Agent of P.R.A.I.S.E.

“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.”
Proverbs 4:13 (NIV)

If you could have any super power, what would it be? Maybe flying like Superman, scaling tall buildings like Spider Man, wearing high-tech costumes and having multiple powers like Iron Man? If you read or watch any DC Comic or Marvel Comic books or movies, you know the number of creative powers are almost limitless!

Since my family subscribed to Disney Plus, we have overdosed on Marvel movies, series and documentaries lately. Well, I may have to correct that. I feel overdosed, but my husband and daughter do not. I’m more of a Hallmark movie kind of girl, but I have enjoyed seeing justice done and learning about the creativity of the Marvel world in series like Agent Carter and movies like Avengers Endgame.

Each Marvel superhero wants to help the world, but somehow ends up being destructive in his or her pursuit of justice. Thus, the fictional S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) agency was designed to help reign in these “rogue” superheroes.  We can think of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a gateway for protection, and its agents are tasked with knowing the truth in order to vigilantly keep the country safe.

We can dream of being like a Marvel superhero, but in reality we can be like a SH.I.E.L.D. agent. The book of Proverbs is filled with instruction on how we are to uphold and live God’s laws, and we are promised life when we do that. Proverbs 4:13 explicitly tells us that “holding on to instruction” (God’s wisdom) will give us protection. God’s word is our shield.

One way we can keep wisdom close to us is through our own agency – P.R.A.I.S.E.

You can be an Agent of P.R.A.I.S.E.! So many benefits will come from this role in your life.

  • It changes your heart to a heart of gladness and gratefulness, whisking away the “blues.”
  • It brings joy to the Lord who loves you so.
  • It is encourages others to seek God.

Throughout the book of Proverbs, Solomon encourages us to praise God by seeking his wisdom (Pr 3:18, Pr 3:22Pr 4:5-7, Pr 11:30, Pr 23:23). Solomon may have lost sight of wisdom at times during his life (when he allowed wives of other religions to influence him); however, at the end of his life, he remembered the importance of holding fast to God’s instruction: “Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12 NLT)

Pick up your shield of wisdom and make it a shield of P.R.A.I.S.E.!

Previously, S.H.I.E.L.D. stood for “Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate” and, originally, it stood for “Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division.” I created my own P.R.A.I.S.E. acrostic. Feel free to use that one, or like Marvel did multiple times with S.H.I.E.L.D., change it and make it your own!

If you create your own, share it with me and others in the comments section. Fellow agents, let’s P.R.A.I.S.E. together!

Lessons from a Cave Dweller, Part 5

The fourth, and final, lesson in this series:

We can and should praise God no matter what the circumstance.

This is the hardest of all lessons, to praise God amidst trials. Several years ago, my family did a study, Guarding Your Child’s Heart by Gary Smalley. In this study, Smalley gave four principles that we should write on our hearts and live out– Be humble, love God, love others, and rejoice in trials. The order of those actions is critical. None of the others can be done unless we are humble first. And, the final one, well, that one may take a lifetime to achieve. But nonetheless, we are called to rejoice in trials.

Psalm 57 is comprised of 11 verses. I think it is important to note that David is praising God by verse 7. Even though he was desperately crying out to God for mercy and lamenting the actions of his enemies, he ended his prayer with five verses simply praising God. His praise begins with a “steadfast heart.” Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible gives us a good explanation of the steadfast heart:

“So, in a spiritual sense, a heart fixed and established, or that is firm and sure, is one that is assured of its salvation by Christ, rooted and grounded in the love of God, firmly built on the foundation, Christ, and has its affections set on him; and is unmoved, from the hope of the Gospel, and the doctrines of it, by whatsoever it meets with in the world. It may be rendered, ‘my heart is prepared’ or ‘ready.'”

Because of his steadfast heart, David is able to praise God, and he mentions musical praise – with voice and instrument (verse 8). He can envision his praise rising among the nations, outside of his cave. Enduring Word Commentary says, “A cave narrows and darkens the vision of most people, but David’s heart and song soared unto the clouds. He exalted the mercy and truth of God even from difficult circumstances.”

In Psalm 57, David says, “Be exalted, O God” twice. Enduring Word comments on this:

“The refrain is repeated because of its goodness and for emphasis. It’s important to remember that David’s circumstances were not much better when he sang this song. He was delivered from the immediate danger at Gath, but a cave was a long way from the throne of Israel which God had promised him. David didn’t wait for his circumstances to change before he praised God above the heavens.”

We, too, in our current caves, can praise God. When we do this, we can change our hearts to grateful hearts.

Use your “cave time” to remember the Lord. Tell him your fears, ask him for comfort, and praise him for all he has done and will do.

You can actually visit the island where Selkirk was stranded. It’s Juan Fernandez, off the coast of Chile, now called Robinson Crusoe Island.

Alexander Selkirk, the man isolated on an island for nearly four-and-a-half years, spent time daily singing to the Lord from his cave as he looked out on beautiful sunrises and sunsets on that remote island. Isolated and not knowing if he would be able to catch his next meal, he praised God anyway. Like David, he lifted his head to the skies and sang out, “Be exalted, O God!”

Have you ever praised God during a difficult time? Share your story in the comments section.

Currently, as “cave dwellers,” let’s make the most of our time, learning to enjoy rest, solitude, and a new way of community until community activities are restored.

 

Lessons from a Cave Dweller, Part 4

Lesson 3 in my series on Psalm 57 is:

Our ultimate trust and comfort is in God.

Having 24/7 access to the news can be addictive and disheartening. Media has always thrived on ratings, and ratings go up with sensationalism, so extreme cases are the prominent, and sometimes only, news reported. While being “in the know” is important, a steady diet of watching those little and big red circles increase on the United States Coronavirus map can increase our fears and skew our trust in God.

Fear has already created a rush on the grocery store aisles, leaving shelves where toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bread, meat, and eggs once resided absolutely empty. While it is important to be prepared, overreacting with immense stockpiling is an act of fear. God did not give us “a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT).

David illustrates for us perfectly this lesson of trusting in God. While he took measures to protect himself (fled from danger to a cave), he also remembered in whom his ultimate trust was: God. In Psalm 57, verses 1 and 2 both show him crying out to God for mercy and stating that God is his real refuge, not the cave. His ultimate trust was in talking with God. Verse 2 says “God who accomplishes all things for me” (NASB) or “who will fulfill his purpose for me” (NLT). Enduring Word Commentary notes how we in our humanness treat this verse:

“It is a marvelous thing to consider God is literally willing to perform all things in us, and for us, if only we will let Him. The mischief is that most of us insist on performing all things in the energy of our own resolve, in the strength of our own power.” (Meyer)

But, if we consider what “accomplishes all things for me” really means according to Jamieson Fausset Brown Bible Commentary, that God will complete what he has begun, we can find peace and comfort. God is good to his word. We can trust him. He makes good on his promises!

The real-life Robinson Crusoe, when abandoned on a remote island, said many prayers. He still had to do the work (make a hut, find food, protect himself) but he ultimately prayed, most likely daily, for help and found his comfort in that.

What practical action can you take to increase your trust in God during uncertain times? Share in the comments section!

We, too, can, and should, be prepared during uncertain times by getting the things we need from the store, social distancing, and washing our hands, but we must not forget that our ultimate trust is in God. When fear begins to creep into your mind, say a prayer. Ask God for a clear mind, for comfort, and for peace so that you may keep your ultimate hope in him.

Just for fun: Seeing memes like this one really make me smile amidst the epic toilet paper shortage!

 

Lessons from a Cave Dweller, Part 3

A second lesson we can learn from David when he was a cave dweller is:

Cave dwelling can be a good time for meditation and remembering what is most important in our lives.

While community is important, occasionally solitude is as equally important, for in solitude, we can hear God more clearly. Solitude is a way of clearing the noise of everyday life and listening intently to God. If you were used to being in meetings and activities all week long, now that those are canceled, use that time to reflect on God’s word. You might choose a favorite book of the Bible and just begin reading and marking God’s promises to you or what he says about you. Use this time as a time of prayer and reflection.

Cave dwelling is also a time of rest. My mother-in-law sent me something about the COVID-19 quarantine that she received from a friend last week. Here is an excerpt from it that fits this lesson:

Society: What about my plans ?

God: My plans for you are always better than your own. Don’t worry. I’m going to work this all out for your good.

Society: We’re not going to get anything done!

God: That’s the point. You know how you keep spinning your wheels—always working, moving, doing—but never feeling satisfied? I’ve given you permission to stop. I’ve cleared your calendars for you! Your worth isn’t tied to busyness or accomplishment. All you have to do is take care of each other.

Society: What does this all mean?

God: It means I’m in control. It means you are human, and I am God. It means I’ve given you a wonderful opportunity to be the light in a dark world. It means you are going to learn to rely on me.

Society: What are we supposed to do when we can’t leave our homes?

God: Rest. You are always so busy and overwhelmed, crying out to me weary and exhausted. Can’t you use a break from your fast-paced and over-scheduled lives? Go ahead and rest. Pray. Love your families. Be still and spend time with me.

In Psalm 57:1b, David says, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” David understood the perfect place for rest: in the Lord. Notice that he was not attributing the cave as his refuge but instead it was placing himself under “the wings of the Lord.” This beautiful image reflects that of a mother bird shielding her chicks from dangerous predators and the elements. This also illustrates a closeness like no other because the mother bird is using herself to protect her chicks. God does that for us. And, as his chicks we can rest in his protection. This same image is also found in Psalms 17:8, 36:7, and 63:7, and Jesus used it once, too, in Matthew 23:37.

hen covering her chicks

Us this time of slowing down and solitude to rest in the Lord.

How will you use your new “downtime” (those times you would have been at an activity that is currently canceled)? What is one practical thing that you can do to grow closer to God? Some ideas: work through a Bible study that you haven’t done yet, set aside special prayer time for others, send cards to encourage others, etc. Share in the comments section what you chose to do! Let’s be accountable to each other.

Of special note: Even though this lesson is about solitude, community is equally important, and if you are feeling lonely and in need of community, some good practical ways to combine community and reflection on God’s word are phone calls to friends to say, “Hi,” pray together, and maybe even talk about a Bible study. If you are tech savvy, video call someone. Or, if you like paper, start a card ministry. After all, who doesn’t love to receive a note of encouragement in the mail?

 

 

Lessons from a Cave Dweller, Part 2

Our first lesson from David during his cave dwelling days recorded in Psalm 57 is:

God is with us always – no matter what the circumstance, whether we are inside or outside of the cave.

Throughout Psalm 57, we hear David crying out to God:

v. 1: “have mercy on me, O God”

v. 2: “I cry out to God Most High”

v. 3: “God sends his love and faithfulness”

v. 10: “For great is your love reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies”

David never indicates any time in this Psalm that he does not believe that God is with him. David trusted that God would hear him even when he was hunkered down in a cave and hiding from his enemies.

During this time when we cannot meet together in community for the sake of staying well and keeping others well, we can trust that God is with us and that he is in control. We are not alone. God is near us, even in lonely and uncertain times. If you are feeling lonely or afraid, grab hold of one of these promises that God is near, pray it daily, memorize it, and journal insights about it:

“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.”

Psalm 73:28

I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Psalm 16:8

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

“You are near, O LORD, And all Your commandments are truth.”

Psalm 119:151

“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.”

Psalm 145:18

“Am I a God who is near,” declares the LORD, “And not a God far off?”

Jeremiah 23:23

God is near us always, inside and outside of our cave. In the comments section, share your favorite promise. Why is it your favorite verse? Even though we can’t meet face to face right now, we can talk and encourage each other “virtually!”

Lessons from a Cave Dweller, Part 1

In my last post, I mentioned that I was taking a break from my blog for awhile and preparing to redesign it. I’m still in “taking a break” mode, but with the current COVID-19 situation, I wanted to share some thoughts with you that I recently wrote for my Sunday School class.

Following is the introduction for my reflection on Psalm 57.

I love a good adventure story! When I was a teenager and even a young adult, I’m not sure those words would have come from my mouth. Back then, I would have said, “I like classic fairytale romance!” The kind where Mr. Darcy wins Miss Bennet or Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester finally get to live happily ever after together. And while I’m still a huge fan of Cinderella-style stories, now I’m finding just how much I like reading stories of adventure on the high seas and survival on remote islands – stories like Treasure Island, Life of Pi, The Cay, and Robinson Crusoe.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I read a short adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. It is an interesting story about how a man who is shipwrecked and the lone survivor on a remote island survives for 28 years until he is finally rescued. Even though Crusoe’s determination, creativity, and grateful attitude inspired me, what I found most appealing is that his story was inspired by a true survival story, that of Alexander Selkirk in 1704.

Most scholars believe that the real Robinson Crusoe was Alexander Selkirk because of the timing and similar details of the two men’s stories. Defoe would have had easy access to Selkirk’s story which was printed in the newspaper during Defoe’s lifetime. In addition, both Selkirk and the fictional Crusoe share name changes, abandonment on a remote island, and similar experiences with living in a cave and dealing with cats, rats, and goats (you’ll have to read the story to understand these references). Both men sang praises to God as they learned to live in isolation.

The short version of Selkirk’s story is that he was a skillful seaman who didn’t agree with the captain of the ship he was on. He then asked to be let off the boat, which the captain promptly ordered at a remote island off the coast of Chile. Selkirk was left on that island for nearly four-and-a-half years before he was rescued, at which time he could not even speak (luckily, he regained his speech and that is how his story could be recorded).

While he was on the island, he made his home in a cave; he learned to fish without a fishing pole, he became adept at raising and killing goats for food and clothing, he raised cats to protect him from rats, and he praised God with songs every day. He learned to be grateful for the peace and provisions God had provided him on this remote island. Selkirk, a man who lived adventure in cities like London and traveling the world on the high seas, learned many things from his life as a cave dweller on a remote island. He learned to worship God in tough circumstances, he learned about solitude, and he learned how to live as a lone survivor.

According to Marooned, a biography about Selkirk, at first, he regretted his rash decision to leave the ship. He describes how he anxiously stood on the shoreline every day for months just watching for sails to come his way, only to find none appear. But, his determination to survive propelled him forward and he made a life on the island. Interestingly, after he was rescued and back in England, he missed his quiet time on the island and actually carved a cave retreat to which he visited daily. It was his place where he could sing praises to God and rest in solitude.

In our present time, with Coronavirus COVID-19 sweeping around the world and the wise decision of people social distancing, it feels a bit like we are cave dwellers. But our caves are nicer than Selkirk’s! At least we have indoor plumbing, air conditioning and heat, kitchen appliances, and oh thank heavens a washer and dryer! But the isolating aspect of being a cave dweller can be difficult. However, I believe we can use this “cave dwelling” time to remember some important lessons.

Reflections on Psalm 57

In the Bible, David was a cave dweller during part of his life. In 1 Samuel 18:8-9, we read, “Saul was very angry: this refrain galled him. ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought. What more can he get but the kingdom? And from that time on, Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”

This jealousy grew so much that Saul wanted to kill David (1 Samuel 19:1). But thankfully for David he had a loyal friend in Jonathan and was warned about Saul’s plan, so he could flee to safety. One of the safe places he fled was to a cave in Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1). Another cave he dwelt in during his flight was in the Desert of En Gedi (1 Samuel 24:1-3). David was forced to be a cave dweller for the sake of safety, and we have insight to his thoughts during this time through his words in Psalm 57.

Since it is recorded that David dwelled in at least two caves, we can’t be sure to which cave Psalm 57 refers, but most scholars attribute it to the cave at Adullam.

Regardless of which location David was, we can learn four lessons from his thoughts and attitude described in his psalm.

Look for lesson 1 tomorrow!

 

Stay Tuned…

Thank you for faithfully following this blog site featuring weekly (and in recent months biweekly) thoughts on the book of Proverbs. As we approach the holiday season, I am going to take some time to refresh and refocus my thoughts for all new topics for next year. Stay tuned to hear what next year’s focus will be! In the meantime, if you need some wisdom on a particular proverb, this site includes devotions on more than 150 of them. Search for a particular proverb or theme and see what comes up!

I wish a blessed Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas! Can’t wait to resume Solomon Says in 2020!

Leave a Lasting Legacy

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

The star sapphire ring that my mom passed down to me when I turned thirteen still shines as brightly as it did the day she gave it to me. Growing out of being a girl and into being a woman, I was so proud to have that ring, because it was a piece of real jewelry and it had belonged to my mom. It was like an inheritance, and it symbolized my mom’s trust in me. Today, I get to pass that ring on to my daughter, Caroline, on her thirteenth birthday.

Caroline is truly a treasure to me and Bert. As an infant, with her bald head and round blue eyes, she looked like the Gerber baby. As a toddler, her vibrant personality and persistent curiosity kept us on our toes. As an elementary age child, her intelligence, concern for people, and gift of song more than amazed us. Now, she’s turning thirteen today, and she’ll officially be a teenager. And I get to pass on my sapphire ring to her.

Bert and I don’t take our role as parents lightly, and we treasure our gift in Caroline. As Solomon says in Psalm 127:3, one of the two Psalms he penned, “Children are a heritage from the Lord” and children a “reward” to their parents.

When I think of the idea of heritage, I think of something, such as an inheritance, being passed down from an ancestor. Bert and I know that Caroline is a gift from our father in heaven. And my ring is a gift to her. But the best gift I can give her is to teach her about the Lord – specifically, who she is in Christ.

Solomon stressed that having children is a blessing (Ps 127:5). So, as parents, let’s remember that:

  • Children are our reward; they are our treasure.
  • It’s important for us to leave a good inheritance for them, whether that inheritance is in material things or memories of good times spent together.
  • We should teach our children about the Lord, as Deuteronomy 6:7-9 commands.
  • We should thank the Lord for the gifts he has given us.

In Proverbs 17:6, Solomon also emphasizes that “Children’s children are a crown to the aged.” In other words, as parents, if we pass on a wonderful inheritance to our children, we can look forward to seeing them pass it on to their children.

I know if my mom were here today, she would be so proud that I’m following her example and passing on a beloved ring to my daughter, and that I’m teaching her the beautiful truth of who she is in Christ.

Let us leave a lasting legacy with our greatest treasure, our children.

 

 

Who Am I?

The past two posts have been about writing our testimonies and telling our stories. The Bible is filled with great testimonies of people who followed the One True God, people who walked with Christ, and people who believed in Christ after his resurrection. If these people were alive today and came to speak their salvation story to us, this is what two of them would sound like:

As you read these testimonies, did you see the pattern of how they each told about:

  • life before salvation,
  • the situation and people involved who shared Christ with them, and
  • life after salvation?

Can you identify with the thoughts and feelings of these two people? Maybe they echo threads in your own salvation story.

Do you know to whom these two testimonies from the Bible belong?  The first person to submit both correct answers in the comments section on my blog will win a copy of my study, Solomon Says: Godly Counsel for Victorious Living (US residents only)!

Included in the Greatest Story

“The LORD has made everything for his own purposes”

Pr 16:4a (NLT)

Last week, I gave you a challenge to write your testimony. Have you done that yet? Be encouraged that this can not only point others to Christ but it can also help to revive your own faith. When we remember what Christ has done for us in the past, we can find strength for the tough things we are facing today. God is faithful, and our testimonies prove that. Your salvation story is a part of a greater story: God’s story of redemption.

The Contemporary Christian music group, Avalon, sings one of my favorite songs about this. The chorus of their song, “The Greatest Story,” says:

Your life woven day by day

is a new design of the glory God displays

on the canvas of creation

through the poem of history

in the pattern of redemption

running through the tapestry

You life in Christ can be

the greatest story ever told.

Just think: your story reflects God’s glory in your life! It confirms Pr 16:4 which says that God made you for a purpose. We don’t always understand everything that happens because God is so much greater than us. But we do know that we are a part of his plan. Ecc 3:11 tells us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (NIV).

Your story matters. It was set by God before the beginning of time, and you have a purpose. You are included in the greatest story!