“Those cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said George Santayana in 1863. However, it does not matter who said it or when, history proves the point time and time again.

Generations come and go, governments rise and fall, generals win one battle and then lose the next, good times are enjoyed and then disaster sets in while no one was paying attention. People and leaders become so involved in “their particular thing” that they lose sight of the big picture and how nations become estranged from God. They do not hear His voice nor heed His Word and forget what righteousness is about, where it comes from and how it stabilizes a nation.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people,” is an oft quoted and well-known verse. It is mentioned frequently by the clergy and often by government leaders. But, the words fall silently to the ground and nothing changes.

Solomon used the word “exalts” by design. He was aware of the power of that word and understood what it meant to individuals and nations. “If” the people of a nation come together and honor God and “lift” Him up in worship and are obedient to His laws, they will be blest and have His favor and protection and His covenant love.

However, the alternative to a “righteous” nation is one whose sin is destructive, despicable and so dishonors God that it brings indescribable shame and disgrace to its people. In the end, it destroys what God designed.

Prayer:  Father, may we take Your warnings seriously, see the ravages and result of sin and repent. Awaken us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.

“You won’t find me in church! There are too many hypocrites that fill the pews. So, why should I go? They are no better than I am.” Most of us who do go to church have heard that phrase at one time or another. Most of us, however, don’t go to church because we are hypocrites, it’s because we’d rather not be one.

Most of us have a “check list” that lays out our personal differences between being a hypocrite not being one. For most of us it is a “personal thing.” We want our own definition to judge ourselves against others.

But, Solomon established the difference between being righteous and wicked. He removes any doubt for us: “Righteousness 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 law, the righteous will, too. But, more than embrace what is righteous, they will avoid what is evil by guarding themselves against it. Righteousness does not mean Christians are passive, but active - involved in whatever it takes to avoid contact with behaviors God hates.

“Wickedness” here 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 - but what they do will finally bring “disaster” - they will be overthrown. God will not allow wickedness to prevail!

Prayer:  Father, give us courage to take an obvious stand against that which is evil and do what it right! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 13:5 The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.

“Yes, we do look forward to the day when we will meet together in the sweet by and by,” said the aging evangelist with the volume of his voice rising, “but right now we live in the nasty now and now!” I wonder what he would say today - some fifty years later.

Wherever we look today “nasty” seems to be more and more predominate and the “sweet by and by” more enticing. Evil and wickedness, immorality and indecency confront us at everywhere we are. What once made most people blush rarely causes them to turn their eyes from lewd scenes or pictures. Advertisements and marketing strategies are now designed to exploit what was once pure and sacred, beautiful and pure. What once was unimaginable is now commonplace and expected...but is not God’s way.

However, “In the way of righteousness there is life, along that path is immortality,” wrote Solomon. He was not writing of heaven as we now understand it from the New Testament. It was a “hint” of things to be revealed as God unfolded His message through the risen Christ.

But, there is no doubt about the fact that “the way” of the righteous points to a “path of immortality.” Clearly it looks beyond this world and into the next. It reflects the insight of David when he wrote, “And I - in righteousness will see your face, when I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” We also have the words of Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth (and) in my flesh I will see God; with my own eyes - I and not another. My heart yearns...”

Prayer:  How blest we are, Father, to know that “the way” is Your way, and will lead us into Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

God created us to live in relationships with others. In fact, it is difficult for many to go through a day without speaking to someone about something. Friends are very important and can bring “good things to life.” However, the opposite can also be true. Some friendships bring healing, help and hope into our lives while others bring us trouble, turmoil and tragedy.

No doubt Solomon had his share of friendships that were not what he expected and brought the unwanted and unexpected into his life. So, he issued us a warning: “A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

“Righteous” in the Old Testament always refers to meeting God’s standards of what is right and just. If our relationship with God is as He wants it to be, then we must be “cautious” about our relationships with others. Their influence us always standards for righteous living. Unfortunately, being close friends with a person whom we admire and respect, but who has no time or concern for godly things is very dangerous. The influence that person has on our life can lead us astray and destroy us. That is why we must be “cautious.”
Our relationship with God is more important that any relationship with any other person.

But how “cautious” are we to be? Very! The meaning of that word includes “duties” like instigate, spy out or search out. “How foolish,” some might say. Not really. If we want the best God has to offer us we must be cautious.

Prayer:  Lord, may we guard our relationship with You and strengthen it through reading Your Word and prayer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:26 The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

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.

“There are three sets of alternatives,” our professor of ethics once said. “They include ‘either/or, neither/nor or both/and.’” We often tend to focus on one of them when we face certain situations, never bothering to consider that the one we have chosen may or may not be the right one. We often rush into a decision without thinking it through completely or wanting to get it over quickly because we don’t see any other “alternatives.”

But God’s Word is very clear when choices are to be made. There are times when one has no options: so it is “neither” this “nor” that. For example, “You shall have no other God except or before me!” It’s neither this god nor that god. For, “I am the Lord your God!”

There are also times when it is “both/and.” For example, we read, “Do this and you will live.” This alternative is a win/win approach. When we follow the rules of God, we will live and live well because we are assured of His blessings and the prosperity that comes from being obedient to His laws and commands.

Solomon said, “A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be moved.” Stability in life comes from following God and being obedient to His Word. “In the beginning was the Word,” said John. God’s Word has been, is and always will be! This truth cannot be negotiated. The one who builds his life and ways on the Word of God will never have to question what is right or wrong, good or bad, honest or deceitful. It’s “either/or” either God’s way - the way of stability and security, or...

