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Devotional for 3-20-2019

DOES GOD HAVE AN ATTITUDE?

“Attitude” is an interesting word. And it has different meanings to different people. There are times when we speak of a “good” attitude, and times when we speak of a “bad” attitude. Normally, an attitude refers to a position that someone has about something or even someone else. But, is it fair to say that our God, who is compassionate and caring, has an attitude?

“There are six things the Lord hates; seven are an abomination to Him.” Well, if we learn what those “things” are, is that all we have to worry about? Not really. These “things” are not intended to be an exhaustive list. We all make lists that we can add things to or remove things from – even God can do this. But these “things” are very serious to God and build on the list Solomon began earlier. Here, however, he reinforces the Lord’s attitude toward such “things.” Read the list very carefully and discover some “things” that God has an “attitude” toward:

1. Haughty eyes: A proud, condescending glare that comes from a heart full of arrogance and deceit.
2. A lying tongue: God only honors truth and purity.
3. Hands that shed innocent blood: Any person unjustly killed, which certainly includes the unborn child.
4. Hearts that “devise” wicked schemes: Using scams to hide the truth from simple and trusting folk.
5. Feet that rush to evil: Feet follow the plans of the heart and engage the soul in sin.
6. A false witness: Lies, to some, are as natural as breathing.
7. Strife-spreaders: “Trouble-makers” are all around us and will be destroyed.

Prayer: Lord, if we took Your Words as seriously as You do, what beautiful lives we would live! Help us to avoid these “things” and be pleasing to you. We need You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.

Devotional for 3-19-2019

ANOTHER WRONG WAY

It seems as though there are more wrong turns in life than there are right turns. Many begin their careers strong, have high ideals, clear goals and objectives, and then, for one reason or another, they drop from sight.

Normally, it is not from a disaster or one single event. It’s usually a combination of things. But, there is one “habit” that is mentioned again and again in Proverbs as a reason for failure: laziness. It is identified more than ten times as the reason for failure.

The word used for “laziness” leaves no room to wiggle away from the diagnosis: sluggard. If there is any living thing that most people want to avoid it is a “mollusk” or “slug.” In fact, the very word “slug” brings to the mind’s eye some “thing” that is lazy, sluggish, undirected and listless. Slugs seem to be on everyone’s’ “avoid at all costs” list because they endanger plant life.

However, there is something interesting about “sluggard.” In this verse, Solomon compared and contrasted the “way” of the sluggard to an ant. Now, on the one hand, few insects in life can be as annoying, bothersome, and troublesome as an ant.

On the other hand, however, ants show a vivid vision of a work ethic that is worthy of copying. Ants plan and prioritize, are motivated and industrious, disciplined and diligent, self-controlled and self-reliant — certainly a sign of “applied wisdom” that began with God in creation.

God’s wisdom is practical, simple and sensible and can lead to our success. The ant is a great example: its wisdom, as does ours, comes from God!

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for illustrating how little things in life can make a big difference. May we accept wisdom, that comes from You, guide us and guard us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 6:6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!

Devotional for 3-18-2019

SECRET SINS

Unbelievable, really, what some of us believe.

When I was a child, we had “bins” in our kitchen that contained flour and sugar. As a child, I had little use for either of them. So I thought.

One of the great memories of my childhood was the tent my Dad erected in the back yard. It was a place where many of the children in our neighborhood would gather to talk and hide, share secrets and snacks, and “get away from our parents’ watching eyes and listening ears.”

Sunday afternoon family “get-togethers” were a regular occurrence. Once, after a short discussion about the “fun” of smoking, we concluded that we were old enough to smoke. If it was OK for our parents to smoke, it was OK for us, too. There was only one problem: we had no tobacco, no paper to roll the tobacco in, and no matches. No problem.

I went inside for some matches and newspaper while a friend went into our garden and collected some “silk” from several ears of corn. That would serve as our tobacco. So, we carefully rolled the silk into the paper to make cigarettes. Everything was going well.

I decided to be the first to “light-up.” When I tried to inhale, the paper burst into flames and singed my eyebrows. “Teeman” had the solution: “Run into the kitchen and rub sugar over your eyebrows.” That, he promised, would hide the “evidence” – the singed eyebrows of my “accident.”

Unfortunately, my Dad came into the kitchen – and there I was: head deep inside the sugar bin. And, of course, nothing I said made sense or hid the truth.

“A man’s ways are in full view of the Lord.” (As well as others!)

Prayer: It’s difficult, if not impossible Lord, to hide anything from anybody, and certainly not possible to hide anything from You. May we live with nothing to hide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 5:21 For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. 

Devotional for 3-17-2019

LEARNING FROM OTHERS

“If you’re smart,” he said convincingly, “you can learn from the mistakes of others. You’ll never live long enough to make all of them yourself and learn the consequences of looking dumb and being foolish. And,” he continued, “you won’t have to pay the high price some of us have had to pay for our mistakes.”

