Pressing On


A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Category: Proverbs

The snooze button is a liar

A blaring alarm clock is not the thing you want to hear first thing in the morning.  The alarm tone is purposely loud and obnoxious so we are awakened from our slumber to start the day at the right time.  Even though we’re the ones who picked the time for the alarm, we still resent that the alarm is interrupting our sleep.

We’ve got a ton of things to do, and a schedule to keep if we want to do them well.  Yet, sitting deceptively close to the “Alarm Off” button is another button.  It is usually several times larger than the one to stop the alarm – the Snooze Button.

When the alarm is blaring, the main thing I care about is hitting the button to make it stop…but this other button makes an enticing offer: I could lay my groggy head back down on the pillow for an additional 9 minutes.  The Snooze Button invites me to give up “just a tiny fraction” of my morning so I can get that much more rest before starting my day.  I let it convince me that I will feel better and more active, if I could just get a few more minutes of sleep.

But let’s be honest: I rarely hit the Snooze Button only once.  And when I do eventually get up, the morning is super-rushed because I’m now pressed for time.  I barely have time to shower, dress, grab my work bag, and stuff some food in my face before running out the door, all of which could have been easily managed had I not pressed the Snooze Button.

But I’ve noticed two things – First, I am NOT more rested when I take the Snooze Button’s offer of additional sleep, broken up into 9 minute chunks.  If anything, I feel more tired and frazzled at the start of my day.  Secondly, whenever I “sleep in” the first item on my to-do list that gets dropped is my time reading God’s Word.

All throughout the Bible we see examples of God wanting to spend time with us, but what we also see is that God expects us to put in some effort and desire to be with Him.  Look at the three “IFs” Solomon gives his son, and what result will come if he actually follows through:

Proverbs 2:1-5
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding;
furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.

Why do we need to spend time in the Bible?  Paul reminded Timothy of the Scripture’s usefulness and effect on his life:

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

One last example.  Peter is reminding his readers of their main source of food for spiritual growth:

1 Peter 2:2
Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation

There are numerous other references and examples I could give, but I think you get the point.  God wants to meet with us, but we need to intentionally set aside time to do so.  Perhaps you need to take the small step I need to take: stop hitting the Snooze Button.  That button lies to us – we don’t get what it promises.  We end up starting our day rushed and feeling bad, while missing out on something much, much better.

Are you skeptical that God couldn’t use 9 minutes with Him to make a difference in your life?  I dare you to try it this next week and find out.

Keep Pressing,

The Christian life, in 3 steps. Seriously. (part 3)

The author of Hebrews gave his readers a three step description of what Christian living looks like.  Each step begins with the phrase “let us”.  After drawing near to God and then holding on to our reliance on Him, the next step is this:

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.

We can’t do this alone.  We need to be watching out for one another.

How many times have you heard (…or said) the following:

I don’t need to go to church.  I can be with God just fine by myself out in nature.
I don’t need to go to church.  Everyone there is a judgmental hypocrite.
I don’t need to go to church.  I don’t really get much out of it.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it is very, very self-centered.

What if we viewed our weekly gatherings as an opportunity to help others in God’s family?  Try this line of thinking instead:

I need to go to church because a little boy needs to know that God loves him.
I need to go to church because a teenage girl needs to know that God accepts her, just as she is.
I need to go to church because a struggling mom needs a smile and someone to talk to.
I need to go to church because a man doubting his marriage needs reassured in order to keep at it.

I need to go to church because we will all encourage each other while we wait for Jesus to return.

We must watch out for and encourage each other.  The perspective we develop when we give Godly encouragement is just as important as the perspective we develop when we receive Godly encouragement.

The rest of the Scriptures certainly bear this out, too:

Acts 20:35
…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Proverbs 11:25
A generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water.

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

If we’re going to live the Christian life…If we’re going to live the Christ-like life…then we need to take the focus off of ourselves.  Encouraging each other is a great way to put our focus on others.

