Sunday, November 30, 2014

Now or Later or Both?

It’s really rather plain: the “righteous” will receive rewards while living. It’s also plain that the sinner and the wicked will receive “much more repayment” for their life style.

While not stated, it is obvious that someone will pass judgment on both, and both will be compensated for what they have done or not done and how they have lived. And the “judge” will “compensate” both of them.

While in court recently, I was careful to watch the proceedings and the actions of the judge. To some he said, “Your behavior has surprised me and I’m going to reduce your sentence as a reward.” To others he said, “You have broken the law once again. Therefore, your parole is revoked and you are going back to prison.”

Judges have power to sanction those who are under their control or jurisdiction. A sanction can be a reward for exceeding expectations or requirements. Or a sanction may be given as punishment for disobeying or breaking the law or regulations.

Some look at the Proverbs as being too simplistic or too good to be true. For example, “If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner.”

Take note of “on earth.” This is a bold statement that God is active - here and now - in rewarding or punishing - everyone - righteous or wicked. Also, these sanctions are both positive and negative. Finally, rewards from God will be handled judiciously - today and in the future!

Prayer:  Father, help us to realize that You, our Judge, are watching us constantly. May our lives please You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:31 If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Sure Sign Of Wisdom

“Dr. Guido,” she said rather timidly, “how do you see yourself? All of the teachers we have are different. But tell us, what makes you different from all of the others?”

My first thought was to explain how my world view differed from most other professors because of my faith. That would have been a safe, standard answer. But I wanted to say something that made the way I taught different from other professors. As I reflected on the importance of her question, I realized how critical my answer would be.

After a few moments God brought a word to my mind that I had never associated with teaching before. I looked at the young lady and said, “I see my role as being similar  to a midwife. I believe that it is my responsibility to bring to your life, and the lives of others, what God has planted or will plant within you. My role is to work with God to bring what He plants in your heart and head to life and to prepare you for the life He has for you.”

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives,” wrote Solomon. What we do in our relationships with others is a matter of life and death. We are responsible, with the opportunities and guidance that God gives us, to bring others into a saving relationship with Him. We are to use whatever influence or position we have to bring His message of “life” to others.

A “tree of life” will grow in the life of one who has been redeemed by Christ. And that “tree” will also bear fruit and bring “the tree of life” to others by its fruit.

Prayer:  Lord, we plant “seeds” continually by what we do and where we go. May we bring forth “good fruit.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.

Friday, November 28, 2014

If And When

The Bible was not written to teach psychology. But, the Bible is psychologically sound and correct.
Consider Proverbs 12:25: “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” The writer does not profess to be a diagnostician but he certainly is insightful.

Recently a study on “anxiety disorders” concluded that 40 million Americans, or 18.1% of our population, are  plagued with fears that, from time to time, trouble them. It is also a known fact that anxiety can lead to depression.

From wisdom that comes from God, Solomon made the same “diagnosis.” Notice that he said, “Anxiety weighs down the heart.” The words “weigh down” imply a state of depression. Our author, with God’s guidance, described people whose anxiety is coupled with fear or worry - which can lead to depression.

All of us, at one time or another, have had those moments when we feared that something horrible was about to overtake or destroy us. When those feelings came to the “surface” it was natural to feel “weighted down” or depressed. It is normal to look for encouragement and support when that happens. How tragic if no one was there to help us or share a “kind word to cheer us up.”

Notice, however, that Solomon was not talking to a behavioral health specialist. He was talking to people like us who have the ability to recognize the lonely, the sad, the worried, the anxious and depressed. Often people only need a “word” of grace, comfort, encouragement or...simply a smile to bring them hope, health and happiness.

Prayer:  We thank You, Father, for giving us Your love to share with others. May we be alert to those in need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Right Way - Wrong Way

“I may not always be right,” he said as though he believed it, “but I’m never wrong. Never!”

We sat there wondering if he knew what he was saying, trying to convince himself of such insanity, or wanting to create fear in our  hearts about his power. It really did not matter. All of us, including him, realized the folly of his speech.

However, there are many who believe as he believed: they are incapable of being wrong. They refuse to accept the counsel of anyone and after making a decision become even more resolute and stubborn. Solomon had something to say to people who held that opinion of themselves: “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”

Ultimately and finally, those who have that attitude about themselves are on a path to self-destruction. When looked at from a biblical point of view, they refuse to accept the role of sin in their lives, their need for a Savior or the reality of God’s judgment that awaits them. Their world view is completely distorted.

The wise, however, “listen to advice.” Even though they may be embarrassed or disappointed when someone who loves them corrects them or points out a “flaw,” they know that it is for their own good. Those who listen to the advice or counsel of someone with spiritual insight and wisdom, will be rewarded.  Listening to and accepting the advice of our “elders in Christ” is the “wise” thing to do before making any decision.

