Friday, October 31, 2014

Life Without God's Wisdom

“Finds life” and “loves death.” From one extreme to another. A contrast that is unmistakable and a choice that is crystal clear. It is one of the great “either/or’s” in God’s Word. It is a way of life or a path to death. And it is strange that some would not search for a way to live wisely and enjoy the blessings of God.

One translation recognizes the choice as “one who finds me...he who misses me.” There is a reward for searching for and applying God’s wisdom: “life and favor from the Lord.”

Conversely, those who “fail to find God's wisdom - or he who sins against God - harm themselves; all who hate me love death.”

Here is a clear picture of a self-centered life - a picture of one who has made a willful, thoughtful choice after careful deliberation. It is a choice that is void of emotions or feelings. But, a choice nonetheless.

Earlier in the chapter wisdom is described as “a tree of life.” And if one chooses the “other path” it is a path to death. Unfortunately, at the time the decision is made, the one making the decision may not be aware of that choice. Life may be too exciting or too much fun or too enjoyable or death is “so far away.” But it does not matter to that one at that time.

But, it should matter to us. If we know someone, anyone who is without Christ, we are responsible to God to take His message of love, salvation, hope and eternal life. Otherwise, we contribute to that one’s death.

Prayer:  Awaken us, Father, to our obligation to speak to others who are on the wrong path and are unsaved. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 8:35-36 For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord. But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.”

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Watching... Waiting... Wondering

It was an unusually nasty night. The wind was howling the rain was pounding on the roof; the weather had turned to freezing. It was 3:30 a.m. and “Lady” had to “go” outside. With great hesitation I opened the door and discovered a small Shih Tzu gazing upward into my eyes.

Her markings were stunning: grey, tan, white - even brown stripes on her ears. She “bumped” my ankle with her nose, began to wag her tail, looked steadfastly into my eyes and then bowed - as if pleading for her life.
After carefully examining her we realized that she had been abused and abandoned. Covered with dirt, fleas and ticks, she needed a home. However, Mary and I had agreed that as long as Lady lived there would not be another dog allowed. Without saying a word, she used her pleading eyes and wagging tail to “force” her way into our lives. Bella overturned our rule,

After a few weeks she became “overly” attached to me. Constantly resting at my feet, standing patiently at the door when I leave, quietly waiting for me to make a move so she can join me, it is as though she cannot live life without me. I am her “rescuer and provider.”

Hear wisdom speak: “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my door, waiting at my doorway.”

Bella is a constant reminder of those three very important words: listening, watching and waiting. May God give us no peace until we look only unto Him!

Prayer:  Father, May we learn to depend only on You as the way, the truth and the source of life each moment. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 8:34 Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Behind Everything, God's Wisdom

It’s not an everyday thought. Nor do we look at the beauty that surrounds us, the miracles that invade our lives, the unexpected meeting of a need out of nowhere or waking up to see the dawn of a new day. Somehow, we rarely see, or acknowledge, or are even aware of the wisdom of God at work in our lives and in our world.

“I was appointed from eternity...from the very beginning before the world began, when there were no oceans, no springs with water, before the mountains were settled, before the hills, before He made the earth or its fields, or any of the dust of the world...before the heavens were set in place or He marked the horizons of the moon or established the clouds, or fixed the borders of the oceans and the foundation of the earth, I was the craftsman at His side!”

What a description of the wisdom of God. Before anything was, there was wisdom - God’s wisdom - present and at work, forming and fashioning, settling and securing everything. Boundaries before water, heavens before the clouds - and on and on. First, His presence, then His plan and now His purpose. Things did not just “happen.” God’s wisdom was at work and is at work.

After looking at “wisdom at work,” Solomon says in simple, easy to understand words, “Now then, my sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep My ways.” In other words, apply His wisdom to our lives

And in the end: “Whoever finds Me finds life and finds favor from the Lord.” What a generous God!

Prayer:  It’s almost impossible, Father, to comprehend the fact that Your wisdom is available to us if we seek it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 8:32 “Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Does Wisdom Lead To Love?

“I love those who love me,” says wisdom. “Those who seek me find me,” she continues. Wisdom, then, is available to everyone who seeks her. If those who find her love her, she will love them in return.

Furthermore, the matter is set in absolute and unquestionable terms.

