Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Clear Distinction

Many things in our lives need clarification if we want to be sure that others understand our positions or ideas. Some of them are easy to clarify, others a little more difficult. The Bible, however, is very clear on everything God wants us to do and know. There is one thing we should all agree on: it’s not the things in the Bible that present a problem that might keep us awake at night. It’s the things in the Bible that we understand and don’t apply to our lives each day.
Solomon, once again, reminds us that we are not for one moment to think that we are self-sufficient: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” Once again we are reminded that first things must always be first: “Fear the Lord, for that is where wisdom begins.” Wisdom does not come from within - no matter how well educated we are.
Paul picked up this theme in Romans: “...test and approve what God's will is....” The one who thinks he is wise, who leans on his personal understanding and the understanding that comes from the world’s wisdom, is in danger. On the other hand, God honors and rewards those who are willing to admit they need His wisdom, and then follow it!
And the reward for those who seek and follow His wisdom? It will “bring health to our bodies and nourishment to our bones.” Following God’s wisdom will enable us to make good, ethical, profitable, wise, and sound decisions. Those who obey His laws and turn from evil will find themselves living a healthy, happy, wholesome, and fulfilling lifestyle!
Scripture constantly reminds us of the consequences of sin and unconfessed sin. And whatever it asks us to do is always in our best interests. Live right and find health and happiness.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for making life’s choices clear and simple to follow. With Your help we can succeed. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:7-8 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Leaning And Living

It was a dark, cold, windy morning with patches of snow and invisible stretches of ice on our driveway. The “patches” were called “black ice” because they could not be seen.
Suddenly, even though I was walking very slowly and cautiously, my right heel landed on a patch of that ice, and I slipped and fell. The pain was excruciating, and I began to call for my wife. When she saw my situation, she immediately called EMS who transported me to the hospital.
After x-rays and an examination, the doctor said I had ruptured my patella tendon and needed to have surgery. Unfortunately, it took more than six months before I could walk on my own. I had to have some “thing” to lean on or I would fall. This was extremely difficult for me because I did not want to depend on anyone for anything. And every time I tried to walk without a walker or a cane, I would fall. Once I sat on the floor, with my back against a wall for over an hour, waiting until someone came to rescue me. A wiser person would have followed the guidance they were given until they regained their strength and were able to walk again. But, I refused to humble myself and submit to the instructions of the physical therapist. How very foolish of me.
Yet, is that not how many approach life? We know what God wants us to do, but we do not do it because of our pride. When that happens, we pay the consequences.
Many of us have refused to “lean” on and trust in the Lord when we needed His guidance to make the right decision or His power to resist temptation. But, because of our pride, we refuse to “lean” on Him and fail miserably. We think our strength is sufficient. How foolish!
Prayer: Father, it must disappoint You greatly when we have Your wisdom yet refuse to accept it and follow it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:5b Lean not on your own understanding. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Abandoned To God

Dogs have always been an important part of my life. As long as I can remember, unless prohibited by policies or laws, I have had a dog in my residence. To this very day, I can visualize each of them.
Three of them, however, had one particular trait in common: if they could not see me or sense my presence, they would become extremely anxious. They would run from one location to another trying to find me; sit under my desk while I worked; lay between me and the door, not wanting me leave without them or wait impatiently and bark or whine if I left home without them. They lived to be with me, and I was their safety and security - their protector, if you will.
The two most familiar verses in Proverbs begin with the word trust. “Trust in the Lord,” writes Solomon. And, this word trust far exceeds what comes to mind when we normally think of having trust in someone. It represents a trust in someone that brings us a deep sense of security, a type of safety that is impenetrable, and a belief that there is no one or no “thing” that can get to us or ever harm us. It is a trust in someone who is much more conscious of our every need and who is completely competent and capable of taking care of us - more so than we are of ourselves.
Life is filled with uncertainties. When we awaken in the morning, we have no guarantee that we will make it home safely or see the sunset. No one has any assurance that their investments will be there when it comes time to retire. We have friends that we thought we could depend on - and then find ourselves abandoned, pleading for help. But trusting in the Lord is different. Why? We have His promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you!”
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for granting us Your peace, presence, power, and protection as we travel through life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Finding Favor With God And Man

