Focusing On The Future

 “The way of the Lord” is a phrase that appears quite frequently in the Bible - most often in the Old Testament. Each time it appears, it is to be viewed as a “path” that God has laid out for His followers, or a path that winds through history as God deals with an individual, a nation or all of mankind.

Solomon wrote that “The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless, but is a ruin of those who do evil.” It is important for us to understand that “God is a refuge” only for those whom he holds blameless - or those who walk in His way!  With great trust, we accept Him and believe that only in Him, with Him, and through Him can we find a place of refuge, now and throughout eternity.

God deals with each of us individually and as nations united by a common government. So, those who walk in His righteousness will always find a place of refuge in His grace and mercy because of His love. Evil and evil ones may surround and govern us, but as long as we remain faithful to Him, He will remain faithful to us. We have His Word and His record of faithfulness that His peace, security, and comfort will always be our refuge.

 The key to the promise of this verse is strictly an if/then. If we walk in the way of the Lord and have as our primary goal in life to be blameless or righteous, we can then be confident that He is and will be our refuge. We can count on Him at all times, under any condition for His peace and protection. However, if our ways are evil, we are then warned well in advance that His judgment awaits us. 

 Prayer:  Father, Your Word is clear: we can only expect You to be our refuge if we are faithful. Give us strength! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless, but is a ruin of those who do evil. Proverbs 10:29

We Have Our Limits

Solomon makes no apology when he writes: “The blessing of the Lord, it makes one rich.” That is the literal translation of the verse: “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth.”  When he wrote that powerful statement, he made it abundantly clear that our resources - no matter how abundant they may be - are “limited” by God. It is the Lord who is faithful and who has the final word on riches, who gets them and when they will get them.

No matter how hard we try, how many hours we work, what we do or the skills we possess, we - in and of ourselves - cannot produce wealth. All the wealth in the world cannot make one “rich.” If God does not add His blessing to whatever we have we are, in His sight, poor. On the other hand, one may have none of this world’s goods, yet be rich. How can this be? Rich but not rich? Poor and yet rich? It certainly seems to be contradictory.

But it isn’t.  Rich is in the eye of the beholder.

Throughout his Proverbs, Solomon warns us that if we get the “riches” of this world through methods that are dishonest or deceitful, unfair and unjust, many problems will come with them. These problems may range from psychological to physical, legal to financial, personal to interpersonal or relationship issues. Godly living, God-honoring work, and God-centered practices bring joy and satisfaction, peace and true prosperity with them to those who live for the Lord and live righteous lives.

God’s riches come with God’s blessings. And, His blessings are readily available, worry-free, come without guilt or fear of being exposed and shamed from having harmed others.

Prayer:  Father, may all that we do, bring blessings, honor, and glory to Your name. May we seek Your “riches.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, without painful toil for it. Proverbs 10:22

Heart Health

“If it works, don’t fix it!”

Most of the time our heart works well, and we rarely pause to think about it. Each day our hearts beat about 100,000 times. It sends 2,000 gallons of blood surging through the veins of our bodies, nourishing our organs and tissues. Although it is no bigger than our fist, it keeps blood flowing through 60,000 miles of vessels that wind through our muscles and flesh, and is held together by our porous skin. It is the controlling force of our lives. When it fails, life ends.

The heart, in the Bible, is recognized as the center of our emotions, rational and irrational thoughts, our wills and desires. In the Bible, the heart is the “seat” of the entire personality. 

And, the heart, as described in the Bible, can be our most fundamental problem. What we store, keep or hide in our heart, is what we become and who we really are. 

So, as long as we “keep our mouths shut” we can deceive others. But, unfortunately, that does not seem to be possible. In the blink of an eye or a moment in time, we “let our guard down” and our true “self” becomes exposed to the world. We are “found out.”