Prayer:  Lord, break the hardness of our hearts when we  think we “know it all.” Lead us to those who are wise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:15 The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"You Need To Change Her Name!"

“Larry,” says Bruce every time he sees me with my dog, “you need to change her name to ‘Lucky.’ I can’t  imagine anyone who would take better care of that dog than you. It’s plain to me she’s not Bella. She’s ‘Lucky’ - really lucky she found you.” Here’s what happened...

One dark, stormy, cold, foggy night I opened the door to our carport. Sensing something at my foot, I looked down. There, looking up at me, was a small dog wagging her tail and wiggling all over as if to say, “I’m home!”

For weeks Mary and I searched for her owners but were unsuccessful. Then, we tried to find her another home. That didn’t work either. Every time we gave her away, she eventually came back. So, we decided to keep her and named her “Bella,” which means “beautiful.”

When reading through Proverbs several months ago, I noticed a verse that had never registered in my mind: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.” Please understand that I am not claiming to be righteous, nor elevating animals to the level of humans. But notice this:

A distinct contrast is made by the author between a person who is righteous and one who is not: the one who is righteous has a gentleness that the wicked do not have. And, if one is truly righteous, it becomes obvious: if we as believers willingly give our hearts completely to God, He will remove every trace of “cruelty.” He will control us and bless us and enable us to demonstrate how much we value every gift He gives us - even animals. We expose who we truly are by the way we care for each gift God gives us.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, implant within us a gentle, gracious and loving heart. May we respect all of Your gifts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:10 The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Character Counts

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

That little phrase has been used by many parents and teachers to comfort children who have been harassed. Words used to describe another person are important because they are the foundation for one’s reputation. And, like it or not,  everyone has  a reputation.

Age is almost irrelevant when we talk about another person. Opinions are formed, decisions made and often  strengths or limitations are placed on another individual. Never mind “who said what,” an opinion is formed. Even first impressions or a few words shared about another person can last a life time. What is said and heard about someone can build them up or tear them down.

If the words are praiseworthy, they can bring honor to that person. If they are mean spirited, they may result  in a life of torment to the one defamed. Words stick and sometimes shatter hopes and dreams. What we do and what others say about what we do is important.

“A person is praised because of their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised,” wrote Solomon.
This “warning” reminds us that we are responsible for what others come to believe about us. Prudence describes the moral choices we make and are observed by others. If our choices are “honorable” we will be praised. Otherwise, our reputation for having a “warped mind,” or being a person “with a crooked heart” will come to light.

What a challenge this presents to Christians.

Prayer:  Lord, You observe us and others do the same. May our lives always bring honor to Your Name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:8 A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Choosing A Wife

“Clothes make the man!” at one time was a popular saying. Solomon, however, would strongly disagree. In fact, he would say that “A worthy woman enhances her husband’s reputation and well-being and status in the community.” He does not imply, even slightly, that a wife “exists” only to “serve” a husband but to do him “good.”

This “worthy woman” is more thoroughly described in Proverbs 31, and it is no accident that in the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Ruth follows the book of Proverbs. This wife of “noble character” stands as a “model wife” for the young man who one day will become a husband. A wife of “noble character” is the “crown” of her husband because she brings him esteem, honor and worth in his community.

It stands in direct contrast to a wife who “shames her husband.” The wife who “shames” her husband lowers his status and brings shame on him with her “lack of good judgment.” Her influence on his reputation is like “decay in his bones” - the “rotting” away of his life because he is never able to “rise above her reputation” or influence in the community where they live. No matter how successful he may be, she “brings him down” because he can never rise above her reputation.

When we look deeply into the importance of this verse, we discover the importance of a “noble wife.” We are warned about the seriousness and importance of choosing a partner for life. A partner is not to be chosen because of beauty or glamour or wealth. Godliness and character must come first. Then, other things will follow.

Prayer:  Thank You, Father, for this warning and the truth it contains. Thank You, also, that change is possible. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:4 A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

God's Favorites

It’s true. God does have favorites!

It’s also true that He offers all of us the opportunity to become “one” of His favorites. And, it’s not that difficult, either. “Good people,” wrote Solomon, “obtain favor from the Lord.” It’s rather obvious that those who want “His favor,” as well as those who receive “His favor” are those who are “good people.”

Since most of us have our own definition of “good,” it is important to understand God’s definition of “good.” If we know His definition of “good” we then have a choice: we can either meet His requirements and receive “His favor” or decide that “His favor” is not worth the effort.

Throughout the Old Testament “good people” are the ones who are motivated by a Godly-love to do Godly-things. They willingly set their own needs and desires to the side while they serve the needs of others. Doing “God-things” is the driving force in their lives. The “good” are those who are able and willing, when they see someone in need, to do something about it - even if it causes a sacrifice. The “good” are those who work with God to bring honor to His name when one of His children is being treated unfairly or unjustly. The “good” are those who follow the example of Jesus: His life was about doing “good.” The “good” have God’s “seal of approval” on their lives.

