insight for life: Proverbs for January

 

I want you to join me in a topical, slow-read of the book of Proverbs in 2014! We’ll call this project in Proverbs Insight for Life. Picture this: sixty seconds of daily reading with the whole day left to ponder the meaning. We’ll read from tomorrow (New Year’s Day) to Halloween and it’s a six-day-a-week plan with Sunday as the “off” day.

You’ve got questions? Let me answer a few:

Q. Who came up with this topical arrangement? A. That would be me. Or you can blame the scholars behind the multiple Bible translations with cross references I consulted along with the scholars behind the numerous commentaries I checked to come up with this schedule.

Q. Which Bible translation should I use? A. Whichever one works best for you. I’d encourage you to compare renderings in different translations. In Proverbs, I always like to compare the NRSV and the GNT. The links below make use of the Common English Bible (CEB).

Q. Why are we taking a whole year just to read one book of the Bible? A. Because Proverbs were meant to be pondered. Insight rarely comes quickly and wisdom takes its time (hey, that’s a proverbs right there!). So the whole idea is to put just a bit of distilled wisdom into our head so we can take the time necessary to truly consider it, chew on it, and savor it. We might live a fast-paced life in a fast tack world, but some things are only done well slow. That’s what BBQ and Proverbs have in common.

Q. Are there memory verses that go with this plan? A. If you want them to be. That is, why not memorize one proverb per day on your own?

Q. Why does the schedule only run the first ten months of the year? A. Two reasons. First, the topical breakdown of Proverbs naturally lends itself to such. Second, my experience has been that the months of November and December are so full for most folks due to end-of-year expectations, holidays, etc. that many a reading plan gets abandoned during those months.

Q. Do you plan to do any writing regarding any of these proverbs during the course of the year and if so, where? A. Yes. Often. Here.

Q. If I wanted to purchase a commentary or two on Proverbs for my own study, which one(s) would you recommend? A. Fortunately there is not a shortage of quality commentaries available today on Proverbs. For the average Joe or Suzy in the pew, I’d say you’d enjoy the work of Derek Kidner and/or Tremper Longman. If you really want to dig deep, pony up for Bruce Waltke‘s two- volume work. If you’re a teacher or preacher, you’ll definitely benefit from Ellen Davis and Paul Koptak.

And without any further ado, here’s the reading schedule for January. Enjoy!

God our father: Galatians 1.1-5

Paul, an apostle … (my apostleship doesn’t derive from human sources, nor did it come through a human being; it came through Jesus the Messiah, and God the father who raised him from the dead) … and the family who are with me; to the churches of Galatia. Grace to you and peace from God our father and Jesus the Messiah, our Lord, who gave himself for our sins, to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of God our father, to whom be glory to the ages of ages. Amen. (Galatians 1.1-5 KNT)

Stop for a minute and ask yourself this question: if we believe we have a real and vital relationship with God, to whom do we owe that blessing?

Do we owe it to ourselves, earned on the basis of our own grit or goodness? “No,” says Paul, for it came by God’s own “grace” which resulted in a “rescue” mission to save us.

Do we owe it to chance, luck, or good fortune? Again, Paul says “No,” for our relationship with him came as a deliberate result of “the will of God.” It did not come to us perchance, but per Christ.

Do we owe it to the heritage of our birth? Not at all, for Paul says – three times, no less – that it isn’t a matter of our having Abraham as our Father, but a result of having “God” as “our Father.”

No, this much is crystal clear to all whose faith is truly in Jesus the Messiah, our Lord: all of the “glory to the ages of ages” belongs to the living God who, as surely as he breathed life into his Son while he was in the grave, breathes a relationship of “peace” between us and himself.

God my father, I owe all that is good to you. And so, each day you give me life, may I be not only quick to remember such, but eager to declare and demonstrate that to all, in the name of the Lord Jesus. So be it.

Bruner on John 14.23

 

“The geography of God in believers’ lives is still a puzzle to me. I believe we are to think of the Father as living in heaven above; that is where Jesus prayed to him [see 11.14 and 17.1], even though Jesus spoke earlier in our chapter of ‘the Father who makes his home in me is doing his works,’ 14.10; and heavenward is where he told his disciples to pray to the Father when Jesus gave us our prayer: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven,’ Matt. 6.9. Since the word ‘heaven’ is the Lord’s Prayer is actually the plural ‘heavens’ or ‘skies’ [the dative-plural ouranois], I translate Jesus’ phrase ‘all the skies’ in order to catch the plurality or universality of the Father’s address. I think of the Father in ever sky, above every single head below. Then I believe we are to think of Jesus, the Father’s Son, as reigning at the Father’s right hand in heaven, immediately above us, too. And I believe, finally, that we are to think of the Holy Spirit as hovering just above us as well, like the Dove in Jesus’ baptismal scenes, Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, and John 1. But all three Persons of the Divinity are also ‘in‘ or ‘beside‘ us, from above, in their ability to reach to and into us with their love and directional presence, just as invisible satellites communicate messages into our electronic devices and cell phones and heads and hearts all day long and just as spouses are ‘in one another’ all day long in their love for one another, no matter how far they may be from one another spatially.

