Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the power of influence

Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.

Proverbs 25:5

Solomon's instruction is written specifically to kings, but it can apply to anyone in a position of authority or influence: lawmakers and enforcers, teachers, parents, pastors--even writers like me, whose words can affect others. His advice? Take away the wicked from before you.

This verse is a testament to the power of influence. The people we keep "before us" will influence the way we think and act. This, in turn, affects those who are under our authority or influence. Solomon phrases this negatively: if we take the wicked away, we will be established in righteousness. If we don't--well, that's left up to us to deduce.

Of course, none of us keeps a court full of people. But we do choose who to spend our time with. We choose the churches where we attend, the preachers we listen to, and the Bible study we engage in. We may keep TV before us, with its many faces, voices, and ideas. We may keep a court of authors whose writing shapes our perspective.

As people who recognize a difference between right and wrong, we must be careful about what influences we keep in our lives. While it is good to keep an open ear and heart, it is not good to allow "the wicked" an unbalanced place. No matter how strong we may think ourselves, none of us is immune to the subtle power of influence.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

rise up again

"Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place: For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief."

Proverbs 24:15-16

Let's face it ... sometimes it really looks like the wrong people are winning.

Sometimes it seems that culture has been shanghaied by the wicked, the powerful are stomping over the face of the poor, sickness and disease are tearing down the healthy, liars are being believed while truth-tellers are cast out, our strengths are too weak to make any difference, and everything we love is in jeopardy.

The Bible is very honest in telling us that life is like this sometimes. No illusions here! Our salvation was won by the horrendous death of an innocent man, and that man warned His disciples that they would face trouble in this life. Heroes of the faith are made because life tests their faith--because they have to plug their ears and keep believing while a thousand voices scream that they're wrong.

Keeping faith in times of trouble may sound romantic, but it's not. It's really, really hard. The important thing is that we keep faith anyway. Our faith isn't in our own righteousness or innate ability to overcome. It's in Jesus and His promises. If you're beginning to believe that you have fallen and will never get up again, I have news for you: there's an empty tomb in Israel that says you're wrong.

In John 16:33, Jesus said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." There's a powerful echo of Solomon in these words: "A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again." No matter what comes against us, no matter how we stumble, fall, or are beaten down, we will overcome.

The Risen One lives within us, and because of His justice, His righteousness, His love, we too will rise up again.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

a degree of truth

"Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge ... Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding."

Proverbs 23:12, 23

Yesterday evening my cousin and I took a walk down her dirt road, enjoying the cool spring twilight and talking about life. Our conversation touched on the world of academics. As homeschool graduates, we've both approached this untraditionally. We discussed the good or ill a university degree might do us in this day and age.

Solomon put great value on knowledge, nor did he differentiate which kinds of knowledge were "spiritual" and which weren't. In our day and age, knowledge (what we call "an education") is freely available in an astounding way. We live in a society that is mostly literate, that gives us access to books, experiences, and people, that flings school doors open to us.

Yet, our society's style of knowledge is off-kilter. We put much stock in knowing things. We put less stock in practical, hands-on, heart knowledge. Most tragically of all, in our rush to get educated, we often overlook truth. It happens on an individual level and on a societal one.

As Christians we should seek wisdom and understanding, praying and asking God for wisdom as James urges us to, but always with the desire to seek out TRUTH. Knowledge of truth is worth putting time, money, and resources into. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is worth practically nothing.

In your life, are knowledge and truth working together or opposing each other? Which do you value most? How are you pursuing it?


Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Beautiful Piano: new CD from a friend

Debbie Fortnum, a wonderful indie singer/songwriter who has worked with our fledgling ballet company, Soli Deo Gloria, has just released her CD The Beautiful Piano to WalMarts across Canada! This is beautiful music with a heart of worship. I encourage you to check it out! The next few weeks will determine whether WalMart sees this as a viable CD or not. You can hear clips from The Beautiful Piano here.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

cast out the scorner

"Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease."

Proverbs 22:10

Merriam-Webster defines "scorn" as "open dislike and disrespect or derision often mixed with indignation; an expression of contempt or derision." Scorn is an attitude: a proud, disrespectful way of treating others and their views, requests, and actions. It's not hard to see why it leads to strife, because others react badly to being treated this way!

I always imagine some prince, ruler, or employer reading Solomon's words and realizing that the continual problems among their underlings stem from a scorner in the ranks. That fictional ruler would waste no time ousting the problem: with a confrontation and a figurative kick in the pants, the scorner be out the door. The image always makes me smile, like that scene in every good story where the bad guy gets his comeuppance.

But my own life has seen the effects of scorn, and in my case there's no one I can boot out the door. As in so many cases, the root of my problems is me--my own attitude of disdain toward others. If I'm to quell strife and reproach in my own circles, I can begin by casting out the scorner within.

Casting scorn out of my heart doesn't mean adopting a sort of false "tolerance" that puts every idea or action on equal footing. Right is right; wrong is wrong; and true and false are still opposites. Instead, casting out the scorner means ridding myself of disdain toward others. It means loving the people who cross my path and realizing that I am no better than they are. If I have any extra light, it's only because God has graciously chosen to shine it in my life.