Solomon makes no apology for the wicked and their lifestyle. In fact, his choice of words leaves no doubt about what they do and how 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. Whatever they do begins with the question: “How will what I am doing benefit me?” This opens the door to being deceitful and dishonest, being cunning 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, the vulnerable.

When we look at the righteous, we see the exact opposite: what they do is steadfast, open, will stand the test of time and God’s scrutiny, and they want to be just and fair as God is just and fair. Whatever they do, ultimately, will be right and just in the eyes of God and man.

The final reward? God’s blessings or condemnation. What are you living for?

Prayer: Lord, how we live and how we get what we have reflects our attitude toward and our relationship with You. May what we do always honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: The wicked die and disappear, but the family of the godly stands firm. Proverbs 12:7

“Blessed are they...,” said the Psalmist, “who constantly do what is right.” Jesus, too, emphasized the importance of righteousness when He began His public ministry. “Blessed,” said Jesus, “are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Doing what is right and hungering and thirsting for righteousness is not a priority in the lives of many who call themselves “Christian.” It sounds like a lifestyle that is more suitable for monks who live in a monastery and spend their time reading the Bible and praying than for people who work for a living. Monks can avoid the “real things” of life and “be righteous.” It’s what they live and die for.

Perhaps when we think of being “righteous” and “doing what is right,” we shudder because it sounds so “limiting” on the one hand, and “impossible” on the other. “What fun is there in being righteous?” we ask. Or, “If I ‘do right’ I’ll live a life of gloom and doom with no room for happiness and joy.” What a grim prospect.

But the exact opposite is true. God has a specific plan for each of our lives and will enable us to fulfill it if we so chose. Ultimately we will become like His Son. If we seek and follow the plan and purpose He has for our lives, as did Jesus, we will walk in paths of “righteousness for His name’s sake.” If we want to know the “path of righteousness” He has for our lives, we must study His Word. And, the more we study His Word, the more we will become like Him. If we desire to “do right” and become “righteous,” we will need to spend time with Him, get to know Him, and love Him. If we “do right,” we will “become right.”

Prayer:  Thank you Lord for the plan you have for our lives. We all want to “do right.” But we cannot “do right” unless we are willing to know what is right. May we turn to Your Word to learn Your ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: There is joy for those who deal justly with others and always do what is right. Psalm 106:3 

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Throughout Scripture the "heart" is used as the center of a person’s being. It describes the heart as the personality or inner life or character of a person 257 times. It states that the heart is the center of a person’s emotional state or consciousness 166 times. It presents the heart as the source of intellectual activities 204 times and this includes what we pay attention to or reflect on during our quiet moments or what makes sense to us as we consider the things that cross our paths or what enters our minds. It also speaks of the heart as the source that gives us purpose or direction in life 195 times.
We must never overlook the importance of "the heart."
Certainly the author of Psalm 78 had this in mind. As he reflected on the trials and tragedies of the Israelites, he called attention to the fact that the preceding generations did not put their trust in God and forgot the gracious gifts He gave them. He encouraged them to obey God's laws and not be like their forefathers.
And how were they to do this? What was his "prescription" for them? They were to have "hearts that were loyal to God and spirits that were faithful to Him."
Wisely, this psalmist gave a warning to his listeners. And, thankfully, God passed it on to us in His Word.
Someone once said to me, "Larry, learn from what sin has done in the lives of others. If you do, you will be blessed of God and able to enjoy the best He has to offer."
Surely this is the right moment for each of us to look deep within our "hearts" and be sure that God is in the very center and that we are loyal to God!
Prayer: We are grateful, Father, for the warnings Your Word gives us. May we follow Your guidance each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 78:8 Then they will not be like their ancestors— stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God. 
When we are born, we know nothing, have no plan to follow and must be taught how to live. Before us are opportunities and options, choices and consequences that await us. Unfortunately, we do not have any “second chances” in life to live our lives over again. No matter how deep our desire may be or how desperate we are, we cannot relive one second nor retrace one step. Each step is final and every second gone forever.
David, however, says that the Good Shepherd will “lead us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Note carefully that He does simply want us to understand what righteousness is, but that He leads His own “in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” – so we can avoid many tragedies in life.
This is very important. The “righteousness” that David is speaking of here is not an end in itself. If it were, it would lead us to a state of “self-righteousness” – not godly righteousness. God does not want us to stray or walk in paths that are unrighteous because they will lead us to defeat and destruction, sin and shame. He wants to lead us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Nothing is more important for us. Why?
Because of the Shepherd’s name – His reputation – is at stake. Like it or not, His name will be respected or rejected by the way we live. Our lives say it all.
Alexander the Great once said to one of his soldiers, “Your name is Alexander and my name is Alexander. But you are bringing disgrace to my name. Change your name or change the way you live.”
PrayerEnable, us Father, to walk righteously in Your power for Your Name’s sake, to honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Psalm 23:3 He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 
Tombstones are often interesting reminders of what people accomplished in life. One that is very interesting is in Wisconsin. It reads: “He bowled 300 in 1962.”
Do you wonder, as I do, if that was his greatest achievement in life? Or how many games he bowled before he had a perfect game? Or was it his first and last game and it left him so stunned that he never bowled again? We’ll never know.
But one thing we do know is that we will all be remembered for something. Paul made a most interesting observation about life’s accomplishments. He was writing to the Philippians about his achievements. Reading them is like reading the resume of one of the world’s greatest leaders. They are very impressive. But then he pulls the rug out from under his own feet. After what sounds like someone bragging about what they had accomplished he concludes: “But because of Christ I decided that all of my worldly accomplishments are worth nothing.”
Paul always had it right. More than anything in life he wanted to be known for his relationship with Christ and what he did for Him. Other than knowing and serving Christ, everything to him was “worthless trash.”
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to place You first and foremost in our lives. May we be remembered for what we did for You and through You, because of You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Philippians 3:4-11 …I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own…but which is through Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
The James family gathered together for a quiet time and discussion. Albert climbed into his father’s lap and hugged him with all his might. Teasingly, he asked, “Well, son, what do you want now?”
“Nothing now,” he answered. “All I want is you!”
How unfortunate for us that we rarely go to our Heavenly Father unless we want something. It seems that when we approach Him it is for something that contributes to our well-being, our health, family problems, issues at work, our financial needs or a friend. Too often we are more interested in the gifts that the Giver has to give us than the Giver.
We ask rather than adore and we prey rather than praise and we want rather than worship.
It is true that our Lord has invited us to ask if we want to receive and to come to Him for anything and everything – no matter when or what. For most of us it is a long standing habit that might be hard to break.
Perhaps it would change the nature of our relationship with God if, on occasion, we simply said to Him in a prayer of gratitude, “All I want is You!”
Prayer: Lord, we truly love You! Forgive us for hearts and minds that only focus on our wants and needs. Help us to also express our love and praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

A man who was grossly overweight made an appointment with a psychiatrist. He wanted to know why he could not control his eating.
“Why,” he asked, “am I so fat?”
Pausing to think for a moment, the psychiatrist responded, “Because your life is focused on food. When you go to a baseball game, you indulge in hotdogs and beer. When you watch TV, it means snacks like candy, chips and other snacks. When...”
Before he gave another example the patient interrupted and said, “You’re right. Now tell me, what type of food do you serve during your sessions?”
Whatever is uppermost in our minds is what we live for and eventually die for. Jesus, wanting us to be sure our priorities are the ones that lead us to living God-pleasing lives said, “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness for they will be satisfied.”
Whenever we surrender to anything in our life that is self-destructive or self-defeating, it is a sure sign that He does not have His proper place of honor in our lives. Peace and healing, happiness and satisfaction only come from the Lord
Prayer: Lord, as we look at our lives, may we realize that if things are out of control, we need to search our hearts for Your solution. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
An instructor was trying to encourage his class to be creative. He carefully cut a piece of white paper into a perfect square and held it up before the class. All eyes were focused on the sheet of paper when he asked the question, “What do you see?”
No one said a sheet of white paper, a square, something to write a letter or assignment on or a blank page for a book. The entire class said, “A black spot.” In the left corner of the square was a tiny, black speck. Their focus was on the flaw – not the square.
Most of us seem to look for things that are wrong or improper, incorrect or out of place. It comes with our nature. For whatever reason, we try to discover anything about anybody that is not perfect. Or, might it be that we are trying to justify what is not “right” about ourselves by seeing what is “wrong” in others?
There is an important message here for every Christian. Peter wrote, “Make every effort to live a pure and blameless life.” What great advice. How would we live or act if we were always conscious of the fact that we, as Christians, are always being evaluated by what we do or say by those who are not Christians. The world looks at us differently because of who we claim to be. And like it or not, they have every reason to do so. We will never be perfect in this world, but we can be careful.
Prayer: Help us, Lord, to be on guard for that “little spot” that destroys our witness and damages our calling. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: 2 Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;
What happens when life turns ugly and there is no reason to get out of bed and face life? Do we give up and give in? Do we surrender our principals and live a life of compromise? Do we forget where we were or what made us different from others? Do we live a life filled with anger and resentment?

“Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse” provides some sound advice. This verse tells the story of a man who “had it all” and “lost it all.” He was “riding high” and then “life turned ugly.” But the events of life did not change him: he changed the events of life. He remained faithful to God, turned his back on evil and continued to live a life controlled by God. He was a man of character!

We often confuse personality with character. It’s easy. Personality is who people think we are. Character is who God knows us to be. Personality changes over time and is temporary. Character is deep rooted and flows from our relationship with God. Personality is on the outside. Character is from God and is deep inside our hearts. Personality often comes from a smile to hide the pain and struggle we are dealing with. Character weeps openly, honestly and freely when the going gets difficult, the nights long and the days dark, the sun is hidden and the clouds heavy. Personality changes to meet the needs of the moment. Character meets the moment without changing - being confident that we can meet the challenge and endure the struggle with God.

Prayer: We pray, Lord, that we will submit our will and ways to You and live lives that are blameless. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 28:6 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.

Is it possible to actually measure the results of being righteous and showing love? Are there rewards for being like and doing the things that Jesus did? Apparently so.

“Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor,” promised Solomon. Notice, if you will, this proverb begins with the word “whoever” - an all-inclusive, unlimited invitation to everyone.

The rewards promised are tangible: “life” is a personal gift; “prosperity” is the physical gifts God gives us and “honor” is social recognition for what we do for others in honor of God. We must realize, however, that these gifts are byproducts from the “pursuit” of being righteous and loving.

Only God is righteous and loving. We will never “be” righteous and loving in this life. So, we are confronted with the importance of “pursuing” righteousness and being completely loving. Can we know if we are living a righteous and loving life?

Righteous living has two dimensions: a horizontal and vertical dimension. Horizontal begins with my being in a “right” relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It begins with faith in Him and our faith in Him results in our being faithful to Him. Others will recognize a difference in the way we live because we are applying His teachings in and through our lives.

It is the application of His teachings that leads to righteous living by showing His love to others. This is what is meant by the vertical dimension. While never easy, we must commit ourselves to do His work through His strength and power.

Thank God that He understands the difference between attaining and pursuing. If we submit our lives to Him, read His Word, pray earnestly and “give” His love to others, we’ll find life.

Prayer:  Lord, after all You’ve done for us, give us no rest until we pursue Your righteousness and love with all our hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 21:21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

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