Dancing with God

Few days ago, my classmate from aero dance asked the waiter in the resto to turn down the music. It was too loud and the 4 of us had to strain our ears or raise our voice to be heard.

When I had my gym workout the same time as a dance class, I asked my therapist to have the dance instructor turn down the music because it was a torment to my ears and making my pulse raise.

When I eventually danced in the class of this particular instructor, I realised that there is a purpose to the volume of his music. The higher the volume, the stronger the beat, the more energised we are as we dance. As I listen to the bass booming out the beat, there is more passion and precision to each step that I take.

C.S. Lewis once observed: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.”

What music is playing in your life right now? Is it too loud for comfort? Is it too soft you can barely hear it? Or perhaps the silence is too much to bear? Is it a lively happy tune that inspires? Or is it depressingly slow and sad?

When the steps are difficult, I focus my eyes on the leader? When the leader stops dancing, I turn my eyes to the best dancer in the class? When I start on the wrong foot, I catch up and continue dancing. Even when the instructor missed a step, I can do it right or follow his step. But God is much better than my instructor. He does not miss a step. When i know his steps well enough, I can dance through life when the music is sad or glad.

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The Smart Lawyer

If I were not an accountant, I think I would like to be lawyer. I love watching arguments in court. I like how lawyers prove their point with reason, with evidence either to convict the guilty or to acquit the innocent.

This morning, I read in Acts 23:1-11 Paul on trial as he faced the council of people who were against him for spreading the gospel. Paul was a Roman citizen and a Pharisee – a member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law. He used these status to his advantage. (Read Acts 22:25-29 on how he used his Roman citizenship to get himself out of being whipped and released.)

Beyond his status, here is his argument in self-defence:

“Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” Whoa.. what a claim of innocence!

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The high priest, Ananias was perhaps indignantly surprised at Paul’s impudence – implying that he was wrongly accused. Ananias ordered those beside Paul to slap him on the mouth. Paul said:

“God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?”

The bystanders said to Paul: How dare you insult the high priest!

Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” (Paul once again defend himself with the truth. He did not know the high priest. Yet he also pointed out what is the law – that one should not disrespect a ruler or people in leadership.)

Paul was a smart lawyer. He knew how to position himself and take timely advantage of pertinent data and situation. He knew that in the courtroom, there were two groups of people: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Sadducees were a religio-political group that held a great deal of power among the Jews in Israel. These 2 groups had opposing view on resurrection – life after death.

Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!”

Because of his statement, a great uproar and argument started and some scribes (secretary) of the Pharisees sided with Paul and said:

“We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”

What happened next? v.10

And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.

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Paul got himself out of the trial – he was neither convicted nor acquitted. But the people who tried him ended up quarrelling among themselves.

What can we learn from Paul in this case? Paul was a smart lawyer. He knew how to use his knowledge to his advantage. He was familiar with the legal system, he knew the weaknesses of his enemies. He was also bold to speak out. He was passionate about the gospel to the extent that he was often persecuted – jailed, beaten, mobbed, plotted to be killed (Read of the plot to kill him vv.12-15).

What is his comfort and motivation? v.11

But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.”

I often wish that I would hear God speak so clearly to me as Paul did. And I discovered on many occasions that God did – through the circumstances and people that came into my life at just the right place and time. I am always amazed at his timeliness. He sends his comfort and encouragement just when I needed it most. He assures me of what He wants me to do through His Word – affirmed by timely assignments that He sent me.

Let me illustrate my point: Recently I was studying the book of Esther. On the day that I shared a lesson on Mordecai and Haman, I was invited to write an article for publication in a booklet. The person in charge asked if I could write about Esther. Truly, God affirms his calling in his beautiful time.

It is not easy for Paul to be a missionary to the Gentiles. That was what God called him to do (Acts 22:21). Yet when God calls, it does not mean the road would be easy. But it means His presence, peace and power go with the calling.

