I've Fallen and I CAN Get Up.

Proverbs 24b

“The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.” – Proverbs 24:16 NLT

Living a godly life is not easy. Nowhere in the Bible are we promised a life of ease and comfort when we follow Christ. Yes, He offers us rest, but He does not promise us a trouble-free life. Instead, He assures us that our life will be marked by troubles and trials. He tells us that the world will hate us and that Satan is determined to destroy us. Yet, most of us seem to have an expectation that the Christian life is the good life. There are even those who preach and teach that following Christ is your ticket to health, wealth and prosperity. But history tells us otherwise. Over the centuries since Christ ascended into heaven, there have been countless numbers of His followers martyred for their faith. Others have been persecuted and forced to live out their faith in the face of threats and extreme deprivation. The life of godliness is not a bed of roses. It is the life of an alien living in a strange land. We are outsiders here. This world is no longer our home. We are on enemy soil and we are engaged in an epic battle between two forces at complete odds with one another.

As a result, there will be days when we fail and possibly fall. We will experience ups and downs in this life. But as Christians, we enjoy a certain sticktoitiveness that allows us to respond to setbacks and disappointments with amazing elasticity. We bounce back. We get back up. We keep on keeping on. As Christians we have a future hope that we can rest in and look towards. Paul put it this way: "That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits arebeing renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever" – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT). When you have an eternal perspective, the setbacks of this life take on a different perspective. As Paul says, they begin to appear as small and short-lived. So rather than let them get us down and keep us there, we respond to them with hope and endurance. Paul knew this from experience. He was a man who had gone through all manner of trials and difficulties in his life as a follower of Christ, yet he was able to say, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love" (Romans 5:3-5 NLT).

We can and will fall down. But we can and should get back up. "The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again" (Proverbs 24:16 NLT). The wisdom of God lets us know that the trials of this life are temporal and limited in their impact. They cannot take away our salvation. They cannot change our eternal status. And while uncomfortable and unenjoyable, as Christians we can embrace them because we know they produce endurance in us and are part of the loving plan of God for our lives. He uses them to perfect us and correct us. He uses them to reveal our own weaknesses and His power. For God, they are simply opportunities to use His strength to provide for His children. The truly wise see life through God's eyes. We learn to view the circumstances of life from His perspective.

Father, sometimes this life can be hard. But I know You are here with me every step of the way. And I also know that Your love for me does not waver or change. My circumstances are not an indicator of Your love and faithfulness. Help me to view my circumstances through the lens of Your love. You never leave me or forsake me. You never let me down. You are able to use any and every circumstance in my life to make me more like Your Son. Thank You. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men kenm@christchapelbc.org


Word and Deed.

Proverbs 16

“We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” – Proverbs 16:9 NLT

While this Proverb appears to be a collection of disjointed one-liners that cover a variety of topics; on closer examination, there are two themes that seem to run throughout the entire Proverb. One has to do with "the path" of our life and the plans we make to get where we think we're supposed to go. The other theme has to do with our speech or the words that come out of our mouths, and their impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. The direction of our lives has a huge impact on our speech and conduct. Throughout the Proverbs, life is pictures as a journey. It has a beginning and an end. There is a destination to life. And we are always thinking about where we're going, how we're going to get there, and why are journey is not turning out quite like we expected. We make plans for our lives and those plans are ALWAYS influenced by something going on in the inside as well as outside of ourselves. Jealousy, pride, self-centeredness, and the longing for power, possessions, and prominence can lead us down the wrong path. And life lived on that path will have a huge impact on the way we live and the words we say. It will influence our words and deeds. This Proverb talks about wise speech, kind words, gossip, destructive words, righteous lips and honest speech. The content of our speech is directly related to the conduct of our lives. Where we go will influence what we say. Foolish living will result in foolish words. Following the wise path will result in wise words.

So who gets to decide the path for our lives? According to Solomon, we spend a lot of time trying to make arrangements and plans for the direction of our lives, but at the end of the day, God is the one who determines our steps. "A man may make designs for his way, but the Lord is the guide of his steps" (Proverbs 16:9 BBE). We may think we know what's best for our lives, but only God truly knows how to get where we really need to go. In verse one, we read, "The intentions of the heartbelong to a man,but the answer of the tonguecomes fromthe Lord." This verse reminds us that we may arrange the contents of our mind and plan out all our thoughts, it is God who gives us the capacity to put our thoughts into words. Plans become deeds. Thoughts become words. And both are related to the path we have chosen for our lives. We can choose to live our way or we can decide to live God's way, to follow His path for our lives. "Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed" (Proverbs 16:3 NLT). Give God the direction of your life. Allow Him to direct your path and you will discover it always leads in the right direction. Following His path not only leads to the right destination, it produces a life marked by godliness, wisdom, and righteousness. When it comes to choosing the right path for our lives, most of us have a lousy sense of direction. "There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death" (Proverbs 16:25 NLT). We need a GPS system. We need direction. And only God can provide it. Our way may seem right, but it will always turn out wrong. God's way is the best way. "The highway of the upright is to turnaway from evil; the one who guardshis way safeguards his life" (Proverbs 16:17 NET).

Father, keep me on the right path. Don't let me stray or follow my own sense of direction. I have no idea what is best for me and stopping to ask for directions from this world can be a dangerous thing to do. It will never get me where I truly need to go. Your way is the best way. Following Your will for my life will result in wise words and righteous deeds.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men kenm@christchapelbc.org

The Godly Woman.

Proverbs 31

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. ­– Proverbs 31:30 NLT

We are a surface-only society. We are intrigued by externals and have no desire to look too deep. Having grown up on a steady diet of TV and movies, we are prone to judge others by their looks, the clothes they wear, or the kind of car they drive. The usual thing we ask one another when we meet for the first time is, "What do you do?" At the grocery store checkout line we are surrounded by images of beautiful people on the cover of magazines that offer us solutions to all of life's problems – from how to have better sex to how to make millions with little investment or energy. We live in a society where image is everything. Andy Warhol's famous "15-minutes of fame" has stretched into the length of a 30-minute reality TV show, with everyone from lobstermen to ice-truck drivers turning into household names. Other than the tabloid rumors we hear about various celebrities, what do we know about these TV and movie stars we watch each day? How well do we really know the beautiful actresses and recording artists who grace the magazine covers or walk the red carpet at star-studded events? But it doesn't stop there. Think about the people you attend church with. Which ones tend to catch your eye? Probably the beautiful ones – those handsome, successful-looking individuals who wear the latest fashions, drive the nicest cars, and carry themselves with a sense of confidence. But what do we really know about them? What are they really like on the inside?

In this final Proverb, we read those famous lines about the "Proverbs 31 woman." This unnamed, unknown woman has become an icon of virtue for women around the world. She has been held up as the poster-woman of what it means to be a godly woman. For some she is a model to follow, providing them with motivation to pursue excellence as a woman. For others, this woman represents an unachievable and unrealistic picture of the godly woman that always leaves them lacking. For them, the Proverbs 31 woman sets too high a bar. But the real story behind this woman begins on the inside. Her accomplishments are impressive, but they are nothing compared to what really makes her tick – her fear of the Lord. She was first and foremost a godly woman not because of all that she DID, but because of who she KNEW. She knew God and feared Him. She loved God and worshiped Him. Her actions and activities flowed from a heart that loved and feared God. In our society, looks are everything. Beauty and attractiveness are what matters most. How we appear on the outside means far more than what we are like on the inside. But as the writer of Proverbs 31 states, "charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting." Looks can be deceiving. You can't judge a book by its cover – but we do – every day of our lives. Beauty doesn't last, but that doesn't stop us from making it the primary criteria upon which to build our relationships. We love beautiful, successful-looking people. But the woman of Proverbs 31 was successful on the inside. She was charming, but it was a charm that flowed from a truly loving heart. It was not fake or manufactured charm. She was probably beautiful, obviously hard-working, and highly successful. But without the fear of God, none of this would have had any value. She was a wife of noble character. Isn't that what our world really needs? Isn't that what the marriages in our churches really need? Isn't that what we should want for our daughters? But in our celebrity-saturated society, noble character is hard to come by and seldom even looked for. We live in a world where it's more important that you BE a character than have it. Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan, Brittany Spears, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus – the list goes on and on. They're in the news. They are the news. They are the picture of what it means to be "successful" in our society. But King Lemuel reminds us what real success looks like. And it begins with integrity, character, and a fear of the Lord.

