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“The fear of the Lord is the beginning…”

Eight words, strung together by God, that give man the building blocks of life.

Eight words that provide the foundation for wisdom.

Eight words that are essential to understanding the meaning of life.

Eight words that guarantee a joyous life.

Eight words that lead to fulfillment in life.

Eight words that point the direction for what we must do if we want to please God.

Eight words that prove the faithfulness of God.

Eight words that are the beginning of our obedience to the Lord.

Eight words that eliminate the folly of talk and teach us how to walk before God.

And once we completely and unreservedly “fear the Lord,” we will have confidence and courage to face any obstacle in life because God is bigger than anything and everything else in the universe.

But those words do not end when our lives end. They are generational and, if the believer is faithful, will be passed from generation to generation.

Parents who want to provide safety and security and wellbeing for their children will do so because of their “fear of the Lord.” Scripture provides all the evidence any parent needs to realize the benefits that will come to their children if they - the parents – “fear the Lord” and are obedient to Him - no matter the cost!

Not parents? Pass the message on. It’s lifesaving!

Prayer: Lord, may we take to heart the significance and importance of those eight words, “the fear of the Lord” is where life begins. May we recognize Your power and our limits. Amen.

Scripture For Today: Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. Proverbs 14:26

Entertaining young children often provides moments of enduring joy and memories that last a lifetime. I often think of those days when I played “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?” with my sons. We made noises and faces and even built homes out of blankets and chairs. The “big bad wolf” tried to create problems for the three little pigs but was never able to harm those inside their home. They were prepared to face the threats of the big bad wolf.

We often do the same - making preparation to face the threats and uncertainties of life. We feel strong in our own strength and believe without a doubt that we can, no matter what, withstand any temptation in life.

Solomon, however, presents another way of responding to the threat of evil: be cautious or timid! When temptation threatens us and we feel incapable of rejecting it by ourselves, we are to “shun evil.” Looking deeper into these two little words we find that those who “shun evil” or are “timid” because they feel weak or are unable to reject it in their own strength, have a “built-in alarm:” the fear of the Lord! When they realize that they must face God or what could destroy them, they respond in fear and turn to God for His strength.

I often marvel at the countless alarm systems that are available to protect our lives, homes and identities from fraud and theft, danger and destruction. Some provide constant surveillance through an electronic monitoring system. Others can be self-installed and are battery operated. Both are designed to warn of “impending danger.” We have something better, stronger, more certain, and always available: God’s wisdom, strength, and power.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be so fearful of evil that we flee from it in fear rather than standing, fighting and failing. May we look to You to save us by calling on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: The wise fear the LORD and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure. Proverbs 14:16

It was a heated argument: “Your mind is so closed that no one could get a new thought in there even if they used a sharp wedge.” “Oh yeah,” he replied. “You’re so open-minded that your brain can’t hold anything that makes sense!”

Each of us has developed our own way of thinking about and looking at things. Solomon once said that the way we think falls between two bookmarks “Simple minded and prudent.” Being “simple minded” means anything from being overly gullible, too hot-headed, arrogant, reckless, foolish or crafty. On the other hand, some people are “prudent.”

The “simple minded” are so confused that they are willing to believe anything said by anybody at any time. Whatever they hear makes sense to them, and if it is a popular idea that most people embrace, it’s always right. They lack insight, sound judgment and clear thinking.

The “prudent person,” however, has both evil and good intentions. Evil intentions would be using one’s knowledge in a way that is sinister, shrewd, or misleading. Good intentions would be using one’s knowledge to discern the truth, understand people, know what is going on, looking for opportunities to serve others, and how to make wise decisions.

The wisdom of a prudent person comes from “giving thought to their steps,” or, what they plan to do. They carefully consider choices and consequences, weigh every option and opinion, and make their decisions on wisdom they have gained from their teachers. However, not all teachers honor God. So, the Christian must make decisions according to God’s Word.

Prayer: Lord, may we choose wisely those who we allow to influence our thoughts and guide our thinking. May we choose our teachers carefully before we trust them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps. Proverbs 14:15

“I wish I could buy him for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth. We could both retire!” said a colleague to me after interviewing a potential employee.

Many people lead “presumptuous” lives and never get in touch with who they are and what their strengths or weaknesses might be. They refuse to see themselves as others see them, and will not admit the fact that they may have done something wrong or harmful. “It’s not my fault. It's theirs. They just wouldn’t admit what they did.”

In the final analysis, we all have the freedom to choose what path we will take - even though, as Solomon warns, “… in the end that path leads to death.” We may choose a path, even claim that it was a "path from God and was His will for my life," not admitting that our decision was ours alone, ill-conceived, and even ill advised. “I certainly prayed about it!”

“Seems right” is a frightening combination of words. It simply means that “I (or someone else) did not know what was right” and went off in the wrong direction and it ended in disaster - perhaps death. “Seems right” is full of presumptions, beginning with sincerity. Although we may be very sincere about most anything we choose to do, sincerity does not lead to fulfilling God’s plan for our lives. “Seems right” can be “surely wrong!”

Those who truly want to live the “right way” will find it in God’s Word. The “right way” is living a life that agrees with the Word of God, choosing to be obedient to His commands, waiting for His guidance, and putting His will before my wants.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we avoid doing what “seems right” by surrendering our lives and will to You. Help us to do right and live right by following You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

Making amends means “I’ve harmed someone.” Not an easy thing to do. First, if I have harmed someone, they “certainly deserved it or had it coming to them.” Secondly, whenever I apologize, I admit that “I did something that is or was wrong - and that simply is not like me to do something like that.” Or, “They are too sensitive - they shouldn’t wear their feelings on their sleeves or shoulders. It’s about them, not me. I know what I’m doing.”

Unfortunately, those options do not agree with God’s Word. First, “All have sinned.” So, I’m not in any position to harm anyone. Secondly, “No one is righteous, not even one.” Well, there goes my reputation. Or, “If you have never committed a sin, pick up a stone and throw it at the first person you see - for they surely have!” So, when I investigate my stone-carrier, it’s empty.

“Fools,” according to Solomon, “mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.” This includes all of us in one way or another. One who “mocks at making amends” would be a person who has no sense of right or wrong or personal accountability for their actions. They turn a “blind-eye” to God’s “ever-present, watchful eye.” That’s not wise!

To feel unaccountable for our sin implies that we will not be judged by God or man. That surely is foolish, for one day we will all stand before God to be judged. On the other hand, “men of goodwill” are those who want to be “approved” by God and others for the way they act. They want their relationships, beginning with God, to be open and beyond reproach. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” is what making amends is all about.

Prayer: Lord, it’s much easier to live in denial than to be a person of honesty and integrity. Give us courage, when we are or do wrong, to seek forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright. Proverbs 14:9

Corporal punishment of children is not considered to be an enlightened way of disciplining children. Actually, it is in direct opposition to the majority of the theories of psychology and ways to change behavior. But God does in fact include it as part of His program of parenting skills that can lead a child to maturity. Parents who choose not to use this form of discipline do not demonstrate that they possess a “higher degree” of parenting skills or that they love their children more than other parents. In essence, according to God’s program of child rearing, they do not love their children as much as those who “use a rod.”

The words “hate” and “love” in this verse are not to be seen as comparing love and hate in an emotional sense. In other words, to withhold a spanking is not a sign that “I love my child more than you do yours.” It could be a sign that “I am willing to sacrifice my child’s future well-being because I want him to like me,” or “I would rather have the approval of society than God,” or “I know of other children who were spanked and they did not end up so good.” We must always be cautious about whose approval we are seeking: our child’s, man’s or God’s.

Disciplining children is painful - especially corporal discipline which is clear from this passage of Scripture. But if the discipline is associated with breaking the teachings of God’s laws - lying, stealing, and being disrespectful of others - then it is appropriate. Children must be informed that “If you lie to me, then you will be spanked” is in keeping with God’s laws. Discipline is to bring conformity to God’s ways.

Prayer: Father, help us to discipline our children with love and respect when they disregard Your laws and willingly choose evil. But first, let us be their example. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24

One of my mother’s most quoted sayings was, “Birds of a feather flock together.” When I first heard her say it, I had no idea what she was talking about. However, she did. She realized that one of her most important obligations, as a parent, was to guard me from friends who might lead me away from God. She knew each of my playmates, and as I grew older, my friends, personally.

When I became a parent, that quotation grew in its importance. I came to realize that my choice of friends always flows from the values I hold dearest and live before others. People who enjoy softball or golf, cooking or gardening, worshiping God and studying His Word, form relationships with others because they hold things “in common” - their values.

Solomon said, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools will be harmed.” The advice contained in this proverb is significant because it focuses our attention on the “informal learning process” - not what is taught in classrooms or churches. Much of our learning is “absorbed” through watching others, being with others, and having a desire to imitate or be like others, especially those whom we admire or hold up as heroes.

Someone once asked John Rockefeller what he did to become so successful. “I only associate with people who are successful,” he replied. While that might sound trite and an over simplified way of becoming successful, it is profoundly true. The most “life shaping and longest lasting” lessons of our lives come from those that have had the greatest impact on us- lessons that have been “caught” rather than “taught.”

