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Thursday, August 31, 2017

PROVERBS 2:20-22


"So you will walk in the way of the good men
And keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will live in the land
And the blameless will remain in it;
But the wicked will be cut off from the land
And the treacherous will be
uprooted from it."


I just read an account of the early days of the Jamestown settlement, how three more ships headed there with supplies and more immigrants.  However, the lead ship, the Sea Venture, was caught in a hurricane and tossed about, sprung leaks, and those aboard thought surely they would die.  The men fought valiantly to keep it afloat.  Suddenly one of the leaders spotted land.  It was Barbados.  There was no place to land so the captain guided it between two large rocks and the people were so grateful to reach land.  They survived on the game on the land. 


Those enterprising people took their broken ship and made two smaller ones.  Almost all of them went back on board to finish their journey, except for a couple of mutinous men who remained and claimed the island for England.  They finally made it to Jamestown only to find it after the great starving there, and it was pitiful.  There was just enough food aboard to enable them to return to England, but not supply those there.  So some of the colonists boarded the ship, and they went to sea.  As the hand of God would have it, another fleet was arriving with supplies and more people.  That little ship, the Sea Venture, turned back to Jamestown.  The upright lived in the land, and the blameless remained in it.  They walked in the way of the good men.  


Sometimes keeping to the paths of the righteous is quite a journey.  Haven't you found that out yet?  These verses do not promise flower strewn pathways, but hint of tenacity.  Here is another tidbit from my ancestry search.  One of my early Jamestown settlers came over from England and founded a place called Jordan Point.  (Archeologists have combed the place where it was and some of the bones found there are in a display at the Smithsonian.)  His name was Thomas Jordan who I believe was the son of a Rev. Robert Jordan (1562-1589), a priest of the Church of England.  Anyway, the next generation of colonist was another Thomas Jordan, a Quaker.  Here is what was on his tombstone.  Quakers left persecution in order to practice their faith in the New World.  But...


"Born in ye year 1634 and in ye year 1660 hee Received ye truth and abode faithfull in it:
and in Constant unity with ye friends, there of and stood in opposition Against all wrong and Deceitful spirits: having suffered ye spoiling of his goods: & ye Imprisonment of his Body for ye truth's sake: and Continued in ye truth unto the End of his days."


He was born here, but was not able to practice his faith without persecution, just like it had been back in England.  He wasn't living in William Penn's colony where the practice of one's faith, such as the Quaker's, was allowed.  Yet, he lived in the way of good men, in the paths of righteousness, but did not have it easy. 


That is life here on earth sometimes.  Just ask those affected by Hurricane Harvey.  There are stories of heroes and stories of tragedy and great loss.  But we are on a journey with a glorious promise of a land that is coming.  Someday we will all be uprooted here and will go to that place He has prepared for us.  But not so for the bad guys.  The wicked and treacherous will not be our neighbors--nope, they won't be.  When they are uprooted, they will get their judgement and will end up in the brush pile, well, we know how that ends up.  So walk in the right paths.  






Wednesday, August 30, 2017

PROVERBS 2:11, 16-19
Staying on the right path,
the straight and narrow...


"Discretion will guard you, 
Understanding will watch over you...
To deliver you from the strange woman,
From the adulteress who flatters with her words;
That leaves the companion of her youth
And forgets the covenant of her God;
For her house sinks down to death
And her tracks lead to the dead;
None who go to her return again
Nor do they reach the paths of life."


Is this more than Solomon's advice, but his bio?  Without discretion, without understanding is a warning that a man will be a push over to a strange woman.  The biblical concept of the strange woman is "the one who does not belong."  Solomon gathered quite a number of them.  


Flatters,
leaves the companion of her youth,
forgets the covenant of her God.
Down, down, down,
her house sinks down to death,
her tracks lead to the dead.
none return again,
Nor do they reach the paths of life.
Don't go down the wrong road!


Do not forsake the companion of your youth...

Prostitution has been called the oldest profession.  That garners it no respect as it is a bite out of the old apple: the knowledge of good and evil opened eyes to temptation.  The One who created the bond between a young man and a woman must hate it when they leave the companion of their youth to go after the one who does not belong.   Yes, God hates sin.  It breaks His heart.  He sees His believers as His beloved, His bride bound by a covenant of faithfulness.  



Adam Clarke wrote, "'The stranger which flattereth with her words,' she that smooths with her words.  The original intimates the glib oily speeches of a prostitute...'Which forsaketh the guide of her youth,' Leaves her father's house, and his instructions, and abandons herself to the public."


'"The covenant of her God,'  Abandons the true religion, and mixes with idolaters; for among them prostitution was enormous.  Or, by the covenant may be meant the matrimonial contract, which is a covenant made in the presence of God between the contacting parties, in which they bind themselves to be faithful to ach other."