Most everybody wants to be somebody’s “favorite.” It seems only natural. We want to believe that someone, somewhere, thinks that there is something about us that makes us special or unique or significant. A “distinctiveness” that makes us stand out from and above the “crowd.”
Bringing together a few simple words, Solomon gives us a formula that will make us a favorite of both God and “man.” It does not include wealth, education, status, or our ancestors. But it does include two critical principles: love and faithfulness. He wrote: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man."
Faithfulness cannot be separated from love. For if we love someone, we naturally - even automatically, though sometimes with difficulty - demonstrate that love by being faithful to them.
This love is not a sentimental, emotional or feeling type of love. It is a love that demands, even forces us, to live in agreement with the character of the one we profess to love. If we say we love God, we are obligated to be steadfast and true to the teachings, laws, and direction that come from God’s Word. When there are choices and decisions to be made and problems to be resolved, our lives are to be consistent with the Word of God. If not, we are not “in love” with Him.
So, it is important that we “bind them to our hearts.” Faithfulness and love are to be planted so deeply in our hearts that we practice them without even thinking about them.
Prayer: What a challenge it is, Lord, to be so deeply in love with You, that whatever we do proves our love for You and pleases You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

If You Do, Then He Will...

Have you ever met anyone who wanted to be a failure? Someone who looked for ways to be unsuccessful or a loser? A person who would wake up in the morning and say, “Well, I wonder what I can do today to mess things up?”
Probably not. Most are just the opposite. They want to succeed, to be accepted, to make a positive contribution to themselves and others. Millions of dollars are invested annually by people who want to succeed and get ahead of others, make it “to the top of corporate the ladder,” or at least get a promotion.
If they knew a proverb or two from Solomon, they might have an edge on others: “My son,” he wrote, “do not forget my teaching. But keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” Here, once again, we find a negative and a positive statement together: “Do not forget,” and “keep my commandments.”
This is one of the many if/then’s found in Scripture: “If we do what God asks us to do, then He will guarantee us success.” It’s not about forgetting a verse of Scripture or not knowing the details of a particular event. Rather, it is to know and then disregard His commandments, to worship other gods, not to honor Him and not to live in fear of and respect for Him.
If our hearts are centered on God’s Word and if we are faithful to Him in all things, then He is obligated to reward us for our faithfulness. We can hold Him to His Word. We can trust God! Read His Word! It provides all the evidence we need to know that “He alone is faithful.”
Prayer: Lord, increase our faith to trust You and Your Word, knowing that You will honor us if we honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:1-2 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Friday, February 22, 2019

"I'm Sorry, But I Forgot About..."

Sound familiar? It’s an often used phrase that most of us have used on many occasions. There are times when we do forget some things. And there are times when we use that phrase when we did not forget “anything” - we simply did not want to do what we had agreed to do.
Forgetfulness is a way of life for many. Rather than doing what they said they would do, they use it as an excuse for an unpleasant task. For some, it “just happens” now and then. For all, however, it started as part of a promise or agreement that was at one time important. And, some promises are, indeed, more important than others. Especially the promises we make to God. Our very life may depend on the promises we make to Him.
Solomon reminded us of this fact when he wrote, “My son, do not forget my teaching...keep my commands in your heart...for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” Notice the two approaches to the same issue - one is negative: “Do not forget” and the other is positive: “keep them in your heart.”
“Forget” in this instance is more than allowing an obligation to escape our memory. It involves disregarding the commandments of God, replacing Him with false gods and idols, and a lack of faith and trust.
Notice where God’s teachings and commandments are to be kept - in our hearts. The heart, in Scripture, is the center and seat of our inner life, including our mind, our emotions and our will. Submitting our hearts to God is a declaration to Him that His Word rules our lives.
Prayer: Lord, grant each of us a willingness and desire to enthrone You in our hearts and never waiver or stray from Your teachings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:1-2 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Attractive But Deadly

Everyone seems to enjoy a little attention and some flattery now and then. Although we may think that a little flattery is good for the ego, there is a real danger that it can lead to death. Solomon’s Proverbs contain that warning. And, we often see or hear his warnings come to life on TV, radio, and in print.
Wisdom, Solomon writes, will not only protect you from men who would lead you astray but “Wisdom will save you also from the adulteress woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive ways.”
Someone has said that two of the most difficult sins to resist are pride and sexual immorality because both are so attractive and seductive. Pride says, “I deserve it” while sexual desire says, “I need it.” When combined, their appeal leads to death, and only the strength that comes from God will enable one to overcome them.
The path from seduction to sin is easily overlooked and difficult to recognize. The “seductress” begins with what appears to be an invitation to friendship that soon becomes a relationship that destroys the innocent. Many times the conversation begins with idle talk that excites the imagination and then leads to acts that were unintended, but eventually becomes a way of life that leads “to the spirits of death.”
Can a “seductive woman” be identified easily? Is there a way to recognize her quickly and then avoid her completely? Yes! This “woman” is the enemy of morality and virtue and can be “detected” by her words and ways. Solomon carefully describes her for us.
Prayer: Lord, give us “wisdom” to recognize “clues” that can be easily overlooked and lead us in righteous paths. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 2:16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulteress woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive ways. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Secrets Revealed

