Stop Talking

Strawberry pie

We have all been asked the question, “If you could spend one hour with a famous person, who would you spend that hour with?”  Maybe it’s not a famous person we want to spend that hour with, maybe it is someone who has passed away before us.  Why is it we want to spend an hour with that person?  I am sure there are many answers to this question, but it all boils down to one main thought.

 

RESPECT.

 

The person we have imagined in our heads that we want to spend that hour with is not usually a crook, a liar, mean, or evil.  Rather, they have gained a level of respect in our eyes because of who they are.  To be able to be in the presence of someone who has done something great usually challenges us to be better people ourselves.

 

No one is clamoring to hear what the homeless drunk on the street has to say, rather people clamor to hear a well-known politician or a wise pastor.

 

Why?

 

Most people have a general desire to succeed, to accomplish something.  Depending on what they hold valuable will often times coincide with what they spend their time invested in.   Many times in life we need a chance to refocus our lives, our thoughts, or our energies.

 

Solomon addresses this in Proverbs 8:32-36.

And now, O sons, LISTEN to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.

HEAR instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.

Blessed is the one who LISTENS to me, WATHCING DAILY at my gates, WAITING beside my doors

For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord,

But he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.

 

There are some keys here that many would find helpful in their lives if they would prioritize their lives according to these principles rather than the ones they think are important.

 

  1. Stop talking

 

The first key to listening is not talking.  We have all met people who like to hear themselves talk.  When we spend any length of time with them there is nothing we need to worry about saying, they will fill the empty space with their words.  When we talk, we are poor listeners.

 

  1. Start listening

 

Three times we are instructed to listen.  When we listen there are some very positive results.

  • When we listen, we learn how to keep God’s ways
  • When we listen to the right instruction, we become wise.  If we listen to evil, we will not become wise.
  1. Watch daily

 

Habits.  The people we are show up in our daily habits.  Just like we are what we eat, we are also the product of our habits.  What we do daily?  God wants us to meet with him daily.  As we meet daily with God earnestly seeking Him in His Word and through prayer, we become wise.  The word watch in the Hebrew means to be alert and sleepless.  Daily literally means from sunrise to sunset.  The idea here is not a quick check the box kind of meeting with God, rather it is a meeting where we yearn to know Him.  We long for His presence in our lives.  We begin our day devoting time and our undivided attention to reading His Word, praying/talking to God, and inviting Him to be part of every aspect of our lives.  Seeking to have our lives be transformed because of our relationship with Him.  We become so devoted our very words are easily influenced by these daily encounters with God.  Our actions are guided by our daily meeting with God.  Nothing escapes our lips or our hearts without first being checked through the filter of the wisdom that God imparts.

 

  1. Waiting

 

God is not the Jeanie in the bottle waiting for us to rub the bottle and make a wish.  Rather, God asks us to wait.  In the waiting, we show our faith.  In the waiting, as we gain faith we begin to experience peace.  The literal Hebrew meaning for wait also means to protect.  When we gain wisdom, it is our responsibility to protect the wisdom we have.  The only way to protect it is to continue to meet daily with God making sure our thoughts, actions, and habits are lining up with the truth of Scripture.

 

The results are seen in the last two verses.  If we find wisdom we obtain favor.  If we fail to find wisdom, we are injured or experience death.

 

Let us all yearn to be spending time with God, yearning to be wise through a relationship with Him.  The time with Him is not meant as a box to be checked, but a relationship to be cultivated and depended on.  What happens in this time is evidenced by the fruit of our lives.  What we talk about and what our desires in life truly are.  The greater our respect for God the greater our “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 8:13), the more our lives will be flourishing with the fruit of wisdom.

 

The time spent listening, watching, and waiting is evidenced by the fruit in our lives.

