Solomon makes no apology for the wicked and their lifestyle. In fact, his choice of words leaves no doubt about what they do and to recognize them.

For example: “A man cannot be established through wickedness; the advice of the wicked is deceitfulness; the words of the wicked lie in wait for blood; wicked men are overthrown and are no more; men with warped minds are despised.” And in the end: “The Lord condemns a crafty man!”

However, the righteous: “cannot be uprooted; the plans of the righteous are just; the speech of the righteous rescues them; the house of the righteous stands forever; the house of the righteous stands firm.” And ultimately: “A good man finds favor with the Lord.”

It is most interesting to note that the wicked have a completely different approach to life than the righteous. They have a single focus in life: whatever they do begins with the question: “How will what I am about to do benefit me?” This opens the door to being deceitful and dishonest, being patient and waiting for the right moment to take advantage of the weak, uninformed, less educated, those looking for someone they can trust to help them.

And when we look at the righteous, we see the exact opposite: what they do is steadfast and will stand the test of time and God’s scrutiny, they are just and fair as God is just and fair. And whatever they do, ultimately, is right and just in the eyes of God and man.

The final reward? God’s condemnation or blessings.

Prayer:  Lord, how we get what we have influences our relationship with You. May what we do always honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.

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

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

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

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

God’s riches come with His blessings. They are free of fear and the consequences that come with disobedience.

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

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 10:22 The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.
It is well known that time has a way of bringing about a “lapse in memory.” Many of the important events in our lives - especially when God has intervened in a very dramatic way - have been forgotten over the years. Yes, there are moments when they come to mind, but for the most part, unless we record them somewhere they are forgotten. Certainly this is a shortcoming for many of us and it would be good if we had a “remember this” list.

No doubt that is why God had David add this “benefit” to his list of “Do not forget.”
“Do not forget that he redeems - or more literally - rescues you - from the pit.” In the previous verse we are reminded about His healing. Now we are reminded to “store this ‘benefit’ - being rescued from death inside us.”

“The pit” quite literally means “death.” Those who have ever “walked through the valley of the shadow of death” understand the significance of the “walking back into the light” of life. So, we dare not forget the great benefit and blessing of the restoration of health and healing, hope and happiness.

But we must also remember the “benefit” of having been rescued from “eternal death!” Jesus promised us that, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me, will never die.” This great benefit, eternity with Him, is the greatest of all benefits!
May we remember and rejoice each day that we enjoy the benefit of eternal life and the hope it gives us.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to somehow understand the tremendous cost of our salvation and the benefit it is to us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 103:4a who redeems your life from the pit
The word “righteous” in Scripture carries with it the idea of meeting God’s standards of doing what it right in the sight of God - being obedient to Him and being just and fair to others. If the “righteous are to flourish like palm trees” what does that mean?

1.  Palm trees grow straight up - always looking upward to heaven for light and nourishment. Likewise the Christian looks to God to find His will for their life.

2.  Each and every part of a palm tree is useful. The leaves not only provide shelter from the elements but the tree itself has many nourishing and medicinal qualities. The Christian is expected to give life and hope and nourishment to others.

3.  Palm trees are not affected by drought. A palm tree is not affected by the weather and can survive nearly every surface injury. The Christian rooted in Christ draws his strength and well-being from God.

4.  The palm tree is an evergreen tree because it draws its life flow within its being, keeping it fresh.

5.  The palm tree cannot be grafted into any other tree because it has its own unique identity. Christians have one Master and cannot be grafted to any other identity.

6.  Palm trees are an emblem of victory. This was seen when Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem.

7.  Palm trees always show a place where water can be found. Christians find their “living water” in Christ who can quench their thirst.

Prayer:  We ask, Father, that every part of our lives will be useful in proclaiming Your grace and mercy to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 92:12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,  they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
Many of us live struggle through difficult times and painful days because of past memories. We recall with pleasure what God has done in the past with gratitude - knowing that it was His mercy and grace that enabled us to get through difficult days and long nights. Because of those joyous memories, we base our hope in Him that He will shepherd us through dark valleys and sunless days.

In Psalm 85 our author is apparently reflecting on a loss suffered by Israel in a military battle. They looked at their loss as punishment from God. But the Psalmist does not focus on the loss, he focuses on the fact that God has brought them out of captivity in the past and forgave them of their sins. With confidence and boldness he says, "Restore us again, O God, our Savior."

The message for us to take away from this Psalm is that in times of depression, defeat and darkness we must remember God's grace in the past and pray in the present for His restoration.

Sometimes when we look at our past and are buried with the guilt of our sins we are fearful of going to God and asking for His grace in these moments. We feel that we are undeserving and unworthy. We approach His throne of grace in fear and trembling, wondering if we have any right to ask for forgiveness, cleansing and restoration.

But when these thoughts plague us, we must remember that God's judgment is always tempered by His mercy and He will always forgive us, restore us and revive us again.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to remember Your blessings in the past as we pass through the problems we face today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 85:4a Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us.

Few of us enjoy going to a dentist. The first words we usually hear are, "Open your mouth wide, please." Most of us from our previous experiences with dentists would rather keep our mouths shut. When the Psalms were written there were different ways to show favors to individuals. For example, if a king wanted to extend a favor to a
guest he would sometimes say, "Open your mouth wide," and then fill it with gems or sweets.

Our King said to us in Psalm 81, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it!" What an unusual statement. Yet, when we think of it, our King's love is limitless and His might is measureless and His knowledge of our needs is ever on His mind!