"'For her house inclineth unto death' It is generally in bye and secret places , where such women establish themselves.  They go out of the high road to get a residence; and every step that is taken towards their house is a step toward death.  The path of sin  is the path of ruin: the path of duty is the way of safety.  For her paths incline unto the dead, the inhabitations of the invisible world.  The woman who abandons herself to prostitution soon contracts, and generally communicates, that disease which above all others, signs the speediest and most effectual passport to the invisible world."

"Therefore, it is said, 'None that go unto her return again'  There are very few instances of prostitutes ever returning to the paths of sobriety and truth; perhaps not one of such as become prostitutes through a natural propensity to debauchery.  Among those who have been reclaimed; and, to such alone, penitentiaries may be useful: but to the others, they may be incentives to farther sinning.  Rakes and debauches are sometimes converted: but most of them never lay hold on the path of life; they have their health destroyed and never recover it.  The original (word) means 'lives:' not only the health of the body is destroyed, but the soul is ruined.  Thus the unhappy man may be said to be doubly slain."



Keep your marriage on the right track...

Prostitution denigrated by Jesus' day by becoming a practice of pagan worship using male and female prostitutes as a means of worship.  What a vile way to spit in God's face.  God is love.  Love corrupted breaks the very heart of God.  What He desired for good, turned to evil.



In the day that Adam Clarke lived, "proper society"-- in the separation of classes--often kept an aura of respectability while unfaithfulness was the more common acceptable practice.  Once an heir was produced, it supposedly was not surprising that women as well as men to become unfaithful, as long as it wasn't flaunted.  Well-to-do men often kept mistresses.  However, women of the lowest classes sometimes found the only way to survive was to sell their bodies.



In the early days of the holiness movement, there was an effort to rescue "soiled doves."  In Peniel, Texas, a Christian community there established a home from them.  This is where my great grandparents settled.  Some of their children actually went to school with my grandmother in their little Christian school.  It wasn't enough to live separate from the world when there was a world in need of salvation, even the most unseemly side.



Remember the movie "A Christmas Story"?

Now today, we have porn at the click of three little letters: sex.  It is pervasive perversion in our society available from all our electronics.  It is even found in cartoon form.  Often it is called entertainment.  Jesus said, "You have heard it said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28)  He also said to the woman caught in adultery, "Go and sin no more."



How much better to hang on to what is right!

Throw drug use into the mix and men and women sell their bodies for drugs.  The homeless communities are not safe places to be. Then, prostitution is often and easily turned into criminal activity like sex trafficking.  There are innocents who have been kidnapped and used for others gain, horrendously abused.  There is an appetite that has been fueled by the excess of porn in our society.  It is no respecter of persons or age, abusing children.  There are children who have been targeted and even kidnapped in our area, snared in nearby city malls for the sex trade.  There are those who have established protective homes for those rescued, but sometimes they go back to those who kidnapped them in spite of everything done to rescue them.  



Thus, this is a warning from those who are on a slippery slope.  Think of the abortion industry which began to flourish in the sexual revolution of the sixties: this leads to the death of the innocent consequences of their self-serving death outside of marriage.  And I have not even touched on the damage done to the family unit, the spouse who has been abandoned and the children damaged by broken homes.  Sin always hurts others, not just the sinner.  So reach the paths of life and stay on the narrow way.  


God's way, one man and one woman, is best!









Tuesday, August 29, 2017

PROVERBS 2:11-15


"Discretion will guard you, 
Understanding will watch over you,
To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things;
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
Who delight in doing evil
And rejoice in the perversity of evil;
Whose paths are crooked,
And who are devious in their ways..."


Oh, who wouldn't wish to escape from those who are perverse, who leave the upright way in order to walk in darkness, who delight in evil and who rejoice in perversity, who are devious?  Sometimes when we rub elbows with such people, it makes us shudder and want to take a bath.  It makes me think of a group of people who have attempted to set up a utopia of sorts in an attempt to stay away from evil here in the United States, one that has survived a couple of centuries.  Who?  The Amish.  They escaped persecution in Europe and came to America in the earliest days of our nation.


I do not agree with much of what the Amish do or believe, but part of our fascination with them is this very thing: they keep away from those who's paths lead to evil.  As I've mentioned before, we visited Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Amish country when we were on vacation in July.  I will mention a few of my observations and some of the ironies of their way of life from the things I've read.  



First of all at my suggestion, which I'm sure our relatives were beginning to question, we found Bird in Hand, Pennsylvania.  It is where many Amish Christian fiction is set.  We enjoyed eating in a restaurant there.  Since there are over 30,000 Amish in the area, their buggies were constantly driving by.  However, many were full of curious tourists.  In other words, many of the Amish have decided to profit from the public's fascination with their culture.  



