Sunday, March 31, 2019

Life Without God's Wisdom

“Finds life” or “loves death.” From one extreme to another. A contrast that is unmistakable and a choice that is crystal clear. It is one of the great “either/or” in God’s Word. There is a way of life or a path to death. And it is strange that some would not search for a way to live wisely and enjoy the blessings of God.
One translation recognizes the choice as “one who finds me...vs…he who misses me.” There is a reward for searching for and applying God’s wisdom: “life and favor from the Lord.”
Conversely, those who “fail to find God's wisdom - or those who sin against God - harm themselves; all who hate me love death.” Can the extremes be more clearly defined? Described?
Here is a clear picture of a self-centered life - a picture of one who has made a willful, thoughtful choice after careful deliberation. It is a choice that is void of emotions or feelings. But, a choice, nonetheless.
Earlier in the chapter wisdom is described as “a tree of life.” And if one chooses the “other path,” it is a “path to death.” Unfortunately, at the time the decision is made, the one making the decision may not be aware of that choice. Life may be too exciting, or too much fun, or too enjoyable, or death is “so far away” there is nothing to fear.
The choice should matter to us. If we know someone, anyone who is without Christ, we are responsible to God to take His message of love, salvation, hope and eternal life. Otherwise, we contribute to that one’s death without hope of God. Witness and share His grace constantly!
Prayer: Awaken us, Father, to our obligation to speak to those who are on the wrong path and unsaved. May we recognize our responsibility to You as well as others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 8:35-36 For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But those who miss me injure themselves. All who hate me love death. 

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Watching... Waiting... Wondering

It was an unusually nasty night. The wind was howling fiercely as the rain pounded the roof relentlessly. The temperature was well below freezing. It was 3:30 a.m. and “Lady” had to “go” outside. With great hesitation, I opened the door and discovered a small Shih Tzu gazing upward into my eyes. She appeared frightened as she cowered at my feet.
Her markings were stunning: grey, tan, white - even brown stripes on her ears. She “bumped” my ankle purposely with her nose and began wagging her tail as she gazed steadfastly into my eyes. Then, unexpectedly she laid at my feet as if pleading for her life.
After carefully examining her, we realized that she had been abused and abandoned. Covered with dirt, fleas, and ticks, she needed care. However, Mary and I had agreed that as long as Lady lived, there would not be another dog allowed. Without saying a word, she used her pleading eyes and wagging tail to “force” her way into our hearts and home.
After a few weeks, she became very attached to me. Constantly resting at my feet, standing patiently at the door not allowing me to leave without her, quietly waiting for me to make a move so she could join me seemed to be a statement that she could not live without me now.
Listen carefully as wisdom speaks: “Blessed is the man and woman who listens to me, watching daily at my door, waiting at my doorway.”
Bella is a constant reminder of those three very important words: listening, watching and waiting. How different life would be if our relationship with God centered around those three words.
Prayer: Father, May we learn to depend completely on You as the way, the truth and the source of light for our lives. May we look to You and wait on You for our needs. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 8:34 Blessed is the man and woman who listens to me, watching daily at my door, waiting at my doorway. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Behind Everything: God's Wisdom

It’s not an everyday thought. Nor do we look at the beauty that surrounds us, the miracles that invade our lives, the unexpected meeting of our needs out of nowhere, or waking up to see the dawn of a new day. Somehow, we rarely see, or acknowledge, or are even aware of the wisdom of God at work in our lives and our world.
“I was appointed from eternity...from the very beginning before the world began, when there were no oceans, no springs with water, before the mountains were settled, before the hills, before He made the earth or its fields, or any of the dust of the world...before the heavens were set in place or He marked the horizons of the moon or established the clouds, or fixed the borders of the oceans and the foundation of the earth, I was the craftsman at His side!”
What a description of the wisdom of God in creation! Before anything was, there was wisdom - God’s wisdom - present and at work, forming and fashioning, settling and securing everything. Land before water, skies before birds, heavens before the clouds - and on and on. First, His presence, then His plan and now His purpose. Things did not just “happen.” God’s wisdom was at work, is at work, and will be at work throughout eternity
After looking at “wisdom at work,” Solomon says in simple, easy to understand words, “Now then, my sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep My ways.” In other words, now that You see My wisdom, understand My wisdom, accept My wisdom and apply My wisdom to your lives
In the end: “Whoever finds Me finds life and finds favor from the Lord.” What a Creator!
Prayer: It’s almost impossible, Father, to comprehend the fact that Your wisdom is available to us if we seek it. Unsettle our hearts until You control them! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 8:32 Now then, my sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep My ways. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Does Wisdom Lead To Love?