Father, we celebrate the wrong things in this world. We elevate the wrong behavior. We accentuate the temporal and downplay the eternal. Show us how to model godliness and promote it in the lives of our young people. Help us to understand the value of character that is based on a fear of You. We need depth in our lives. We need to know what really counts and what will really last. Charm can deceive and beauty fades away with time. But godly character lasts forever. Amen


Smarter Than He Thinks.

Proverbs 30

Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, "Who is the LORD?" Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. ­– Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT

Agur, the author of this Proverb, had a somewhat diminished view of himself. He begins his proverb with the self-deprecating words, "I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man's understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One" (Proverbs 30:2-3 NLT). It has been speculated that Ithiel and Ucal were his two sons and that they were claiming, as sons are prone to do, to be wiser than their dear old dad. In response, Agur agrees with them, painting himself as lacking in wisdom and limited in his knowledge of God. But he is not claiming to be ignorant or a fool. He is simply admitting the limited nature of his knowledge and understanding when compared to that of God. He has a humble view of himself and a high view of God. He asks Ithiel and Ucal, "Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know! (Proverbs 30:4 NLT). For Agur, everything there is to know about God is wrapped up in the name of God. The answer to all of his questions is Yahweh, but he acts as if Ithiel and Ucal don't know the obvious. In their pride and arrogance, they appear to have forgotten about the greatness of God.

Agur has a humility about him that is refreshing. He knows his place. He is painfully aware of his limitations. And he knows that his needs are few. All he really wants is to know his God and to live a life that is free from anything that might tempt him to forget God or dishonor Him. That is his prayer in verses 7-9 – the only prayer found in the Proverbs. Agur asks God for two things. He asks God to keep falsehood and lies far from him. I think this is a request for protection from the falsehood and lies of others, but also the elimination of these things in his own life. The second request is for a life devoid of wealth of poverty. Why? Because he knows that both bring with them certain temptations that he wants to avoid. When we find ourselves blessed with abundance we can be tempted to become self-sufficient (Deuteronomy 8:11-14; John 15:5). When we experience the opposite extreme of poverty, we can be tempted to doubt God's goodness and to lose trust in Him. When that happens, we end up taking matters into our own hands in order to solve our problem. Agur wanted neither wealth or poverty. His real request was that he might live a life focused on God, trusting and relying on Him alone. Agur was a wise man. The kind of man most sons don't appreciate until they are much older. We need more men and women like in our world today.

Father, give me the heart of Agur. Let me learn to be satisfied with You and You alone. Don't let me long for wealth or fear poverty. Give me a life of simplicity, where You are all I need. Keep me from living self-sufficiently or self-reliantly. Help me to recognize each day that You are my sole provider and protector. Amen


The Fear of Man.

Proverbs 29

The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. ­– Proverbs 29:25 NASB

Virtually all of the Proverbs are relationship-based. They have to do with how we interact with others. And much of the negative behavior portrayed in these wise sayings is driven by the fear of man. To fear man is to be consumed about what another individual thinks about me, which can lead to flattery, pretense and show, as well as jealousy. Fear of man is an inordinate concern for acceptance. It is an unhealthy obsession with status and achievement. Fear of man is behind our need to impress and improve. Even those who the Bible describes as wicked are motivated by the fear of man. The oppress and mistreat others, fearing that if they don't they will somehow lose power and control. The manipulate and take advantage of others in order to prevent the same thing from happening to them. Fear of man is a powerful force in our lives. It can cause us to do things we wouldn't normally do. When we fear man we cease to fear God. In fact, we put man in the place of God, fearing more what man might do to us or think about us, than God Himself.

Fear of man is a lack of trust in God. We lie because we are trying to protect ourselves, somehow doubting that God can watch over us if we just tell the truth. Abraham did this on a number of occasions, telling lies that were motivated by the fear of man. His fear of man was greater than his trust in God. We flatter others, telling them how great they are, even when we don't really mean it – all because we think it might get us what we want or what we think we need. Again, when we do this we are expressing to God our doubt that He can or will meet our needs. We sometimes do unethical or questionable things in order to accomplish a certain goal. We bend the rules and fudge the facts, justifying our actions as necessary and acceptable. But when we do these things, we are not only showing God we don't trust Him to provide, we don't fear Him. He must not be serious about our holiness and obedience. He won't do anything. We fear man more than God.

The fear of man is powerful and ultimately destructive. Especially to those who call themselves followers of Christ. Over in the book of John we are told about some of the religious leaders who had become convinced that Jesus really was who He said He was. They began to believe in Him as the Messiah of Israel. But sadly, we are told, "…many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God" (John 12:42-43 NASB). They loved the approval of men more than the approval of God. Have you ever refused to pray over your meal in public for fear of what others might think of you? Have you ever decided not to share your faith with a co-worker out of fear of what they might say about you? Have you ever struggled with obeying what God has told you to do because you have feared that it might diminish your reputation in the eyes of others? That is the fear of man. And it is alive and well in our lives today. The alternative is to trust God and seek His approval. Men are fickle. God is not. Men can never be pleased. God doesn't have to be. Men will never love us as much as we would like. God loves us unconditionally and completely. Trust Him.

Father, the fear of man is a powerful force in my life. It makes me do things I don't want to do and it tempts me to doubt and disobey You. Help me to see that there is no need to fear man. You are on my side. You love me and care for me. You have my best in store. I can trust You. Amen


The Heart of the Matter.

Proverbs 27-28

As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person. ­– Proverbs 27:19 NLT

While the book of Proverbs appears to be a collection of disconnected sayings, there is a common thread running throughout them. They deal with a wide variety of issues ranging from gluttony and greed to pride and boasting. There are plenty of Proverbs about the fool, the deceitful man, the wicked, the boastful, the proud, the gossip, and the lazy. But these characters are almost always juxtaposed by the wise, the trustworthy, the righteous, the humble, and the diligent. For every negative example given, there seems to be a positive one. Because at the end of the day, the Proverbs are dealing with the condition of the heart. All these positive and negative character traits flow from the heart. The heart is the source and the characteristics listed in the Proverbs are what become visible to those around us. Pride is the fruit of a proud heart. It is not a character flaw, but a reflection of who we really are on the inside. Jesus put it this way, "A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say" (Luke 6:45 NLT). The heart is critical to living the life God has called us to live. Solomon understood this. It's why he warned, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do" (Proverbs 4:23 NLT). The heart affects everything you do. It is the source of all your pride, foolishness, humility, greed, patience, hope, hatred, and love. You can try and cover up what is in your heart, but eventually it will make its way to the surface for all to see. You can try and cover it up, but eventually the true condition of your heart will be exposed. Others will see it – even when we can't. Our efforts to appear as something we're not end up fooling only one person – ourselves. Everyone else sees through our charade.

The problem for mankind has always been the condition of the heart. The prophet Jeremiah said, "The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT). Jesus echoed those same sentiments when He said, "For from within, out of a person's heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness for lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God" (Mark 7:21-23 NLT).