Solomon wrote that “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.” Jesus said, “How can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

We hear amazing stories about surgeons who are skilled at “heart transplants.” But a heart transplant does not correct the problem of evil. Only Christ can correct that problem. So, He does not transplant hearts. He transforms hearts. When that happens, lives change.

Prayer:  Lord, come into and rule our hearts so others will know that Your Son, our Savior, rules our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:      The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. Proverbs 10:20

Who Are The "Real" Heroes?

It is fascinating to walk through any community or mall - or even down a city street - and noticing the vast number of football jerseys that people of all ages and sexes wear. The names and numbers of their “heroes” vary as much as the sizes and shapes of the persons wearing the jersey.

And, the dollar amount of this way of “identifying” with an athlete is growing. In 2015, four years ago, the total amount of money spent on sports clothing was more than six billion dollars.

Sadly, many of those names and numbers represent felons, drug addicts, wife or child abusers, murderers, and violent criminals. Yet, their names and numbers are held in high esteem, even worshiped, because of their accomplishments in their area of sports. 

Walk through a mall or down any street and count the number of individuals wearing a T-shirt that has the name of Jesus or Paul or Stephen or Jeremiah written across the front or back. Only now and then will a T-shirt appear with some reference to something Christian on it. Sadly, too, its message is usually unclear or confusing to the non-believer.  

Solomon talked about “heroes” who “walked” Godly lives. “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to a godly life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” What a timely, challenging verse to identify the criteria for a hero. People look for, want, and even need heroes. Where can we find “heroes for Christ?”

Hopefully, in His disciples. “By their fruits you will be able to identify them.”

Prayer:  Lord, we can’t hide who we are or what we believe or our values. May our lives represent You well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:  Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to a godly life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. Proverbs 10:17

All Seeds Are Not The Same

“What are you planting?” asked the salesman of the elderly gentleman.

“Seeds,” said the old farmer, rather nonchalantly. 

“Of course they’re seeds. I can see that. I’m not dumb or blind,” he said with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.

“Well, if you are so interested, hang around for a few months and see what comes up. You might be surprised. Might even be something you like,” came the reply.

Planting seeds and gardening is a craft. It is done with care and concern. Nothing is left to chance, and the only uncontrollable aspect of farming is the weather.

“The wages of the righteous is life,” wrote Solomon, “but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.” The word “wages” in this verse comes from the agricultural world and describes the crop or yield that is gained at the time of harvest. Earnings are the result of work. But both have a similar meaning: Our lifestyle and way of living have implications far beyond the moment. Righteousness brings a fulfilling life now, and after this life - eternal life with God. The alternative lifestyle, unrighteousness, is one of sin and leads to death - eternal separation from God.

  Our God is a just God and will reward each of us for the “seeds” we plant. Our old farmer knew what the crop would be from the seeds he planted. He didn’t have to wait and be surprised at harvest time. Neither do we. 

God’s Word leaves no doubt about sowing seeds and the coming harvest. “Do not be deceived,” is Gods’s warning, “for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.”

Prayer:  Father, may we examine our lives in light of your Word and plant “seeds of righteousness” each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:     The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death. Proverbs 10:16

Know God - Have Life

“Ill-gotten treasures” bring many ideas, as well as pictures, to our minds. Some pictures remind us of events where we were taken advantage of by one who made no apologies for stealing our “property.” Other feelings are the result of a dishonest salesperson who hid the truth from us when we purchased a valuable item. Usually, there are many numbers involved in large transactions, and unless we know what to look for, it’s easy to become a “victim” of dishonesty.

However, when we look at some “valuables” we have collected over time, there may be an item or two we obtained in less than honest methods. They were really “ill-gotten” even though they “belong” to us now.   

“Ill-gotten” is a strong phrase that means “treasures gotten as a result of wickedness.” We know that “wickedness” is not compatible with the character of God. It stands in complete contradiction to everything God values. It also cost Him the life of His Son. “Righteousness” on the other hand clearly states what God is: a God who is consistent with His Word and His ways. Our God despises unrighteousness and dishonesty because He is honest and just!

