High Doors, Low Spirits

Proverb 17_19_High Doors

It’s one of the strangest phrases I’ve run across in Scripture.  To be honest, I set it aside for a long time because I didn’t know what to make of it.  Here it is:

He who makes his door high seeks destruction. (Proverb 17:19, ESV)

While scholars are a bit divided, the general consensus is that Solomon was warning against the risks of pride.  In a sense, the proverb is a forerunner to “Keeping up with the Jones.”  In ancient times, the entrance to a typical Palestinian house was of humble dimensions and very minimal ornamentation.  Therefore, a doorway of any architectural pretensions would be uncommon, and would have been regarded as a token of extraordinary wealth or overt pride.

That’s quite a statement coming from Solomon, who probably lived in the most palatial dwelling on earth at the time!  Since Solomon was the writer (as most accept), we can safely conclude that it is not the size of the dwelling that is the issue, but the size of the dweller’s pride that matters.  I’ve met incredibly wealthy individuals who managed to maintain a humble spirit.  Conversely, I’ve met many middle incomers who constantly want to outdo their neighbors.  It’s that pride to appear “better than” others that Solomon says puts us at risk of personal destruction.

Elsewhere Solomon writes, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverb 16:18); and “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverb 29:23)  What’s the way to avoid a “high door?”  A low spirit – aka, humility.

At the risk of stepping on toes, may I gently ask, “How high are you trying to make your door?”  –Dave

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Anonymous

John 3_30_VBS Anonymous

Vacation Bible School (VBS) just ended at our church.  Most years I’m in a classroom with the kids – either as the primary teacher, or helping my wife as she teaches.  I genuinely enjoy the direct interaction with the kids.  This year, however, I was asked to fill a different role – one that involved no real time in the classroom.  As a result, I didn’t get to know the kids, and they didn’t’ really get to know me.

In fact, looking back I realized that even though I stood before them each night during “worship rally,” not once did I think to tell them who I was.  It wasn’t an intentional effort at humility on my part, it just never occurred to me.  You see, there was a bigger picture; a more important agenda to fulfill.  The kids needed to be introduced to Jesus – not to Dave.  So, that’s what we did.  We sat ourselves aside and focused all of our time and attention on seeing to it that the children got to see a glimpse of Christ.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened.  Through the collective efforts of 20-30 people who willingly sacrificed ~3 hours/night for a week, several young children began a new relationship with Jesus by accepting Him as their Savior!   And, that all occurred without the kids having to know the identity of any of us worker bees.  Turns out it’s the gospel that saves; it’s the name of Jesus that needs to be made known – what a concept! J

Are you willing to anonymously serve others?  Are you willing to have His name become known while you disappear into the background?  Give it some thought. –Dave

He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30)

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Limping Along

1 Kings 18_21_Why Waiver

The story of Elijah taking on the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) is one of my favorites.  The backdrop of the scene involves the King of Israel, Ahab, who is described in Scriptures as a man who led Israel into evil like none other (1 Kings 16:30).  The dude was bad news, and God called Elijah to lead His people back.

Elijah gathered all Israel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (two of the false Gods Ahab had led Israel to worship).  Then, right before one of the most iconic showdowns between God and His rivals, Elijah called the children of God to account.

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. (1 Kings 18:21)

Elijah broke things down into very black and white options – either worship God, or worship Baal – but, stop wavering between the two.  Surely that had to make sense to the people since it wasn’t possible for both God and Baal to be true gods?  Yet, waver between the two they did.  Other translations say that they hesitated between the two (NIV), or were paralyzed by indecision (NET).  However, I appreciated the way the English Standard Version (ESV) phrased Elijah’s question – “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?”

The original language used a word that described someone who had become lame in their feet.  Such was the state of the people of Israel.   They were vacillating between serving God and chasing after many other things at the same time.  The result?  They weren’t getting anywhere.

The names have changed today, but the wavering really hasn’t.  The temptation to pursue the lures of this world remains.  We find ourselves immersed in temporary pursuits and try to throw God into the mix for good measure.  Unfortunately, that recipe has never worked well for God’s people.  So, let me gently ask, “How long will you limp along between God and the world?”  –Dave

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Surrounded

Psalm 125_2_Sunday

Rest assured, our God has us surrounded!

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“I Prayer”

Psalm 109_3_4_I Prayer

Gotta admit – it’s not my first reaction.  Maybe it’s not yours either.

In Psalm 109, David cried out to God for help.  He wanted relief from those who were pursuing him for no cause; those who wanted to end his life despite no guilt on his part.  Listen to this wholly-unnatural response to his circumstances:

They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause.  In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. (109:3-4; emphasis added)

When others hated, accused and attacked him, David gave himself to prayer.  But, believe it or not, this likely meant something much deeper than David praying for his own relief.  In his commentary on this passage, Albert Barnes writes,

But I give myself unto prayer – literally, “I – prayer;” that is, I am all prayer; I continually pray. This may mean, either, that he bore these trials with a meek spirit, and did not allow these things to disturb his devotions; or, more probably, that he prayed constantly “for them;” he desired their good, and sought it from above.

Amazing thought isn’t it?  David and prayer seemed to become one; and his prayers did not end with his own benefit.  He prayed not only for relief from his attackers – he also prayed FOR his attackers.  No wonder God recognized David as a man after His own heart.

How about you?  Will you begin to “give yourself to prayer” in the same manner?  Seems to be something of which God would approve! –Dave

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End of Our Rope

1 Kings 17_12_End of Rope

It’s a reality that we don’t like to consider, so it’s rarely discussed openly.  In fact, even when mentioned in Scripture, it’s typically overlooked completely.

Consider the widow of Zarephath.  There was a drought in the land, and as a result, food became scare.  Elijah was instructed by God to stay with the widow who would feed him.  The only problem was… the widow and her son had come to the literal end of their provisions.  Listen to how the widow responded to Elijah’s request for bread:

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” (1 Kings 17:12)

Yes, God was about to provide for her by making her flour and oil miraculously stretch, but don’t miss the fact that God also allowed her to come to the very end of all she had.  She wasn’t talking about dying at her own hand; she was talking about fixing her family’s final meal and then lying down to die because there wasn’t another meal to be had!  That’s being brought to the end of your rope; and as unpleasant as it is, sometimes we’re allowed to reach that point.

It may not be physical like the widow’s lack of food, but we can be brought to the edge of our limits in other ways.  A lost job; relational tension; emotional exhaustion; a prodigal child; an unfaithful spouse.  Life can bring us to our end.  But, God doesn’t leave us alone there (Hebrews 13:5); and He may even use our times of trial to test and solidify our faith (1 Peter 1:7).

Going through hard times?  Hold on – God hasn’t left you!  –Dave

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Better than Ninjas!

Proverb 16_32_Better than Ninjas

I think the latest version is called, “American Ninja Warrior.”  But, prior to that, we’ve had all kinds of programs that showcase the strength and tenacity of the participants.  There’s the Deadliest Warrior, Xena the Princess Warrior, The Warriors, Team Ninja Warrior, Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge, etc.   I get it – it makes entertaining television.

But Scripture speaks frequently of something that is of much greater value than strength and vigor.  Proverbs 16:32 is an excellent example:

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

The language is pretty clear – but pulling it off is another story, isn’t it?!  Remaining calm when you want to lose your cool is difficult.  Holding your tongue when you want to just let it rip is hard.  Turning your right cheek when you’re tempted to throw a left hook often feels wimpy, like we’re losing and giving up.  But, that’s the world’s perspective, and frankly it’s just plain wrong.

Look again at what Scripture says.  In God’s eyes, the one who remains patient and cool-headed in situations when others blow their tops are to be praised.  The reality is, it takes a great deal MORE strength to remain in control than it does to snap and crush our opponents – whether verbally or physically.  And God honors that self-control – in part because self-control is a visible fruit of His Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  In other words, when we remain in control, we reveal Him to others – and THAT is better than conquering anything!

Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see a program called, “God’s Patient Warrior?”  Probably not – but, it’s a nice idea! –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/blogs—daily-devotions.html. For more information about the ministry, or to order the new devotional book, visit:  http://www.theteachableheart.com/book.html).

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