Perhaps that was the intent of Solomon when he wrote, “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight.” This is a very stern warning from an experienced, and perhaps, “worldly-wise” father to his son. Pay attention and listen well are very similar in their intent. “Son, listen up, or else you’ll be sorry!” Not sorry today for the mistakes of today – for we rarely experience immediate consequences for our wrongful behavior. But there will be a payday – someday! We can be certain of being rewarded, or punished for everything we do.

Sexual indiscretion has serious, and very often, life-long consequences. Consequences that impact more than those involved in “sex outside of marriage.” God very clearly and carefully defined the boundaries: a rich sexual relationship is to be confined to and experienced within the bonds of the marriage covenant. No exceptions!

Society ridicules such a “narrow view” of sex. However, when we look at the tragic consequences of “casual sex,” it is heartbreaking: unwanted children, rampant abortions, broken hearts and homes, disease, children growing up without their “mom” or “dad.” Chose God’s way!

Prayer: How costly, Father, is the price we pay when we disobey Your laws. Give us Your strength to obey Your teachings and commands we pray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight. 

Devotional for 3-16-2019

A FORTIFIED FOCUS

Fifty-eight percent of the foods on the shelves of our grocery stores are “fortified.” Researchers claim that they make a significant contribution to the quality and value of the food we eat. Additionally, many of our foods in cans, in boxes, in the meat and dairy isles or in the fruit and vegetable sections of the stores where we shop have been “genetically modified” in one way or another. Biologists claim that it makes the products last longer, tastier, and more nutritious.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you!” Guide your eyes and know where you are going warns Solomon. We are to “fortify” the way we view and live life with God’s wisdom, power, and strength, and then be careful where we place our feet. In other words, stay focused on using God’s wisdom and apply it to life!

The fool, the ones who choose not to acknowledge the existence or power of God, is easily distracted. Any image that “springs-up” or appears with no warning is a call to lure the “fool” into a trap. Jesus said that the “eye is the lamp of the body” and will project on the screen of our minds an image that quickly and without warning leads the “fool” astray. The eyes, once seduced, need more and more entertainment until, rather than being lured or enticed, actually search with determination for images and that are corrupt, vile and destructive to keep their life “exciting.”

“Looking straight ahead” and “fixing His gaze” is what Jesus did during His life’s journey. He “resolutely” set out for Jerusalem – fortified by God. Can we do less if we love Him?

Prayer: God, grant us the willingness to plant Your wisdom so deeply in our hearts that we will stay focused on Your Word, Your will, Your way, and Your work! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.

Devotional for 3-15-2019

WHAT MATTERS MOST

It is common to hear a Christian say that the “most important day of my life was the day I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.” It’s also common to hear them say that “it wasn’t long before I began to face the same old problems, was tempted and fell back into my sinful ways.” How amazing that, centuries ago, Solomon gave us some sound, solid advice for the new Christian as well as Christians of all ages and stages in their walk with the Lord. What was it?

“Above all else care for your loved ones…work hard…exercise daily…be a good person!” No! “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

If there is any verse that we as Christians must take to heart, it is a verse that warns us to “guard our hearts!” There is so much more to our hearts than the “sentimental” side that we read of in novels and hear of in songs. The heart is where life begins and ends; it is where habits, values, wills, and emotions begin. In our hearts is where we find the answers to “who we are” and “what the difference is between ourselves and others,” and “what matters most,” and “what we will give our lives to and for.” It is from our “hearts” that “the real me” springs forth when we least expect it, and causes us to want to hide from embarrassment when we are finally “uncovered.”

What fills our hearts eventually flows into our lives and the lives of others. This “overflow” is who we are. If we fill our hearts with His love, grace, hope, and wisdom, others will see Him.

Prayer: Father, may we relentlessly guard our hearts against anything that would destroy us and our walk with You. Give us your strength to stand firm! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. 

Devotional for 3-14-2019

MANY PARTS – ONE PERSON

Years ago my counseling practice was located in a building with a family physician and his staff. We had many productive discussions about how best we could work together to meet the needs of patients who were struggling with both physical and emotional issues of life.

Again and again, Dr. Howard Press would look me in the eye and say, “Larry, don’t look at the person’s problem, look at the whole person. If you only look at the problem, you will only see a small part of the person. Every person has many parts, and you must be certain that all of the parts are working together properly or the person won’t work properly.” Then, he would give me his “lecture” on the “person as a complex network of systems.” If one of the systems didn’t work properly, he would remind me, the other systems will eventually fail.

“Think of the cardiovascular system,” he would say. “If the heart does not pump blood to the brain, the person will die. It must also pump blood to the stomach, or the digestive system will fail. What good is the brain or the stomach if the heart quits?” It certainly made sense.