“Those who devise wicked schemes” are the opposites of the “good people.” Their lives are about self, not sacrifice; their “schemes” are unfair, unjust, unholy; they lack decency, honesty, integrity or kindness. God’s wrath awaits them.

Prayer:  Lord, convict me, challenge me, discipline me and burden me until I become one of Your “good people.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:2 Good people obtain favor from the Lord, but he condemns those who devise wicked schemes.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Knowledge And Discipline

It was obvious to Solomon.

People who want wisdom are willing to pay the price to get it - because they “love” it. There is even a willingness to be disciplined, if necessary, to obtain wisdom.

People who “hate correction” or discipline, on the other hand, are considered “stupid.”

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid,” wrote Solomon. There is a price to be paid for everything: even knowledge. In this verse, the author uses two interesting words to describe the attitude of one who wants “knowledge” or one who is content to be “stupid” - love and hate.
Here, however, they are not connected to an emotional state. They focus on the priorities of an individual. If a person wants knowledge, it must be a libeling priority. If a person wants to be stupid, the only requirement is to refuse to learn or be corrected.

Knowledge and wisdom have very similar meanings in the Bible. In fact, they are almost synonymous, are life-giving, life-sustaining, life-enhancing and require one thing in common: the person who wants them, must at all costs, embrace “discipline.” To “get” one, wisdom, we must endure the other, discipline.

Interestingly, the word stupid is found five times in the Old Testament. It is used to portray a dense, dumb animal as well as a man who is unkind and runs roughshod over people.

To refuse discipline, then, lowers the status of a person. To accept it opens the door to successful living.

Prayer:  How blest we are, Father, for the opportunities You give us to achieve great things. Help us to persevere. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Much More And Then

“How much more...” is a familiar phrase. As in “How much more do you want from me...” or “How much more of this do you think I can take...” or “How much more is there in life...” or “How much more can be done...”  And the list could go on and on.

Those three words appear four times in  the Book of Proverbs and the words, “How much less” appears twice. There are several lines of thought about their meaning: Some think they are too good to be true; some think they are overly simplistic; some think their promises are vastly overstated while others think they apply to the spiritual realm alone and are completely “future oriented.”

“If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner,” writes Solomon. Is there a simple message in these few words that we may try to complicate for the sake of discussion? Perhaps.

There is a popular opinion among many that some sins are not bad, or they can sin and “get away with it.” But, that opinion is not supported by Scripture. Besides, when we want to know what sin is, where it comes from and what to do about it, we do not go to psychologists or philosophers: We go to God’s Word.

As far as riches and righteousness, sin and unholy living go, Solomon has some advice: “The righteous do receive their due on earth; how much more the ungodly!”  Jesus said: “What a man sows he will reap.”

God will reward each of us for the way we live - now  and in the life to come.

Prayer:  May I focus my life, Lord, on living a  righteous life: a life that is worthy of Your unending blessings! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:31 If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Prosperity Plus

Sin is sin.

There’s no way around it. Some ridicule those who fear it. Some try to hide it. Some look forward to it. Some suffer horrible consequences because of it. Some do their best to avoid it. Some can’t get enough of it.

Some have ways of classifying sins. One sin, to some, may be worse than another sin. If you do it, it’s sin - but if I do it - well, it’s a mistake or something that could not be avoided. “God was testing me, and it was more than even the best Christian could resist. It got to me!”

Many consider the rich, wealthy or prosperous to be devious and dishonest, sinister and sinful, unable to be honest and helpful because they are jealous. They cannot believe that what the rich have came from clean living, hard work, honoring God and serving others. However, their position cannot be supported by Scripture.

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy or rich. Those “who trust in their riches will fail, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”

Many who have riches are also very righteous. They recognize that what they have comes from God, and in turn, honor Him from the abundance of His gifts and their hearts. What we do with what we have proves our love.

The Bible clearly states that any problems of the rich do not come from their riches, but from the way they relate to worldly wealth. Thank God for their wealth if they use it to honor and glorify Him. They can do for Him what many of us would enjoy doing if we could.

Prayer:  Father, whatever we have are gifts of Your love and grace. What I do with them proves my love for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:28 Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Where Does It All End?

“God’s not finished with me yet!” Many of us use those words as an excuse every time we made a mess of things. While I’m not sure it ever worked for that reason,  it was comforting until reality set in. There are days when God seems to be shaking us by the nape of our necks to get our attention. There are other days when His grace grants one blessing after another. It cannot be denied, however, that we are all a “work in progress” as long as we are alive. The question we must ask ourselves is: What is progress, and how will we know when God is finished with us?

If the “desire of the righteous ends with only good” what happens if we falter, fail or fall? Are we doomed? Is righteousness ever attainable in this life? Or, is it something we are to struggle with and strive for?