Beware of your associates!

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to choose friends who honor and worship You, love Your Word and walk with You daily. May we seek to be with friends who honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. Proverbs 13:20

THE DIFFERENCE

September 28, 2022

“You won’t find me in church! There are too many hypocrites there. So, why should I go? Hypocrites are no better than I am. So, why bother?” Those of us who invite others to church have heard that phrase at one time or another. Most of us, however, don’t go to church because we are hypocrites. We go to church because we’re trying not be one.

Many have “lists” that identify personal differences between being a hypocrite or not being one. For most of us it is a “personal thing.” We use our list to judge ourselves against others. So, our list is always correct, no matter what! We become God’s standard!

However, it was Solomon who established the difference between being righteous and wicked. He removed any doubt that we might have: “Righteousness,” he wrote, “guards the man of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.”

If we love God, we will love what He loves and hate what He hates. Nothing complicated there. So, if God loves truth and honesty, pure living and obedience to His Word, the righteous will, too. But more than embrace what is righteous, we will avoid what is evil by guarding ourselves against it. Righteousness does not mean Christians live passive lives, but are active in being and doing whatever it takes to avoid behaviors that God hates.

“Wickedness” in Scripture has an interesting meaning. It refers to “being deceptive to the point where the wicked act disgracefully and their behavior causes a ‘stink.’” They see no reason to be concerned about what they are doing, understanding that what they do will finally bring “disaster” to them. God will not allow the wicked or wickedness to prevail!

Prayer: Father, give us courage to stand against that which is evil and harms others. Empower us to do what it right and honorable, just and fair! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: The godly hate lies; the wicked cause shame and disgrace. Proverbs 13:5

"Loose Lips Sink Ships" was a widely quoted slogan during World War II. It was part of the US Office of Information’s attempt to limit the possibility of people inadvertently giving useful information to enemy spies. It was one of the several slogans that came under the campaign’s basic message "Careless Talk Costs Lives.” While our talk may not “cost lives” careless words are costly, often harmful, and can cause serious problems.

Years ago, Solomon realized this and said, “Those who guard their lips guard their lives.” It is like placing a boundary around what we want people to know or think about us. Being careful is wise because we will not have to try to explain what we mean if we express an unclear thought or idea. We will not have to apologize or make amends or be fearful for things we might have said that could stain someone’s reputation if we speak unkindly. In fact, later in Proverbs, Solomon said that our “tongues have the power of life and death.”

There is also the person who “speaks rashly.” This person speaks without taking time to think or makes statements that are untrue, intending to hurt, harm, destroy, or take advantage of others. Many of us have endured - even struggled to survive - false stories or outright lies about us as others intended to damage or destroy us. We have been left fearful and unable to trust others because of their unfair words.

But we are to take heart. Our God is a fair and just God and He will, in His own time, make all things right. Those who “speak rashly will come to ruin.”

Prayer: Father, we are grateful that You love us, understand us, and know “who we are.” May we never harm others. May we bring them Your healing and hope, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything. Proverbs 13:3

There are various ways to recognize those moments when students are “open” to learning. On the other hand, there are many times when students are unwilling to learn no matter who the teacher may be.

Recently the phrase, “teachable moments” has become popular. While there are constant opportunities for teaching and learning, many times neither the pupil nor teacher take advantage of the moment.

“A wise son,” wrote Solomon, “heeds (or accepts) his father’s instruction; but a mocker does not listen to rebuke (or correction).” Obviously, Solomon knew something about the teaching process, learner readiness, and pupil attitudes. But that is not enough. Perhaps that is why God inspired him to use the word “instruction.” That word was wisely chosen for its true meaning: “education through correction.” At the heart of each of the Proverbs is the fact that we, in and of ourselves, do not know the ultimate answers to life. We all have the basic need for our Father to teach us His truth and His ways for our lives. And that begins with “the fear of the Lord.”

This proverb places the responsibility of learning on the pupil - the son. But, it also places the responsibility to teach on the father. Yet, to teach the son, the father needs wisdom and fear. We “recycle” back to the truth that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!”

Fathers are both responsible and accountable to God to teach their sons His wisdom. Yes, there are many things that fathers must teach their sons and daughters, but none as important as teaching them God’s wisdom.
Prayer: We pray, Lord, that all fathers will realize their obligation to You: to instill Your wisdom in their hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: A wise son heeds his father’s instruction; but a mocker does not listen to rebuke. Proverbs 13:1

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