But, this idea did not begin with Howard. We read in Proverbs that God’s words of wisdom bring “life…and health to a man’s whole body.” The benefits of “walking” in God’s wisdom can do two things: It can keep us from making foolish decisions that will erode our spiritual, mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. And, if we are not well, it can provide guidance that will bring us back to a state of “wholeness” through Christ’s forgiveness and healing power.

Prayer: Lord, the solution to each problem we have is in Your Word. May we read it, accept it, and follow Your ways! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:22 For they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.

Devotional for 3-13-2019

IT’S WHAT’S INSIDE THAT COUNTS

“Pay attention to what I say…listen closely to my words and do not let them out of your sight…and keep them within your heart,” wrote Solomon.

Most of us grow up hearing the command: “Pay attention!” It is a normal part of everyone’s vocabulary – especially parents and teachers. And there are times when we do “pay attention” and accept the “command” and times when we do not. “Paying attention” is a choice, and we all have memories of when we wish we had chosen to do what we were asked to “pay attention to?.” And, there are times when we did pay “attention,” and it made no difference.

“Sight” and “heart,” however, when attached to “pay attention” elevate its significance. We have talked about the word “heart.” It refers to our “emotions and wills,” our “attitudes and values.” In other words, our heart is the “real me,” our “true self” or the “sum total” of all I am: word, thought, and deed. It’s who I am when I think no one is watching me.

Planting “wisdom” within our hearts is a very important responsibility. There is an obvious cycle that flows from the head to the heart and from the heart to the hand – or, our behavior. So, in essence, we can actually “see” what comes from our hearts and the hearts of others. We may never see anyone’s “heart,” but we can certainly “see” what they have “planted” in their hearts.

The same is true of us. Others who watch us – our families and friends, our associates at work, and anyone anywhere will know eventually, what’s “in” our hearts by what we do and say. “Out of the depth of the heart” come words and deeds that are the real “me!”

Prayer: Lord, we can never fool You, and we only fool others briefly. We only fool ourselves if we think we are more than we are. Forgive our folly and cleanse us! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:20-21 My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart. 

Devotional for 3-12-2019

CAUTION! DANGER AHEAD

Highway signs and signals can be very helpful if we follow their directions and commands. If we “read and heed” them, safe passage is usually assured. But, if for some reason we go against the warnings – danger lurks.

In fifteen words, Solomon gives us some critical advice: “Avoid it, do not travel on it, turn from it, and go on your way!”

But what is this “it?”

The “path of the wicked” or “the way of wicked men.” That’s simple and easy to read. But we are inclined to say, “Simple may not always be easy!”

Again and again, we are encouraged to walk in “paths of righteousness.” In this verse, however, we are given four important tactics for “safe passage.”

Avoid it: (temptation): What a simple first step. How much better life would be for all of us if we did everything we could to avoid temptation. Allowing ourselves to become intrigued by the lusts of the world is where evil begins.

Travel by it: means that we will stay as far away as possible from being tempted. If we know some “thing” can destroy our walk with God, run quickly from it.

Turn from it: means that we activate our will immediately and do not delay or hesitate to seek refuge in God.

Get away from it as soon as possible: To delay is to invite disaster and defeat. Hesitation allows time for the devil to seduce us. Run into the arms of God for His protection!

Prayer: We thank You, Father, for giving us guidance that is simple and easy to follow. Now, give us Your strength, power, and courage to follow it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:15 Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving. 

Devotional for 3-11-2019

SAFE PASSAGE

Well over a year ago, I underwent spinal surgery. Not long after that, it was necessary for more surgery on another section on my spine. God was very gracious to me, and both were successful. He blessed the skills of the surgeons as they corrected various problems that had developed over the years.

During a post-surgical consultation, one of them asked, “Larry, walk over to the door, turn around and then walk back toward me.” I followed his instructions and, after carefully watching every step, he asked me to repeat the process.

After a moment he asked, “Do you feel like you are off balance? And did you notice your feet seemed to oppose the directions you wanted them to travel?”

“Well, yes,” I replied, “but I thought those two conditions would correct themselves after some time.”

“Oh, no,” he said. “You’ll need some extensive physical therapy to correct those problems.”

Physical therapy is important to correct physical problems. But only spiritual therapy can solve spiritual problems. Solomon said that if we apply God’s wisdom to our lives, our steps will be secure at all times. Our steps will not be “hampered” – or restricted – by the obstacles of life. We will be able to take long, safe, secure strides if we follow His will. He also said that “when we run we will not stumble” and our feet will never become “ensnared by the traps” of this world.

Prayer: Lord, unite our heads, hearts, hands and feet so that we are completely surrendered in service to You in all that we do. Assure us that if we follow Your will, our paths will be safe, our journeys enjoyable, and our lives satisfying! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture For Today: Proverbs 4:12 When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble.

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