The hearts of men are damaged. They are faulty because of the fall. They can't produce anything worthwhile or righteous. But there is hope and it is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He gives us the capacity to live differently. He changes our hearts. "What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). So all the positive character traits listed in the Proverbs are achievable and possible for the believer. We have been given a new heart and a new capacity to live differently – from the inside out. We can produce new fruit because we have the Spirit of God living within us. But we have to remember, that we still have a sin nature. We still have a daily choice to either obey our flesh or listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul put it this way when writing to the Galatian Christians:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure,  idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of our lives. – Galatians 5:19-25 NLT

Following the Holy Spirit's leading is the key to living a life marked by wisdom, humility, and self-control. We have the Spirit inside of us and the Word of God to guide us. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the power available to us in the Scriptures: "For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are" (Hebrews 4:12 NLT). As we read the Word of God with the help of the Spirit of God, the character of God becomes increasingly more prevalent in our lives. The Proverbs become more than a list of pithy statements. They become reality in our lives. We begin to live out in our lives what Solomon put down on paper. And the world sits up and takes notice.

Father, my heart is the battle ground. It is the source of what comes out of my mouth, what I do with my hands and feet, how I handle adversity and prosperity. It controls my thoughts, guides my actions, and determines my steps. Along with David I pray, "Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me" Amen


The Three Stooges.

Proverbs 26

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. ­– Proverbs 16:11 NLT

I used to hate watching The Three Stooges even as a kid. Why? Because they were so stupid. Even as a young boy I couldn't believe three adult men could be that dumb. It drove me crazy to watch them continually get themselves into situations that resulted in pain, embarrassment and humiliation. Maybe it was because I hated all three of these things in my own life that I couldn't stand seeing it lived out right before my eyes. I wanted to scream at these three hapless and helpless guys to wake up and smell the coffee. They didn't have to live that way. They could have prevented all the things happening to them. But they were too stupid, lazy and, at least in the case of Moe, just too mean.

When I read this collection of proverbs I can't help but picture Moe, Larry and Curly . To me, those three guys provide a wonderful living illustration of the individual described in these verses. For the most part Moe, Larry and Curly were naive, unteachable, untrustworthy, and not very bright. Yet, they were clueless to their own ignorance. In fact, they thought they were pretty smart. They were always coming up with new business ventures: launderers, plumbers, painters, movers, even bakers. But everything they did resulted in failure and disaster. Anyone who hired them lived to regret it. Anyone who did business with them was always disappointed. Watching them was at times humorous, but more often than not, painful. Solomon says, "Trusting a fool to convey a message is as foolish as cutting off one's feet or drinking poison!" (Proverbs 26:6 NLT). You wouldn't hire one of Stooges. You wouldn't dare give them an important message to deliver, or share a secret with them and expect them to keep it confidential. Why? Because these guys were incompetent, lazy, and undeserving of trust. Solomon seems to be painting for us a stereotyped, over-the-top portrait of just such an individual. It's easy to read these proverbs and see them as descriptions of someone who doesn't really exist. But each of us carries these characteristics inside of us at all times. There probably is not anyone who lives out these characteristics 24-7, 365 days a year, but how often do we all exhibit the qualities of a fool at one time or another? How frequently do we allow laziness to show up in our lives and impact our decision making? And how many times have we tried to fool others into believing we were something other than what we really were on the inside? None of us would ever want to be thought of as a stooge or an imbecile. We would hate to think that others viewed us as lazy, deceptive, untrustworthy, two-faced, stupid, argumentative or contentious. Yet when we live our lives without God as our focus and the Word of God as our guide, that is exactly how we can come across. You see, the fool is simply an individual who lives as if there is no God. It doesn't mean he doesn't believe in God, he just lives his life in such a way that it is as if God does not exist. That's what makes him a fool. When I attempt to live my life and leave God out of the mix, it never turns out well for me. Sure, I could still end up successful. I could still make money, marry a wonderful person, live a good life, and have all the trappings of material success. But how many successful people do we all know who are foolish, lazy, untrustworthy, a danger to themselves and others, and generally deceptive?

The remedy for all the problems listed in these verses is God. He alone can make the fool wise, the lazy person diligent, and the deceptive person worthy of trust. Moe, Larry and Curly couldn't help but be what they were – stooges. They offer us a perfect caricature of mankind devoid of God: Simpleminded, lacking in discernment, wise in their own eyes, prone to laziness, and harmful to all those around them – all the while being being unaware of their own shortcomings. Yet Solomon gives us the secret remedy to all these problems – the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7) – a reverence for God and a willing submission to His Word and His will. That is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom; and the key to not living your life like a stooge.

Father, how many times have I lived my life like Moe, Larry and Curly? I can be so self-confident and wise in my own eyes, but because I choose to leave You out of the equation, I can end up making some really stupid decisions, that not only end up harming me, but everyone around me. Open my eyes and help me understand what is means to fear You. I want to be wise, trustworthy, diligent, and live my life in truth, not deception. Only You make that possible. Give me an increasing love for Your Word and a growing desire to do Your will. Amen


Wisdom Ignored Is Wasted.

Proverbs 25

Do you like honey? Don't eat too much of it, or it will make you sick! ­– Proverbs 25:16 NLT

I can't help but read this verse without thinking of yesterday's chapter – 2 Chronicles 8. If you haven't read that blog entry yet, you might want to or this one will make no sense. Yesterday we saw that with all of Solomon's wisdom, he had failed to apply it to his own life at times. And in one area of his life he really neglected this particular proverb. His words here speak of over-indulgence and a lack of self-control. You really can have too much of a good thing. But if you recall, Solomon had way too much of a one particular "good thing" in his life – women. One thousand of them to be exact – 700 wives and 300 concubines. And as we learned yesterday, they did make him sick. He succumbed to their influence and worshiped their gods, turning his back on the one true God. The result was the disfavor of God and the ultimate dividing of his kingdom. Because Solomon couldn't control his appetite for women and sex, he would destroy all that God had given him.

What strikes me about this is how a man so wise could be so stupid. He had been warned by God not to multiply wives for himself. But evidently he thought he knew better. He gave in to his fleshly appetites and suffered the consequences. I think it's safe to say that Solomon knew better. This was not a case of ignorance. He had both the word of God and wisdom from God. But he chose to ignore both. And how often do I do that in my own life? I know what God expects and, at times, demands, but I choose to do what I want to do. I ignore God and listen to my own flesh. I have the Holy Spirit living within me, providing me with guidance, but I can so often refuse to listen to what He has to say. Wisdom and the Word of God are both provided to guide my path, but if I ignore them, they become worthless in my life. We have been given the very words of God in the form of the Bible, but if we read it and then choose to ignore it, we are no better off than someone who has never seen a Bible before. In fact, we are probably held more accountable. It reminds me of something Jesus Himself warned us about.

"Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!" (Matthew 7:24-27 NET).

Knowing a lot of information is not enough. The proof is in the doing. It all comes down to the application of what we know. Solomon's wisdom was legendary. He was a celebrity when it came to his cerebral prowess. People came from near and far to witness the wisdom of Solomon. But wisdom is worthless if you don't apply it. It's wasted if it remains academic, but not realistic. I find it interesting that Solomon goes on to warn his readers, "A person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls" (Proverbs 25:28 NLT). Wise words, and proven true in the life of Solomon himself. He also wisely warned, "It is better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a contentious wife in a lovely home" (Proverbs 25:24 NLT). Can you imagine the level of contention in the beautiful palace of Solomon living with 700 wives and 300 concubines? The arguments, jealousy, bickering, complaining, nagging, demanding – it's enough to make your head spin.