“The exact location of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit in our daily lives is not clear to me except that they are, in some miraculous way, near us – perhaps in an unseen ‘fifth’ dimension! – making their homes, from above, with and beside and even in us, and beside and in all of God’s people all over the world.”

Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2012), pp.843-844

this went thru my mind


Evangelism: Paul Smith rounds out his outstanding series entitled Positive Evangelism with these two posts: The Role of the “Evangelist” and Summary and Final Thoughts. All of these posts are “required reading.”

* “… if evangelism is a gift, then the one who uses it is simply a recipient, and not the source of the gift. This simple but profound truth must be remembered!”

* “… in a human constructed evangelistic program salvation is reduced to one visible point in time that can be quantitatively measured, whether it is being baptized or some other point such as ‘saying the sinner’s prayer.’ However, in the gospels salvation is envisioned as a growing and maturing relationship with Jesus.”

Fatherhood: Dear Son by Jeff Goins

“Dear Son, Welcome. You’re only three days old, so before we get too far, I want to set a few things straight.”

Generation conflict, faith & church: Why Generational Strain? by Terry Rush

“Why is it that with each oncoming generation the faith system perpetually fights-pushes-pulls-tugs and strains its way forward? I mean it when I say that some parts of a progressing and maturing church are like pulling teeth. … From my labors I see two possible explanations.”

Hatfields & McCoys: ‘Hatfields & McCoys’: Real Historical Ties to Churches of Christ?

“Anderson ‘Devil Anse’ Hatfield, the patriarch of the family, was baptized by a Christian Church/Church of Christ itinerate minister in the area by the name of W. Dyke Garrett. This was later in his life, and a couple of his sons were baptized at the same time.”

C.S. Lewis & pacifism: Could C.S. Lewis Have Imagined a World Without War? by Stanley Hauerwas

“I am a pacifist. Lewis was anything but a pacifist. I want to show that his arguments against pacifism are inadequate, but I also that he provides imaginative resources for Christians to imagine a very different form of Christian nonviolence, a form unknown to Lewis, with which I hope he might have had some sympathy.”

Francis Chan & the Restoration Heritage: Francis Chan and Churches of Christ/Restoration Movement Influence? by Matt Dabbs

“If you have listened to his preaching you have probably noticed that Francis Chan says things that of us who have grown up in Churches of Christ find really familiar. … Chan actually did attend a church with Restoration roots while in seminary in Los Angeles for 6 months.”

Small groups: The Five Myths About Small Groups by Thom Rainer

“Discipleship manifests itself in the local church most often through small groups. But building effective small groups takes a lot of work, and can be difficult to implement. They often struggle to be successful and transformational because of wrong expectations, beliefs, or myths about how they work best.”

Transition: Escape from No-Man’s-Land by Dan Rockwell

“The temptation of transition is going back. The pain that drove you to change in the first place doesn’t seem so bad, anymore. At the same time, painful uncertainties about the future rise like dragons from the mist.”

Understanding the Bible: * Three fine posts by Timothy Archer are “required reading”: Piety isn’t Always Pithy, Why Some People Don’t Like Educated Preachers, and The Bible as Books; * Old Testament Law and The Charge of Inconsistency by Timothy Keller

* “Piety isn’t always pithy. Biblical concepts can’t always be explained in 30-seconds or less. Not every principle can be explained during an elevator ride. Not every problem can be solved by throwing a proof text at it. … We have to be willing to take the time to work at understanding the Bible.”

“* … how do we convince people to have the patience to do serious Bible study? How do we encourage them to read the Bible, while still saying, “You can’t always take a text at face value”? How do we make the Bible accessible to the masses while maintaining intellectual integrity?”

* “I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because ‘they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.’”

this went thru my mind

 

Accountability: Why I Don’t Believe in Christian Accountability | A Response by Mike Breen

“God is constantly speaking to us and is inviting us to himself and his unfolding Kingdom. His desire is that the words he speaks deep into us will change the way we see the world around us (Repentance) and result in us living differently (Belief).”

Bible interpretation & science: Misreading the Bible’s “Scientific Accuracy”

“The point is whether God guided the Biblical authors to write in such a way that they spoke better than they knew about future scientific findings.”

Charles Siburt: For Charlie by Dan Bouchelle

“Like the rest, I am deeply conflicted at the news that Charlie’s battle with cancer is drawing to a close and Charlie is in his final days with us on this side of Jesus’ appearing to set all things right. I’m thrilled Charlie will soon be with his Lord. I grieve over the hole his departure will leave behind.”

Christian conservatism: Christian Conservatives Seldom Conserve the Real Tradition by Richard Rohr

” To be fair, many progressives and liberals are just as bad.”

Church potluck meals: Food, Glorious…Potlucks?

“If food is relational, what are we saying to our friends and neighbors when we invite them to church and offer them overdone Mostacholi à la bland with a side of 15 layer Jell-o dessert?”