How can this be true? It refers us back to verse thirteen: “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.” If we love wisdom, we will automatically hate evil. Love is always a choice, and those who we choose to love become the center of our lives. As a result of this choice, we honor them by our loyalty and our faithfulness and obedience. Love is much more than emotions or sentiments. Love is other-centered, sacrificial, mutual and reciprocal.

If we truly love wisdom, we will apply its truth to our lives and benefit from its rewards. That’s why God gave us Proverbs! He wants the very best for us!

An interesting, yet seldom used phrase is “self-destructive or self-defeating behaviors.” Like it or not, many of us engage in behaviors that do not work in our favor. Often we are unaware that what we are doing can destroy and defeat us: overeating, wasting time, not being accountable to or serving God. Even Solomon, with all of his wisdom and wealth, came to the end of his life and lacked self-control and had no fear of God.

And if God offers us anything, it is the path to success in life. We have His wisdom to endow us, His light to guide us, His power to strengthen us, His presence to comfort us and His grace to save us.

Prayer:  Father, You have offered us so much more than we deserve. Help us to take advantage of each gift. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 8:16 by me princes govern, and nobles—all who rule on earth.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Polar Opposites

“Have it your way” was the Burger King slogan for forty years. It’s been changed. Their new slogan is “Be Your Way.”

Why the change? In a recently released statement the management team said the new motto is intended to remind people that “they can and should live how they want anytime. It’s ok not to be perfect...Self-expression is most important; it’s our differences that make us individuals instead of robots.”

Burger King’s Senior Vice President noted in an interview “that ‘Have it Your Way’ focuses only on the purchase...the ability to customize a burger. By contrast he said, ‘Be Your Way’ is about making a connection with a person’s greater life style.” How confusing.

A “life-style” reflects our way of life; our values and attitudes. If we “be our way,” it can be dangerous. It seems to suggest that “anything goes”...there is no wrong unless we agree on right and wrong. Furthermore, no one has any right to interfere with “my way.”

Unfortunately, our ways seldom agree with the ways of God unless we have been born again. Hearts are evil, thoughts are corrupt, desires self-centered and evil ways are the life-style of the non-believer.

“To fear the Lord is to hate evil,” said Solomon. Then, speaking on behalf of God, he said, “I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”

God’s Word and wisdom is very clear: It’s either His way or the evil way. It cannot be both.

Prayer:  Lord, living our way is the easy way - but the wrong way. Give us a deep desire to seek Your way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 8:13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Call To Prudence

God certainly enjoys a sense of humor. Chapter eight begins with a call to “applied wisdom” and the fact that it even “goes looking” for “followers.” Here we find a distinct call from God Himself to the “simple” and “foolish” to stop and gain understanding! It’s like the stop, look and listen warning at railroad crossings: If you are not careful, tragedy may strike!

How very gracious of Him! He knows that there are so many who go through life aimlessly wandering from one mistake to another. It actually disturbs Him so much that He makes an urgent attempt to reach them once again and offer His grace, guidance and willingness to guard everyone from themselves.

“Does not wisdom call out?” His Word does not say, “Go here and there and if you are fortunate, you may run into some good advice every now and then.” That in itself would reveal a god who was not wise. But throughout Scripture, God often appears as the “town crier” attempting to get the attention of people before disaster strikes. It is a common thread that binds the Old and New Testaments together.

Our God is not a silent god sitting on the side-lines of life watching us as though He were uninvolved in our lives. Rather, He is always somewhere listening, watching, observing - but never detached. He is our Creator, and waits anxiously and patiently to be our Redeemer and Savior. But we must respond to His voice.

Those who do not respond have no excuse.

Prayer:  Father, it’s never about You, but always about us, if we refuse to hear Your voice or see Your grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 8:1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Disastrous Ending

Sexual promiscuity, in the eyes of many, is not “all that bad” or “something than can’t be helped” or is “just the way things are.” For some it has been “labeled an addiction” that needs to be “cured.” For others it is not “what I had planned - but just happened.” And far too many have been desensitized to the fact that it is sin and simply wrong, or if it’s “consensual” it’s OK.

Not in God’s sight. It is sin and clearly wrong.

God, speaking through Solomon, graphically set the standards for a sexual life style that He would bless and the consequences for those who disregard His position.

