Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fear - Wisdom - Honor

Everything has a beginning. Everything has an ending. But there is always something in between.

We return again to the theme of Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord.” But in this verse, we are told that “The Lord teaches a man wisdom.” Initially, the fear of the Lord was the beginning - the foundation of wisdom. It was presented as the most fundamental part of life. Here, it takes on a new meaning.

“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom.” It may not seem as though there is a large difference in the two phrases, but there certainly is. In this passage, we are taught that if we fear God it can bring us into a relationship with Him where He is able to let us know what we need to change in our lives. When we make these changes - whatever they are - we will come to a greater understanding of His wisdom, of ourselves and what we need to do to grow to become more like Him.

The key word in this verse is the word “humility.” Not only will fearing God enable us to begin the process of learning His wisdom - but by becoming humble we will receive honor that comes from Him, not others. Others may recognize us; even respect us, for the wisdom we possess. They may even honor us in one way or another. But to be honored by Him is more than can be imagined.

We can only come to understand this honor by being in His presence. Kneeling before Him in worship and praise can only come from a sense of deep humility.

Prayer:  Father, we cannot understand Your holiness until we admit our sinfulness and repent in deep humility. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 15:33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.

Friday, January 30, 2015

There Is A Difference

We often apply words without understanding the importance of their exact meaning. The word “ignorant” is a good example. To be sure, I am “ignorant” about many things. I know nothing about “quantum physics” but that does not mean I am “dumb.” I cannot fly an airplane, but that does not mean I am “stupid.” Rather, I am “ignorant” about quantum physics and how to fly an airplane.

Being ignorant differs from “ignoring” something. It means that I lack knowledge or information about a particular subject. It may or may not impact on my life in a harmful way. But if I “ignore” something important or significant that can affect my well-being that is different.

Discipline is something not to be ignored because it has serious consequences. “He who ignores discipline despises himself; but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.” It is a conscious rejection or refusal to accept discipline or even the willingness to consider it as an important aspect in life. Solomon says that a person who ignores discipline “despises himself” or is “unwilling to be corrected.” This often refers to “personal pride” or an unwillingness to see myself as I am. It is though I say to myself, “It does not matter what the truth is about me, I refuse to admit it.”

If we look at this from another perspective, it is the same as a sinner saying to God, “I don't need You. I can make it by myself. I need nothing - including You.”

However, if we accept “God’s correction” we not only gain understanding, we receive all He has to offer us.

Prayer:  Thank You, Father, for all we have because of Your love. May we gladly accept Your correction and life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 15:32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It Takes More Than One

Somewhere on a shelf in my library is a small book with a big lesson. When I take its message to heart, I am more apt to succeed in whatever I have in mind. When I rush ahead and neglect its counsel, I am more apt to fail and have to deal with problems that could have been avoided.

It Takes Two to See One is the name of the book that “can make a distinct difference” in how we make our decisions, solve our problems or set our goals. The simple secret is that if we isolate ourselves from the wisdom and knowledge of others, and insulate ourselves from the insight and experiences of others, we are likely to end up with a picture that is out of focus or lacks detail and will lead to disaster!  

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Getting input and ideas, advice or information from others can lead to success. Although not clearly expressed in the way this verse in translated, the advice we are to seek is to come from those who we can trust and will keep our discussions confidential. As we talk and look for clarification “from many” a pattern will develop and what might have been overlooked will become visible.

There is also the important fact of humility in this verse. “Pride” does come before “destruction” and God does hate a person who is “arrogant.” Those two words, pride and arrogance, have brought the downfall of many. Being inclusive of others in our lives shows great wisdom. No one knows everything but others do know something.

Prayer:  Lord, help us to realize the need we have for counsel - especially from You. May we recognize our limits. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Looking Good!

What is in our hearts is there because we allow it to come in and find a home. And whatever is in our hearts will profoundly affect our lives and control our destiny. It is there because we want it there and has a direct impact on our lives.

Within three verses Solomon describes three different kinds of hearts and the effect they have on our lives. “A happy heart” makes a “cheerful face.” No matter what is going on in the life of a person who has a “happy heart” we see a “cheerful face” that automatically brings a ray of sunshine into our lives. Their “inside” may be filled with clouds and rain, sickness and suffering, but their hope in God’s goodness and grace will not suppress the happiness He brings into their lives.

People with “discerning hearts” are known for the knowledge they possess. They are driven by a desire to know and to share what they understand because they realize that knowledge is a gift from God to help others. It is not to be hoarded in our heads but to be given away as freely as it was received.

A “cheerful heart” is found in one who chooses to take control of life rather than to have life control them. It’s taking every gift God gives us and using it as a reason to have a celebration with Him as the “guest” of honor. A “cheerful heart” flows from an attitude of joy and peace because God is “in here” and He will never leave me nor forsake me. His being “in here” is a cause for a joy that can be seen “out there” and brings His blessings to others.

