NO ONE CAN HIDE
“Ladies Bible Study” was a weekly event when I was a child. My mother always wanted me to be present but with certain limitations. “Larry,” she would remind me from time to time, “children are to be seen and not heard.” My role, unless called upon to say something, was to sit silently in a chair, smile occasionally, and not wiggle. Impossible for a small child.
But the “be seen” always put pressure on me. I had to wear a shirt and tie, make sure my shoes were shined and my pants had a “sharp crease” in them. And, I still follow those rules to this day whenever I attend a meeting or appear in public. So, things worked then and still do!
“Even small children are known by their actions,” wrote Solomon, “so is their conduct really pure and upright?” The word “actions” implies “patterns of behavior that become second nature and last a lifetime.” It’s called “second nature” for a reason: behaviors become routine and are done without much thinking. And this captures the idea of this verse: What is in our behavior is a reflection of our character. Or, what’s on the inside will be seen on the outside.
The words “Even small children?” may lead us to the wrong conclusion if we do not look carefully at what Solomon is saying. “Even” means “in addition to” adults. We see patterns in children that reveal what is at the center of their hearts. Without being aware or even thinking about it, our behaviors are very consistent, from childhood through adulthood. They do not vary, and we do what we do because it “gets” us what we want!
When we stand back and look at our lives and ask: “Is my life what I want it to be? Am I pleasing God and honoring Him?” If the answer is “No,” – it’s time to turn to the Lord and ask for His mercy, grace, and forgiveness. We must never give up on ourselves or others!
Prayer: Lord, help us to focus on how we think and then act. May we be careful in everything we say and do. May we reflect You, Your love, and grace and in all things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:11 Even small children are known by their actions,” wrote Solomon, “so is their conduct really pure and upright?
NO ONE’S PERFECT!
Paul echoed Solomon’s words when he wrote, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But Solomon forces us to address the same fact by asking a pointed question no one can escape: “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?”
Sometimes we look at sin as a big “lump of things we did or did not do.” Sin, we believe, has its origin outside of us or is the result of something that happened “to us,” and we simply have to “deal with it” the best we can by trying to “do better.” But that is impossible.
Sin is a “heart” problem and something we cannot change on our own. No one has ever been able to free themselves from sin. And here we find the reason.
If I were able to talk with Solomon, he might begin by asking, “Larry – have you kept your heart pure?” Heart, as you will recall, includes the sum total of “us” – our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, behaviors, values, and goals – that forms the way I relate to everything in life. And if our hearts are not pure, whatever we do will be impure. Only God can purify our hearts through the work of Christ. Only God can free us from an impure heart and the consequences of sin.
When Solomon posed this question, he framed it in such a way that anyone who answered it would be forced to respond by saying, “Not I.” In his wisdom, he forces us to look inside of ourselves, at our own heart, and answer for our own impurities. We each must answer for our own sins. There is no way for us to escape our individual accountability or responsibility for what we have done. No one has kept their heart pure. No not one!
God alone, through the work of Christ on the cross, can remove our sins and cleanse us!
Prayer: Father, how very grateful we are to have the promise of a pure heart that is available through Christ. May we, through Your grace, accept Him as our Savior and Lord! Amen!
Scripture For Today: Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’? Proverbs 20:9
WALKING OUR TALK
In other words, if I say it, I’ll do it!
Unfortunately, there is usually a gap between what some of us say and what we do. For whatever reason, we are much more willing to make a promise than keep it. Perhaps we want others to think more highly of us than we actually are. So, we say, “I’ll be happy to do this or help you with that or count on me to be there when you need me.” End of conversation and promise!
“Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man, who can find?” There seems to be a sadness in this proverb that suggests a sense of disappointment in the heart of Solomon. Whether someone had betrayed him or failed to keep their word is not known. But what we do know is that he contrasts the gap between words and deeds, saying and doing. There is an obvious difference between love professed and promised and love described and delivered.
The word “faithful” in this verse is the same word used when the writer spoke of God’s faithfulness to honor His word in the promises He made to the nation of Israel. It also speaks of the love God expects from us when we say that we love Him and will be faithful to Him. When we say, “Father I love You” – might it bring into God’s mind the later part of our verse: “But can I trust you to keep your word?”
This part of the verse obviously pained Solomon. It forces me to wonder what betrayal he might have experienced from his wife or children, friends or confidants. Words are inexpensive but actions always cost something to the one who upholds or honors what he promises.
How blest we are to understand what faithfulness is all about because of our relationship with a loving, heavenly Father! He always honors His word. He has never broken a promise.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for Your love and the promise that You will never leave us nor forsake us. Thank You for giving and keeping Your word proving that Your care. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:6 Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man, who can find?
THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRUE FRIEND
“A friend is someone who likes you in spite of anything you do and will do everything possible to keep you from making a mistake.” Everyone needs someone like that in their lives. There have been times in my life when, if a “friend” had been available, my decisions would have been different and not ended up in disaster.
“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” A friend gives us a place to begin when we are making difficult choices, serious decisions or intricate plans. More often than not we have stored feelings and thoughts, ideas and memories deep within our hearts. Over time we have forgotten them and their importance. Perhaps we have pushed them deep inside of us because we did not realize they would ever be important. Solomon calls them “deep waters” or “wells of wisdom that have been covered up over time.”
“A man of understanding” or a “good friend who understands us” will draw them out of us – much like bringing up a bucket of cold, refreshing water from a deep well. This friend or “man of understanding” forces us to examine our “motives or unclear thoughts” – whatever is within us – in light of God’s own wisdom. Our “friend” will not allow us to do what we intended to do without challenging our desires to make certain that they are pure, wholesome, and God-honoring.
This “man of understanding” must first admit that he is not “the” man of understanding. While that may sound contradictory, it isn’t. This “friend” must first listen to God’s wisdom before he can impart it to another “friend.” Then, there is the requirement to pray for and with us as we seek and listen for God’s guidance. This “man of understanding” receives his understanding from God.
We all need “a man or woman” of understanding in our lives. We need someone who will force us to seek God’s wisdom. We can all recall times, sadly, when we refused to do this.
Prayer: Lord, grant us one friend who will force us to examine our motives and goals and make certain that they are consistent with Your truth. We all need Your insight. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:5 The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.
ONE FACT REMAINS?
Is it wrong for Christians to drink? Does the Bible forbid drinking? Was the alcohol content of wine any different in Biblical times than it is today? Was it really wine at the Lord’s Supper or unfermented grape juice? What is the correct position for church members to take when it comes to attending functions where alcoholic beverages are served?
There never has been a time or place in my life when alcohol was not part of someone’s agenda. In fact, the thesis I wrote for my Master of Theology degree addressed this topic. The program took two years, and I visited some of the greatest libraries in the world looking for a definitive answer. I did much of my research at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Graduate Theological Union which were near the seminary I attended.
However, Solomon, who no doubt hosted many events that included alcoholic beverages, presents his observations about the consequences of drinking. It seems to eliminate any reason to look any further for an answer: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” The consequences for alcohol abuse are obvious.
Alcohol is a depressant. It allows what we consider sacred or reserved, valuable or private, personal and private, hidden and buried deep within us an opportunity to “escape” and harm ourselves and others. A “mocker” is someone who becomes arrogant and ridicules God by word and deed. The “mocker” has no need for anyone – including God – and can “do it all by myself.” And the “brawler” is one who is indiscreet, obnoxious, and has no shame.
So, the first part of the verse leads to the second: Alcohol leads people to act independently of God’s wisdom. Anyone who allows their behavior to be altered – one way or another – by any depressant is unwise – hence, ungodly. A “wise” person once said to me: “A wise person will not get drunk, and a drunk person is not wise.”
