Can Golf Nourish Your Soul?

Proverbs 11

17Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel. (Proverbs 11:17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

It’s summer time so of course for thousands of kids, that means summer camp. When my kids were in high school, we were alerted to all kinds of “camps” that we could pay money to send our kids to – soccer camps, baseball camps, basketball camps and even music camps. Some are even hosted by famous athletes and celebrities.

It’s interesting that these experiences are often called “camps” because there’s very little “camping” that happens. I think a better term for these week-long adventures is “clinic”. The purpose of these “clinics” is to hone skills and become better at whatever the craft is.

The truth is that any professional athlete, whether it’s a golfer, basketball player, baseball player or just about any other sport, spends hours upon hours doing drills. A golfer will take thousands of practice swings in order to perfect his or her technique.

A basketball player will dribble a ball up and down the court, switching hands and navigating through cones, just to perfect command of the ball.

Kobe Bryant was noted for his work ethic, shooting hundreds of balls every day in order to perfect his jump shot.

The purpose of training is to create muscle memory and develop habits so that when you’re in a game or in a live situation, you don’t have to think twice about how to act or what to do. Your body automatically taps into the hours of practice and you simply repeat what you’ve done thousands of times.

In this single proverb, we see a biblical example of what the scriptures refer to as “training in righteousness.”

What is training in righteousness?

Training in righteousness is a process by which you train yourself to do the right thing and thus live righteously, even when circumstances are against you.

Just as a golfer doesn’t perfect his swing without hours of practice swings, we don’t live righteously unless we train ourselves to make righteous choices.

According to this proverb, our soul is actually nourished when we act kindly. You might say that when we make a righteous choice, like acting kindly, it feeds our soul. But when we make an unrighteous choice, like acting with cruelty, it starves our soul.

If we make right choices over and over, we train our soul to live righteously. It becomes a habit and our lives will begin to bear fruits of righteousness, which will become evident to others.

However, if we make unrighteous choices over and over, we train our soul to live unrighteously. Living sinful lives will become second nature to us and our lives will bear unrighteous fruit.

So remember this the next time you are conflicted about how to act in a certain situation or how to respond to another person – by responding with kindness, you are feeding your soul and training yourself to live righteously. But by responding unkindly or acting cruelly, you will have the opposite effect – you will actually be training yourself to live unrighteously.

Reflection

What are some examples in your own life, whether sports, or music or some other discipline, where you have practiced drills in order to increase your skill level and your performance?

Can you think of any situations where a person can experience growth and development without undergoing some kind of training routine?

What are some ideas you have for cultivating your own soul and training yourself to live righteously?

What are some things that might be helpful to eliminate in your life that are actually starving your soul and making it harder to train yourself in righteousness?

 

Photo by Courtney Cook on Unsplash

Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves?

Matthew 5

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

Have you ever heard someone say that “God helps those who help themselves”?

It’s a popular notion that’s been around for years. But is it biblical?

To be fair, there are numerous passages in the Proverbs that extol the virtues of hard work and the foolishness of being lazy. (See Proverbs 10:4; 12:24, 27; 13:4; 19:15, among others)

Additionally, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul issues this admonition:

“Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: “Whoever does not work should not eat.”

However the sentiment of this popular bit of cultural wisdom is not meant to discourage laziness but instead, it promotes an attitude of self-sufficiency and rugged individualism that is associated more with American culture than biblical values.

Jesus teaches the exact opposite. Instead of teaching that “God helps those who help themselves”, Jesus teaches that ”God helps those who CANNOT help themselves.”

To be poor in spirit means to recognize your own spiritual need; to recognize the poverty of your own soul. The New Living Translation says it this way:

“God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.” (Matthew 5:3, NLT)

The reality is that we are all broken and there is nothing we can do to help ourselves. Many people mistakenly believe that we come to Jesus only to be rescued from an eternity in hell.

While Jesus does save us from the judgment we deserve, we still need Jesus every day, even beyond our initial conversion experience. We are broken and only Jesus can empower us to live the kinds of righteous and holy lives He desires. Only Jesus can provide fullness of life.

Jesus doesn’t just promise to save us from hell. He promises us LIFE. REAL LIFE. Unfortunately, we cannot experience that life if we subscribe to the idea that we must help ourselves first. NO. We cannot help ourselves. We need Jesus to help us every moment of every day!

Reflection

What are some ways our culture promotes the kind of attitude that is expressed in the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”?

In what ways have you seen this kind of thinking filter into our church and Christian doctrine?