Following God’s wisdom brings justice, safety, deliverance, good, godly friends, pleasure, peace, security, longevity, wellness, a wholesome life and certainly His very best blessings.

On the other hand...The “passing pleasure” of indulging in a life of adulterous living however has its own “rewards.” Solomon writes, “Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng.” It would seem that this would cause many to pause and ponder about sexual misconduct. But it does not stop there: “Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.”

What a powerful “exposé” of the sin of adultery.

Our choice is very clear: we can enjoy intimacy and pleasure that comes from following God’s plan for sex, or a path that ends in the chamber of death.

Prayer:  Lord, as always, the choice is ours. If we want a “God-blest life” we must follow Your commands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 7:26, 27 Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.

Friday, October 24, 2014

There Is A Difference

While some may disagree, there is an obvious difference between “sophistication” and “maturity.” And over the years, the “gap” has grown.

A good example of this is seen in our children’s heroes. Heroes are no longer respected for what they do for others - but how popular they are.  Young girls see their “heroes” singing songs that mock purity, justice and decency and dress seductively. Young boys wear the jerseys of athletes who have been convicted of crimes that are “erased” when their “hero” stands up and says, “I take full responsibility for my behavior.” That does nothing to remove the scars from the victim’s heart. We see society making heroes of the wrong people.

Solomon looked out of his window and saw a group of young men making plans for the evening. One of them stood out from the others. It seemed as though he was having a difficult time with his options. Perhaps he was shifting back and forth from one foot to the other or glancing away from the “gang” as though he was not sure if he wanted to participate in their decision.

“I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment.” He was not ignorant nor did he have a low IQ. He was “inexperienced” in the ways of the world and had no one to guide him. What a tragedy.

How many of us see young men and women who have needs like this “youth” - trying to make a decision that will affect their entire life? “Sophistication” implies worldly knowledge. “Maturity” implies wise choices.

Prayer:  Lord, so many of our youth need guidance. In Your grace, convict those who can, to step up and help. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 7:7 I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What's In Your Eye?

“Lord,” he prayed over me, “take care of Larry. He’s the ‘apple’ of Your eye.”

Although I was semiconscious, the word “apple” echoed in my ear and came back to my mind again and again. What did he mean, “An apple in God’s eye?” Didn’t God have other things to look after that were much more important than an apple?

A few days later the man who prayed this prayer came to visit me. Fortunately, what some thought was a heart attack was an uncomfortable case of indigestion. All was well physically, but, my mind still wondered about the “apple.” So I asked.

“What did you mean when you prayed, ‘He’s the apple of Your eye’? I’m curious about what an apple and I have in common, especially in God’s eye.”

“Well,” he said, clearing his throat, “in Proverbs there is a phrase that says, ‘Guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.’”

After a moment of deep thought, he added, “The apple of your eye actually means ‘the little man in your eye.’ If you gaze or stare intently at someone,” he said, “you can see the reflection of that person in the pupil of your eye. So, it means that whatever someone is staring at must be carefully protected because it is precious in the eye of the beholder.”

“Larry,” he continued, “you are very precious to the Lord and I wanted Him to protect and guard you because it was something I couldn’t do, but He could.”

Prayer:  Lord, all of Your children are equally precious to You. We are so grateful that You have no favorites. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 7:2 Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Now What?

One of the most influential teachers in my life was “Gunny Smith.” I met him one beautiful, sunny fall evening in Newport, RI. He stood as straight and rigid as the flag pole beside him. As new Navy Chaplains, we had no idea about what to expect. But, one look at his crisp uniform, brightly shined shoes, short hair and steady gaze left no doubt in our minds that what we expected didn’t matter. Our lives were in his hands. He knew it. We would soon believe it.

With an obvious confidence in his voice, he said, “Gentlemen, I will soon become the most loved and feared person you will ever meet.” He lived up to that statement. He was responsible to teach us how to live as officers in the Navy and how to survive in combat if necessary. He took his responsibilities seriously.

Solomon took his responsibilities as a father seriously, too. He warned his son to “continually bind God’s laws around his heart, tie them around his neck... so when you walk, they will guide you, when you sleep they will watch over you, and when you awake they will speak to you.” In other words, wherever he was, no matter the circumstances, whether night or day, “His law” would be a lamp and a light always, and, when necessary, correct and discipline him.