Prayer:  Father, do something special within each of us that will bring joy to our hearts and smiles to others! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 15:13A happy heart makes the face cheerful,

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hard To Believe!

My brother-in-law, Wayne, had several unusual habits. He enjoyed talking and enjoyed being with and making people laugh. People also enjoyed being with him because he always brought smiles and encouragement wherever he went.

One of his most unusual habits was brushing his tongue repeatedly. In the midst of a conversation he would say, “Excuse me, please” and walk away. After a few moments he would return and begin the conversation precisely where it had ended. People were puzzled and did not feel comfortable asking where he went and what he did.

Finally, the suspense got the best of one of his friends and he asked, “Wayne, why do you walk off in the middle of a conversation? Where do you go and what do you do?”

“Oh,” he replied with a smile. “I go to the bathroom and brush my tongue. The tongue, you know, has more germs than our teeth, and if not brushed carefully and repeatedly, can cause a stink.”

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit,” wrote Solomon. I am rather certain that each of us have experienced both parts of that verse. We all need words of encouragement and healing from hearts that are caring and kind. But a deceitful tongue coupled with intent to harm others does indeed squeeze the life from a person - often when a person’s “spirit” is threatened. We need to be “healers.”

Prayer:  Help us, Lord, to speak words of hope, help and healing from hearts that are clean, kind and caring. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 15:4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

Monday, January 26, 2015

No One Can Escape

Proverbs fifteen contains fifteen references to the “tongue.” Between two of the references, verses two and four, we come across another a word that is important in the process of communication: “eyes.” Although we do not ordinarily think of the eyes as part of the communication process, in this verse it does: “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

One of the words used to describe the nature of God is “omniscient.” It means that God is “all knowing, all wise and all seeing.” Used in this verse, “the eyes of the Lord” implies that God “sees” what we say. Scripture very clearly and frequently teaches us that God knows everything. His Word speaks of His completeness. So we need not wonder if He can actually “see what we say.”

It is almost frightening to reflect on “keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” Keeping watch made me think of the stories my brother and sisters often told me: “Be careful! Mom has eyes in the back of her head.” In other words, her face may be looking in one direction, but that does not mean she cannot see what is going on when she is not looking.

The author of Hebrews reminds us that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

We must never fool ourselves because we are His children. He watches over the good as well as the wicked. Everyone is accountable to Him for everything, anything!

Prayer:  Lord, may we be mindful that you are watching us closely and do our best please You in all we do, always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Words And Wrath

“Try it! I promise you it will work,” said Mrs. Ron.

“No, it won’t. They’ll just yell louder and louder,” I responded with certainty.

“How do you know? Have you ever tried it? If you did, what happened? Did the shouting stop?” she asked.

“I don’t know because I’ve never had anyone tell me that before,” giving up because I knew that she had the advantage.

Her theory was simple and seemed senseless. “When children, either individually or in a group, raise their voices, if you speak in a hushed tone, they will quiet down. They want to hear what you are saying. Their curiosity will get the best of them,” she explained.

After thinking about it, I decided to follow her recommendation since nothing else I tried had worked. To my surprise, it worked. And it actually makes sense, when you think about it.

Solomon may not have known much about anger management, but he gave some great advice when he wrote, “A soft gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” We see that all too often when mobs gather to protest. Both sides believe they can get the advantage with volume.

“A harsh word” does not suggest that a person is using words that are irrational or abrasive - though they may be part of the “conversation.” Rather, it refers to one who intends to use words to destroy another by design. We are once again reminded of the power of the tongue!

Prayer:  Lord, how wonderful is Your Word that informs us of the power of our words. May we always speak gently. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Facts Speak For Themselves

“Those cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said George Santayana in 1863. However, it does not matter who said it or when, history proves the point time and time again.

Generations come and go, governments rise and fall, generals win one battle and then lose the next, good times are enjoyed and then disaster sets in while no one was paying attention. People and leaders become so involved in “their particular thing” that they lose sight of the big picture and how nations become estranged from God. They do not hear His voice nor heed His Word and forget what righteousness is about, where it comes from and how it stabilizes a nation.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people,” is an oft quoted and well-known verse. It is mentioned frequently by the clergy and often by government leaders. But, the words fall silently to the ground and nothing changes.

Solomon used the word “exalts” by design. He was aware of the power of that word and understood what it meant to individuals and nations. “If” the people of a nation come together and honor God and “lift” Him up in worship and are obedient to His laws, they will be blest and have His favor and protection and His covenant love.

However, the alternative to a “righteous” nation is one whose sin is destructive, despicable and so dishonors God that it brings indescribable shame and disgrace to its people. In the end, it destroys what God designed.