“I love those who love me,” says Wisdom. “Those who seek me find me,” she continues. Wisdom, then, is available to everyone who seeks her. If those who find her love her, she will love them in return. Furthermore, the matter is set in absolute and unquestionable terms.
How can this be true? It refers us back to verse thirteen: “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.” If we love wisdom, we will automatically hate evil. Love is always a choice and those whom we choose to love become the center of our lives. As a result of this choice, we honor them by our loyalty, our faithfulness, and obedience. Love is much more than emotions or sentiments. Love is other-centered, sacrificial, mutual and reciprocal.
If we truly love wisdom, we will apply its truth to our lives and benefit from its rewards. That’s why God gave us Proverbs! He wants His very best for us!
An interesting, yet seldom used phrase is “self-destructive or self-defeating behaviors.” Like it or not, many of us engage in behaviors that do not work in our favor or best interests. Often we are unaware that what we are doing will destroy and defeat us: not studying His Word and praying, not being accountable to or serving God. Even Solomon, with all of his wisdom and wealth, came to the end of his life and lacked self-control and had no fear of God.
And if God offers us anything, it is the path to success in life through His work and His Word. We have His wisdom to endow us, His light to guide us, His power to strengthen us, His presence to comfort us and His grace to save us.
Prayer: Father, You have offered us so much more than we deserve. Awaken our minds and hearts and help us to take advantage of each of Your gifts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 8:16 I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Polar Opposites

“Have it your way” was the Burger King slogan for forty years. However, it was changed. Their new slogan is “Be Your Way.”
Why the change? In a recently released statement, the management team said the new motto is intended to remind people that “they can and should live how they want anytime. It’s ok not to be perfect. Self-expression is most important; it’s our differences that make us individuals instead of robots.”
Burger King’s Senior Vice President noted in an interview “that ‘Have it Your Way’ focuses only on the purchase...the ability to customize a burger. By contrast, he said, ‘Be Your Way’ is about making a connection with a person’s greater lifestyle.” How confusing.
A “lifestyle” reflects our way of life; our values and attitudes. If we “be our way,” it can be dangerous. It seems to suggest that “anything goes”... there is no wrong unless we agree on right and wrong. Furthermore, no one has any right to interfere with “my way.”
Unfortunately, our ways seldom agree with the ways of God unless we have been born again. Hearts are sinful, thoughts are corrupt, desires self-centered, and evil ways are the lifestyle of the non-believer.
“To fear the Lord is to hate evil,” said Solomon. Then, speaking on behalf of God, he said, “I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”
God’s Word and wisdom is very clear: It’s either His way or the evil way. It cannot be both.
Prayer: Lord, living our way – a self-centered way - is the easy way - but the wrong way. Give us a deep desire to seek Your way and live a life that pleases You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 8:13 All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Call To Prudence

God certainly enjoys a sense of humor. Chapter eight begins with a call to “applied wisdom” and the fact that it even “goes looking” for “followers.” Here we find a distinct call from God Himself to the “simple” and “foolish” to stop and gain understanding! It’s like the stop, look and listen warning signs at railroad crossings: If you are not careful and stop, tragedy may strike!
How very gracious of Him to care for everyone! He knows that there are many who go through life aimlessly wandering from one mistake to another. It disturbs Him so much that He makes an urgent attempt to reach them once again and offer His grace, guidance, and willingness to guard everyone against themselves.
“Does not wisdom call out?” we read in His Word. His Word does not say, “Go here and there, and if you are fortunate, you may run into some good advice now and then.” That in itself would reveal a god who was not wise and caring. But throughout Scripture, God often appears as the “town crier” attempting to get the attention of people before disaster strikes. It is a common thread that binds the Old and New Testaments together.
Our God is not a silent god sitting on the sidelines of life watching us as though He were uninvolved and disinterested in our lives. Rather, He is always somewhere listening, watching, observing - but never a reluctant advisor. He is our Creator-Sustainer and waits anxiously and patiently to be our Redeemer and Savior. But we must respond to His voice to be victorious.
Those who do not respond to Him have no excuse. He makes His will and His way plain.
Prayer: Father, it’s never about You hiding from us or confusing us, but always about us rejecting You and refusing to hear Your voice or see Your Son. Forgive us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 8:1 Listen as Wisdom calls out! Hear as understanding raises her voice!

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Disastrous Ending

Sexual promiscuity, in the eyes of many, is “not all that bad” or “something that can’t be helped” or is “just the way things are.” For some it has been “labeled an addiction” that needs to be “cured.” For others, it is not “what I had planned - but just happened.” And far too many have been desensitized to the fact that it is a sin and simply wrong, or if it’s “consensual,” it’s OK.
Not in God’s sight. It is sin and wrong.
God, speaking through Solomon, graphically set the standards for a sexual lifestyle that He would bless and the consequences for those who disregard His commandment.
Following God’s wisdom brings justice, safety, deliverance, good, godly friends, pleasure, peace, security, longevity, wellness, wholesome living, and certainly His very best blessings.
On the other hand...The “passing pleasure” of indulging in a life of adulterous living, however, has its own “rewards.” Solomon writes, “Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng.” It would seem that this would cause many to pause and ponder about sexual misconduct. But it does not stop there: “Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.”
What a powerful “exposé” of the sin of adultery.
Our choice is very clear: we can enjoy intimacy and pleasure that comes from following God’s plan for sex, or follow a path that ends in the chamber of death.
Prayer: Lord, as always, the choice is ours. If we want a “God-blest life” life as You designed for us, we must follow Your commands. Lead us in paths or righteousness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 7:26-27 Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