“Gunny” and Solomon knew and accepted their responsibilities whole heartedly. They were well aware of the fact that lives depended on their effectiveness to shape the conduct and attitude of the “untrained.” 

Prayer:  We pray, Father, that parents will not fail You in their duty to train “Your” children to obey You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 6:23 For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light,and correction and instruction are the way to life,

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Values Begin At Home

Morris Massey was a professor of communication at the University of Colorado. While there, he became famous for a film entitled, “What You Are is Where You Were When….”

Though the title may be confusing, the message is not. All of us are “value programmed” in our homes by the time we are six. “Value programmed” means that our behaviors or life style comes from our parents or primary teachers. And, these behaviors, or “values” are so deeply ingrained within us that we “live” or “behave them” without even thinking about them. Unless there is an event in our lives that forces us to change, we take them to our grave.

“My son,” said Solomon, once again wanting his son’s undisturbed attention, challenged him to “keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teachings.”

Now, Solomon or the mother of that particular son certainly did not know about Morris Massey or his research. But, they did know the importance, influence and impact that how they lived and what they taught their children was critical for their children’s well-being. So, they choose to make an issue about how they should live. And, furthermore, made no apology for doing so.

Throughout Scripture, fathers and mothers are authorized, with divine authority, to set the boundaries, behaviors and attitudes of their children. Solomon and his wife were determined to do this. They realized their obligation to God and were willing to obey Him.

Prayer:  Father, children are entrusted to parents as Your gifts to them, to lead and train them in Your paths. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 6:20 My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Does God Have An Attitude?

“Attitude” is an interesting word. And it has different meanings to different people. There are times when it can refer to “good” and times when it can refer to “bad.” Normally, an attitude refers to a position that someone has about something or even someone else. But, is it fair to say that our God, who is compassionate and caring, has an attitude?

“There are six things the Lord hates; seven are an abomination to Him.” Well, if we learn what those sins are, is that all we have to worry about? Not really. These sins are not intended to be an exhaustive list. We all make lists that we can add to or remove from - even God. But these sins are very serious to God and build on the list He began earlier. Here, however, he reinforces the Lord’s attitude toward such sins. Read the list very carefully and discover sins that God has an “attitude” toward:

1. Haughty eyes: A proud, condescending glare that comes from a heart full of arrogance and deceit.
2.  A lying tongue: God only honors truth and purity.
3.  Hands that shed innocent blood: Any person unjustly killed, certainly includes the unborn child.
4.  Hearts that “devise” wicked schemes: Using scams to hide the truth from simple and trusting folk.
5.  Feet that rush to evil: Feet follow the plans of the heart and engage the soul in sin.
6.  A false witness: Lies are as natural as breathing.
7.  Strife-spreaders: “Trouble-makers” will be destroyed.

Prayer:  Lord, if we took Your Words as seriously as You do, what beautiful lives we would live! We need You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 6:16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Another Wrong Way

It seems as though there are more wrong turns in life than there are right turns. Many start strong, have high ideals, clear goals and objectives and then, for one reason or another, they drop from sight.    

Normally, it is not from a disaster or one single event. It’s usually a combination of things. Foolish ways to manage a business have already been discussed. But, there is one “habit” that is mentioned again and again in Proverbs as a reason for failure: laziness. In fact, it is identified more than ten times as a reason for failure.

And the word used for “laziness” leaves no room to wiggle away from the diagnosis: sluggard. If there is any living thing that most people want to avoid it is a “mollusk” or “slug.” In fact, the very word “slug” brings to the mind’s eye some “thing” that is lazy, sluggish, undirected and listless. Slugs endanger plant life.

But there is something interesting about its use. In this verse, Solomon compared and contrasted the way of the sluggard to an ant. Now, on one hand, few insects in life can be as annoying and bothersome and troublesome as an ant.

On the other hand, however, ants show vivid vision of a work ethic that is worthy of copying. Ants plan and prioritize, are motivated and industrious, disciplined and diligent, self-controlled and self-reliant. Certainly a sign of “applied wisdom” that begins with God.

God’s wisdom is practical, simple and sensible and can lead to our success. The ant is a great example.