Besides your conversion experience what are some other times or situations where you recognized your own brokenness and need for Jesus?

What are some ways that people can cultivate an attitude of being “poor in spirit”?

 

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Wise Advice Concerning Sex!

Proverbs 5

1My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel. 2Then you will learn to be discreet and will store up knowledge.

3The lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil. 4But the result is as bitter as poison, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6For she does not care about the path to life. She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn’t even realize where it leads.

7So now, my sons, listen to me. Never stray from what I am about to say: 8Run from her! Don’t go near the door of her house! 9If you do, you will lose your honor and hand over to merciless people everything you have achieved in life. 10Strangers will obtain your wealth, and someone else will enjoy the fruit of your labor. 11Afterward you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body, 12and you will say, “How I hated discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way! 13Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to those who gave me instruction? 14I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace.”

15Drink water from your own well—share your love only with your wife. 16Why spill the water of your springs in public, having sex with just anyone? 17You should reserve it for yourselves. Don’t share it with strangers.

18Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. 20Why be captivated, my son, with an immoral woman, or embrace the breasts of an adulterous woman?

21For the LORD sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. 22An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. 23He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his incredible folly. (Proverbs 5:1-23, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Reading through the Proverbs is often like reading the fortune from a fortune cookie – they are typically short statements packed with wise advice.

But in Proverbs 5, Solomon doesn’t just give us a few pithy statements related to his views on sex; instead, he devotes a whole chapter to warning his son about the dangers of sexual immorality.

Solomon starts out by acknowledging how enticing sexual sin is. In verse 3, he says that sexual sin always looks enticing and appealing IN THE MOMENT. But countless people realize the error of their decision immediately after satisfying their sexual desires.

In verses 7 and 8, Solomon again urges his son to “listen carefully”. This must be really important! Sexual sin is so enticing that Solomon’s advice is to RUN. In other words, don’t hang around! Lingering is almost always disastrous as the will is slowly broken down as we give our minds an opportunity to rationalize our projected sin.

The results of not heeding this advice are widespread and far-reaching. Relationships are ruined and financial positions are compromised. I realize that this is not a popular belief in our current culture, but the reality is that nothing good comes from sleeping around.

Fifty years ago, our culture experienced a sexual revolution in which traditional views and values of sex were challenged and cast aside in favor of a more “free” expression of sex. This radical new perspective gave people the freedom to enjoy sex outside of the traditional marriage relationship without experiencing the stigma that was normally associated with casual sex outside of marriage.

Now, more than fifty years after this counter-culture revolution dramatically changed the moral landscape of America, are we better off? Did the sexual revolution deliver on its promise of a better society by casting off the chains that were depriving people of unleashing their sexual repression and fulfilling their every sexual desire?

It’s not the intent of this post to give a detailed analysis of the results of the sexual revolution but I would say that even casual observations about the state of our culture now reveal that the answer to the question above is “NO!”

What have been the results of being released from our so-called sexual prison?

To start with, abortion became legal as a means of limiting the responsibility of unwanted pregnancies. Over 62 million babies have been aborted since it was legalized. It’s also no surprise that the spread of sexually transmitted diseases rose and has remained high.

Predictably, the number of babies born out of wedlock has dramatically increased, leading to a higher percentage of single-parent families. Single-parent families often face greater challenges financially, which in turn often results in kids having less developmental resources and educational opportunities.

Divorce rates went up and have stayed up, contributing to the breakdown of the nuclear family. The breakdown of the family unit, research has shown, is a major factor that has contributed to many of our society’s greatest ills – including crime, drugs, mental health issues, abuse, homelessness, and pornography, just to name a few.

Solomon urges his listeners to maintain sexual purity by “drinking water from your own well”, which is another way of saying that we should keep our sexual relationships within the context of marriage.

There is no doubt that sex is enjoyable, but Solomon asks the reader why they would have sex with just anyone, which, in his view doesn’t make us free, but actually cheapens the experience. His advice is to cherish sex and enjoy it in the context of your marriage partner, which is exactly how God intended it.

Reflection

In what ways have you or your extended family been negatively impacted by the changing moral values of the sexual revolution?

Chances are that you or someone you know has been impacted by divorce. What are some of the negative effects of divorce on kids and families? 

Who are some of your role models in terms of long-standing marital relationships? What do you think are some of the benefits of staying married and being faithful to one spouse?

In what ways can you relate to Solomon’s advice to RUN when confronted with an opportunity to engage in sexual sin?

 

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Biblical Advice: Don’t Feed the Trolls!

Proverbs 26

4When arguing with fools, don’t answer their foolish arguments, or you will become as foolish as they are.

5When arguing with fools, be sure to answer their foolish arguments, or they will become wise in their own estimation.

(Proverbs 26:4-5, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Not long ago, as I was reading through Proverbs, I encountered these two verses, right next to each other, which seemingly contradict each other.

Verse 4 states that we SHOULDN’T respond to a fool’s arguments while the very next verse says that we SHOULD respond. Which is it? Should we respond or shouldn’t we? How are we to reconcile these two statements?

When evaluating these two statements, you’ll notice that the first half of each statement is essentially the same, “when arguing with fools….”

The difference is in the back half of each statement, with each verse giving a different intended outcome. So, when arguing with fools, there are two desired outcomes. First, we don’t want to become as foolish as they are. Secondly, we want to ensure that the fool doesn’t become wise in their own estimation.

So while these two verses seem contradictory at first glance, you can see that the two intended outcomes are not mutually exclusive. Therefore, as long as you are satisfying the two different intended outcomes, the two statements are not contradictory.

Exactly how can we approach our engagements with others so that these two outcomes are achieved?

First of all, we should realize that it’s not necessary to respond to every foolish argument. In internet circles (forums, threads, tweets, posts, etc.) it is very common to encounter people who are engaged in what’s known as “trolling”.

An internet troll is someone who purposefully makes inflammatory or rude comments in order to evoke an emotional response or in order to hijack a conversation. Most people who engage in this type of behavior do so for their own personal amusement.

When we encounter this kind of foolish behavior, it’s tempting to respond in kind. But that would violate the outcome of verse 4. We don’t want to engage with a person in such a way that we “become as foolish as they are.”

Furthermore, when we engage people like this, we’re simply feeding their own amusement. Though it might feel good initially to respond with a zinger or some kind of disparaging remark, it actually serves as fuel and encouragement for the other person to continue their foolish behavior. Hence the phrase “don’t feed the trolls.”

So if you’re too emotionally involved in the conversation, or you’ve been triggered by something that the person said or the way in which they said it, then the advice of Proverbs is to NOT engage with the fool. In this case, it’s better to simply not respond.

However, if you’re able to respond in a respectful way and not act as foolishly as the other person, it may be prudent to expose the person’s immature behavior or the foolishness of their argument so that they don’t walk away thinking how wise they are.

Recently, I’ve encountered some examples of these principles in action as I manage an online forum where just about anyone can post.

In a recent thread, people were posting on the topic of evil. An article had been posted on the subject of why do bad things happen and many folks were posting their comments on the content of the article.

Whenever you are talking about a theological topic like the existence of God or the problem of evil, it is not uncommon for people who consider themselves atheists to engage in the discussion. While some are interested in genuine dialog, a number of people like to engage in trolling kinds of behavior with posts that are agitating, mocking and generally rude to people of faith.

One person posted on the thread a lot of inflammatory remarks aimed at God along with some incendiary language mocking Christians and people of faith.

After some deliberation I decided to respond to this person who, quite frankly, was coming off as arrogant and condescending. I shared how ironic it was that we were discussing the existence of evil and he was the only one, through his disrespectful language and mocking tone, who was engaged in behavior that most people would consider to be evil. I pointed out that while he was ridiculing those who believed in God and rolling his eyes at the biblical understanding of evil, he had not made an alternate case for why evil exists or how to deal with it.

I invited him to continue to engage but in a civil, adult way and I gave him some specific questions to answer if he wanted to show the superiority of his position.

To his credit, he did respond with a much less combative tone, though he never did answer the questions that were posed.

I think this was an example of responding to a fool so they don’t “become wise in their own estimation.”

So the bottom line is that these two verses are not contradictory but represent two different approaches to dealing with someone’s foolish arguments and behavior.

Our approach will be dictated by the outcome we are trying to achieve. If we’re trying to avoid the trap of engaging in the same kind of foolish tactics the other person is engaging in, then our approach will be to NOT engage. However, if our goal is for the other person’s foolishness to be exposed so they don’t become so full of themselves, then our strategy will be to respond.

Knowing the difference of when to pursue which outcome requires wisdom, which is why we need the Lord’s perspective, even in our personal and online interactions!

Reflection

When have you been tempted or even succumbed to foolish behavior in your in-person or online interactions? What do you think is the reason so many people engage in these uncivil and unproductive arguments?