Prayer: Help us, Father, to realize the dangers that await us if we compromise Your wisdom. May we avoid the use of alcohol and the negative consequences that follow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
LIFE LONG LEARNING
Doctors and nurses, social workers and sheriffs, as well as all other licensed professionals, are required to participate in “continuing education” studies. They must do so to retain their licenses and be current in the latest legal statues and regulations that affect their profession. If they fail to complete the required number of hours to maintain their licenses, they lose their licenses and can no longer practice their profession.
That is not true for those of us who profess to accept the teachings of God’s Word. We have a choice in the matter. We may, if we “want” to, read and study His Word, attend church, pray and fellowship with other believers. What we do or do not do is a result of our love for and commitment to and walk with the Lord.
However, there are consequences if we do not follow the teachings of Scripture. For example, “Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” There is a warning in this verse that is best understood if we translate it to read: “Look, my children, if you ever stop listening to my teachings and refuse to follow what I have taught you, you will end up wandering through life and not know where you are going or what you are doing.”
Scripture, especially the writings of Solomon, contain many warnings about abandoning the teachings of God. This one is straight to the point. It is a thought-provoking contrast to what so many believe and practice today: “If it feels good, do it!” Although it may “feel good” today when you awaken to the realities of such foolishness it may be too late: “You will have strayed from the things of God.”
Wisely God gives us choices. He never has nor ever will force us to choose Him or His teachings. It’s up to us to choose. But if we do indeed love Him our choices will reflect His ways.
Prayer: Help us, Father, to choose a life dedicated to the pursuit of loving You, knowing You and following You. If we choose otherwise, Father, we will not be blest. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:27 Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
ONE MORE TIME. HOWEVER?
Solomon refuses to let us forget the theme of Proverbs: wisdom. He frequently reminds us of its significance, then demonstrates how we are to apply it to our daily activities, its effect on our present life, and ultimately our life with God in eternity. “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Perhaps a more accurate and easily understood way to translate this verse is “The fear of the Lord is life indeed!” Life, when lived in this manner means that those who accept and live life the way God designed it to be, “need never fear the Lord.”
It is easy to lose sight of what God intended life to be. If we look at life the way God created us to be, a reflection of His image, we will more likely than not discover that it is quite different from how we plan to live. It is not “adding” the fear of God to our lives, but living life as God specifically designed it to be and being afraid of not meeting His expectations. God created man to have a “divine dimension” above and beyond our “humanity.” God intended our manner of living to be evident and obvious to others.
First, God “designed” us to be devoted to Him alone. He is at the center of our “soul” – the sum total of our life – including our feelings, thoughts, and actions. Everything we think and feel and do are all focused on pleasing Him. We are dedicated to building His Kingdom on earth by using the gifts and talents He has given us to honor Him. It is living life in, through, and for Him.
Secondly, whatever we do proceeds or had its origins in Him. Others see His character in us: His love and grace, mercy and forgiveness; His compassion and comfort, and care of and for others. We will do His work in His world by doing His will.
Finally, we do these “things” by applying His wisdom to our lives and following His guidance every moment of every day.
Prayer: Lord, all this seems impossible and unattainable. But, it’s not about attaining. It’s about maintaining an attitude of wanting to be who You created us to be! Help us, Jesus! Amen!
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
DISCIPLINE OR DEATH?
Solomon was widely recognized for his insightful proverbs. There were many who did not worship his God but respected and followed the advice that was embedded in his wisdom. Many of his proverbs were written for his sons. But they were not intended to be limited to them. They were written to provide guidance for all fathers and mothers and children of all times and in all cultures.
A recurring theme throughout Proverbs is the importance of discipline. Solomon often reminds us that self-discipline is a life-long, never-ending necessity. But on one occasion he reminds fathers, which is also intended to include mothers, that there are some children who require life-long discipline which hopefully and eventually may accomplish its purpose. Though it may seem futile and a waste of time and effort, with no results, parents are to persevere!
“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death,” is a rather stark warning. There may be times when parents think that education or guidance or advice or opportunity or wealth may bring hope for their children’s future. But what value are all those things without discipline? The underlying rule to what he is saying is this: “The undisciplined life is not worth living because it will certainly end in death!”