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.

Keep Pressing,

How to deal with conflict

Ever get the urge to just “knock some sense” into someone?

Or at the very least, give them a verbal beat down that will “set them right” – and maybe let us blow off a little steam?

Take Paul’s protégé Timothy as an example.

He’s in a major metropolitan city he didn’t grow up in, he’s (at most) 30 years old, he’s in charge of the entire Christian church family in the city, and Paul has charged him with combating false doctrine and incorrect teachings of others.

How much conflict is going to come his way?  How many folks will be coming at him to argue with him?  Think he’ll have days where he feels the need to put someone in their place?

The Greek word for rebuke means just that – to strike or beat upon, to chastise with words.  I’m sure there were more than a few people (even some of them believers) who would have needed a strong dose of correction.

But look at how Paul says the young leader Timothy should handle those people:

1 Timothy 5:1-2
Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and with all propriety, the younger women as sisters.

While a rebuke would be a sharp, cutting word of correction, Timothy’s choice to exhort the person sits at the opposite end of the spectrum.  The Greek word translated exhort means to call to one’s side, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, comfort, or instruction.

Paul knew his Old Testament well.  As he directed Timothy, he likely had this proverb in mind:

Proverbs 15:1
A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.

In a separate letter, Paul reminded the believers in Rome:

Romans 2:4
Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Going toe-to-toe with an angry patron would make it difficult for Timothy to reach them with lasting correction and change.  Nor would harsh words model how God treats us.

One last observation to make.  Did you see the extra note Paul included for Timothy’s interaction with younger women?  With all propriety, [exhort] younger women as sisters.  We’ve all seen it too many times.  A high-ranking church leader losing his reputation, his job, and his influence for Christ due to an inappropriate relationship with another woman. 

Men, hear me clearly – if we do not keep ourselves intentionally pure and sinless in this area, especially with younger women, then we are inviting destruction into our lives.  Carelessness in this area will bring shame to ourselves and significant damage to God’s reputation in this life…and then we’ll have to answer to Jesus at the Bema Seat judgment.  You don’t want that.  I don’t want that.  We must take any steps necessary to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

So, here’s Paul direction to Timothy, all fleshed out:

Do not rebuke and older man, but exhort him as a father
Do not rebuke a younger man, but exhort him as a brother
Do not rebuke an older woman, but exhort her as a mother
Do not rebuke a younger woman, but – with all integrity – exhort her as a sister.

Put these into practice, and you will reflect God to others.

Keep Pressing,


Take this step to be like Jesus

I’ve heard that a person’s character is defined by who they are when no one else is around.

I’m not 100% sure about that definition…instead, what we do with our time when no one else is around is how we develop our character.

When no one is looking, the choices we make will shape us.  Even the passive choice to “do nothing” has a sculpting effect.  Think of our time as spending cash.  How we spend it – either wasting or investing it – will shape who we are.

Paul knew this quite well, which is why he told Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:7-10
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.  In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe.

We understand that musicians practice for hours when no one is looking so when it comes time to perform, they do it perfectly.  We get it that basketball players shoot 100s of free throws a week so they’re ready when they’re fouled late in a game and have to step up to the line.

Training happens when no one is looking – it’s intentional work.  Now, earlier in his letter to Timothy, Paul equated godliness with being like Jesus.  But I think we Christians don’t see how important it is for us to labor and strive to be like Jesus.  So, let’s take an intentional step in that direction and see what God does with our time investment.

Jesus was intimately connected to the Scriptures.  On a regular basis, Jesus would quote or reference God’s Word.  Here’s just a couple of ideas to put some of God’s Word directly into your life:

·        Use a verse as a password – every time you log in to an account, say the verse.  “John3:16” or “Psalm100:1” fulfills most password requirements to have a capital letter, lower case letter, number, and special character.  Perhaps your password at work is a reminder of being faithful or diligent, like Colossians3:23 or Proverbs22:29.  Maybe the password for your online bank account is about being wise with money, like Proverbs21:17 or 2Corinthians9:6.
·        Have a verse for when you start your car, a “key” verse you need to know.  Proverbs3:5 and Ephesians2:8 would be good choices.
·        Have a verse to repeat whenever you wash your hands.  I learned 1 John 4:7-8 in a tune when I was a kid.  The tune is burned into my memory, so I can “sing” those verses at any time.  As often as I need to wash my hands, I’m reminding myself multiple times per day that loving others is important, and God is the one who loved us first.

It’s ok to pull out your phone to look up the verse so you say it correctly.  And…you don’t have to implement all of these suggestions.  The point is to find one thing in your day that you do repeatedly, and attach a verse to it.  Actively invest your time.  God guarantees that this kind of training will be beneficial both in the present life and also for the life to come.

Keep Pressing,

Solomon's biggest warning

After telling his son that the most important thing for him to do is to guard his heart, Solomon gives his son the longest warning on any one topic in the book of Proverbs.  For almost three entire chapters, Solomon warns his son about the dangers of breaking the seventh commandment God gave to Moses.

Proverbs 5:1-8
My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen closely to my understanding
so that you may maintain discretion and your lips safeguard knowledge.

Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her words are smoother than oil,
in the end she’s as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death; her steps head straight for Sheol.
She doesn’t consider the path of life; she doesn’t know that her ways are unstable.

So now, my sons, listen to me, and don’t turn away from the words of my mouth.
Keep your way far from her.  Don’t go near the door of her house.

The words from the lips of the forbidden woman are seductively enticing – and deadly dangerous.  The young man has a choice – whose words will he listen to?  The smooth words of forbidden woman or the wisdom of Solomon?

Solomon gives the best defense against the siren’s song – don’t go near the door of her house.

If she is purposely avoided, then her smooth words cannot ensnare him.  However, if he foolishly gives in to this temptation, Solomon warns that it will cost him severely:

Proverbs 5:9-14
Otherwise, you will give up your vitality to others and your years to someone cruel;
strangers will drain your resources, and your earnings will end up in a foreigner’s house.
At the end of your life, you will lament when your physical body has been consumed,
and you will say,

“How I hated discipline, and how my heart despised correction.
I didn’t obey my teachers or listen closely to my mentors.
I was on the verge of complete ruin before he entire community.”

If he gives in to her temptations, the young man will not be able to undo the path his life will go down.  Any profit will go to another, and he will only be left with regret.  The destruction to himself, his family, and his community cannot be undone.

We see this play out today as well.  Sexual sin is one of the greatest destructive forces in today’s society.  “Sex sells” is what we’re told, and the numbers don’t lie – advertisers prey upon our inability to control our sexual appetite.  The world’s system is set up to ensnare both men and women.

If we consider its ultimate cost, what that moment of pleasure will take from us in this life and in the next, we can see why Solomon spends the next two chapters continuing his warning.

Proverbs 5:20-23
Why, my son, would you be infatuated with a forbidden woman
or embrace the breast of a stranger?
For a man’s ways are before the Lord’s eyes,
and He considers all his paths.

A wicked man’s iniquities entrap him;
he is entangled in the ropes of his own sin.
He will die because there is no instruction,
and be lost because of his great stupidity.

Sexual sin is a great stupidity.  It cannot be simply managed or contained.  The only safe way to deal with it is to take Solomon’s advice and don’t go near the temptation.  Avoid it, because you don’t want to pay everything it will ultimately cost you.

Keep Pressing,

Above all else, do this

Throughout the introduction to his Proverbs, Solomon encourages his son to grab ahold of his teachings.  Take a look at some of the words he uses to drive home the importance of his message:

Proverbs 4:20-22
My son, pay attention to my words; listen closely to my sayings.
Don’t lose sight of them; keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them, and health to one’s whole body.

We can plainly hear Solomon’s desire to impart what he has learned on to his son.  The phrases he uses communicate a strong urgency for his son to internalize his father’s wisdom:

Pay attention…listen closely…don’t lose sight…keep them within your heart

Solomon says phrases like these over and over, to drive home the importance of wisdom and its application.  However, with so many ways wisdom can be studied, considered, and applied…Solomon paused here a moment to tell his son what his number one priority should be.

Solomon uses a speaking technique that immediately draws a student’s focus in.  He stops the lesson long enough to state “If you forget to do everything else I say, do this:”.  Solomon flags this direction with the phrase above all else.  This is the only time in the book of Proverbs he says this phrase, so we know he means it above all else.

If you could only pass one idea about wisdom to a protégé, what would it be?

Would you tell him that wisdom will keep him safe from evil?
Would you tell her to avoid foolish people?
Would you say that wisdom must be pursued, that it doesn’t come easy?

Solomon says all these things, but that’s not what he says his son should consider above all else.  Solomon’s top wisdom priority is at a much deeper level.

Proverbs 4:23
Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.

The Israelites used the word for heart – leb – to refer to much more than just the organ beating inside your chest.  Similar to how we use heart in English, the Hebrew word referred to the inner self.  They considered the heart to be the seat of thought and emotion, including one’s conscience, courage, mind, and understanding.

This is the one thing that Solomon wants his son to protect and guard and keep safe…because if he loses his heart then he has ultimately lost himself.  If his son were negligent in protecting his heart or reckless with whom he allows to instruct his heart, then he would be easily corrupted.

A quick heart-check can go a long way, too.  Ask the person you are mentoring “How’s your heart?”  Then help them understand the importance of using God’s wisdom to guard their heart, to protect their identity and their source of life.

Keep Pressing,


Finding guidance

When I was a child, my mother tasked me with memorizing what is likely the most famous sentence in the book of Proverbs.  From the New International Version Bible translation, I learned

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

I have always taken these verses to mean that I should (obviously) trust God’s direction more than my own desires.  I also assumed that the second half of the sentence meant something like

When I talk about what’s happened in my past, if I give God “the glory” or the credit for whatever good has happened to me, then He’ll make my life go easier.

However, my assumed meaning was not correct.

The Hebrew word for acknowledge is much deeper than a mere ‘hat tip’ in God’s direction.  The word means to know well, and the context of its usage can indicate a deep, intimate level of knowing.  Perhaps a better rendering of Solomon’s advice to his son is found in the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation:

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.

Notice now how the directions that Solomon is giving his son are all in the present tense?  Trust…do not rely…think about…with God’s portion being future: He will guide.  So the main point of Solomon’s fatherly advice is clear – we are to include God in all areas of our day-to-day lives.  By thinking about Him in all our ways, we naturally bring Him in on what we are thinking, feeling, and doing.  By considering Him and trusting Him, we will surely have guidance for us to find the right paths.

One other observation to consider – in all your ways really does mean in ALL your ways.

Not just on the days when the sun is shining.
Not just the times when life is steady and good.
Not only when our relationships are ok.

I don’t think it was an accident that a few lines later, as he was fleshing out what he said in verses 5 and 6, that Solomon talked about how his son should react to punishment:

Proverbs 3:11-12
Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son,
and do not loathe His discipline;
for the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
just as a father, the son he delights in.

God disciplines out of love, the same as our parents did for us.  If they didn’t care at all, we would not have been reprimanded, corrected, or punished.  Even when we’re being disciplined or punished by God – and there are times we need it – the promise of verses 5 and 6 still hold true.

[If we] Trust in the Lord with all our heart,
and do not rely on our own understanding;

[If we] think about Him in ALL our ways,
[then] He will guide us on the right paths.

Keep Pressing,


Finding favor and respect

Mentors have the great privilege of teaching their protégé about the important lessons God has for us in this life.  The earlier we listen to our mentors; the better quality our lives will have.

David taught Solomon to have a strong desire to gain wisdom.  After he became a father, Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs to communicate the importance of wisdom to his sons.  Several times Solomon told his sons “don’t forget”.  For us, this phrase gives a hint as to what lessons Solomon considered highly important.

Proverbs 3:1-4
My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands;
for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.

Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you.
Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will find favor and high regard in the sight of God and man.

The Hebrew word translated as loyalty is hesedHesed means to have a zeal (in a good sense) in love and kindness toward any one; it especially refers to the grace, favor, and mercy God shows toward men or that one person may show to another.

The Hebrew word translated as faithfulness is emethEmeth means to be truthful, faithful, and reliable.  It refers to what one can rely on because it is stable.  As we read the Scriptures, we find that we can rely on God because He is stable and sure.

Solomon’s son would have recognized the phrase loyalty and faithfulness, for these words are often paired together throughout the Old Testament.  Most often they are used to describe God’s character.  Whenever Solomon mentions them together in the book of Proverbs, they are treated as high and excellent qualities.

Solomon wants his son to keep these two Godly qualities – hesed and emeth – permanently around him.  Around his neck, they would be ever-present to everyone; and yet as they are written on his heart, they would be ever-present inside of him.

The ultimate goal of wisdom is not to produce external adherence to a body of rules; rather, it is to internalize the principles in a way that produces Godly character.  Imitation is the highest compliment we can give someone, which is why we are constantly encouraged to imitate God.  We were made in His image, so let’s act like Him!

Think of all the ways God has been loyal and faithful, how He has shown you hesed and emeth.  That same regard we feel toward God, others will project toward us as we imitate Him.  God will favor those who honor Him.

That’s an important lesson for us to learn…and an important one to pass along to the next generation.

Keep Pressing,

Generational mentoring

A proverb is a saying that is usually rather short and easy to remember, but contains a profound nugget of truth.  This type of memory device is not unique to any particular culture.  In fact, we use plenty of them today. 

For example, we say things like “A stitch in time saves nine.”  This little phrase reminds us that taking care of an issue early will prevent us from having to do additional work in the future.

There are many proverbs in the Scriptures, in addition to an entire book of Bible being a collection of them.  Most Christians know that the majority of the wisdom sayings in the book of Proverbs were written by King Solomon.  However, do you know why Solomon brought together the collection of proverbs?

Solomon’s proverb collection doesn’t actually begin until Chapter 10, so Chapters 1 through 9 form an introduction to the proverbs.  It’s in this introduction that Solomon repeatedly states why he considers wisdom to be so important.  However, it’s equally clear that he had a specific audience in mind.

Nineteen times in Chapters 1 through 9 Solomon addresses either “my son” or “my sons”.  Take a look at a small sampling:

2:1  My son, if you accept my words…
3:1  My son, don’t forget my teaching…
4:20 My son, pay attention to my words…
5:7  So now, my sons, listen to me…

We can definitely see that Solomon’s heart is to mentor and develop his sons.  However, in one portion of the introduction, Solomon reveals how he learned about the importance of wisdom:

Proverbs 4:1-9
Listen, my sons, to a father’s discipline,
and pay attention so that you may gain understanding,
for I am giving you good instruction.
Don’t abandon my teaching.

When I was a son with my father, tender and precious to my mother,
he taught me and said:

“Your heart must hold on to my words.
Keep my commands and live.  Get wisdom, get understanding;
don’t forget or turn away from the words of my mouth.
Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you;
love her, and she will guard you. 

Wisdom is supreme – so get wisdom.
And whatever else you get, get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
if you embrace her, she will honor you.
She will place a garland of grace on your head;
she will give you a crown of beauty.”

Solomon knew the importance of wisdom because that is what he was taught.  King David instilled the lessons he learned into Solomon, who in turn passed these lessons down to his sons.  How each generation handled wisdom certainly varied, but they all knew of wisdom’s importance because its value was taught to them.

We don’t have to have the full wisdom of Solomon to be a mentor, either.  We just have to be willing to pass on what we have been taught.

Keep Pressing,