Wednesday, July 31, 2019

When All Else Fails: Have Hope

Years ago I was reading a book that contained a most interesting, disturbing, and thought-provoking statement: “There is a dramatic difference between ‘giving up’ and ‘given up’.” Giving up may take a long time. It begins when we start to evaluate what is going on in our lives and attempt to come to a conclusion as to whether or not the struggle or struggles we are having are worth the effort. Given up is when we come to the conclusion that the struggle or struggles we face are no longer worth the effort it takes to breathe, and we resign ourselves to fate or death, and life loses its meaning. What was “hope and a bright future” is over, and what’s left is resignation and death.
Again, we find sound advice and great encouragement from a proverb: “There is surely a future hope for you and your hope will not be cut off.” In other words, “what is” may not be what we would like it to be. But remember, “what is” is not the end. We are to look beyond the present and accept the wisdom that comes from God and rest in His hope - not our circumstances.
The word translated “a future” describes “something that comes after something else.” It is what is last or behind or beyond what we can presently see – it comes from what we believe.
We can take “hope” from the words of Jeremiah: “This is what the Lord says? For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.”
Whatever captivates is as temporary as a passing cloud. How we view “the cloud” is up to us. Do we give up on God or give “the cloud” to God and trust and have hope in Him?
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for giving us hope – knowing that “what is” will pass, and that our future is with You and in Your hands! May our hope be in You if our hope fails. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 23:18 There is surely a future hope for you and your hope will not be cut off. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Just Before Giving Up?

Remember these words: “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.”
The temptation to be jealous and envious of those who have more or better things than we do can become a distraction to those who struggle to live a righteous life. The teaching that is found in this verse has been introduced earlier in the Bible. It is not new and different. Rather, there is a preview of it in the Psalms: “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong”? (to gain the treasures and pleasures of this world). And again, “Trust in the Lord and do good, delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (if they are consistent with His character.) First, Scripture teaches us to fear God and see what happens.
Although not specifically stated in this proverb, we must never forget the fact that whatever the ungodly have, and the things they possess, are temporary. We have been conditioned to believe that the “things of this world” will bring happiness and hope, joy and satisfaction, pleasure and success, strength and security. But do they?
“Envy” is an interesting Hebrew word. It contains the idea that being envious will force us into action, to do more and work harder. However, that can be good. One can be envious of the sinful or the righteous. The choice is ours! And, both have different outcomes.
One translator provides an interesting interpretation: “Do not sinfully envy the temporal and momentary benefits that the sinful seem to enjoy, instead, set your heart upon zealously possessing the fear of the Lord.”
If we are always zealous in our fear of the Lord and “set our hearts on things above, not on the things of this world” and “give the battle to the Lord,” there can be little doubt about the outcome. The key is to “set” and “give” to the Lord.
Prayer: We admit, Father, that it is easy to be consumed with envy that will destroy us. We ask Your Spirit to guide us into paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 23:17

Monday, July 29, 2019

Child Development Program

Sad to say, some Christians take great pleasure in doing the work of God. They establish themselves as judge, jury, and executioner. Finding a verse of Scripture that supports their need to condemn others, they often take it out of context, violate the meaning God instilled in its correct interpretation, and use their personal interpretation of it to embarrass and harass others.
Perhaps no other verse has been more misaligned than Solomon’s admonishment to parents: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Is this verse a guarantee or a guide?
Some scholars believe that to “train a child” begins with the parents dedicating the child to God. This may have come from a formal or informal ceremony in the life of the family when a child and the parenting of the child were absolutely consecrated to the Lord. The “training” of the child was to be God-centered and God-honoring and would develop the skills and talents that God gave the child to love, worship, honor, and serve the Lord. The child was to be trained not only intellectually but by the words and behavior of the parents. They were to be examples of who the child was to become, and what the child could do with their lives by encouraging the child to find God’s will and way for their life! Children are to be taught that “humility and fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and, if followed, will lead to a life of honor and success that pleases God.
But what if parents follow this plan and the child turns from God? We come back to the fact that parents are responsible to do as God commands. Parents must be obedient and faithful to God and live consistent Christ-filled lives. If children see that “it” works for their parents, they will understand that it will work for them. If parents do their part, God will do His.
Prayer: Enable us who are parents, Lord, to be loving, understanding, worshipping, consistent, obedient, and humble examples of Your Son. Then, all will be well! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