There Is A Difference

While some may disagree, there is an obvious difference between “sophistication” and “maturity.” And over the years, the “gap” has grown.
A good example of this is seen in our children’s heroes. Heroes are no longer respected for what they do for others - but by how popular they are. Young girls see their “heroes” singing songs that mock purity, justice and decency, and dress seductively. Young boys wear the jerseys of athletes who have been accused of crimes that are “erased” when their “hero” stands up and says, “I take full responsibility for my behavior” and then go free. That does nothing to remove the scars from the victim’s heart. We see society making heroes of the wrong people.
Solomon looked out of his window and saw a group of young men making plans for the evening. One of them stood out from the others. It seemed as though he was having a difficult time with his options. Perhaps he was shifting back and forth from one foot to the other or glancing away from the “gang” as though he was not sure if he wanted to participate in their decision.
“I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment.” He was not ignorant nor did he have a low IQ. He was struggling to understand his choice and their consequences – and lacked direction. He knew what was appealing but had no one to guide him. What a tragedy.
How many of us see young men and women who have needs like this “young man” - trying to make a decision that will affect their entire life? “Sophistication” implies worldly knowledge. “Maturity” implies wise choices. God’s Word provides His wisdom to make wise choices.
Prayer: Lord, so many of our youth need guidance. In Your mercy, convict those of us who understand your wisdom to step up and speak out to help the lost. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 7:7 I saw some naive young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

What's In Your Eye?

“Lord,” he prayed over me, “take care of Larry. He’s the ‘apple’ of Your eye.”
Although I was semiconscious, the word “apple” echoed in my ear and came back to my mind again and again. What did he mean, “An apple in God’s eye?” Didn’t God have other things to look after that were much more important than an apple?
A few days later the man who prayed this prayer came to visit me. Fortunately, what some thought was a heart attack was an uncomfortable case of indigestion. All was well physically, but, my mind still wondered about the “apple.” So I asked.
“What did you mean when you prayed, ‘He’s the apple of Your eye’? I’m curious about what an apple and I have in common, especially in God’s eye.”
“Well,” he said, clearing his throat, “in Proverbs, there is a phrase that says, ‘Guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.’”
After a moment of deep thought, he added, “The apple of your eye means ‘the little man in your eye.’ If you gaze or stare intently at someone,” he said, “you can see the reflection of that person in the pupil of your eye. So, it means that whatever someone is staring at intently and unflinchingly must be carefully protected because it is precious in the eye of the beholder.”
“Larry,” he continued, “you are very precious to the Lord, and I wanted Him to protect and guard you because it was something I couldn’t do, but He could.”
Prayer: Lord, all of Your children are equally precious to You. We are so grateful that You have no favorites. Thank You for watching over and protecting us for our sake. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 7:2 Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Now, what?

One of the most influential teachers in my life was “Gunny Smith.” I met him one beautiful, sunny fall evening in Newport, RI. He stood as straight and rigid as the flag pole beside him. As new Navy Chaplain recruits, we had no idea what to expect. But, one look at his crisp uniform, brightly shined shoes, short hair, and steady gaze left no doubt in our minds that what we expected didn’t matter. Our lives were in his hands. He knew it. We would soon accept it.
With obvious confidence in his voice, he said, “Gentlemen, I will soon become the most loved and feared person you will ever meet.” He lived up to that statement. He was responsible for teaching us how to live as officers in the Navy and how to survive in combat if necessary. He took his responsibilities seriously.
Solomon took his responsibilities as a father seriously, too. He warned his son to “continually bind God’s laws around his heart, tie them around his neck... so when you walk, they will guide you, when you sleep they will watch over you, and when you awake they will speak to you.” In other words, wherever he was, no matter the time or circumstances, whether night or day, “His law” would be a lamp and light always, and, when necessary, correct and discipline him.
“Gunny” and Solomon knew and accepted their responsibilities with all their heart. They were well aware of the fact that lives depended on their effectiveness to prepare heads and hearts, and shape the conduct and attitude of the “untrained” – children and recruits alike!
Prayer: We pray, Heavenly Father, that we will accept the responsibility and fulfill our obligation to You to train others whom you have entrusted to us to accept Your teachings and walk in Your light. May our “walk” be more obvious than our words, as we seek to honor You in all things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 6:21-22 Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck. When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you. When you wake up, they will advise you. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Values Begin At Home