Wherever you are right now, dear friend, whatever you are doing, no matter who you are, you are loved and called for a purpose – to serve your family? to love your enemy? to teach your employees? to work for your boss? Is it hard? Yes, it is not easy. But God said: Take courage. I am with you always.

Be like Paul – make your defence against the enemy and let God defend you and make an offence to stand for what is right and true… to be on God’s side. Let God be on your side.

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Restful Sheep

Do you like lamb? Lamb chop? Rack of lamb? pan fry? baked? I don’t coz of the pungent smell and strong taste. But if cooked the right way with the right meat, it can be good. I might not like to eat lamb but I like the character, story and scenery associated with the lamb.

Lamb came to mind this morning as I read Psalm 23. Sheep in its first year is called lamb. As I review this all-time fave, a picture of rest and tranquility came over me. It made me recall the scenes when I visited NZ. Hubby used to tell me that I’d be bored there coz no shopping, no mall – only sheep! Their sheep outnumbered their people. He’s wrong. I was not bored at all. The quiet and serene scenery stuck in my mind. Each time I saw sheep grazing, they seem to be always resting quietly. It’s like a painting of complete calm and rest.

No wonder David being a shepherd wrote Psalm 23. He put his Lord in his shoes and put himself in the ‘shoes’ of his sheep. David knew how he took care of his sheep. He loved his sheep. In the same way, he knew how the Lord loves him and takes care of him. 

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No matter where you are in life right now – whether in green pastures, quiet waters or in the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord is with you. He is your shepherd and because He loves and cares for you, you shall not lack anything – neither food, care, shelter nor REST. In the Shepherd, let us find true shalom – ultimate lasting peace!

Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

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4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Trashy Talk

Hey, do you know what happened yesterday to _________?? He said… She said… They say….
 
A chattering fool comes to ruin; the mouth of a fool invites ruin. Proverbs 10:8,10,14 Whoa, 3 verses one after another associating the foolish tongue with ruin! Scary but so true!
 
First thing that comes to mind is gossip. To chatter is to talk incessantly (non-stop) and rapidly (very fast – often talking fast is a result of not thinking carefully) about ‘trivial’ matters.
 
Is gossip not like that? Talking about things of little value – neither helping the one who gossips nor the one who listens. Gossip destroys relationship. Even if they were true, gossips are usually about someone’s not present to defend themselves, about something they said or did and somehow, oftentimes, said differently or in different context, passed around gets distorted and different from the truth.
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Proverbs 10:18 says Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.
 
Another truth to learn: v. 19-21
19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
21 The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of sense.
 
Principle 1: More talk more mistakes is indeed true. The prudent (careful) and wise ‘hold’ their tongues. Bite them even if only to control themselves from multiplying mistakes.
 
Principle 2: Out of the heart, the tongue speaks. A righteous person speaks words of value – likened to choice silver. To be righteous is to be morally right, virtuous, good. Each time I speak, what motivates my speech? Is it right, is it just, is it good to those who listen?
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Principle 3: Speak to nourish. When the heart is right, the mouth speaks words that nourish – gives life, heals, comforts, encourages, strengthens and edifies (instruct or improve someone morally or intellectually).
 
Bottom line: Each time I open my mouth, let me be careful (prudent). Let me speak rightly from within a righteous heart. Let me speak to help those who hear my words. Let me borrow the words of the Psalmist:
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May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Daniel, a prophet of God

Of all the books of the prophets in the Old Testament, I think Daniel is undoubtedly the one most told in Sunday School. Jonah comes next and we know why. Ezekiel saw the wheel is sometimes taught as a song. Other than these 3, I can’t remember I ever taught any story from the books of the prophets especially to young children.

Reviewing the stories of Daniel, I am inspired and amazed at how God revealed Himself through Daniel and his 3 friends to a pagan nation who did not know Him. It’s amazing to read the miracles, visions and dreams that happened in the first 6 chapters of Daniel.