The wisdom of Solomon was really the wisdom of God. It was a gift given to him by God. But the gifts of God can be squandered, neglected, and ignored. Just because Solomon had the wisdom of God didn't mean he listened to what he knew. He didn't always apply that wisdom to his everyday life. And neither do we. So as we read the Word of God seeking wisdom from God, let's not forget that intelligence is worthless without obedience. Knowing is useless without doing. Head knowledge is a waste if it never penetrates into our hearts and impacts our behavior.

Father, I know more than I know what to do with. I have read far more Scripture than I have obeyed. You have given me the gift of Your Word and Your Spirit and I so often ignore both. Help me to apply what I hear. Give me a desire to obey, not just to know. We love to impress others with our knowledge. But You are impressed with our obedience. Amen


Words of Wisdom – Part II.

Proverbs 24

A wise man is mightier than a strong man, and a man of knowledge is more powerful than a strong man. ­– Proverbs 24:5 NLT

In chapter 24 we have the remainder of the 30 wise sayings from the pen of Solomon – and inspired by the Holy Spirit. These simple truths or maximsseem so logical and obvious that we may read and ignore them. But they are about far more than wealth and worldly wisdom, the wicked and the lazy. They give us a glimpse of the life of the righteous – those who live their lives according to God's standards. The wisdom Solomon speaks of is not of this world, but it dramatically impacts the quality of life on this world – for us and all those around us.

  1. Don't be jealous of the ungodly and long to be like them. They may be attractive on the outside, but their hearts are bad.
  2. The wisdom, good sense, and knowledge that come from God are the keys to having a home that is a joy to live in.
  3. Physical strength has its limits, but wisdom doesn't. Which is why it's better to be increasing in wisdom. It's the key to success, even in battle.
  4. Fools can't handle wise conversation. When they find themselves in the middle of it, they have nothing to say.
  5. Anyone who spends all his time causing trouble will end up with a lousy reputation and no friends.  Their sinful lifestyles will cause them to be despised.
  6. Desperate times have a way of revealing the strength of our resolve. Be ready to help those who are suffering injustice and don't say, "I didn't know!" God is watching and He knows the truth.
  7. You know how good honey tastes when you eat it? That's the way wisdom is. Great tasting, but good for you too. And its benefits last a whole lot longer.
  8. Don't ever try to take advantage of or harm the righteous. You may succeed, but they will bounce back time after time. While they survive, you'll ultimately fail.
  9. Don't get all excited when bad things happen to those you don't like. God is watching and may just decide to show them mercy instead.
  10. Don't get all bent out of shape over what appears to be the success of those who don't know or love God. Their blessings is short-term. Yours are eternal.
  11. Have a healthy fear and respect for those in authority, including God. Don't throw in your lot with those prone to plot rebellion. God will use those He has placed in authority to punish the rebellious.
  12. It's very dangerous to judge falsely – to excuse the actions of those who do wrong. Show justice to all without partiality and it will go well with you.

Father, these wise saying are great, but help me to live them out in my daily life. Help me to make them a part of who I am. May I listen to the promptings of Your Holy Spirit throughout each day and respond obediently. Bring these wise words to mind as I encounter various situations and circumstances, and help me to obey them. Amen


Protect Yourself With Love.

Proverbs 19-20

Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love. ­– Proverbs 20:28 NLT

As you read through the Proverbs, most of them seem pretty logical and make perfect common sense. For instance, if you don't work, you don't eat. If you lie, it's going to catch up to you. If you're rich, you've got more friends than you know what to do with. If you're poor, friends are few and far between. If you live with a nagging wife, it's like listening to the constant drip of a faucet you can't stop – ultimately, it will drive you crazy. These are like maxims or truisms that when you read them, you find yourself nodding your head in agreement. But then occasionally you'll stumble across one that seems more like a riddle than a proverb. It seems to make no sense. It's meaning either escapes you or it appears illogical. It goes against common sense. In fact, it seems to make no sense at all. Proverbs 20:28 falls into that category for me. Right in the middle of all the talk of fools, sluggards, unfaithful friends, liars, swindlers, and mockers there appears this surprising bit of advice for kings. Now you have to understand that the king audience did not represent a large market segment for Solomon. Among the people of Israel there were no other kings. So he is writing this to his son – the king to be. In fact, most of what we are reading as we work our way through the Proverbs was written for Solomon's son. Over and over again, he says, "My son, listen when your father corrects you," "My son, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them," "My son, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands."  So this note about kings was written for one person and one person only – Solomon's son – the heir to the throne of Israel. And he gives his young son some really interesting advice. "Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love."

Love and faithfulness? Really? Are you telling me that if a king wants to keep his throne secure, all it takes is love? That sounds so naive, so simplistic and out of touch with reality. What about strong armies, alliances, impenetrable walls, the latest advances in military technology, offensive strategies and spy networks? Can you imagine the President of the United States giving this advice to his successor? But what is Solomon trying to say? What's his point? That a king who loves his people will be loved in return. A king who provides protection for his people because he loves them will be a lot less likely to face a coup or potential takeover of his government. As I write this blog, things in Egypt are heating up. Riots are taking place in the streets of Cairo. The people are demanding the resignation of their president, Hosni Mubarak. According to a recent New York Times article, conditions under President Mubarek's 30-year rule have been less than loving. "The police are brutal. Elections are rigged. Corruption is rampant. Life gets harder for the masses as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. Even as Egypt’s economy enjoyed record growth in recent years, the number of people living in poverty actually grew."

Mr. Mubarek could have learned from Solomon's advice. If he had loved his people, he would have made sure that they were well-fed, well-cared-for, and protected. His love would have been practical and measurable. People know when they are being used and will not tolerate being abused. At least not for long. But Solomon's advice is not just for kings and presidents. It applies to parents, employers, supervisors, teachers, pastors and elders. In fact, Paul shared similar advice to his fellow elders, "…this is my appeal to you: Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly -- not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example" (1 Peter 5:1-3 NLT). God had a stern warning for the religious leadership in Ezekiel's day. "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: Destruction is certain for you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn't shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the broken bones. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with force and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd. They are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through the mountains and hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them" (Ezekiel 34:2-6 NLT). Paul warns fathers, "Don't make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4 NLT).

Love really is the best protection against rebellion. Weapons, walls, power and might are no match for unfailing love and faithfulness. Our children will excuse and overlook a lot of our shortcomings as parents when they know we love them. They will tolerate our inconsistencies and inadequacies as long as they feel like we are doing the best we can – out of love for them. Demanding compliance, defending our rights as parents, shouting "Because I said so," and expecting our kids to keep in step with our wishes, while failing to show them love is a recipe for rebellion. Remember the words of Paul? "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NLT). That kind of love is the best protection we can provide ourselves against rejection and rebellion. No, it's not a guarantee. Because even Jesus ended up being rejected when He showed us how much He loved us by dying on the cross. But love is still the best defense. In fact, I wonder what things would be like in Egypt had President Mubarek taken the advice of Solomon. I wonder what our homes, businesses, churches and marriages would be like if we did the same thing.

Father, what a timely reminder of the power of love. It is the best offense and the best defense. Love really is the answer to all of life's problems. But not the sentimental, sappy kind of love we see portrayed in movies and on Hallmark cards. We're talking the selfless, sacrificial, lay-it-all-on-the-line kind of love that You showed toward us on Calvary. Your Son gave His life out of love for us. He loved us selflessly and sacrificially. He gave, expecting nothing in return. May we learn to love one another that way. Amen


A Word to the Wise and the Not-So-Wise.

Proverbs 17-18

"he name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. The rich think of their wealth as an impregnable defense; they imagine it is a high wall of safety. ­– Proverbs 18:10-11 NLT

These two chapters address the fool, those who take bribes, evildoers, gossips, mockers, parents, children, the unfriendly, quarrelers, the wicked, the wealthy, the discerning, the lazy, the eloquent, the talkative, the prudent, and, of course, the wise. It is a gallery hung with the portraits of a wide range of characters. Some are flattering. Some are not. But all are extremely life-like. In fact, as you read these two chapters, images of someone you know probably come into your mind. You may even see a reflection of your own face. Or that of a child or loved one. These are realistic portrayals of real life. But even as Solomon paints the portraits of the wise and the foolish, the righteous and the unrighteous, he is contrasting two ways of life. This has little to do with wealth and poverty, power and weakness, intelligence and stupidity. It has to do with godliness and a fear of the Lord. This is all about living a God-centered, God-focused life where His will and His way are primary. What makes someone wise is not their position in life or the number of degrees on their wall. It is their relationship with the living God. It is whether they are willing to live in submission to and dependence on the God of the universe.

Wisdom is not related to the well-educated or wealthy. It is just as easily accessible to the poor. God's wisdom is non-discriminatory – available to all who will seek it from the hand of the one who offers it – God Himself. But so much of what Solomon has to say is in regards to what happens when we refuse to turn to God for wisdom, help, direction, provision, protection, insight and, ultimately, salvation. We turn to our wealth. We rely on our own resources. And we end up becoming gossips, quarrelers, revengeful, mockers, spiritually lazy, and moral paupers. We act like fools and we find ourselves raising fools. We end up surrounded by fools. All because we refuse to submit ourselves to God. Rather than turn to God, we seek for comfort, wisdom, help, and happiness elsewhere. We live as if there is no God or we attempt to make our own gods. We find substitutes for God. And we end up as fools. Solomon puts it so simply, yet profoundly is verses 10-11 of chapter 18: "The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. The rich think of their wealth as an impregnable defense; they imagine it is a high wall of safety." The godly learn to trust in God and in Him only. They discover that He alone is reliable. He alone delivers what He promises. The wealthy, just like the poor and the middle class, turn to something else. The rich just happen to have more to turn to. They have more resources and so are more tempted to lean on their abundance for sustenance. But the poor can end up finding substitutes for God just as easily. Whether it's the comfort and security of a welfare state, the tantalizing hope of a lottery prize, or the mind-numbing pleasure of a television set, those who have little have a lot of choices for stand-ins for God. It's not that any of these things are inherently evil or wrong, it's just that they were never to act as replacements for God. They can't measure up. They can't deliver. They always disappoint. But because mankind can't seem to keep from turning to anything and everything but God, we see a growing gallery of portraits featuring foolish, angry, argumentative, self-focused, addictive, lazy, quarrelsome, naive, and unhappy individuals. Yet, there is a room filled with those who have learned to turn to God. Their portraits feature faces filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and a surprising sense of calmness and contentment, in spite of all that is going on around them.

Where do you run in times of trouble? Where do you turn when times are tough? What are the God-substitutes in your life? The godly run to one place and one place only for safety and security – God Himself. Is He your strong fortress today?

Father, forgive me for all the God-substitutes I have had in my life over the years. They never deliver, but I keep turning to them. They always disappoint, but they continue to sucker me into believing it will be different this time. You have never let me down. You have never failed to deliver on a single one of Your promises. May I grow increasingly more dependent on You. Amen


Older and Wiser.

Proverbs 16

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life. ­– Proverbs 16:31 NLT

I love this verse. And if you've seen me lately, you understand why. What hair I have that has not turned gray has simply turned loose. But I still have plenty left and any hint that it used to be brown is long gone. So when I read this verse I am comforted. I sometimes blame my gray hair on my kids. But now I know that it is because of godly living! Wow! Why in the world would I even consider covering it up with Grecian Formula? I should wear it proudly like a badge of honor. Go ahead, you young whipper snappers, fling your full head of amber-colored locks in my face, but just don't forget that my gray head is proof of my godliness! And godliness trumps good looks any day.

Don't I wish it was that easy? Wouldn't it be nice if I could just rest on the fact that growing old was a guarantee for growing in godliness? But we all know it's not. We know plenty of gray-haired men and women who are anything but icons of virtue and fountains of faith. No, Solomon is not telling us that gray-headedness is proof of godliness. He is letting us know that a life of godliness can lead to long life. It is not a guarantee, but it can help prolong our life through wise living and the blessings of God. All the way back in Proverbs 3 he tells us that living a wise and righteous life will "give you a long and satisfying life" (Proverbs 3:2 NLT). Elsewhere he tells us that "Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life" (Proverbs 9:11 NLT). "Fear of the LORD lengthens one's life…" (Proverbs 10:27 NLT). So gray hair is not proof of our godliness, but we are a whole lot more likely to live long enough to experience it if we choose to live our life according to God's terms and not our own.

The truth is, the longer we live the more we should realize just how blessed we are. We should learn from life's experiences and recognize just how true God's Word is. Living life should prove to us once and for all just how ill-equipped we are to live it righteously. The older I get, the more easily I admit that I can't defeat sin or discover contentment on my own. I am not smart enough, strong enough, brave enough, or determined enough to make this thing called life work. I need God. Learning to depend on Him seems to get easier with age. Oh, don't get me wrong. I still have plenty of strength to say no to His callings and promptings, but I seem to be learning from my mistakes quicker than before. I may stray off His path just like when I was younger, but I don't seem to go as far as I used to. Experience is a great teacher. I sometimes joke that I am in God's remedial school for slow learners. He keeps taking me through the same lessons over and over again, but I am starting to learn. Repetition makes the brain grow stronger!

I have a full head of gray hair. Sometimes I miss the brown ones. Sometimes I wish I had that full head of long flowing locks again. But I would not trade where I am for anything. I have made it to where I am because of the grace and mercy of God. I am wiser than I used to be. Not because I am older, but because God has been my constant companion over the years and I have tried to seek Him and listen to Him. No, I have not done so perfectly, but I have tried to do so persistently. God is not calling me to be perfect, but to have purity of purpose. He wants my intent to be a life of godliness. He knows I will never be completely godly this side of heaven. Until He glorifies me, I will continue to struggle with my sin nature. But as I grow older I am growing more willing to submit to His will for my life.

Father, thank You for my gray hairs. May they always remind me of You. They are a crown of righteousness. They help me remember that I would never have made it this far without Your help. Amen


I Did It My Way!

Proverbs 14-15

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. ­– Proverbs 14:12 NLT

There is a way that seems right to a man. There are choices in life that seem to make all the sense in the world – at the time. Each day we are faced with options to go one way or another. And as Christians, we have the choice to live our lives God's way or our own. We can wisely follow His directions or foolishly choose to listen to our own counsel. And so often, our way seems like the right one. Everything seems to indicate that if we do what we want to do, it will all turn out for the best. But Solomon warns us that nothing could be farther from the truth. All throughout the Proverbs, he has been contrasting wisdom and folly. He has been showing us the difference between living a life according to God's terms or our own. The fool is that individual who has determined that his way is best. He rejects direction and despises discipline. He never seeks counsel, or if he does, he ignores it and listens to his own advice. But living our lives apart from the wisdom of God never turns out well. That way is never the right way. No matter how good it may look or profitable it may appear to be. Yet just think how often we choose our way over God's. For most of us it's a daily occurance. It could be something as simple as what we watch on TV. Do we stop and consider whether or not the show we are about to watch is something God would find redeeming and profitable for promoting righteousness in our lives? No, we watch it because we think it's entertaining. It will make us laugh. It will distract us from the cares of the day. It brings us pleasure. So it MUST be good. Our way seems right to us. Maybe it's the choice to sit and watch 2-3 hours of sports on TV after a hard day at the office, rather than interact with our wife or children. Do we check with God? Do we ask Him what would be best? Or do we go with our own will in the matter, determining that we deserve a break. We give and give all day long, now it's our turn to kick back and relax.

