Archives For Proverbs

How much skill does making a wedding dress require?It takes more skill to lead a home than to sew a dress . . . 

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established . . . Prov 24:3

Weddings are expensive. The average wedding now costs a billion dollars (see this article). My daughters aren’t going to get married until 30, so I’m not personally concerned yet. But it’s worth thinking in advance about how we can save a few dollars.

Here’s my idea. Why not have grooms sew the dress? How hard can it be? Get a box of buttons, some sequins, and go crazy. I insist on modest. After that, I’m open to various styles. Use a zipper if it make things easier. It could save me (and many other fathers) thousands.

And since the groom is the guy who most motivated to make the wedding happen, why shouldn’t he make the dress?

Come on guys. Say “yes” to the dress.

It’s a ridiculous suggestion, of course. Even the most motivated groom – – and grooms tend to be motivated – – would not have the skill to make a wedding dress. The sort of skill needed to make a wedding dress is learned only through many years of practice combined with the right gifts.

But if future grooms understand they don’t have the requisite skill to make a wedding dress, they should also realize that leading a home requires  far more sophisticated skills than those needed to sew a wedding dress.

Scripture calls the skill needed to live the Christian life and lead a home “wisdom” Wisdom is skill for living in the fear of the Living God. Interestingly, the same word for wisdom is used in the Old Testament to describe the skill required to make an intricate garment.  In his wonderful book on Proverbs, Dan Phillips points out that Proverbs 1:3 uses the same word for wisdom that Exodus 28:3 uses to describe the skill needed to make Aaron’s robes.

 You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. (Exodus 28:3 ESV)

This side of Calvary, we no longer make garments to consecrate priests, but we can be sure that making Aaron’s robes required great skill. Likewise, wisdom is a skill that can only be learned, by God’s grace,  over many years of interaction with God’s Word.

So why not get started? Today is June 6. Why not carefully read Proverbs 6. Over time, this will sharpen the skills of your wisdom. It won’t give you the ability to make a wedding dress. But far more important, you will be equipped with the skill of wisdom needed to make your way through life.

*****************

I previously described what I expect of guys interested in my daughters:

If you want to win one of my daughters:

(1) The first thing you must do is, using only a pocket knife, stalk, kill and field dress a grizzly bear. Please have the hide tanned. We will use it as a rug, and as it was part of you winning one of our daughter’s, it will mean a great deal to our family.

(2) Second, read the new book by Voddie Baucham, What He Must Be . . . if He Wants to Marry My Daughter. In this excellent book, Voddie lays out a vision for what we dream the men who marry our daughters should be like.

Read the rest here

Reposted from 10/31/10.

As I have mentioned several times (see here or here), it is a very good practice to read the day’s chapter of Proverbs.  It’s a good idea to do two things when you read a chapter of Proverbs:

  1. Write the month and year at the top of the chapter.  Over time, it will encourage you to cover the entire book.
  2. Write prayers in your Bible or paraphrase a Proverb.  Put it in your own words.

Today is the 31st of [May]; Why not read Proverbs 31?  If you have a godly wife like I do, then you will never read Proverbs 31 without being thankful.

I take Proverbs notes in many different Bibles.  Below is a scan of just one of them.  It makes me smile to see how many different times in reading through Proverbs 31 I have been thankful for my wife or prayed for her.  IF, and this is a big IF, If you can read my writing, notice the different ways this chapter of Proverbs has encouraged me to pray for my wife.

God will work in your marriage in wonderful ways, if you consistently read God’s Word and then pray for your spouse.

Scan of Proverbs 31 page

Don’t insist that the book of Proverbs be read in the same way that we read the 10 commandments. Kidner explains:

“Naturally [proverbs] generalize, as a proverb must and may therefore be charged with making life too tidy to be true. But nobody objects to this in secular sayings, for the very form demands a sweeping statement and looks for a hearer with his wits about him. We need no telling that a maxim like ‘Many hands make light work’ is not the last word on the subject, since ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth.’” Derek Kidner

God's Wisdom on Proverbs by Dan Phillips is well worth reading.If you love God’s Word, take advantage of the resources available. For instance, Dan Phillips book, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, is a wonderful introduction to Proverbs. You can read my endorsement here.

I am preparing to preach on Proverbs over the Memorial Day Weekend at Camp Forest Springs. Tonight, I was in my study at my home with a stack of books (not necessarily related to one another) nearby . . . and it struck me that for all the particular challenges of our day, we enjoy unprecedented opportunities to study God’s Word.

When I was in seminary, there were relatively few books available on Proverbs. Derek Kidner’s pithy commentary was on the market. And there were a few others. Toy’s oft frustrating commentary was recommended by many.

But it is a new day. Twenty plus years later, there are a wealth of new resources highlighted by Bruce Waltke’s two volumes published by Eerdmans. Waltke’s commentary is technical and more than most will want to invest. For anyone who wants a wonderful introduction to Proverbs, buy Kidner’s Tyndale Old Testament commentary, along with Dan Phillips’s book, and you will be off to a great start.

**********************

ProverbsbooksThe introduction to God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, “Essentials for Understanding Proverbs,” is worth the price of the book. Phillips has a wonderful regard for the Word of God. His writing style is clear and memorable. For instance, Phillips gives this helpful definition of a proverb:

A proverb is a compressed statement of wisdom, artfully crafted to be striking, thought-provoking,, memorable, and practical.

Or this important thought:

Proverbs convey pithy points and principles, not precious particular promises.

Finally, a beautiful definition of wisdom:

Wisdom: skill for living in the fear of Yahweh

************************

At Camp Forest Springs this weekend, two of my goals will be to encourage family campers to: (1) Read the day’s chapter of Proverbs and (2) Memorize Proverbs. Most of you can’t be at camp this weekend, but those are a couple of great ideas in any case.

I am reading an advance copy of Paul Tripp’s forthcoming book, Sex and Money: Pleasures That Leave You Empty and Grace That Satisfies. I would strongly encourage you to pre-order this book. It will encourage your heart to be more Christ-centered and to find joy in glorifying Him.

Saying that Tripp’s book will encourage your heart to be more Christ-centered raises the question of what is meant by “heart.” Tripp offers the following:

Scripture presents the heart as the seat of our emotion, motivation, will, thought, and desire. What this means is that when you encounter the word ‘heart’ in your Bible, you should have the following definition in your brain. The heart is the causal center of your personhood.

This definition of “heart” in mind, perhaps meditate on and study Proverbs 4:23 and the surrounding context.

Mike Wittmer: On Concealing Sin

Chris —  September 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

Mike Wittmer:

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, by telling the truth. Make your confession and tell me what you have done” (v. 19).

 Historians weren’t sure if there was any truth to the rumor that the Reformer Huldrych Zwingli had been sexually promiscuous with the daughter of a prominent citizen. Misbehaving priests were not uncommon in the 16th century, yet such gossip seemed like something his Roman Catholic enemies might spread to discredit Zwingli and his Reformation. The ambiguity lasted until the 19th century, when Johannes Schulthess discovered a letter written by Zwingli in the archives in Zurich. There Zwingli admitted that the charge was true but insisted he was now committed to a chaste life.

 Schulthess didn’t want to tarnish the legacy of his hero, so . . .

Read the rest here.

Stating the obvious, we don’t see blind spots.  That’s why they’re called blind spots.  So, rather than being defensive when someone points something out, let’s listen to advice and accept instruction – – that in the end we can be wise (Proverbs 19:20).

Proverbs 17:10A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.  That is, a man of understanding doesn’t defensively deny blind spots when they come his way.  He allows them to shape his character.

Image of Dr. Matt Mitchell.Urban Legends: We’ve all heard them . . . and many of us have swallowed the bait.

Pastor Matt Mitchell did his doctor of ministry thesis at Westminster on gossip. I asked him to interact from a pastoral point of view with some questions about urban legends and why they take on a life of their own.

What is it about urban legends that appeal to people?

That’s a great question, Chris. I’ve often wondered about that myself.  I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have a few thoughts:

Our sinful hearts are often attracted to the wrong things, and most urban legends appeal to our baser natures.  For example, we like to believe the worst about people instead of the best. There aren’t many urban legends about good people doing virtuous things—that would be boring! We also like to be “in the know,” and urban legends feed our cravings for inside information.

They also feed our fears. It’s thrilling to be scared, especially if the stories that we share are scary for someone else. Most urban legends are cautionary tales but about fantastical things that aren’t likely to happen to me.  So, I get the entertainment value of being freaked out, but I don’t really have to worry about the story coming true in my own life.

Yet, I get to pass it on! Because these stories are mostly anonymous or come from a vaguely defined “friend of a friend,” urban legends don’t require us to be especially responsible with the truth.  People love to trim the truth; we’ve been doing it from the beginning (Genesis 3).  Urban legends give us permission to pass on a story without feeling obligated to check its veracity.

These days, it’s hard to know what is true and what is not. We have been trained by our culture to distrust authorities and to be skeptical of “spin.” So, there is a nagging feeling in today’s climate that rather unlikely conspiracies are actually plausible.  Of course, truth can be stranger than fiction. Some things that seem like urban legends do turn out to be true.  We must learn to develop discernment.

Image of Mr. Rogers in which he does not look like a marine sniper. Would you consider urban legends a kind of gossip?

They are, at least, close cousins.  Gossip tends to be about someone that we know and is telling a bad story about them behind their back.  Urban legends are mostly about people we don’t know personally.  But both are bad stories that are often untrue and snowball beyond their original form.

I think we do receive and pass on both gossip and urban legends for many of the same reasons that I outlined above.

Do you think small-scale urban legends happen within local churches?

Sure.  I know of a neighborhood where two twenty-something men moved into a house together.* These men were newcomers, strangers, to this rural community.  The word got around that they were homosexuals living in flagrant defiance of the local moral values. Then they showed up at a local church!  Boy, was it awkward for them to make friends.  Unfortunately, they got the cold shoulder from that church, at first.  It turns out that they weren’t homosexuals at all, just long-time friends (and committed Christ-followers) who had decided they could save money, time, and labor by sharing a house for a while.

Now, that church should have been more welcoming any way about it, but if certain tongues hadn’t been wagging in advance, there wouldn’t have been so much trouble.

That’s an extreme case, but churches can get gossipy and lose their saltiness.

How should we respond if we hear an urban legend at church?

 Take it with a grain of salt, and be really hesitant to pass it on.  The Bible says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7).  That doesn’t mean that we should be gullible the other way—putting our fingers in our ears and believing only good things about people.  We know that people are sinners and capable of much wickedness.  But we should be ready and willing to believe the best about others unless confronted with incontrovertible facts.  (And it’s not an incontrovertible fact if it comes in anonymous email starting with the letters “fwd!”)

If you hear a bad story about someone at church, go to them to find out if it’s true. Don’t talk about people; talk to them.

Check your heart. Ask yourself, “Why am I listening to this story?”  “Why am I passing it on?”  Does this come from a heart-motive that is sinful or from a heart of love?  And one of the best ways to know if you’re being loving is to use the Lord Jesus’ Golden Rule of Thumb—if I was the subject of this story, how would I want to be talked about?  We all want our own stories to be treated carefully—and that’s no urban legend!

See Gossip Affects Your Spiritual Waistline

*Details of this story have been changed to protect people involved.

Never has it been more important to teach our children to work. Parents who allow their children to be lazy undermine the child’s sense of dignity and compromise their future. For parent seeking to teach a work ethic, Proverbs is an incredible gift from God. And Dan Phillips’s book on Proverbs is a great resource for studying Proverbs.

Much is at stake where diligence is concerned. As Proverbs warns, just a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you suddenly (Proverbs 6:6-9).

I was privileged to grow up on a farm in Iowa. A farm is the ideal place to learn a work ethic. Children work alongside parents as they bale, pick, plant, raise, and harvest. (Though as I have otherwise confessed, boys and bulls on farms can make for a dangerous combination). I didn’t always work hard, but I did learn to work hard. And I never doubted that my family counted on me, even when I was eight years old. On our farm I saw wagon loads of the result of hard work. I waded in bins of corn, loaded pigs to go to market, and baled sweet smelling hay.

In our post-agrarian culture, it is more difficult to teach a work ethic. But it is still possible if we  meditate on biblical wisdom. Consider 6 lessons from Proverbs 6:6-9.

6       Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
7       Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
8       she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
9       How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10       A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
11       and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.

6 Principles For Instilling a Work Ethic from Proverbs 6:6-9

  1. Read Proverbs together as a family. Proverbs is God’s gift for sharpening our wisdom saw. Read and meditate on these verses together as a family. Where mining the precious jewels of Proverbs is concerned, I highly recommend (see my endorsement) Dan Phillips’s, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs.
  2. Set an ant-like example. Both my parents modeled a work ethic. Forty years later, I can picture either my mom or dad working incredibly hard. The first ten things about teaching our children a work ethic are example, example, example, example, example, example, example, example, example, example. After that, be sure you are a good example.
  3. Acquire a taste for work. I didn’t like coffee as a child, and I didn’t enjoy work either. But I have learned to like them both. The reason Proverbs has so much to say about work is because a work ethic does not come easily in a fallen world. Tell your children not to be discouraged if they don’t like working. Assure them that if they are disciplined, over time, they will acquire a taste for work and enjoy seeing the results. Grant hope.
  4. No need to move a mountain; just carry a crumb. Ants don’t lug cinder blocks. They just relocate a cracker one crumb at time. Yet, over time, the results of their industry are amazing. In the beginning, we need to give our children very, very manageable tasks which allow them to see progress. Do not ask your child to rid Western civilization of every dandelion the first time you send them out to weed the yard. Ask them to bring you back five, very dead, dandelions.
  5. Fear Laziness. Preach this with passion. You don’t have to be lazy a long time. Just a teaspoon of laziness can lead to poverty. Children do not need to fear the bogeyman, but they ought to tremble at the prospect of being lazy in life.
  6. Work Together. A single ant would never get it done. Ants cooperate. Likewise, we need to teach our children the joy of working together. It is not a fair assignment to banish a six year old to his room to organize until the rapture. Instead, say to him or her, “Let’s have fun doing this together. And then let’s show Mommie how much we got done.” There is a reason my daughter Marybeth and I are raising pumpkins together!

For balance, which I so desperately need, see John Starke’s, A Word for the Ambitious.

Church leaders seeking to establish the biblical basis for a vision statement should look to passages like Revelation 22 rather than misapplying Proverbs 29:18’s “where there is no vision the people perish.” Let’s be vivid in calling people to fix their eyes on Christ and continue forward.

How many times have you heard it? A pastor seeking to defend the biblical basis for a vision statement quotes the KJV translation of Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” It reads like a perfect verse for justifying  vision statements, but as I pointed out in an earlier post, quoting this verse as a proof text for a vision statement misapplies the verse. The point of Proverbs 29:18 is that apart from the Word of God society loses all self-control (sound familiar?).

Having said that,  a biblical basis for vision statements is easily provided without misapplying Proverbs 29:18. Scripture repeatedly demonstrates that biblical leaders pointed people to a vivid picture of the future when seeking to unify and motivate. Recall what Jesus said when comforting his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions. . . .I go to prepare a place for you. . . (John 14:1-6).

One of the most compelling leadership vision statements ever written is found in Revelation 22. Writing to a suffering church, John shares a vision of where God’s people are headed: a heavenly city with a river flowing from the throne, surrounded by trees with people from every tribe and tongue.

We often tell our children at home, “I can’t promise you that I will always be around. We live in a world of cancer and accidents. But if for some reason we get separated then we’ll meet on the other side.” In fact, as a family we have a spot picked out where we plan to meet all picked out: the 5th tree on the right side, as we face the throne of Christ. Our goal is to give our children a compelling biblical picture of where we are headed.

Our children laugh when I remind them to be on the right side of the river as we face Christ. I often tease one our sons (who doesn’t always listen so well) that he is going to be on the wrong side of the river. We have fun with that. But there is a serious point to it. I want them to envision a very concrete picture of being in the presence of Christ. I’m working to be vivid. It’s really going to happen and we must all be headed there.

It was a vivid picture of the Heavenly City that sustained Abraham. He was looking forward to a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:8-10). Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, because he was fixed on a vision of his reward (Hebrews 11:24-28).

Of course, church vision statements need not focus exclusively on the New Earth. We need also to paint a compelling picture of what we are looking for in the short run. So Paul said to the Philippians, share the mind of Christ so that in being unified and serving one another our joy will be complete (Philippians 2:1-11).

Here’s the question, “Are you painting a vivid,Christ-centered picture of the future which will unify and motivate those you are leading — whether it is your church or your family?” Where are you telling your folks that you are going to meet? You’re welcome to come by the 5th tree on the right side of the river as you face the throne. We’re going to have a great party.