Saturday, February 28, 2015

I Thank God For His Gift

Marriage, unfortunately, for far too many is seen as an “enjoy it for as long as you want and then trade your spouse for someone else.” Solving the problems that come with every relationship - not just with a wife or husband - are normal and natural. People have different values and expectations and often, rather than to try to understand and solve them, and grow together, tempers flare and divorce occurs - leaving marred lives and shattered dreams. More often than not, both are equally responsible for refusing to be Christian and demonstrate the love of God to one another.

But Solomon made a statement that brought great delight to my ears: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” In the original Hebrew it reads: “He who finds a wife finds good.”
To grasp the meaning of this verse we must understand that the word for “good” means something like a “fortune” or “favor.” In the sight of God, a good wife and a good life are synonymous in God’s plan most of the time. This comes from the second chapter of Genesis.

What we must understand, however, is that it is the Lord who has given her to him. She is an expression of God’s “favor” bestowed upon the husband. Hence, a man cannot find a good wife on his own. A good wife comes as a favor from God and as with all of God’s favors, it must be sought diligently, carefully and above all prayerfully. We men must never be self-centered and think we deserve God’s gift of a wife. It is as stated: “a favor from the Lord.”

Prayer:  Father, grant us husbands the humility to accept and recognize the fact that our wives are Your favors. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tongue Tied

Have you ever tried to help a person speak when they had a difficult time trying to express themselves? Actually, it’s hard not to. It’s difficult to carry on a conversation with a person when words get stuck and ideas lost. That’s not the end of life for either party. But, “The tongue does have the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Can you recall the story of Moses in Deuteronomy when he said, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now, choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.” What a challenging sermon. Moses used his tongue to present his audience an opportunity to choose life or death. He gave the pros and cons and said, “The choice is up to you - but for your own good, choose life.”

Tongues have power that far exceeds their length. The original language of this proverb is rather blunt: “Death and life are in the hand of the tongue.” How very disturbing. Our tongues actually have the power to bring life or death to others. Our tongues have the power to be agents of good or evil, build others up or tear them down, bring encouragement and hope or annihilate a person’s grasp on life because they are weak, feel unloved and unwanted by the abuse of the tongues of others.

What we say to others may destroy them completely.

Prayer:  Lord, how much power You gave us with our tongues and voices. May we bless others with them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gaining Favor

Solomon had much to say about bribes. No doubt his success as king and his great wisdom made him extremely popular. Surely, those who were people of means would court his prestige and power and knew it would bring great dividends they could not achieve on their own. Actually, it’s no different today than it was when he was at the prime of his career.

“A gift - actually a bribe - opens the door for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great,” Solomon mused. A similar word for “bribe” is found in chapter 17 - verses 8 and 23. However, in this verse it is much more general and really is not significant. But the idea of one wanting to purchase a favor from someone who has more power and influence than they, and wanting something they did not deserve or earn is the same.

Getting into the presence of the powerful, for most of us, would be difficult. The road to their “seat” is narrow and contains many barriers and blockades and is usually blocked by “gate keepers.” But, if one is cunning and has acquired the fine art of manipulating others, many things become possible. The appropriate “donation” during a political campaign may be just what is needed after a victorious election. So, many “hedge their bets.”

Unfortunately, bribing anyone at any time for anything is wrong in the eyes of God. It encourages wickedness and dishonesty in the hearts of the receiver and the giver.

Living honestly and with integrity is God’s way to live.

Prayer:  Help us, Lord, to abandon all practices that are deceitful and displeasing to You and live honorably! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:16 A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Seeking The Right "Stuff"

Years ago while I was a graduate student studying human behavior it was the “rule” of the day to take an endless number of pencil and paper tests. The object, so often stated, was to “provide an understanding of who we were and to bring self-enlightenment and understanding.” Some were insightful, some worthless and some actually, if I might say it with respect, really stupid.

Proverbs 18:15 has some great advice for students of all ages and disciplines: “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, the ears of the wise seek it out.” The first step of a wise person is to understand that he is not wise. How very interesting. Many think their professors possess knowledge and wisdom and sitting in their classes and listening to their lectures will impart the information they need and elevate them intellectually. Others who believe they are learned persons seek to prove their knowledge by having someone or some source validate it. Some think that true knowledge can be discovered apart from God.

The truly wise person is one who is willing to admit that getting knowledge and wisdom is a life long journey that begins and ends with God. Proverbs reminds us over and over again to “let the wise listen and add to their knowledge and let the discerning get knowledge.”

But Solomon never strays from the indisputable fact that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Teachers and books pass, but God’s Word abides!

Prayer:  Give us teachers who know, love and honor You to teach students that wisdom begins with fearing You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hope And Health

Once, while riding our bicycles over a mountain in California, I began to complain to my son John about the toll the ride was taking on me. My body seemed to be wracked with pain after riding for over six hours. After a moment he made one of his profound, son-to-father, life altering statements to me.

“Dad,” he said, “we didn’t have to do this. We chose to do it. Pain is optional. Suffering isn’t.”

Solomon also made a similar statement: “A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness; but a crushed spirit who can bear?” All of us endure many days of suffering as well as pain as we walk through life’s journey. Often the “pain part of life” brings about the accomplishment of a heart’s desire: to accomplish something that very difficult. It may be that no one else has ever attempted or tried to do what we have set our hearts to do.

We may be chosen by God to endure long nights of unbearable suffering that no one has the capacity to empathize with. Our minds may be confused by mental problems that surmount all methods of healing. Suffering often alters our inner resources and mental outlook to combat the “unwanted suffering.” Many of us come to the place where we have no more mental, physical or even spiritual resources to overcome our suffering. What then?

Are there any simple answers or pithy statements or verses available? Though we may try there are no easy ways to comfort the suffering. All must accept the grace of God and enter into the “fellowship of His suffering.”

Prayer:  Father, for those suffering today, please give them Your peace, renew their spirit and grant them hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:14 The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Listen Up!

There is a tremendous difference between listening and hearing. We can hear without listening but cannot listen without hearing. Our ears have become accustomed to being bombarded by so many loud noises that we often hear things without listening to what is actually going on or being said. It is reminiscent of the old adage that there is something “going in one ear and out the other” without being noticed. This can create problems for us.

“He who answers without listening - that is his folly and shame,” is a wise admonishment. All too often when we are talking with one another we are more interested in what we are thinking about than what the other person is saying to us. Unless we place a high value on what they are saying, we are apt to misunderstand what that person is saying to us or needing from us.

There are those who think a quick answer is a sign of intellect, knowledge or wisdom. Actually, it may be none of them. In fact, this proverb insists that to give an answer to someone without listening is in fact the sign of a foolish person and there is a strong suggestion in this proverb that the person who responds without careful thought  is foolish and will ultimately bring shame on him or herself.

But there is even a more subtle hint here that is well worth thinking about. A person who carefully and thoughtfully listens to another person shows that person respect. It is as if we are saying, “You are as important to me as you are to God. I must listen to you as He would!”

Prayer:  Help us, Lord, to honor and respect others who come to us in times of need and listen to them willingly. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:13 To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Strength And Safety

For several years Mary and I lived near the top of King Mountain. It was a majestic setting. There was a breathtaking view from every window in every room. We had views that changed daily with the rising and setting of the sun, the moon and stars and colorful seasons. The storms were severe and sudden with strong winds, rain and snow. There were days when we could not leave our home because we were “snowed in” and ice covered the road to the highway. Even though there were times when the winds were over 70 miles an hour, we felt secure. The structure was sound and stable and the siding was thick and tight. It was built to withstand the fiercest storms.

In Proverbs 18:10 we find a phrase that occurs only once in Proverbs. But it is a most important phrase: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” This phrase, “The Name of the Lord” stands for the Lord Himself! It is the revelation of who He is and how He wants us to see and understand Him. In this verse He is making Himself known to us. It does not talk about Him or something He might do; it tells us Who He is! This self-revelation of God clearly and specifically states that He is a "strong tower." Furthermore, when we trust in “the Name of the Lord” we are trusting in Him to be our all sufficient refuge and when we do so we enter into a place where no one can harm us or has access to us!

Here, in this “strong tower” those who are righteous will find safety and security because they are wrapped in His strength. The “strong tower,” however, is for His own.

Prayer:  We thank You, Lord, for being our strong tower, where we can abide in peace, safety, comfort and hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How To Be Even Tempered

A quick-tempered person is one to be avoided at all costs. Being the object of someone’s “rage” is no fun. It fact, it can be frightening to say the least. However, if we are one of those who have a “short-fuse” and are prone to lose our tempers, where do we go for a “cure” and to learn self-control?

“A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even tempered.” This is what we can call a “high-dividend” proverb. It addresses the need that all of us have to control our speech. Certainly all of us would like to have control of our words and be even tempered. But how?

There is a subtle, yet critical, element in this verse. It refers to “gathering knowledge” which enables us to moderate or control our words and thoughts and feelings.

Those who are wise know when and how to control their emotions and prevent situations that can be embarrassing and harmful to self and others. And that takes “restraint.”

“Restraint” implies the suggestion that we take time to consider what is happening in and around us by giving thought to our words before we let them come out of our mouths. We need to know our values and trigger points.

All of us have trigger points - those little signals we “sense” before we explode. They are always connected to the values we build our lives around. They include faith and family, right and wrong, good and evil, God and country. Anything of importance to us, when violated, can cause us to “explode.” Be like a pilot: develop a check list!

Prayer:  Father, help us to understand ourselves as well as You do, and learn “self-control” through Your strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:27-28 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Heart Medicine

One of my dear physician-friends wrote a book entitled “The Body Reveals.” He began his medical career as a general surgeon then studied to become a cardiovascular surgeon. One day while we were talking, he said, “Larry, the most disturbing part of my practice is that I cannot get people to look at their lives - what they are doing to themselves. People think they can do anything they want and then go to a physician for a prescription or some surgery and all of their problems will be corrected. That’s not the way we work. There’s a connection between our bodies and our minds and we are very complex beings, because of the way God made us.”

There’s an intimate and complex connection between our hearts and bodies. Remember – God’s Word reminds us that our hearts contain emotions, values, goals, desires – the “sum total of who we are.” And, Solomon said it so well: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” This is the only time the word medicine is used in the Old Testament.

One’s “peace of mind” directly affects our ability to maintain a life of wellness. Conversely, a “troubled mind” makes it difficult, if not impossible, to be healthy, and beyond that, to regain our health once we lose it. The most important lesson for us to learn from this verse is that “God is in control.” Whatever is, is a gift from Him to us and He is somewhere “in” that gift. He is at work in our lives shaping us to into His image. We must always remember that He will never leave or forsake us.

Prayer:  Lord, life is difficult. Sickness comes, doubts arise, suffering hurts. Grant us strength, peace and hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Heart Disease

Many live marginalized lives when all of us can be blest of God and have His favor. Many look for secrets to His blessings and gifts. Many become angry at those who are enjoying life more than they are and become resentful at two levels: at God for His blessings to others and those who may have more than they do.

God has no secrets and no favorites. All of us have equal access to Him and His word. It is our choice as to whether or not we will take advantage of what He has to offer us. And, furthermore, it is our responsibility - if we choose - to seek his grace and goodness.

But there certainly are conditions. For example: “A man of perverse heart does not prosper, he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble.” Here is a good starting point: is my heart clean and pure or perverse and deceitful?

God gives one reminder that we must never forget. What is in the heart inevitably comes out of our mouths. There is no way around that God given admonition. Our hearts are the center of our universe and what is in our heart is what we build our lives around; it is what drives us. So, if we bow to and worship money we will do whatever it takes to get it - even if it is a deceitful or perverse mind. The same would go for fame or power or prestige.

If God is not at the center of our heart something else is and that is what we will live and die for. There are many who want to have it both ways: do whatever to get whatever I want and give God his due - whatever we think it might be. That’s a perverse and deceitful mind.

Prayer:  This day, Lord, is the day of the year when we focus on “hearts.” May we look “inside” ours carefully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:20 One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Finances And Friendship

Is there a limit to friendship? It seems that there is.

“A man lacking in judgment strikes hands in pledge, and puts up security for his neighbor” is sound advice!
Only the hardest of hearts wants to see anyone suffer from a lack of life’s necessities. Most of us want to be thought of as having kind hearts and willing hands. Many have given more than their share of their goods and finances without thinking of the cost to them personally. What seemed wise, in the final analysis was not. So, we come to a verse that puts the idea of giving into context for us.

It’s foolish, or a “man lacks judgment,” for a person to place their name on a contract unless they know for certain the character and financial resources of the other person. So, there is indeed a limit to friendship.

Very often, and with good intentions and the desire to be “liked,” we foolhardily shake hands or “make a pledge” for a person who cannot or will not honor their word. To enter into any agreement with any person for any reason must be given careful, prayerful thought. It is foolish to give our word and promise to fulfill any contract simply to be liked or considered a “friend.”

This proverb addresses the idea of “certainty.” If, for example, the person who is the primary individual on the contract becomes unable to fulfill his obligations, the burden of fulfilling the obligation falls on the “hand shaker.” To do so may endanger the family of the co-signer as well as encourage the one wanting financial assistance to be extravagant and careless in spending.

Prayer:  We ask, Lord, that we may seek Your wisdom and guidance before making foolish choices to help others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:18 One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Love And Friendship

Years ago I read a book entitled, “A Friend is Someone Who Likes You.” Never mind the word love in the title of the book or in the mind of the author. The message the author wanted his readers to understand is that love is an obligation for Christians but to like someone, well, that’s a choice.

The book makes it clear that we all do things that are difficult for others to accept - especially those who know us best. But to get above strange differences and ugly habits and accept others as they are - that is “true” friendship. And when things go awry, it doesn’t matter. They are to be overlooked. A friend willingly overlooks the worst in a friend and is always ready to lend a hand.

Is that not the way we Christians are to treat each other? I recently heard someone say, “Well, I love them enough to get into heaven, but that does not mean I have to like them for the way they are and act.” Oh yes, it does.

There are different ways of understanding what Solomon meant when he wrote: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” In the Hebrew text “One who loves at all times” comes first and is then followed by “friend.” The idea that Solomon wants us to understand is that friends can do by choice what is to be expected at all times of family members.

When we enter into times of adversity, when one’s world is turned upside down, when life no longer makes sense, strong human relationships - friendships - are critical. And a true friend loves us through it all, no matter what.

Prayer:  Father, help us to cultivate friends who will be with us “through it all” and like us as well as love us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Wanted: Godly Wisdom

Many years ago I had a friend who wrote a book on decision making. He carefully researched the decision making process of world leaders through history as far as was possible. He concluded that a leader could be known and understood by the people he went to for information before making a decision. He looked at character traits, religious beliefs, education and friends. Simply stated, who we look to for advice before making a decision reveals who we are and what to expect of us.

But advice is not wisdom. Advice, stated by line “authority” is an “opinion about what could or should be done about a situation or problem.” One can purchase advice or seek advice from friends or associates, but it is not wisdom. Heed the words of Solomon: “Of what use is money in the hands of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom.”

It is foolish, according to Solomon, to think that anyone can buy wisdom since it is a gift of God. It can only be acquired by studying His Word and depending on Him for insight and foresight through prayer. Even if someone could buy His wisdom they would be a “fool” for they would lack the sense to know what to do with it.

God’s wisdom is not for sale. It is available to those who have a desire to get to know Him by spending time with Him and seeking wisdom from Him. God makes Himself known to those who willingly seek Him with all their heart. The only requirement for those who want God’s wisdom is to seek it in His Word and invest time in prayer.

Prayer:  Father, help us to understand the importance of true, Godly wisdom. May we seek it with all our hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Equality For All

One of the great dilemmas that many speak of today is unequal justice. If the person who committed an offense is on my side politically or athletically for example, it is almost a foregone conclusion that “our side” wants “unfair justice” for that one. It seems as though most are more than willing to overlook justice for the “wrong doer” if it will not cause our side or our team to lose in the race for prominence, prestige, position or political favor.

How very wrong in the eyes of God! Justice, in God’s eyes is to be applied equally. He makes no apology or excuse for wrongdoing. One cannot read His Word without coming to the conclusion that “justice must prevail!” This concept is stressed in the Law and the Prophets and in other Old Testament writings. God will not bless or accept the behavior of those who attempt to justify the wrong doing of anyone for any reason in any situation. In His Word and in His world, wrong is wrong and cannot be negotiated or resolved by getting the largest number of votes.

Injustice is always repulsive to God because it is a violation of His very nature and character. He is a just and holy God and to favor one side above another cannot exist in His creation.

“Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent - the Lord detests them both.” One thing to note about this verse is the fact that the words Solomon chose describe the most intense outrage possible to a Holy God. To Him, inequity is repulsive - even if it involves “our team.”

Prayer:  Help us, Lord, to see right and wrong through Your eyes and in light of Your Word. May justice prevail! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:15 Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the Lord detests them both.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cover It Up!

Asking for forgiveness is often more difficult than it seems. To have offended someone and not be troubled by the pain it produced is indeed the sign of a calloused heart and an indifferent attitude: both are abominations to God!

But to acknowledge that we have wronged another person is a difficult thing. For whatever insane reason, although we do not admit it, we all seem to think we live a life that is as close to perfect as possible. Our opinions are absolute and our values are without question the ones that every person ought to hold.

That, however, defies Scripture and reason. Most of us have a difficult time getting through one day without some conflict about some issue with another person. And if our opinion or position on the issue does not agree with the other persons, conflict erupts.

Now, conflict is not all bad. Often, creativity comes out of conflict and that’s good. If, however, we become hardened in our position and refuse to accept the ideas of the other person and use words to hurt and harm the other, that is indeed wrong and displeasing to God.

We are all equal in God’s eyes - even when our ideas or positions disagree with another. If we are thoughtless in expressing our differences to the point that we use abusive language to destroy and defeat one of God's children – that’s definitely wrong. End of discussion.

“He who covers over an offense promotes love.” Here we are advised to plead for forgiveness and “cover it up.” Another way of saying it is to “forgive and forget.”

Prayer:  Give us tender and respecting hearts, Lord. May we spend today making amends for harming others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:9 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

Friday, February 13, 2015

It Goes In A Circle

Few events in life are as precious as the arrival of a grandchild. They bring new life to aging parents and hope for the future. They all develop their own individual ways and unusual habits that are endearing and worth tucking away in “memory banks” for future moments. Memories like the names they use to get our attention and favorite blankets they cannot live without or the huge number of stuffed animals they can carry from one place to another without dropping a single one of them.

Solomon said it well: “Children’s children are a splendor to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” The inestimable joy that comes with a grandchild is difficult to explain. It is indeed like a burst of splendor that produces pride that is difficult to diminish no matter what happens.

But there seems to be a circle in this verse that we must not overlook. With all of the pleasurable moments we enjoy with our grandchildren there comes a tremendous responsibility. It is in the second section of this verse: “parents are the pride of their children.” Here, Solomon sets a stake in the ground that indicts parents. He insists that we must recognize and accept the responsibility that we who are parents have to God.

To have an honorable grandchild the grandparent is responsible for having been a model father. This does not imply that fathers are to be perfect. That’s not possible. But it does mean that the grandchild’s father was well mentored by a father who honored God in all things.

Prayer:  Father, every Dad wants to be a Dad that pleases you. Forgive our failures and help us to succeed. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:6 Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

If these Seeds have ministered to you, email us and let us know, please. Remember, we can only do what we do because of your support

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pass It On!

It was just before noon when Joseph walked into my office. His clothes were dirty and wrinkled. He must have been cold from the driving rain and winter wind.

“I know I look nasty,” he said. “I’ve been sleeping in a barn for the past three nights. There’s no heat and it’s been hard to stay warm. Mind if I sit in your chair over in the corner? It really looks comfortable.”

“This soft drink is all I’ve had for two days. I’m a diabetic and need to eat but I’m drinking this drink as slow as I can until I find someone who can help me. I was thrown out of my home Christmas Day because I couldn’t pay the rent. Do you have any money you can give me? I’ll have some by Friday and can pay you back then.”

Our offices are located on a state highway and many folk like Joseph stop by daily. Cal stopped by Monday. His mother along with his two-month-old daughter, were killed by a drunk driver the day before. He was on his way to Florida to make funeral arrangements before he deployed to Iraq with his Marine unit. He did not ask for anything except prayer. “I saw your Chapel,” he said, “and I knew I could find someone here who could pray for me. That’s really all I need.”

It is difficult to remember a day when no one has stopped by for help. Their stories are compelling and even heart breaking. Occasionally they are untrue. In the end, however, they answer to God for what they do. “He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker.”

Prayer:  Help us, Father, to help those who are poor and in need. May we show Your love to those in need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

If these Seeds have ministered to you, email us and let us know, please. Remember, we can only do what we do because of your support

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Generosity Matters

Thinking “poor” is difficult for most of us. We have so much more than we need that it is difficult to understand what it is like to go without. For many, however, the distance between a healthy meal and pangs of hunger is quite a distance. Many of us have never had to go without a meal much less the essentials of life.
Most of us have invested some “thing” in those who represented themselves as poor only to find out that we have been “tricked.” Some say they will never give again because they were tricked.

There are times when I find myself “guarded” when people come to my office with a need for some “thing.” It might be for money to pay the gas or electric bill, or milk to nourish a baby or money for a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter. Often when I find myself questioning their motives I ask myself: “Who am I to be their judge?”

Later on in Proverbs we will come across a verse that says, “For God made both the rich and the poor.” So, my response to those in need is an indication of how I would respond to Jesus Himself if He came to me with a need.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus said, “What you did to the least of these brothers of mine, you did it unto me.” If we fail to respond with compassion to those in need how can we expect God to hear us when we have needs?

When we see someone in need let us never forget that God brought that one into our lives to help them. It’s not our choice. It’s our obligation to do whatever we can.

Prayer:  Lord, give us hearts that are sensitive to the needs of others. May we bless their lives as You have ours. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 17:5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Importance Of Gray Hair

Hair care products have become a major industry in most developed countries in the world. In fact, in 2013, men spent more money on hair care products than on shaving products. It’s not that beards are becoming more popular. It’s simply the fact that “manscaping” or “anti-aging” products for male hair care have increased very dramatically.

Evidently, hair care was not important to Solomon. But gray hair was. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor, it is attained by a righteous life,” wrote Solomon. He also wrote that “gray hair is a crown of glory.”

Looking for Solomon in a men’s hair care salon, no doubt would be a waste of time. He would probably be found at his desk pouring over the law and prophets looking for wisdom and insight. And for good reason.
Throughout the book of Proverbs there is an important theme: the righteous are rewarded with long life!

How times have changed. Today, body building and “flat-abs” are much more important than understanding the word of God. Mirror-lined walls in health clubs are everywhere. They are filled night and day with individuals who want to “tone-up their muscles” by weight training and other forms of body building.

There is nothing wrong with caring for our bodies. They are the temple of the Holy Spirit. But if we neglect the importance of “soul-building” what good would the most perfect body be if it was not dedicated to the glory of God to bringing men and women into His Kingdom?

Prayer:  Father, help us to care for our bodies and use them to bring honor and glory to Your name! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Trust And Obey

Knowing who or what to trust may be difficult. It may be the result of having someone disappoint us or take advantage of us. None the less, trust once lost, is often costly and difficult to regain.

Years ago a mother and father sat in my office and asked, “Dr. Guido, in light of what our son has done, will we ever be able to trust him again? He has disappointed us time and time again. He has lied to us and he has stolen from us and he has betrayed us. How can we ever believe what he says is true?”

My heart ached as they looked at me. They loved their son dearly. They made many sacrifices on his behalf. They sent him to the best schools and took him to church when he was young. But a gradual change came over him and they did not know what to do.

After thinking a few moments I replied, “Yes, once we lose trust in someone we love dearly, it causes problems that are difficult to overcome. But there seems to be one principle that might help you. It begins with keeping our promises. If I say and do it, that’s me keeping my word and you can begin to trust me. If I say it and don’t do it, I’ve not honored my word and old doubts will return. The past will invade our minds and hearts and trust will become more difficult than ever. Keeping my word is the only reason you would have to trust me.”

“Blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” We know that we can trust the Lord because He has always honored His word. If He said it He did it - time and time again!

Prayer:  How blest we are, Father, to read Your Word and place our trust in You. Your Word allows us to trust. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:20 Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Rewards of Arrogance

“Warning: Construction work next 10 miles.”

Most of us have seen road signs that warn us of an impending danger. Wise motorists heed the warning if they want to be safe. Careless ones normally take risks to prove they make their own rules and create their own destiny. The attitude that “Rules were made to be broken” proves that they can get away with things in life that have boundaries.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” is a warning that is well worth following. There is little doubt that one of the most fundamental foes Christians face is pride. In fact, Solomon stated in verse five that “The Lord detests all the proud of heart!” Pride, once it invades our hearts, is often the beginning step in walking away from God. Pride will destroy us because it cancels the first rule of wisdom: “The fear of the Lord.” Pride and an attitude of humility and our complete dependence on God cannot exist in the same heart.

It is well worth noting that the word “destruction” carries with it a picture of the shattering of a bone. When our hearts become filled with pride and we no longer see the need for God to be at the center of our lives, all of our dreams and visions will be shattered.

A good way to understand the word “haughty” is to think of the “woozy” feelings that come with being “dizzy.” Life becomes blurred, steps uncertain and unsteady and eventually lead to a fall.

“Forewarned is forearmed.”

Prayer:  Help us, Lord, to become dependent on You for all that we need lest we stumble and fall because of pride. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Highway Of Life

My Dad worked for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for nearly fifty years. He was responsible for maintaining over 200 miles of railroad tracks. Part of the tracks ran from the docks of the harbor to a steel mill that was the largest manufacturer of pipe in America. Although the distance from the harbor to the steel mill was only a few miles, the tracks formed an intricate system of switches and tracks that had to be carefully laid out and spaced for the engines, coal cars and steel cars to pass each other safely.

One evening when he returned from work, he was visibly shaken. He sat quietly and said nothing. All of the family knew that something serious had happened and we knew not to ask questions. When he was ready to talk, he would tell us the story.

Finally he said, “We had a terrible accident in Elyria today. The men who worked there did not prepare the bed properly for the tracks and they gave way today. The engine fell over on its side and killed the engineer.” Someone failed to take the time to build the bed strong enough for the trains to pass safely. That engineer did not have to die and leave his family. Someone failed and it cost the engineer his life.

“The highway of the upright avoids evil, he who guards his way guards his life,” wrote Solomon. The word “highway” refers to a raised roadway that is carefully groomed and maintained. Those who value their walk with the Lord will avoid evil and guard every step.

Prayer:  Father, make us sensitive to the attraction of evil and the importance of guarding each step we take. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:17 The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Help Wanted

James had unwrapped all of his birthday presents except one. It was a small truck that had a bubble of plastic over it that was sealed to a piece of cardboard. He tried desperately to separate the plastic from the cardboard but had no success. Initially he thought he could separate the two by trying to slip his small finger nail between them. But his nail was too short. Then he tried to carefully squeeze the plastic to see if it would “open up” enough space for him to get his hand on the truck. That plan failed, too. Then he put the plastic bubble on the table and pushed on the cardboard thinking that was the solution. Frustrated, he looked at the little truck with longing eyes. It was a prize that became more valuable each time he tried to unwrap it.

Then he looked up at his Dad and asked, “What can I do to get my truck out of the box?”

“Well,” said his Dad, “you could ask for help.”

Every plan that James tried failed. They all seemed sensible to him, but when he tried to make them work nothing happened. Then he lifted his eyes and found someone who would help him successfully achieve his goal.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” is worth accepting and applying. We may design detailed, thorough plans to reach our goals, but when we attempt to make them work in our own strength, we become frustrated and discouraged when they fail. It’s better to include the Lord in the planning stage and then work with Him until they are fulfilled.

Prayer:  Lord, we all want to succeed in everything we do. May we always include You from the beginning to the end. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

For God's Glory

Nearly everyone in our organization had a difficult time working with Gustav. He was born and educated in Germany and continually challenged everyone about any and everything. It was not so much that he thought he was smarter or superior to us, but he relentlessly made everyone think about what they were doing. For him, everything had to have a purpose.

“Why are you doing that?” he would ask. Or “What good will that do?” And, if those questions were not answered to his satisfaction he would ask the ultimate and most difficult question of all, “What’s the purpose of what you are doing?” It was like working with small children who asked endless questions because they did not understand what was going on.

Eventually we came to respect “Gus.” He forced us to be certain that everything we did had a purpose. If not, we were wasting time that would be lost forever.

“The Lord works out everything for His own ends - even the wicked for a day of disaster,” wrote Solomon. Whatever we do and wherever we are is an important part of the plan that God has personally designed for each of us. We must always remember that everything is under God’s control. Whatever is is because God allows it. Even evil things done by evil men fit into His plan and purpose. Their deeds are a result of their choices and God will not allow them to escape His judgment or wrath.

Paul explained it well: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.”

Prayer:  Lord, may we be ever mindful that this is Your world. You indeed are Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:4 The Lord works out everything to its proper end— even the wicked for a day of disaster.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What's In It For God?

“Before you make a decision, make a plan or set a goal, ask these questions,” said T.B. Matson, our ethics professor.

“Can I ask God to bless what I am about to do?”

“Is what I am planning to do going to honor God?”

“Would I feel comfortable to ask others to join me in prayer for what I am asking God to do?”

“Would others agree with me that what I am about to do will be God-honoring?”

We often act and react without pausing to pray about or even consider the consequences of our behavior. Sometimes when things seem to be getting out of control, we run to God and plead for Him to “correct this terrible mess I’ve created for Your sake.” Others may say, “Well, it looked good when I started but where is God now?”

Because of our sinful nature, we often act without seeking God’s approval before setting out on a project. We think, plan, work and then wonder “what happened to my ideas?” when things go wrong. We forget the need to go to God first because of our desire to act independent and self-sufficient. If we look to and depend on God, we automatically admit we are insufficient on our own and need His help. And who wants to think they need help?

Wisely Solomon wrote, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” The word used for “commit” literally means “roll over.” So, if in prayer we “roll over” our plans to God for His blessing, protection and guidance, we can expect them to succeed.

Prayer:  Father, we pray that You will remove all pride from our lives and help us realize our need for Your guidance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

Monday, February 2, 2015

What's In It For Me?

Have you ever asked someone to do something and they either did it poorly or “forgot” or said, “That’s on the top of my list. I can’t believe I haven’t done it yet. Please forgive me,” or “I wish you’d have reminded me sooner. You know I want to help you!” Unfortunately, most people want something in return for everything they do.

Had there been something very special or unique in “it” for doing the task, it probably would have been done. Most individuals want to receive some type of recognition or reward for helping others. It’s usually a “what’s in it for me” attitude that paralyzes many from being helpful. When our requests for assistance are for the ordinary, everyday, boring things of life that have little glamour or glory, they are easily set aside for the more important things that bring rewards or recognition. Few willingly become involved with the problems of others when the rewards are small or insignificant.

Everyone needs attention and recognition. It’s part of whom God made us to be. However, we must always be conscious of one important fact: Whatever we do must be done to glorify God. If we do the right “thing” for the wrong reason - to bring recognition to ourselves - we cannot expect God to bless it or us. In fact, we should not.

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord,” wrote Solomon. We may not stop and think about being accountable to God for every “thing” we do, but we are. God knows our “motives” and “weighs” them in light of His Word. Our motives matter!

Prayer:  We ask, Father, to be alert to all that we say or do. May our motives come from Your Word and honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

It Takes More Than Good Plans

It had been a long, trying and tiring day. It seemed as though there was one demand after another - each more consuming than the preceding one. While sitting alone and looking out the window at a yard filled with pine trees, my little dog Bella came and sat at my feet. Finally, I thought, here’s someone who has come to comfort me.

Shortly after she sat down and looked into my eyes, she began to bark loudly. Not wanting to be disturbed, I tried to avoid looking at her - hoping she would come to the conclusion that I did not want to be bothered. It didn’t work. She persisted until I looked at her, shook my head, got up from my chair and fed her.

What I find so amazing is that she expects to be fed at the same time each day. It is as though she has a plan in place waiting to be executed. But, she does not have the ability to plan. Only man, created in the image of God, has been given the ability to plan. It is a God-given gift and to be used to glorify and honor God. And notice, if you will, that it comes from the heart - our very essence - the sum total of all the gifts God has given to us.

But notice, also, “the answer of the tongue comes from the Lord.” We may make the most intricate, time consuming and carefully designed plans for what we think is best for us and others. But, in the end, only God knows what is best for every situation, decision, problem or plan.

We must always recognize the sovereignty of God in all things. We must wait upon Him to speak to us and give us the assurance that our plans agree with His plans!

Prayer:  Help us, Lord, to understand that the best plans ever conceived will fail without Your blessing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:1 To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.