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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Proverbs 4:20-22

Proverbs 4:20-22  20 My son, pay attention to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Do not lose sight of them;
keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them,
and health to the whole body.
Fig bush

are life - חַיִּ֣ים (chay, ḥay·yîm) - Noun - masculine plural
Strong's Hebrew 2416: Alive, raw, fresh, strong, life
Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon adds: life: as welfare and happiness in king's presence; as consisting of earthly felicity combined (often) with spiritual blessedness

to those who find them - לְמֹצְאֵיהֶ֑ם (matsa, lə·mō·ṣə·’ê·hem) - Preposition-l | Verb - Qal - Participle - masculine plural construct | third person masculine plural
Strong's Hebrew 4672: To come forth to, appear, exist, to attain, find, acquire, to occur, meet, be present

and health - מַרְפֵּֽא׃ (marpe, mar·pê) - Noun - masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 4832: Curative, a medicine, a cure, deliverance, placidity

to the whole - וּֽלְכָל־ (kol, ū·lə·ḵāl-) - Conjunctive waw, Preposition-l | Noun - masculine singular construct
Strong's Hebrew 3605: The whole, all, any, every

body - בְּשָׂר֥וֹ (basar, bə·śā·rōw) - Noun - masculine singular construct | third person masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 1320: Flesh, body, person, the pudenda (nakedness) of a man

Unto those that find them; i.e. to those who by effort get possession of and procure them; the verb matsa, to find, embodying the idea of activity. Health; mar'pe, derived from the root rapha, "to heal" (like riph'uth of Proverbs 3:8, which see), and hence rather "the means of health" than "health," "healing," or, as margin, "medicine," "that which restores to health;" LXX., ἴασις; Vulgate, sanitas. The moral condition is regarded as enfeebled by sickness, from which it may be restored to health and soundness by the words of wisdom. The effect of these, however, is not only to restore to health, but to maintain in health. Their tendency is to promote "a sound mind in a sound body." To their flesh; literally, to his flesh; the singular, b'saro, being used instead of the plural, which we should have expected, because what is said applies to each one of those who receive the precepts of wisdom. The all implies the completeness of the restoration; it is not confined to one part, but pervades the whole body. - Pulpit Commentary

If we pay attention and listen carefully to godly wisdom, letting it penetrate our heart, it can bring health to all three parts of man: body, mind (soul) and spirit. It is like a spiritual medicine. I refer to my devotions as taking my spiritual vitamins. But notice there is something we have to do... listen, pay attention to God's wisdom and keep them within our heart. We are to put our eyes and ears on the Word and apply it to our lives. We have to pick up the Bible and read it ("do not lose sight of it"), paying attention to it, focusing on it. "Incline your ear", we have to listen to it (either by reading it aloud or hearing someone read it and expounding on it like a teacher or preacher). We have to hide it in the deepest part of our hearts, allowing it to penetrate and do it's work. We have to submit our unruly heart to the Word of God allowing it to go deeply.

Young's Literal Translation of this verse is: Let them not turn aside from thine eyes, Preserve them in the midst of thy heart.

"Preserve them in the midst of thy heart" doesn't mean head knowledge. We can read the Bible, even memorize it. But that's just an intellectual exercise unless we believe it and let it change our lives. It has the power to do so but only if we allow and accept it. God gave us a free will and we can choose whether or not to accept or reject.

Fig leaf

Did you know that there are people who make a show of rejecting the World in order to "devote" themselves to God? You might think of nuns, priests, monks, ministers/pastors. They may seclude themselves away from the world and spend their time following spiritual demands such as praying 3 hours a day, reading the Bible 2 hours, serving others, fasting 30 days, flagellating themselves twice a day, crawl 5 miles, visit spiritual pilgrimage sites, yada, yada, yada. You would think these people must really be holy! They would be the ones who would really hear from God and be God's pets (like a Teacher's Pet).

But none of that is what makes a person holy. In fact, you would find these people are just as evil as any criminal in any town. They can be petty, vindictive, ambitious, mean spirited, jealous, self righteous, judgmental, gossiping, sexually promiscuous, foul mouthed, manipulative, thieving rapists and murderers!

A pillar-saint is a Christian ascetic who lived on pillars while preaching, fasting and praying. Stylites believe that the mortification of their bodies would help ensure the salvation of their souls. Stylites were common in the early days of the Byzantine Empire. But some would argue back and forth from their pillars!