Seeds and Fruit

080812_194111

I am excited this year to have a garden.  Now that we live on 5 acres there is plenty of room to have a garden.  Growing up as a child in Cedarville, we had a large garden.  I did not like all the work that went into having a garden.  I did not like weeding the garden, picking the produce, or cleaning the produce; but I did like eating it.  I did not realize how good that homegrown produce was until I had eaten store bought produce and realized the flavor was so much richer when it could be picked with my own hands and eaten when it was ripe and ready to be plucked from the plant.  I had a small garden years ago, and the year we moved from there I had the best tasting strawberries I can ever remember.  The flavors were so rich and bold.  To say the least, my winter has been spent dreaming about tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, green beans, potatoes, cucumbers, etc.   I realize it will take time for some of this to all take shape and produce a harvest, but the anticipation of what is to be is exciting.  The quest between my dreams of this great tasting produce and the plot of ground it must come from is going to take some work. I have a few more trees to cut down, a lot of ground to till, a fence to build, and seeds and plants to plant.  Then comes the maintenance of the garden through watering and weeding until one day, the fruit of my labors can be enjoyed.

In the end, I can do everything in order to enjoy the end result: the fruit or vegetables; but I cannot actually make the produce or the plant grow.  I can plant the seeds, I can make sure the soil is amended perfectly, but the end results are in God’s hands.  I have two options.  I can sit by the piece of property I have picked for my garden and wait and pray for the produce to appear.  My second option is to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water the seeds, and make sure I keep the weeds out of the garden.  It seems rather obvious which one has a higher likelihood of producing some produce to enjoy at the end of the season.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (I Corinthians 3:6, 7).  So many things in life can be related to this analogy of a garden.  These verses remind us that we must do the due diligence of evangelism at all times with all people, but the end result is in God’s hands. God is the only One that can prick someone’s heart and bring them to Himself.  God is the only One who can convict someone’s heart to cause them to turn from their sin.  No matter how hard we try or pray, the end result is God’s.

When we fully realize this concept, it removes a weight.  It defines our responsibility.  When we try to produce the fruit ourselves and make the results what we think they ought to be, it produces a burden on our hearts.  This level of responsibility that we take on ourselves also shows our lack of faith in God.  Only God can give the answer to our prayers.  Only God can give the results to our labors.  Only God can cause the fruit to grow. In the garden and in our lives, God produces the end result in His timing.  When we truly trust Him for the end result, our faith increases and the burden of the end result is removed from our shoulders and placed on the shoulders of our Savior.  The enigma of Matthew 11:28-30 takes on a whole new light.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Our responsibility is defined. Our yoke is defined.  But the burden of ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of our Creator and not us, this makes our burden light.   We must plant, or we must water, but we must let God give the increase.  The fruit is sweeter and the taste is much richer.  To God be the glory.

The Fruit Tells the Story

20150828_204458

“Give her of the fruit of her hands,

And let her works praise her in the gates.”

Proverbs 31:31

The conclusion of this chapter and also the conclusion of Proverbs finds us reading Proverbs 31:31.  There is controversy among theologians as to the meaning behind Proverbs 31:10-31.  According to various theologians, this passage could be referring to wisdom which is referred to as a “she” in the book of Proverbs.  We can easily relate to this as a person of wisdom is a willing worker, cares for her family, cares for the poor, and has the “teaching of kindness on her mouth.”  (Proverbs 31:26).  However, if this were the meaning behind these verses, King Lemuel’s mother would have been more direct in her counsel letting him know that these are the characteristics of wisdom, since she was direct in her opening comments of Proverbs 31.  Others have said this is the make-up of many women and not just one women.

Why is it as Christians we try to put God and His commandments into a box?  Why do we seek to take the commandments of God and make them doable in our own strength?  Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned these words, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:10).  Why is it that Paul says “when he is weak then he is strong?”  We must look at Jeremiah to find the heart we must desire, “Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23, 24).  Paul later elaborates on this in I Corinthians 1:27 “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”  In essence, living the Christian life in our own strength is not doable.

God wants us to be dependent on Him to accomplish great things, because then we have no other choice but to give Him the glory.  In our own strength, Proverbs 31 living is not doable, but with the strength, wisdom, and proper fear of the Lord living out these verse is not just probable but very much within our reach.