A few feet from my desk is a closet used for storage. In that closet are boxes and boxes of information that, at one time, was very costly. Today, it is worth much more than it was when purchased.
The boxes inside the closet are made of ordinary cardboard. If someone opens the door and looks at them, there would be no reason to open them other than plain curiosity. They appear to have no value unless someone knows their contents.
They are like the Bible. Unless there is a desire to look inside and find out what it contains, it is useless. Most people are more likely to turn on a television or look at a magazine. But, if one stops, opens the Word and accepts its contents, life takes on an entirely new meaning and direction.
“My son,” begins Solomon, “if you accept my words . . . and store up my commands . . . you will understand what is right and just and fair - and it will lead you to every good path, For wisdom will enter your heart.”
The Proverbs contain clear and concise guidance for those who want to choose between right and wrong. God has planted some degree of morality in everyone’s heart because we were made in His image. But only the Word of God spells out in exact words what is right and just and fair. Every law or rule or policy that has ever been written is an extension of what we find in His Word. But, only His Word is capable of penetrating the very core of our being - our hearts. When we allow it to do its work, we are changed from the inside out and become a new creation.
Prayer: Lord, people look in vain for ways to change what is wrong into what is right. Your Word is that way! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 2:1a My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A Desperate Call

“Larry,” he said to get my complete attention, “don’t go next door and play with Richard. He’s not good for you to be around.”
“OK, Dad. I won’t.” (At least not while you're looking, I said to myself, under my breath.)
Not long after the warning, I heard his penetrating whistle that could be heard throughout the neighborhood. However, I was next door, on the roof of Richard’s garage with some other friends having a great time. But now, the “good time” was over. I looked down from the roof, and there was my Dad standing at the foot of the ladder. I knew I was “busted.” He spoke, I refused to obey, and the party was over.
“How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?” wrote Solomon. Or, if he was talking to me today it would mean, “Larry, why were you so careless to allow yourself to drift into temptation. Don’t you remember that I gave you a warning? Why didn't you follow my advice?”
This verse contains a certain sadness: “How long...” We are all “slow learners!” We refuse to hear God.” I warned you, didn’t I? When will you ever ‘grow-up’ and accept the wisdom I offered you? I offered you my best: My wisdom that will last a lifetime and you rejected it.
Rejecting God’s wisdom is very costly. In verse 25 there are some tragic words to describe the results of disobeying God: “Since you rejected me when I called...and ignored my advice...and would not accept my rebuke, I will laugh at you." God’s grace has its limits. Hear Him today!
Prayer: Lord, how blest are those who hear Your Word, accept it and follow it. Rejecting His wisdom has its consequences. We must listen to You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:22 How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Warning! Danger Ahead!

Years ago, I was invited by some friends to visit a desert in Arizona. I was fascinated by the many varieties of cactus plants. They came in almost every size and shape. Some had beautiful flowers, some contained water, some even had fruit - the “cactus pear” - but all of them had “needles.”
One of my friends warned me and said, “Please do not touch them or you will have their painful needles piercing your hands.” But, like Adam, I decided to “taste” the fruit of a cactus pear, and immediately understood what my friend’s warning about “painful needles” meant. Though difficult to see the needles, their sting was extremely painful and seemed to affect every part of my body. I was left with the sting from their needles and never enjoyed the fruit.
Solomon offered “the young” a warning: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.” Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience. Or, maybe he saw others “enticed” by sin, fall into its attractiveness, and the damage it did to them and their loved ones. But the importance of his “words of warning” is true for everyone, no matter their age: sin. The results of sin affect the sinner – no matter their age. And, “Young” in this verse applies to any age or sex.
Sin is “enticing” because it offers a fast lane to short-lived pleasure. Those who entice us to sin never say, “Oh, by the way, I want you to know that if you gain things illegally, the gain you get, sooner or later, will one day cost you your life. So, be sure to remember this, my friend, the only ‘gains’ worth getting come from God.”
Falling into temptation is easy. Escaping its consequences is not.
Prayer: Father, these words of wisdom provide a shield of armor that will protect us all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:10 My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Help, I'm A Parent