Morris Massey was a professor of communication at the University of Colorado. While there, he became famous for a film entitled, “What You Are is Where You Were When?” Though the title may be confusing, the message is not. All of us are “value programmed” in our homes by the time we are six. “Value programmed” means that our behaviors or lifestyles come from our parents or primary teachers. And, these behaviors or “values” are so deeply ingrained within us that we “live” or “behave them” without even thinking about them. Unless there is an event in our lives that force us to change, we take them to our grave.
“My son,” said Solomon, once again wanting his son’s undivided attention, challenged him to “keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teachings.”
Now, Solomon or the mother of that particular son, certainly did not know about Morris Massey or his research. But, they did know the importance, influence, and impact that how they lived and what they taught their children was critical for their children’s wellbeing. So, they chose to make an issue about how they should live. And, furthermore, made no apology for doing so.
Throughout Scripture, fathers and mothers are authorized, with divine authority, to set the boundaries, behaviors, and attitudes of their children. Solomon and his wife were determined to do this. They realized their obligation to God and were willing to obey Him.
Prayer: Father, children are entrusted to parents as Your gifts to them, to lead and train them in Your paths. Give parents’ courage and insight to follow Your directions! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 6:20 My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Does God Have An Attitude?

“Attitude” is an interesting word. And it has different meanings to different people. There are times when we speak of a “good” attitude, and times when we speak of a “bad” attitude. Normally, an attitude refers to a position that someone has about something or even someone else. But, is it fair to say that our God, who is compassionate and caring, has an attitude?
“There are six things the Lord hates; seven are an abomination to Him.” Well, if we learn what those “things” are, is that all we have to worry about? Not really. These “things” are not intended to be an exhaustive list. We all make lists that we can add things to or remove things from - even God can do this. But these “things” are very serious to God and build on the list Solomon began earlier. Here, however, he reinforces the Lord’s attitude toward such “things.” Read the list very carefully and discover some “things” that God has an “attitude” toward:
1. Haughty eyes: A proud, condescending glare that comes from a heart full of arrogance and deceit.
2. A lying tongue: God only honors truth and purity.
3. Hands that shed innocent blood: Any person unjustly killed, which certainly includes the unborn child.
4. Hearts that “devise” wicked schemes: Using scams to hide the truth from simple and trusting folk.
5. Feet that rush to evil: Feet follow the plans of the heart and engage the soul in sin.
6. A false witness: Lies, to some, are as natural as breathing.
7. Strife-spreaders: “Trouble-makers” are all around us and will be destroyed.
Prayer: Lord, if we took Your Words as seriously as You do, what beautiful lives we would live! Help us to avoid these “things” and be pleasing to you. We need You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Another Wrong Way

It seems as though there are more wrong turns in life than there are right turns. Many begin their careers strong, have high ideals, clear goals and objectives, and then, for one reason or another, they drop from sight.
Normally, it is not from a disaster or one single event. It’s usually a combination of things. But, there is one “habit” that is mentioned again and again in Proverbs as a reason for failure: laziness. It is identified more than ten times as the reason for failure.
The word used for “laziness” leaves no room to wiggle away from the diagnosis: sluggard. If there is any living thing that most people want to avoid it is a “mollusk” or “slug.” In fact, the very word “slug” brings to the mind’s eye some “thing” that is lazy, sluggish, undirected and listless. Slugs seem to be on everyone's’ “avoid at all costs” list because they endanger plant life.
However, there is something interesting about “sluggard.” In this verse, Solomon compared and contrasted the “way” of the sluggard to an ant. Now, on the one hand, few insects in life can be as annoying, bothersome, and troublesome as an ant.
On the other hand, however, ants show a vivid vision of a work ethic that is worthy of copying. Ants plan and prioritize, are motivated and industrious, disciplined and diligent, self-controlled and self-reliant — certainly a sign of “applied wisdom” that began with God in creation.
God’s wisdom is practical, simple and sensible and can lead to our success. The ant is a great example: its wisdom, as does ours, comes from God!
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for illustrating how little things in life can make a big difference. May we accept wisdom, that comes from You, guide us and guard us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 6:6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Secret Sins

Unbelievable, really, what some of us believe.
When I was a child, we had “bins” in our kitchen that contained flour and sugar. As a child, I had little use for either of them. So I thought.
One of the great memories of my childhood was the tent my Dad erected in the back yard. It was a place where many of the children in our neighborhood would gather to talk and hide, share secrets and snacks, and “get away from our parents’ watching eyes and listening ears.”
Sunday afternoon family “get-togethers” were a regular occurrence. Once, after a short discussion about the “fun” of smoking, we concluded that we were old enough to smoke. If it was OK for our parents to smoke, it was OK for us, too. There was only one problem: we had no tobacco, no paper to roll the tobacco in, and no matches. No problem.
I went inside for some matches and newspaper while a friend went into our garden and collected some “silk” from several ears of corn. That would serve as our tobacco. So, we carefully rolled the silk into the paper to make cigarettes. Everything was going well.
I decided to be the first to “light-up.” When I tried to inhale, the paper burst into flames and singed my eyebrows. “Teeman” had the solution: “Run into the kitchen and rub sugar over your eyebrows.” That, he promised, would hide the “evidence” – the singed eyebrows of my “accident.”
Unfortunately, my Dad came into the kitchen - and there I was: head deep inside the sugar bin. And, of course, nothing I said made sense or hid the truth.
“A man’s ways are in full view of the Lord.” (As well as others!)
Prayer: It’s difficult, if not impossible Lord, to hide anything from anybody, and certainly not possible to hide anything from You. May we live with nothing to hide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 5:21 For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Learning From Others