The last three verses of Proverbs 31 are spoken by the King about his wife, and he understands that without giving his wife some of the fruit from her hands she will become discouraged and want to give up on the daunting task before her.  She is still a woman with needs, both physical and emotional.  Though she does not seek a reward, praise, or compensation for all of her good deeds, her husband realizes that without some fruit and praise she will become weary.  He must do his part as a husband by encouraging her with his words, actions, and gifts so she continues to make such a valuable impact in her family and her community.

The praise she receives at the gates would not fall on her ears, as the “gates” were a place for the men to gather and discuss business matters or make judicial decisions.  As the wife fulfilled her responsibilities, the more praise and honor would fall on the husband’s ears and be bestowed on his character.  It would be the husband’s responsibility to relay this to his wife which would provide encouragement for her to keep leaning on God to fulfill all she was asked to accomplish.  “A word fitly spoken, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11).  “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” (Proverbs 12:4).  No matter how our husbands treat us, we must strive to be the virtuous woman God asks us to be.  In the end, we alone will stand before God, and how we were treated is not what God will judge.  How we responded and what we did with what God gave us is how we will be judged.   My dear sisters, “Do not grow weary in well-doing for in due season, we will reap if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9).

Questions:

  1. Is it wrong to seek praise for the sake of praise or for the intention of building ourselves up?
  1. Do we need encouragement?
  1. One of my favorite things to make in the kitchen is fruit pies. If I made a pie and was not able to enjoy a piece of pie, I would not be as apt to make a pie in the future.  “Give her of the fruit of her hands.” (Proverbs 31:31).  God understands the needs of us as women and understands we need some of our fruit to enjoy in order to encourage us.  What fruit do you need to encourage you?
  1. One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to notice things about people such as qualities or needs and send them a note encouraging them with what I have noticed. I try to notice the little things that may go unnoticed.  How would this be an encouragement to others if you did this?  How would it be an encouragement to you if you received this type of encouragement?

What is your fruit?

080812_194111

“She considers a field and buys it;

With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”

Proverbs 31:16

I am a farmer at heart.  My Grandpa owned a farm and planted crops and raised cattle.  While growing up, we had a large garden that we cultivated every year and ate delicious produce from in the summer and the excess Mom would freeze and we would eat it throughout the winter.  I did not appreciate the wonderfulness of this as a child, but I certainly miss that garden now as an adult.  Since we live in the city on a shady lot, I frequent the local farmer’s market to buy my produce and then freeze or can some of the produce so we can then enjoy it throughout the year.

As we look at the literal meaning of this verse, this lady takes time to look and plan which field she will buy.  She makes sure that it will suit her intended purposes.  Since we are told the intention of the field is to plant a vineyard, she uses her knowledge to ensure the field will produce quality grapes.  In order to produce quality grapes, the vineyard had to be planted on a hill facing south.  This causes the roots of the vineyard to search for water and minerals which adds to the complexity and flavor of the grape.  She knew what she was looking for and did not settle or spend her money on something that would not produce the product and profit that she was planning.

“With the fruit of her hand she plants a vineyard.”  The word fruit in this verse fascinates me.  Fruit is produced only when the tree or vine is healthy.  The fruit is a byproduct of a healthy tree.  The healthier the tree the more fruit that is produced.  Not only is there money to buy the vineyard, but there is also money to plant the vineyard.  Since she has planned and prepared so well, there is enough money to purchase what is needed to plant the vineyard.

As women and wives, the better we plan the more fruit we will have for emergencies, extra needs, future plans, or distribution to the poor and needy.  The fruit of this lady was used to invest in a vineyard.  We are not told what she did with the profit from her grapes, but as we look ahead in the chapter we can glean a few thoughts from the following verses.  She helped the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:20).  Her household was clothed in “scarlet.” (Proverbs 31:21).  Her clothing was made from “fine linen and purple” (Proverbs 31:23).

