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Praise God for Excellent Wives

Monday, March 06, 2023

The woman depicted at the end of Proverbs 31 is fictitious. That is not to say she cannot be found or does not exist in many hard-working women across the centuries, but the wisdom writer wrote of the ideal woman.

Solomon wrote most of Proverbs, and his stated intent was to help his reader know wisdom and instruction and to understand words of insight (Prov. 1.2). He wrote as a father to a son, and much of the wisdom found in the book guides a young man away from the pitfalls and traps of the adulterous woman of folly and towards lady wisdom. The first nine chapters instruct with a unified voice, “Listen to Wisdom; she desires your good! Flee the adulterous woman; the path to her house is the path to hell.”

The book begins with Lady Wisdom (Prov. 1.20–23; 3.13–18; 4.5–9; 8.1–9.12) who wants to care for young men and provide them healthy living, and it closes with a marvelous description of a woman who would make an excellent wife. The Proverbs 31 woman is Lady Wisdom incarnate.

Her husband trusts her with everything. He knows she will not squander their money. Instead of wasting wealth, she contributes to the household income streams.

She skillfully makes things for her household: plenteous food, fine garments, lovely bed coverings. Not only does she make them for her household, she also sells them and gives to the poor. She manages a house which provides—largely because she works hard to make sure these things happen. She purchases land and cultivates a vineyard. In a word, she is fruitful.

What can we say of her character? She diligently rises before the sun to accomplish her daily work and works into the night by lamplight. She “dresses herself with strength…strength and dignity are her clothing.” She “laughs at the time to come,” which expresses not only her sense of well-being but also her joyfulness in the face of uncertainty. Because she is prepared, she can laugh.

In the center of the poem we find, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” Taking nothing away from his character and work-ethic, we understand this note is not about him—it’s about how his excellent wife has been a great force behind his respected status. As husband and wife are one flesh, we observe in this couple a mutual, harmonious, synergetic relationship where each blesses the other, and God works powerfully between them.

The poem begins with the heart of the husband trusting in her and ends with the husband praising her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

But the key to everything lies in one of the last statements: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” The secret to all is in the fear of the LORD! Indeed, what an excellent way to end the book of Proverbs…much as it was begun, for we read in Proverbs 1.7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”

May my sons each find a woman who they can trust their hearts to. May my daughter become one of these excellent women. God has blessed me to be married to an excellent wife who is worth more to me than any amount of wealth.

These women aren’t found under every rock; they are uncommon. You will not find an excellent woman among people who do not fear the LORD, so only look there! Realize, also, that women grow into this kind of strength and dignity. Proverbs 31 shows a woman who has been diligently working, building, and growing for many years, a picture of long-term walking with God. Again, this is an ideal woman—no one will look exactly like this—but find you a woman (or be a woman) who wants to look like this.

Praise God for excellent wives!

Put Off Stealing – Give

Monday, January 02, 2023

Paul wrote, “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4.22–24). He then began to list a series of activities we should take off and their opposites to replace them.

We cannot just stop bad habits; we must replace the bad habits with good habits.

We’ve looked at replacing lying with speaking the truth (Ephesians 4.25) and replacing anger with quickly dealing with it (Ephesians 4.26–27). Paul next addresses stealing.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Ephesians 4.28)

How many thieves do you know? You may picture guys in black balaclavas sticking up a bank or a dark figure with a knife demanding someone’s wallet in a back alley, but there are many kinds of thievery.

One thing God hates is a false scale. “Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good” (Proverbs 20.23). “Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 20.10). These are people who write “16 oz” on the bag but only put in 15. They don’t top off the measuring cups they use. They secretly put a finger on the scale.

Hourly employees who arrive late and leave early rob their employers; they take payment for the full hour, but they didn’t work the full hour. Likewise, employees who twiddle their thumbs on the job, spend a significant time on their smart phones, texting with friends, checking their social media accounts, also steal from their bosses.