Prayer:  Thank You, Father, for illustrating how the little things in life can make such a big difference. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 6:6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Secret Sins

Unbelievable, really, what some of us believe.

When I was a child we had “bins” in our kitchen that contained flour and sugar. As a child, I had little use for either of them. So I thought.

One of the great memories of my childhood was the tent my Dad erected in the back yard. It was a place where many of the children in our neighborhood would gather to talk and hide, share secrets and snacks.
Sunday afternoon family “get-together” was a regular occurrence.  Once, after a short discussion about the “fun” of smoking, we came to the conclusion that we were old enough to smoke. If it was OK for our parents, it was OK for us. There was only one problem: we had no tobacco, no paper and no matches. No problem.

I went inside for some matches and newspaper while a friend went into our garden and collected some “silk” from several ears of corn. That would serve as our tobacco. So, we carefully rolled the silk into the paper to make cigarettes. Everything was going well.

I decided to be the first to “light-up.” When I tried to inhale, the paper burst into flames and singed my eyebrows. “Teeman” had the solution: “Run in to the kitchen and rub sugar over your eyebrows.” That, he promised, would hide the “evidence” of my “accident.”

Unfortunately, my Dad came into the kitchen - and there I was: head deep inside the sugar bin. And, of course, nothing I said made sense or hid the truth.

“A man’s ways are in full view of the Lord.”

Prayer:  It’s difficult, Lord, to hide anything from anybody, especially You. May we live with nothing to hide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 5:21 For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Learning From Others

“If you’re smart,” he said convincingly, “you can learn from the mistakes of others. You’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself and learn the consequences of being foolish. And,” he continued, “you won’t have to pay the high price some of us have had to pay for our mistakes.”

Perhaps that was the intent of Solomon when he wrote, “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight.” Obviously, this is a very stern warning from an experienced, perhaps a “worldly-wise” father to his son. Pay attention and listen well are very similar in their intent. “Son, listen up, or else you'll be sorry!” Not today - for we rarely experience immediate consequences for our wrongful behavior. But there will be a payday - someday! We can be certain that there is a reward to come or a price to pay for everything we do.

Sexual indiscretion has serious, and very often, life-long consequences. Consequences that impact more than those involved in “sex outside of marriage.” God very clearly and carefully defined the boundaries: a rich sexual relationship is to be confined to and experienced within the bonds of the marriage covenant. No exceptions!     

Society ridicules such a “narrow view” of sex. However, when we look at the tragic consequences of “casual sex,” it is heartbreaking: unwanted children, rampant abortions, broken hearts and homes, disease, children growing up without their “mom” or “dad” and...

Prayer:  How costly, Father, is the price we pay when we disobey Your laws. Give us Your strength, we pray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Fortified Focus

Fifty-eight percent of the foods on the shelves of our grocery stores are “fortified.” Researchers claim that they make a significant contribution to the quality and value of the food we eat. Additionally, many of our foods in cans, in boxes, in the meat and dairy sections or in the fruit and vegetable sections of the store where we shop have been “genetically modified” in one way or another. Biologists claim that it makes the products last longer, tastier and more nutritious.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you!” Guide your eyes and know where you are going warns Solomon. We are to fortify the way we view life with God’s wisdom, power and strength and then be careful where we place our feet. In other words, stay focused using God’s wisdom.

The fool, those who choose not to acknowledge the presence or power of God, is easily distracted. Any image that “springs-up” or appears with no warning is a call to lure the “fool” into a trap. Jesus said that the “eye is the lamp of the body” and will project on the screen of our minds an image that quickly and without warning leads the “fool” astray. The eyes, once seduced, need more and more excitement until, rather than being lured, actually search with determination images that are corrupt, vile and destructive.

“Looking straight ahead” and “fixing His gaze” is what Jesus did on the last phase of His life’s journey. He “resolutely” set out for Jerusalem. Fortified by God.

Prayer:  God, grant us the willingness to plant Your wisdom so deeply in our hearts that we will stay focused. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 4:25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.

Sower Ministries has developed a daily devotional iPhone app called "eSeeds". Click on the link to get the app for your iPhone and have the daily devotional at your fingertips anytime!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Matters Most

It is common to hear a Christian say that the “most important day of my life was the day I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.” It’s also common to hear them say that “it wasn’t long before I began to face the same old problems, was tempted and fell back in to my sinful ways.” How amazing that Solomon has some sound, solid advice for the new Christian as well as Christians of all ages and stages in their walk with the Lord.

“Above all else...” not don’t forget, or remember to, or think about. No! “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

If there is any verse that we as Christians must take to heart it is a verse that warns us to “guard our hearts!”

There is so much more to our hearts than the “sentimental” side that we read of in novels and hear of in songs. The heart is where life begins and ends; it is where habits, values, wills and emotions begin. In our hearts is where we find the answers to “who we are” and “what the difference is between ourselves and others” and “what matters most” and “what we will give our lives for.”  It is from our “hearts” that “the real me” springs forth when we least expect it to and causes us to want to hide from embarrassment when we are finally “uncovered.”

What fills our hearts eventually flows into our lives. This “overflow” is who others believe we are. But, if we fill our hearts with His wisdom, others will see Him.

Prayer:  Father, may we relentlessly guard our hearts against anything that would destroy our walk with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
 

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Many Parts - One Person

Years ago my office was in located in a building that was designed for a physician and his staff. We had many productive discussions about how best to meet the needs of patients who were struggling with the issues of life.

Again and again, Dr. Press would look me in the eye and say, “Larry, don’t look at the problem look at the whole person. If you only look at the problem, you will only see a small part of the person. Every person has many parts and you must be certain that all of the parts are working together properly or the person won’t work properly.” Then, he would give me his “lecture” on the “person as a complex network of systems.” If one of the systems didn’t work properly, he would remind me, the other systems will eventually fail.

“Think of the cardiovascular system,” he would say. “If the heart does not pump blood to the brain, the person will die. It must pump blood to the stomach, or the digestive system will fail. What good is the brain or the stomach if the heart quits?” It certainly made sense.

But, this did not begin with Howard. We read in Proverbs that God’s words of wisdom bring “life…and health to a man’s whole body.” The benefits of “walking” in God’s wisdom can do two things: It can keep us from making foolish decisions that will erode our spiritual, mental, physical and emotional well-being. And, if we are not well, it can provide guidance that will bring us back to a state of “wholeness” through Christ’s healing power.

Prayer:  Lord, the solution for each problem we have is in Your Word. May we accept and follow Your ways! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 4:22 for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Monday, October 13, 2014

It's What's Inside That Counts

“Pay attention to what I say…listen closely to my words and do not let them out of your sight…and keep them within your heart,” wrote Solomon.

Most of us grow up hearing the command: “Pay attention.” It is a normal part of everyone’s vocabulary – especially parents. And there are times when we do “pay attention” and accept the “command” and times when we do not. “Paying attention” is a choice, and we all have memories of when we wish we had chosen to do that when we were asked to “pay attention to….” And, there are times when we did pay “attention” and it made no difference.

“Sight” and “heart,” however, when attached to “pay attention” elevates its significance. We have talked about the word “heart.” It refers to our “emotions and wills,” our “attitudes and values.” In other words, our heart is “us” – our entire being. It is our “inner self” or “the real me.” It’s who I am when no one is watching me.

Planting “wisdom” within our hearts is a very important responsibility. There is an obvious cycle that flows from the head to the heart and from the heart to the hand. So, in essence, we can actually “see” what comes from our hearts and the hearts of others. We may never see anyone’s “heart,” but we can certainly “see” what they have “planted” in their hearts.
 
The same is true of us. Others who watch us – our families and friends, our associates at work and anyone anywhere knows what’s “in” there by what we do. Out of the depth of the hearts come “sights and sounds.”

Prayer:  Lord, we can never fool You, and we only fool others briefly. We only fool ourselves. Forgive our folly. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 4:20 My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Acknowledge, Accept, Apply

“Michael, you don’t have to yell. I’m listening to what you are saying,” I said to my eldest son after we had a slight disagreement.

“I know, Dad,” he replied with clenched fists and a determined look in his eyes. “But I want you to hear me not only listen to me.” It was hard to believe, but I was “busted” by a five-year-old child. It is easy to listen but not hear.