From our choices in friends to the way we dress, how we use our time to the way we treat others, if we're not careful, we could end up living our lives our way and choosing the wrong way. And Solomon says that way does not end well. According to Solomon, the wise person seeks counsel, asks for wisdom, considers his steps carefully, deliberates before he decides, considers the will of God and tries to follow it. This doesn't mean that the foolish person is miserable and never enjoys life. No, when they live life on their own terms, they actually seem to benefit from their choices. Solomon even admits it. "Foolishness brings joy to those who have no sense…" But then he reminds us that in spite of this, "a sensible person stays on the right path" (Proverbs 15:21 NLT). The wise person doesn't look at the short-term gain, but the long-term rewards. In the end, the life of the fool is a dangerous pursuit. It ends in death and destruction. The life of the wise or the righteous ends in life. It reminds me of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. All throughout that journey, they wanted to stop, turn around, go home, or basically, live life on their own terms. They complained about everything. They were driven by their desires and gave in to them. They were looking for short-term fixes and quick solutions. But God was attempting to lead them to a place of promise. He had something far greater in store for them. He wanted to bless them, but they kept coming up with ways that seemed right to them. But as Solomon warns, their way was going to lead to destruction. Their lack of fear for God and refusal to follow His leading would end up in their deaths in the wilderness. When they arrived at the boundaries of the Promised Land, they refused to go in because they didn't trust God to deliver them from the people who occupied the land. They feared and chose to go with their own way instead of God's. And every one of them would spend the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness, dying off one at a time, never seeing the land that God had promised.

Could you be missing out on the promises of God? Could your stubborn will be standing in the way of God's blessings for your life? Choose wisely and choose well. Listen to His voice and choose His path. You won't be disappointed. "The path of the wise leads to life above…" (Proverbs 15:24 NLT).

Father, forgive me for choosing my own way so often. I am so prone to go with the quick fix, the solution that seems to offer the most immediate benefits, rather than trusting You for what is best for my life. I have so many of the characteristics of the fool in my life. But I want to live the life of the wise. I want righteousness to characterize my life. Give me the strength to seek Your path and stay on it – for the long haul. Amen


Godliness Pays.

Proverbs 13

Godliness helps people all through life… ­– Proverbs 13:6 NLT

To a certain degree, we have bought into the idea that the life of godliness is costly. That the kind of discipline that is necessary for us to live a godly life can require extreme sacrifice. And all that is true. But if we're not careful we can end up viewing the godly life as a one-side affair. We can find ourselves viewing it is as all "give" and no "get." Oh sure, we get eternal life in the end, but in the mean time we just have to give up all our favorite habits and vices, we have to give up all our dreams and die to our desires. We have to give God all our time, money and talents. It can all end up sounding and feeling so lopsided, as if it's an investment with no real return for our money. Kind of like buying life insurance. You keep paying the premiums, but you never really get to enjoy the benefits of your investment.

But the truth is, while godliness can be costly, it is far from stingy in terms of its payback. The Proverbs remind us over and over again that those who choose to live godly lives find themselves greatly rewarded – in this life, not just the one to come. As we have seen before, the godly, or those who seek to live righteous lives receive wisdom, discernment, fruitfulness, protection, provision, direction, and so much more. They have a resource and reservoir of power available to them that others know nothing about. It's kind of like insider trading – but fully legal. God makes available His wisdom. He gives complete access to His power. He lets us tap into His vast bank of limitless resources. They are complete at our disposal, 24-7, 365. God is like a bank that never closes, and His assets never run out.

Godliness really does pay. Sure, it may cost us a little time to seek to know God by reading His Word. It may require a little sacrifice as we give up some of the trinkets and trash this world offers in order to give all our time and attention to Him. But God gives a great return on our investment. He makes it worth our while. There is the old adage, "You can't out-give God." That is so true. There is nothing He might require of me that is more costly than what He has already given me. He gave me the life of His own Son in my place on the cross. He sacrificed that which was most precious to Him in order that I might have life – abundant life – not just in heaven, but right here on earth. He has given me His Holy Spirit as a constant companion. He has given me His inheritance – undeserved and without limits. This all reminds me of the old hymn I grew up singing in my father's church on Long Island: "He Giveth More Grace." Read the lyrics, then reconsider just how much a life of godliness pays.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase; To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Father, You just keep giving. And while I may complain sometimes about how hard this life of godliness seems to be, the truth is, I get back far more than I give. I have already received more than I deserve and far more than I could ever repay. The wisdom, understanding, discernment, peace, provision, and protection I get is simply icing on the cake. If You never gave me anything more than the salvation I have already received, it would be more than enough. But as the song says, You giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. Thank You. Amen


The Righteous Vs the Wicked.

Proverbs 11-12

In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. ­– Proverbs 12:28 NIV

In a later Proverb Solomon says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12 NIV). In another one of his Proverbs, he tells us, "The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day" (Proverbs 4:18 NIV). Along the same lines, the prophet Isaiah said, "The way of the righteous is level, the path of the righteous that You make is straight" (Isaiah 26:7 NIV). There is a path that each of us must take. Actually, there are two paths. One leads to disappointment, destruction and ultimately, death. The other leads to blessing and life. And it's not just the final destination these paths lead to that is important. It's the journey itself. The path so often referred to in the Old Testament carries with it the idea of a journey or way. It often refers to a manner of life. The manner in which one conducts his life. It is the day-to-day act of living out our lives as we follow the path before us. Throughout these two Proverbs Solomon contrasts the "way" of the righteous and the "way" of the wicked. He compares and contrasts them, using simple illustrations to set apart these two approaches to life. Solomon gives us unmistakable characteristics of each, easily recognized in daily life. The righteous are characterized by honesty, integrity, discretion, diligence, compassion, humility, trustworthiness, and generosity. The wicked are selfish, self-centered, deceptive, lazy, prideful, arrogant, unfaithful, hateful, cruel, lacking in discretion, corrupt, and foolish.

The promises offered to those who choose the way of righteousness are many. And they aren't just waiting out there somewhere in the future. Solomon talks of blessings to be had in this life for those who choose to walk the way that God has established. His way is the way of righteousness or right living. It is the way that leads to joy and fulfillment, blessing and abundance, peace and prosperity. But this is where we have to be careful. Solomon is not saying and God is not promising that His way is all health, wealth, and prosperity. He is offering us so much more than money and material things. He is promising so much more than just a long life free from sickness. He is offering an antidote for anxiety, a rest in the midst of the pressures of life, a peace right in the middle of chaos, a joy in spite of sorrow. God is offering us direction when we find ourselves lost, comfort when we find ourselves sad, community when we feel like we are all alone, rescue when we find ourselves in trouble. God is offering us a relationship. He is offering to light the path on which we walk and give us companionship for the journey. He is not just telling where we need to go, He is walking alongside us the entire way, teaching us, encouraging us, providing for us, and protecting us. It reminds me of the journey the Israelites took through the wilderness. God was with them every step of the way. He led them. He fed them. He protected them. He provided for them. He talked to them. He gave them rules to live by. He did miracles for them. He revealed Himself to them. Yes, they were headed to the Promised Land, but a big part of God's plan for them was the journey on which they found themselves. He could have easily transported them right to the land of Canaan the minute He delivered them out of Egypt. But He had another plan. He had a journey in store for them. They were going to learn just who God was as they walked with Him day by day. They were going to see His power on display. They were going to learn about His holiness and hatred of sin. They were going to see His deliverance first-hand. This was their opportunity to see their God at work in their lives – each and every day. But many of them chose to take the path of the wicked. They wanted to return to Egypt. They complained. They whined. They refused to listen to God. They let their desires rule their decisions. They gave in to their urges. And they sinned. The result was death. They turned their backs on God's way and chose their own. And the results were devastating and deadly.

What about us? What path are we choosing? Even as believers who are walking the path that God has established for us, we can choose to turn around or take detour. We can refuse to follow His path and take our own. And before we know it, we find ourselves in the high weeds. Oh sure, it may go well for a while. We may find ourselves living the high life and enjoying all the pleasures we were seeking, but that path will never get us where we really need to go. The way of the righteous is God's way. It is a narrow way. It is not the popular way. But it is the only way that leads to life. I love the way The Message paraphrases the words of Jesus: "Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life--to God!--is vigorous and requires total attention" (Matthew 7:13-14 MSG).

Father, Your way is best. But sometimes it is so tempting to take another way, to follow another path. But keep me on the path of righteousness. Help me to see You as I walk each and every day. I know that there will be difficult days, but that is where I can see Your power on display and Your compassion first-hand. Walking Your path requires trust and faith. It requires diligence and determination. But You make the journey well worth the effort. Amen


The Folly of Fools.

Proverbs 10

Doing wrong is fun for a fool, while wise conduct is a pleasure to the wise. ­– Proverbs 10:23 NLT

"I pity the fool…!" Those are the memorable words of "Clubber" Lang, the character played by Mr. T in the film classic, Rocky III. Okay, so I'm being a tad bit sarcastic. Any movie that features Mr. T in a starring role is destined for a life in the discount bins at the video rental store. But the line itself is a classic. And I think Solomon himself would have thoroughly agreed with it. In fact, Solomon did pity the fool and spent a great deal of time and energy addressing this particular individual. What he had to say about the fool was far from flattering, but it was driven by a concern for his well-being. It seems that Solomon understood that each and every one of us comes into this world a full-blow, card-carrying fool. The problem is, many of us never grow out of it. Our children, like us, are born fools. They lack wisdom, insight, understanding, and knowledge. So we spend countless hours trying to fill them with all four. And according to Solomon, we have our work cut out for us. Listen to how he describes the average fool:

… a foolish child brings grief to a mother – Vs 1

… babbling fools fall flat on their faces – Vs 8

… fools will be punished with a rod – Vs 13

… the babbling of a fool invites trouble – Vs 14

… to slander is to be a fool – Vs 18

… the heart of a fool is worthless – Vs 20

… fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense – Vs 21

… Doing wrong is fun for a fool – Vs 23

Fools are directly associated with the wicked, the evil and the lazy. The Proverbs tell us that the person who denies, ignores, or neglects God is not only acting foolishly, but is characterized by a kind of godlessness. They act as if God does not exist – even while claiming to believe in Him. The fool has certain unmistakable characteristics:

He is thoughtless: not applying his thoughts about God; not thinking through the truth about God

He is dull: not being sharp in his thoughts about God. He is being sleepy-minded, slow, and sluggish toward God.

He is senseless: not using good common sense about God. He is acting contrary to good common sense. He is deficient in his thoughts about God.

He is without understanding: he does not grasp or comprehend God; he does not have the right ideas or thoughts about God.

He is ignorant of God: he does not know God. He has not learned God – has not looked at, thought about, studied, nor met, walked and fellowshipped with God.

He is unwise: he is acting contrary to wisdom; he is acting dangerously and foolishly.

But how do you know if you are a fool? How do we recognize the characteristics of a fool in the lives of our children, friends, work associates? Here are a few probing questions that might give us some insight. If the answers to any of these is "Yes," then they may be pointing to someone who is exhibiting fool-like symptoms. Go ahead, take the test yourself. And remember, if you score high, the solution is to seek wisdom. And you can find it right in the Word of God.

1.  Do you feel like your life is characterized more by righteousness or unrighteousness?

2.  Do you feel your life has been characterized by wisdom or a lack of wisdom?

3.  Do you feel you are realistic…about yourself?…about business?…about life?…about relationships?

4.  Do you consider yourself as highly disciplined or undisciplined?

5.  Do you have a temper?

6.  How does your temper manifest itself?

7.  Are you reliable…in your work?…with your words?

8.  Are you teachable?

9.  Do you struggle with any sexual sins?

10.  Would you say you are truthful?

11.  Do you tend to repeat past mistakes?

Father, sometimes we laugh at the foolishness we see around us. Rather than pity the fool, we smile about their behavior. Give us a desire to see our children move from foolishness to wisdom. Help us to recognize the characteristics of foolishness in our own lives, then come to You for wisdom. Father, foolishness is no laughing matter to You. Give us the same soberness of mind so that we might take it seriously and deal with it soberly. Amen


Wise Enough To Know Better.

Proverbs 8-9

All who fear the LORD will hate evil. That is why I hate pride, arrogance, corruption, and perverted speech. ­– Proverbs 8:13 NLT

Do you hate what God hates? Do the things that cause Him to become angry stir you up as well? Solomon says that the wisdom that God offers us causes us to despise the things that God despises. As we gain wisdom from God, it provides us with insight and discernment, and diminishes the foolishness and gullibility that plagues most of mankind. We end up seeing more clearly the truth about God's plan and the lies of the enemy. We begin to understand that our own pride, arrogance and self-absorption are actually evil. Our constant focus on us is wrong. It keeps us from loving God because we are too busy loving ourselves. Only wisdom gives us the ability to see that. Without the wisdom of God, we are blinded to the destructive nature of our own pride, instead thinking that our self-interest is some kind of self-preservation. Wisdom helps us see the truth. It shows us that the way of evil is the wrong way. The New Living Translation renders this phrase into a single word, "corruption." But in the Hebrew is it actually two words and they can be translated "the evil way," "the wrong way of life," "evil behavior," or "a life marked by wrong choices." Wisdom helps us learn to despise the kind of life that the world offers up as normal. We are able to see that what the world tries to convince us of as good and acceptable behavior is actually wrong and destructive. It leads to no good. It offers up pleasure, but delivers misery. It sounds and looks so good, but in the end only disappoints. Wisdom alone can help us see this. Otherwise we end up buying the lie and experiencing the pain and suffering that comes from a life marked by wrong choices. Wisdom says, "those who miss me have injured themselves" (Proverbs 8:36 NLT).

Wisdom also gives us a healthy hatred for "perverted speech." The word rendered "perverted" here comes from another Hebrew word that conveys the idea of twisted or turned around. It is convoluted, backwards, confusing, saying what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right. It is not just referring to inappropriate speech or using bad words. This has more to do with words that confuse the truth and cause us to go against the Word of God. They allows us to justify our behavior and rationalize our actions. The prophet Isaiah described it this way, "Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and light is dark; that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter" (Isaiah 5:20 NLT). The Psalmist put it this way, "You love evil more than good, you call black white" (Psalm 52:3 MSG). Wisdom gives us the ability to see the twisted words and upside down thinking that pervades our culture, bombarding us with lies from the radio and TV, through music, movies and the media. We learn to discern that it is really twisting the truth of God and rejecting His way for another one. And we learn to hate it.

Wisdom hates all these things, because wisdom is of God. As we grow closer in our relationship to God, we see what He sees, we hate what He hates, we see truth more clearly with each passing day. The wisdom God offers cries out to me. It pleads with me to "Leave your foolish ways behind, and begin to live; learn how to be wise" (Proverbs 9:6 NLT). It's calling to you too. Do you hear it?

Father, I want to really live. I want to see with Your eyes, hear with Your ears, understand with Your mind. Give me Your wisdom Father. Help me to seek it like a lost treasure, to value it more than anything else in the world. I know that it is available to me if I search for it in Your Word. You will not just hand it to me. I must pursue it. Give me the determination and discipline to do so. Amen


The Complexities of Simplemindedness.