Prayer:  Father, may we take Your warnings seriously, see the ravages and result of sin and repent. Awaken us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Honor The Poor

We were sitting in the “break room” having lunch. I had been invited to eat with the employees to “connect” with a young man who was having serious financial and marital problems. When he finished eating, he took his plastic dinnerware to the sink, washed them, wrapped them in a napkin and put them in his pocket.
Another employee noticed what he did and said, “Wow, you’re really having it tough. Want mine too? No doubt your family could use them.”

When those words pierced his heart, he burst into tears, dropped his head to his chest and stood quietly, not knowing what to say. One more blow to overcome on his path to survival.

I walked up to him, put my arm around his shoulder and said, “I’ve gone through difficult times, too. I’m glad I had to do without when I was your age because now I understand your feelings and know you will survive.”

The one who “oppresses the poor” is not a friend of God. In fact, such behavior is a reflection of their attitude toward the One who created both of them. If anyone has contempt for anyone it spills over onto God - for He gave life to both of them and they are equal in His sight. His Son died for both of them - as He did for each of us.Whatever anyone has is a gift from God to be used to honor Him. Jesus made that extremely clear when He said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” When we share with those in need, as Solomon said, we honor God.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, we ask for hearts filled with compassion to care for those in need as You care for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Heart Health - Life Health

While waiting for my appointment with a surgeon, I decided to take my pulse. It was beating slowly, well within the normal limits. Suddenly the nurse called my name and directed me to a consultation room. After being seated she took my blood pressure - which was well above normal - which is unusual for me. Then she placed two fingers on my wrist to take my pulse. From the waiting room to the consultation room my heart rate increased twenty beats per minute. Fear got the best of my peaceful heart.

There is a direct connection with our emotional well-being and our physical well-being. When what was a fear of the unknown - the possibility of surgery - was about to become known, when faced with that reality, my fear could actually be measured!

The “heart” is much more than a muscle in the Bible. It is the center of our being: the source of our thoughts, our emotions, where decisions are made, problems are solved and choices sorted out. According to Scripture, the heart affects every part of our life - positively or negatively.

Solomon understood that and wisely wrote, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the body.” It is obvious from what Solomon wrote and what science has confirmed that our emotional - or inner - state greatly impacts body.

Notice the impact of “envy.” It’s an emotion we all deal with. For some, the desire to want something that God has not given us can become so intense that it has the same results as cancer - it eats away life. Beware of envy.

Prayer:  Grant us peace, Lord, to be content with what You give us and accept all things with grateful hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"A Fountain Of Life"

There it is again: “The fear of the Lord!”

How many times do we need to be reminded?

Certainly, one more time. And then again, one more time. And after that, one more time - again and again.
Most of us are not only forgetful, but quite often convince ourselves that we can do it on our own when life seems to be “trouble free” and “good again.” Perhaps that’s why those “eight words” appear together so often in Scripture. In a preceding verse Solomon said that “the fear of the Lord will be a secure fortress” - a place where we will find a powerful refuge and our safety will be as certain as God Himself.

But, again, one more time, there is more. “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death,” wrote Solomon on behalf of God. What a wonderful promise to those who had gone without water and experienced drought and lost cattle and crops. We may fear many things but God is the fountain of life that never runs dry. Not only is He the fountain of life, but a source that provides refreshing, clear, clean water to quench our thirst and restore our souls daily.

How very sad for those who refuse to drink from “the fountain of life” and choose to turn to the “snares of life.” What may appear life-giving and gratifying is often a trap and cannot satisfy one’s thirst. Only “He can lead us to those still waters,” restore our souls and give us eternal life. The invitation is available to all.

But, it all begins with “The fear of the Lord.”

Prayer:  Lord, we bow before You with grateful hearts and ask that we will always approach You in fear and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Finding Secutiry

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning...”

Eight words, strung together by God, that give man the building blocks of life.

Eight words that provide the foundation for wisdom.

Eight words that are essential to understand the meaning of life.

Eight words that guarantee a joyous life.

Eight words that lead to fulfillment in life.

Eight words that point the direction for what we must do if we want to please God.

Eight words that prove the faithfulness of God.

Eight words that are the beginning of our obedience to the Lord.

Eight words that eliminate the folly of talk and teach us how to walk before God.

And once we completely and unreservedly “fear the Lord,” we will have confidence and courage to face any obstacle in life because God is bigger than anything and everything else in the universe.

But those words do not end when our lives end. They are generational and, if the believer is faithful, will be passed on from generation to generation.

Parents who want to provide safety and security and well-being for their children will do so because of their “fear of the Lord.” Scripture provides all the evidence any parent needs to realize the benefits that will come to their children if they - the parents – “fear the Lord” and are obedient to Him - no matter the cost!

Prayer:  Lord, may we take to heart the significance and importance of those eight words, “the fear of the Lord...” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Strength In Timidity

Entertaining young children often provides moments of enduring joy and memories that last a life time. I often think of those days when I played “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?” with my sons. We made noises and faces and even built homes out of blankets and chairs. The “big bad wolf” tried to create problems for the three little pigs but was never able to harm those inside the home. They were prepared to face the threats of the big bad wolf.

We often do the same - making preparation to face the threats and uncertainties of life. We feel strong in our own strength and believe without a doubt that we can, no matter what, withstand any temptation in life.
Solomon, however, presents another way of responding to the threat of evil: timidity! When temptation comes after us - whether or not we feel capable of rejecting it by ourselves - we are to “shun evil.” Looking deeper into these two little words we find that those who “fear evil” or are timid because they feel weak and are unable to reject evil, have a “built in alarm,” it is the fear of the Lord! When they recognize what could destroy them, they respond in fear and flee what they see as being evil.

I often marvel at the countless alarm systems that are available to protect our homes and identities from fraud and theft, danger and destruction. Some provide constant surveillance through an electronic monitoring system. Others can be self-installed and are battery operated. Both are designed to warn of “impending danger.” We have something stronger: God’s wisdom.

Prayer:  Lord, help us to be so fearful of evil that we flee it in timidity rather than standing, fighting and failing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:16 The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Choices and Consequences

It was a heated argument: “Your mind is so closed that can no one could get a new thought in there even if they used a sharp wedge.” “Oh yeah,” he replied. “You’re so open-minded that your brain can’t hold anything that makes sense!”

Each of us has developed our own particular way of thinking. Solomon placed the way we think between two intriguing words: “Simple minded and prudent.” Being “simple minded” is actually expanded in the verses that follow. It can mean anything from being overly gullible, too hot headed or arrogant, reckless, foolish or crafty. On the other hand, some people are “prudent.”

The “simple minded” are so confused that they are willing to believe anything said by anybody at any time. Whatever they hear makes sense to them and if it is a popular idea that most people embrace, it’s got to be right! They lack sound judgment for lack of clear thinking.

The “prudent person,” however, may have evil or good intentions. Evil intentions would be using knowledge in a way that is sinister, shrewd or misleading. Good intention would be using knowledge to discern the truth, understanding people, knowing what is going on, looking for opportunities and how to make good decisions.

The wisdom of a prudent person comes from “giving thought to their steps.” They carefully consider choices and consequences, weigh every option and opinion and make their decisions on wisdom they have gained from their teachers. Unfortunately, not all teachers honor God.

Prayer:  Lord, may we choose wisely those who we allow to teach us. May we “test their spirits” before we trust them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:15 The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Right Way Or Dead End?

“I wish I could buy him for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth. We could both retire!” said a colleague to me after interviewing a potential employee.

Many people lead “presumptuous” or “inappropriate” lives and never get in touch with who they are and what their strength or limitations might be. They see what no one else can see - even act on it - and refuse to admit what is or what has happened. “It’s not my fault. It's theirs. They just wouldn’t admit they were wrong.”

In the final analysis, we all have the freedom to choose what path we will take - even though, as Solomon warns, “But in the end it leads to death.” We may choose a path, even claim that it was a "path from God and it is His will for my life" only to discover that our decision was ill conceived and even ill advised. It was “our decision.”

“Seems right” is a frightening combination of words. It simply means that “I (or someone else) did not know what was right” and went off in the wrong direction and it ended in disaster - perhaps death. “Seems right” is full of presumptions, beginning with sincerity. Although we may be very sincere about most anything we choose to do, sincerity does not lead to fulfilling God’s plan or our own personal success. “Seems right” can be “surely wrong!”

Those who truly want the “right way” will find it in God’s Word. The “right way” is acting in agreement with the Word of God, becoming obedient to His commands, by waiting upon Him and putting His will before my wants.

Prayer:  Father, we can only avoid what “seems right” if we surrender our lives to You and do right by living right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Paying The Price

Making amends means “I’ve harmed someone.” Not an easy thing to do. First, if I have harmed someone, they “certainly deserved it or had it coming to them.” Secondly, whenever I apologize I admit that “I did something that is or was wrong - and that simply is not like me to do something like that.” Or, “They are too sensitive - they shouldn’t wear their feelings on their shoulders. It’s about them, not me.”

Unfortunately, those options do not agree with God’s Word. First, “All have sinned.” So, I’m not in any position to harm anyone. Secondly, “No one is righteous, not even one.” Well, there goes my reputation. Or, “If you have never committed a sin, pick up a stone and throw it at the first person you see - for they surely have!” But, when I look into my stone-carrier, it’s empty.

“Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright,” seems to include everyone in one way or another. One who “mocks at making amends” would be a person who has no sense of guilt or personal accountability for their actions. They turn a “blind-eye” to God’s “ever-present, watchful eye.” That’s not wise!

To feel unaccountable for sin implies that there will be no judgment before God or man. That one surely is a fool, for one day we will all stand before God to be judged. On the other hand, “men of goodwill” are those who want to be “approved” by God and others for the way they act. They want their relationships, beginning with God, to be open and beyond reproach. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” is what making amends is all about.

Prayer:  Lord, it’s much easier to live in denial than the world of reality. Give us courage to seek forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:9 Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"If You Really Love Me..."

Corporal punishment of children is not considered to be an enlightened way of disciplining children. Actually, it is in direct opposition to the majority of the theories of psychology and changing behavior. But God does in fact include it as part of His program of parenting skills that can lead a child to maturity. Parents who choose not to use this form of discipline do not demonstrate that they possess a “higher degree” of parenting skills or that they love their children more than other parents. In essence, according to God’s program of child rearing they do not love their children as much as those who “use a rod.”

The words “hate” and “love” in this verse are not to be seen as comparing love and hate in an emotional sense. In other words, to withhold a spanking is not a sign that “I love my child more than you do yours,” it could be a sign that “I am willing to sacrifice my child’s future well-being because I want him to like me,” or “I would rather have the approval of society than God,” or “I know of other children who were spanked and they did not end up so good.” We must always be cautious about whose approval we are seeking: our child’s, man’s or God’s.

Disciplining children is painful - especially corporal discipline which is clear from this passage of Scripture. But if the discipline is associated with breaking the teachings of God’s laws - lying, stealing, being disrespectful of others - then it is appropriate. Children must be informed that “If you lie to me, then you will be spanked” is in keeping with God’s laws. Discipline is to bring conformity to God’s ways.

Prayer:  Father, help us to discipline our children when they disregard Your laws and willingly choose evil. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Watch Where You Walk

One of my mother’s most quoted sayings was, “Birds of a feather flock together.” When I first heard her say it, I had no idea of what she was talking about. However, she did. She realized that one of her most important obligations, as a parent, was to guard me from friends who might lead me away from God. She knew each of my playmates, and as I grew older, my friends, personally.

When I became a parent that quotation grew in its importance. I came to realize that our choice of friends always flows from the values we hold dearest. People who enjoy softball or golf, cooking or gardening, worshiping God and studying His Word form relationships because they hold things “in common” - their values.

Solomon said, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” The advice contained in this proverb is significant because it focuses our attention on the informal learning process - not what is taught in classrooms or churches. Much of our learning is “absorbed” through watching others, being with others and having a desire to imitate or be like others, especially those whom we admire or hold up as heroes.

Someone once asked John Rockefeller what he did to become so successful. “I only associate with people who are successful.” While that might sound trite and an over simplified way of becoming successful, it is profoundly true. The most “life shaping and longest lasting” lessons of our lives and those that have had the greatest impact on us have been “caught” rather than “taught.” Beware!

Prayer:  Help us, Lord, to choose friends who honor and worship You, love Your Word and walk with You daily. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 13:20 Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

There Is A Difference

“You won’t find me in church! There are too many hypocrites that fill the pews. So, why should I go? They are no better than I am.” Most of us who do go to church have heard that phrase at one time or another. Most of us, however, don’t go to church because we are hypocrites, it’s because we’d rather not be one.

Most of us have a “check list” that lays out our personal differences between being a hypocrite not being one. For most of us it is a “personal thing.” We want our own definition to judge ourselves against others.

But, Solomon established the difference between being righteous and wicked. He removes any doubt for us: “Righteousness guards the man of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.”

If we love God, we will love what He loves and hate what He hates. Nothing complicated there. So, if God loves truth and honesty, pure living and obedience to His law, the righteous will, too. But, more than embrace what is righteous, they will avoid what is evil by guarding themselves against it. Righteousness does not mean Christians are passive, but active - involved in whatever it takes to avoid contact with behaviors God hates.

“Wickedness” here has an interesting meaning. It refers to “being deceptive to the point where the wicked act disgracefully and their behavior causes a ‘stink.’”' They see no reason to be concerned about what they are doing - but what they do will finally bring “disaster” - they will be overthrown. God will not allow wickedness to prevail!

Prayer:  Father, give us courage to take an obvious stand against that which is evil and do what it right! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 13:5 The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wise Words Prevent Problems

"Loose Lips Sink Ships" was a widely quoted slogan during World War II. It was part of the US Office of Information’s attempt to limit the possibility of people inadvertently giving useful information to enemy spies. It was one of the several slogans that came under the campaign’s basic message "Careless Talk Costs Lives."

While our talk may not “cost lives” careless speak is costly and can cause serious problems.

Years ago Solomon realized this and said, “Those who guard their lips guard their lives.” It is like placing a boundary around what we want people to know or think about us. Being careful is wise because we will not have to try to explain what we mean if we express an unclear thought or idea. We will not have to apologize or make amends or be fearful for things we might have said that could stain someone’s reputation if we speak unkindly. In fact, later on in Proverbs, Solomon said that our “tongues have the power of life and death.”

There is also the person who “speaks rashly.” This person speaks without taking time to think or makes statements that are untrue, intending to hurt, harm or destroy and take advantage of others. Many of us have endured - even struggled to survive - false stories or outright lies about us as others intended to disturb our image. We have been left fearful and untrusting because of their unfair words.

But we are to take heart. Our God is a fair and just God and He will, in His own time, make things right. Those who “speak rashly will come to ruin.”  

Prayer:  Father, we are grateful that You know “who we are” and protect us from harm and make things right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 13:3 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Teachable Moments"

There are many way to describe those moments when students are “open” to learning. On the other hand, there are many times when students are unwilling to learn no matter who the teacher may be. Recently the phrase, “teachable moments” has become popular. While there are opportunities that occur for teaching, neither the pupil nor teacher does anything about it.

“A wise son,” wrote Solomon, “heeds (or accepts) his father’s instruction; but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.” Obviously, Solomon knew something about the teaching process, learner readiness and pupil attitudes. But that in itself is not enough. Perhaps that is why God inspired him to use the word “instruction.” That word was wisely chosen for its true meaning: “education through correction.” At the heart of each of the Proverbs is the fact that we, in and of ourselves, do not know the ultimate answers to life. We all have the basic need for our Father to teach us His truth and His ways for our lives. And that begins with “the fear of the Lord.”

This proverb places the responsibility of learning on the pupil - the son. But, it also places the responsibility to teach on the father. Yet, to teach the son, the father needs wisdom and fear. We “recycle” back to the truth that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!”

Fathers are both responsible and accountable to God to teach their sons His wisdom. Yes, there are many things that fathers must teach their sons and daughters, but none as important as teaching them God’s wisdom.

Prayer:  We pray, Lord, that all fathers will realize their obligation to You: to instill Your wisdom in their hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 13:1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"The Way"

“Yes, we do look forward to the day when we will meet together in the sweet by and by,” said the aging evangelist with the volume of his voice rising, “but right now we live in the nasty now and now!” I wonder what he would say today - some fifty years later.

Wherever we look today “nasty” seems to be more and more predominate and the “sweet by and by” more enticing. Evil and wickedness, immorality and indecency confront us at everywhere we are. What once made most people blush rarely causes them to turn their eyes from lewd scenes or pictures. Advertisements and marketing strategies are now designed to exploit what was once pure and sacred, beautiful and pure. What once was unimaginable is now commonplace and expected...but is not God’s way.

However, “In the way of righteousness there is life, along that path is immortality,” wrote Solomon. He was not writing of heaven as we now understand it from the New Testament. It was a “hint” of things to be revealed as God unfolded His message through the risen Christ.

But, there is no doubt about the fact that “the way” of the righteous points to a “path of immortality.” Clearly it looks beyond this world and into the next. It reflects the insight of David when he wrote, “And I - in righteousness will see your face, when I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” We also have the words of Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth (and) in my flesh I will see God; with my own eyes - I and not another. My heart yearns...”

Prayer:  How blest we are, Father, to know that “the way” is Your way, and will lead us into Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Choose Wisely!

God created us to live in relationships with others. In fact, it is difficult for many to go through a day without speaking to someone about something. Friends are very important and can bring “good things to life.” However, the opposite can also be true. Some friendships bring healing, help and hope into our lives while others bring us trouble, turmoil and tragedy.

No doubt Solomon had his share of friendships that were not what he expected and brought the unwanted and unexpected into his life. So, he issued us a warning: “A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

“Righteous” in the Old Testament always refers to meeting God’s standards of what is right and just. If our relationship with God is as He wants it to be, then we must be “cautious” about our relationships with others. Their influence us always standards for righteous living. Unfortunately, being close friends with a person whom we admire and respect, but who has no time or concern for godly things is very dangerous. The influence that person has on our life can lead us astray and destroy us. That is why we must be “cautious.”
Our relationship with God is more important that any relationship with any other person.

But how “cautious” are we to be? Very! The meaning of that word includes “duties” like instigate, spy out or search out. “How foolish,” some might say. Not really. If we want the best God has to offer us we must be cautious.

Prayer:  Lord, may we guard our relationship with You and strengthen it through reading Your Word and prayer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:26 The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reckless Words - Healing Tongues

We often hear of damage done by those who “speak before they think.” Their damage is harmful, “piercing like a sword,” leaving broken hearts, troubled minds and sleepless nights as a result. I know of no one who has not been damaged, in one way or another, by careless words from calloused hearts. Unfortunately, for some, speaking harshly is a way of life. Kindness does not reside within them.

People who destroy others with their words are not new. Solomon recognized the pain they caused others when he wrote, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wide brings healing.”

“Reckless words” are words that come from resentful hearts and minds filled with evil thoughts. For whatever is in our hearts is there because we gave it a home. “Out of the abundance...” If it’s in there, we allow it to be there because we do not realize the damage it does to ourselves and others. And, it will remain there until we ask God, in humility and sincerity, to remove the rage.

And when He does, we can do great things for those hurt by the “reckless words” of others: we can bring them His healing. Imagine this wonderful opportunity that is available to us to take the healing grace of God to those who have been harmed by hatred and wounded by words.

“The tongue of the wise brings healing!” How? Heed what Paul said: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” – God’s love through us.

Prayer:  From our own experience, Father, we know the pain of “reckless words.” May we take others Your healing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:18 Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Makes Sense To Me!"

That’s the problem. It may make sense to the person making the decision, but no one else. So, Solomon warns, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” And, that’s not always easy!
Taking advice from others is a statement, to some, of being inadequate or incomplete. It is a public admission that “You, of all people, could actually keep me from being wrong? You, keep me, from making a mistake? How dare you think I don’t know everything!”

It is sometimes difficult to admit our limitations. No, perhaps most of the time it is difficult to admit we cannot handle things by ourselves and have limited information about choices that confront us. We think and reason, talk and ask questions, but if what we hear does not agree with what we already have in mind, we readily dismiss it, whether it could keep us from disaster.

Closed minded, stubborn, insecure and threatened individuals who refuse advice, or counsel, are usually very defensive. They are quick to argue and anger, usually impatient and insecure, closed and lonely people. They are self-destructive, and in the process usually destroy others because every decision impacts the lives of others.

Looking to others for insight and understanding, for knowledge and information requires humility. And that may be the real problem. To be humble is to admit that “I don’t have all the answers! Only God does.”

If after searching His Word and praying, we do not have His peace, He’ll send the right “advisor” if we ask.
Prayer:  Help us, Father, to be strong enough to become weak, wise enough to seek advice, and then trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Our Daily Bread

There can be no doubt about the significance of work in the eyes of God. It is a theme that we find throughout His Word. Work glorifies God and is a way to demonstrate our obedience to His plan for our lives as well as a way to worship and honor Him.

Consider Paul. He was a tentmaker by trade but a minister of the gospel, theologian, philosopher, warrior, legal expert, missionary and author of Scripture under the direction of God. In fact, he instituted a “rule” with “the church of the Thessalonians.” This rule was blunt and to the point: “For when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work he shall not eat.’” One does not need a degree in Biblical exegesis to understand that.

Solomon addressed two points of view about work: “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.” Willing workers will be blessed and have all their needs met. God will see to that. God, however, has another rule: if we know of someone in need, who honestly cannot work or find work, we who are Christians are obligated to help them.

Those who “chase fantasies lack judgment” refer to “delusional” thinking. They are the ones who chase an easy way of living by devising schemes to take advantage of others. They want to receive life’s rewards without hard work and riches from “rackets” not righteousness.

And, yes, they may have “their day.” But, in the end, they “lack judgment” that comes from following God’s way and His wisdom, and ultimately, face His judgment.

Prayer:  Sound judgment, wise decisions and eternal rewards, Lord, come from obedience to Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:11 Those who till their land will have plenty of food, but those who follow worthless pursuits have no sense.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wickedness Vs Righteousness

Solomon makes no apology for the wicked and their lifestyle. In fact, his choice of words leaves no doubt about what they do and to recognize them.

For example: “A man cannot be established through wickedness; the advice of the wicked is deceitfulness; the words of the wicked lie in wait for blood; wicked men are overthrown and are no more; men with warped minds are despised.” And in the end: “The Lord condemns a crafty man!”

However, the righteous: “cannot be uprooted; the plans of the righteous are just; the speech of the righteous rescues them; the house of the righteous stands forever; the house of the righteous stands firm.” And ultimately: “A good man finds favor with the Lord.”

It is most interesting to note that the wicked have a completely different approach to life than the righteous. They have a single focus in life: whatever they do begins with the question: “How will what I am about to do benefit me?” This opens the door to being deceitful and dishonest, being patient and waiting for the right moment to take advantage of the weak, uninformed, less educated, those looking for someone they can trust to help them.

And when we look at the righteous, we see the exact opposite: what they do is steadfast and will stand the test of time and God’s scrutiny, they are just and fair as God is just and fair. And whatever they do, ultimately, is right and just in the eyes of God and man.

The final reward? God’s condemnation or blessings.

Prayer:  Lord, how we get what we have influences our relationship with You. May what we do always honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Husband's Crown

Crowns have a fascinating role in history. In the ancient world, crowns came in many shapes and forms and were made of the most costly materials available. They symbolized royalty and sovereignty. When David fought and conquered the King of the Amorites he took his crown to celebrate his victory. It was made with precious stones and gold, and the gold in that crown weighed one hundred ten pounds. In today’s market the gold in that crown would be worth $3,004,870.00. The power and might of the king was represented by the size and value of his crown.

“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown,” wrote Solomon, “but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.” We read in Genesis that God created woman to be man’s helper. As God reviewed His creation, He realized that Adam could not do what He wanted him to do by himself. He needed help so God created a “helper” for him.

The word “helper,” however, does not capture the depth of the meaning of that word. A “helper,” as used in this context is one who assists another to reach their full potential, to fill up or complement the other person. Eve, Adam’s wife, was created to make him “complete!”

A wife of “noble character” can bring her husband esteem and honor, recognition and respect. But, he must first earn it. If the husband does his part in becoming the man God wants him to be, then the wife can do her part by representing him well. She will be able to complete and complement her husband and receive her “crown.”

Prayer:  Bless and empower those wives, Father, who enable husbands to bring honor and glory to Your name! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:4 A good wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Life's Alternatives

“There are three sets of alternatives,” our professor of ethics once said. “They include ‘either/or, neither/nor or both/and.’” We often tend to focus on one of them when we face certain situations, never bothering to consider that the one we have chosen may or may not be the right one. We often rush into a decision without thinking it through completely or wanting to get it over quickly because we don’t see any other “alternatives.”

But God’s Word is very clear when choices are to be made. There are times when one has no options: so it is “neither” this “nor” that. For example, “You shall have no other God except or before me!” It’s neither this god nor that god. For, “I am the Lord your God!”

There are also times when it is “both/and.” For example, we read, “Do this and you will live.” This alternative is a win/win approach. When we follow the rules of God, we will live and live well because we are assured of His blessings and the prosperity that comes from being obedient to His laws and commands.

Solomon said, “A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be moved.” Stability in life comes from following God and being obedient to His Word. “In the beginning was the Word,” said John. God’s Word has been, is and always will be! This truth cannot be negotiated. The one who builds his life and ways on the Word of God will never have to question what is right or wrong, good or bad, honest or deceitful. It’s “either/or” either God’s way - the way of stability and security, or...

Prayer:  May we have the courage, conviction and will to follow Your ways, Lord, and enjoy stability and blessings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:3 No one finds security by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Where Do You Stand?

There’s not much “middle ground” when it comes to feelings about “teachers’ pets” in the classroom or those who are “the bosses most trusted friends.” If a student has found “special favor” with a teacher or an employee has gained “special recognition” by someone in authority at work, the rest of the class or work force often resent the attention they receive. And why not?

Often there appear to be “secret” or “hidden” paths to such status. How they got there or what they did is not always obvious. At one time it was an “apple” or “box of candy” for the teacher. Perhaps it was a “cup of coffee” to begin the day or a “special gift” on a holiday. But the way to gain this status is not published in a student handbook or organization policy manual.

With God it’s different. He has no favorites. There are no hidden secrets if anyone wants Him to recognize them. He is always there waiting for us to call upon Him. His ears are always open. His eyes are constantly looking for those who need Him. His heart is full of love for each of us.

But, Solomon made a statement that stands out: “A good man obtains favor from the Lord; but the Lord condemns a crafty man.” A “good man” in the eyes of the Lord is one who lives a self-sacrificing life; one who does what he does because he is motivated by God to serve Him and help others. A man who is “crafty” is one who “devises evil” or hides the facts, is not open and honest nor truthful in his dealings with or service to others.

Want God’s favor? Follow Solomon’s advice!

Prayer:  Lord, Your instructions are always clear and easy to understand. Give me Your strength to be obedient. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:2 The good obtain favor from the Lord, but those who devise evil he condemns.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Goal For... 2016?

What? A goal for 2016 before completing the first day of 2015?

Why not?

Most of our “Resolutions for 2015” are, in fact, goals of one sort or another. Some resolutions will challenge us to “aim high” while others are “recycled” because they were “trashed” due to “lack of interest or difficulty.” Some will bring laughter because they are so ridiculous while others will encourage us to stretch and grow and develop the gifts, skills and talents that God has given us.

Perhaps the best part of a resolution is the fact that it forces us to focus on the future - whether we want to or not. Tomorrow will soon become today and 2015 will be 2016 leaving us with some memories that we did not plan, want or feel we deserved. We have no power over time or some events - nor the ability to stop, start or delay them.

But we all have “attitudes” about things that we can alter or even change completely. If we willingly seek God’s knowledge, we can change any attitude that could keep us from accomplishing the plan He has for our lives.

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge - but - he who hates correction is stupid.” Being willing to allow God to discipline or correct us proves to Him that we love Him and want Him to guide us even though it may be painful or uncomfortable. He knows what we need!

Otherwise, Solomon would classify us as “stupid” or not having “rational thoughts.” When God disciplines us it is for our good and His glory because He loves us!

Prayer:  We are blest, Father, to know that You want Your very best for each of us. Guide and guard us always! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but those who hate to be rebuked are stupid.