Chapter 1: Healthy vegetarians

Daniel and his 3 friends decided to distinguished themselves as exiles by abstaining from taking food – good food from the king’s provisions. God granted them favour with the F&B manager of the king’s palace. After 10 days of testing, the 4 young men were found to be more healthy-looking than the rest of the exiles.

When God’s children determine to be different from the world, He sustains them and helps them to be better – not through the ordinary path of man.

Chapter 2: Dream interpreter

Can you interpret dreams? How about interpreting the dream without being told what the dream actually was? Daniel was called upon to interpret a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar – a dream the king himself forgot. Imagine telling the king what his dream meant on top of telling him what he dreamed about. More amazing is that the king believed what Daniel told him and even praised his God for it.

Chapter 3: Walking Alive (not Walking dead) in a blazing fire

For disobeying the king’s order to bow down to a golden statue, Daniel’s 3 friends were thrown into an oven of blazing furnace which killed even the guards who threw them in. And out they came without even a hair singed! What impressed me is these 3 brave souls were determined to bow only to their God at all costs.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (vv.16-18)

God did not disappoint them. They were not put to shame. God sent an angel to be with them in the furnace.

Chapter 4: Dream # 2: mad king living with wild animals and eating grass

King Nebuchadnezzar sure was a dreamer. It’s good that he remembered his dream this time. Daniel told and warned the king that because of his arrogance, he would become mad and live with the animals and eat grass like the cow for seven years until he acknowledged that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.

Indeed, the interpretation came to pass.

Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you,32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time (7 years) will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 33 Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

At the end of 7 years, the king raised his eyes towards heaven and acknowledged and honoured God. He praised God with a doxology.

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

God rejects the proud and exalts the humble.

 

 

The Power of the Tongue

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Input / Output: who the person is and what he speaks

Pro 5:3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil, (smoothness/flattery)

Pro 10:13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.

Pro 10:14 The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.

Pro 10:18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
and whoever utters slander is a fool.

Pro 10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense.

Pro 10:31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
but the perverse tongue will be cut off.

Pro 10:32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.

Pro 11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.

Pro 11:9 With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.

Pro 12:6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them.

Pro 12:13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
but the righteous escapes from trouble.

Pro 13:5 The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.

Pro 15:2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Pro 15:26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,but gracious words are pure.

Pro 16:1 The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the  Lord.

Pro 16:10 An oracle is on the lips of a king;
his mouth does not sin in judgment.

Pro16:21 The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.

Pro 16:23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.

Pro 16:27 A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.

Pro 17:4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.

Pro 17:7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince. (a fool or a prince)

Pro 17:20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.

Pro 18:6 A fool’s lips walk into a fight,and his mouth invites a beating.

Pro 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin,and his lips are a snare to his soul.

Pro 18:8 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Pro 19:28 A worthless witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.

The Person & his Pulse: where words come from

Out of the heart comes words. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). The kind of person defines the kind of speech. A wise person says wise words, a foolish one speaks folly. A righteous person speaks truth, what is good and right while a wicked person tells lies and evil. Love and hatred motivate the speech (Pro 17:9, 26:24, 26:28). The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things (Pro 15:28). Ultimately, the right word comes from the Lord (Pro 16:1). So the ‘godless’ person (the one who does not know God, one who disobeys God) speaks evil, falsehood, slander, gossip, flattery and words that harm and lead to strife, discord and death.

Process – how word is spoken

Pro 7:21 With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him. (smooth, seduction, persuasion)

Pro 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (self-control, prudence)

Pro 13:3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (prudence, life/ruin)

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

Pro 15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

Pro 17:27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding

Pro 17:28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (self-control)

Pro 18:13 If one gives an answer before he hears,it is his folly and shame.

Pro 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (self-control)

Pro 25:15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue will break a bone. (patience, gentleness)

Pro 29:20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

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How, where and when words are spoken…

Prudence, discretion, self-control, gentleness, kindness and timeliness are important virtues associated with words of wisdom and goodness. How words are uttered is just as important as what words are spoken. Prudence means giving ‘careful’ thought to what should be said or not, when to speak and how to speak. It is to ponder, to guard, to restrain. Discretion is being careful about keeping secret what should not be revealed to avoid offense and discord. Words spoken in gentleness and kindness bring comfort and healing. Soft answer turns away wrath while harsh words stir up anger (15:1). Timely words are important as well – befitting the setting and occasion as needed by the listeners (12:25, 15:23). There are many proverbs dealing with the folly of speaking rashly, babbling without thought – they often result in strife, anger, and bad consequences leading to pain and death. Listen first before speaking.

Product: the fruits of words

Pro 6:16-17,19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a false witness who breathes out lies,and one who sows discord among brothers.

Pro 10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Pro 11:11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.

Pro 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Pro 12:19 Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue is but for a moment. (truth, eternal/temporal)

Pro 12:25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

Pro 13:2 From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.

Pro 15:4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (gentleness, life, brokenness)

Pro 15:23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!

Pro 16:13 Righteous lips are the delight of a king,
and he loves him who speaks what is right. (delight, love)

Pro 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Pro 17:20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity. (dishonesty, calamity)

Pro 18:6 A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating. (talk that leads to quarrel)

Pro 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul. (ruin, snare/trap)

Pro 18:20 From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied;
he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. (words – nourish and edifies)

Pro 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits. (death vs life/fruitful)

Pro 21:6 The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death. (death, temporal)

Pro 22:11 He who loves purity of heart,
and whose speech is gracious will have the king as his friend. (king’s friend)

Pro 22:12 The eyes of the  Lord keep watch over knowledge, but he overthrows the words of the traitor. (protection/rejection of God)

Pro 23:16 My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.

Pro 25:23 The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks. (gossip)

What is the result of good or bad speech?

Wise words bring life, healing, restoration and gladness of heart. A person prudent in speech is a delight to the Lord and makes his father glad. He is considered the friend of the king. The king administers justice through his words. Many metaphors are given for good words: choice silver, gold, abundance of costly stones, jewels, apples of gold in setting of silver, honeycomb, bubbling brooks, tree of life, fountain of life, and deep water. The benefits of wise words are eternal while those of foolishness are temporal. Lies and falsehood are abomination to the Lord, things which He hates. Flatteries are associated with the adulteress or the prostitutes to cause harm to those who listen. Bad speech is like sword thrusts, glaze covering an earthen vessel, a snare and a deep pit – bringing pain, ruin, the rod/beatings and downfall to the speaker. Gossip, slander and lies cause quarrel, strife and violence. Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Pro 18:21). Good diplomacy saves a city. A person’s speech affects the whole community.

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Purpose – why speak and why not speak

Pro 28:23 Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor
than he who flatters with his tongue.

Pro 20:19 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.

Pro 24:26 Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.

Pro 24:28 Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.

Pro 27:2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.

Pro 30:32 If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.

Pro 31:8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.

Pro 31:9 Open your mouth judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Pro 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Why speak and why not speak

We are not to speak our own praise. Let other people say good things about you (Pro 27:2). The wise does not open his mouth with the fools (Pro 24:7). It is useless to argue with the foolish person. Personally, Agur prayed for two things (in the negative aspect): 1) falsehood and lying be removed from his lips 2) neither poverty nor riches be given him. It is interesting to note that he associated the two pairs. Indeed how often do poverty and wealth affect a man’s integrity (20:17). He explained it clearly in 30:9 – denial of God in riches and deceit against man in poverty. Both are speeches we should refrain from. We are not to slander or bear false witness against our neighbor. Proverbs 30:32 tells us to put our hand on our mouth for 3 things: being foolish, exalting self, and scheming evil. In the society, King Lemuel is taught to open his mouth for the mute, the destitute, the poor and needy. In his words, he is to judge righteously (31:8-9). On the flip side, it implies that he is to rebuke and correct those who are oppressing these marginalized people. In the home, the virtuous wife opens her mouth in wisdom and teaching of kindness. She not only models good deeds but also speaks good teachings. The goal of our speech is to edify people and glorify God.

Metaphors

Pro 10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Pro 10:20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.

Pro 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Pro 18:4 The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.

Pro 20:15 There is gold and abundance of costly stones,
but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel. (precious jewel)

Pro 20:17 Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.

Pro 22:14 The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit; he with whom the  Lord is angry will fall into it.

Pro 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Pro 26:7 Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

Pro 26:9 Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

Pro 26:22 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Pro 26:23 Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart. (passionate evil: easily chipped off)

Application: To speak or not to speak

What words are we to speak? Wisdom, knowledge, truth, teaching of kindness, good words, gracious words, and words that bring healing, comfort, gladness and life. How are we to speak them? We should ponder, guard and restrain. We need to exercise discretion, prudence and self-control. Rash words cannot be taken back. They are often spoken without thought but their hurts last a lifetime. It is said that the fool’s lips walk into a fight and his mouth invites beating (18:6). How true that it often feels good to pour out words like delicious morsels that go into the inner parts of the body – but the aftermath and side effects are far from delightful! Silence is golden indeed.

This applies to communication between husband and wife. I have learned many painful lessons for not biting my tongue. I have also experienced God’s vindication in my restraint. The art of speech is more than speaking. It is more of listening. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (18:13) It is a snare to be listening with the intention of preparing for an answer – the right answer to defend myself… or even the appropriate response to point out how wrong the other person is. In listening, I need to ponder – not be so defensive, then I can guard and restrain myself from saying rash words. After attentive silence, comes careful consideration what to say and how to say it. Perhaps, still say nothing. Perhaps, take it up when both heads are cooler. The right answer is from the Lord so I ask Him for it. The right time is also from the Lord. Lord, grant me wisdom to discern, to be prudent.

In relation to our study of the prophets, there is a need today to speak not only words of comfort, grace and mercy, but also of rebuke, justice and righteousness. It applies to parent-child, pastor-member, teacher-disciple, friend-friend relationships. We are often superficial in our speech. We say ‘good’ ‘pleasing’ words (sometimes flattery) to gain favor and promote easier working relationship. We are hesitant to offend. We do not want to be the ‘bad guy.’ It is better to stay silent and maintain the status quo. Why rock the boat when the sailing is smooth? Proverbs 28:23: Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue. There is a need to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves: the mute, the destitute, the poor and the needy. The reality of the church today is that the rich and powerful has the more say. Their voices are louder. They fund the projects and their presence represents a ‘good’ image that all is well. Pastors who know how to relate to the influential elders and deacons, leaders of the church last longer. In the school, similar politics apply. Leaders who cannot accept and/or unable to change the status quo, leave for lack of support and for personal conviction and stand.

Such is the paradox of the wisdom of speech: to be silent in the noise and to speak in the quiet. In the final analysis, it is about the heart – a humble heart that defers to the other person; a servant heart that seeks the welfare of others rather than his own, a heart that seeks answer from the Lord.

 

 

Sanctification: The Journey of Man toward Christ-likeness (Part 5: Imago Dei – Likeness of God)

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)[1]

This is one of the classic New Testament references to our sanctification: the Trinitarian purpose of making us like Christ. Sanctification must be understood not only in moral, but also in a fully Trinitarian context. According to Smail, Christlikeness:

far more than being good or righteous, is to be molded into the image of the triune God so that when we are attentively submissive in our relationship to Christ, we, like him, participate in the proactive authority of the Father and the innovating creativity of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12-14 reminds us that the activity by which we become like the Father, the service in which we become like the Son and the charismatic endowments in which we manifest the creativity of the Spirit are all different ways of manifesting the one free, self-giving love that binds Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one.[2]

The goal of our sanctification is the humanity of Jesus in its participation in the image of the triune God. Jesus is our human mirror converted back to God, who redirects and refocuses us to the divine original – that which reflects the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in their distinctiveness and in their union of love. We will be transformed when we enter into union with Christ, as we submit to Him, in faith.