Throughout the Bible, being obedient to parents is always connected to being submissive to and following the teachings of God. And, if we consider God’s character to be important and the foundation of His role as our Father, parents will strive to “imitate” His characteristics if they want to be effective representatives of Him.
We often speak of the characteristics of God in high and lofty terms: He is “omniscient, omnipotent, immortal, and omnipresent!” But, Jesus presented the character of God in behaviors that could be seen, and, most of them imitated. Consider these important behaviors we constantly see in the life of Jesus: loving, kind, caring, compassionate, forgiving, accepting, helping, healing, encouraging, honest, thoughtful, sensitive, open, available, authentic, a disciplinarian, knowledgeable, wise, a craftsman, a caring Son, student of the Law and Prophets, a model to be followed, submissive to and respectful of the laws and a close obedient relationship to His Father.
Quite a list, indeed. And, when I review and think about this list, I wonder how often I failed my Heavenly Father as the father He wanted me to be to my children as they grew up - even now.
When we consider the important role that parents are called to fulfill, spiritual, moral, and ethical examples and authorities to our children, it is easy to cry out, “This job is far beyond me!” And, it is if we attempt to do it on our own. But, if we are humble and dependent on Him, we have His Word to guide us and guard us, His Son within us to empower us, and the Holy Spirit’s presence to lead us.
We also have His Word, especially the Proverbs, when we want His wisdom.
Prayer: Father, we parents who love and believe in You are blest to have You and Your Word as a “parent’s guide.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Obedience

The Ten Commandments appear to be divided into two sections: four of them teach the importance of honoring God, and six of them teach us to honor mankind. The fifth commandment would logically appear at the bottom of the first tablet. It is the first commandment that contains a promise: “Honor your father and mother so that you may live long (and in peace) in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” These words are echoed in Colossians: “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this pleases God.”
Perhaps it would be “wise” to clear up the phrase, “My son,” in verse eight. If we acknowledge that Proverbs was written for all mankind who acknowledge God as their Lord and follow His teachings, then everyone, no matter their age, would be included in “My son.”
Since this is written to “children,” it would be good to remind ourselves that the main characteristic of “youth” is vulnerability. The young would disagree with parents who would say that they are ignorant of the ways of the world and have no foresight or insight to see the results or consequences of their behavior. They need stern, loving advice, and warnings from parents who “walk their talk” and have the best interests of their children at heart. No one has more responsibility for the wellbeing and development of their children than their parents.
But there are other “parents” who are also guilty of neglecting “children.” Mature Christians are responsible for “the new-born Christian.” This verse is an indictment on all of us who have allowed the “young in Christ” to face temptation, unarmed with the Word of God.
Prayer: Lord, forgive us for being negligent in instructing the young at home and in church. We need forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

How To Recognize A Fool

No one that I know wants to be called a “fool.” But, this term is used fifty times in Proverbs. Obviously, God must want us to know who qualifies for this title, and how those who are “fools” can develop a new identity.
To begin with, the word used here for “fool” has nothing to do with one’s mental capacity. It would not be God-like to call someone a “fool” if they had no control over their thoughts and behavior. Instead, it has to do with a person’s chosen outlook on life. This person’s view is set, and nothing or no one will ever be able to change it.
This “fool” is one who has no desire to invest any time in searching for wisdom. It’s thought to be a product that can be purchased online or in a bookstore. Solomon clarified this when he wrote, “Why does a fool offer the sage a fee, when he has no mind to learn.” We can’t buy wisdom!
Since this is true, only reliable and dependable wisdom comes from God. Therefore, it must then be spiritual and not mental. A fool has no reverence or respect for truth. Unfortunately, the “fool” is very comfortable with things as they are. This person refuses to “fear the Lord” and rejects His counsel. The “fool” is satisfied to live life without God.
Whatever we know of God, think of God, understand about God, and believe about God, comes to us from God as He reveals Himself to us. Atheists deny God, and agnostics say they are searching for proof of God. Until a person is willing and open to see God as He has revealed Himself in His world, His Word, and His Son, he will remain a fool.
Prayer: Lord, open the eyes of those who refuse to see, and the ears of those who refuse to hear Your Wisdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Fear Of The Lord?" What's That All About?

We hear and read of it often. We know that we are somehow “obligated” to do it. We might wonder if it is something we feel. We may even be curious to know if others recognize it in our lives. We could think that if we go to church, read the Bible, give money to His work, meditate, pray, and witness, we are demonstrating our “fear” of Him.
I remember as a child “fearing” my father. And, that fear had many sides to it. I remember fearing his wrath if I disobeyed him, or if he caught me being disobedient to one of his standards. I also recall the fear I had of him finding out if I did not do my best, honor my mother, did not practice the piano, or caused problems at school.
When I understood what he wanted of or from me, and refused to do what he expected of me, that was the source of my fear. I knew that I would eventually have to face him, and knew that when I did, it would be “unpleasant.” That’s the way it is with God, too.
When we understand what He wants of and from us, and we do or do not do it, that’s when and where our fear should begin. And, when we know what He wants from us, and turn from whatever it is that displeases Him, and look to Him for forgiveness, that is when our conversion begins. Turning from evil to God for salvation is the tipping point.
Following conversion comes devotion - which means that we dedicate our lives to wanting to know Him, obey Him, follow Him, serve Him, and fear that we do not dishonor Him by being disobedient. It is only His wisdom that will lead us to obedient, disciplined and righteous living.
Fear is a good thing if it keeps us close to our Heavenly Father
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we fear You because we love You and want to please You. Give us Your wisdom, as well as Your love, we pray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

"Who's Simple?"