Hermits lived in voluntary solitary confinement for years. An eremitic hermit was one who lived solitarily in the wilderness. An anchorite was one who lived in a monastery but practised solitude supposedly to devote oneself to God. But what is the true motivation? Could it just be fear/phobias such as social phobias, social anxiety disorder, paranoia? Could it be the inability to deal with everyday responsibilities? Could it be giving-up-and-checking-out, avoidance, denial, isolation to protect oneself? Could it be the same mental illness that haunts many homeless today? They can't function in society because of mental illness. Or is it a desire for simplicity, for someone else to make all the decisions in this life so that you don't have to, regimenting your life so that there are no uncertainties? None of these have anything to do with God and all to do with selfishness. I'm not saying solitude, silence, and focus on God is a bad thing! Not by any means! What I'm saying is it doesn't make you holy if they are just mentally ill but someone pastes a God label on your eccentric behavior. It doesn't make you holy if all you are doing is catering to yourself and your fears. It doesn't make you holy if you are just avoiding the world and responsibilities. It doesn't make you holy if you are prideful of how many hours, days, weeks, months, years or decades you've practised solitude. It doesn't make you holy if you think you are closer to God than someone else or have an ambition of others recognizing you due to your religious practice. Don't try to cover your sins with a fig leaf of "religious seclusion" and paste a God label on it.

Some mortified their flesh which was seen as putting to death the flesh, denying yourself. There were many ways of mortification including fasting, crawling, kneeling for long hours, abstinence, practising poverty, flagellation (whipping oneself until bloody), wearing hair shirts to irritate the skin to bloodiness, self inflicted wounds. Do these practises make you holy? Not if you are a masochist who derives sexual pleasure from inflicted pain! Some people experience relief from emotional pain by self harming. They may call it mortification of the flesh in order to be closer to God but it's really about themselves and their own relief which is not very holy. Some people who self-injure do so because they seek to punish themselves. They cannot see God forgiving them without some form of self punishment. They have to make themselves worthy of forgiveness. But we can never be worthy of forgiveness. We can't save ourselves. Our works, even self-punishment, are never going to make us worthy. It's why we needed a Savior! And Jesus Christ came to freely forgive anyone who repents and asks for His forgiveness. If we say He can't forgive us in our current state, then we are saying His work on the cross was not good enough and we have to do something to aid Him. Not a very holy thought is it? We come to Him just as we are and trust Him to forgive and cleanse us. He covers us with HIS righteousness, we have no righteousness to cover ourselves with. And how holy is it to crawl 5 miles until your knees are bloody but your mind is filled with unholy thoughts such as, "I'd better get a blessing for doing all this"; "I don't really believe in all this but I'll do it for good luck"; "Damn it, why did I have to land on that sharp rock?"; "I want something from God so I'll do this 'penance' in order to rub the magic genie lamp and get what I want"; "how can I do this but experience the least amount of pain, that way I look good but I'm not really suffering or sacrificing anything?"; "If I do this I will have paid for my sins and will get into heaven"; "Fasting will help me lose weight anyway"; "I've given up more than the Joneses, so I'm holier than they are"?

Here are some famous people who had a religious mantle but were far from holy:

Pope John XII (955–964), who gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.

Pope Urban VI (1378–1389), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured.

Pope Leo X: A scion of the powerful Medici family of Florence, Leo had his talents and was a patron of the arts but is remembered most for his lavish spendthrift habits in the years he was pope, between 1513 and 1521. His emptying of the Vatican's coffers led to various measures to create more revenue, which included the sale of indulgences — in effect, guarantees of relief from damnation in the afterlife. This practice infuriated a certain German contemporary of Leo, Martin Luther, and planted the seeds of the Protestant Reformation.

Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, was found to have sexually abused dozens of seminarians, in addition to fathering at least three children out of wedlock. Maciel’s crimes were revealed by a 1998 expose. Maciel won the allegiance of many inside the Vatican by plying them with expensive gifts — cars and foodstuffs worth thousands, and envelopes of cash.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, oversaw priests who were involved in sexual torture of children. Instead of being reported to the DA’s office, pedophile priests were moved — sometimes repeatedly, from parish to parish to parish. Abusive priests kept right on abusing children.

In 2012, a number of former students of the Montreal Institute for the Deaf accused some 30 clergy at the schools of Clercs de Saint-Viateur of abusing and raping children from 1944 to 1982.

In 1987 Jimmy Swaggart publicly accused fellow televangelist Jim Bakker of immoral sexual behaviour. This denunciation, which some saw as a move by Swaggart to take over Bakker’s empire, precipitated a closer look at Swaggart’s own life, leading to the revelation that he had performed voyeuristic acts with a female prostitute. Indeed, another rival televangelist, Marvin Gorman, whom Swaggart had also accused of having one or more extramarital affairs and who was subsequently defrocked, provided photographs of Swaggart at a Baton Rouge motel with a local prostitute. Despite his tearful on-air apology in February 1988, Swaggart was defrocked by the Assemblies of God in April but continued to act as an independent Pentecostal preacher. In October 1991 police in Indio, California, found Swaggart in the company of a prostitute after stopping him for a traffic violation. During that period he lost a $10 million defamation lawsuit for the accusations of sexual misconduct he had lodged against Gorman; the parties later settled out of court for $1.85 million. After those scandals, Swaggart turned control of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, Inc., over to his son, Donnie.- Brittanica

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were among the most famous televangelists in America. They were living a life of luxury when their empire all came crashing down amid sex and financial scandals. Tammy Faye had a breakdown due to drug dependency. Jessica Hahn claimed that in December 1980, when she was 21 years old, Jim Bakker allegedly sexually assaulted her. He said it was consensual but the ministry paid more than $200,000 in hush money. He stepped down from PTL and asked Jerry Falwell to run the ministry. Falwell found out how bad the financial situation was at PTL and how the Bakkers had enriched themselves at the expense of their followers. Jim Bakker was indicted in 1988 on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. On Oct. 5, 1989, a jury found Bakker guilty on all 24 counts. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine. He ended up serving almost five years of that sentence before being paroled in 1994. Tammy Faye filed for divorce. She married Roe Messner, the contractor who built Heritage USA. But after the financial fallout of PTL, Messner was sentenced in 1996 to 27 months in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud. She died of lung cancer. Jim Bakker remarried, started another television ministry and raises money by selling doomsday products.

Marvin Gorman, Pastor of First Assembly of God Church, started with 100 members and rose to 6,000 members with an operating budget of $4.5 million and a television ministry in all 50 states. Jimmy Swaggart accused him of adultery with different women. Gorman admitted to having an affair and was removed from his pastorate and ended up in bankruptcy. But he wanted vengeance and so his son and another man set up Swaggart. They surveilled him entering a motel room in a shady motel used by a prostitute and set up cameras. They got a photo of Jimmy Swaggart entering the motel room with the prostitute. They disabled his Lincoln Towncar tires and called Gorman who rushed over to confront Jimmy Swaggart. He tried to blackmail Jimmy Swaggart to get his old job back but Jimmy Swaggart didn't do anything and eventually Gorman gave the photos to the Assemblies of God. Swaggart confessed and cried on TV to having "sinned". Gorman sued Swaggart and won a settlement out of court of $1.85 million. Gorman founded the Temple of Praise small church in New Orleans and wrote a book. He died in 2017.

We see people sin no matter what "sacrifices" they've made for God. They may scourge themselves with whips until they are bloody but still harbor lust, jealousy, ambition in their hearts. They may put on a good face in front of TV cameras and proclaim the gospel but still harbor hate, greed, lust, selfishness and pride in their heart. They may live in a nunnery and spend their lives "serving" only to harbor hate towards those they serve, self righteousness, pride, pettiness and unforgiveness in their hearts. They may be hermits living in caves practising fasting but have self righteousness, pride and selfishness in their hearts. (If you've ever seen a person with anorexia you will see someone who refuses to eat but it has nothing to do with God, rather with their own self-involved, self-idolizing, overweening pride. They are self-idolaters who force everyone around them to dance to their tune. So someone can attach a God-label on anorexia and call it fasting and get much self satisfaction and self righteousness out of their mental illness.)

We must be careful to not only view, read, listen to the Word of God but to let it penetrate the deepest recesses of our hearts and to let it make the necessary changes so that our good behavior is not a show and pretence, but a natural flow from a changed heart. If our exterior is not a result of interior changes then it is nothing more than a facade to facilitate our sins. Our goal should be that our exterior only be a natural flow from a renewed and changed heart. And the only way to get a renewed and changed heart is through constant contact with the Word of God and the working it out in a submitted heart by the life-giving Holy Spirit.

How is this Word to bring life and "health to the whole body"? A person’s body, mind and spirit are all interrelated and interdependent. What affects one affects the others. God gave us His Word as a guide to help us in mind, body and, most especially, spirit (which affects the mind and body). Who, better than our Creator, knows us and what is best and healthiest for us in mind, body and spirit?

If we sin, it affects our spirit, our mind and our body. Sin produces stress, guilt, shame, anger/rage, unforgiveness, bitterness, all types of negative emotions which affect our body and our mind. The sin of gluttony and lack of self control affects our weight and therefore our body. Substance abuse such as alcoholism, drug addiction, tobacco addiction becomes idolatry and dependence on something other than God and destroys our body, mind and spirit. Any idolatry can become an addiction whether it's self idolatry or idolatry of money, pornography, gambling, shopping, hoarding, etc. And, if left unchecked, will destroy you. Unforgiveness, anger and bitterness can eat away at your spirit, your mind and your body. It may not have been your fault but your unforgiveness, anger and bitterness becomes sin and eats away at you. Fear means you can't trust the Lord and is therefore a sin. Fear will incapacitate you and disable you.

Boy, I have stepped on my own toes. I have struggled with all of it and my body shows the ravages of it. My mind shows the ravages of it. Stress, fear, idolatry... all have left their marks. But if I can put God's Word in me and submit to the work of the Word and the Holy Spirit, I may can change some of the damage done in mind, body and spirit. The Word and prayer (dialogue with God) enriches my relationship with Him and gives me spiritual health which can then slowly work out into mind and body health. The more I know Him, the more I can trust Him and the more I can let go and let God which means less stress on me. My prayer is that I may know Him more and more. I was created for Him and my well being is dependent on walking in my relationship with Him. I'm safest, healthiest, more blessed when I'm being who God created me to be, His child. It's this rebellion to be independent and do what we want, that makes us sick in mind, body and spirit. We are struggling like fish going upstream and it puts undue stress and makes our lives much harder than it has to be. If I can know Him more and more and walk in His Ways as I was meant to, then maybe I can enjoy less stress, less exhaustion, less negative emotions and depression.

  • Do you know people who play at Mardi Gras? I.e. Shrove Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras) is a day in February or March in which people gorge and overindulge because the next day is Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, repentance of sins, penance, and mortifying the flesh through some type of fasting. A Lenten sacrifice is where many Christians commit to fasting, and/or giving up certain luxuries, to replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ's journey into the desert for 40 days. (He fasted 40 days and and was tempted by satan.) It ends six weeks later on Holy Saturday. How spiritual is it if you party, get drunk/high, do all kinds of lewd things in a big Mardi Gras party just because the next day is the beginning of Lent? Doesn't that negate the whole purpose of Lent, of fasting, mortifying the flesh? Doesn't it make just a mockery of repentance? How do you think God views it? You don't have to wonder:
Isaiah 1:10-18 (Amplified)  10 Hear the word of the Lord [rulers of Jerusalem],
You rulers of [another] Sodom,
Listen to the law and instruction of our God,
You people of [another] Gomorrah.
11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me [without your repentance]?
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of [your] burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of well-fed cattle [without your obedience];
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls or lambs or goats [offered without repentance].
12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires this of you, this trampling of My [temple] courts [by your sinful feet]?
13 “Do not bring worthless offerings again,
[Your] incense is repulsive to Me;
[Your] New Moon and Sabbath [observances], the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure wickedness [your sin, your injustice, your wrongdoing] and [the squalor of] the festive assembly.
14 “I hate [the hypocrisy of] your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts.
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 “So when you spread out your hands [in prayer, pleading for My help],
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you offer many prayers,
I will not be listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Get your evil deeds out of My sight.
Stop doing evil,
17 Learn to do good.
Seek justice,
Rebuke the ruthless,
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the [rights of the] widow [in court].
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be like wool."

  • Why do you think people are so good at justifying their sins? They can even talk themselves into believing their own justifications, prevarications, excuses and fig leaves. They can't see the hypocrisy in themselves. Why do think that is?
  • Has the Holy Spirit convicted you of any sins that you've justified or excused? God can cleanse you and make you "white as snow"!
  • Are you taking your daily spiritual vitamins (devotions)? Reading the Word, prayer and meditating are in your best interests for health in mind, body and spirit. Why wouldn't you?
  • If you haven't formed devotional habits, how can you start today?
  • Do you see the correlation between a healthy relationship with God and health in your mind, body and spirit?
  • Did you ever think that God created you for a purpose and rebelling against that purpose only brings stress to you in mind, body and spirit? That following His Ways are what is healthiest for you in mind, body and spirit because that's what He made you for?
  • No matter how big a fig leaf, or how many fig leaves, you use to cover your sins, God sees right through to the truth. It's best to get rid of the fig leaves, go in naked before God and let Him cover you with His righteousness.

For all my studies on Proverbs click HERE.

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