Cremation: Cremation: Is It Okay? by Edward Fudge

“Our confidence finally rests not in a scientific explanation, or in metaphysical theories about immortal souls, but in the personal faithfulness of the living God who made us in the first place and in whose keeping we safely sleep until he raises us on the Last Day …”

Defining Christ’s mission: What Was the Mission of Christ? David Lipscomb Answers by John Mark Hicks

“I am often amazed at how some contemporary writers–missional and emergent–seem to believe that they have embraced a new vision for the mission of God. It also amazes me that some more traditional writers–some Evangelicals and some New Calvinists–regard the missional emphasis as a new understanding of the gospel. David Lipscomb (1831-1917) reminds us that such emphases are not new.”

Difficult people: How to Deal with Difficult People and Have Constructive Conflict by Joe Wilner

“When we encounter these extreme personalities it can feel like they are trying to make our life miserable, but more often than not, it’s simply learning about these peoples’ tendencies and how to interact in a more tactful way. Some conflicts are unavoidable and shouldn’t be smoothed over or suppressed, though it’s learning to deal with our differences, and how to understand, resolve, and learn from these interactions that’s important.”

Discipleship: Favorite Quotes: James A. Harding by John Mark Hicks

“Our greatest trouble now is, it seems to me, a vast unconverted membership. A very large percent of the church members among us seem to have very poor conceptions of what a Christian ought to be. They are brought into the church during these high-pressure protracted meetings, and they prove to be a curse instead of a blessing. They neglect prayer, the reading of the Bible, and the Lord’s day meetings, and, of course, they fail to do good day by day as they should. Twelve years of continuous travel among the churches have forced me to the sad conclusion that a very small number of the nominal Christians are worthy of the name.” (Feb. 1887)

Food5 Myths Haunting Your Healthy Foods by Jonathan Bechtel

“The bottom line in all these myths is that people mistakenly assume various certifications as proxies for nutritional quality, but their presence bears no meaning to the quality of food you eat when you hold other things equal. The best way to ensure you’re eating right is to consistently consume a diet of fresh foods with minimally processed ingredients, and spare yourself the confusion of deciphering the legitimacy of the latest fads of the health food industry.”

Form & function: Form Versus Function by Timothy Archer

“How do we know when fulfilling the function is enough and when to insist on the exact form?”

Google Reader: Make Google Reader Pretty with Reeder for Chrome by Bobby Travis

“Google Reader is the best RSS subscription collector out there — but only as a base. In practice it has one of the ugliest user interfaces I’ve ever come across. … Thankfully, some enterprising folks have used browser technology to re-skin Reader into something that actually makes content easy to consume. One of the best is Reeder for Chrome.”

Grief: Good Grief – the E-Book by Ben Witherington

“Mark Galli, senior editor at CT liked the Good Grief articles so well, that Christianity Today is turning them, plus another 35 pages of my reflections that don’t turn up on this blog, into an e-book which you can read on Kindle, and see the pictures in color on Kindle Fire. In addition, there will be a sample in the April print issue of Christianity Today. Finally, all profits from this book are going to be donated to a worthy charitable cause Christy would have supported.”

Leadership: Leading the Leaders (Someone Has to Steer) by Tim Woodroof

“When leadership of the elder group is passed (sequentially and regularly) to different men—with different personalities and preferences … with varying levels of leadership skills and experiences … influenced by diverse constituencies and sensibilities … with assorted understandings of and commitments to the stated goals and directions of the church—the result can be nothing other than confusion and ambiguity and ineffectiveness.”

“Masculine Christianity“: Call No Man on Earth Father: A Comment on “Masculine Christianity” by Richard Beck

“I particularly learned a lot from J.R. Daniel Kirk’s response (who knew the translation of El Shaddai had anything to do with mammary glands?).”

New creation theology/renewed earth theology: From Lipscomb to Wallace on “New Creation” Theology by John Mark Hicks

“My interest in this post is new creation theology, that is, the belief that God will renew this earth, unite heaven and earth, and dwell with his people upon that renewed earth for eternity. This was a rather commonly held view among 19th century Stone-Campbell folk though, of course, not the only perspective. It was certainly the understanding of the theological trajectory connected with the Nashville Bible School, particularly in the thinking of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding. By the end of WWII, however, renewed earth theology had all but disappeared. What happened?”

Small groups: Four Practical Reasons for Small Groups by Rick Warren

“We may attract attenders through preaching, but disciples are made in small groups.”

To-do lists: Using Your To-Do List as a Second Brain by Nate Klemp

“How do you break out of the must-remember-mind? How can you draw your attention away from endless mental to-dos to the experience of this moment? The answer is – you need a second brain, a brain dedicated to holding on to all those emails, tasks, and calls you can’t stop thinking about. Enter the to-do list.”

Work: When You Feel Overwhelmed by Your Workload by Michael Hyatt

“Here are six things you can do to cope. … Acknowledge you can’t do it all. … Accept the fact some things won’t get done at all. … Practice workload triage. … Categorize your tasks by priority. … Practice intentional neglect. … Do the next most important thing next.”