“If you’re smart,” he said convincingly, “you can learn from the mistakes of others. You’ll never live long enough to make all of them yourself and learn the consequences of looking dumb and being foolish. And,” he continued, “you won’t have to pay the high price some of us have had to pay for our mistakes.”
Perhaps that was the intent of Solomon when he wrote, “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight.” This is a very stern warning from an experienced, and perhaps, “worldly-wise” father to his son. Pay attention and listen well are very similar in their intent. “Son, listen up, or else you'll be sorry!” Not sorry today for the mistakes of today - for we rarely experience immediate consequences for our wrongful behavior. But there will be a payday - someday! We can be certain of being rewarded, or punished for everything we do.
Sexual indiscretion has serious, and very often, life-long consequences. Consequences that impact more than those involved in “sex outside of marriage.” God very clearly and carefully defined the boundaries: a rich sexual relationship is to be confined to and experienced within the bonds of the marriage covenant. No exceptions!
Society ridicules such a “narrow view” of sex. However, when we look at the tragic consequences of “casual sex,” it is heartbreaking: unwanted children, rampant abortions, broken hearts and homes, disease, children growing up without their “mom” or “dad.” Chose God’s way!
Prayer: How costly, Father, is the price we pay when we disobey Your laws. Give us Your strength to obey Your teachings and commands we pray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

A Fortified Focus

Fifty-eight percent of the foods on the shelves of our grocery stores are “fortified.” Researchers claim that they make a significant contribution to the quality and value of the food we eat. Additionally, many of our foods in cans, in boxes, in the meat and dairy isles or in the fruit and vegetable sections of the stores where we shop have been “genetically modified” in one way or another. Biologists claim that it makes the products last longer, tastier, and more nutritious.
“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you!” Guide your eyes and know where you are going warns Solomon. We are to “fortify” the way we view and live life with God’s wisdom, power, and strength, and then be careful where we place our feet. In other words, stay focused on using God’s wisdom and apply it to life!
The fool, the ones who choose not to acknowledge the existence or power of God, is easily distracted. Any image that “springs-up” or appears with no warning is a call to lure the “fool” into a trap. Jesus said that the “eye is the lamp of the body” and will project on the screen of our minds an image that quickly and without warning leads the “fool” astray. The eyes, once seduced, need more and more entertainment until, rather than being lured or enticed, actually search with determination for images and that are corrupt, vile and destructive to keep their life “exciting.”
“Looking straight ahead” and “fixing His gaze” is what Jesus did during His life’s journey. He “resolutely” set out for Jerusalem - fortified by God. Can we do less if we love Him?
Prayer: God, grant us the willingness to plant Your wisdom so deeply in our hearts that we will stay focused on Your Word, Your will, Your way, and Your work! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.

Friday, March 15, 2019

What Matters Most

It is common to hear a Christian say that the “most important day of my life was the day I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.” It’s also common to hear them say that “it wasn’t long before I began to face the same old problems, was tempted and fell back into my sinful ways.” How amazing that, centuries ago, Solomon gave us some sound, solid advice for the new Christian as well as Christians of all ages and stages in their walk with the Lord. What was it?
“Above all else care for your loved ones…work hard…exercise daily…be a good person!” No! “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
If there is any verse that we as Christians must take to heart, it is a verse that warns us to “guard our hearts!” There is so much more to our hearts than the “sentimental” side that we read of in novels and hear of in songs. The heart is where life begins and ends; it is where habits, values, wills, and emotions begin. In our hearts is where we find the answers to “who we are” and “what the difference is between ourselves and others,” and “what matters most,” and “what we will give our lives to and for.” It is from our “hearts” that “the real me” springs forth when we least expect it, and causes us to want to hide from embarrassment when we are finally “uncovered.”
What fills our hearts eventually flows into our lives and the lives of others. This “overflow” is who we are. If we fill our hearts with His love, grace, hope, and wisdom, others will see Him.
Prayer: Father, may we relentlessly guard our hearts against anything that would destroy us and our walk with You. Give us your strength to stand firm! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Many Parts - One Person