What are some ways you can respectfully engage with people are who are fools to point out the folly of their position or tactics?

How would you rate your current in-person and online interactions? How well are you applying and abiding by these two proverbs?

Of the two approaches, which one would you say you need to grow in or develop more – do you need to practice NOT engaging because you’re too triggered or emotionally involved? Or do you need to develop in the art of engaging the fool to expose their tactics and behavior?

 

Original Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash
Edited photo by Dave Lowe

Spankings, Samuel and a Box of Lemonheads

Proverbs 23

13Don’t fail to correct your children. They won’t die if you spank them. 14Physical discipline may well save them from death. (Proverbs 23:13-14, NLT)

1 Samuel 3

11Then the LORD said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family. 13I have warned him continually that judgment is coming for his family, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. 14So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.” (1 Samuel 3:11-14, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

I’ve mentioned before that the Bible reading program I’ve been following for the past several years in the Grant Horner Bible reading plan. You can read about the plan here from a pdf that includes a handy list of the 10 “lists”.

What’s unique about the plan is that every day, you read one chapter from each of 10 different lists – Gospels, Pentateuch, Wisdom literature, Psalms, Proverbs and so on. Each successive day, you read the next chapter from that list. When you reach the last chapter in any list, you return to the beginning. Since each list has a different number of chapters, you will never be reading the same 10 chapters. What you begin to realize, as a reader, is how Scripture is interwoven and how different sections comment on and bring clarity to other sections.

A perfect example of this occurred just a few days ago.

On one day, I read Proverbs 23, which included verses 13-14 and the writer’s admonition to not avoid spanking your kids.

Spanking was very common when I was a kid but it seems that there has been a lot of talk in recent years about whether or not spanking is moral. Those against spanking generally feel that it is abusive and unnecessary and that there are more effective ways of dealing with bad behavior and problem youths.

I agree that spanking, when done in anger, and done in a punitive manner, can absolutely be abusive. But it doesn’t logically follow that all spanking is abusive. When done properly, it can be very corrective.

I remember when I was 10 years old, I used to walk home from school with a friend. Some times we would stop off at a Pharmacy that was on the way home and browse and maybe by some candy. When my dad found out that I was sometimes stopping at the pharmacy, he told me he didn’t want me doing that anymore.

Not long after that, as I was walking home from school, my friend wanted to stop at the Pharmacy. Against my dad’s wishes, I went along, and I even bought a box of Lemonheads.

When I got home, my dad happened to be home from work early and he noticed the bulge in my front pocket where the Lemonheads were. He asked, “what’s that in your pocket?” I pulled out the Lemonheads and my dad replied, “you stopped off at the pharmacy didn’t you?” I told him I had and he reminded me that he had expressly forbid me from going there on my way home from school. I was supposed to come straight home and I hadn’t done that.

My dad then informed me that there were consequences for my disobedience. I had been spanked before with a belt and I expected that would be forthcoming. But my dad actually gave me a choice. I had a Little League game later that afternoon and I was scheduled to be the pitcher. My dad told me I could get a spanking, or I could skip the game – it was my choice. I told him I wanted to think about it.

So I went to my room and I thought about it, and I thought about it some more, and even more. I honestly didn’t want to get a spanking. I was a small, scrawny kid and I didn’t have a lot of meat on my glutes to soften the leathery blows.

But I was scheduled to pitch in the game and I knew that if I didn’t get the spanking, I would be letting my team down and my coach would be wondering why I didn’t show up.

At the last possible moment, I went to my dad and told him I would take the spanking, after which, I threw on my uniform and we raced to the field, where I was already late for pre-game warm-ups. I didn’t miss the game though, and like the verse states, I didn’t die from getting spanked. Instead, it was a valuable lesson in obedience and consequences, one that I obviously still remember to this day.

So what does this have to do with the Grant Horner system?

Well, the very next day, I read the chapter in 1 Samuel 3. Actually, on the same day I read Proverbs 23:13-14, I read 1 Samuel 2, where I learned that Eli’s sons Phineas and Hophni were priests who were taking advantage of Israelites who came to the temple to worship the Lord. The text calls them “scoundrels”. Eli is warned by God about what his sons are doing but Eli essentially does nothing about it. He does not discipline his sons. He provides no meaningful correction.

As a result, in 1 Samuel 3, the Lord speaks to the boy Samuel and tells him that he’s going to bring about justice for the wrongs committed by Eli’s sons. Verse 13 says that God is bringing this about because he has warned Eli about what his son’s are doing but Eli “hasn’t disciplined them.”

I think our culture has a hard time with physical discipline like spanking because we think of discipline as punishment. But the more general understanding of discipline is the word “training”. Athletes discipline themselves in order to train their bodies. Spiritual disciplines are for the purpose of training ourselves spiritually.

So when we think about disciplining our kids, we are not trying to punish them, though there may be negative consequences for disobedience and bad behavior. Instead, we are training our children to know what is right and to respond in right ways in varied circumstances. This is godly and as we can see from these passages, it is also biblical.

Reflection

What was your experience with discipline growing up? If you’re a parent, what has been your practice of discipline with your kids? What do you think are some effective ways you have found for correcting and disciplining your kids?

The idea of spanking has become a controversial issue in our culture today. What are your views on spanking and physical discipline? What has shaped the position you hold today?

In what ways can physical discipline, such as spanking, be done in a way that is corrective and not abusive? 

We often think of discipline as “punishment”. When you think of discipline in it’s broader sense, as training, how does this affect your view and understanding of discipline as a corrective measure?

What are some common ways you discipline or train yourself (i.e. finances, fitness, sleep, other habits and routines)? 

 

Photo by Dave Lowe

A Word About Hoarding and Price Gouging

The first time I went shopping during the Covid-19 crisis, I thought I would outsmart everyone by getting up early and getting in and out before the rush. Turns out, everyone else had the same idea and I was greeted to a long line just to get into the store.

Proverbs 11

26People curse those who hold their grain for higher prices, but they bless the one who sells to them in their time of need.

(Proverbs 11:26, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

We are fast approaching the one year anniversary of the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic.

I remember the first time I had to go to a super market to buy groceries after lockdowns were implemented. It was a Sunday morning and I got up early to arrive before the store opened, thinking I would outsmart the masses and get in and out before the crowds arrived and bought up everything. However, when I arrived, I realized I wasn’t the early bird as a long line of people had already formed, waiting for the store to open.

When I finally entered the store, I couldn’t believe how empty most of the shelves were. I walked out having purchased almost nothing on my list.

Remember the run on toilet paper and hand sanitizer?

For weeks, even months, I would look for these items any time I entered a store only to see the shelves completely barren.

I read a story about a couple of brothers back east, who, early on in the pandemic, went on a road trip and stopped at every dollar, general and convenience store within a couple hundred miles of their home, buying all the inventory of hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes they could get their hands on (pun intended).

Not surprisingly, these items became short in supply, and with the pandemic turning everyone into a germaphobe, demand went through the roof. The price of the items sky-rocketed. People were paying exorbitant prices on ebay, Amazon and other sites in order to stock up on these “essential” commodities.

Someone found out about the scheme of these brothers and the story went viral throughout social media. Stories ran in most major news publications. Here’s one from the Today Show. Amazon saw that they were using their site to price gouge, so they shut off their ability to sell their contraband.

With a lot of supply and no way to move it, and with public sentiment against them, the brothers decided to donate their items to charities. It was a desperate attempt to portray themselves as generous instead of greedy.

People are the same yesterday and today and will be the same tomorrow as well. People are driven by different motivations, but many people are motivated by greed, looking for any opportunity to prey on people’s vulnerabilities.

The writer of Proverbs states explicitly that this is wrong. It’s unjust because it takes advantage of people who are in a desperate situation, shaking them down for more of their monetary resources in order to provide for them something that they cannot live without.

As difficult as it may be, placing another person’s needs over our own desire for monetary gain is the godly response, especially during a crisis like a global pandemic.

Reflection

Have you ever been the victim of price gouging? What were the circumstances and what was your response?

In what situations have you been tempted to take advantage of another person? 

What are some steps a person can take to ensure they don’t become someone who takes advantage of others during a crisis situation? 

 

Photo by Dave Lowe

Keep Your Mouth Shut!

If you keep your mouth shut, you will stay out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23, NLT)

Think about all the ways our words can get us into trouble. We can consciously or unconsciously lie about something, or stretch the truth. We can offend people, purposefully, or inadvertently. We can say truthful things but with the wrong tone. We can joke or make fun of people. We can criticize, judge, or mock others.

However, if we keep our mouths shut, there is hardly any way a person can bring a charge against us. Keeping our mouths shut can keep us out of trouble.

What are some ways your mouth can get you into trouble?

What are some things that would help you to implement this advice?