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.'”