Years ago my counseling practice was located in a building with a family physician and his staff. We had many productive discussions about how best we could work together to meet the needs of patients who were struggling with both physical and emotional issues of life.
Again and again, Dr. Howard Press would look me in the eye and say, “Larry, don’t look at the person’s problem, look at the whole person. If you only look at the problem, you will only see a small part of the person. Every person has many parts, and you must be certain that all of the parts are working together properly or the person won’t work properly.” Then, he would give me his “lecture” on the “person as a complex network of systems.” If one of the systems didn’t work properly, he would remind me, the other systems will eventually fail.
“Think of the cardiovascular system,” he would say. “If the heart does not pump blood to the brain, the person will die. It must also pump blood to the stomach, or the digestive system will fail. What good is the brain or the stomach if the heart quits?” It certainly made sense.
But, this idea did not begin with Howard. We read in Proverbs that God’s words of wisdom bring “life...and health to a man’s whole body.” The benefits of “walking” in God’s wisdom can do two things: It can keep us from making foolish decisions that will erode our spiritual, mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. And, if we are not well, it can provide guidance that will bring us back to a state of “wholeness” through Christ’s forgiveness and healing power.
Prayer: Lord, the solution to each problem we have is in Your Word. May we read it, accept it, and follow Your ways! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:22 For they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

It's What's Inside That Counts

“Pay attention to what I say...listen closely to my words and do not let them out of your sight...and keep them within your heart,” wrote Solomon. 

Most of us grow up hearing the command: “Pay attention!” It is a normal part of everyone’s vocabulary - especially parents and teachers. And there are times when we do “pay attention” and accept the “command” and times when we do not. “Paying attention” is a choice, and we all have memories of when we wish we had chosen to do what we were asked to “pay attention to?.” And, there are times when we did pay “attention,” and it made no difference.

“Sight” and “heart,” however, when attached to “pay attention” elevate its significance. We have talked about the word “heart.” It refers to our “emotions and wills,” our “attitudes and values.” In other words, our heart is the “real me,” our “true self” or the “sum total” of all I am: word, thought, and deed. It’s who I am when I think no one is watching me.

Planting “wisdom” within our hearts is a very important responsibility. There is an obvious cycle that flows from the head to the heart and from the heart to the hand – or, our behavior. So, in essence, we can actually “see” what comes from our hearts and the hearts of others. We may never see anyone’s “heart,” but we can certainly “see” what they have “planted” in their hearts. 

The same is true of us. Others who watch us - our families and friends, our associates at work, and anyone anywhere will know eventually, what’s “in” our hearts by what we do and say. “Out of the depth of the heart” come words and deeds that are the real “me!”

Prayer: Lord, we can never fool You, and we only fool others briefly. We only fool ourselves if we think we are more than we are. Forgive our folly and cleanse us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:20-21 My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Caution! Danger Ahead!

Highway signs and signals can be very helpful if we follow their directions and commands. If we “read and heed” them, safe passage is usually assured. But, if for some reason we go against the warnings - danger lurks.
In fifteen words, Solomon gives us some critical advice: “Avoid it, do not travel on it, turn from it, and go on your way!”
But what is this “it?”
The “path of the wicked” or “the way of wicked men.” That’s simple and easy to read. But we are inclined to say, “Simple may not always be easy!”
Again and again, we are encouraged to walk in “paths of righteousness.” In this verse, however, we are given four important tactics for “safe passage.”
Avoid it: (temptation): What a simple first step. How much better life would be for all of us if we did everything we could to avoid temptation. Allowing ourselves to become intrigued by the lusts of the world is where evil begins.
Travel by it: means that we will stay as far away as possible from being tempted. If we know some “thing” can destroy our walk with God, run quickly from it.
Turn from it: means that we activate our will immediately and do not delay or hesitate to seek refuge in God.
Get away from it as soon as possible: To delay is to invite disaster and defeat. Hesitation allows time for the devil to seduce us. Run into the arms of God for His protection!
Prayer: We thank You, Father, for giving us guidance that is simple and easy to follow. Now, give us Your strength, power, and courage to follow it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:15 Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Safe Passage

Well over a year ago, I underwent spinal surgery. Not long after that, it was necessary for more surgery on another section on my spine. God was very gracious to me, and both were successful. He blessed the skills of the surgeons as they corrected various problems that had developed over the years.
During a post-surgical consultation, one of them asked, “Larry, walk over to the door, turn around and then walk back toward me.” I followed his instructions and, after carefully watching every step, he asked me to repeat the process.
After a moment he asked, “Do you feel like you are off balance? And did you notice your feet seemed to oppose the directions you wanted them to travel?”
“Well, yes,” I replied, “but I thought those two conditions would correct themselves after some time.”
“Oh, no,” he said. “You’ll need some extensive physical therapy to correct those problems.”
Physical therapy is important to correct physical problems. But only spiritual therapy can solve spiritual problems. Solomon said that if we apply God’s wisdom to our lives, our steps will be secure at all times. Our steps will not be “hampered” - or restricted - by the obstacles of life. We will be able to take long, safe, secure strides if we follow His will. He also said that “when we run we will not stumble” and our feet will never become “ensnared by the traps” of this world.
Prayer: Lord, unite our heads, hearts, hands and feet so that we are completely surrendered in service to You in all that we do. Assure us that if we follow Your will, our paths will be safe, our journeys enjoyable, and our lives satisfying! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:12 When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Acknowledge, Accept, Apply