Solomon wanted to be certain that his sons were not only listening, but were going to do more that listen to what he had to say. He wanted them to accept the wisdom he had to offer them, plant it deep in their hearts, and then live their lives around what he knew would bring success to them in their lives. If he was teaching a class in college, it might be called “The Value of Applying God’s Wisdom.”

It’s one thing to have God’s wisdom in our heads – but quite another thing to drive it deep into our hearts. When we have His wisdom in our hearts it will guide our lives each day. Solomon realized what a huge difference God’s wisdom would make in the lives of his sons because of the difference it made in his life. In fact he listed the benefits of God’s wisdom: they would travel in safety, they would not trip and fall into the deceits of what the world offered, they would sleep securely, they would have no fear of being overwhelmed with disaster and, most importantly, their confidence to face the issues of life would come from the Lord! What else is there?

Prayer: Father, may we realize how much we lose by refusing Your wisdom. Give us accepting, willing hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 4:10 Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Home Schooling

Early childhood education begins at home. From the very first moment a child opens its eyes, hears a noise from any source, experiences warmth or cold or feels the pangs of hunger, the opportunity to teach and learn is present and profound.

Though an infant does not know the difference between a Bible or catalog, the object will make an impression which will eventually be interpreted. And if there are more catalogs than Bibles, the child will one day understand the priorities of the parents.

Homes have walls and floors, shelves and ceilings. But what parents place on the walls or hang from the ceilings or place on the shelves is a choice. In our home, everywhere we looked were objects that had a reference to God.

I still remember my mother explaining or interpreting the meaning of pictures or using an old globe to tell a story about missionaries and what they did for Jesus. It was an important part of our family life. And it remains a very important part of my life today.

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding…When I was a boy in my father’s house, and an only child of my mother…he taught me: keep my commands, get wisdom and understanding!”  How precious!

“My son, I’m passing my wisdom to you that came from my father…when I was young and tender.” God’s wisdom was passed from grandfather to father to child. We are all passing on what is of value to us, too.

Prayer:  Father, we each leave a legacy to everyone we meet. May it bring honor and glory to Your name! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 4:3 For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Confidence Guaranteed!

Each time I walk through a book store I make it a point to visit the “self-help” section. It never ceases to amaze me at the large amount of space this particular category of books occupy. Over 1,500,000 different titles are available in the United States and the amount of money spent on them exceeded $13,900,000.00.

In 1859 Samuel Smiles published a book entitled, Self-help, and an industry designed to provide self-help, self-improvement, problem solving and confidence building was born. But, this was not the beginning of this movement. The Egyptians receive some credit for this area of knowledge as well as The Book of Proverbs.

However, there’s one very important difference between Proverbs and the other sources available for hope and help: The Book of Proverbs comes with a guarantee from God. The others do not, even cannot, guarantee anything. Only a guarantee that comes from God can be trusted.

“For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” Confidence does not come from a formula or a mental exercise, nor a plan or a program. It comes from the only One who can empower us to become and do things that are beyond our imagination. For whatever God wants us to do,

He will, through His power, enable us to do it.

Confidence does not come from within - it comes from God. When we apply His “discernment and sound judgment,” His presence and power is available for us.

Prayer:  Lord, may we seek the wisdom of Your Word and reject the foolishness of those who live in darkness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 3:26 for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Importance of Wisdom

Imagine seeds with no soil. Or fish without water. A body with no bones. The sun with no orbit. Lungs without oxygen.

“What insanity!” would be a natural response. Yet, if we have them around, they fall into place naturally: Soil before seeds, water before fish, bones to support a body, a path for the sun to follow and oxygen to fill lungs. They reflect planning and planning is a result of wisdom.

The story of creation in Scripture reflects wisdom, understanding and knowledge. The universe unveils a very carefully designed plan that is controlled, orderly, predictable and dependable. Nothing is random. Yes, we have “unexpected events” but they pass and life continues. It may be different from what it once was, but the “rules” that govern it are still in place and always will be.

Everywhere we look we see God’s wisdom. And, when you think of it, wisdom existed before creation. This wisdom in actually “something God is!” It is the wisdom of God that guided creation. It is the wisdom of God that actively “keeps things together.” It is the same wisdom that originates in God that will guide us and guard us and give us peace in life if we agree to live by His rules.

It is almost inconceivable to believe that the One who created all things, is in all things and sustains all things would even consider sharing His wisdom with us!

Although His wisdom is available, it is conditional. If we want it, we must live an obedient, trusting life. Then, He will open the door to His wisdom and bless us.

Prayer:  Lord, how marvelous are Your ways. Open our hearts to see “what can be” if we trust in Your wisdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 3:13-20 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place;

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Value Of Wisdom

Can we put a price on wisdom?
We do that with property and stocks, technology and education. It seems that everything in our world has some value to someone. Some things are more valuable than other things. And almost everything is worth something to someone.

Solomon had just about everything anyone could ask for. Perhaps, he was simply thinking about “things” one day and gave some great advice: “You know what? Get wisdom. Why? Because wisdom is more profitable than silver, yields better returns than gold, more precious than rubies, nothing compares to it, it leads to a long life and riches and honor and a peaceful life with pleasant paths. Oh, those who embrace wisdom will be blessed.”

What a return on an investment! When we invest in the things of this world we have no assurance that we will ever see the value grow. Often, the opposite happens. And, if our investments exceed our expectations, what will we gain in the end? Will it include any of the benefits or gifts that Solomon talks about? Or who can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that any of the “things” the world has to offer will bring any happiness?

Years ago I had a friend who advised me: “Larry, you always know how wise a man is by whose advice he listens to and follows.” I discovered he was and is right.

God, through Solomon, gave us “great advice.” Over the years it has proven to be accurate, trustworthy and reliable. To follow it has endless rewards!

Prayer: Lord, there is no better investment, if we want eternal returns, than to pursue Your wisdom and ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 3:14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Joy Of Wisdom

“I do not know where to begin or what to say,” he confessed with a face that was “covered” with confusion.
“Well, start any place and we’ll see if we can unwind things. God promised that He would guide us when we asked for His directions,” I replied.

“Some people look at me and ask if I’ve just received a fatal diagnosis. Others want to know if my wife and children just abandoned me. Some want to know if I’m on my way to jail. It’s humiliating. Nothing’s really wrong – but people think my life is a disaster,” he continued.

Tom is like many others we meet every day. Forlorn looks, drooped shoulders, eyes looking for light, ears listening for something that will change things. What is the solution to their problems?

God’s wisdom. Though it may not be easy to follow, it’s simple to understand. Though it creates difficult choices, it leads to a blest, happy and joyful life. Solomon, under God’s guidance, wrote, “Blessed,” or happy, “is the man who finds wisdom.”

But, what do we need to “get it?” We “get it” when we walk in a right relationship with God. Being “right” with God is an essential, basic ingredient in the life of the Christian. Our God is a righteous God and we can expect no blessings, happiness, joy or peace until we make things “right” with Him!

And we must thank Him for that! If we have a spike in our temperature we know we have a problem. When we lose the joy of our salvation, God is at work!

Prayer:  Thank You, Lord, for loving us so much, that You do everything You can to keep us close beside You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 3:13 Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Oh, Oh, Here Comes My Dad!"

It was a beautiful fall evening in Lorain, Ohio. My friends and I were sitting on the steps of The Garfield Elementary School when I looked up the street and saw the outline of a man against the setting sun. There was no doubt it was my Dad. He had a very distinct limp that set him apart from others.

So, when I saw the limp, I went limp. With great fear I uttered, “Oh, Oh. Here comes my Dad.” Not that I expected him to join the “group” and enjoy the evening with us. I feared his arrival because I was disobedient.
 
“Be home before dark, or else.” He never finished the “or else.” The “else” was always consistent with what I had done or not done. And, it was always something that would serve my best interests. The one I most remember was having to read or practice the piano before going to be with my friends after school. On occasion, it took several hours of practice. And, on occasion, there was the “rod.”

But he was never unfair. Never inconsiderate. Never a disciplinarian without a reason for his “chastisement.” What he did was done for my sake: to protect me from harming myself or others. How Fatherly like! His goal? My best!

So it is with God. Whenever we put our wants ahead of His needs, hopefully, He will intervene and place us on the correct path.  As His children, we can expect Him to use various means to correct us: financial loss because of greed or even suffering to draw us back to His side to make us plead for His mercy and grace and healing.

Prayer:  Give us a willing spirit, Father, to accept Your discipline when we walk in paths that would harm us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke,