Sunday, July 21, 2019

Giving Or Doing

Many guide their lives by “The Golden Rule” - “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” They do what they do, not from the goodness of their hearts, but what they want or expect from others in return for doing something. It is the old adage: “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Their lives become a trading post.
Others give what they give because their goal is to obligate or control people. They cannot give without grumbling. After “presenting” an object, large or small, they wait and watch to see if they will receive something appropriate in return for their “goodness.” If nothing comes, gifts stop.
Some give for recognition. They want to be praised in public places for their contributions or rewarded for being kind or being seen as a generous person. Many give because they expect to be recognized and blest by God for their gifts, trying to obligate Him for what He already owns.
Giving and doing are both good. But is there something more? “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifices.” This proverb makes a profound statement: We can make any number of sacrifices for many different reasons, but if we do not give because we love God, live righteously, and treat others with justice, dignity and respect, it seems as though giving and doing is less than acceptable in God’s sight.
We must never forget that sacrifice is at the heart of the gospel: God sent His only begotten Son to die for us. But our giving, even sacrificially, must be done for the right reasons. We must realize that “being” is what God wants from us - beginning with “being” born again, followed by “being” righteous and just, and then followed by “being” generous for the right reasons.
Giving reflects gratitude. And if we are grateful for our salvation, we will give generously - but for the right reasons.
Prayer: May we understand, Lord, that our giving reflects our love for You. First our heads, then our hearts, and then giving “things” with our hands! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 21:3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifices. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Honesty

In his book, “Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?” John Powell gives a clear, easy to understand answer: “You may not like me.” We might also add, “Or what I do.”
Most of us want to be “liked.” And most of us will do whatever it takes to create an image - no matter what it takes - to get others to like us. Even if we have to be dishonest, or to be a little blunter, lie, to get others to like us.
Deceit comes from being human. We do our very best to hide who we really are for fear of being “found out.” We cover ourselves with clothes that hide our real shape. We color our hair to hide the grey that comes with age. We “plaster” our faces with make-up to fill in the “lines.” We use clever words to deceive others about our actions and feelings. We refuse to look into the eyes of someone if we are less than honest. Actually, the list could go on for pages.
Those of us who know God know that honesty is important to Him. He knows who we are and knows that honesty is a problem that originates in our hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” asked the prophet Jeremiah. It was an important question then, is now, and always will be.
And the answer then and now remains the same: Honesty has no middle ground. One is either honest or dishonest. Only God knows us perfectly and what can be found in the depths of our hearts. We may deceive ourselves and others, but not God. Self-righteousness comes from self-deception. So, “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.”
As a child, I often sang, “He sees all you do and He hears all you say? My God is writing all the time.” When God makes a note about your honesty, what will it be?
Prayer: Please, Father, help us to be honest, first by not deceiving ourselves. We know You know us and our motives. May we have the desire and courage to be honest at all times. Amen!
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 21:2 A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Hide And Seek

It’s always a time of joy filled with delightful experiences when our grandchildren come to visit. Their youthful exuberance and innocent behavior fill our home with laughter and many unexpected surprises. One of their favorite games is one most of us enjoyed when we were children: hide and seek. They find nooks and crannies, closets and furniture as “obvious” places to hide, and then count from one to ten out loud. Then: “Ready or not, here I come!” is the usual cry before the search begins.
It only takes a few minutes before the one hiding is found by the one seeking. There is no space in our home that remains to be discovered. They know every place there is to hide.
Often we attempt to “hide” some of our deeds from God, thinking there may be a place where He cannot find us. We break His laws and turn our backs on His teachings and try to rationalize or even generalize our behavior: “You know God, everyone does it so it’s not all that bad.” Or, “Well, God, the devil made me do it because You didn’t stop Him.”
Unfortunately, those excuses will not change the facts of Scripture. “The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being.” This “spirit” points back to Creation when “God breathed the breath of life into man,” making him different and distinct from animals.
Obviously, if God created us He certainly must know us, understand us and have access to our most intimate thoughts and desires. We cannot hide anything from our Creator.
When God “ignites” His lamp and searches our “inmost being,” it’s “game over.” He Himself conducts the investigation and knows exactly where to look. While we may attempt to hide our thoughts and desires from God, He knows exactly where to look! Guard against sinning!
Prayer: Father, we cannot hide our thoughts or actions from Your eye. May we earnestly work to live a life worthy of You, our Savior and Lord. Keep us close to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:27 The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Watch Where You Walk!

Years ago, while marching with my high school band, I was more into my music than I was into following my director. We were to march to the goal line on the football field, make a right turn, and then exit the field. One hundred and eleven musicians followed the directions perfectly. One tuba player kept marching into the end zone, alone, embarrassed, and lost. I was that tuba player.
Everyone needs the Director to be their guide and guard. If we choose otherwise we will end up in an “end zone” - alone, embarrassed, and eternally lost. The alternative?
“A person’s steps are ordered by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?” asks Solomon. Perhaps he was going through a difficult period in his life and he recalled a bit of advice from his father, King David: “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him,” wrote his Dad. He may have been facing a decision about his future and was struggling to know which path God would have him take. It may have been a family problem or issues with his staff. Wherever he was in his walk with God, he realized the importance of seeking His wisdom.
God has a plan for each of us, and He wants us to follow Him and fulfill that plan. However, He also has given us the freedom to make the ultimate decision: Will we seek His guidance and His will, or choose to go our own way? And, if we seek it, will we know it when we see it?
Again, we turn to the heart of Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” When we, in humility, bow before Him in complete surrender, seek His will in prayer and study His Word, and ask for the counsel of fellow believers, we can be assured that He will bring His light to our path and protect our every step. Then, we will “know it when we see it!”
Knock, seek, listen, wait, watch, talk with others, and be faithful to Him. He will appear!
Prayer: How foolish we are, Lord, when we do not wait for and trust You. You have our best interests at heart. May we wait patiently as we seek Your guidance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:24 A person’s steps are ordered by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way? 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Let God Make Things Right

Resentments fill hearts and control minds. They are easy to collect and store in dark crevices deep inside while we wait for the right moment to “settle a score.” It is amazing how much more room we seem to have for resentments than we do for love. Perhaps it is because we want to be like God and set standards and pass judgment on what others do to us. It seems like we want to be the prosecutor, then the jury, become the judge, and finally the executioner.
If we could ever look at this “getting even” objectively, it might amaze us. Unless there is an accepted way to measure a wrong, it is impossible to know the appropriate method to apply to “get even.” It might be too little, or too much, and rarely “just right.”
For example: What are we to do if someone treats us or a loved one unfairly? Or speaks a lie or half-truth about us? Maybe exaggerate our faults? Refuse to pay back the money we loaned them? Try to ruin our reputation? Have you been ridiculed for an honest mistake? Someone perhaps, may have sold us an inferior product, then refused to honor their service contract.
Most of our “getting even” are subjective and devised to achieve what we think and feel is appropriate. However, in God’s Word we are warned not to do that!
“Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord, and He will avenge you.” One translator inserts the word “expectantly” after the word “wait.” In other words, “You know that this is up to God, and He, in His impeccable timing, will come to your aid.” God is our Savior and Redeemer and He will do what is right in His eyes - not our eyes.
There is a warning in Genesis that demands our attention: “Far be it from you (to do the work of God)! Will not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”
We must never assume God’s responsibilities! Never!
Prayer: Father, “getting even” is a natural, normal thing to want to do. But it is never the right thing to do. Help us to turn vengeance over to You for You are the Judge! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord, and He will avenge you. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

No One Can Hide

“Ladies Bible Study” was a weekly event when I was a child. My mother always wanted me to be present but with certain limitations. “Larry,” she would remind me from time to time, “children are to be seen and not heard.” My role, unless called upon to say something, was to sit silently in a chair, smile occasionally, and not wiggle. Impossible for a small child.
But the “be seen” always put pressure on me. I had to wear a shirt and tie, make sure my shoes were shined and my pants had a “sharp crease” in them. And, I still follow those rules to this day whenever I attend a meeting or appear in public. So, things worked then and still do!
“Even small children are known by their actions,” wrote Solomon, “so is their conduct really pure and upright?” The word “actions” implies “patterns of behavior that become second nature and last a lifetime.” It’s called “second nature” for a reason: behaviors become routine and are done without much thinking. And this captures the idea of this verse: What is in our behavior is a reflection of our character. Or, what’s on the inside will be seen on the outside.
The words “Even small children?” may lead us to the wrong conclusion if we do not look carefully at what Solomon is saying. “Even” means “in addition to” adults. We see patterns in children that reveal what is at the center of their hearts. Without being aware or even thinking about it, our behaviors are very consistent, from childhood through adulthood. They do not vary, and we do what we do because it “gets” us what we want!
When we stand back and look at our lives and ask: “Is my life what I want it to be? Am I pleasing God and honoring Him?” If the answer is “No,” - it’s time to turn to the Lord and ask for His mercy, grace, and forgiveness. We must never give up on ourselves or others!
Prayer: Lord, help us to focus on how we think and then act. May we be careful in everything we say and do. May we reflect You, Your love, and grace and in all things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:11 Even small children are known by their actions,” wrote Solomon, “so is their conduct really pure and upright? 

Monday, July 15, 2019

No One's Perfect!

Paul echoed Solomon’s words when he wrote, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But Solomon forces us to address the same fact by asking a pointed question no one can escape: “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?”
Sometimes we look at sin as a big “lump of things we did or did not do.” Sin, we believe, has its origin outside of us or is the result of something that happened “to us,” and we simply have to “deal with it” the best we can by trying to “do better.” But that is impossible.
Sin is a “heart” problem and something we cannot change on our own. No one has ever been able to free themselves from sin. And here we find the reason.
If I were able to talk with Solomon, he might begin by asking, “Larry - have you kept your heart pure?” Heart, as you will recall, includes the sum total of “us” - our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, behaviors, values, and goals - that forms the way I relate to everything in life. And if our hearts are not pure, whatever we do will be impure. Only God can purify our hearts through the work of Christ. Only God can free us from an impure heart and the consequences of sin.
When Solomon posed this question, he framed it in such a way that anyone who answered it would be forced to respond by saying, “Not I.” In his wisdom, he forces us to look inside of ourselves, at our own heart, and answer for our own impurities. We each must answer for our own sins. There is no way for us to escape our individual accountability or responsibility for what we have done. No one has kept their heart pure. No not one!
God alone, through the work of Christ on the cross, can remove our sins and cleanse us!
Prayer: Father, how very grateful we are to have the promise of a pure heart that is available through Christ. May we, through Your grace, accept Him as our Savior and Lord! Amen!
Scripture For Today: Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’? Proverbs 20:9

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Walking Our Talk

In other words, if I say it, I’ll do it!
Unfortunately, there is usually a gap between what some of us say and what we do. For whatever reason, we are much more willing to make a promise than keep it. Perhaps we want others to think more highly of us than we actually are. So, we say, “I’ll be happy to do this or help you with that or count on me to be there when you need me.” End of conversation and promise!
“Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man, who can find?” There seems to be a sadness in this proverb that suggests a sense of disappointment in the heart of Solomon. Whether someone had betrayed him or failed to keep their word is not known. But what we do know is that he contrasts the gap between words and deeds, saying and doing. There is an obvious difference between love professed and promised and love described and delivered.
The word “faithful” in this verse is the same word used when the writer spoke of God’s faithfulness to honor His word in the promises He made to the nation of Israel. It also speaks of the love God expects from us when we say that we love Him and will be faithful to Him. When we say, “Father I love You” - might it bring into God’s mind the later part of our verse: “But can I trust you to keep your word?”
This part of the verse obviously pained Solomon. It forces me to wonder what betrayal he might have experienced from his wife or children, friends or confidants. Words are inexpensive but actions always cost something to the one who upholds or honors what he promises.
How blest we are to understand what faithfulness is all about because of our relationship with a loving, heavenly Father! He always honors His word. He has never broken a promise.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for Your love and the promise that You will never leave us nor forsake us. Thank You for giving and keeping Your word proving that Your care. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:6 Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man, who can find?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Importance Of A True Friend

“A friend is someone who likes you in spite of anything you do and will do everything possible to keep you from making a mistake.” Everyone needs someone like that in their lives. There have been times in my life when, if a “friend” had been available, my decisions would have been different and not ended up in disaster.
“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” A friend gives us a place to begin when we are making difficult choices, serious decisions or intricate plans. More often than not we have stored feelings and thoughts, ideas and memories deep within our hearts. Over time we have forgotten them and their importance. Perhaps we have pushed them deep inside of us because we did not realize they would ever be important. Solomon calls them “deep waters” or “wells of wisdom that have been covered up over time.”
“A man of understanding” or a “good friend who understands us” will draw them out of us - much like bringing up a bucket of cold, refreshing water from a deep well. This friend or “man of understanding” forces us to examine our “motives or unclear thoughts” - whatever is within us - in light of God’s own wisdom. Our “friend” will not allow us to do what we intended to do without challenging our desires to make certain that they are pure, wholesome, and God-honoring.
This “man of understanding” must first admit that he is not “the” man of understanding. While that may sound contradictory, it isn’t. This “friend” must first listen to God’s wisdom before he can impart it to another “friend.” Then, there is the requirement to pray for and with us as we seek and listen for God’s guidance. This “man of understanding” receives his understanding from God.
We all need “a man or woman” of understanding in our lives. We need someone who will force us to seek God’s wisdom. We can all recall times, sadly, when we refused to do this.
Prayer: Lord, grant us one friend who will force us to examine our motives and goals and make certain that they are consistent with Your truth. We all need Your insight. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:5 The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

One Fact Remains?