“Michael, you don’t have to yell. I’m listening to what you are saying,” I said to my eldest son after we had a “slight” disagreement.
“I know you were listening, Dad,” he replied with clenched fists and a determined look in his eyes. “But I want you to hear me not only listen to me.” It was hard to believe, but I was “busted” by a five-year-old child. It is easy to listen but not hear.
Solomon wanted to be certain that his sons were not only listening to his teachings but would “do” something with what they had learned. He wanted them to accept God’s wisdom knowing it would guard them and guide them. He wanted them to plant it deep in their hearts, and then live their lives centered on what he knew would bring success to them in their lives. If he were teaching a class in college, it would be called “The Value of Applying God's Wisdom.”
It’s one thing to have God’s wisdom in our heads - but quite another thing to drive it deep into our hearts. When we have His wisdom in our hearts, it will guide our lives each day. Solomon realized what a huge difference God’s wisdom would make in the lives of his sons because of the difference it made in his life. In fact he listed the benefits of God’s wisdom: they would travel in safety; they would not trip and fall into the deceits of what the world offered; they would sleep securely; they would have no fear of being overwhelmed with disaster; and, most importantly, their confidence to face the issues of life would come from the Lord! Words worth “hearing!”
Prayer: Father, may we realize how much better life will be if we accept Your wisdom. Give us open, accepting minds and willing hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:10 My child, listen to me and do as I say, and you will have a long, good life. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Homeschooling

Early childhood education begins at home. From the very first moment a child opens its eyes, hears a noise from any source, experiences warmth or cold or feels the pangs of hunger, the opportunity to teach and learn is present and profound.
Though an infant does not know the difference between a Bible or catalog, the object will make an impression which will eventually be interpreted. And if there are more catalogs than Bibles, the child will one day understand the priorities of the parents.
Homes have walls and floors, shelves and ceilings. But what parents place on the walls or hang from the ceilings or place on the shelves is a choice. In my childhood home, everywhere we looked were objects that had a reference to God. I still remember my mother explaining or interpreting the meaning of pictures or using an old globe to tell a story about missionaries and what they did for Jesus. It was an important part of our family life. What I was taught through being “schooled at home” remains a very important part of my life and ministry today.
“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding...When I was a boy in my father’s house and an only child of my mother...he taught me: keep my commands, get wisdom and understanding!” How precious!
“My son, I’m passing my wisdom to you that came from my father...when I was young and tender.” God’s wisdom was passed from grandfather to father to child. We are all passing on what is of value to us, too.
Prayer: Father, we each leave a legacy to everyone we meet. May it bring honor and glory to Your name! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:2-5 For I am giving you good guidance. Don’t turn away from my instructions. For I, too, was once my father’s son, tenderly loved as my mother’s only child. My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words or turn away from them. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Confidence Guaranteed!

Each time I walk through a book store I make it a point to visit the “self-help” section. It never ceases to amaze me at the large amount of space this particular category of books occupies. Over 1,500,000 different titles are available in the United States, and the amount of money spent on them exceeded $13,900,000.00.
In 1859 Samuel Smiles published a book entitled, Self-help, and an industry designed to provide self-help, self-improvement, problem-solving, and confidence-building was born. But, this was not the beginning of this movement. The Egyptians receive some credit for this area of knowledge as well as The Book of Proverbs.
However, there’s one very important difference between Proverbs and the other sources available for hope and help: The Book of Proverbs comes with a guarantee from God. The others do not, even cannot, guarantee anything. Only a guarantee that comes from God can be trusted.
“For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” Confidence does not come from formulas or mental exercises, nor a plan or a program. It comes from the only One who can empower us to become and do things that are beyond our imagination. Whatever God wants us to do, He will, through His power, enable us to do it.
Confidence does not come from within - it comes from God. When we apply His “discernment and sound judgment,” His presence and power are available for us.
Prayer: Lord, may we seek the wisdom of Your Word and reject the foolishness of those who live in darkness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:26 For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

"Sweet Sleep!"

“Where’s ‘Babe’? I can’t find ‘Babe’, Papa. Help me! I’ve looked all over and don’t know where else to look,” said my beloved grandson. Together we walked through each room in our home looking for “Babe.” Finally, we found him. “Babe” was already in bed waiting for Keller. Now, Keller felt secure and would soon be asleep.
Sleep is a problem for many people. In fact, ten percent of Americans have been diagnosed with chronic insomnia. As staggering as that number is, it does not include those who use alcohol or other “over-the-counter” remedies to assist them when they want to “fall” asleep.
We have all experienced those nights when sleep seemed to be an enemy. We toss and turn while looking for a “comfortable” spot. We seek a correct room temperature as the “tick” of the clock echoes in our ears. And, time passes by as the sleep we crave eludes us.
“Why” is an obvious question. Too much food? Overwhelmed with guilt? Anxiety from a bad decision? Facing a day that we know will be difficult? The questions vary. But, “When you lie down you will not be afraid; when you lie down your sleep will be sweet.” Always? Really? How?
“Sweet sleep,” according to Solomon, is the result of using “sound judgment and discernment” that comes from God. If we carefully and completely follow God’s teachings and are obedient to His laws, He will grant us His peace, rest, and safety. God has provided His wisdom for all of the problems we will ever face in life – even sleep – in His Word
Only fools reject God’s advice and gifts. And lie awake wondering.
Prayer: Lord, help us to realize and accept all that is available to us if we walk with and are faithful to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:24 You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Importance Of Wisdom

