A Marvelous Mystery

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

Proverbs 25:2 (NIV)

My family loves a good mystery. Whether we’re watching Columbo, reading an Agatha Christie novel, or playing Clue, we like the challenge of figuring out “who did it” or how something was done. There’s just something about using logic to bring what is hidden into the light that appeals to us. In essence, like the kings in Proverbs 25:2, we want to find answers to important issues and gain glory for being smart enough to accomplish what others could not.

Unlike us, however, God often chooses to conceal a given matter, and he does this for his glory. In Romans 11:33, Paul exclaims, “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” (NLT) This idea is also expressed in Ecclesiastes 8:17 and Colossians 2:3. According to these verses, wisdom and knowledge belong to God alone. We, in our humanness, cannot fully understand his ways.

In the same way, God does not promise that he will give us an explanation for everything that happens in this world. There are some things that we simply will not understand this side of heaven, or perhaps ever. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (NIV) The knowledge of God is too much for us (Psalm 139:6).

So, when we begin to become frustrated and question God because we don’t understand why things are happening the way they are, we can take comfort in knowing that God, himself, is a marvelous mystery that we cannot fully understand. Our response is to ascribe glory to him alone (Revelation 4:11) and trust him because we know that, no matter what happens, he is in control (Proverbs 19:21) and he loves and cares for us (Isaiah 41:10 ).

In good times and bad, let us embrace the marvelous mystery of God.

 

 

 

 

Ephesians 4:29 Speech

“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.”

Proverbs 24:26 (NIV)

In my experience, hearing the truth has not always been as pleasant as the anticipated kiss from a person I love. So, when I read Proverbs 24:26, I really had to stop and understand how these two events could be related.

According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, in Solomon’s time, a kiss on the lips was seen as “a gesture of friendship, acceptance, respect, and reverence.” The Hebrew word for honest is nakoach, meaning plain, right, uprightness, straight. So, when I put all this together, I can see that this verse exhorts us to speak truthfully and not deceptively, and when we do this, our speech honors the other person.

For this verse to make sense in our culture, my paraphrase is: “Speaking plainly honors and respects others.” So, what does this look like in our daily lives? It means that we tell the truth, even when it means our pride will suffer. It means we encourage others even when what we have to say is not what they want to hear at first. It means our speech honors what the Bible commands. A good rule that encompasses everything the Bible says about speech is found in Ephesians 4:29:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV).

Take an inventory of what you say each day. What do you talk about more than anything else? Is your speech more positive or negative? Are your words encouraging and meaningful or do you use them just to fill empty space? Do they bring peace and joy to others or do they hurt others? Are you completely truthful, or do you use your words to flatter or deceive others in order to get what you want?

Over and over throughout the book of Proverbs, Solomon encourages us toward right speech, so it must be important. What would it take for you to make Ephesians 4:29 the rule for your life?

Guest Post: Bert Gangl on Parenting

“Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”

Proverbs 23:22 (NIV)

Getting older sure has a funny way of changing our perception of our parents. When I was in kindergarten, I was firmly convinced that my mom and dad were two of the coolest, smartest and most understanding people in the annals of history. By the time I started high school, though, my appreciation of their intellect and insight had dimmed noticeably. In fact, I was firmly convinced that, if they would only listen to the “wisdom” that I so freely dispensed, their lives would be radically changed for the better and the other moms and dads in the neighborhood would view our family with a combination of awe and wonder.

Needless to say, the (many) years since that time have shown me that my parents were far, far wiser than I ever could have imagined, even in my earliest days as a child. More importantly though, I have come to realize that their underlying brilliance didn’t come merely with the passing of time. As Solomon reminds us in  Proverbs 9:10, real wisdom – the kind that appreciates those things that are eternal and seeks to instill that same appreciation in others – is ours only when we set our hearts to respect, revere and follow God. And it is this aspect of my parents’ character, more than any other, which has made, and continues to make, them so very wise.

Over the past decade, as Cheryl and I have worked to raise our own precious daughter, Caroline, we have come to see some of the near-blind admiration she showed us as a preschooler become tempered with the realization that her mommy and daddy are very far from perfect. While it is hard not to mourn this inevitable change of viewpoint, it is in these times that we are most aware that our greatest goal as parents is not to hold on to the all-too-glowing esteem Caroline lavished on us when she was a child, but rather to point her to the One in whom all true wisdom, goodness and grace are found.

Cheryl and I remain certain that, if we do continue to do this, by the time Caroline begins to raise a family, she will seek to encourage her own children to love and follow this same God who gives his wisdom so freely and generously to those who ask for it. Of course, if we’re being totally honest, we also hope that, once in a blue moon, she might also find it in her heart to try and convince her sons and daughters that their beloved grandparents are two of the coolest, smartest and most understanding people in the annals of history.

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Thank, you, Bert, for sharing your thoughts on Proverbs 23:22! I’m grateful to share this life with you!

Choosing a Good Name

“A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.”

Proverbs 22:1 (CSB)

My mom loved knickknacks and trinkets with sentimental sayings on them. She could always find a space for one more music box or figurine, especially if they had words like “loved,” “beloved” or “special” on them. I, on the other hand, am not so fond of things that take up space in my house. Granted, I appreciate the meaning behind these types of gifts, but I just don’t like having all my surfaces cluttered. I’d rather have one or two decorative items and nothing more.

I have, however, kept every trinket my mom gave me. I especially cherish those gifts even though I haven’t put all of them out on display. One of the sentimental gifts my mom gave me that came to mind when I read Proverbs 22:1 is a book mark. I found it tucked into a Bible I had as a child, and it has always been one of my favorites because it has my name on it… and it’s girly and pink. Under my name was the phrase “Dear One.” When I was a kid and I would look at this bookmark, I felt extra special.

This bookmark also included Proverbs 22:1 on it. What a treasure to be reminded that no matter what your name is, choosing a good reputation over riches is always best. Our names do mean something and people know us by them. Our names are not only attached to our identity, but they are also associated with how we act and what we say. Therefore, we should pursue a good reputation by keeping our speech and actions in line with God’s word rather than pursuing wealth at any cost. Our names can last forever (Proverbs 10:7) but riches will not (Proverbs 23:5).

When my mom passed away 11 years ago, I found the “Mom” bookmark similar to my own that I had given her so many years ago. I keep it in my nightstand drawer along with a special family photo album from my childhood.

A bookmark doesn’t clutter too much space, so I think I’ll keep my “Cheryl” one out for awhile. It is a good reminder for me to choose a good name over any material thing I may desire, and it reminds me that I am beloved by my mom and my Father in heaven.