Is it wrong for Christians to drink? Does the Bible forbid drinking? Was the alcohol content of wine any different in Biblical times than it is today? Was it really wine at the Lord’s Supper or unfermented grape juice? What is the correct position for church members to take when it comes to attending functions where alcoholic beverages are served?
There never has been a time or place in my life when alcohol was not part of someone’s agenda. In fact, the thesis I wrote for my Master of Theology degree addressed this topic. The program took two years, and I visited some of the greatest libraries in the world looking for a definitive answer. I did much of my research at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Graduate Theological Union which were near the seminary I attended.
However, Solomon, who no doubt hosted many events that included alcoholic beverages, presents his observations about the consequences of drinking. It seems to eliminate any reason to look any further for an answer: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” The consequences for alcohol abuse are obvious.
Alcohol is a depressant. It allows what we consider sacred or reserved, valuable or private, personal and private, hidden and buried deep within us an opportunity to “escape” and harm ourselves and others. A “mocker” is someone who becomes arrogant and ridicules God by word and deed. The “mocker” has no need for anyone - including God - and can “do it all by myself.” And the “brawler” is one who is indiscreet, obnoxious, and has no shame.
So, the first part of the verse leads to the second: Alcohol leads people to act independently of God’s wisdom. Anyone who allows their behavior to be altered - one way or another - by any depressant is unwise - hence, ungodly. A “wise” person once said to me: “A wise person will not get drunk, and a drunk person is not wise.”
Prayer: Help us, Father, to realize the dangers that await us if we compromise Your wisdom. May we avoid the use of alcohol and the negative consequences that follow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Life Long Learning

Doctors and nurses, social workers and sheriffs, as well as all other licensed professionals, are required to participate in “continuing education” studies. They must do so to retain their licenses and be current in the latest legal statues and regulations that affect their profession. If they fail to complete the required number of hours to maintain their licenses, they lose their licenses and can no longer practice their profession.
That is not true for those of us who profess to accept the teachings of God’s Word. We have a choice in the matter. We may, if we “want” to, read and study His Word, attend church, pray and fellowship with other believers. What we do or do not do is a result of our love for and commitment to and walk with the Lord.
However, there are consequences if we do not follow the teachings of Scripture. For example, “Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” There is a warning in this verse that is best understood if we translate it to read: “Look, my children, if you ever stop listening to my teachings and refuse to follow what I have taught you, you will end up wandering through life and not know where you are going or what you are doing.”
Scripture, especially the writings of Solomon, contain many warnings about abandoning the teachings of God. This one is straight to the point. It is a thought-provoking contrast to what so many believe and practice today: “If it feels good, do it!” Although it may “feel good” today when you awaken to the realities of such foolishness it may be too late: “You will have strayed from the things of God.”
Wisely God gives us choices. He never has nor ever will force us to choose Him or His teachings. It’s up to us to choose. But if we do indeed love Him our choices will reflect His ways.
Prayer: Help us, Father, to choose a life dedicated to the pursuit of loving You, knowing You and following You. If we choose otherwise, Father, we will not be blest. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:27 Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

One More Time. However?

Solomon refuses to let us forget the theme of Proverbs: wisdom. He frequently reminds us of its significance, then demonstrates how we are to apply it to our daily activities, its effect on our present life, and ultimately our life with God in eternity. “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Perhaps a more accurate and easily understood way to translate this verse is “The fear of the Lord is life indeed!” Life, when lived in this manner means that those who accept and live life the way God designed it to be, “need never fear the Lord.”
It is easy to lose sight of what God intended life to be. If we look at life the way God created us to be, a reflection of His image, we will more likely than not discover that it is quite different from how we plan to live. It is not “adding” the fear of God to our lives, but living life as God specifically designed it to be and being afraid of not meeting His expectations. God created man to have a “divine dimension” above and beyond our “humanity.” God intended our manner of living to be evident and obvious to others.
First, God “designed” us to be devoted to Him alone. He is at the center of our “soul” - the sum total of our life - including our feelings, thoughts, and actions. Everything we think and feel and do are all focused on pleasing Him. We are dedicated to building His Kingdom on earth by using the gifts and talents He has given us to honor Him. It is living life in, through, and for Him.
Secondly, whatever we do proceeds or had its origins in Him. Others see His character in us: His love and grace, mercy and forgiveness; His compassion and comfort, and care of and for others. We will do His work in His world by doing His will.
Finally, we do these “things” by applying His wisdom to our lives and following His guidance every moment of every day.
Prayer: Lord, all this seems impossible and unattainable. But, it’s not about attaining. It’s about maintaining an attitude of wanting to be who You created us to be! Help us, Jesus! Amen!
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Discipline Or Death?

Solomon was widely recognized for his insightful proverbs. There were many who did not worship his God but respected and followed the advice that was embedded in his wisdom. Many of his proverbs were written for his sons. But they were not intended to be limited to them. They were written to provide guidance for all fathers and mothers and children of all times and in all cultures.
A recurring theme throughout Proverbs is the importance of discipline. Solomon often reminds us that self-discipline is a life-long, never-ending necessity. But on one occasion he reminds fathers, which is also intended to include mothers, that there are some children who require life-long discipline which hopefully and eventually may accomplish its purpose. Though it may seem futile and a waste of time and effort, with no results, parents are to persevere!
“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death,” is a rather stark warning. There may be times when parents think that education or guidance or advice or opportunity or wealth may bring hope for their children’s future. But what value are all those things without discipline? The underlying rule to what he is saying is this: “The undisciplined life is not worth living because it will certainly end in death!”
What a vivid warning: If we who are parents do not make discipline the most important priority in the life of our children, we willingly - and now knowingly - contribute to their death! This is breathtaking and frightening. And notice that there is no age limit to discipline a child. Whenever a child needs discipline, parents are to step in and intervene! A child – or adult - is never beyond the need for discipline if it is necessary or required it will honor God. 
Discipline may not be accepted and parents must never give up hope. And there is one simple, Biblical rule we are to apply: the “if/then” rule - If you want our help, then you must honor Him.
Prayer: It’s not easy, Father, to be a parent and discipline our children. But You discipline us and are our example. If we want Your blessings, we must obey Your rules. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death 

Monday, July 8, 2019

God's Loan Managers

It’s not something we normally think about. But, perhaps we should. Whatever gifts or talents God has given me must be used to His benefit - not mine. If whatever I have increased in value or worth, it is because He has granted me the increase. If there is any doubt in my mind about this fact, all I have to do is realize how quickly the profits of property or investments can be “wiped out.” Stock markets crash and property can be devalued, and there is nothing I can do other than “take the hit.” Events are beyond me - but not God.
Where can we invest our God-given “gifts” and be assured of the best returns? Be kind and give to the poor? No, I have not become an investment counselor. I am simply recommending that we follow the advice of Solomon: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He (not the poor) will reward him for what he has done.” The “wisdom” of Solomon encourages generosity toward those who are “poor” or seemingly lack God’s blessings. Further, if we care for the poor, we are being obedient to the teachings of Jesus as well as the teachings of Solomon.
What we do to and for the poor we are doing to and for the Lord. Jesus said that “what you do to the poor you do to me.” Could it be that God is testing our trust in Him by giving to the poor? When we see or hear about the “least of these” and do nothing, is God giving us a “head, heart and hand” test? We have God’s teachings in our heads but they do not honor Him unless we let them flow through our hearts and hands to those who lack in His blessings.
“Kind to the poor” as used here implies that the poor will never be able to repay us for what we do for them on behalf of God. However, it does, without a doubt, imply that we are “lending to the Lord” and it is God - not the poor - who becomes obligated to us for the “return on our investment.” We are in fact lending “it” to Him. And when He makes a promise, we can take it to the bank!
Prayer: Lord, we “guard” our possessions as though they belong to us. And when we do, we are only deceiving ourselves. May we realize that all we have is actually Yours! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Danger Of Being A Nonconformist

It’s only natural to want to “be my own person” or “follow the little drummer in my heart” and “find my path and follow it.” Who does not want to be an “individual, a one-of-a-kind, no-one-else like me?” Is that not what God really created me for? To be “me” and do “my thing?”
All of that “me” stuff is good - if not great - as long as it is done while staying obedient and true to God’s “instructions.” Otherwise, following one’s own ways leads to death. Do we find any advice from God about this “me” and “me alone?” So, if we want to guard our life and live well and not become involved in behaviors that lead to premature death, what do we do?
According to Solomon, “He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of His ways will die.” The word “instruction” is not open to our personal interpretation. It is instruction that comes from God through His Spirit. This is a “life or death proposition” that demands our unquestionable obedience if we want “the best, longest lasting life possible.”
Keeping God’s instructions is one of the best things we can do. In fact, a non-believer once said to me, “I cannot accept Jesus’ virgin birth or the miracles or the resurrection. But I do know that if I live according to the “instructions” of God and the teachings of Jesus, I will live a long, productive and rewarding life.” However, he was talking about principles - not power that comes from God through Christ. And herein lies the difference.
The “contemptuous” person is one who does not value living their life under God’s instructions. They look at His way as being a matter of choice rather than an obligation to be blessed with a long and full life. “Will die” is the exact opposite of “well-being and a long life.” It refers to a “premature death” that is the result of forsaking and abandoning God’s instructions.
Prayer: Give us, Lord, a willingness to be obedient to Your Word and Your ways. You have given us the power of choice: may we chose You, Your Word, and a blest life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:16 He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of His ways will die. 

Saturday, July 6, 2019

It Goes In A Circle

Most of us who enjoy working and being productive avoid or have a certain amount of contempt for those who are “lazy.” It is very difficult for me to enjoy or be in their company. In fact, if possible, I’ll do whatever is necessary to avoid any association with them. How or when this behavior began in me or others may be a mystery. However, it was also a problem for Solomon. There are twelve references in Proverbs that address the dangers of laziness. It’s a familiar theme that runs throughout his writings. Perhaps it was a warning to his sons. Or, it may have troubled him when he saw his “employees” trying to get out of their responsibilities and take a nap.
“Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry,” he wrote. Notice how one contributes to the other because laziness is, according to Solomon, self-perpetuating. It actually does seem to go in a circle: A person does not do anything because he is lazy. And, if one is lazy and does nothing, the best option for that person is to sleep. So, laziness brings on sleep because of feelings that are the result of not doing anything. Sleep is a habit of those who are lazy and want to take the easy way out of living and working for a living.
Here’s Solomon’s circle: the choice to be lazy is a conscious one that arises from an attitude that one can’t do anything or can’t find anything to do. Either one comes from a choice that is self-centered and results in a state of powerlessness, self-pity and self-defeating behaviors. It is not what God intended when He created mankind. He intended mankind to work in His garden, and in turn, glorify Him for His gift: the ability and talents to work.
Note the word “shiftless.” A “shiftless worker” is one whose work is “half-hearted” and has a poor work ethic. The “shiftless worker” produces an inferior and unacceptable product. Neither head nor heart is involved - they are elsewhere. Soon, they’ll be hungry.
Prayer: Lord, may we delight in work. May we seek it and do our work well, and honor You by being faithful, diligent, committed, and doing our “work” right. Bless us in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:15 Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Limitations

There is a dramatic difference between the gifts parents can give their children and what God can give His children. Often we parents think we are doing great things for our children when we “endow” them with the “things” of this world. But those things, fortunately, and unfortunately, have their limitations.
Financial and material gifts that are passed on to children have limitations. But God’s spiritual gifts have no limitations. So, from his God-given wisdom, Solomon brought this important fact to our attention: “Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” We, as parents, cannot give our children what only God can give them: a prudent wife! What we give our children by way of inheritance is often controlled by legal and social contracts. But a “prudent wife” - which most parents would agree - is far more important for a son’s wellbeing and can only come from God.
If we, as parents, want our sons to have a “prudent wife” is there something we can do? Is there a method or plan that we are to follow? Did we take them to church to find one who is “faithful” to the Lord in all things? Perhaps this a good places to start. However, prayer and devotions at homes are also essential. We may bless our sons materially but it is beyond our power to bless them spiritually and be assured that their wives will be prudent. This comes from following God’s wisdom and will bring honor to Him. To find a “prudent wife” is a result of prayer, seeking God’s guidance, by being patient, waiting on the Lord, and seeking His will.
But there is also another parental responsibility that we may easily overlook. A “wife who is prudent” does not just happen. She is the result of a godly mentor/mother who sets the example of a prudent wife by word and deed. Mothers shape the attitudes of “prudent wives.”
Prayer: Lord, all who are parents are involved in and responsible to share in and shape the lives of our children. May we seek Your guidance and follow Your wisdom! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:14 Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

"It's" Simply Wrong!

Unfortunately, most of us do “it” without thinking about “it.” “It” has become part of our nature and we do “it” constantly - much to the displeasure of God. The “It”? Rewarding the undeserving.
Our hearts go out to them: the “unfortunates” - because we think of them as being “unfortunate.” Or incapable. Or unable. Or not having had opportunities. Or not having a teacher or mentor or who or whatever it took to “get” what they “are or got.” But if they were or are capable of “getting” what they “got” according to Solomon, the “it” is not fitting. Rarely do we think of them as being what we must come to accept: the “unwilling.” This is a category that we have allowed to become eroded in our thinking and behavior.
“It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury,” wrote Solomon. Perhaps we need to look at “it is not fitting” more closely. It is more accurately translated “inappropriate.” This is the point he wants us to understand, accept and apply. Unearned gifts to others, no matter how deserving we may think the recipient is, do not reflect God’s wisdom. Those gifts, the “its” of life, are not a result of a person living according to the teachings of God’s Word or the application of His wisdom. Our skills and talents are gifts from God - and what we do with them is our gift to God. Developing our skills and talents to enjoy the “luxuries” of life is important and most of all, God-honoring.
Receiving an inheritance or winning the lottery or receiving any gift that is unearned often reveals a person’s “flawed character.” Unearned “gifts” are often squandered in the pursuit of selfish and self-centered “luxuries” that are unneeded, unnecessary and ungodly.
There is nothing essentially wrong with having “luxuries.” But there is something wrong with not earning them by honoring God’s ways and wisdom. The wealth that comes from hard work honors God because we learn the value of earning the “luxuries” that He gives us as rewards.
Prayer: “Work” began in Creation. It is something You did willingly and nobly and set the example for us to follow. May we honor You and then enjoy the fruits of our labor. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury - how much worse for a slave to rule over princes! 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Self-Interests: Right Or Wrong

Think of it this way?
We are considered “smart” if we eat a healthy diet, take time to exercise, get enough sleep, and respect laws that are made for our well-being, protection, and the rights or others. Actually, we will do well if we adopt these behaviors because they reflect “God-care” - honoring the life that God has given us, and others, by respecting His ultimate act in creation - us. Caring for ourselves must not be considered as “self-centered” if we do what is necessary for our spiritual, mental and physical well-being as a means to honor God. He expects us to care for ourselves as well as others. However, going beyond what is essential becomes “self-worship” or “self-centered.”
Listen to Solomon: “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers.” We honor God and benefit our own wellbeing if we invest our minds and hearts - our souls - in “getting” God’s wisdom. “Soul” as used here refers to the mind, emotions, and will. And, if our “souls” are filled with God’s wisdom, our thinking, feeling, and choices will be controlled by Him. Our “life-choices,” choices that influence our spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing, will be in keeping with what God planned for us when He created us: to honor the Lord our God with every gift He planted within us!
When we accept our responsibility to “love our own soul,” we adopt a healthy lifestyle. We will make choices for ourselves that bless God and enhance us, and we can be assured that they come from God’s Word and are not self-centered: they are God-centered. Personal wellbeing, then, does not come from ourselves or is for ourselves, but comes from God and is for God.
So, is “self-interest” right or wrong? If we focus on God and His wisdom and use it to glorify Him with our “soul,” self-interest is critical. We do what we do as a means to honor and glorify God.
Prayer: Help us, Father, to be so committed to knowing and applying Your wisdom to our lives that Your interests become ours. May we respect Your gift to us: our life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:8 He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

"No Excuses"

Years ago Mary and I had a beautiful boat. Each time we went to board the boat, we would see her name written in beautiful script across the stern: “No Excuses.” Those provocative words made us pause and think whether or not we had completed all of our tasks and responsibilities before enjoying the pleasure of a trip around the lake. It also reminded us of the fact that to be honorable Christians: If we failed our Lord or denied Him for any reason, we had “No Excuses.”
“A man’s own folly ruins his life,” are a few great words to think about often. Here’s why: Our outward behaviors are always a reflection of the values that we store deep within our hearts. And here Solomon emphasizes an important, often overlooked fact: unless our decision-making and problem-solving skills are God-centered, we will lack sound judgment. Why? Because the knowledge or wisdom or understanding does not come from God. When we go our own way without comparing or contrasting what we are doing in light of God’s published directions, there may be problems and serious consequences. And if there are, unfortunately, we have “No Excuses.”
Here is a proverb that reinforces another proverb: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death.” Our folly - trusting our distorted instincts rather than the wisdom of our God - does not make sense if we are His followers. We have access to Him and His promises. Fools, by choice, destroy whatever opportunity God gives them by looking within for their guidance rather to Him.
Fools become their own undoing because they refuse to take any responsibility for their behavior and follow God’s wisdom. Their “heart rages against the Lord.” Their lives become “frustrated” or “mangled” when their best-laid plans end up in disaster because they are contrary to His will. The result? Fools respond by “raging” like an angry, caged lion who cannot escape.
Prayer: Lord, we have “no excuse” to offer You when we refuse to accept Your wisdom. We have whatever guidance we need in Your Word. Open our heads and hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:3 A man’s own folly ruins his life yet his heart rages against the Lord.

Monday, July 1, 2019

"Get Readies"

At first it seemed as though it was an insult. But the longer I thought about it, the more sense it made, and I finally accepted it as a compliment.\“One thing about you, Guido,” he said, “is that you go through several ‘get readies’ before you do anything. First you ‘get ready,’ then after you study your ‘get ready,’ you usually ‘get ready’ all over again to make sure your plans are complete. One thing is certain, your ‘get readies’ eliminate, not all, but many mistakes.”
Sometime later I realized that Solomon had something in mind that was similar to my “get readies.” Hear this important bit of wisdom: “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” The important point in this Proverb, however, is not about worldly knowledge alone, but how and what does God’s Word say about what we may be planning to do.
To do “something” that may bring us notoriety or success in the eyes of the world may eventually cause our downfall. Perhaps our destruction or death. It is a great tragedy to be uninformed if, when we do something, it is contrary to God’s will or interests. If our plans are deceitful and our goals purely selfish, if we are only doing what we are doing to glorify ourselves and not God, we have a serious problem. We cannot expect God to bless us or what we want to do if it is not in agreement with His Word or way. Imagine praying: “God bless me for being a liar.”
Basic to honoring God is being open and honest in everything we do. If we use deceit to sell a product or idea or provide an item that does not meet God’s or man’s standards, we are dishonoring God and cannot expect His blessings on our work or ways. To profess to know God and not honor Him is very dangerous and causes serious consequences.
Whatever we do must always be consistent with knowledge found in and established on God’s Word. Anything less than that misses His way.
Prayer: Lord, guard us against doing anything that is contrary to Your will. May we honor You constantly in all our words and our ways and glorify You in everything. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:2 It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Quantity Or Quality?

How do you define the word “friend?” Is a “friend” someone who is “special” or “unique” or “close” or “a good listener” or “dependable to help when I’m in trouble?” One of these, all of these, or none of these? Do you have someone whom you call “friend?” Have you ever had what you would call a “friend?” Would you know one if you have one?
I have a “friend” who often calls me his “best friend” when we are engaged in a conversation. Yet, in the same conversation, he talks of others as being “my best friend.” So, which is it? Am I the “best” friend? OR, are we all “best friends?” Confused? Perhaps that’s what happens when we make an attempt to define “friend.”
Solomon wrote, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to trouble, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” In the Hebrew language the first word, “friend” is better interpreted as “companion” – meaning one who is “physically present for a particular purpose or time.” The second time the word appears, it is best interpreted as one with whom there is “an emotional bonding,” – a connectedness that is unbreakable. The “companion” is a “casual acquaintance” who is unreliable, untrustworthy, lacks discernment, and God’s wisdom.
Most of us have experienced both. Unfortunately, though, there have been “friends who were bonded to us” who disappointed and abandoned when adversity invaded our lives. Enter Jesus, Who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” Jesus delights in not only calling us “servants” but “friends.” How blest we are to know that the risen Christ refuses to abandon us!”
PRAYER: We love You, Father, for being our “friend!” We take comfort in knowing that although we may forsake You, You will never forsake us. Never! Thank you, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 18:24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to trouble, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Able And Willing - Or - Unable And Unwilling

There are two themes that are consistent throughout the Bible. One is work and the other is giving. Soon after placing Adam in the Garden of Eden, God said to him, “Work and take care of it...” At that moment in history, God declared that man has a responsibility to work and provide for himself. However, in one of His sermons, Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” What if one is unable to work? Should the one who does work give what he has to support the one who cannot work?
Solomon wrote, “The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly.” Who is responsible to whom in this situation? The poor to work if they can, or the rich to give if they have plenty?
The “poor” in this verse is one who is “pleading” for help, and for whatever reason, are unable to work. They are willing to work but are unable. On the other hand, the “wealthy” in this verse, have plenty, are able to help, but unwilling – actually “unyielding” – to share their riches with those in need. The teaching is clear: If a person can work, they must. And, if a person is rich, their wealth came from God but they are, in fact, responsible to help those in need.
It is intriguing that the word “mercy” comes between “the poor” and “the rich.” Here the rich have wealth, but no mercy, and the poor, who need mercy to survive, are rejected.
Paul wrote, “Though He was rich...He became poor.” God knew we are “poor” and need His salvation that comes from His mercy. In love, He sent His son, “that we might become rich!”
PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for the gift of salvation that is ours because of Your mercy. We are grateful for this gift that we desperately need, but cannot afford. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 18:23 The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

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 a divorce occurs - leaving marred lives and shattered dreams. More often than not, both are equally responsible for refusing to be Christ-like 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 “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: she is: “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 He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

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 their 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 your 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 to 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 even annihilate a person’s grasp on life because they are weak, feel unloved and unwanted. We can do much to destroy others by abusing them with the way we chose to use our tongues.
What we say to others may destroy them completely or bless them throughout eternity.
Prayer: Lord, how much power You gave us with the gift of our tongues and voices. May we use them carefully to bless, give hope, and encourage others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 18:21 The tongue does have the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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 in this verse is of one wanting to purchase favor from someone who has more power and influence than they, and wanting something they did not deserve or could not earn on their own.
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 a successful life.
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to abandon all practices that are deceitful and displeasing to You. May we who call You Savior and Lord live honorably in Your sight! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 18:16 A gift opens the door for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great