What God Promises To Reward

Most individuals want to be recognized and rewarded for doing good. Some dedicate their entire lives to work with the sick and oppressed. Others, who are wealthy, establish trusts or foundations, and donate money to what they consider “worthy causes.” Many give generously to charitable organizations that serve the less fortunate or those overwhelmed by a disaster. Everyone seems to have a “touch point” in their heart that will trigger an urge to give or share.
But, there is no guarantee that our giving will bring us a reward, or in fact, benefit others. However, as sure as we are that our God is a faithful God and will keep His Word, Solomon, on behalf of God promises us that “Humility and fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.” Certainly, this verse will get the attention of “reward” seekers!
Yet, “seeking” a reward for the sake of a reward is not what this verse is all about. Notice the first word - “humility” is followed by the familiar theme throughout Proverbs: “and fear of the Lord.” One can be humble and not fear the Lord. Humility without fearing the Lord is self-serving and an end in itself. To be humble because we “fear the Lord” is rather different. This “fear” grows in the heart of a believer because God is recognized as being sovereign and worthy of worship and reverence, honor and praise. Its understanding fear through the lens of “awe and respect.”
Perhaps it is difficult to understand that “humility and fear of the Lord” will bring us “wealth and honor and life.” So, can we really expect them as rewards? If we view God as He is and ourselves as we are, we have God’s guarantee that He will bless us materially, socially and personally. How can this be? The “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!” Have you tried it?
Prayer: It’s easy, Lord, to live life with grand schemes and false motives. Cleanse us from vanity and fill us with humility. Though we fear You, we know we need not be afraid of You. Amen!
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 22:4 Humility and fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Common Bond

Life, more often than not, seems to be determined by “boundaries.” While many are set for us by others, we often set them for ourselves. These boundaries separate the rich from the poor, educated from uneducated: railroad tracks that separate the impoverished from those living in mansions, hippies from the elite. If there is some way to establish a boundary to make one group “better” or “different” or “weirder” than another group - someone, sooner than later, will discover it.
Fortunately for us, God has no favorites nor does He recognize any boundaries. “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is Maker of them all,” wrote Solomon. The Hebrew word for “common” conveys the meaning that “everyone meets or stands together” before God - their Creator and Sustainer.
We each have our own particular way of looking at others. We tend to look at them through various lenses. Sometimes we “clump” them together and label them by color or class or creed. Even though we are advised not to “profile” anyone for any reason, we do it automatically even though we have been warned against doing so. Right or wrong, it is a convenient way to classify someone and “set them aside” or reach out to them.
No doubt the way we see and respond to others has developed over the years. It depends on our education and the experiences we have had in life, as well as the influence of our family and friends. We like people who are like us and avoid people who are different from us. But, thank God He is not like us! He will not reject any person for any reason. He is the “Maker” of us all and His Son, our Redeemer and Savior said, that “whoever believes in Me shall not perish but have eternal life!” The “whoever” includes each of us. Thank God He has no boundaries.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for Your love that includes everyone. Thank You for making Your love and salvation available to everyone. Thank You for being all inclusive. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 22:2 Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is Maker of them all. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

It's Our Responsibility

What’s in a name?
More than we often imagine.
No matter where I’ve lived, whether Ohio or South Carolina, California or North Carolina, Ohio or Texas, Georgia or Oklahoma, I have always been greeted by the same question: “Are you Michael Guido’s brother?” And I always seem to have the same feelings surface: “I wonder what expectations they will have of me?” Or, “Will they expect me to be just like him?” Or, “Will he always get there before I have my opportunity to even try to establish my identity?”
In the final analysis, those questions did not matter. It was an honor to have Michael for a brother and an example. Everywhere he went he “sowed God’s seeds.” Seeds of love and compassion; seeds of concern and conviction, seeds of hope and healing; seeds of grace and mercy; seeds of insight and understanding that would bring the Word of God to life; seeds that would change lives and mend families; seeds of happiness and joy; seeds of light and life; seeds that inspired and encouraged everyone that heard or read them.
“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold,” wrote Solomon. I did not understand the significance of that verse for many years. Yes, I enjoyed many benefits of being identified with Michael. It did have its value. But, with the joy that came from having Michael as my brother came sadness for those who suffer the disgrace of a family member who led a life that defied God’s teachings and made life difficult for those who were harmed by their reputation.
But the challenge contained in this is not beyond any of us: we have the potential, with God’s power, to do whatever is necessary to live lives that establish a “good name.”
Prayer: Father, give us Your courage and strength, insight and wisdom to leave a legacy worthy of Your name. Enable us to live as Jesus lived by serving others as He did. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 22:1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Victory Is The Lord's

Our individual and national security has become a very significant topic of discussion in recent years. When we look beyond our own borders, we are reminded of the reality of instant upheaval through acts of terror that bring destruction without warning. We wonder where the next attack will be and who will be responsible. Will it ever end?
On one occasion David wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” And a little later on he wrote, “A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all of its great strength it cannot save.” No doubt his son Solomon had listened to his father as he discussed his thoughts on war and battle strategies, winning and losing or victory and defeat. Out of those conversations, Solomon formed his own ideas of war among and between nations. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle,” he said, “but victory rests with the Lord!” When David and Solomon penned these observations, the horse was the greatest weapon in the military arsenal. When coupled to a chariot, it added an even more lethal dimension. It brought speed to the battlefield that warriors could not overcome with its ability to “hit and run.” Foot soldiers did not have the capability to defeat an army that used horses in combat.
David and Solomon, however, remind us today about what makes the difference in combat: Victory belongs to the Lord. Nations may develop strategies, prepare and equip warriors, have superior weaponry and technology, and plans without flaws (in their minds) but it makes little difference. God determines the victor.
Throughout Scripture God reminds us that “it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s.” Whose side are you on?
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the promises in Your Word that assure us of Your strength and sovereignty and our safety. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 21:31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,” he said, “but victory rests with the Lord.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