In this instance, “desire” is the outcome of those who have righteousness as a goal. It is what His children focus their hearts, minds and ambitions on. It is not something that happens as a byproduct of life. Righteous living is a core value at the center of all that believers do. In fact, unrighteousness must be avoided at all costs!

“But the hope of the wicked end only in wrath.” Now, that should get everyone’s attention. Wrath, God’s wrath, is His overflowing anger against the unrighteous. God’s wrath can be compared to a fire that is slowly growing and at a moment in time will be all consuming.

This verse should remind us that the unrighteous  face God’s impending wrath. Now is the day to repent.

Prayer:  May we understand, Father, that our desires determine our destiny. May righteousness rule our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

Even before getting out of bed this morning, I had to make a decision: Would I hit the “snooze” button and rest a little longer or would I turn off the alarm and start my day? It is not possible to go for any length of time without having to make a decision. And although all of us are making decisions most of the time, we rarely take time to think about our “decision making process.”

Every decision we make affects our lives one way or another. Some decisions last a life time and can bring joy and satisfaction or sorrow and guilt. Some can be changed immediately if we see things going in the wrong direction. Others engulf us and seem to squeeze the life out of us. Often we want to blame others for our decisions, but ultimately, we are accountable for every one.

Solomon provided us with excellent decision making advice: “For lack of guidance a nation falls; but victory is won through many advisors.” What applies to a nation also applies to an individual. Gathering information from a variety of reliable people will provide guidance, insight and direction and lead to the best decision.

In this verse, an “uncommon” word is used: guidance. It refers to the “tackle” or the “ropes” that enable a ship to stay on course. People are much like ships: where there is no guidance even the shortest journey can be disastrous. Learning the “ropes” that come from God’s wisdom will lead us through the charted course that God has laid out for us before the foundation of the world.

No wonder He is called the Wonderful Counselor!

Prayer:  Father, may we always seek Your guidance for each decision we make in life. May we always look to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:14 For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's All Up To God

“God’s gonna get you for that!”

There was little doubt in Sally’s mind about God’s justice. Any time anyone said any thing she didn’t want to hear, out would come her famous “threat.”  With red hair, pointed finger and a strong voice, she would continue, “You just wait and see. Maybe not before you fall asleep. But, I’d keep one eye open while I slept tonight if I were you! I know He’s coming after you for that! What you said was wrong.”

Everyone on campus loved Sally. Her enthusiasm for life, her happy smile, the twinkle in her eye.  Every time she uttered those words, the receiver could not help but look around for a truck or bolt of lightning. Or both. She was very convincing.

Justice belongs to God. He is righteous. He is fair. He has no favorites. He looks at things differently than we do: as He planned them to be. He will not allow others to harm His beloved children. His Son died for them.

“The righteous person is rescued from trouble,” said Solomon, “and it falls on the wicked instead.” He knew from personal experience that when the righteous are the objects of schemes to hurt them, God will intervene at the right time. Our God will never allow any injustice to go by without becoming personally involved. Even though we do not know what His justice will bring or when it will come, all of life is in His hands. He will right each wrong.

Isaiah summed it up this way: “For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.”

Prayer:  Help us, Father, to trust in Your justice. We are human and spiteful. You are fair and will do what is right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:8 The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Is It The End Or The Beginning?

“I’m bored with it all!”

Power and prestige, influence and insight, victory and valor seemed worthless to Winston Churchill as he was about to die. His final words expressed an emptiness as he slipped into a coma nine days before he would pass away. What a  tragic outlook for a man who did much to shape the course of history as he was about to face God.

As he was struggling to breathe, a colleague took the hand of Michael Faraday, the brilliant chemical scientist and asked, “What will be your occupation in heaven?” He replied, “I shall be with Christ and that is enough!” 

Two great men who lived two great lives. Yet, when it came to facing death, one looked backward in despair, the other forward in faith and with hope. What a startling difference God makes in everyone’s life.

“Hopes placed in mortals dies with them; all the promise of their power comes to naught.” Solomon does us a great service with these words. He very pointedly states the difference between a life lived for God and a life lived for any other reason or purpose: One who does not live for God or know Him personally will eventually see all of his hopes and dreams die. Living for this life alone or living a life that focuses on oneself, ends with a sense of hopelessness or fear of insignificance. Dreams end, but life continues in the depths of death and darkness.

What a blessed hope we may have if we choose to accept the love and grace and mercy of God. Hope can be ours because of Christ. Choose Christ, find life, have hope.

Prayer:  How great is Your love, Lord. As unworthy as we are, we have forgiveness of our sins through Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:7 Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Level Pathways

Recently, I received two fall catalogs from sporting goods companies. Both featured fall items that anyone who loves the outdoors would be pleased to own. Both had a focus on hiking and the wilderness. The clothes were so attractive that they seemed appropriate enough to wear to a wedding reception.

But the shoes were in a class by themselves. They all had a rugged appearance with built in safety features: steel shanks for stability, soles with rock-biting “teeth” to provide non-skid traction, comfortable inserts to prevent fatigue and fabric laces that would last for years.

Every picture that featured the shoes “in action” had a person walking up a steep incline with rocks, shrubs and stones that made the journey difficult. Some of the models had sticks in their hands to provide balance or to protect them from snakes or other animals. All appeared ready for “anything” with canteens of water and first aid kits. Whatever came their way would be subdued! They were able to conquer anything at any time. They were prepared for their journey through the wilderness.

But no matter how wisely they prepared for their journey through the wilderness, it did not prepare them for the journey through life. The journey through life is not about shoes or clothing: it is about walking in His righteousness. The only “safe-passage” is with Christ. “The righteousness of the blameless makes their path  straight, but the wicked are brought down by their deeds.”

God wants His best for us. But it comes with limitations.

Prayer:  Lord, may we stay close to You as we journey through life, knowing that we will be safe if we live right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:5 The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Riches and Righteouness

“I need to come talk with you,” he said nervously. “I have everything anyone could ask for, but I’m miserable. I think you are the only hope I have. As soon as I get back from this trip I’m taking, I’ll be in to see you.”

“Well,” I said, “I don’t have any answers for your problems, but I believe strongly that God does. And if you seek Him sincerely and honestly, He’ll give you the right answer for any problem. We have His Word on that.”

The trip is over, He returned safely and had a “good time,” but has found no time to look for God’s answers to his miserable condition. Perhaps the trip was so enjoyable that it has relieved him, temporarily, of his distress. It may also have been a “gentle” forewarning from God that, when his misery returns, he will not escape His wrath.

God does everything He can to bring people to a place while they still have time to make things “right” with Him. Our God is not only gracious, He is patient and inviting. But, as Solomon wrote, “Wealth is worthless in the day of God’s wrath.”

When that “day of wrath” arrives, no amount of this world’s wealth will make any difference. In support of this David wrote a warning to the wealthy who have no time for God: “The foolish and the senseless also perish. People, despite their wealth, do not endure.”

Righteousness and right living has its own rewards. It is a life with God’s presence, power and protection now, and a life with Him in eternity forever. He promised us that He will deliver us from destruction and death.

Prayer:  Thank You, Father, for Your eternal Word, the gift of eternal life with You and a hope that comes with it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

One False Turn...

It was a new car with a new navigation system and we were living near the top of a mountain. We were told that our home was well over 5,000 feet above sea level. To reach our front door was a major driving project. The road twisted and turned and included several “switch backs” -  instant “U” turns. At times it seemed as though the turns were much tighter than a paper clip.

As we sat and programmed our “nav system” before beginning our journey, our hearts beat with excitement. It was a new experiment and we were anxious to learn how it worked. After many attempts and several minutes a voice “came from the clouds” and said: “Proceed to the nearest major highway.” It was almost frightening.

As we started down the mountain, the little arrow that was intended to point us in the direction we were to travel started to go around in circles. It was spinning as though it could not determine where we were to go. This was certainly not a “confidence builder.” But we started down the mountain and when we arrived at the highway that same voice said, “Turn right and proceed 7.4 miles to Highway 16.” We did, it was correct and our faith grew.

Trust and confidence are the most critical factors when looking for directions - especially directions for life. Solomon assured us that “the integrity of the upright guides them.” Integrity, then, is our compass.

Consider Joseph: He was a man of great integrity and suffered greatly for his faith. Yet, in the end he was able to say: “God meant it for good! Look at these results!”

Prayer:  Guide us and guard us, Lord, as we seek Your way. Fill us with Your Spirit who will protect us from evil. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Disgrace Or Wisdom: Our choice

The word “pride” seems to be closely connected to those who are arrogant or who have an unreasonably elevated opinion or value of themselves. It presents a picture in our minds of one who looks down on others with an attitude of superiority or condescension. Often, we look at those who we consider “full of pride” as also being “full of themselves and their abilities.” They cannot see God as the giver of each and every gift they have. In Hebrew, it comes from a word meaning “to boil” and when water boils, we know it cannot be contained without problems.

A person of “humility” is one who is seen as being submissive to authority, compliant and willing to listen, observe and learn. A humble person does not attempt to keep others from being recognized or rewarded for what they have accomplished. Their modesty gives God the credit for what He has done through them. And they also understand that all things come from God and, in all reality, belong to Him.

Is it any wonder, then, that Solomon says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but with humility comes wisdom.” If we see ourselves as being above and beyond others, as possessing more ability and knowledge than others, more of anything and everything than others, where will we find room for growth and what is our need for wisdom - especially God’s wisdom. We “have it all together.” No wonder the proud end up in disgrace.

But the humble? They are open, honest, able and willing to recognize their need for God and His wisdom.

Prayer:  Help us, Father, to realize our limitations and failures and to depend on You to fill our need for wisdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Double Standards

There is a theme throughout the Old Testament that needs constant attention: God will not tolerate business practices that are dishonest, false or even questionable. It has its roots in the Law, is emphasized by the prophets and has a place of prominence in Wisdom Literature.

In Biblical times the phrase “dishonest scales” was used and meant “scales of deceit.” Also used was the phrase “a just weight” or “an accurate” or “perfect stone.” Merchants used “stones” as measures in place of coins and conducted their businesses by using  balances and weighted stones. It was common knowledge that merchants had two sets of stones: one for selling and one for purchasing goods. When purchasing products for selling, they would use the heavier stone to gain an advantage over the person who was selling them goods to be resold. When selling their product, they would use the lighter stone, which resulted in the customer getting much less than what was paid for. Each stone was labeled so the merchant knew he had the advantage. 

This type of business was an “abomination to the Lord,” was unacceptable to Him and one He would not tolerate. On the other hand, “an accurate weight” finds “favor with Him.”

This comes as no surprise to His faithful. God finds favor in those whose character is consistent with His ways and His Word and live in agreement with  His will.

The lives of those who profess to be His followers are under His surveillance. He will honor their faithfulness!
 
Prayer:  Convict us, Lord, when we are less than honest in any of our ways. May we live lives that honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:1 The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Focusing On The Future

“The way of the Lord” is a phrase that appears quite frequently in the Bible - most often in the Old Testament. Each time it appears, it may be viewed as a “path” that God has laid out for His followers or a path that winds through history as God deals with an individual, a nation or with all of mankind.

Solomon wrote that “The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless, but is a ruin of those who do evil.” It is important for us to understand that our “God is a refuge” for whoever is blameless - or those who walk in His way! With great trust we can accept Him and believe that only in Him, with Him and through Him  can we find a place of refuge, now and throughout eternity.

God deals with each of us individually and as nations united by a common government. So, those who walk in His righteousness will always find a place of refuge in His grace and mercy because of His love. Evil and evil ones may surround and govern us, but as long as we remain faithful to Him, He will remain faithful to us. We have His Word and His record of faithfulness that His peace, security and comfort will always be our refuge.

The key to the promise of this verse is strictly an if/then. If we walk in the way of the Lord and have as our primary goal in life to be blameless or righteous, we can then be confident that He is and will be our refuge. We can count on Him at all times, under any condition for His peace and protection. However, if our ways are evil, we are warned well in advance that His judgment awaits us. 

Prayer:  Father, Your Word is clear: we can only expect You to be our refuge if we are faithful. Give us strength! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 10:29 The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless, but it is the ruin of those who do evil.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

We Have Our Limits

Solomon makes no apology when he writes: “The blessing of the Lord, it makes one rich.” That is the literal translation of the verse: “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth.” And when he wrote that powerful statement, he made it abundantly clear that our resources - no matter how abundant they may be - are “limited” by God. It is the Lord who is faithful and who has the final word on riches and who gets them and when they will get them.

No matter how hard we try, how many hours we work, what we do or the skills we possess, we - in and of ourselves - cannot produce wealth. All the wealth in the world cannot make one “rich.” If God does not add His blessing to whatever we have we are, in His sight, poor. On the other hand, one may have none of this world’s goods, yet be rich. How can this be? Rich but not rich? Poor and yet rich? It certainly seems to be contradictory.

But it isn’t.  Rich is in the eye of the beholder.

Throughout his Proverbs, Solomon warns us that if we get the “riches” of this world through methods that are dishonest or deceitful, unfair and unjust, many problems will come with them. These problems may range from psychological to physical, legal to financial, personal to interpersonal or relationship issues. Godly living, God-honoring work and God-centered practices bring  joy and satisfaction, peace and true prosperity with them to the one who lives for the Lord.

God’s riches come with His blessings. They are free of fear and the consequences that come with disobedience.

Prayer:  Father, may all that we do, bring blessings honor and glory to Your name. May we seek Your “riches.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 10:22 The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Heart Health

“If it works, don’t fix it!”

Most of the time our heart works well and we rarely pause to think about it. Each day our hearts beat about 100,000 times. It sends 2,000 gallons of blood surging through the veins of our bodies, nourishing our organs and tissues. Although it is no bigger than our fist, it keeps blood flowing through 60,000 miles of blood vessels. It is the controlling force of our lives. When it fails, life ends.

The heart, in the Bible, is the center of our emotions, rational and irrational thoughts, our wills and desires. In the Bible, the heart is the “seat” of the entire personality.

And the heart, as described in the Bible, can be our most fundamental problem. What we store, keep or hide in our hearts is what we become and who we really are.

So, as long as we “keep our mouths shut” we can deceive others. But, unfortunately, that does not seem to be possible. In the blink of an eye or a moment in time, we “let our guard down” and our true “self” becomes exposed to the world. We are “found out.”

Solomon wrote that “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.” Jesus said, “How can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

We hear amazing stories about surgeons who are skilled at “heart transplants.” But a heart transplant does not correct the problem of evil. Only Christ can correct that problem. So, He does not transplant hearts. He transforms hearts. And when that happens, lives change.

Prayer:  Lord, come into and rule our hearts so others will know that Your Son, our Savior, rules our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
 

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 10:20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Who Are The Real Heroes?

It is fascinating to walk through any community or mall - or even down a city street - and noticing the vast number of football jerseys that people of all ages and sexes are wearing this time of the year. The names and numbers of their “heroes” vary as much as the sizes and shape of the persons wearing the jersey.

And, the dollar amount of this way of “identifying” with an athlete is growing. In 2005, nearly ten years ago, the total amount of money spent on sports clothing was in excess of two hundred billion dollars.

Sadly, many of those names and numbers represent felons, drug abusers, wife or child abusers, murderers and other violent criminals. Yet, their names and numbers are held in high esteem, even worshiped, because of their accomplishments in their area of athletic prowess.

Walk in the same mall or down the same street and count the number of individuals wearing a shirt that has the name of Jesus or Paul or Stephen or Jeremiah written across the front or back. In fact, only now and then will a T-shirt with some reference to something Christian ever appear. Unfortunately, its message is usually unclear or perhaps, questionable or embarrassing.  

Solomon talked about “heroes” who “walked” Godly lives. “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to Godly life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” What a timely, challenging verse for Christians. People look for heroes. What do they see when they look at us?

Do others see Christ living in us? “By their fruits...”

Prayer:  Lord, we can’t hide who we are or what we believe or our values. May our lives represent You well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 10:17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

All Seeds Are Not The Same

“What are you planting?” asked the salesman of the elderly gentleman.

“Seeds,” said the old farmer, rather nonchalantly.

“Of course they’re seeds. I can see that. I’m not dumb or blind,” he said with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.

“Well, if you are so interested, hang around for a few months and see what comes up. You might be surprised. Might even be something you like,” came the reply.

Planting seeds and gardening is a craft. It is done with care and concern. Nothing is left to chance and the only uncontrollable aspect of farming is the weather.

“The wages of the righteous is life,” wrote Solomon, “but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.” The word “wages” in this verse comes from the agricultural world and describes the crop or yield that is gained at the time of harvest. Earnings are the result of work. But both have a similar meaning: Our life style and way of living have implications far beyond the moment. Righteousness brings life, now and after this life - eternal life with God. The alternative life style, wickedness, is one of sin and leads ultimately to death - eternal separation from God.

Our God is a just God and will reward each of us for the “seeds” we plant. Our old farmer knew what the crop would be from the seeds he planted. He didn’t have to wait and be surprised at harvest time. Neither do we.

God’s Word leaves no doubt about sowing seeds and the coming harvest. “Do not be deceived,” said Paul, “for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.”

Prayer:  Father, may we examine our lives in light of your Word and plant “seeds of righteousness” each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 10:16 The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Is The Word "Love" A Cover-Up?

“Do you know what today is?” Mary, my wife, asked.

“Of course. It’s Tuesday,” I replied.

“Well, is it anything more than Tuesday? Does it have a number and is there a month that goes with it?” she asked with a faint smile.

Looking at my watch, I said, “It’s October 24. Almost time for Halloween.” And that did it.

First there came tears. Then, a few more words about forgetting important things - like birthdays. Then more tears. Not only was I embarrassed, I was humiliated that I forgot such an important date and event.

“But, I do love you. And that should make up for it,” I said, thinking of the words of Solomon: “Love covers all wrong.” But does it?

Love, God’s love, is the center of every relationship - beginning with Him. And when we learn to love Him as He loves us, it will have a preeminent place in our lives. It will be visible to all whom we know - especially those in our lives that are special to us. They will be more than a  name or number: they will be blest because we love them.

The love that Solomon describes here is a love that draws in and unites. It invites people into our hearts and then bonds them to us as closely as two pieces of Velcro.

We cannot use the word love as a “cover” when we do something wrong - as though we want the other person to feel guilty. True love, God’s love, anticipates a need long before it surfaces. It remembers the needs of others and reaches out to them as God reaches out for each of us.

Prayer:  Help us, Lord, to be sincere and honest and pure when we say, “I love you!” May our love match Yours. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why Live a Life of Integrity?

“Why” is a question that most of us try to avoid. It usually demands careful thinking, choice wording and clear reasoning. It makes us refine our thoughts to give us the assurance that what we are doing or thinking is right.

Solomon makes a profound statement when he says, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely; but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”

It’s normal to want to feel “secure” as we go about life. “Secure” implies that we are able to face life as it comes, knowing that God is present in our lives and will provide whatever we need. Being “secure” eliminates fear and the anxiety that accompany it. And, if we want that feeling of security that only comes from God, Solomon says that we must “walk in integrity” or “live without compromise or corruption.”

For some, that sounds impossible. We think about our past attempts to honor God in all things. We want to be an example to others as our Savior was: a witness of His grace, a helper to those in need, a friend to the lonely and an encourager to the sick and suffering. But we allow things to get in our way and we “fall short” of who God wants us to be and who we, in fact, want to be. And therein lies the secret: it’s all about what we desire.

If our innermost desire is to bring all of our life into harmony with God’s Word, His will and His ways, and if we consciously submit our lives to Him and live for Him, He will give us His security. We have nothing to fear if our deepest desire is to know Him and make Him known.

Prayer:  Father, the world makes many promises it cannot keep. But we have Your Word that never fails. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
 

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 10:9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Know God - Have Life

“Ill-gotten treasures” bring many feelings as well as pictures to our minds. Some pictures remind us of events where we were taken advantage of by one who made no apologies for stealing our “property.” Other feelings are the result of a dishonest sales person who hid the truth from us when we purchasing a valuable item. Usually, there are many numbers involved in large transactions and unless we know what to look for, it’s easy to become a “victim” of dishonesty.
However, when we look at some the “valuables” we have collected over time, there may be an item or two we obtained in less than honest methods. They were really “ill-gotten” even though they “belong” to us now.  
“Ill-gotten” is a strong phrase that means “treasures gotten as a result of wickedness.” We know that wickedness is not compatible with the character of God. It stands in complete contradiction to everything God values. It also cost Him the life of His Son. “Righteousness” on the other hand, clearly states who God is: a God who is consistent with His Word and His ways. Our God is honest and just!
Treasures are a gift from God. And there is nothing wrong with having treasures. But, when they become the “center of life,” or the “reason for living,” attaining them is self-destructive. They no longer bring satisfaction because they have no “lasting value” - and the “search” continues.
“Righteousness” delivers us from death: physical, spiritual and eternal. Those who live in “righteousness” have no fear of God because their “search” is to know Him.
Prayer:  Father, give us a desire to live for “things” that are eternal and have their source in You and Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Proverbs 10:2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's All In The Family

“The nice thing about friends is that you get to choose them. But, when it comes to family members, you’re stuck with what you get. And boy, did I ever get stuck,” said the comedian.
No doubt that many of us feel this way about our Moms and Dads, brothers and sisters. And even though names and addresses vary, all families have some things in common and some things that are vastly different. But there are two primary truths that cannot be denied: One is that God intended parents to be the primary teachers and influencers of their children. And the other is that family ties are never completely severed no matter where parents or children eventually complete their lives. An invisible bond remains.
The contrast between a “wise son bringing joy to his father and a foolish son bringing grief to his mother”  implies that this family is “divided” or “dysfunctional.” It emphasizes the fact that the behavior of one member of the family affects the behavior of all of the other family members. This tragedy is seen throughout the Bible.
The “joy” infused into the family by the “wise son” does not eliminate the “grief” that invades a family by a son who is “foolish.” The “foolish” son is the one who, by his behavior, brings “hardships” to the parents as well as others in the family.
But the “hardships” need not remain. Again and again Solomon reminds us that gaining wisdom is a choice that brings change. The same is true of being born again.
Prayer:  Because You love us, Father, no parent or child is beyond Your mercy and grace. Your Son offers us hope! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Proverbs 10:1 A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Compare And Contrast

Right choices are sometimes obvious, occasionally hidden, perhaps difficult, unfortunately painful and even every now and then, when least expected, pleasant and rewarding.  Yet, there is one thing that is certain: with every choice we make there is a consequence that comes with it. Sometimes, when we make a choice, the results may even surprise us or others. Consequences vary and do cause changes that can be enjoyable or painful.
Frequently the consequence of a choice is known at the time we make our decision. Other times it is “wait and see.” But we all know that “payday” will come someday.
In the ninth chapter of Proverbs, Solomon clearly compares and contrasts the differences between a woman who is wise and a woman who is foolish or “wicked.” Both offer an invitation to a feast they have prepared. Both are inviting people to enjoy their company. Both are sitting in a place of prominence where they can be seen and heard.
Wisdom, on one hand, lacks nothing - it is complete, perfect and available. Yet, wisdom must be pursued with lifelong diligence. It is a never-ending quest that brings insight.  It adds joy, satisfaction and peace to life.
Folly, or wickedness, on the other hand, appeals to the senses and a moment of ecstasy following a time of excitement. It is temporary, often enjoyable and seems to gratify some basic need. Yet, it has no future and is short lived. It brings no lasting satisfaction. It provides an interlude of “escape,” but ends in destruction and death.
 Choices determine the outcome of life. Choose wisely.
Prayer:  Father, our choices are eternal. May we choose wisely. May we choose life. May we choose You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Proverbs 9:1 & 3 Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars. She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city,