“God gives prudence to the simple?” Who are the ‘simple ones,’ and what does ‘prudence’ mean? And, if I’m not simple, do I need prudence?” asked a student in rapid succession. Trying to answer him while the class listened carefully was very important to me. I didn’t want them to think I didn’t know what I had been talking about.
Solomon was not being smug, or putting anyone “down,” or ridiculing them, or being sarcastic. He was too wise to do that. He was being compassionate and giving a warning to those who are “easily led” or “gullible.” There are times when all of us fall into one of those two categories: following the wrong leader or not thinking things through carefully.
And the word, “simple,” as used here, refers to people who are “aimless,” or “inexperienced,” who allow themselves to “drift into temptation.” They are unaware of what is going on around them, and, unfortunately, do not care to do anything about it. People in this condition are easily led astray because they have no interest in doing what is good for themselves, nor what the right thing to do might be. Honoring God is of no concern to them when faced with temptation. The “simple” refuse to accept God’s wisdom as a guide for their lives and even refuse to hear and accept His guidance because they refuse to honor Him.
But, because of His love and grace, God continually reaches out to them, wanting to impart His wisdom to them. First, however, they must accept Him as Savior and enthrone Him as Lord.
God’s wisdom is available to those who hear and respect Him. Never forget that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Those who do not hear and fear Him will remain “simple.”
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for reaching out to us in love, and wanting us to have Your wisdom to guide us each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:4 For giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Look At It This Way...

“One thing is for certain about you, Guido,” he said as he looked at my messy desk, “you don’t have OCD!”
“What do you mean, I don’t have OCD?” I asked.
“Well, if you had an obsessive-compulsive disorder you would be arranging and rearranging your desk to make it neat and orderly. Then you would do it over and over again. But, it’s not neat, never has been, and probably never will be. I’ll bet that your drawers are the same.”
Realizing that he was right, I decided not to argue with him. He was a psychologist, and I was embarrassed.
Many people do arrange and then rearrange things. Some people do things over and over again, and then again, to make sure that everything is perfect, or as close to perfect as it can be. They check and then recheck what they have already checked. Being around people who have habits like that make me feel guilty. They have to do things right!
But there is a vast difference between doing things right and doing the right things. We can waste an entire day arranging and then rearranging food in our homes while our neighbor goes hungry. Or, we may arrange and then rearrange our cramped closets when we know there are people who wear worn out, ragged clothing because they have no other choice. We may be doing things right but we are certainly not doing the right things.
Righteousness in God’s Word is a combination of both behaviors. Not only do we want to do things right - as He commands us to do in His Word - but we must do the right things that will please and honor Him, as we serve others in need – spiritually and morally.
Prayer: Help us, Father, to be aware of how we do “righteousness.” May our lives meet Your expectations. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:3 For receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Right Choices

RIGHT CHOICES
“When you come to a ‘fork’ in the road, take it,” is an oft-quoted bit of advice from Yogi Berra. It has brought a smile to the face of many when they first hear it. But if you listen to what he is saying, it’s rather dangerous. Let me explain.
“Wherever you want to go, is OK. Just follow your own path and enjoy life,” is what I think Yogi Berra is suggesting. But, is following our own self-designed path the best thing we can do with the life God has given us?
God gave us His Proverbs for us to have His understanding to know right from wrong. In fact, if we go back to a conversation between God and Solomon, his first request of God was for the gift of insight: he wanted to be able to discern right from wrong. Solomon, at that time, wanted to honor God with his whole heart. He knew that honoring God would be difficult without God’s insight to guide him. What a wise request! “God,” he begged, “please guide me.”
Perhaps he saw his father, David, struggling with his humanity when he had to choose right from wrong. Perhaps he saw his father grieve over a poor decision that cost someone their life. Perhaps he saw David, his dad, deal with guilt when he did not follow God’s guidance. There was something deep within him that challenged him to “be insightful, or discerning.” So, he asked God for this gift of “discernment,” and when he understood and applied it in his life, he recognized its value. When he recognized it’s value to him, he wanted to pass it on for us to use in our lives. How thoughtful of him to want to share God’s Word with us to guide us and keep us from sin.
God has given us the only resource we need to be discerning: His Word. If we choose to honor Him we can find His directions in His Word. Life is safe and certain if we follow His Word!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know that You will guide us and guard us if we seek Your will and stay obedient to Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:4 For giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Attention!

There are very few pictures of “Attention!” that can rival a US Marine standing tall after hearing that word. As soon as that “word” is shouted by a “superior” heels come together, muscles tighten, and faces freeze as though they were carved in granite. Persons who have served in the military know the significance of that word. When “shouted to subordinates” it results in an external rigidity that is very visible to the onlooker and represents an internal attitude of concentration that is waiting for a command to be obeyed and followed with no hesitation.
Throughout His Word, God uses many different ways to get the “attention” of His children. There are times when He speaks directly to a person. There are times when He speaks to one person through another person. When God wants the attention of His children, He has many options.
We read in Job that one of God’s options to get our attention is through suffering: “For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hand also heals,” wrote Job.
In Proverbs 1:2 we find a word that can be translated with several different meanings: instruction, discipline, training and chastened. But, in this instance, there is no doubt that it means “to teach by discipline” or “through punishment.”
We often hear stories about people who “have to hit bottom” before they are willing to do something about a problem that is destroying them. It may be God at work. He often uses suffering and hardship to get our attention by “raising the bottom” to “save” us because He loves us.
“The Lord disciplines those He loves,” wrote Solomon. God often uses discipline to get our “attention” when we abandon Him. Why? Because He refuses to let us destroy ourselves!”
Prayer: Lord, we know You love us. Do whatever is necessary to keep us in Your will - even if it means we must suffer for You to get our attention. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:2 For gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Always Room For More

Whenever I hear the word “gain,” I think it is related to “weight,” especially my weight. There are very few mornings that I do not step on the scale to get my “daily report” on what I ate yesterday. Most nutritionists do not recommend such a program. But, my hope to see the arrow pointing downward remains steadfast.
A gain or increase can be good or bad, exciting or depressing, encouraging or discouraging, depending on what the gain refers to. If we depend on the stock market, a gain can be a good thing. But, if we see a gain in our debt, it can be disturbing. Our gains or losses, for the most part, are usually in the physical or material realm.
Solomon speaks of a particular type of “gain” - of being able to achieve some “things” that will last as long as we live. These “gains,” these valuable lessons are available and offered to us in Proverbs. Our “attaining” more of God’s wisdom, or “life gains” is very important for all Christians because we are constantly challenged to “grow” throughout Scripture, and Proverbs provides this path for us if we want to grow.
The word used for “wisdom” in this verse also means skillfulness - applying knowledge that comes from God to our lives every day. If we do so, we will “do the right things the right way.”
When we go one step further, we come to the fact that it is possible to develop decision-making skills that are God-honoring and enable us to establish life-principals that will bring us success. God’s proverbs can guide us through life, help us in our relationships with others, lead to good practices in business, enrich our homes, and bless God and others.
Prayer: Lord, You've left us “no excuses” on how we are to live life if we are Christians. Thanks for the directions on how to live a successful life! Now, give us courage! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:2 For gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Importance Of Words

“What’s a nanosecond, Keller?” I asked my ten-year-old grandson.
“Papa, everyone knows what a nanosecond is,” he replied with a wry smile across his lips as if teasing me.
“Well, not quite everyone. If I knew, I wouldn’t ask.” I felt like I needed to go back to school. Immediately!
“It means one, one billionth of a second. It’s used to measure the speed of light and other stuff,” he replied casually. Not having any need to measure the speed of light, I thought it was a good time to end the conversation. I realized how little I knew about some things.
But there is one thing I do know without any doubt: God took great care to choose the exact words He needed to explain His message of redemption. No second guessing about what He wanted us to understand. No hidden meanings for a special class of people. Nothing is left to the imagination that could cause us to make an error in knowing God’s message or direction for our lives.
This is very obvious in Proverbs 1:2-4. God, through Solomon, let us know that there is a right way and a wrong way to “live life.” Each of us has choices to make about the way we will live: either a life of righteousness with God’s power that will honor and glorify Him or a life that is sinful, self-centered and leads to our death and damages others.
Ten of the approximately forty words in Proverbs 1:2-4 provide different aspects on ways to understand, see and apply God’s wisdom for daily, God-centered, living. Check them out!
God leaves nothing to “chance.” He wants us to succeed!
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for the “God is My Helper” successful living guide-book – the Book of Proverbs. May we follow it carefully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:2-4 For gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Right Choices

“When you come to a ‘fork’ in the road, take it,” is an oft-quoted bit of advice from Yogi Berra. It has brought a smile to the face of many when they first hear it. But if you listen to what he is saying, it’s rather dangerous. Let me explain.
“Wherever you want to go, is OK. Just follow your own path and enjoy life,” is what I think Yogi Berra is suggesting. But, is following our own self-designed path the best thing we can do with the life God has given us?
God gave us His Proverbs for us to have His understanding to know right from wrong. In fact, if we go back to a conversation between God and Solomon, his first request of God was for the gift of insight: he wanted to be able to discern right from wrong. Solomon, at that time, wanted to honor God with his whole heart. He knew that honoring God would be difficult without God’s insight to guide him. What a wise request! “God,” he begged, “please guide me.”
Perhaps he saw his father, David, struggling with his humanity when he had to choose right from wrong. Perhaps he saw his father grieve over a poor decision that cost someone their life. Perhaps he saw David, his dad, deal with guilt when he did not follow God’s guidance. There was something deep within him that challenged him to “be insightful, or discerning.” So, he asked God for this gift of “discernment,” and when he understood and applied it in his life, he recognized its value. When he recognized it’s value to him, he wanted to pass it on for us to use in our lives. How thoughtful of him to want to share God’s Word with us to guide us and keep us from sin.
God has given us the only resource we need to be discerning: His Word. If we choose to honor Him we can find His directions in His Word. Life is safe and certain if we follow His Word!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know that You will guide us and guard us if we seek Your will and stay obedient to Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:4 For giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young. 

A King's Resume

Recently I was asked to write a resume. Since I had not written one in nearly 30 years, it presented a real challenge. As I thought about the many things I had done, some well and some not so well, I was grateful for the fact that the choice of what I would include was up to me.
Solomon did not write his resume. God did. Nor was he the last one to make a statement about who he was and what he had accomplished. God did that as well. (And, by the way, God will do the same for you and me.)
Even a casual review of Solomon’s resume is impressive.
-Early Childhood Education:
Exposed to sages, philosophers, wise men
Observed troops preparing for battle
Studied large building construction
Accompanied his father in foreign affairs
Sang Psalms written by his father
Involved in worship, prayer, and praise
-Major Life Achievements:
The third king of Israel
Built God’s Temple in Jerusalem
Diplomat, trader, patron of the arts
Recognized as “wisest man who ever lived”
Author, sage, and philosopher
-Final Notations:
Leadership accomplishments destroyed
Married pagan women, compromised his God
Enslaved God’s children
What could have been, never was. Sadly, sin defeated Solomon, and he lost everything.
Prayer: One day, Father, we will all stand before You to be judged for the lives we lived.. May You bless us and say, Well done, Faithful Servant! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Nehemiah 13:26 Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Looking Deeper

Advice only has value if it achieves its goals. Often, we follow the advice we get if it agrees with what we want to hear or if it comes from a trusted friend. When we need sound, reliable, and timely advice, we need assurance that our source is wise. Certainly, advice coming from David, a “man after God's own heart,” would be worth following. So, when he gave advice to his son, it was a tipping point in his career as a king, husband, father, teacher, and warrior.
And, his advice was simple, and can be summed up in a few words: “Be strong and obedient to God.” But, what does this mean?
First and foremost, Solomon, if he chose to succeed, needed a deep, personal relationship with God. As he grew up in David’s household, he saw his father reading the law and prophets, worshipping and praying, writing the psalms and following God faithfully. David proved what obedience was. And, when he failed, he repented, and returned to obeying God’s teachings!
However, he had to know God’s laws to obey them. To know them, he had to study them before he could apply them. This would take time from other things - but would be time well invested and keep him from failing in life by being disobedient to God.
He also was given advice to worship God wholeheartedly, surrender to Him completely and serve Him willingly and faithfully. Sadly, history shows us that he refused to do that.
As the story of Solomon unfolds in the Bible, we read of “what might have been” if he had surrendered to God completely. His lack of surrender destroyed the plan God had for him.

The same is true for us. We must study God’s Word and, surrender to Him, or fail.
Prayer: Father, may we willingly study and obey Your Word, and then surrender our lives to You and bring honor to Your Name and peace to our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: 1 Kings 2:1-3 When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.  “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.” 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Fatherly Advice

There is no shortage of advice in today’s world. We can discover endless resources in the exploding number of self-help books and magazines, radio and TV shows. No matter where we look or what we listen to, someone has some formula to solve our problems, enrich our lives, make us more attractive, add years to our lives, and make us wealthy.
Solomon, apart from his Proverbs, also offered insight on how to live life well in some of his other writings. And, at the end of his life he wrote, “Of making many books there is no end...all has been heard, and here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments.” In these few words, he went back to the beginning of his reign when his father, David, gave him some “fatherly advice” – “Solomon, be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires.”
There are, as mentioned earlier, many sources and resources on how to live life. But the advice we find here is different. After reflecting on his life and reviewing his successes and failures, he summed up the essence of life: “Life, apart from God, is meaningless.”
David, “a man after God's own heart,” offered his son, Solomon, a man who would one day be recognized as “the wisest man who ever lived” the formula for success.
God’s wisdom, however, only has value if followed. As long as Solomon followed the advice of his father, David, God honored and blessed him. And, nothing since then has changed.
If we follow the advice of our Heavenly Father as He presents it in His Word, He will honor and bless us, guide us and guard us, too!
Prayer: To accept and live by Your requirements, Father, is easier said than done. But, with Your power, it is possible if we trust in Your strength, not ours.. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Ecclesiastes 12:12-13 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Where Did The Proverbs Come From?

No one has ever asked me to answer a question that had no limits. Sometimes, I have been asked questions that have encouraged me to “think big” or to “go beyond what I have thought of in the past,” or to “think into the future for what could be.” Those questions have been very challenging. However, no one has ever approached me and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you, and I will!” At least, no one who had the power to give me a “whatever.”
But that happened to Solomon. And, the one who asked him that question was not his father who he would replace as king. It was One who was much more powerful than his father, and One who, indeed, could grant Solomon the “whatever” he wished for. It was God Himself!
He realized and admitted to God that he was not qualified to be a king. He saw himself as “a little child.” So, he asked God to “give Your child a discerning heart” – (not mind) – “to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of Yours?” Then, the very next verse begins with, “The Lord was pleased that Solomon asked for this!” And, God responded: “I will give you what you asked for and what you have not asked for: wealth and honor, and in your lifetime you will have no equal!”
What an interesting question: “Ask for whatever you want” - and what a humble answer: “Nothing for myself. My only desire is to have a discerning heart.”
God granted his request and through him gave us His inspired, infallible, inerrant Proverbs as “life guides.”
Prayer: Father, in Your wisdom, You gave Your servant wisdom to offer to Your children so they could “live well!” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: 1 Kings 3:9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Value Of Wisdom

Can we put a price on wisdom?
We do that with property and stocks, technology and education. It seems that everything in our world has some value to someone. Some things are more valuable than other things. And almost everything is worth something to someone.
Solomon had just about everything anyone could want. Perhaps, he was simply thinking about “things” one day and gave some great advice: “You know what?” he said. “Get wisdom!” Why? Because wisdom is more profitable than silver, it yields better returns than gold and is more precious than rubies. Nothing compares to it, because it leads to a long and peaceful life, riches, honor and pleasant paths. Oh, those who embrace wisdom will be blessed.
What a return on a simple investment! When we invest in the things of this world, we have no assurance that we will ever see their value grow. Often, the opposite happens. And, if our investments exceed our expectations, what will we gain in the end? Will it include any of the benefits or gifts that Solomon describes? Or, who can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that any of the “things” the world has to offer will bring any happiness?
Years ago I had a friend who advised me: “Larry, you always know how wise a man is by whose advice he listens to and follows.” I discovered he was and is right.
God, through Solomon, gave us “great advice.” Over the years it has proven to be accurate, trustworthy and reliable. To follow it has endless rewards!
Prayer: Lord, there is no better investment, if we want eternal returns, than to pursue Your wisdom and ways. Give us Your strength to do this. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:14 For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold.

The Value Of Wisdom

Can we put a price on wisdom?
We do that with property and stocks, technology and education. It seems that everything in our world has some value to someone. Some things are more valuable than other things. And almost everything is worth something to someone.
Solomon had just about everything anyone could want. Perhaps, he was simply thinking about “things” one day and gave some great advice: “You know what?” he said. “Get wisdom!” Why? Because wisdom is more profitable than silver, it yields better returns than gold and is more precious than rubies. Nothing compares to it, because it leads to a long and peaceful life, riches, honor and pleasant paths. Oh, those who embrace wisdom will be blessed.
What a return on a simple investment! When we invest in the things of this world, we have no assurance that we will ever see their value grow. Often, the opposite happens. And, if our investments exceed our expectations, what will we gain in the end? Will it include any of the benefits or gifts that Solomon describes? Or, who can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that any of the “things” the world has to offer will bring any happiness?
Years ago I had a friend who advised me: “Larry, you always know how wise a man is by whose advice he listens to and follows.” I discovered he was and is right.
God, through Solomon, gave us “great advice.” Over the years it has proven to be accurate, trustworthy and reliable. To follow it has endless rewards!
Prayer: Lord, there is no better investment, if we want eternal returns, than to pursue Your wisdom and ways. Give us Your strength to do this. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:14 For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold.