons after him. They may not have riches. They may not have huge estates and vacation homes. They may not have all the things that this world says a man shoul have to be successful. But what they do have is something very rare. Possibly more rare that diamonds and rubies. They will have a godly upbringing and a godly example from their father. This will bless them long after the toys and trinkets of this life are gone. They will be blessed in having the kind of rearing that will help them through the minefields of the world system. These minefields include the devil's traps in the areas of sexual immorality, impurity, evil desires, and greed. It will help them navigate through the shoals and hidden reefs of youth and the dangerous coastal rocky shorelines of mid-life crisis. They will have watched a godly father navigate these dangers successfully - thus leaving them a legacy of godliness. They will have mapped out for their sons the course that will lead them safely to the harbors of heaven. They will know to close their ears to the siren songs of their flesh and the world - and to sail with their eyes fixed on the Word of God. They will run their race with their eyes fixed on Jesus - and on the example their fathers were of a life centered in Him.
You can spend your life working to leave your sons a fortune. You can make sure that they are set for life when you die - at least in financial realms. The problem with such an inheritance is that without a godly compass these things can actually be more of a danger than a help. A son needs the blessing of a godly man who walks in his integrity. We say often that the things of God are more often caught than taught. How true this is in regard to teaching our sons how to walk with God. I do not discount teaching because it is absolutely necessary. But without a corresponding walk in integrity before the eyes of our boys, they may not get all they need to succeed at life. And regardless of how they fare in the business world - in the end they will need life, life eternal more than anything else. May we be wise fathers who not only teach them the things of God - but also walk in out as they look to see if we are only offering them precepts - rather than living principles.
A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding Than a hundred blows into a fool. Proverbs 17:10
God gave me a wonderful man who has a heart after Him to be my mentor. His name is John Dale Rector. John Dale spent 3 years of his life teaching and training me in the things of the Lord. He taught by precept and by example. He also had his hands full as I was a proverbial bull in a china shop with my zeal that lacked wisdom. Thus John Dale had to spend more than his fair share of time rebuking me for my excesses. Thus he taught me a very important verse of Scripture and had me memorize it early in my walk with the Lord. The verse says, "Let a righteous man strike me, it is a kindness." That particular verse has a lot to do with what today's proverb has to teach us.
I am an advocate for both verbal and corporal punishment. There is a time for rendering blows to fools. One of those times in during childhood where the responsibility of the parent is to train up a child in the way he should go. It is a time where through loving discipline (which includes spanking) a parent seeks to teach a child what he should and should not do. The parent is not trying to dominate the child or to crush his spirit. The parent IS seeking to help a child grasp what is acceptable and unacceptable to God and to society. But the end of that corporal punishment is to train a child to be a young man or woman who knows two things. First he or she knows how to accept rebuke from the Spirit of God. This happens as he or she is walking through life and about to make un ungodly or unwise decision. The Spirit of God then rises up within to remind of Scripture, to offer correction and guidance with the Word. Some times the Spirit just activates our conscience and we are smitten with a bad sense or feeling - or we just know that what we are about to do, or have done, is wrong. What we desire to do with our children (and in training disciples in the church) is to have them be responsive to that rebuke - to that warning from within.
The second way that a parent and discipler wants to train up their charge is to have them be responsive to people who come to them with a word of rebuke. It would be wonderful if everyone who offered such rebuke were being constructive with it - but we all know that is a perfect world and not the real one. The truth is that even non-constructive criticism can be beneficial to us. Therefore we want to be open to all rebuke. The wise thing is to receive the rebuke and be thankful for it. Then take it to the Lord and ask Him to confirm what is in agreement with what He is doing through the Word of God. Then take what God affirms and use it to grow into all the fullness of Jesus Christ in our character and actions. This is how to allow rebuke to go deep within us - rather than just bounce off of us as we reject it outright.
The Scripture tells us that in order for this to happen, we have to be one who has "understanding." This is the ability to discern and perceive truth from error - right from wrong - God from the flesh and the world - the work of the Holy Spirit from the work of the devil. We discern an pay attention to what God saying to us. Because of this we truly understand the will of God - and grow wiser because we have learned to see things from His perspective.
The proverb tells us that this ability to receive rebuke and understanding from goes deeper into us than a hundred blows into a fool. An interesting thing is that God instructed not to give corporal punishment beyond 39 blows at any time. There is the penalty of imprisonment and even the death penalty that is applied by the state to crimes against society. But God knows that a hundred blows as opposed to 39 would not bring wisdom and understanding into a fool. There is a point where no amount of corporal punishment is effective. The fool rejects all of it - verbal rebuke as well as any kind of physical punishment. Thus we know that all that is left to us is intercessory prayer that God will ultimately break the fool and open his heart to begin to understand.
When I read this proverb, I am thankful to those whom God uses to offer rebuke into my life. Let me be perfectly honest that often it is hard to receive the rebuke - and yes, it hurts. But those who wound us can be healers. Remember that when a surgeon does his work he has to injure us before he can take out the cancer that will kill us. We consider the incision made by his knife a good thing - because it is ultimately working healing into our lives. Remember that the next time you receive some verbal surgery through a brother or sister in Christ who loves you. Those words will bring blessing into your life if you receive them and allow God to work through them. If it is hard to remember that - just remember this instead. I'd rather have some verbal surgery - than a hundred blows on my back!
"She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will present you with a crown of beauty." Proverbs 4:9
Wisdom is showing us with wonderful gifts as we learn to value her highly. The last two gifts are mentioned in this third verse. Wisdom will put a garland of grace on our heads - as well as a crown of beauty.
The garland of grace refers to a woven circular branch or vine that was worn on the head. It was used as a symbol of honor and victory. This garland is refered to as a garland of "grace." Grace is the Hebrew word "hen" and it means favor, acceptance and was the primary word used to refer to the unmerited favor of God. When we fully embrace wisdom and the practical way of carrying it out in understanding - God's favor and blessing will be seen upon our lives. Over the years I've had the priviledge of knowing a number of very wise men - and can testify that you see the grace of God upon their lives and their works. You want to be around them because of it - and because of the last thing wisdom promises.
She will present you with a crown of beauty. A crown was a sign of royalty and honor. The crown that wisdom places upon our heads is one of beauty. The idea here is not that we will look hot if we gain wisdom - but rather that a spiritual beauty will be given to our lives. Think about the fruit of the Spirit for just a moment in this context. Wisdom will lead us to be filled with God's Spirit - which in turn will mean that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will be evident in our lives. If you have ever known someone who sweetly manifested the fruit of God's Spirit in their lives consistently, you know that they have an amazing beauty that radiates from their hearts. I've known young women whose outward beauty was far outshined by the beauty of Christ that shone from their hearts. Even though they were not stikingly beautiful outwardly - those around them saw them that way - because of the beauty of Christ that radiated in their lives. When we embrace wisdom and highly honor her in our lives - we receive a spiritual makeover that brings a level of beauty to our lives that no spa could ever match.
Embrace wisdom - hold her in the highest esteem and honor. Consider her worth more than gold and silver, rubies and diamonds, stocks and bonds - consider wisdom worth more than any other thing in your life! This is the way to be blessed and beautified by God's grace. So remember this - get wisdom - and as you are expending great energy and effort to do so - get the understanding to practically live that wisdom out in the world around you. Based on the clear teaching of God's Word I can guarantee you that if you do this - you will never regret it!