God Is Sovereign

GOD IS SOVEREIGN
“NO! NO! NO!” How many times have parents scolded their children with those three negative warnings? Index finger-pointing, a furrowed scowl on their brow, and a stern warning in their voice to “stop this very instant.” Whether or not the threat works the first, second or third time may well depend on the determination of the parent or the will of the child.
“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” is a powerful statement. Throughout Proverbs, wisdom and insight and plans have had their source in and from God. Here it is quite different. Solomon is warning anyone who wants to challenge God’s sovereignty to realize that it is a futile battle. He does not say “there is no insight, wisdom or plan” in a combined statement He emphasizes each one - specifically - by preceding it with “NO!”
Whatever we devise apart from God will ultimately and completely fail. We may have carefully and completely researched the steps to achieve our goal. But it will never replace God’s wisdom, and when applied or put into action, it will not succeed.
Apart from God, everything - including wisdom, insight, and plans - will be incomplete. Only in Him and through Him and with Him will whatever we do be complete and succeed. What we say and think, research and reason, talk about and work on will have its flaws. And it is not because God wants us to fail. It is because He demands that we depend completely on Him.
Attempting to do anything without humility, feelings of inadequacy, and complete dependence on God, cannot or will not be as successful as it could be with His wisdom and insight. We can expect His blessings if we acknowledge our need for Him to be at the heart of all we do. Apart from Him, we have no hope to achieve what He has planned for our lives.
PrayerLord, if we are honest with ourselves, then with You, we will admit that whatever we do will be incomplete or inadequate. Help us always to depend on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 21:30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Want The Best In Life?

Is it possible to actually measure the results of being righteous and showing love? Are there rewards for being like and doing the things that Jesus did? Apparently so.
“Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor,” promised Solomon. Notice, if you will, this proverb begins with the word “whoever” - an all-inclusive, unlimited invitation to everyone.
The rewards promised are tangible: “life” is a personal gift; “prosperity” is the physical gifts God gives us, and “honor” is social recognition for what we do for others in honor of God. We must realize, however, that these gifts are byproducts from the “pursuit” of being righteous and loving.
Only God is righteous and loving. We will never “be” completely righteous and loving in this life. So, we are confronted with the importance of “pursuing” righteousness and being “completely” loving. Can we know if we are living a righteous and loving life?
Righteous living has two dimensions: a horizontal and vertical dimension. Horizontal begins with my being in a “right” relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It begins with faith in Him and our faith in Him results in our being faithful to Him. Others will recognize a difference in the way we live because we are applying His teachings in and through and with our lives.
It is the application of His teachings that leads to righteous living by showing His love, mercy, and grace to others. This is what is meant by the vertical dimension. While never easy, we must, to the best of our ability, commit ourselves to do His work through His strength and power.
Thank God that He understands the difference between attaining and pursuing. If we submit our lives to Him, read His Word, pray earnestly and “give” His love to others, we’ll be rewarded.
Prayer: Lord, after all You’ve done for us, give us no rest until we pursue Your righteousness and love, and share it with others. May we worship You with all our hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 21:21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Teaching Of Jesus

We sometimes forget that there are many teachings in the New Testament that come from the Old Testament. “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be heard” is one of those teachings.
Shortly after Jesus began His ministry of teaching and preaching, He said, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” However, Jesus did more than preach and teach “The Beatitudes,” He brought them to life by the way He lived: what He did. If people were hungry, He fed them. If they were sick, He healed them. If they were blind, He gave them sight. If they were lost, He set them on the right path. If they were in darkness, He shed His light to guide them.
Solomon warns us that if we expect good things from God, we must “not shut our ears to the poor.” Those who are poor and in need are just as important to God as the wealthiest. But the wealthy and those who have more than “the least of these” are obligated to have “open ears” and do something when they hear the cry of the poor. Closed ears and hardened hearts cannot expect God to have open ears and soft hearts when they cry to Him in times of need.
Persons who are unrighteous and self-centered and care only for themselves do not understand God’s love and mercy and grace. If we love, as God loves, mercy and grace will flow from our hearts - as it does from His. Then our ears will be open and our hearts touched and our hands outstretched to bring hope and help and healing to the poor.
One more thought: No matter how “secure” we may think we are with what we have, there is no guarantee that our riches will last forever. We, too, may be forced to cry for His help!
Prayer: Help us, Father, to have ears and eyes that are open, heads that think of others, hearts that are tender, and hands that help and bring healing to those in need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be heard. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Giving Or Doing

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

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Honesty

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

Friday, July 19, 2019

Hide And Seek

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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Watch Where You Walk!

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Let God Make Things Right

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

No One Can Hide

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

No One's Perfect!

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Walking Our Talk

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

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Importance Of A True Friend

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

Friday, July 12, 2019

One Fact Remains?

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

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Life Long Learning

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

One More Time. However?

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Discipline Or Death?

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

Monday, July 8, 2019

God's Loan Managers

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

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Danger Of Being A Nonconformist

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

Saturday, July 6, 2019

It Goes In A Circle

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