What an encouragement to pray. When we pray we open our mouths and express our needs and desires to God. If, when we pray, we are earnest and expect God to hear us and if we have been obedient to His teachings and if in our prayers we are asking Him to bless our requests in a way that will honor Him, surely He will respond to our requests.

God is able and anxious to meet our every need. If we have a loved one who has not accepted His grace, or if we have a need for food on our tables, or if we have a spouse or parent or child who is suffering with a disease that some say is incurable - are all gifts He is willing to grant us. We most never forget that God is able and anxious to hear us and help us if we "open our mouths wide in prayer."

Prayer: Give us faith, Heavenly Father, to accept Your Word as "truth we can believe in" whenever we pray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 81:10b Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
We live in a busy world. Days are crowded with more things to do than time allows. Instant texting and rapid responses to anything and everything, whether accurate or not, crown every moment of our lives. Everyone seems to have an opinion we need to hear on every subject - from the mundane to the insane, from the very important to “stuff” that does not matter. We have become conditioned to listen for something to listen to whether it matters or not.

Psalm 75 explodes with an important reminder. “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks for Your Name is near! Men tell of your wondrous works!” The fact that the word thanks appears twice in one sentence makes it intense and dramatic. But we should not be surprised. We are to thank God not only for His wondrous works but because He is near! God Himself, our God Who created everything and is in everything and sustains everything is close by.

Jesus once commanded Peter to cast his net into the water to catch some fish. He did and was amazed at the results. The disciple falls at His feet in fear and wonder. What a miracle! Jesus spoke and things happened. God’s presence and power came to life instantly.

The same is true for us today. While we may not see many extreme displays of His power, nonetheless He is at work. The little gifts in our lives as well as the immense miracles in our lives prove that He is near us and caring for us. We must always be aware of His presence.

Prayer: We cannot thank You enough, Father, for Your unending blessings in our lives. May we thank You continuously. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 75:1 We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful deeds.

The destiny of a nation is not determined by its armed forces or material resources. Nor is it empowered by its political philosophy or intellectual achievements. God’s Word reveals and the records of history prove that it is “not by power, nor by might, but by my spirit” that nations survive over time.

The destiny of any nation is determined by the spiritual life of its people. “Blessed is the nation,” David declared, “whose God is the Lord.”

Every nation has had an opportunity to accept the Word of God and follow His ways, to worship Him and to do His will. If they accept His offer, that nation will be blessed. However, if a nation chooses to reject Him and His teachings and refuses to worship and follow Him and establish their own foundation, they will eventually be destroyed. This is an obvious fact of history.

Rome became a great empire but it collapsed. Why? The celebrated Italian historian, Papini, wrote that “the temple, the bank, and the academy were against Jesus of Nazareth.”

Germany became great but was reduced to rubble. Wrote a German philosopher, “They pushed God out of the universities and that was the beginning of the death sentence for the empire.”

What will be our destiny when we are no longer “one nation under God?” We are the ones responsible to “humble ourselves, pray, call upon the Lord and repent” if we do not want to be a memory on the pages of history.

Prayer: Father, we who profess Your name are to call upon Your name and stand against the forces of evil. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Psalm 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
The citizens of a small community were overwhelmed with discouragement. The drought had destroyed the crops of the farmers and they were facing bankruptcy. The merchants were unable to purchase inventory for their stores because their customers could not pay their bills. And things went downhill from there.

Everyone was heartbroken and depressed except one elderly man of God. He invited the leaders of the community to his home for a meeting to see if he could encourage them to continue a little longer.

His friends came to his home and sat around his kitchen table. Standing before them he hung a large piece of white paper on a wall and asked them to turn and look at it. As they did, he placed a black dot in the center. He then asked, “Gentlemen, what do you see?”

In unison they said, “A black dot.” Not one of them mentioned the white paper that surrounded the one small black dot.

“Gentlemen,” he asked, “are there some blessings in your life that we can place around the black dot that might make it not so obvious?” One by one they thought of some of the good things that they had been overlooking in their time of loss and grief.

God’s goodness sometimes disappears from our horizon. When days are difficult and nights are long, it is easy to see the dot and not the One who can remove it.

Prayer: Help us, Heavenly Father, to be aware of all that we have because of Your grace. Give us faith to proceed through difficulties of life through Your strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
General Robert E. Lee had a brilliant officer serving on his staff. He was fiercely faithful and loyal to the general. He was also a man of conviction, courage and confidence. Every letter or note he wrote to General Lee was signed, “You can count on me.”

Our Lord has many people He can count but not many He can count on. But there is one who stands as an example to all of us: Joshua!

Joshua was careful to obey all of the teachings and instructions given by God. As we read the book that bears his name, we find the theme of obedience time and time again. This theme of obedience is so very prominent because it is an important aspect of the believer’s life. Additionally, it is certainly a significant part of our lives and one part of our lives that, with God’s help, we can control.

We cannot control the events that God brings into our lives, but we can control the way we respond to them. We cannot control the behavior of others around us but we certainly can control how we behave when we are in their presence. We cannot control the decisions of our leaders but we certainly can “pray without ceasing” for them. We cannot control the content of the media but we can certainly choose different materials to read or programs to watch on television.

However, one choice that every Christian has is to obey God. God’s Word sets the standard of all to follow.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, empower us with Your Holy Spirit to understand and accept Your Word, and to be obedient to it so You will be able to “count on us.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Joshua 11:15 As the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.
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