Treasures are a gift from God. And, there is nothing wrong with having treasures – even great treasures. But, when they become the “center of life” or the “reason for living,” attaining them is self-destructive. They no longer bring satisfaction because they have no “lasting value” - and the “search” for more treasures continues.

“Righteousness” delivers us from death: physical, spiritual and eternal. Those who live in “righteousness” have no fear of God because their search for “treasures” is found in Him.

Prayer:  Father, give us a desire to live for “things” that are eternal and have their source in You and Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:    Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death. Proverbs 10:2

It's All In The Family

“The nice thing about friends is that you get to choose them. But, when it comes to family members, you’re stuck with what you get. And boy, did I ever get stuck,” said the comedian.

No doubt that many of us feel this way about our Moms and Dads or brothers and sisters. And, even though names and addresses vary, all families have some things in common and some things that are vastly different. But, there are two primary truths that cannot be denied: One is that God intended parents to be the primary teachers and influencers of their children. And the other is that family ties are never completely severed no matter where parents or children eventually complete their lives. An invisible bond remains.

The contrast between a “wise son bringing joy to his father and a foolish son bringing grief to his mother” implies that this family is “divided” or “dysfunctional.” It emphasizes the fact that the behavior of one member of the family affects the behavior of all of the other family members. This tragedy is seen throughout the Bible.

The “joy” infused into the family by the “wise son” does not eliminate the “grief” that invades a family from a son who is “foolish.” The “foolish” son is the one who, by his behavior, brings “hardships” to the parents as well as others in the family.

However, the “hardships” need not remain. Again and again, Solomon reminds us that gaining wisdom from God is a choice that will change. This is the result of being born again.

Prayer:  Because You love us, Father, no parent or child is beyond Your mercy and grace. Your Son offers us hope! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:   A wise son brings joy to his father and a foolish son brings grief to his mother. Proverbs 10:1

Compare And Contrast

Right choices are sometimes obvious, occasionally hidden, perhaps difficult, unfortunately painful, and every now and then, when least expected, pleasant and rewarding.  However, one fact never changes: with every choice we make there is a consequence that comes with it. Sometimes when we make a choice, the results may surprise us or others. Nevertheless, there are always consequences that can be enjoyable or exciting, painful and perplexing. 

Frequently the consequence of a choice is known at the time we make our decision. Other times it is “wait and see.” But we all know that “payday” will come someday.

In the ninth chapter of Proverbs, Solomon carefully compares and contrasts the differences between a woman who is wise, and a woman who is foolish or “wicked.” Both offer an invitation to a feast they have prepared. Both are inviting people to enjoy their company. Both are sitting in a place of prominence where they can be seen and heard, recognized and rewarded.

Wisdom, on the one hand, lacks nothing - it is complete, perfect, and readily available. Yet, wisdom must be pursued with lifelong diligence. It is a never-ending quest that eventually brings insight, will add joy, satisfaction, and ultimately, peace to life.

Folly, or wickedness, on the other hand appeals to the senses, and even a moment of ecstasy following a time of excitement. It is temporary, though enjoyable, and seems to gratify some basic need. Folly has no future and is short lived. It brings no lasting satisfaction. It will provide an interlude of “escape,” but ends in destruction and death. 

 Choices determine the outcome of life. Choose wisely. Choose God’s wisdom

Prayer:  Father, our choices are eternal. May we choose wisely. May we choose life. May we choose You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today:   Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars. She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city. Proverbs 9:1 and 3

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:   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. Proverbs 8:35-36

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:  Blessed is the man and woman who listens to me, watching daily at my door, waiting at my doorway. Proverbs 8:34

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: All who fear the LORD will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech. Proverbs 8:13

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. 

Bible Verse For Today: Listen as Wisdom calls out! Hear as understanding raises her voice! Proverbs 8:1