Unveiling the Soul

A devotion on Proverbs 23.

I’ve been a Christian for over 3 decades and I’m just now coming to a deeper understanding of the nuances of the soul. I’ve known God saved my soul but it has been a blurry subject. As I contemplate the concept of ‘Participating in the Divine Nature,’ Holy Spirit is leading me on a wonderful adventure to look behind the curtain at this mysterious entity called the soul.

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The soul comprises your Will, Appetites, Mind, Passions, Emotions, and Desires. I remember it by the acronym SWAMPED. It is closely intertwined with the heart whose definition I remember by the acronym PAPDATE:  Purposes, affections, Passions, Desires, Attitude, Thoughts, and Endeavors.

Originally, “God moved upon man’s spirit; man’s spirit moved upon his soul; and his soul directed his body. Through the devastating effects of man’s rebellion, however, his spirit was compromised, and his soul took over control. As a result, unregenerate man is now controlled by the three functions of his soul: the will, the intellect, and the emotions.”

Left to its own devices, the soul wants what it wants, and it wants it now. It directs the body accordingly. Such a person is described as soulish. At salvation, Holy Spirit takes residence in person’s heart. This starts a lifelong process of transforming the soul and bringing it into conformity and submission to God’s will, God’s affections, God’s mind, God’s passions, God’s emotions, and God’s desires. You start to discover what he thinks as outlined in scripture. You learn to desire what he desires. You learn to feel what he feels.

Note that you don’t just become a robot but that all this is cloaked in the beauty of your unique, God-given personality (an aspect of your soul) which is enhanced more and more as you become more like Christ. You and the next Christian could be as unalike as a book and platypus, yet of one spirit.

The concept of the mind consists of brain functions of which we’ll focus on two for this purpose of this topic. The first is executive function (such as self-awareness, alertness, attention, redirection, focus, planning, learning, memory, problem solving, contemplating/processing, motivation, judgement {hindsight, insight, foresight,} emotional regulation, mindfulness, self-control, choosing, eliminating, intention, engaging/follow through {initiating, maintaining, pausing, restarting, and terminating activity,} discernment/discrimination, deducing, inferring, time management, mathematical concepts, imagination, categorizing, etc.) and the second is the sensory system (touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight, and movement.) You make sense of and impact your environment through your senses. This is extremely fascinating to me as an occupational therapist and as an addiction counselor. Let’s explore how these systems interact in Proverbs 23.

EXAMPLE 1: FOOD

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1 When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you,

The sensory system is on high alert here, informing your desire and appetite (soul.) You sit down (movement) and perceive (see, hear, smell, touch, taste) the sumptuous feast before you. You are to pause and contemplate the information your senses are delivering.

2 and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite;

3 don’t desire his choice food, for that food is deceptive.

Engage your memory, judgement, and self-awareness (“I am prone to overeating. I have trouble stopping when I start. I want all of it and eat till I’m sick.”) Train your soul by making a drastic decision to not engage in the activity at all or to modulate as needed. Again, engage your memory and remember, “The grace of God teaches us to say “no,” Titus 2:11. Speak to your desire and say, “no.”

Note the call to put a knife to your throat. That’s rather dramatic, don’t your think? It is a call to how drastic a measure you will need to take in order to impact your soul as you train it. That action may even feel like it will cause you to die! Note also that there is a lie behind the steaming mound of appetizing fare. Learn to look beyond the senses at the beautiful spread and perceive its hidden deception.

EXAMPLE 2: RICHES

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4 Don’t wear yourself out to get rich; stop giving your attention to it. 5 As soon as your eyes fly to it, it disappears, for it makes wings for itself and flies like an eagle to the sky.

Wearing yourself out entails the various long-range motions of investing in an education, getting up, getting ready, heading into work, toiling, repeat. It is undergirded by mental images you indulge yourself of having fancy things, stability, a beautiful family, lots of money, opportunities e.g. vacations, pampering your body, social connections and influence.

Note that it doesn’t say not to work. The book of Proverbs has many a caustic word to those who are lazy. This passage is addressing the desire to become rich. The wisdom of the word tells you to cease focusing on it. Learn that this endeavor is flighty and will therefore disappoint you. In this case your train your soul by disengaging your senses and attentions from the object of desire, dampening your motivation, and focusing on alternative activity.

EXAMPLE 3: DISCERNMENT

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6 Don’t eat a stingy person’s bread, and don’t desire his choice food, 7 for it’s like someone calculating inwardly. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

8 You will vomit the little you’ve eaten and waste your pleasant words. 9 Don’t speak to a fool, for he will despise the insight of your words.

This section addresses compatibility. The object is desirable, but the source is questionable. Is it worth it? Your memory tells you you’ll regret engaging in this activity as does your judgement, based on interacting with this person in the past or with one like them. This information might also come from an impactful story you heard from a trusted loved one or a bible story you read. Your senses are tempting you, so your resolve is being tested. The second scenario entails offering words of wisdom to a fool. You have purveyed their situation and are certain that your words would help the person if they would receive and apply them. You observe their folly and the resulting suffering and are willing to speak into the situation. You make an assessment and judgement call that the information is worthy, but the recipient can’t appreciate it. You align your thinking with Jesus’s call to not cast our pearls before swine.

Apply these concepts to the ensuing verses which are shining examples of an unregenerate soul driving a life, versus a soul that is being submitted to the Spirit of God.

10 Don’t move an ancient boundary marker,

and don’t encroach on the fields of the fatherless,

11 for their Redeemer is strong,

and He will take up their case against you.

12 Apply yourself to discipline

and listen to words of knowledge.

13 Don’t withhold discipline from a youth;

if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.

14 Strike him with a rod,

and you will rescue his life from Sheol.

15 My son, if your heart is wise,

my heart will indeed rejoice.

16 My innermost being will cheer

when your lips say what is right.

17 Don’t let your heart envy sinners;

instead, always fear the Lord.

18 For then you will have a future,

and your hope will never fade.

19 Listen, my son, and be wise;

keep your mind on the right course.

20 Don’t associate with those who drink too much wine

or with those who gorge themselves on meat.

21 For the drunkard and the glutton will become poor,

and grogginess will clothe them in rags.

22 Listen to your father who gave you life,

and don’t despise your mother when she is old.

23 Buy—and do not sell—truth,

wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

24 The father of a righteous son will rejoice greatly,

and one who fathers a wise son will delight in him.

25 Let your father and mother have joy,

and let her who gave birth to you rejoice.

26 My son, give me your heart,

and let your eyes observe my ways.

27 For a prostitute is a deep pit,

and a stranger is a narrow well;

28 indeed, she sets an ambush like a robber

and increases those among men who are unfaithful.

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?

Who has conflicts? Who has complaints?

Who has wounds for no reason?

Who has red eyes?

30 Those who linger over wine,

those who go looking for mixed wine.

31 Don’t gaze at wine because it is red,

when it gleams in the cup

and goes down smoothly.

32 In the end it bites like a snake

and stings like a viper.

33 Your eyes will see strange things,

and you will say absurd things.[g]

34 You’ll be like someone sleeping out at sea

or lying down on the top of a ship’s mast.

35 “They struck me, but[h] I feel no pain!

They beat me, but I didn’t know it!

When will I wake up?

I’ll look for another drink.”

God the Diamond

Psalm 68 paints God like a glistening diamond slowly rotating on a pedestal. Read on and marvel at the multiplicity of the facets of his character – each striking and awe-inspiring.

May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;

    may his foes flee before him.

2 May you blow them away like smoke—

    as wax melts before the fire,  may the wicked perish before God.

God’s enemies may be mighty throngs; they may be solid, stalwart entities; but in comparison to him, they are solid as smoke and sturdy as wax before a fire. Vaporizing and melting before our God – that’s the plight of those who oppose him, no matter how powerful they are. This should inspire fear of God and great dread at the heat and light of his presence.

3 But may the righteous be glad

    and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.

But the righteous he shields from the heat of his wrath. Safe in his protective force field, he invites them to rejoice, expressing mirth and gladness. Do you allow yourself merry-making? Does delight bubble up in your heart causing you to break out in spontaneous joy and elation? Allow it to do that. Identify barriers to that in your soul and knock them down one by one. Joy unspeakable and full of glory – despite your life circumstances – is your birthright as a child of God. Claim it. Live in it. Do not let the enemy steal it from you. Resolve to be transformed in the next week, month, or year and to be known as a person of joy!

4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds;

    rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.

The Great Cloud Rider – that is the name of your God! In Psalm 18 we find him parting the heavens to come down. He mounts the cherubim and flies, he soars on the wings of the wind. He makes darkness his covering, his canopy around him – the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advance, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. He thunders from heaven, shoots arrows at his enemies and scatters them. With great bolts of lightning, he routes them. What a mighty dread champion! And the appropriate response is to break out in joyful songs of praise.

5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing;

    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Melt at this gentle aspect of the formidable one. He sees and cares for the downtrodden. He rises to their defense. He sees the tears and hears the sighs of the lonely and binds their lonesome hearts to others. More importantly, he binds them to his own. He breaks the chains of those bound by the powerful and changes their countenance to joyful singing.

7 When you, God, went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness,

8 the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,

    before God, the One of Sinai,

    before God, the God of Israel.

9 You gave abundant showers, O God;

    you refreshed your weary inheritance.

10 Your people settled in it,

    and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.

While the wicked languish in the perpetually sun-scorched, unyielding wilderness, God’s shield provides abundant showers in the same wilderness to those he loves. Such is the inheritance of his beloved children. “In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty,” Ps 37:19.

When his uncle Abraham told Lot to choose where he wanted to settle, Lot surveyed the land and selfishly chose the rich, lush hills.  He did not know the intimate detail that within reason, God doesn’t bless you because you go to a blessed place – he blesses places because you are there and he delights in you! So your lot in life doesn’t matter. Even in the wilderness he will cause abundant showers to refresh your weary soul. His bounty will follow you wherever you go.

11 The Lord announces the word,

    and the company [feminine] who proclaim it are a mighty throng:

12 “Kings and armies flee in haste;

    the women at home divide the plunder.

Behold your ‘feminist’ God. He proudly features women as being of valor as a vital part of his armed forces. He invites you women to proclaim his word. That is your war cry and before it, kings and armies flee quick-haste! One formidable battalion of sister warriors tears down spiritual strongholds in the battlefield and on the home-front another loots the enemy and divides the plunder.

I was engaged in blazing spiritual warfare for my son this past week as I sensed the enemy was trying to steal a gift from him. At one point he said to me, “you probably have half the women in Washington County praying for me, don’t you?” I laughed out loud and said, “You know it. You don’t stand a chance!” Because you precious sisters helped proclaim the word in prayer on my behalf when I blew the horn for help, I got to divide the plunder and mend a breached wall. Thank you!

13 Even while you sleep among the sheep pens,

   the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,

    its feathers with shining gold.”

God’s people may be marked by humble circumstances, but they are faithfully provided for. They may have to sleep among the sheep but the sheep keep them warm and provide milk for them. Indeed it is a rich blessing that despite their circumstances, they enjoy the sweet gift of sleep which he gives to those he loves, Ps 127:2. And in the humble circumstances, his beloved has wings (splendor, power, gifts) that glimmer and shine in their gilded array.

14 When the Almighty scattered the kings in the land,

    it was like snow fallen on Mount Zalmon.

Did the deserted weaponry on the escape routes along with clothing, and the enemies’ bodies litter the landscape like snow?

15 Mount Bashan, majestic mountain,

    Mount Bashan, rugged mountain,

16 why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain,

    at the mountain where God chooses to reign,

    where the Lord himself will dwell forever?

God is a discriminating God. Repeatedly we see him choosing and favoring one entity over another. Interestingly, he doesn’t seem to make the best or expected choice. If you look close enough, you find that he chooses weaklings. You can see why Mt. Bashan might wrinkle its face at Mt. Zion since the former is unmistakably more majestic. God ALWAYS choses the foolish things in order to shame the wise.

17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands

    and thousands of thousands;

    the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.

God has no shortage. If his chariots are in the millions, how many are his troops? Truly he is a God of angel armies whose numbers will boggle our minds when we behold them someday. Train your mind to think of his bounty, his grandeur, and his power which he gladly employs on your behalf. Marvel at the many, many aspects of your God.

CROSS MY HEART

PROVERBS 20 – 7/16/21

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It is a trap to dedicate something rashly
    and only later to consider one’s vows.

Pr. 20:25

I received a package in the mail that came with dry ice. My boys and I had a grand time doing fun experiments with it and stashed a bunch in the freezer to show dad some cool stuff when he got home. When we went to retrieve it, the bag was empty. Where did it go? It was right here. “Did you take it?” No. “Did you?” No. It’s just a sciencey thing that happens with dry ice.

In the heat of the moment, we experience strong emotions that powerfully impact our decisions. Vows are made. We fully intend to keep them, no matter what. Not long after, the emotions wane and the dust clears. We see things differently and may question how and why we said that. Often, we allow forgetfulness to wash the whole thing away and continue with life like it never mind. Every once in a while it may come back to mind but we pay it no heed. The strong resolve we had when we made the decision is like dry ice. It is impressively stalwart in the moment then it evaporates into thin air.

We undermine what a significant matter the making of vows is to the Lord. He is faithful and expects us to be faithful. Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit. Scripture has much to say about it.

  1. Fulfill your vow as quickly as possible. Time is the test of vows. It can also be the enemy of vows. Like dry ice that starts to evaporate as soon as it is exposed to air, once we leave the moment of making the vow, our resolve starts to turn to vapor.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it, because He takes no pleasure in fools. Fulfill your vow.

Ecclesiastes 5:4

2. Being a promise-keeper is one of the traits of a person that get to enjoy God’s presence. Know that every vow costs you. Some cost more than others. Don’t jettison your vow just because it is no longer expedient for you.

“O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy mountain? The one … who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind;

Psalm 15:1, 4.

3. God does not expect you to make vows. He completely takes that burden off your shoulders and relieves you of any pressure. Just don’t make the vow. He is not impressed with vows that aren’t followed by action.

Do not be quick to speak, and do not be hasty in your heart to utter a word before God. After all, God is in heaven and you are on earth. So let your words be few...It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.

Ecclesiastes 5:2, 5

3. If you remember a vow you’ve broken – big or small – repent of it. Revisit the matter with your God and seek to make it right. Repent of the failure and ask his forgiveness. If you can fulfill it, do so promptly. If it is too late, make amends if you can. Learn your lesson and desist from the propensity to make promises you don’t keep.

4. Do you regularly break promises? Search your soul and explore why you make promises in the first place. Is it to people-please? Is it to manipulate? Is it to look good? Allow Holy Spirit to shine a light in your heart in this matter. It is important. He desires to break the snare you walked into. This habit can rob you of peace and mar your reputation. It impacts your relationships with God and other people, and may cost you other valuable things.

A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.

Proverbs 18:7

Moving forward, ask for his help in desisting from making promises. Keep your mouth shut. Practice unapologetically saying “no, thank you.”

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Matthew 5:33-37

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LOVERS IN THE WILDERNESS

PSALM 63 – 7/15/21

A psalm of David when he was in the wilderness.

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Are you in a wilderness? Perhaps an emotional wilderness or a financial wilderness; a relationship wilderness, a health wilderness, or a moral wilderness. Have you a calling, a promise – and it is delayed? Are you at your wits end? You came to the right place. A wilderness is uninhabited, vast, and harsh. It is blazing hot and then it is frigid. It is a desert – barren and brutal, howling with predators around and underfoot. My friend, are you in a wilderness? Here is your anthem:

1 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

May my first cry always be, “O God!” Elohim – Supreme, Almighty one. When I have nothing else to say, I will say, “O God.” Not in vain but in desperation. Never in contempt but in affirmation. “You are my God.” I will drink him in and say, “My God! My strength and my power. I will choose you. You alone. Early in the day will I seek you. Early in the process will I seek you. Before I seek another, I will seek you. Before I lean on myself, I will seek you. Before I pursue other options and supports – early will I seek you. You first, you only. With earnest and diligence, I will search for you as the beloved in Song of Solomon sought her lover:”

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I found him not.

The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loves?… Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside? That we may seek him with thee.

Song of Songs 3:1-3, 6:1

v. 2 To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

Banish from me my insatiable desire to see my power. Purge from me the passionate pursuit of my glory. Eradicate the dogged strong-will. Annihilate the stubbornness. When I want my way, help me remember that I am here “to see thy power and thy glory.” When I am feeble let me settle into my powerlessness and see thy power and thy glory. May I constantly fling myself off the throne of my heart. May I crucify my flesh a thousand times a day every time it rears its ugly head to see my power and my glory. Thank you for your promise that in due time, I will have my glory in your magnificent presence – but today all of it is yours. “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Rom. 11:36.

v. 3 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.

We love life. We cling to life. We do not want to die. We will do whatever we can to enjoy it, enrich it, sustain it, prolong it, even when it is lousy. We will try every treatment and every option and then we will seek another opinion. We love life. But there is something better – his lovingkindness. May we cling to it as tenaciously as a dying patient gasps for breath. May we relish that goodness and kindness and value it more highly than our very life.

You have much or little to say today. Save it for another day. Today, resolve to open your lips and gush forth praise. Every utterance, every occasion. Praise. Praise. Praise. I will boast in you today, Lord.

v. 4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.

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Is it not astounding that we can bless God? Normally the greater blesses the lesser and endows favor and approbation. We can reverse the trend and endow him with our favor and approbation. We esteem, admire, and approve of him. We lift up our hands (have you done it lately? Do so today. Do so now 😊) to receive his blessings and to yield ourselves to him in surrender. He relishes our praise. It is one of very few things you can give him. Think about that.

v. 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness;

Yesterday we discussed the soul at length as the very essence of our being – our will, our affections, our mind, our passions, our emotions, and our desire. These are the things that fulfill us. These are the things that get us in trouble. In God they find their source and their fulfillment. Only as we align our will with his will, our affections with his affections, our mind with his mind, our passions with his passions, our emotions with his emotions, our desires with his desires will we find satisfaction. That is how he wired us. Because his name is Jealous, we short-circuit when we seek any of those things outside of him first. When we seek and see his power and his glory, only then shall our soul be satisfied as with a sumptuous meal. Is your soul hungry today? Is it anemic? Is it emaciated? Then follow this recipe and find joy for your soul.

and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:

6 When I remember thee upon my bed,

and meditate on thee in the night watches.

He loves to be praised. He deserves to be praised. Praise, praise, praise. So open those lips and have them overflow with praise and joy unspeakable and full of glory. Speak his praise. Sing his praise. Cherish those night watches instead of dreading them. Say “Good morning, Holy Spirit.” Turn them to times of sweet pillow talk with the lover of your soul. May your thoughts at that time go to him early – before they go to the stressor, before they go to the day that lies ahead, to the need, to the desire. Let him rock you back to sleep after your precious time together instead of watching the clock tick. Ask him to show himself to you – his will, his affections, his mind, his passions, his emotions, his desires. Meditate on that and two hours will feel like five minutes.

7 Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

Do you speak a second language? If you only speak one, you can be bilingual by the end of the day. Joyful praise can be your primary language. Practice it. Master it. Use it fluently.

Abide in him in the shelter of his wings. There you are safe from all peril. That is your refuge and strong tower in the wilderness. Any wilderness. Every wilderness. You can access it 24/7. The key? “O God!” It couldn’t be more basic. Go there first. You will not need to go anywhere else.

8 My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

This is a glorious term. Strong’s dictionary says that figuratively, ‘follow hard’ means to “catch by pursuit.” It means to cling to, to cleave to, to stay with, to be joined to. As you align the aspects of your soul with God, you become glued together as it were. You adhere to one another and become conjoined. What a wonderful thought considering your were created for intimacy with him. This passage smacks of it!

Your lover will help you, he will sustain you, he will keep you close and guard you. He will hold and support you and will NEVER let you go. “See now that I, even I, am he… There is no one who can deliver out of my hand.” Deut. 32:29.

9 But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.

10 They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.

11 But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.

It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loves: I held him, and would not let him go… Song of Songs 3:4a

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EVERY FOOL WILL BE MEDDLING

PROVERBS 20:1-15 – 7/14/21

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3 It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.

5 Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.

15 There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.

You have more control over situations than you know. Though your participation in any relationship is 50%, you bring 100% of you. If there is strife in that relationship your honor quotient will drive you to curb the strife or your fool quotient will drive you to meddle further. While we may first enter a disagreement in the name of honor, sometimes there is no honor in digging your heels in. Dig them out and take them home. The word cease is the same root word as Sabbath, meaning to desist from exertion, to sit down. That is honor. If there is strife and your interaction is not going anywhere, drop it. Learn when to say “peace out” and sit down.

In the Hebrew, to meddle is to expose or lay bare. It is to break out in contention and disclose oneself. It is to be obstinate. That’s what the fool does by digging his heels, stubborn as an ass. In contrast, the next two verses have to do with tapping or mining and drawing out buried treasure. The fool wears his heart on his sleeve. He is naked and exposed for all to see. He is shameless in his brash exposure and may even brag about it. “I am a proud man,” or “I am an angry woman, don’t mess with me. He or she may justify their actions as even see them as good.

6 Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?

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The fool is as a shallow but churning spot in a river. Round and round it goes. Loud-mouthed and boastful. Here, there, and everywhere, much like the wild woman in Proverbs 7:12, “Now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.” The fool is tiresome and will wear out your spirit in no time.

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But the man or woman of wisdom is akin to deep water. You may not tell their depth by looking at them. You might not even notice them and may slight them. They do not advertise themselves. In their simplicity, they are draped in honor. You as a man or woman of understanding will develop the skill of a miner to sound and extract the riches buried deep within the wise person. They speak and not merely talk and that is the vein of the treasure within them. Take time to speak with such. Make time to speak with such. Learn their discretion, their knowledge, their intelligence. They utter gold. They divulge rubies. Nuggets and jewels. Gather those one by one and treasure them.

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SOUL-WHISPERER

PSALM 62 – 7/13/21

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Can you imagine a famous song being written for you? This magnificent psalm was written for Jeduthun.  Who was he? He was a Levite and the leader of one of 3 temple choirs. He is named at the beginning of psalms 39, 62, and 77 and is either the composer, the recipient, or the choir leader for these songs.  This would be a good one to memorize. It is rhythmic, catchy, and a wonderful one for soul-talk.

1 Truly my soul silently waits for God;

From Him comes my salvation.

The soul of the center of your being. It is your very life and breath – who you are in character and essence. Remember it by the acronym SWAMPED: Soul = your Will, your Appetites, your Mind, your Passions, your Emotions, and your Desires. These aspects of you are like a whipping wind at any given time. Read that short list again. It can be a tornado. If these areas of your life are unrestrained, you are said to be soulish.

That makes this verse a powerhouse of control. If you can tame your will, your appetites, your mind, your passions, your emotions, and your desires you are an exemplary human being indeed. We spend a lifetime learning to master these aspects, otherwise they dominate us.

We are like a spirited steed and Holy Spirit must break us and bring us to submission before Jesus Christ. Then we can truly say, along with one of my favorite bible passages,

“I have stilled and quieted my soul.

Like a weaned child in his mother’s arms, so is my soul within me.”

Ps 131:2

Earlier I used the word control on purpose. The two passages above show a soul at rest – unlike the rodeo in the video above. I still it. I quiet it. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. He is the soul-whisperer. A self-controlled Hannah does not mean Hannah controls Hannah. It means Holy Spirit controls Hannah. Hannah under the control of Hannah is a lose cannon. It is trouble in the making.  Hannah in the control of Holy Spirit is a cleansed vessel he can use for Jesus’ glory. A broken horse that can be a magnificent thing in the hands of a rider.

Jehovah is my salvation. If I am not at rest, I am fussing and fretting. I am thrashing and whinnying wildly. I am fixing and fiddling. I am wringing my hands and biting my nails. I am coming and going, pacing and scheming. I am a nervous wreck for one reason or another. I am afraid that if I don’t do all that, my needs won’t be met and the world will not be in order. I think I am my salvation. I better figure it out because I am my provider. I am my healer. I am my teacher. I am my defender. I have to be sovereign. I have to be glorious. I AM God!

The world says achieve, pursue, toil, chase, acquire. Your King Jesus says,

““Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Mt. 11:28-30

With this paradigm shift in mind start practicing saying “Shhh!” to your soul. Marinade in the ensuing verses:

2 He only is my rock and my salvation;

He is my defense (fortress); I shall not be greatly moved (shaken).

3 How long will you assault me?

Would all of you throw me down— this leaning wall, this tottering fence?

4 Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place;

they take delight in lies.

With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse.

5 My soul, wait silently for God alone,

For my expectation is from Him.

6 He only is my rock and my salvation;

He is my defense; I shall not be moved (shaken).

7 In God is my salvation and my glory;

The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.

8 Trust in Him at all times, you people;

Pour out your heart before Him;

God is a refuge for us. Selah

9 Surely men of low degree are a vapor,

Men of high degree are a lie; If they are weighed on the scales,

They are altogether lighter than vapor.

10 Do not trust in oppression,

Nor vainly hope in robbery;

If riches increase, Do not set your heart on them.

11 One thing God has spoken,

two things I have heard:

“Power belongs to you, God,

12 Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy (unfailing love);

For You render to each one according to his work.

Image retrieved 7/13/21 from https://th.bing.com/th/id/R.790e89a3f24816f51fd74885c83628b7?rik=FxTkZ57vhfOolA&riu=http%3a%2f%2fi.huffpost.com%2fgen%2f2028886%2fimages%2fo-SHH-facebook.jpg&ehk=7RSiYWycb9IQWLp4aZMsHUz%2fZohV3zwdfMNUMq%2fv8kA%3d&risl=&pid=ImgRaw

THE WISDOM OF DISCIPLINE

  1. Keeping commands preserves life:

Defiance is a sure trait of trouble in the making. If you have a defiant child, your heart aches not only from their wanton disrespect and disobedience, but even more because you know for a fact that things will not go well for them. Rules seem to stifle and inhibit us, but this passage tells us that wise, thought-out rules and commands are to be kept for our own self-preservation. Don’t touch the stovetop; don’t run on the pool deck; don’t go past the barrier by the cliff; don’t drive recklessly. Rules can be a matter of life and death. I am not talking about rigid, senseless rules that exist for the sake of rules. I am talking of life-giving, life-protecting rules.

The one who keeps commands preserves himself;

one who disregards his ways will die.

Pr. 19:16

2. Discipline operates within a narrow window:

We all have a strong will that must sooner or later be curbed. Rules make us bristle and want to push the limits. Unfortunately, our strong will is most frequently curbed by painful experiences/consequences. Instilling that knowledge in your child, and more importantly – in yourself – is not only imperative but verse 18 implies that there is a narrow window during which to do it. God is not like a lax wishy-washy parent and will not be mocked. This matter of discipline/training is very important to him. He knows that “folly is bound up in the heart of a child and a rod of correction will drive it out,” Pr. 22:15. To every extent that I fail to correct and discipline a child, I am pushing him or her down a road of death. I am participating in his death. The wages of sin is death and the wages of defiance are a sure and expedited death.

Discipline your son while there is hope;

don’t be intent on killing him.

Pr. 19:18

3. If you rescue someone, you’ll likely have to do it again:

We need to be wise in rescuing others from the consequences of their folly. From a young age we told our boys that if they got in trouble with an authority figure for misbehaving, they would be in trouble with us as well. If they mouth off to a cop or get busted doing stupid stuff, they can call us from jail to tell us where they are but not be bailed out. Consequences are an important part of discipline/training. If you remove their sting, you curtail a vital learning process and cripple their development. We all know what those adults look like. We all have areas in our own lives where we failed to say no to ourselves and we are living with the consequences.

A person with great anger bears the penalty;

if you rescue him, you’ll have to do it again.

Pr. 19:19

4. Listen and receive counsel:

Sometimes we pay lip service to counsel, roll our eyes at it and walk away with no intention of carrying it out. We may even embrace it theoretically and think it a good idea but if we don’t adopt it, we aren’t receiving it. Choose wisely whose counsel you listen to. Surround yourself with wise people and pick their brains often. Practice gauging people’s wisdom over a long period of time and bring people further into or out of your circle accordingly.

Listen to counsel and receive instruction

so that you may be wise later in life.

Pr. 19:20

5. It starts with the fear of the Lord and ends with peace of mind:

Fear God and you will have nothing else to fear. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. As you fear him, he will lead you in ways that result in peace even when things are hard. Unfortunately, we fear disappointing a person or not fulfilling an appetite more than we fear God and his commands.

The fear of the Lord leads to life;

one will sleep at night without danger.

Pr. 19:23

6. Discipline is not only for the recipient:

Every onlooker is affected when discipline is meted. When you are training a child or other person, everyone around can learn what you are teaching. The wise learn from watching others. Don’t be the fool that has to learn everything for themselves. You don’t have enough time on earth for that. When you fail to punish a mocker (an arrogant person, a scoffer) you do an injustice to the inexperienced who are watching you. Not only are you correcting the mocker, but you are teaching the inexperienced how to do so.

Strike a mocker, and the inexperienced learn a lesson;

rebuke the discerning, and he gains knowledge.

Pr. 19:25

7. We never arrive:

Training/Discipline is a lifelong journey. We can be wise for years and undo it all in a moment of foolishness when we do not heed correction. In that moment we will have strayed from the path and can face serious consequences. Never stop listening to correction. Never think you are above it. Receive it from anyone. God uses all kinds of teachers on our path.

If you stop listening to correction, my son,

you will stray from the words of knowledge.

Pr. 19:27

8. God values authority:

God appoints authority in all circles of life. One of their primary jobs is to maintain justice and to punish those who mock and undermine it. “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong,” Rom 13:1-4.

A worthless witness mocks justice,

and a wicked mouth swallows iniquity.

Judgments are prepared for mockers,

and beatings for the backs of fools.

Pr. 19:28, 29.

LEAD ME TO THE ROCK

PSALM 61 – 7/8/21

David’s requestDavid’s Action
1 Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
2b When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
7a Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!
2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
David’s knowledge of God’s actionsDavid’s vows
3 For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
5 For You, O God, have heard my vows;
You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.
6 You will prolong the king’s life,
His years as many generations.
7 He shall abide before God forever.
4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah
8 So I will sing praise to Your name forever, That I may daily perform my vows.

1. Hear my cry, O God;

Attend to my prayer.

David, like a child, requests that his father not only hear him but also attend to him. He asks God, as it were, set his newspaper down and come down to the floor and engage with him.

2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You,

When my heart is overwhelmed;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3 For You have been a shelter for me,

A strong tower from the enemy.

David’s physical domain was not very large, nor did he make distant travels that we know of. Yet emotionally his heart felt distant, disconnected, alienated, far from home. This mighty man of war who had taken on lions and bears and giants knew that a discouraged heart was a formidable foe that could send him crashing in despair.

As an international college student, I was struck that whenever Middle Eastern students arrived in the Pacific Northwest, they were discombobulated and asked, “There are trees everywhere. Where are the rocks?” With rich word pictures, David looks around his arid terrain and majestic landmarks and sees the Rock. He acknowledges God as his familiar place, his refuge, his stability, his very identity. He who occupied Israel’s highest seat of power was humbly cognizant that the was not in the greatest position – God was.

4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;

I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah

What a sweet vow! David promises to never leave God. He has nowhere he would rather be. He promises to stay in a temporary tent forever, because he who occupies the tent is forever. He who recently sought the “wings of a dove” (Ps 55:6) so as to escape danger has found the almighty wings and considers them even more suitable. If you find the wing of the dove, you will have to flee and flit from tree to tree. You will be terribly vulnerable to the predator even in flight. But if you abide in the shelter of his wings, you can hunker down and be. You can settle in and know that any enemy will have to penetrate and destroy your cover before he can get to you.

Study the table above and its various aspects. Ask Holy Spirit which area of the four categories you need to grow in and invite him to do that work in your life.

SHARKS THAT LIVE IN BIG HOUSES

PROVERBS 19:1-14 – 7/7/21

See the source image

Yesterday I was caught between a scam and a scheme. It was very promising indeed and actually a service I’ve been seeking for a while. I listened to a compelling 45-minute spiel that ‘automatically’ popped up on YouTube. I was hooked. I registered for a consultation and scheduled a follow-up visit. The soonest opening was 2 days later. I waited with bated breath. They sent exciting reminder emails that just revved my engine.

The hour-long session was everything I dreamt it would be and more. I was so thrilled. Twenty minutes in I was crystal clear on what was amiss and what I desired. I had every confirmation that this was THE way to go to achieve that desire. I pressed for the price, but it was elusive just then. An hour in, she dropped the bomb: “$14K. But Meg is so invested in your success that she will knock off $4K and reduce it to $10K. And if you pay in full today, it’ll be $9K.”

I’m guessing saying ‘K’ was supposed to insulate the blow of the concept of three zeros. Immediately, my husband’s words came to mind. He is a perennial cynic and, in such situations, says, “I bet they live in a big house.”

I wish I’d recorded that session. The program was amazing but the price factor and their solutions to the problem of the price made it phenomenal scam/scheme material. I’d already invested time and heart into the passionate huddle we’d had. The results would be incredible – and I know for a fact that they would be because I would pour myself into it. I could easily have done the rather immoral things they were strongly pushing I do to cough up the money immediately.

Today’s lesson was almost a day late and I’d be many K short. I love how God’s word buried and constantly tilled in our hearts provides the practical wisdom we need to navigate a world of sharks that live in big houses.

“Even zeal is not good without knowledge,

and the one who acts hastily sins.

The one who acquires good sense loves himself;

one who safeguards understanding finds success.

A person’s insight gives him patience,

and his virtue is to overlook an offense.”

Pr. 19:2, 8, 11.

She worked very hard to hook me by pulling up awesome personality traits we’d discussed earlier (strategically, I see now) liked “being decisive,” and “being resourceful.” Afterall it would be those 2 terms that would get 9K from my account to Meg’s “right now.” When I said I needed to think about it, she told me that if I hung up to think about it, 99% chance is that I wouldn’t call back to enroll. “No *&@!” I should have said.

Our passage today touches on 2 key matters: haste and patience. Read the 3 verses above again.

See the source image

Our conversation yesterday was marked by zeal. I’m here to tell you that even zeal with knowledge, if driven by hasty action is a sin. Good sense and safeguarding understanding, as the passage outlines are a great boon and must be nurtured in the life of a believer. The bulk of our regrets in life stem from bad sense and not safeguarding understanding. We valued something more than we valued understanding. And we’re still paying the price, and she’s still living in a big house. You are to safeguard it because it is a precious and rare commodity that many seek to undercut it so as to use or destroy you. Do not be a fool. Keep your good sense. Safeguard your understanding. Be patient. Here are some ways to do this:

  1. Watch your emotions, both positive and negative. They are easily manipulated.
  2. The more you invest time, personal information, and associated emotions, the more likely you are to be swayed.
  3. Guard your desire to please people including complete strangers. Experience the thrill of saying no – even to something you want.
  4. Teach your children these priceless skills and save them a lot of trouble. Deliberately debrief successes and failures and tell them to be ready for the next episode.
  5. Deceivers will try to isolate you. Think of other wise people in your life and how they would respond to this scenario.
  6. As I taught my son while he was learning how to drive, “You will rarely regret waiting. Don’t let the guy behind you bully you into rash decisions when you are behind the wheel.”
  7. Talk to Holy Spirit in real time. If you can’t hear him, defer your decision so you can consult him when your heart is in a quiet place. His still small voice may not be audible against all the pizzazz of the moment.
  8. Reflect on incidents like these and identify moments when that still small voice was coming through even in the heat of the moment.
  9. Guard your affections and desires. They make you vulnerable.
  10. Practice patience a 9K times a day. It’s so important to God that he gives you fourteen thousand opportunities every day. If you can’t be patient in little things, what chance do you stand with big ones?

7 LESSONS ON THE MOUTH, THE LIPS, & THE TONGUE

PROVERBS 18:13-24 – 7/6/21

What an odd looking set of organs! we all have a set and they are more powerful than we know.

  1. Listen first.

The one who gives an answer before he listens—

this is foolishness and disgrace for him.

Pr. 18:13

If you desire to grow in wisdom and understanding, you must start with listening. Listening is a complex skill and few have mastered the art. We shut people off in our mind, certain they have nothing to say worth hearing. Practice hearing people out, even when you think you know what they are going to say, otherwise you are engaging in foolishness and disgrace.

2. Collect wise information.

The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge,

and the ear of the wise seeks it.

Pr. 18:15

Do not listen just because it is a courtesy and you don’t want to be considered rude. Listen to acquire knowledge. The elevates you from a regular listener to ‘having the mind of the discerning.’ Be so with every human being the Lord brings your way today. Listen as a discerner. You will be amazed at what you will acquire. Train your ear to be a wisdom seeking missile and habitually expose yourself to those who prove themselves as wise.

3. Listen to all parties before you decide.

The first to state his case seems right

until another comes and cross-examines him.

Pr. 18:17

Learn to cross-examine wisely. Don’t buy into everything you hear. Routinely listen to many sides of a situation. There is much to be appreciated in various opinions.

4. Sometimes words are ineffective in decision-making.

Casting the lot ends quarrels

and separates powerful opponents.

Pr. 18:18

Sometimes an external, objective source is needed to make a final decision between adversaries. This can be a material process like casting lots, or an outside arbiter. Know the time to draw this party in when in seems that words are getting nowhere.

5. Count the cost of being right.

An offended brother is harder to reach

than a fortified city,

and quarrels are like the bars of a fortress.

Pr. 18:19

You may win the argument but lose a brother or sister in the process. Learn the fine dance in human relations whereby you can put up with so much wrong in a certain area, for the sake of the relationship. We know of fractured relationships that may take a lifetime to heal and sometimes never to their original state. Commentator Kidner warns “of the strength of the invisible walls of estrangement, so easy to erect, so hard to demolish.”

6. Whatever you dish out to others, you also eat.

From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is satisfied;

he is filled with the product of his lips.

Pr. 18:20

Verbal intercourse can be as satisfying as a meal. We can use words that build and satiate a person. Those words will go to bear fruit in the hearer’s life. Remember you are not only a speaker but also a hearer of your own words. Your words affect even you and continue to bear fruit. So ensure that you are eating good fruit from the product of your lips. Our words have consequences.

7. You wield more power than you know.

Life and death are in the power of the tongue,

and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Pr. 18:21

You can feed others and yourself poisonous fruit from your mouth or you can speak words of life and build them up. That little organ in your mouth has incredible power.

Learn to wield it

wisely for good.

Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.

 Every sea creature, reptile, bird, or animal is tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. We praise our Lord and Father with it, and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it. Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.

James 3:3-12