What a vivid warning: If we who are parents do not make discipline the most important priority in the life of our children, we willingly – and now knowingly – contribute to their death! This is breathtaking and frightening. And notice that there is no age limit to discipline a child. Whenever a child needs discipline, parents are to step in and intervene! A child – or adult – is never beyond the need for discipline if it is necessary or required it will honor God.
Discipline may not be accepted and parents must never give up hope. And there is one simple, Biblical rule we are to apply: the “if/then” rule – If you want our help, then you must honor Him.
Prayer: It’s not easy, Father, to be a parent and discipline our children. But You discipline us and are our example. If we want Your blessings, we must obey Your rules. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death
GOD’S LOAN MANAGERS
It’s not something we normally think about. But, perhaps we should. Whatever gifts or talents God has given me must be used to His benefit – not mine. If whatever I have increased in value or worth, it is because He has granted me the increase. If there is any doubt in my mind about this fact, all I have to do is realize how quickly the profits of property or investments can be “wiped out.” Stock markets crash and property can be devalued, and there is nothing I can do other than “take the hit.” Events are beyond me – but not God.
Where can we invest our God-given “gifts” and be assured of the best returns? Be kind and give to the poor? No, I have not become an investment counselor. I am simply recommending that we follow the advice of Solomon: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He (not the poor) will reward him for what he has done.” The “wisdom” of Solomon encourages generosity toward those who are “poor” or seemingly lack God’s blessings. Further, if we care for the poor, we are being obedient to the teachings of Jesus as well as the teachings of Solomon.
What we do to and for the poor we are doing to and for the Lord. Jesus said that “what you do to the poor you do to me.” Could it be that God is testing our trust in Him by giving to the poor? When we see or hear about the “least of these” and do nothing, is God giving us a “head, heart and hand” test? We have God’s teachings in our heads but they do not honor Him unless we let them flow through our hearts and hands to those who lack in His blessings.
“Kind to the poor” as used here implies that the poor will never be able to repay us for what we do for them on behalf of God. However, it does, without a doubt, imply that we are “lending to the Lord” and it is God – not the poor – who becomes obligated to us for the “return on our investment.” We are in fact lending “it” to Him. And when He makes a promise, we can take it to the bank!
Prayer: Lord, we “guard” our possessions as though they belong to us. And when we do, we are only deceiving ourselves. May we realize that all we have is actually Yours! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done.
THE DANGER OF BEING A NONCONFORMIST
It’s only natural to want to “be my own person” or “follow the little drummer in my heart” and “find my path and follow it.” Who does not want to be an “individual, a one-of-a-kind, no-one-else like me?” Is that not what God really created me for? To be “me” and do “my thing?”
All of that “me” stuff is good – if not great – as long as it is done while staying obedient and true to God’s “instructions.” Otherwise, following one’s own ways leads to death. Do we find any advice from God about this “me” and “me alone?” So, if we want to guard our life and live well and not become involved in behaviors that lead to premature death, what do we do?
According to Solomon, “He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of His ways will die.” The word “instruction” is not open to our personal interpretation. It is instruction that comes from God through His Spirit. This is a “life or death proposition” that demands our unquestionable obedience if we want “the best, longest lasting life possible.”
Keeping God’s instructions is one of the best things we can do. In fact, a non-believer once said to me, “I cannot accept Jesus’ virgin birth or the miracles or the resurrection. But I do know that if I live according to the “instructions” of God and the teachings of Jesus, I will live a long, productive and rewarding life.” However, he was talking about principles – not power that comes from God through Christ. And herein lies the difference.
The “contemptuous” person is one who does not value living their life under God’s instructions. They look at His way as being a matter of choice rather than an obligation to be blessed with a long and full life. “Will die” is the exact opposite of “well-being and a long life.” It refers to a “premature death” that is the result of forsaking and abandoning God’s instructions.
Prayer: Give us, Lord, a willingness to be obedient to Your Word and Your ways. You have given us the power of choice: may we chose You, Your Word, and a blest life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 19:16 He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of His ways will die.