Sequitur

Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.

–Proverbs 6:27-29

ferris-wheel-imgFor the most part, life is not that hard to figure out.

You do good, and good comes back to you. You do bad, and bad comes back to you.

There’s no such thing as a one-sided coin. You can’t jump off a building without falling — down. If you play with fire you will get burnt.

All our actions are followed by consequences. And the “wages of sin is death.”

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Thoughts Running Wild

For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adultress will hunt for the precious life.

–Proverbs 6:23-26

In these verses, Solomon returns to a familiar theme in his book of wisdom — a warning for his sons (or young men in general) to avoid a sexually promiscuous woman, whether married or unmarried.

This time, he tells the reader to take heed to his instruction because it will keep him away from such a woman’s grasp. It will help him avoid being taken in by her flattery and flirtatious ways. It will keep him out from under the spell cast by her eyes.

dragon-lava-heartSolomon even tells him not to lust after this woman in his heart. With pornography and excessive sex appeal in video games, movies, TV, and advertisements, this advice is more relevant than ever. It’s easy for the heart to get carried away. It’s easy for our thoughts to run wild. But sin begins in the heart and the mind long before it manifests in the body.

If we can learn to harness the thoughts of our heart, we can save ourselves a lot of trouble.

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Essence of Life

For a command is a lamp, teaching is a light, and corrective discipline is the way of life.

–Proverbs 6:23

No one can make it in the world alone. That’s why we need instruction, advice, and guidance throughout life.

The “commands” of God’s word are like a lamp in a dark room. They cut through the confusing messages spawned by the fallen state of our world. When we read Scripture, our minds are illuminated with the knowledge of God through the power of His Spirit. A light is turned on in our brain.

“Teaching”, from God and others, also enlightens us. There are forces in this world, good and evil, that are greater than any of us, and many others have contended with them. The wisdom passed from one generation to another enables earth’s youngest inhabitants to grapple with the tragedy and comedy that is life.

“Corrective discipline” is also a part of the essence of life. Wrong choices and evil deeds are rewarded with negative consequences in order that we may choose a better path when we are met with the next moment of decision.

Dr. Cornelius mentors Prince Caspian of Narnia

Dr. Cornelius mentors Prince Caspian of Narnia

It’s odd, though, that the essence of life — the commandments, teaching, and discipline of God and others — is loathed by many. We don’t like having to endure these things. A fallen nature has warped us so that we dislike, even despise, the very things that place us on the path to success, happiness, and fulfillment.

Instead of frowning on our enrollment in the school of human existence, we must embrace it and choose to learn all we can. We do not have to make the mistakes of our ancestors, or repeat the sins of our past. We can cut a brighter path in the face of a darkened world.

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The Constant Commandments

My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you;  and when you awake, they will talk with you.

–Proverbs 6:20-22

A dilemma arises and a decision has to be made. Is it time to hurriedly seek advice and direction from new sources? No. It is wiser to bring up what one has already learned.

The difficulties that we face — be they physical, moral, intellectual, or spiritual — have been faced countless times in the thousands of years that have come and gone before us. The solutions to those difficulties are often the same. As the wise preacher of Proverbs said in his other book, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

The “commandments” and “teaching” of our fathers and mothers did not originate with them. It came from their parents and from their own years of experience. When we heed what they learn — not just listen to it, but value it, store it in our hearts, and frequently meditate on it — we will never be without good advice and direction in decision-making.

Plumb the depths of God's Word.

Plumb the depths of God’s Word.

More than that, God’s ageless word is the best counselor known to man. It is not simply ink on paper, but a living text infused with the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s meaning and application to life is vast and unfathomable. Thus, we should cling to it, indulge in it, gorge on it. When difficult times come, we will be ready — armed with knowledge that is tried and true.

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God’s Meanstreak

The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.

–Proverbs 6:16-19

The Urban Dictionary defines “meanstreak” as “a unique characteristic of a person infuriated by anger which is usually hidden until provoked.”

We never cease to be reminded of God’s love. God is love itself. Every sunrise. Every sunset. Everything we receive that we don’t deserve. It’s all a testament to His love.

But God also gets angry. He becomes furious. He hates.

Read the Bible, and you will find that Hell hath no fury like God Almighty scorned.

The wisdom writing above gives us seven things that are “detestable” to God. The King James Version of the Bible calls these things “abominations.” An abomination is a thing that causes intense disgust or hatred.

I believe God hates these seven things because they strike at His character and the character with which He infused His original Creation. Let’s look at each of these detestable things in turn.

  1. “Arrogant eyes.” Pride is one thing God does not like. Who are we to act arrogantly on this earth? We are frail creatures of flesh and bone living precariously on an orb that is ceaselessly spinning through empty space. All of us put together are less than a speck of sand against the backdrop of an infinite universe.
  2. “A lying tongue.” The Bible tells us that God does not lie (Titus 1:2). He created humans to be in fellowship, in relationship with Him. When we lie, we put up a wall between us and Him — a wall which God despises. It was the lies of Satan that ruined the beautiful relationship between God and our progenitors, Adam and Eve.
  3. angry-god“Hands that shed innocent blood.” God made humans in His own image. Despite the immense beauty of His other creations, He called us His crowning achievement. When we murder each other, it is an affront to Him. It is an offense to His image. He takes it personally. If someone scrawled offensive language on a picture of you, you would be hurt. You wouldn’t be physically harmed, of course, but you would be insulted by what had been done to your likeness.
  4. “A heart that plots wicked schemes.” Everything evil that has ever been done began as a thought in the heart of some human being. The concentration camps and gas chambers of the Holocaust didn’t just pop out of the ground. Somebody, somewhere thought it up and put things in motion to carry out such large-scale horrors.
  5. “Feet eager to run to evil.” So maybe you’re not smart enough to come up with your own evil schemes, but you’re quick to join in with somebody else’s. God hates that. If you’re gonna be bad, at least be original.
  6. “A lying witness who gives false testimony.” When I was young, people sometimes referred to lying as “telling a story.” Normally, the “story” was told by someone as an explanation for why they were in a suspicious situation. For example, if you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar, you might say, “I was just counting the cookies,” when, in reality, you were trying to grab one for yourself. “False testimony” is “telling a story” — making up something that isn’t true and stating it as if it is. False testimony is problematic because, if believed, it prevents the powers-that-be from responding appropriately. For example, if a house across the street is on fire, and you give the 9-1-1 dispatcher an address for a building across town, the firefighters will be sent to the wrong place, property will be destroyed, and lives will probably be lost.
  7. “One who stirs up trouble among brothers.” When you are lying on your deathbed, you are not going to ask for all of the money you have in the bank to be stacked around you. You are not going to want your nice car parked by your bedside. You are not going to want to hold your college degrees one last time. No. The most important things in life are the relationships you have with people. You will realize that when you are about to leave those people behind. You will want the people you loved in life to be with you in death (and, hopefully, you were nice enough to them that they will want to be by your side as well). That truth ought to remind us to value the relationships that we are a part of while we have the chance. We ought not to be the kind of people who are always stirring up drama among our family members and friends. We ought not to facilitate or contribute to animosity between spouses, lovers, or associates. We should be reconcilers, not dividers.

Stay away from these seven things that God hates. You don’t want to see His meanstreak.

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The Tell-Tale Heart

A worthless person, a wicked man goes around speaking dishonestly, winking his eyes, signaling with his feet, and gesturing with his fingers. He always plots evil with perversity in his heart—he stirs up trouble. Therefore calamity will strike him suddenly; he will be shattered instantly—beyond recovery.

–Proverbs 6:12-15

Do you think you could kill someone? Could you? Would you?

Oh, of course you wouldn’t!

You’re a nice person. And so am I.

So were all the other people before they embarked on a path of betrayal and savagery and bloodshed.

Another question: Have you ever rooted for a villain in a book, movie, or TV show? I have.

I know, I know — they’re supposed to be the bad guys. But I just can’t help cheering whenever they come out on top.

Take Oswald Cobblepot (aka Penguin), for example, from the hit show Gotham on FOX. I know he’s a bad guy — a really bad guy. He crosses, double-crosses, and triple-crosses friends and enemies alike. He murders and steals and backstabs with impunity. But I still root for him.

And so do millions of others. Probably you too.

The thing, you see, is that a man like Cobblepot isn’t too different from you or me. Sure — different place, different circumstances. But it’s the human heart that pours out the very darkness that we condemn.

We like to pretend that we’re different, but we’re not. In the words of another infamous DC villain: “Their morals, their codes — it’s a bad joke… When the chips are down, these civilized people will eat each other.” So true.

Jesus Christ said, “For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).

Oswald Cobblepot ("Penguin", Robin Lord Taylor) vs. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith) in season one of "GOTHAM".

Oswald Cobblepot (“Penguin”, Robin Lord Taylor) vs. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett-Smith) in season one of “GOTHAM”.

When I cheer on Cobblepot, what’s beating in my chest is a tell-tale heart. A heart that takes common cause in the darkness of another human being. See, I’m a Cobblepot, too. And so are you.

The verses above — about the worthless, wicked, dishonest person who is constantly ‘plotting perversity in his heart’ — is one we shrink from. Of course, it’s describing someone else. Not us!

The truth, though, is that our hearts, too, are desperately wicked. There is only a step between us and villainy of the worst sort. Blood beats from our hearts the same way it beats from the hearts of every murderer, liar, rapist, or robber that walks the earth. We are no better than the ‘perverse’ man of Proverbs 6.

Except… We recognize our potential for evil, and we reject it. Repeatedly. We know the monster is just under the skin. But we refuse to let it come out. We hold to a standard of good that is outside ourselves. And it is this dedication that saves us from the ‘sudden calamity’ that can shatter us ‘beyond recovery.’

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Sleep! How I Hate Thee

How long will you stay in bed, you slacker? When will you get up from your sleep?

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest, and your poverty will come like a robber, your need, like a bandit.

–Proverbs 6:9-11

If there was one thing I wish I could do without, it would be more sleep. “Those little slices of death — how I loathe them,” Edgar Allan Poe complained.

It is in the waking hours that we work and play. And haven’t we all wished, at one time or another, that there were more hours in a day?

Unfortunately, for our tiring human bodies, sleep is a necessity. However, the Bible warns us against indulging in it. Each of us has work to do, places to go, people to meet, and things to accomplish. We can’t afford to laze around in bed. Nor should we waste unredeemable minutes in front of the TV, entertaining ourselves on the internet, ‘hanging out’ with friends, attending parties, etc.

reaching-for-alarmSleep, relaxation, and recreation is a good thing. But too much of it, and our livelihood will be ruined. Poverty and failure will sneak up on us like a robber, and we will regret the hours we wasted in laziness.

So, tonight, when your head hits the pillow, get enough sleep…but just enough.

BONUS! Do you have a love/hate relationship with the early morning? Check out these 5 ways to become an early morning person.

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Ant Life

Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise. Without leader, administrator, or ruler, it prepares its provisions in summer; it gathers its food during harvest.

–Proverbs 6:6-8

My first significant experience with ants came when I was about five or six years old. I stepped in an ant pile at the park while my family was out for some exercise. I was wearing shorts. The ants swarmed up my bare legs biting me all over. I started crying. The funny (sad?) thing is that I didn’t even jump out of the ant pile. I just stood there, crying and getting bitten all over.

The Book of Wisdom tells us to observe and learn from the ant because the ant is wise. Ant colonies do not have a structure resembling human society, yet they are organized, and they do what needs to be done to survive.

What are some things we can take away from the ant community and apply to our lives?

  1. antsAnts aren’t lazy. They are hard workers. They work early and they work often. It has been well-documented that ants can lift many times their own body weight. The neck muscles of a certain kind of American field ant can withstand pressure 5,000 times greater than its own body weight. (Any more than that, unfortunately, and the ant’s head falls off.)
  2. Ants are forward thinkers. They plan ahead. They stock up on food in the summer and fall when the weather is warm and amiable so they will have enough to live on in the winter and spring when the weather is bitter.
  3. Ants work together. Give a crust of bread to a single ant, and he will take forever to get it back to the ant hill. But ants don’t work alone. They work in swarms. A hundred ants attack a crust of bread — each one carrying a small bit at a time — and in short order, ant babies will be eating the jam-smeared toast you discarded this morning.
  4. Ants are diligent. They keep at it until the job is done. Have you ever watched ants work? I have. It seems like they keep coming and coming and coming. They don’t quit until they accomplish what they set out to do.

Live the ant life. Just on a much larger scale.

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Murky Money Matters

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor or entered into an agreement with a stranger, you have been trapped by the words of your lips—ensnared by the words of your mouth.

Do this, then, my son, and free yourself, for you have put yourself in your neighbor’s power: Go, humble yourself, and plead with your neighbor.

Don’t give sleep to your eyes or slumber to your eyelids. Escape like a gazelle from a hunter, like a bird from a fowler’s trap.

–Proverbs 6:1-5

Money is very important. It enables us to live comfortably, acquire provisions, pay debts, and interact with others commercially and economically.

Yet it also causes much trouble. Spouses have divorced, friends have become enemies, long-term relationships have been shattered, and people have even been killed because of money. Not to mention the many who have been ruined by love of money and lack of wisdom in spending it.

When dealing with money, we wield a double-edged sword.

black-moneySolomon’s advice to his “son” is not to enter into financial deals with a neighbor, not to be surety for a debt or a cosigner for a loan, because if his neighbor fails to keep up his end of the deal, the “son” will be trapped as well. The son had good intentions when he entered into the agreement. He wanted to help his neighbor. But, Solomon advises him to beg, to “plead” with his neighbor to release him from their agreement before it is too late. He tells him to flee, to escape — like a beast flees a hunter or desperately attempts to escape a trap.

The larger point here is that good intentions and innocuous ideas can end in devastating outcomes. Just as we should avoid bad financial deals, we should avoid anything that can ensnare us and make it difficult to escape.

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Asking Why?

And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?

For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

–Proverbs 5:20-23

“Why?” is perhaps the most frustrating and irritating question ever.

Looking back on bad choices that I’ve made, I’ve asked myself, “Why did I do that?” And I hate that question — mostly because I can’t come up with a suitable answer. (A “suitable answer” being one that rationalizes or makes sense of my bad choice.)

After his warning against sexual immorality and being deceived by immoral people, Solomon asks this question too. He asks, “Why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?” ‘Look,’ he says, ‘I’ve told you about the consequences from personal experience. Why would you do this stupid thing? Why would you do this especially knowing that God is watching you? His eyes are in every place; He sees everything you do.’

Some are concerned about government surveillance. We ought to be more concerned about God’s surveillance. Just because He’s invisible doesn’t mean He’s blind. He knows our thoughts and motives.

God-sees-allIsaac Watts wrote:

Within thy circling power I stand;
On every side I find Thy hand;
Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,
I am surrounded still with God.

God sees us when we walk down a foolish path. And, I think, He asks the same question as Solomon asks: ‘Why? Why, child, are you doing this foolish thing that will only lead to your own pain and suffering?’

It is impossible to sin without being arrested by consequences. One wrong deed, and we are bound in the grasp of that deed for some time, and perhaps for the rest of our lives. When we sit in the prison of consequences, our conscience will relentlessly scrawl on the prison walls, ‘Why? Why? Why?’

If we can remember that God is watching us, we might be able to avoid having to ask — and attempting to answer — that uncomfortable question.

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