The 'BARKING OWL' always has something to say, and like the feathered version, can be either WISE...............or ANNOYING!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

H is for HEALTH and H is for HAMPERED

People always say that the most important asset in life is their own good HEALTH.  I beg to differ, but that is what they say. And the next thing? They do not want to be HAMPERED. Well, I've never ever heard anybody say that, but these are the "good" and "bad" H words for today's A to Z Challenge, so please just play along.

Do you want a great promise to hold close? Before you answer, consider the fact that it does come with a few conditions.
1) You can't "be wise in your own eyes."
     This might be tough for more than a few of us.
2) You will have to "fear the Lord."
     We have talked about this theme before but yes, to receive the promise mentioned above, you will have to give it a go.
3) You will have to do your best to "shun evil"!
     Another toughy, but here is the vital and coveted prize so valued by so many:

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:7,8

Good health and strong bones are in the offing.  Go for it!

The promises continue here in chapter four, but a couple of good things there are framed as a lack of bad things. These couple of bad things will be missing from the lives of those who "listen" to the Lord, and "hold on" to His instruction.

When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Proverbs 4:12

We all have come to understand exactly how this works.  We have been children under authority or we have been the authority (or both), so there is no big mystery.  When a kid doesn't listen to his folks, trouble follows! Either they suffer the plain and natural consequences of not following some safekeeping instruction, or they are directly punished for the disobedience. But when they, or we, choose to obey instead, life seems to flow so much better, without stumbling, and without being HAMPERED.

"I know, Lord, how easy it is to think I am so wise, and to listen to my own voice telling my own self how smart and all knowing I myself am. Help me instead to recognize that YOU have the wisdom, and then to seek it!"

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Friday, April 8, 2016

G is for GUARD and G is for GALL

Am I saying that we should GUARD our GALL?  I don't think so!
But these are the two G words I found in the Bible's book of Proverbs for today's post in the April A to Z Challenge.

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

How simple. And how profound. There is nothing else I can add to this verse to flesh it out. Except to say, don't bother to GUARD your GALL; GUARD your heart.

When does something as sweet as honey become vile and bitter? No this is not a riddle, but the answer is found in the middle of the passage below.

My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
turn your ear to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.
Proverbs 5:1-6
Quitting on God, or separating oneself from the good bonds of fellowship with one's Creator, will only lead to the worst form of sorrow and despair. There is no need to pound the podium and speak of fire and brimstone here; it is enough to warn of the simple tragedies.
Consider having your mouth taste only bitterness. And to recline, but only on a sharp doubled-edged sword. Every step leads only toward death, and only after tangentially touching upon wayward and darkened attractions along the way. What a hell we must by default choose, if we deliberately forsake our God.

"Open the eyes of my heart Lord, that I may see you."

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

F is for FEAR (of the Lord) and F is for FOOL

This is the first time both of my chosen letter words appear in the same verse! And there they are perfectly juxtaposed concepts. Too bad they might both be considered "trigger" words in today's culture.

The FEAR OF THE LORD phrasing is often scoffed at by those who wish to resist God's influence in their daily lives.

"See?" they say. "What kind of a good god would want us to FEAR him?" They have entirely forgotten that as teenagers in trouble they absolutely "feared" their good loving parents because they knew their parents cared enough to impose necessary discipline on them. That they even felt sorry (at least internally) for the kids whose parents didn't care enough to come down on them, because they could see that those kids were going to end up either in jail or dead.
And they forget that as those same kids had kids of their own, they set out determined to be sure their own charges would respectfully FEAR them as well.  Failing to foster such a FEAR directly leads to so much societal trauma today.
Please give the phrase FEAR OF THE LORD, the benefit of the doubt. God does not want us to feel terrorized by Him, as the Devil might (once he has beguiled us with loving lies, and we are under his malignant thumb).  But He does want us to respect his authority and stature (as, you know, the Creator of the Universe and everything in it) and listen to His instruction, and that, just for our own good!

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

Calling someone a FOOL is also questionable today, so I won't do it. But God can. The book of Proverbs is full of verses that compare those who seek WISDOM with those who do not.  The latter group are labeled FOOLS, by God.
One might rephrase this verse to say that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but the denying of God's authority is the beginning of FOOLishness. 

You've been here before but can not figure out how you keep coming back to the same fork in the road: Once again you must decide if you will humble yourself just enough to acknowledge that you are not God, and that He is, or...claim with hubris and high self esteem that you really are "all that" and have no need of God's love, mercy, forgiveness, provision, direction or WISDOM.
Choose Him and discover the joy, or choose yourself and, for as long as you do live, expect Him to keep bringing you back to that fork for another chance to make the right choice.

"Thank you Father, for loving us so much that you do not coerce us to choose you, even though you know there is no other viable option. But by your grace you continually stand and wait for us to come home to you, where we will find every good thing we can ever want or need."

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for EASE and E is for EVIL

(Perhaps my pair of matching lettered words for the A to Z Challenge are not really as random as I intended, considering the EASE with which one can slip into EVIL!)

This is a long passage, but today's "good" word only appears at the end, in verse 33.  I included the rest to show the comparative results between two individuals. Verses 24-31 show what happens to one who "refuses to listen" to WISDOM, at length, but verse 33 stands alone and completely captures the good falling upon the one who does listen.

20 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
21 on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech:

22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
23 Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.
24 But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
25 since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you—
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.

28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me,
29 since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.
30 Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
Proverbs 1:20-33

What one thing do we humans seek after, long for and even struggle for, more than "to be at EASE"? I think the Proverbialist, and God, know exactly what we want, and that we can best acquire it by listening to Him.

Proverbs 3, on the other hand, begins by noting a few positive things we should implement in our lives (loving God and trusting in Him are biggies!) and after verse 7, elaborates thoroughly to help us zero in on the most beneficial behavior available to mankind.  But verse 7 condenses and encapsulates it all:

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
Proverbs 3:7

My rephrasing:  Humble yourself, know God for who He is, and choose His ways over those I am so readily inclined to choose.

"Oh Lord. It really does sound so simple. But our hearts truly are twisted in such a way that we believe our own thoughts are truer than your word; that we can and should scoff at you; and that good things are EVIL and EVIL things are good. Please do help us to reverse these dangerous tendencies and to find our EASE in you."

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D is for DISCRETION and D is for DESPISE

Two words, one good and one bad, but they both start with D!
Today is D day in the April A to Z Challenge.

Where would we be without DISCRETION?  I think the point is NOT to know the answer to that question!  There are many places we hope to avoid, and it is DISCRETION that keeps us from going there. Sometimes it's a quick bite of the tongue that saves a friend or loved one from getting hurt. Sometimes it's a sudden memory, brought to mind by a good conscience, that causes our feet to turn one way rather than the other. Generally speaking, love is at the root of every good DISCRETIONARY call we make.

The love of God for you, or the love you have for another guides the hand of DISCRETION in its good work.  But will we listen to its voice?

There are not two spirits, one good angel and one bad demon, sitting on our shoulders and whispering in our ears.  There is the Spirit of God speaking WISDOM and calling for DISCRETION, and there is you, or me, either listening to Him, or not. Not that we have it easy. Our fleshy bodies proclaim their interests to our souls, and our troubled minds, confused emotions and self interested wills all say "To hell with DISCRETION right now!"  Along with "the flesh," of course, "the world" and "the devil" chime in incessantly trying to give direction to your spirit, but let Proverbs 2:11 remind you that...

Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
Proverbs 2:11

Now considering that we are a fallen people, and that we will ignore DISCRETION'S voice all too often, the Lord's discipline will be required to heavily help us back onto the right path. The measure of His discipline is chosen by the one gone astray. ACCEPT His decision as something deserved, and let it play out accordingly. The worst thing one can do after first disowning DISCRETION is to double down by DESPISING His discipline!

We do best by ourselves to humble ourselves before Him. To repent and receive, not resent, His rebuke.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 3:11,12

What comfort!  He only disciplines those He loves! 
(Of course, that does include all of us!)

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Monday, April 4, 2016

C is for CHERISHED and C is for COMPLACENT

My selection of the two words each day for this April A to Z challenge is based solely on their first letters, but today's C words actually display a perfect contrast. Both words, the "good" and the "bad" have to do with WISDOM.

If you are a person who would not want WISDOM, raise your hand. Ah, there you are, way in the back.  Oh, you just have to go to the bathroom? Good. I thought maybe you were an idiot!
Because everyone wants WISDOM right?  Well the truth is, I think, that everyone either believes they are seeking WISDOM, or that they already have plenty.

We are called to an actual intense and deliberate quest for wisdom by the writer of these proverbs. WISDOM is characterized in chapter 3 as a very desirable woman, which in itself actually represents a completely satisfying and fulfilling relationship. One which contributes to a person's prosperous success and complete contentment.

Are we to admire WISDOM from afar?  Maybe just wish she were mine, but settle for being alone, and dumb?  Walking along the street with WISDOM nearby should we keep our hands in our pockets? No. We should pursue her, love her and reach out and hold her hand, tightly! According to Proverbs 3:8, only could can come from such a pursuit!

Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
Proverbs 3:8

This selection from Chapter 1 below tells us what happens to those who reject WISDOM. It is WISDOM talking to us and giving the warning.  Perhaps not so much as a woman pleading to be loved by a man, in a self-serving way, but more like a loving mother might tell her junior high kids what can happen to them if they refuse her counsel; if they are COMPLACENT about their choices.

since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.
Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
Proverbs 1:29-32

We do not want our kids to choose their way unwisely, or foolishly, but rather that they go out with eyes wide open.  God wants the same for us!  Notice that God does not have to invent horrible punishments for our rejection of WISDOM. But worse, we will simply reap the natural consequences of our actions. And these "fruits" of our "ways" and of our "schemes" are disastrous enough, leading directly to death and destruction.

"Lord please help me to heartily seek your WISDOM!  May I stop being COMPLACENT, and start being more all around engaged, as you would lead."

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

B is for Blameless and B is for Beer

There a lot of good and bad B words in Proverbs but BLAMELESS represents a high ideal for all of us, and BEER, well BEER does have its detractors.

One is either BLAMELESS or what?  Blameful?  Blameish?  Blamable maybe.  How about guilty?
Yes, I think we are either BLAMELESS or guilty.  You may notice that the passage today is a continuation of yesterday's section about ADULTERY, but after describing the terrible things that happen to its participants, these lines are a breath of relief for those who refrain.  The "upright" will not become refugees, and the BLAMELESS get to keep their place!

20 Thus you will walk in the ways of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous. 
For the upright will live in the land,
and the blameless will remain in it; 

Proverbs 2:20,21

"Oh Lord, I know I am guilty of offending you, but having been forgiven in Jesus' name, I know you now see me, as BLAMELESS!"

BEER certainly has many different effects on people, but one of them is to cause much brawling.  How many bar fights would break out if there was no beer in the bar?  Well I suppose there might be some if the tap ran out early, but the cause there too could be traced back to beer.

There are happy drunks and funny drunks and sweet drunks and sleepy drunks, among the rowdy fighting drunks, but the one thing they all have in common is that they are not being themselves.  They have rejected themselves and allowed another "spirit", as it were, to lead them where they would not otherwise go.  And as the Proverb says, that place is generally "astray".

Notice that being led astray is not quite the same as being ambushed and kidnapped!  It is far more subtle, and takes much more discretion and sensitivity to be avoided.

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Proverbs 20:1

"Again Father, we need your WISDOM so as to be led straight, and not astray."

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