For example--sure enough, our relatives found a tour bus.  We thoroughly enjoyed our non-Amish tour guide.  She had grown up in the area on a farm and was knowledgeable of the Amish way of farm life.  We passed so many of their small schoolhouses, I was astonished; we also noted their outhouses.  Their farms were kept immaculately.  She even pointed out one farm that had been in one family for ten generations.  But as we drove past, we saw their modes of transportation: buggies, scooters, and even rollerblades.  By the way, bikes are thought to be too fast, too worldly, so only scooters are approved.  Hmm.  How many of us would choose to be under such restrictions?  Though they will only use buggies locally, they don't mind using vehicles as taxis or buses, trains, and planes for trips.  We've ridden the rail with a few.  However, it seems to me they are threading a needle with a miniscule eye.


A defining measure of their existence is maintaining unity and conformity in every thing from dress to modes of life.  It is to squelch individuality as a manner of holding onto their values.  Their children's dolls are even faceless. Decisions are up to their elders from what colors the women can wear, how big the brim of the men's hats can be, how worldly the women's caps are in comparison from one district to another, whether to have lights or hazard signs on the back of their buggies, whether to allow their tractor or buggy wheels to have rubber tires.  Non-Amish are upset over their damage to the tax payer paid for roadways (as I have read about and overheard in a rather heated conversation while there.)  



One surprising observation is that many farms grow tobacco, not for their own use--though a few do smoke their own product--but to sell and profit from the addicted smokers out there.  There are huge electric towers built across their property, something they handsomely profited by even though they do not use electricity themselves.  They are crafty like that.   

Our tour guide explained an Amish-only problem,
the shortage of wringer washers or parts to fix them with.

They use modern practices like artificial insemination on their dairy farms.  For some, bulls are often considered too dangerous to have around with so many children on their farms.  We enjoyed the farm-girl-turned-tour-guide who would slow the tour bus in admiration at the sight of a bull saying, "Would you look at that! He's a handsome fella, isn't he!" Some keep their cows in  barns for their whole lives having cleverly perfected how to get rid of their animal waste.  We passed phone booths on most farms as they are not allowed to have phones in their homes; but since it is truly indispensable for business or in case of emergency, they make exceptions, and it is allowed on their property.  




Normally the Amish do not get involved in politics, many having never voted.  However, the tour guide said that quite a few were concerned with the way the nation was going, so they voted.  We can only guess who they would have cast their ballots for.
Most of us would chaff at such limitations.  That is just the surface of their conformity.  Their belief system requires great conformity, more so than we are required in our churches.  Sadly, most do not teach the assurance of salvation.  Instead, they use these rules as a way to hopefully keep them from the paths of evil.  Yet, their youth are allowed a time free from rules, some use to sow wild oats, before becoming members of the church. Such contradictions.  Such ironies!


The Bible teaches that though we are in the world, we are not of the world.  I'm offended by worldliness in Christians, rather desiring the beauty of holiness.  We should be different from the world just as these verses in Proverbs describe.  For most of us, to deliver us from evil is a choice to turn off the internet, the television, or to put down the book when it crosses the line.  For those offenses that are beyond our control, we are taught to pray that the Lord would deliver us from evil.  Can He answer that prayer?  Yes.  Do we need to wear dresses held together with straight pins instead of worldly buttons, wear aprons and caps.  No.  Our utopia is in the heart and in heaven keeping us from slippery slopes.  It is a gift, not earned.  Still there is a choice.  Choose wisely, dear ones.
















Monday, August 28, 2017

PROVERBS 2:11

"Discretion will guard you,
Understanding will watch over you..."


Just an aside here...
Discretion, "individual choice, good judgment"

I am watching the news of Hurricane Harvey since I have relatives there in the eye of the storm.  Having had to evacuate our little community in February with an imminent threat of the largest  dam in the United States breaking, I have a wee bit of experience to speak from.  We didn't have a hurricane, but I do know, as many of you do as well,  what it is to be in readiness, packed up, ready to go with a route in mind and gas in the tank and listening carefully to alert updates.  The schools said they had emergency contingencies in place: putting students on top of buildings, failing to mention that none were available higher than one story in many places.  Being on top of a levee wasn't a very good option either.  (It's not "if a levee fails, but when.") Hmm.  That's about the time when you begin to wonder about some of the officials.  





However, when a governor tells you for a few days to evacuate, then a mayor says to stay in place, it makes you wonder.  The national weather service for several days predicts 36-40" of rain coming which would feed the rivers causing them to crest in record peaks, what were people waiting for?  Should they listen to a local weather forecaster who says to stay in place or get out of Dodge? The citizens made up their own minds (a very Texan thing to do!)  Sure enough, the hurricane's strength went, as predicted, from a one to a four category in mere hours.
 


Some are saying they couldn't leave without losing their jobs, some did not have money for gas, some stayed to protect their homes from looters, others for this or that.  It is certainly true that five million people cannot evacuate safely at the last minute.  Soon the airports were closed and highways and exit routes were totally under water with huge sections of roadways having broken off in some place.  Some were told to write their identities on their arms in permanent markers.  That should tell you something.


Back to us: we had the car packed a day ahead, and jumped in as soon as the first notice came to drive to higher ground.  Those who waited an hour or two or three hours later found themselves in gridlock.  If the dam had  broken, they would have been underwater, including some of my children and grandchildren.  They would have drowned.  It took them eight hours to go what normally takes about twenty minutes.  Gas station lines were horrendous, when it was available.  So, yes, I understand in a small way how difficult evacuations would be.  Our evacuation routes were insufficient, sometimes under water.  I can't imagine how bad Houston's were.  Yet, with that much prior notice, it seems that more would have left earlier in order to be out of danger.



Because of that, it was the conflicting orders that I perceive as some of the problem, the state vs local officials.  Having gone through a prior flood, as the river rose, we listened to old timers who said it would never happen while we kept on packing as they scoffed.  It did flood our house.  Some of those controlling the emergency broadcasting at that time were in denial saying people were safe ignoring evidence otherwise, and then whole houses washed away in a matter of minutes when a levee broke.  People died.    I learned then that many people go into the state of denial.  In Texas, people were out dining and going to movies enjoying a night out on the town right up to when it hit, eating and drinking and making merry.  Denial.


Once earlier in the last century, a hurricane scooped up oodles of black snakes and carried them inland before dumping them out, letting them fall out of the skies upon unsuspecting citizens in far away Tennessee.  Sometimes disasters have unforeseen and far reaching consequences.  Sometimes 50" of rain is historic, unprecedented. Okay, okay, I know hindsight is 20/20.  But right or wrong, whether people evacuated or stayed, it is true that we live with the decisions we make.  For some, however, it is too late.  




A little discretion is perhaps a good thing.  It will guard you.  Understanding will watch over you.  It puts eternity in view as a reminder.  It reminds me of a song, which if you are as old as I am and can remember a one of the first Christian contemporary songs by Larry Norman, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready."

I'm not trying to be heartless.  It is catastrophic. I'm also thankful to family who did assist us when we evacuated instead of having to go to a shelter.   We must pray.


Friday, August 25, 2017


PROVERBS 2:9-10


"Then you will discern righteousness and justice
And equity and every good course,
For wisdom will enter your heart
And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul..."


Wow, we have been granted something quite wonderful, "you will discern..." "you will..."
Now the author, Solomon, was granted wisdom even when he didn't ask for it, but it pleased God to give it to him.  This verse is suggesting that God will be well pleased to give us the ability to "discern righteousness and justice, and equity and every good course."  This is what He calls wisdom.  Have you ever met someone like this.  Yes?  Me too.  They have been my favorite people.  The odd thing about it was that it was not because of their income , their age, their education or outward physical allure.  But someone with wisdom has a draw that makes you want to be like them.  It has its own beauty.


A wise person will discern the things that are important.  We cannot live in a world without righteousness and justice.  It would be utter chaos such as in the days of Noah.  Equity is justness, impartiality, rare qualities indeed!  If one has this kind of wisdom, discernment concerning righteousness, justice, and equity, it will result in following every good course, sound decisions. 


"For wisdom will enter your heart..."

Wisdom must be internalized in order to continue to be the guiding light of our lives.  If wisdom does not come from the heart, it is only good ideas now and then.  Who enters our heart?  It is Christ who knocks on our door...


"Behold, I stand at the door and knock;
if anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and will dine with him,
and he with Me."


Who did Jesus leave us with so we would not be alone?  The Holy Ghost who penetrates our flesh and comes in to be our Helper, our Comforter, and helping us to remember all that Christ has said.  Remembering what Christ said, those things resounding in our soul, is wisdom that entered our heart.




Adam Clarke said, "'Then shalt thou understand' He who is taught of God understands the whole law of justice, mercy, righteousness and truth.  God wrote this on his heart.  He who understands these things by books only, is never likely to practice or profit by them."

"When wisdom entereth into thy heart,
and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul."
(KJV)


"Knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul."

Hmm, I want that!  Sign me up!  Do you want to have pleasantness deep down inside?  That might even be reflected on the outside as a pleasant person.  Once wisdom is internalized by letting Christ in at the door to make Himself at home in your heart, you are no longer pushed and pulled by other influences.  You are anchored, not washed out in the tide of people's opinions.  


"But if any of you lacks wisdom, 
let him ask of God, who gives to all generously
and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
But he must ask in faith without any doubting,
for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea,
driven and tossed by the wind.  
For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."
(James 2:9-10)