The beauty of this verse is the various qualities we see that we can add to the list of traits our Proverbs 31 woman has.  Though some of us may not have an opportunity to buy a field, we do have opportunity to put the qualities mentioned here into practice.  This special lady devotes her time and attention to planning how she will allocate her money.  She does not go on binge spending sprees nor does she spend her money on things that are temporary.  She takes time to plan how to wisely budget and use her money for household expenses.  As she plans, she is also careful to use the excess money for other needs the family may have or unexpected expenses that seem to always come up.  In other words, the more she is able to save on routine every day necessities, the more money she will have to invest in other needs the family may have.  “Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season reap if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9).

Questions:

  1. I have always wanted to have a cottage industry or my own small business. These ideas have changed over the years.  Once I wanted to own a Christian bookstore, then it was a bakery.  Do you have a small cottage industry?  Do you ever dream of having one?  If so, what is your industry or what is dream?
  1. How can you implement the steps this wise lady had into establishing or helping grow your cottage industry?
  1. Maybe a cottage industry has never been your dream, but helping with the family finances is something you would like to do. What principles can you see in Proverbs 31:16 that would help to make your home finances more efficient?
  1. Read Proverbs 22:29. How would this verse apply to our verse in Proverbs 31:16?
  1. Maybe you do not want to plant a vineyard like our wise lady, nor do you want to own a small business. How does the “fruit of her hands” apply to you?  Fruit is what comes as a byproduct of a healthy tree.  What do you have that you can reinvest into something or someone else?
  1. What happens to fruit that is left on the tree? It rots.  What would happen to what God gives you if you do not reinvest it?  See Matthew 25:14-30 and relate this parable to not reinvesting the fruit of our hands.

What does it take?

Have you ever eaten a piece of fruit and considered all that was necessary to make this piece of fruit so enjoyable and edible?  What makes a piece of fruit so sweet and juicy? The time that it would take to go into all of the details of a piece of fruit and its delectableness is beyond what I have time to write. Metaphorically speaking, there are a few key thoughts that when we compare them to our life help us to realize that a great piece of fruit can come from our lives if we work at it.

First of all, a piece of fruit must stay connected to the plant for as long as possible in order to be as sweet and succulent as possible. I recently bought some peaches from California; I live in Michigan. Those peaches were not picked at 6am and flown on a special airplane to make it to my hands by 12 noon. These peaches were picked when they were still hard and not edible so they would not rot on the trip across the country. Once I bit into those peaches and tried to use them for a recipe I realized that these peaches were still hard and did not have a rich, sweet flavor. Instead they were almost tasteless. A friend of mine brought me some peaches from Georgia, and the difference between peaches picked when they were ripe and driven immediately to my doorstep was amazing. These peaches were sweet, succulent, and juicy. everything you want in a peach.

My life is similar to this peach. The better I stay connected to God, my Heavenly Father,  the closer I will be to a sweet peach. The longer I am away from God the more hard I become. Matthew 3:8 says, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” In this chapter John the Baptist is talking to the Sadducees and the Pharisees. These two groups of people were the religious men of the day. John was encouraging them that repentance is what brings fruit to our lives in the spiritual realm. These men were basing their spirituality on their heritage; Abraham was their father (Matthew 3:9). They also were known to be very pious and rule followers. They followed extra rules so they would not break the rules they weren’t supposed to break in the first place. John was trying to help them understand that it isn’t about heritage and it isn’t about following rules for rules sake. We are to bear fruit by repenting of our sin and by staying connected to God the Father.

These religious people were basing their spirituality on their outward behavior and on their heritage. Jesus wanted them to see that it was what was in the heart that matters. The more connected our heart is to God the Father, the better our outward behavior will be.

So the question for you is what type of fruit are you bearing? Is your fruit hard, not sweet, and undesirable? Or is your fruit sweet and delicious? We must repent of our sins, and follow Christ; then there will be fruit that will be pleasing to God.

We must understand that Jesus is the One that paid the penalty for our sins. We need to confess our sins to God so He can forgive us. Jesus is the One who took my punishment, so it is in the name of Jesus that I must be forgiven. This confession can be done anywhere and at anytime. The key is do we have a repentant heart, or are we confessing out of obligation? “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Mathew 3:8)