More egregious forms of stealing include identity theft, ransomware attacks on individuals and businesses, phishing attempts, etc. Fraudsters and cyber thieves exist in significant numbers these days, expending massive amounts of creative energy to come up with plans for swindling others out of their hard-earned livelihoods.

Paul says the opposite of this mentality starts with doing honest work with your own hands—but it doesn’t end there.

The real opposite mentality is an intention to give your wealth away to those who have needs.

Instead of thinking of this world as a winner-take-all fight fest in which you must scratch, claw, and bite your way to owning anything, think of it as your Father’s world in which he gives liberally and abundantly. You cannot outgive God. Whatever I give to another, God can easily replace. God is the greatest of all givers, the giver of all good and perfect gifts (James 1.17).

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9.8–11).

If we do not have a mindset to give, we will have a mindset to take from others. It’s one or the other, and God says we should take off that old man and put on the new! Trust him to provide all your needs, engage in honest work, and he will bless you in that—guaranteed.

Spiritual Energy for Spiritual Work

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Newton’s Laws of Motion teach us that objects move only when force is applied to them. We live in a world of many forces, such as gravity and friction, slowing and stopping moving objects. If I throw a frisbee as hard as I can, it may fly a long way, but gravity and wind resistance will slow it down and eventually bring it to the earth where it will come to a state of rest. Someone must pick the frisbee back up and hurl it again to get it to fly once more.

Our three Laws of Thermodynamics teach us the amount of energy in the universe remains constant, but it changes from one form of energy to another. It takes work (powered by some form of energy) to create heat (another form of energy). In my house, it takes work to make dinner, and dinner results in dirty dishes piled up beside the sink. The food we eat gives us energy to do work. Should we spend some of that energy cleaning the dishes? It takes work to keep the kitchen clean.

This world tends towards disorder. It takes a lot of work and energy to keep things organized, dishes cleaned and put away, clothes washed, house repaired, lawn picked up and mowed, garden weeded, car engines oiled, etc.

God started this earth with his own work. His power started everything and now sustains all processes that are going on, which is awesome! At the center of our Solar System he placed a yellow dwarf star we call the Sun to provide the energy (via light and heat) our world uses to survive.

These physical processes astonish and often baffle us, but they also reflect spiritual reality. It takes work to increase in faith and produce the fruit of Christ’s Kingdom.

Paul says we should walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Eph. 4.1), and he tells us the Christian walk is a new life in Christ. We once walked like the nations around us, in the futility of our minds. Their minds are dark, they are ignorant of God’s ways, and their hearts are hard (Eph. 4.17–18).

Dirty DishesIndeed, without some form of spiritual energy to raise him up, everyone falls, as spiritual forces of evil pull him downward and stop any forward movement. He finds himself at the bottom of a bottle, in a dark pit, in a depression. It takes work and energy to rise and move forward, but where can he get that energy?

The world says to pull that energy from inside yourself. Be the truest you that you can be. Be authentic. You do you. Love yourself. You are powerful. You are beautiful. You are wise.

Funny thing is, we are none of those things by ourselves and certainly not while under the influence of the spiritual forces of darkness. While we buy the fiction (lie) that we have a well of personal energy deep within our own breast, we will never find the strength to rise and move forward. Our power and energy come from the same source as our Sun. We don’t worship the Sun; we worship the One who lit the Sun on fire. As the Sun powers the earth and everything in it, so our Lord powers our souls and lights the fires of our lives.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this [Jesus] said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7.38–39)

The Holy Spirit empowers us to not only have life in ourselves but to have that life flow out from us to affect others around us!

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15.4–5)

The only way to bear spiritual fruit is to be connected securely to the vine, Jesus Christ. He provides the power and energy for us to do any good work.

It takes work to clean up messy lives like ours. It takes energy to walk each day in the Spirit. It takes power to fight against the schemes of the devil. Praise the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit who supply us constantly with the spiritual energy to do God’s work and keep walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called!