Imagine seeds with no soil. Or, fish without water. A body with no bones. The sun with no orbit. Lungs without oxygen.
“What insanity!” would be a natural response. It’s not the way things are. They fall into place naturally: Soil before seeds, water before fish, bones to support flesh, a path for the sun to follow, and oxygen to fill lungs. They reflect planning, and planning is a result of wisdom.
The story of creation in Scripture reflects wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. The universe unveils a very carefully designed plan that is controlled, orderly, predictable and dependable. Nothing is random. Yes, we have “unexpected events” but they pass, and life continues. Things may be different from what they once were, but the “rules” that govern the universe are still in place and always will be.
Everywhere we look we see God’s wisdom. And, when you think of it, wisdom existed before creation. This wisdom is actually “something God is!” It is the wisdom of God that guided creation. It is the wisdom of God that actively “keeps things together.” And it is this same wisdom that originates in God that will guide us and guard us and give us peace in life if we agree to live by His rules.
It is almost inconceivable to believe that the One who created all things, is in all things and sustains all things, would even consider sharing His wisdom with us! It’s His to keep!
Although His wisdom is available, it is conditional. If we want it, we must live an obedient, trusting life in keeping with His Word. Then, He will open the door to His wisdom and bless us.
Prayer: Lord, how marvelous are Your ways. Open our hearts to see “what can be” if we trust in Your wisdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:19-20 By wisdom the Lord founded the earth; by understanding he created the heavens. By his knowledge the deep fountains of the earth burst forth, and the dew settles beneath the night sky. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Tree, Life, And Wisdom

Embrace is a word that is filled with deep, loving memories for most of us. Others perhaps have never felt the intensity of love through the arms of a parent or spouse, a child or a friend. It implies hugs and squeezes; arms wrapped tightly around someone we truly care for and are a special part of our life. It can also be compared to holding on to an object for dear life - fearing that if we let go, we’ll be lost forever.
When we travel back to Genesis, we are introduced to the Garden of Eden and “the tree of life.” It appears throughout Scripture. Even in Revelation we read of new heavens and the new earth. It is a symbol of a long and fruitful, productive and an especially “blessed” or happy life.
“She (wisdom),” wrote Solomon, “is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who hold on to her will be blessed.” If we embrace wisdom, we have the assurance - or promise - of being blessed as a result of our efforts.
Unfortunately, there is no assurance or promise of the blessing. Blessings from God, according to His Word, do not come automatically. The “tree of life” is stationary and if we want its blessings, we must go to the tree and embrace the tree. We have the responsibility to go to the tree: the tree will not come to us.
So it is with God’s wisdom. If we want it, we must go to it and embrace it and cling to it as though we were clinging to a raft in a raging sea about to be swept to our death.
God’s wisdom is available. But we must seek it and embrace it.
Prayer: Lord, through Your love You make Your wisdom available to guide us and guard us. The decision to accept, however, is ours. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:18 She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who hold on to her will be blessed. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Peaceful, Pleasant Paths

“Peace and pleasant paths sound boring,” some would say. “Life needs to be exciting, exhilarating, and certainly filled with many different events that are challenging and consuming.”
But, is there something more for us to understand? Certainly.
One of my dear friends sponsors an Indianapolis race car. Another played professional soccer for years. Then, there is “Greg the Sheriff” whose life is filled with sirens and radio alerts with calls to immediate action and life impacting decisions. Another is a pediatric anesthesiologist, who with one very slight miscalculation, would bear the results of that mistake into eternity.
There is one common denominator among all of them: a reassuring pleasantness that confirms their walk with God and their trust in His wisdom. Walking in the “ways of Godly wisdom” unites their “inner and outer man” and their lives become filled with joy and happiness, peace and satisfaction. In the midst of trouble and turmoil they all have gracious, delightful, enjoyable dispositions and being in their company brings blessings because they walk with God.
Do they have moments that challenge and threaten their “pleasant, peaceful attitudes?” Of course. But, in the midst of those moments, their confidence is not changed nor do their skills become impaired. Why? Because of a peace that comes from God.
The word for “peace” is shalom. It is not a peace that eliminates or ends turmoil and turbulence in their lives. Instead, it is a peace that comes from being satisfied with doing God’s will, being grateful for His gifts, following and trusting His wisdom and worshiping Him.
Prayer: Lord, give us Your shalom! Fill our hearts with Your wisdom and our minds with determination to obey Your teachings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 3:17 She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying.