Monday, April 28, 2008

Proverbia 18

Virgil's proverbs #18

Fasting is easy on a full stomach.

I'm sure this one has probably been stated many times by many people. But, it's true, none-the-less and I did think of it apart from having read the quote by somebody else. Come to think of it, truisms have probably all been stated before. Just rearrange the words and give it another go.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Proverbia 17

Virgil's proverbs #17

Empathy and compassion are healers of deep wounds.

Proverbia 16

Virgil's proverbs #16

Incessant drizzle is an impediment to the soul.
A downpour fills the spirit.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Proverbia 15

Virgil's proverbs #15

A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A lying pastor does his sheep no good.
Bold are the words of the wise.
Tepid are the words of fools and hirelings.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Proverbia 14

Virgil's proverbs #14

A good wife is hard to find.
Do not despise her in the day of trouble.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Proverbia 13

Virgil's proverbs #13

Fools grow wise in their own estimation
And even the wise are tempted to folly.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Proverbia 12

Virgil's proverbs #12

Humility learns;
Pride spurns.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Exhordium-Proverbs 1:10-33

We have been pursuing wisdom. We have realized that wisdom is not far from us and something that can and ought to be grasped. Every Christian should be wise. Wisdom should be our possession. But then we run up against an apparent contradiction. We are pursuing wisdom, following hard after her, only to find that she seems to be toying with us. She calls out. We follow. She retreats. And our pursuit of wisdom seems to us another lesson in futility. We seek her but we cannot find her. At least that represents how we often feel.

But we need to have a bit of reality check. What is really happening? Is wisdom really fleeing from us? Can she never be grasped? Are we destined to our folly, able only to glimpse lady wisdom but never to have her for our own?

Think about any hard task that you have accomplished. How did you do it? Perhaps you have run a difficult race, a marathon. How do you get to marathon distance? Do you go out one day and just decide to run 26.2 miles? (You can’t forget that .2, you know.) No, you don’t. You train, for a long time, for several months. You run a few miles,then add a mile, then another and another, until one day, you realize that you have become a distance runner. But you don’t feel like a marathoner because you have not done that yet. But you are doing the things that marathoners do. You are putting in the miles. You are finishing longer and longer races and you are making headway towards your goal. And then, one day, the race arrives and you finish, you make it, you’re a marathoner.

But what would happen if during your training you are trying to figure out if you are a marathoner, or not? Are you a marathoner when you run 10 miles? 17? 24? No, not until you finish. But each step in your training takes you one step closer to achieving your goal. The steps are beneficial. They are money in the bank. You are gaining on your goal, even if you cannot really feel it as you are slogging through the miles. But something is happening in you both physiologically and mentally. You are becoming a marathoner, even before you have made the distance.

While the analogy is not perfect, I think of wisdom this way. We are seeking wisdom. We are trying to be wise. We know the goal is achievable because the Bible tells us so. But the longer we train for the task, the further away the finish lines seems. But that is NOT the case. The finish is getting closer. The miles are accumulating, wisdom is drawing closer. And at any given point in the pursuit of wisdom, when you look back, you realize that you have come a lot farther than you ever thought possible. Certainly a lot farther than you would have if you had never started training. And then when you look forward to pursue wisdom again, she is off and running and you are chasing. But the chase is the goal. The chase is the point.

In marathon training, there are some key check points to see if you are making headway. You first make it 10 miles, then 15, then 20 and maybe even 22 or so. When you do 20, you know that you can do 26. But that is not true when you do 15. You do a long-run of 15 miles and barely make it and realize that a marathon is 11 more miles. So, it is important in pursuing the goal to have some checkpoints that help you understand that the goal is achievable.

Pursing wisdom also has checkpoints. What have we done so far? What are our basick checkpoints? What are some other checkpoints? If we hit those, are we making it towards our goal of attaining wisdom?
1. Fearing God.
2. Honoring and Obeying Parents.
3. Friends- This is a broad category. First of all, it fits within the context of loving God and honoring your parents. If you do this, you will have the kind of friends that God and your parents would want you to have. You can see how if you get the first two priorities right, loving God, honoring parents, that wisdom will be close. But as you move up the continuum towards wisdom, the checkpoints become clearer. If you love God and love parents, what kind of friends ought you to have?

First of all, your friends should be friends of God. Although you CAN go wrong with these kinds of friends, it is less likely than if your friends are those who hate God. Secondly, you should have friends that your parents would be glad for you to be friends with. Again, you CAN go wrong with these kinds of friends but it is less likely than if your friends are those your parents would not want you hanging out with.

Who is a friend and who is a neighbor? Some children object to their parents having a say in their friends. Perhaps they even try to put a guilt trip on the parents. Mom, how are they ever going to learn what is right and wrong if they don’t have good Christian friends like me.

Well, that answer is fairly easy. Who is being influenced in the relationship? You ought to be a neighbor to those outside the church, those in need, even those in prisons. But that is not the same thing as being their friend and companion. And if you are following friends in poor choices, then you need new friends to follow. If you are the strong one and leading friends in good choices, then that is a good place to be. But you should not evaluate this yourself. If you are a child, then your parents should evaluate this for you. If you are a husband, your wife ought to be able to evaluate it better than you. If you are a wife, then your husband is probably a better judge of your friends than you are.

Communion Meditation-Friends

We have spoken today about friends. This is a fitting topic for communion. It is at this place that we clearly see that we are friends of God. He is making promises of faithfulness to us and we are returning that pledge to Him.

Furthermore, we look around and see who His friends are and want to have those same kinds of friends. We want friends that we can take to Jesus’s house and have supper with Him and them, all in sweet communion. Of course, we ought to declare to some of Jesus’s enemies that they can become His friends and when they do so, they become our friends. For the time being, we can call them neighbors. But our friends, our close associates, our brothers and sisters, ought not to be those who are enemies of our Lord, of our elder brother, Jesus.

This is why we look around. We are in the company of friends. Not everyone here is an equally close or even an equally good friend. But we do need friends like these, either the ones specifically in this church, or friends like them who love Jesus and His people. To not do so, is to be a fool.

So, part of what is represented as we eat together with friends is another checkpoint of wisdom. We are here at mile 20. We know we can make the marathon because we have Jesus and we have His friends with us. So, we are wise to be here. We have much more to learn but God has blessed us and we now know that wisdom is our friend, too.



Wisdom is not far from any of us. But, like the simple ones that we are, we sometimes court folly and produce the offspring of unintended consequences. But God is merciful and kind.

We have spoken about proper priorities, loving God first, loving His people second. If we do this, wisdom is very near to us. If we do this consistently, wisdom must be near to us, for God will be near us and His people will be near us.

Today, we will talk some about friends, the source of wisdom and folly. And even a good friend will not always be wise. But a foolish friend will rarely be wise.

Wisdom is a good chooser of friends; folly has no discretion. I know that many of you here have good friends because you are friends with one another. But what about your other friends? Do you enjoy being around your less than rustic friends at work? Do you ladies like to hear the gossip from ladies from outside your circle? Or, is there a circle here at this church, that are perhaps bad friends, leading into a way of folly? You get to pick your friends. Pick wisely. And do not indulge yourself with bad friends so that you get to blame them for your own foolishness. You do not.

If your friends have led you into sin, then you need new friends AND you need to learn how to lead them away from sin. But if you like to be led away, you will pay a large price at some point in the future. And this is true for all of you at any age, young children, teenagers, young adults, men and women.

This is a relatively easy area to be wise. Choose wisdom.

Proverbia 11

Virgil's proverbs #11

Strength is displayed in the knowledge of youth;
Wisdom, in the weakness of age.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Proverbia 10

Virgil's proverbs #10

To acquire knowledge is the pride of youth.
Wisdom is the gift of the aged.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Proverbia-The Naked Soul 3

One final thought on this topic. No one would think it odd if I posted that my wife had recently been diagnosed with cancer and I was soliciting prayers. However, folks would be perplexed if I posted that she had been recently diagnosed as an alcoholic. And the difficulty here is that many Christians think of Depression or similar other mental disorders as more like the alcoholic than cancer.

An alcoholic, in biblical terms, is a drunkard. He has a self-inflicted wound. While there may be a host of pastoral issues that need to be dealt with, at the end of the day, it is he, himself, that pours down the booze. It is primarily a spiritual problem, even granting that certain people are more susceptible to this particular problem than other people. I think that is true of all spiritual problems. We are unique and our besetting sins are unique.

But when one contracts cancer, we see this as simply a result of dwelling in a fallen world. We give sympathy, care concern. We recognize that it is not their fault. We look for answers from whatever corner we can find them, pastoral, prayer, medical, alternativie, experimental. We know we are in the presence of something that is powerful and it is fairly easy for us to admit our frailty in dealing with the issue.

I am saying that Major Depression is more like cancer than alcoholism. In fact, I don't think it is like alcoholism, at all. The mind is complex, and the chemical reactions in the brain are also complex. Relatively little is known about this. We need to be wise both in the way we think about it, judge others about these things, and the way we treat it.

People with cancer also have a difficult time dealing with life. Many, even Christians, begin to despair of life to rid them of their suffering.

Let us have equal care and compassion for those who suffer in their mind. If there are easy pastoral cures, then Amen. But if we are in over our head and need to admit it, then let us do so and pursue help that is really helpful. When the depressed person begins to make some basic headway on the physiological issues, then it makes sense to jump in with pastoral care, particularly trying to help them make sense of their trial in light of God's Word and sovereignty over all things.

Proverbia-The Naked Soul-2

I'm a bit nervous about this post as it is very personal. However, one of things that we are learning in our current trial, is that God wants to use us to help other people. In order to do that, we need to experience suffering in such a way that both humbles us and makes us empathetic to the cause of those who suffer.

Our current suffering involves my wife, again, which is another reason to be leery of posting. The last reason to be nervous about the post is the nature of the trial. My wife is depressed. She is not exactly sad about the various trials that she has encountered. She is depressed. It is Major Depression or Clinical Depression, as the diagnosis goes. I wish they called it something else because most people do not understand what you mean when you say Depression. They assume you are having a rough go of it and need to snap out of it. Or, they assume that you are in an emotional funk related to specific causes, say the death of a loved one. And my wife's father did die this last October. And, I do believe that his death has a great deal to do with where my wife is at right now. It, along with several other highly stressful issues, caused her to tip over into this thing we call Depression.

But the thing itself, Depression, is not sadness. It is not grief. If those emotional states were her problem, it would make sense and be treatable with basic pastoral care. Incidentally, that is how we intitially pursued this. However, it became increasingly evident to me that I was unable to address the core issues of what was going on in my wife's brain. And I think the word Brain here, is appropriate, as opposed to the word Mind. We associate Brain activity with physiological reactions. We tend to think of Mind as the arena of the soul. So, we think if someone is having mental (Mind) trouble, they are automatically having soul trouble. But that is clearly NOT the case.

However, the body and the soul ARE closely related. The soul, at least on this earth, cannot be healthy without a certain basic level of health to the body. This is why Jesus tells us to feed and clothe the hungry, not just send them away with a blessing. So, when a Depressed person does not have a minimum level of Happy Chemicals, they cannot relate to the world in a proper emotional state. This is not simply the same thing that occurs when you are bummed out. When you are bummed out, say about the test, about the job interview, about the death of a loved one; that all makes sense. Depression is not having the emotions to feel that way nor to be happy about pleasant events. It is a creeping hopelessness and despair which obscures reality.

We've all known pessimists, they see the glass half empty. A depressed person sees everything that way. There is no joy in Muddville, even if mighty Casey has hit a homerun. Ya great, we won, so what? I should be happy but I'm a miserable wretch.

The Naked Soul, what's that? It is being laid bare before the Lord and His people. When a healthy body or a healthy mind is taken from you, what is left but the soul? But God is watching over our souls in an intimate way. And, He does, in fact, mean our trials for good, even if we are unable to see it at the time. For His own good reasons and purposes, He reveals us for what we are, naked and helpless humans who are in need of constant care from their Father. We can all see this truth with infants, they're helpless, but then we grow strong and independent. But God would have us all wholly dependent upon Him. While this is humbling and at times difficult beyond our ability to grasp or even hang on, it is God's kindness and mercy to us. It is good for us to realize that in Him we live and move and have our being. We say that, but we can only know it, when all other safety and strength is taken from us. God is still our fortress and rock. Job understood. Where else can you turn?

I can post this about my lovely wife, Katie, because I have a different understanding of these things than I used to have. Well meaning Christians do not understand what is going on here. Some have offered help in the area of dealing with sins, reading the right Bible verses, or even dealing with demonic forces. And while we should do all of these things to some degree and in the right way with various issues, none of them gets to the core of the nature of this problem of Depression. Something has tipped in the brain and it needs to be healed and restored. This can be helped with some medications, although the pharmecutical route is also very much a trial and error process. But we are thankful if the medications deal with some symptoms. The problem here is that there are also many troubling side effects. In my mind, this route should be viewed as a temporary solution.

The main healer of the mind seems to be rest and time. Perhaps there are also some other avenues to pursue that may prove helpful in the long-term. There are vitamin supplements that help brain function and mood. There is growing evidence that these supplements are more helpful and safer than pharmaceuticals. This is all new to me but we are pursuing every possible helpful option.

Part of the reason this is difficult to express is that many Christians simply view depression as a spiritual problem. Easy answer, consult Job's friends. Part of the reason that I have chosen to blog about this is that we have been very open and frank with our church about this as well as numerous friends in the community. The word is out and we are not trying to hide anything. We trust that the Lord will bring Katie through this and as a result we will be able to help other people who have suffered a similar situation. In fact, that is already happening.

Finally, my wife has had several good days in a row, about five. That might be as many good days as she has had in the last six months. So, we are hopeful that the tide has turned and that she is on her way up and out of this. We appreciate your prayers. God has been faithful to us through this entire process and we give Him thanks. His ways are inscrutable but in due time, we do see some of the whys. We pray He will continue to reveal His glory through our weakness.

Proverbia 9

Virgil's proverbs #9

Knowledge is worth more than ignorance;
Understanding than knowledge;
Wisdom than understanding.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Proverbia-The Naked Soul-1

A call from a friend reminded me that my post on Suffering-Again may have been too obscure. So, you say, what constitutes suffering?

When I said, suffering again, I was referring, firstly, to past deep trials. Those trials involved a series of difficult times immediately following my beginning to study for the ministry. All of these things happened in about a 24 month span.

I was accused and sued unjustly, twice in a year. My wife lost a full-term baby, our son Luke, four days before the due date. The baby died on Mother's Day. A few months later, my father died. The next year we lost another baby, Lydia, at 5 1/2 months. My wife's grandmother died. A month or so later, we hastened to southern Idaho to be at the bedside of my wife's stepfather who quite suddenly died of cancer. A month after that we moved to Virginia to start a church. A few months after arriving in Virginia, the workers at my new job rebelled against the fellow brought in to clean up the situation, me, levelling various accusations at their new boss. There was an investigation. After the investigation, human resources was staunchly on my side and I was fully exonerated. The company rewarded me by putting me in a larger store with more responsibility. So, sufferings from within and without. And another lesson to learn?, as another close friend said during this run of trials, "Remind me never to decide to go into ministry."

Much of the suffering in these trials was more acutely felt by my wife. She was suffering greatly but the rest of our family was suffering along with her. It was much more easy to bear my own sufferings than those of my wife. I know the Lord desires to purify my wife as well as me but I often feel as if her sufferings are for my benefit and the benefit of the saints in our church. That seems odd to me. I am sure the Lord knows that she bears up better under it and he can teach me and the rest of us what we need to learn as a result. Suffering is a painfully thorough teacher.

I give you this snapshot to let you know that we really have suffered. In fact, I think that both my wife and I have graduate degrees in suffering. Here's the difficulty. We already had M.A.S, Master's of Arts in Suffering. We do not want a Ph.D.S. But the Lord thinks differently than we do.

I've rambled and am up against the blog reader word count. I'll address our current suffering and the topic of this title, The Naked Soul, in my next post.

Proverbia 8

Virgil's proverbs #8

Knowledge is gained in the books of young men.
Wisdom in the experience of the aged.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Proverbia 7

Virgil's proverbs #7

A young man knows all things.
A wise man knows nothing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Proverbia 6

Virgil's proverbs #6

We thought we knew until we didn't.
True knowing is acknowledged ignorance.

Don't get up in a snicket over this one, just yet. I've got some explaining to do. First, I am not praising ignorance. That's not the point, see. And, second, the key to this one is acknowledged. Chew on it for a while. Maybe it will make sense. I'll explain more next month when I get around to understanding how much less I know than I think I know.

Monday, April 14, 2008


These proverbs came to me recently as a result of preaching in Proverbs as well as enduring various ongoing trials. At first, I thouht it was interesting, perhaps nothing more than a phenomenon of the mind, an association of ideas. Some of the proverbs were trite but some were deep and meaninful, perhaps only to me.

As the days passed, however, I realized that much of what I know, if only a little, is reflected in these proverbs. It was as if many of the important things in my life had been contracted and summarized into these short sayings.

We call proverbs, the sayings of the wise. I make no claim to that. In fact, that is one of the strange factors in penning these proverbs.

In the past, I have considered myself wise, at least to some degree. I have always known that there are numerous others who are more wise, smarter, brighter, more gifted. But I figured that I had a thing or two to offer the world.

However, in the last six months, I have never been more aware of my utter inability to hold onto or claim a personal wisdom. The striking feature of these last six months has been my complete ignorance of and ability to deal with the situation that I am in. I won't say that I am now humble. I hope I have learned better than to say that. However, humiliation and helplessness does indeed do a great work of sanctification. We wouldn't pick it. We want out of it. But God uses it to our good and His glory, none-the-less.

I am not so young as a I used to be nor as old as I will be. And in between folly and wisdom is a school of learning. I am just old enough to no longer be young and young enough to not be old. Youth is fleeing from me and wisdom has not yet visited.

Be that as it may, I hope these sayings of the mid-lifer may be a benefit to some, perhaps those who think they know.

Proverbia 5

Virgil's proverbs #5

Many, there are, who know the answers to riddles;
Few can write them.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Proverbia 4

Virgil's proverbs #4

Hopelessness is the killer of souls
But refreshment comes from the latter rains.

Proverbia 3

Virgil's proverbs #3

Despair is a downward spiral
But hope dwells in the lowliest valley.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Proverbia-Suffering Again

When I mentioned in an earlier post that the Hurts are suffering, again, it was not meant to garner pity or leveled as a complaint against God. However, empathy and compassion are healers of deep wounds. I'll have to number that one, too! I mentioned the point, specifically, because I have come to realize that true wisdom really only comes in the difficult paths. This is a most sobering truth because none of us would willingly tread there. We want the easy rode and when we are on the easy rode we are filled with joy and comfort and proclaim the superabundant generosity of our blessed Lord. We feel really blessed and, if we are thinking right, we give God the glory for it. We are on the high places, our Lord is smiling at us, and we are His blessed saints.

That is all true. But if, like Job's friends, we reverse the logic, we can easily get a most incorrect answer. When we are in the low places, in the valley of decision, the shadow of death, of sorrow, suffering, confusion and perhaps even misery and hopelessness, it is easy to think that God's favor has left us. And, in fact, if particular sins are the reason for the intense trouble, it may actually be the case. You may simply have sowed the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. The breaking of God's laws has real and dire earthly consequences.

But there are other reasons, too. We see great suffering in the lives of many Biblical and extra-Biblical saints. This suffering is often related to their faith, persecution, but is sometimes merely related to the fact that they are human, fallen ones at that. And it is to this category of suffering that I am addressing my concerns.

We must not reason like Job's friends. I have done so often, especially towards others, little comprehending the works of God that are far beyond human telling. The great danger, here, is pride. When we insist on knowing the reasons, or asserting that we do, for another person's suffering, we stand in the place of God. Do not misunderstand me, here. We should seek counsel in our suffering. We should examine our own hearts. We should confess our sins, repent of them and turn to Christ. But having done all of that; having had an honest look at our hearts; having sought Christ with a clear conscience, not of our own making but of His cleansing, what do we then do in our suffering? How ought our friends to view us, then, in our troubles?

Remember Joseph. His brothers meant it for evil but God meant it for good. We have to hold onto the promises, which is tantamount to saying that we must hold on to God. Perhaps, in the midst of suffering, that is the ONLY thing we can do. And, in fact, we cannot even DO that. We are too weak. God cannot be grasped. So, we comfort ourselves with the fact that it is not we who hold onto God but He holds onto us. Are we strong enough to stay in His grasp? No, but we are not holding His hands. He has got us by the wrists and He will not let go.

We have suffered. We have realized these truths, that is to say, they have been made real to us. And we have forgotten. God is reminding us again. So, as Saint Paul said, Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. (Phil 3:13) There is safety in remembering and danger in forgetting. Not danger that we might suffer if we forget but danger that we might forget the Lord if we do not suffer. This is a dark grace and a deep mercy. God is good and kind and His hard providences are a reflection of His goodness and kindness, even if we are unable to see it or even to say so at the time.

Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him.

Proverbia 2

As promised, I continue my daily posts on proverbs, lower case, because they are mine, only mostly stolen from the Bible. They came to me in random order and I will present them this way, except for this one, which will remain unnumbered, "A wine-filled proverb waxes eloquent at night but mumbles in the morning."

Virgil's proverbs #2

Sadness dwells alone
But encouragement has many friends.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Proverbia 1

Virgil's proverbs #1

Sorrow is the friend of wisdom
And suffering abides with understanding.

Proverbia-Virgil's proverbs

It's been a while since I last posted. That is because the Hurt's have been going through a severe trial, again, and this has led to a subsistence mentality. Perhaps I will share the details with you sometime soon. However, I prefer to be living on the sunny side of life before I reveal to you my gloom. In the mean time, I do appreciate your prayers for my family and particularly for my wife, Katie.

It is my intent to preach through the book of Ecclesiastes sometime soon. I just finished a series on the Lord's Prayer which you can listen to here. Ecclesiastes is a life-changing and church-changing book. I think our church is ready for it. However, I would like our family to be on the hopeful side of our futility before I bring that great theme of Ecclesiastes to our congregation.

My excursus through Proverbs has my brain doing funny things. Many proverbs are running through my head. I hope to post one of these original proverbs each day for the next thirty days. A proverb a day, keeps the blog hits, alway. I know, that's lame. But the proverbs I have in mind to post are from the crucible of suffering. I hope you will find them beneficial.

The next post in this topic will be Virgil's Proverbs #1.