Mocking; October 16, 2019

Proverbs 14:6 The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none,
but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.

Proverbs frequently mentions mockers and mocking, because it’s a common thing. Ridicule is widely used as a weapon, and some people seem to invite it. However, the moment we mock we close our hearts and minds to whatever we might learn from the person or the situation. Often we can learn what not to do! Mocking is fundamentally a function of pride, because it is done from an imagined superior position. However, if we are discerning (the Japanese says “enlightened”) enough to be humble, we can see where we share some of the same weaknesses as the person we are considering. That way we can learn a lot! We are often tempted to think, “How could they be so stupid?” when honest reflection will tell us that we ourselves have been remarkably stupid at times. Humor is a valuable thing, but we must be careful not to let it get into mockery, into considering others as less than ourselves, or we will be choosing blindness that will cause us to fall.

I am ashamed to say that I have mocked many people and things over the years. Sometimes that was in reaction to being mocked myself, or out of a fear of being mocked, but that is no excuse. I have struggled with pride in many forms throughout my life, and I’m not through with either my life or that struggle! I must choose to respond to everyone with the grace that God has shown to me, thereby gaining knowledge of myself, of other people, and of the God who created us all. When I let pride pull me into mockery, I forfeit all of that.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me see myself and others with Your eyes, allowing You to use me to lift them up rather than put them down. Help me remember that a clever put-down diminishes me, even as it probably hurts the other person. May I be an unpolluted channel of Your love and grace, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Parenting; October 15, 2019

Proverbs 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

This is certainly a forgotten verse in much of society today! The 20th Century had lots of psychologists who insisted that “corporeal punishment” was “damaging to the psyche” of a child. I honestly think most of them must not have had children of their own! Actually the famous (or infamous) Dr. Spock in his later years regretted rather bitterly what he had unleashed with his books on permissive parenting. There is no question that there can be a fine line between discipline and child abuse, but that line isn’t necessarily physical, and dealing with it is one of the challenges of being a parent. Each child is different, and what is entirely appropriate for one child can be excessive for another. However, in current society parents have literally had their children taken away from them by the government for simply spanking them. That is tragic, and is child abuse on the part of the government. A major part of the picture is that children have to learn that actions have consequences. Sometimes those consequences are pleasurable, and sometimes not. When they don’t make that firm connection early on, we wind up with adults who disregard laws, as well as the needs of other people, and do whatever they want, often with disastrous consequences. Logic and reason don’t work with small children certainly, and they don’t work nearly as often as we would like them to even as they get older, all the way up into adulthood. It often takes a little physical pain to get the point across. That said, the most important principle in it all is that actions can be bad, but children as such are not. What needs to come across is, “You are my beloved child, but that action has got to stop.” When that is firmly in place, the children feel loved and grow up well adjusted, to the pleasure and satisfaction of the parents.

My parents never used a strap or a stick on me, but I can remember some spankings. They tried what is often called a “time out” with me, (they called it a “thinking session”) but I can remember enjoying them, because I had a very active imagination and I would just sit there fantasizing all sorts of wild adventures. I don’t think I ever felt unloved by my parents. I have certainly lived a blessed life! As a pastor and teacher I am often called on for advice (all too often when it is essentially too late) and have even led parenting seminars. My heart breaks at times seeing how some parents deal with their children. Emotional abuse is sometimes even worse than physical abuse, and a failure to discipline, physically when need be, fits into the category of emotional abuse. It is particularly heart-rending when parents lock their children out of the house as a punishment, or otherwise use abandonment as a tool of “discipline.” That is flat out child abuse. It is far kinder to the child to “apply the board of education to the seat of learning,” to change the undesirable behavior. The thing is, I don’t have legal authority to intervene, so unless the parents explicitly ask me for input, all I can do is pray. I do a lot of that!

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for being the perfect Father, never abandoning us but always seeking the very best for us. Help me be the child You desire, relating as You intend with Your other children, so that the lies of the enemy may be defeated and Your perfect will be done, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Correction; October 14, 2019

Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates correction is stupid.

This could hardly be plainer or more to the point. There is no telling how much potential has been wasted by people who have refused correction. We humans have a strong desire to be right, and to resist when we are told we are wrong. We also want results to be poured into our laps, rather than our putting in the effort to achieve whatever it is we desire. The problem is, that will get us into trouble every time. As the Bible points out in several places, in God’s economy, humility is the way to advancement. (1 Peter 5:6, etc.) It’s not wrong to be assured of what you know, but even there you need to be open to learning more, or even better. History is filled with examples from science and medicine of “accepted truth” turning out to be quite wrong. I don’t think any of us today would want someone to drain a liter of our blood to try to “cure” us of the flu! Pride has been a stumbling block for humanity ever since Eden, and it is actually Satan’s sin. (Isaiah 14:12-14) That should tell us how dangerous it is! To gain all that God has for us, we first have to recognize that we don’t yet have it all, and then be willing to do whatever is called for to receive God’s provision.

Hating correction is indeed stupid, and harms the person with that attitude even more than it harms those around them – and that can really be saying something! I have certainly had my problems with demanding to be right, as well as with hurting others by insisting they were wrong. As I deal with others who struggle with that issue, I’ve got to remember that only God is always right, and keep learning even as I help others to learn. Much of my life at this point is spent in positions of authority or at least seniority, and that can be very risky. I’m not to swallow all the things people say about me! I need to extend to others the patience and grace that God has poured out on me, so that together we may be drawn closer to Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all the things You have done in this conference, and particularly for totally rearranging the schedule from what was originally planned. I ask for Your presence and guidance in the last session this morning. Keep me from pontificating! I continue to ask that my every word and action would draw people to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Honesty; October 13, 2019

Proverbs 10:9 The man of integrity walks securely,
but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

Several of the proverbs in this section spoke to me, but this one seems most fundamental. I realized a long time ago that my father’s policy of absolute honesty was ultimately the easiest way to live, because I didn’t have to remember what lie I had told to whom. I think that is precisely what this is talking about. The Japanese calls integrity, “walking perfectly straight,” and in the second half of the verse says, “bends his own path.” I would call that being devious. There are people who bend the truth, or even tell outright lies, for no good reason at all, and they just look foolish and unreliable when they are found out. It approaches absurdity when such people are politicians who are on TV almost every day! Walking straight, as the Japanese says, is certainly the safer course.

For all the fact that I was raised on the principle of absolute honesty, I have still fallen for the temptation to bend things to make me look better (or so I thought). That has never worked well in the long run. I am to speak the truth in love to others, but be brutally honest, as the saying goes, with myself. My words are to be as gentle as possible, but never calling evil good or good evil. The world demands that we do that with distressing frequency! I am to take the course of safety, as this verse describes it, going by God’s definition of what is true and not bowing to political correctness. If I do that, I won’t have to waste time explaining myself!

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for getting us to this meeting yesterday safely in spite of the typhoon. Thank You for arranging exactly who is here, and for Your corrections to the planned schedule. Thank You for guiding so clearly last night, as everyone present in the discussion session had already lost a child to CS. Thank You for guiding what I said, and for what I didn’t say. Thank You for the obvious impact we are having on those families. May this indeed be the occasion of many committing their hearts to Jesus as Lord, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Education; October 12, 2019

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

This very famous verse is even shorter in Japanese than in English, in terms of how much space it takes, but this one simple verse should be the foundation of all education on the planet. Sadly, it isn’t, and many academics pride themselves on quite the opposite. Like a recent US president, they tend to be dismissive of those who “cling to their Bibles, guns, and religion.” In their blindness, they think that faith is the antithesis of thought, when nothing could be further from the truth. This verse says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the foundation. God gives us our minds for us to use them, but if we fail to start from the foundation of who God is, our minds can take us in some highly destructive directions. One look at human history tells us that. We consider knowledge a good thing, and generally it is, but especially in this Information Age, most of us know a lot of stuff without understanding any of it. The Japanese word for “understanding” in this verse is often translated “enlightenment,” and is a pillar of Buddhism. It is only in knowing God that “the lights come on” in truth. Otherwise, we’re still in the dark, no matter how much information we might have. As God told Jeremiah, “Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” (Jeremiah 9:24) Paul, with the fuller revelation of Jesus Christ, put it this way: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11) (Incidentally, the “somehow” doesn’t mean that Paul doubted that he would be raised, but rather that he didn’t know how it would happen.)

As I am frequently reminded, I was raised in a very intellectual/academic family. The greatest blessing, however, was that it was founded on the truth in this verse, and a right relationship with our Creator was the highest good and ultimate goal. I caught that, but I am still tempted by knowledge for the sake of knowledge; I like to know stuff! That becomes a problem when I start to look down on the uncurious, to think that my knowledge makes me better than them. When that happens it shows that I am losing my fear of the Lord, because He created each of us differently, and He doesn’t make mistakes. It is my privilege to share God’s truth with others, but I must never do so from an attitude of pride. The better I know my Lord, the more humble I will be! Everything good about me is an example of God’s grace, and not something I have generated or earned. I am to be a faithful steward of all that He has placed in my hands, but I must remember that it is His and not mine, and live accordingly.

Father, thank You for this reminder. We leave this morning for a meeting in which I am looked on as some sort of authority, even though the majority of those participating are not yet Christians. Help me steer them toward You through everything I say and do, so that Your Spirit may open their hearts for repentance and faith, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Life vs. Death; October 11, 2019

Proverbs 8:35-36 “For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the Lord.
But whoever fails to find me harms himself;
all who hate me love death.”

The section from verse 22 through 31 has a lot of parallels to the first chapter of John, particularly when you consider that the Greek logos, word, carries the meaning of knowledge/wisdom, as in a cardiologist being someone who has knowledge/wisdom about the heart. Seen that way, this is talking about Christ, and these two verses are all the more true. Christ is indeed the ultimate wisdom from God, and an encounter with Him brings life indeed. As came out yesterday, this brings to mind what Jesus said about Himself in John 3:19-21. Those who hate Him indeed love death, even though many of them think they are clinging to their own autonomy. True wisdom recognizes that we can’t draw a single breath without the grace, support, and permission of our Creator, and lives accordingly. Many people rail against the exclusivity of the Gospel, but there is only one Creator, and only one Son. Jesus was neither being conceited or exaggerating when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Those who know the Way to eternal life should be active in introducing others to Him as well.

This is of course why I’m a pastor in Japan. In America the majority of people at least know the outline of the Gospel, even if they haven’t applied it to themselves, but that’s hardly the case in Japan. That’s why every time I do a “chapel wedding” I give a clear presentation of the love of God displayed in the cross of Christ. I state clearly that Jesus’ cross was really my cross, the cross of each person hearing my words, because of our sins, but that the Son of God took it on Himself out of His love for us. Since Japanese tend to think of sin in terms of crimes, the examples I mention are lying, jealousy, and hatred. Everyone has tasted those! Using the three major Greek words for love I talk about agape, and say that we can’t generate it on our own, but that if we believe that God loves us that way and open our hearts to receive His love, we are then enabled to love each other with agape love. I haven’t had the privilege of harvesting from those weddings, but I’m getting the seed out there, and I sometimes receive effusive thanks from the parents and/or the couples who hear it. I am never to be deliberately offensive, but I am also never to apologize for the exclusive claims of Christ.

Father, thank You for the privilege of sowing the Word. I do ask for abundant harvest in Your time in Your way, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Love and Hate; October 10, 2019

Proverbs 8:13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.

Reading the benefits of wisdom that follow this, it would seem almost automatic that people would desire and seek wisdom, but this verse gives insight into why so many do not. As it says clearly in the next chapter, you can’t have true wisdom without fearing God, (Proverbs 9:10) but people don’t fear Him and they love evil instead. (John 3:19-21) We understandably focus on love, but genuine wisdom hates some things too. Note that what is listed here is not people, but rather actions and attitudes. It is ironic that this is a major way in which the devil attacks us. He does his best to make us hate people, and so fall into various sins ourselves, rather than hating their evil actions. The Bible does speak many times of hating evil people, but this is the path of true wisdom. Forgiveness and redemption are always available for those who repent in truth. Once we separate the person from the action, we are far freer to recognize evil attitudes and actions in ourselves. This is actually a vital point in parenting that many parents sadly overlook. Discipline is essential for everyone, but we need to remember that the child is not bad, the action is bad. When we project, or even say, “You are a bad person,” the consequences are disastrous. We need to communicate, “I love you, and I cannot allow that.” Children are where this is closest to home, since we bear the most responsibility for them, but this attitude applies to every one of our interactions. There are many today all over the world who, deceived by the devil, teach that we are to hate various people for assorted arbitrary reasons: race, political party, ethnic background, or what have you. All of that is from the pit of hell. Jesus died for those people. How can we hate them? They may indeed do hateful things, as this verse says, but we are not to hate the people themselves. Recently a marvelous example of this was in the news, when a strongly Christian family forgave the person who killed one of them, literally embracing her and speaking blessing on her. I’m sure they hated her action, and even the things that led up to it, but they obviously didn’t hate her, and it was an example for the whole world.

I was raised with unconditional love, and that’s a blessing beyond words to express. However, some of my actions weren’t hated perhaps as much as they should have been! (Some of them, my parents didn’t know about.) Pride and arrogance were my big failures, but in general I was raised to accept and even love everyone, regardless of differences. I am very grateful that I was raised not to hold grudges, but to release things to God and let Him deal with ultimate consequences. I have had situations where people have set themselves against me, and others have been amazed that I haven’t expressed any personal animosity toward them. That’s because I haven’t felt any! I am on my guard against their lies, but I genuinely feel sorry for them being so deceived. The news is filled with stories of people who do horrible things. Sometimes they get caught, and sometimes they seem to get away with it. However, I know that ultimately no one ever gets away with anything, but we all have to stand before God and be judged. That awareness gives me a fear of the Lord that I desire for everyone else!

Father, thank You for this reminder. Temptations to hate people, rather than their actions and the devil who’s deceiving them, abound. Help me see things with Your eyes and respond accordingly, loving Your children with Your strong love regardless of their actions, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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