Proverbs 7

I was looking out the window of my house one day and saw a simpleminded young man who lacked common sense. ­– Proverbs 7:6-7 NLT

The character described in this Proverb is a familiar one. We can all think of someone just like him. Naive and simple, unaware of the danger that lurks around him, highly gullible and easily tempted to give in to the temptations of life. He's like the character you watch in a movie that is about to open a door, behind which lurks certain death, but he is oblivious that any danger exists. You want to scream at the TV, warning him to run. You wonder how he could be so unaware of what is really going on, when you see it so clearly.

But if the truth were known, there are times in every day where we take on the same characteristics. We become simpleminded. Open-minded. Naive. Gullible. The word used by Solomon to describe this young man is from a root word that means "spacious, open, wide." You might say it means "empty-headed" – someone lacking in sense, or to use a more up-to-date term, an airhead. He is easily enticed into danger, because he is oblivious to the danger surrounding him. He lacks the discernment to see that what looks so tempting and enticing is really deadly. Like a fish drawn to a tempting lure, this young man is drawn to the seductive appeal of a woman. She paints a highly attractive picture of the pleasure he can have if he will only give in to her message. Everything sounds so attractive. She appeals to his senses. She takes advantage of his unbridled sexual drive. She calls to his base, animal instincts. She is an expert at what she does. She knows exactly how to get to this young man. But her offer is all pleasure with no pain. Like Satan, she only presents the promise of satisfaction and enjoyment. She fails to give the young man the bad news. But Solomon knows the other side to this story. "He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter or like a trapped stag, awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart. He was like a bird flying into a snare, little knowing it would cost him his life" (Proverbs 7:22-23 NLT). This was not going to turn out well. Sin seldom does. The lies of the enemy never deliver what they promise. They disappoint and destroy. They damage lives, reputations, and relationships. They leave behind a wake of regrets, guilt, and shame. They harden the heart and soften the resolve of men so that it becomes increasingly harder to say no the next time.

So Solomon calls out. He cries out. He warns this young man and generations of other men to come, that this danger is a reality. It is out there for all of us. We face it every day of our lives. And it is so easy to approach life in the same simpleminded manner. We reject the warnings of Scripture. We ignore the reality of an enemy who is out to destroy us. We think we can handle the temptations of life on our own. We listen to the seductive calls of the enemy and the world, hearing only what we want to hear – the tempting offers of pleasure with no pain, satisfaction at no cost. And in the end, we pay the price. Simplemindedness is costly and wisdom is the cure. The wisdom that God offers through His Word. Discernment comes from one source – God. And He makes it available to each and every one of us through the pages of the Bible.

Father, drive me to Your Word so that I am not so easily driven by my desires. Give me discernment so that I am not so easily susceptible to the temptations of life. Help me reject the life of the simpleminded and live the life of the wise. Amen


Lessons Learned the Hard Way.

Proverbs 5-6

How I hated discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way! ­– Proverbs 5:12 NLT

They say hindsight is 20-20. There is something powerful about the ability to look back at our mistakes and learn from them. Those lessons can be extremely clear in retrospect. As we look back on decisions we have made and see the trail of consequences, we tend to learn valuable lessons. We see our mistakes with greater clarity than we did living them out in real time. In the heat of the moment, we thought our decisions made sense. They felt right at the moment we made them. Our plan sounded so good. We just knew that everything was going to turn out well. Then given enough time, distance and pain, we discover the reality of blunder. "How I hated discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way!" It's in looking back that we see just how stubborn we had been. We refused to do things God's way, and instead determined that our way was better. We demanded to follow our own counsel and rejected God's. And the results were less than perfect.

So Solomon warns his son, and us, to learn from his mistakes. He begs us to listen to his counsel and not go through the same painful lessons. Yet those of us who have kids know that our children have this unique ability to refuse our advice. What we say seems to go in one ear and out the other. They roll their eyes and shake their heads, patiently putting up with our sage wisdom, but rejecting it in the end as antiquated, illogical, and out-of-touch with reality. They determine that they know better. They don't need our advice. And so they refuse to listen to our counsel, making their own decisions, living life on their own terms. And they learn the hard way.

As I read these Proverbs again, I can't help but hear the voice of God calling to me, begging me to listen to Him, to heed His counsel. He wants me to seek His wisdom and to pursue His understanding like a priceless treasure. But I refuse to listen. Like a stubborn teenager, I convince myself that I know best. My way is better than God's. And it is only in hindsight that I learn the folly of my ways. God patiently and lovingly allows me to reject His will for my own. He lets me learn from my mistakes. And as I grow older, the lessons finally begin to sink in. I start to learn that obedience is a lot less painful. Doing it His way really does work better. Learning doesn't have to hurt! God's way is the best way. I can trust Him on that.

Father, thank You for all the times You have patiently allowed me to do things my way. You have let me make my decisions and reap the results. But You have always been there to pick me up and set me back on my feet. You have never walked away from me in disgust, but have continue to patiently love me and instruct me, waiting for me to wake up and realize that Your way really is the best way. May I grow increasingly more aware of the truth of that reality. Amen


Wisdom at any Cost!

Proverbs 4

Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. ­– Proverbs 4:5 NASB

What kinds of things do we spend our money on? Movies and music, the latest electronic gadgets, lattes and lunches, golf clubs and hunting rifles, handbags and hairstyling – the list goes on and on. The bottom line for most of us is if we want something bad enough, we figure out a way to get our hands on it. Even if it means going in debt to do it. Which makes the verse above so interesting. Here Solomon tells his son to acquire wisdom and understanding. That word can actually be translated "buy" or "purchase." It seems to carry the thought, "to possess at any cost." He is telling his son, and us, to make it our mission to get our hands on wisdom and understanding. They are both that valuable. He's not saying, "Son, you have got to have the latest iPhone or iPad." He is not telling his son to "acquire stock" in some Fortune 500 company. He is not telling him to spend his hard-earned money on good, reliabletransportation. No, he is pleading with his son to make it his mission in life to possess these two priceless commodities: wisdom and understanding.

But how do we obtain these two qualities or attributes. By using the term "acquire," Solomon is indicating that they will cost us something. There is a price involved. Both are only available from one source: God. And they do not come cheap. As Solomon tells us elsewhere, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10 NASB). So both of these valuable commodities begin and end with God. He is the source and the seller. Which means I have to deal with Him if I want to get my hands on them. The price? A healthy fear of God and a growing knowledge or understanding of Him. I grow in my fear of God as I spend time with Him. And my fear changes from a simple-minded dread based on ignorance to a multifaceted awe and reverence based on a growing knowledge of just how holy, powerful, and majestic God really is. But I don't acquire this understanding easily. The wisdom that God offers doesn't come cheap. It requires that I spend countless hours pursuing a relationship with Him. As I do, I will find myself wiser and more understanding. And the side benefits are pretty significant as well: God's provision and protection, guidance in the way of righteousness, life, health, and integrity. So it pays to purchase wisdom and understanding. It makes good fiscal sense to acquire them both. But to do so, I will have to make them a priority in my life. I will have to want them bad enough to spend what it takes to get them. I will need to give God my time, my undivided attention, my affection and devotion, my obedience and trust, and ultimately, my life. But it will be well worth the cost. Solomon put it this way: "The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day." (Proverbs 4:18 NLT).

Father, I spend my time, money, and resources on a lot of things. And none of them can deliver what they promise, let alone what it is I really need. Which is wisdom and understanding. Only You can provide those two things and they do not come cheaply. They come from time spent with You. They are only available through effort spent in seeking an intimate relationship with You. You are the key to both. Never let me forget that. There is no other way. There is no discount for acquiring wisdom and understanding. Amen