Sunday, July 14, 2019

Peace vs. No Peace, Learning to Recognize the Voice of the Holy Spirit

Today's Reading:
  • Proverbs 14:1 -14
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Proverbs 14:1 - 14
The book of Proverbs is probably my favorite book of the bible.  There is so much life-giving advice in this book.  Proverbs 3:18 in the NLT tells us that "Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly."  I feel joy each time I read from Proverbs, in embracing the wisdom imparted into this book.

One of the great things about Proverbs is that each proverb can be distinctly different from the one before it.  There are many themes each time I read from this book.  Today's reading is no different - 14 proverbs, but many different themes. 

Proverb 14:1 tells us that a wise woman builds her home and a foolish one destroys it with her own hands.  I asked myself, in what ways can a woman tear her own home apart?  Obvious answers came to mind - things like having an affair.  Then not so obvious thoughts popped up.  A woman could tear a home apart by undermining her husband, or perhaps by feeding and propagating gossip and lies. Perhaps she is not wise with money and overspends the family's finances. I suppose anything that would put a strain on her family could be considered tearing the home apart.

Proverb 14:4 has really perplexed me.  In the NLT version, it states "Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest."  I felt like there was something about this verse that I wasn't grasping, so I looked up a few different translations. The NLV put it in terms of grain - "There is no grain where there are no oxen, but much grain comes from the strength of the ox." The NKJV talks about increase coming from strong oxen.  I guess the moral of the story is that you need to work hard to increase the things in your life.  Yes, you can obtain a strong ox and have it do the hefty work, but you must still clean and care for that ox. There is always work involved in feeding and caring for your family. God expects us to work.

Verses 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9 talk to us about fools and mockers.  Anytime I read about fools and mockers, my thoughts are immediately drawn to the heartless situation that has befallen our world. These fools and mockers are all over the place - blaming people instead of grieving with them, mocking online, gathering together to tear down symbols of faith and the last threads of open Christianity.  I feel like Christianity is slowly becoming a persecuted faith in the United States.  Yes, I am very aware we have it easy.  There are many countries where people are sentenced to prison and/or death for their faith.  We are not there yet.  But in the U.S., our rights are slowly being taken away.  We're being told that we can't stand up for our beliefs (even within our own businesses and lives) that are based on the unchanging word of God because they fall out of line with "love."  These people are truly deceived. Believing that something is a sin does not mean we hate the person behind it. It never has.  It's because we love them that we care.

The most profound verse that I read today was 4:12:
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
We must be aware that Satan does exist. We must be aware that just because a thought goes through our head and seems right, doesn't mean it came from God.  That's easy to say, but hard to decipher, because how does one know the difference?  In my opinion, that is a lifelong struggle to learn. There is an obvious way to tell something did not come from God, and that is if it contradicts the word of God.  God simply will not instruct us to do something that is against the word of God. Plain and simple. The problem there comes if you don't truly know the word of God.  So many Christians today are deceived because they do not know the word of God. That is the bible - God's manual for our lives. I see a lot of Christians who are probably good people and probably truly believe on the Lord, vehemently argue against God's mandates based on a few verses taken out of context. They don't have the bible written on their hearts, and because of that they are vulnerable to being deceived. 

Testing against the word of God is the first test. That's the easy one.  After that it can become more difficult. Prayer is the next line of defense.  Prayer, however, still isn't the hard thing. Prayer can be and should be very easy.  There's a part of prayer, however, that many don't realize - prayer is a two way street of communication.  One must listen for the Lord's response. Listen and recognize when it is given. It doesn't always, or even usually, come right away. Sometimes it does and you have a firm understanding in your heart.  Other times it comes as a whisper of understanding when you aren't even thinking about what you asked. Recognizing the Holy Spirit inside you is a constant challenge, and that is what is imperative to understanding what God is telling us.

A final tool to use is what my pastor calls "Peace vs. No Peace." When you bring your question before the Lord, feel the Holy Spirit on the inside. Do you get a feeling of peace? Or do you get a feeling of no peace? Learn to listen to that - it will help you to bring a stronger revelation of what listening to the Holy Spirit entails, and it's a quick check for a "yes" or "no" question about your path.  Above all, be wise and avoid the path that leads in death.