Prayer:  May we have the courage, conviction and will to follow Your ways, Lord, and enjoy stability and blessings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:3 No one finds security by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.

“Larry,” says Bruce every time he sees me with my dog, “you need to change her name to ‘Lucky.’ I can’t  imagine anyone who would take better care of that dog than you. It’s plain to me she’s not Bella. She’s ‘Lucky’ - really lucky she found you.” Here’s what happened...

One dark, stormy, cold, foggy night I opened the door to our carport. Sensing something at my foot, I looked down. There, looking up at me, was a small dog wagging her tail and wiggling all over as if to say, “I’m home!”

For weeks Mary and I searched for her owners but were unsuccessful. Then, we tried to find her another home. That didn’t work either. Every time we gave her away, she eventually came back. So, we decided to keep her and named her “Bella,” which means “beautiful.”

When reading through Proverbs several months ago, I noticed a verse that had never registered in my mind: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.” Please understand that I am not claiming to be righteous, nor elevating animals to the level of humans. But notice this:

A distinct contrast is made by the author between a person who is righteous and one who is not: the one who is righteous has a gentleness that the wicked do not have. And, if one is truly righteous, it becomes obvious: if we as believers willingly give our hearts completely to God, He will remove every trace of “cruelty.” He will control us and bless us and enable us to demonstrate how much we value every gift He gives us - even animals. We expose who we truly are by the way we care for each gift God gives us.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, implant within us a gentle, gracious and loving heart. May we respect all of Your gifts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:10 The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

It’s true. God does have favorites!

It’s also true that He offers all of us the opportunity to become “one” of His favorites. And, it’s not that difficult, either. “Good people,” wrote Solomon, “obtain favor from the Lord.” It’s rather obvious that those who want “His favor,” as well as those who receive “His favor” are those who are “good people.”

Since most of us have our own definition of “good,” it is important to understand God’s definition of “good.” If we know His definition of “good” we then have a choice: we can either meet His requirements and receive “His favor” or decide that “His favor” is not worth the effort.

Throughout the Old Testament “good people” are the ones who are motivated by a Godly-love to do Godly-things. They willingly set their own needs and desires to the side while they serve the needs of others. Doing “God-things” is the driving force in their lives. The “good” are those who are able and willing, when they see someone in need, to do something about it - even if it causes a sacrifice. The “good” are those who work with God to bring honor to His name when one of His children is being treated unfairly or unjustly. The “good” are those who follow the example of Jesus: His life was about doing “good.” The “good” have God’s “seal of approval” on their lives.

“Those who devise wicked schemes” are the opposites of the “good people.” Their lives are about self, not sacrifice; their “schemes” are unfair, unjust, unholy; they lack decency, honesty, integrity or kindness. God’s wrath awaits them.

Prayer:  Lord, convict me, challenge me, discipline me and burden me until I become one of Your “good people.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:2 Good people obtain favor from the Lord, but he condemns those who devise wicked schemes.

“God’s gonna get you for that!”

There was little doubt in Sally’s mind about God’s justice. Any time anyone said any thing she didn’t want to hear, out would come her famous “threat.”  With red hair, pointed finger and a strong voice, she would continue, “You just wait and see. Maybe not before you fall asleep. But, I’d keep one eye open while I slept tonight if I were you! I know He’s coming after you for that! What you said was wrong.”

Everyone on campus loved Sally. Her enthusiasm for life, her happy smile, the twinkle in her eye.  Every time she uttered those words, the receiver could not help but look around for a truck or bolt of lightning. Or both. She was very convincing.

Justice belongs to God. He is righteous. He is fair. He has no favorites. He looks at things differently than we do: as He planned them to be. He will not allow others to harm His beloved children. His Son died for them.

“The righteous person is rescued from trouble,” said Solomon, “and it falls on the wicked instead.” He knew from personal experience that when the righteous are the objects of schemes to hurt them, God will intervene at the right time. Our God will never allow any injustice to go by without becoming personally involved. Even though we do not know what His justice will bring or when it will come, all of life is in His hands. He will right each wrong.

Isaiah summed it up this way: “For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.”

Prayer:  Help us, Father, to trust in Your justice. We are human and spiteful. You are fair and will do what is right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:8 The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead.
Recently, I received two fall catalogs from sporting goods companies. Both featured fall items that anyone who loves the outdoors would be pleased to own. Both had a focus on hiking and the wilderness. The clothes were so attractive that they seemed appropriate enough to wear to a wedding reception.

But the shoes were in a class by themselves. They all had a rugged appearance with built in safety features: steel shanks for stability, soles with rock-biting “teeth” to provide non-skid traction, comfortable inserts to prevent fatigue and fabric laces that would last for years.

Every picture that featured the shoes “in action” had a person walking up a steep incline with rocks, shrubs and stones that made the journey difficult. Some of the models had sticks in their hands to provide balance or to protect them from snakes or other animals. All appeared ready for “anything” with canteens of water and first aid kits. Whatever came their way would be subdued! They were able to conquer anything at any time. They were prepared for their journey through the wilderness.

But no matter how wisely they prepared for their journey through the wilderness, it did not prepare them for the journey through life. The journey through life is not about shoes or clothing: it is about walking in His righteousness. The only “safe-passage” is with Christ. “The righteousness of the blameless makes their path  straight, but the wicked are brought down by their deeds.”

God wants His best for us. But it comes with limitations.

Prayer:  Lord, may we stay close to You as we journey through life, knowing that we will be safe if we live right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:5 The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.
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