Implications and applications: 2 Corinthians 3 and Romans 8 are two passages which define how the process of remaking us in the image of God is both present and continuous (“being transformed” – in Corinthians) and ultimate goal (“to be glorified” – in Romans). Smail pointed out that the NT teaching about the image of God is essentially dynamic and eschatological when he quoted Grenz

This eschatological purpose (that we should be conformed to Christ) is the goal that was already in view in the creation of humankind in the divine image. In this sense, Romans 8:29 delineates the final exegesis of Gen 1:26-27. In his risen glory Jesus Christ now radiates the fullness of humanness that constitutes God’s design for humankind from the beginning. Yet God’s purpose has never been that Christ will merely radiate this human fullness but that, as the Son, he will be pre-eminent among a new humanity who together are stamped with the divine image.[3]

So what do I have to do? As Jesus came into the world to restore lost relationship, so must I reach out to the world to bring the lost to Him. Everyone in the body of Christ (the church) is called to be “human” in the way Jesus Christ was human – that all men and women are to find their fulfilment in relationships with one another, reflecting the love of the triune God, and thus, achieving the divine purpose in creation.

The fellowship of the Church is therefore for the sake of the mission of the Church… Our calling (as Christians) is not to hide our humanity in a churchy ghetto, but to give it full and free expression in the life of the world, because this is the humanity that the world was made for, is looking for and cannot find, and it is there, redeemed, renewed, fulfilled for everyone in Christ.[4]

After I experienced the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, let me reflect the glory of the one true God, allowing my little mirror to be trained and focused on His great mirror which is the Light of the world. Lord, let the new humanity in Jesus and in me bring people (in the words of Smail) “upward toward God in joyful worship, outward to the world in the beaming of the gospel of love[5] until Jesus Christ comes again, Amen! 

Conclusion

The most significant lesson I learn about the theology of man is that, being created in the image of God, I must live my life with pride and thanksgiving. God, in His awesome, infinite wisdom and power, cares for me and blesses me with all things He created for me to enjoy and care for. I am endowed with free will and autonomy to choose the kind of life I am capable of living – to showcase His glory and offer back to Him what He has given me.

Considering the overwhelming acts of God on a finite, sinful human like me, I am humbled, and must remain humble, dependent on God, striving to become Christ-like. Being human is about reflecting God’s love, mercy, and all His attributes, as He relates to man. I am not to consider myself “equal” to God, so that I do not judge others from a sense of superiority. It is the paradox of being created in the image of God – called to Christ-likeness, yet being unlike God.

I want to pause with this hymn I learned as a teenager. The melody and lyrics of this song descended on me one morning as I mused on imago Dei. It is a wonderful song that speaks volumes on the doctrine of humanity – our origin, purpose, journey, and destiny.

In the Image of God – Melody & Lyrics: John W. Peterson (1948)

In the image of God we were made long ago with the purpose divine here His glory to show. But we failed Him one day and like sheep went astray -thinking not of the cost, we His likeness had lost. But from eternity God has in mind the work of Calvary, the lost to find. From His heaven so broad Christ came down earth to trod, so that men might live again in the image of God.

Now that I have believed and the Saviour received, now that I from the cry of my guilt am relieved, I will live for my Lord, not for gain or reward, but for love – thinking of what His grace has restored! I’ll never comprehend, redemption plan how Christ could condescend to die for man. Such a Saviour I’ll praise to the end of my days, as I upward, onward trod in the image of God!

 

 

[1] New American Standard Bible

[2] Tom Smail. Like Father, Like Son (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 276.

[3] Grenz, 251 quoted in Smail, 276.

[4] Smail, 290-291.

[5] Ibid., 291.