Thursday, April 30, 2015

Rewarded, Because...

“Give and it will be given unto you,” said Jesus. But it does not end there. He continued His promise by adding, “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

As we come to the close of our “Seeds of Wisdom” there can be no more fitting words for us to consider than the words in the last verse of Proverbs: “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” God does indeed reward those who are faithful to His Word, those who follow His instructions and those who minister to the needs of family, friends and others.

This “wife of noble character” did many “good things.” As a result of her godly living and disciplined life, she is to be recognized and rewarded by being “praised at the city gate.” The city gate is where the husband had been recognized for his wife of “noble character.” But, now the recognition is focused on her for a life of selfless-service, family-focus and faithfulness.

Previously, he was recognized for her faithfulness to God and bringing honor to his name. Now, it is her turn to be praised. Might it be that it was her husband who led the chorus of praise at the city gate? “Let’s give a shout for my wife of ‘noble character!’ Let’s give her the recognition she deserves!”

This is no ordinary woman: she is a “gracious woman who attained honor.” What a model wife and mother! What a tribute to a life well lived! What an example for all women!

Boaz once said to Ruth: “And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsman know you are a woman of noble character.”

Prayer:  God, bless all women everywhere who seek to honor You, their husbands and children as women of “noble character.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

For Want Of Praise

One important responsibility that many husbands seem to neglect is giving praise to their wives. Their comments made to others are often critical, unkind, unnecessary and unbecoming. In fact, much to my disappointment, I have listened while some husbands have made ugly statements about their wives to other men and even to large groups.

The disgust of degrading one’s wife is not whether or not the statements have any degree of truth in them, but what right does a husband have to criticize her publicly? What has he done to diminish the beauty and elegance of the bride he chose to marry? Has he been supportive and demonstrated sacrificial love? Where has the “love of his life” gone? And what did he do to “injure” the person he “could not live without?” How God must grieve when such behavior occurs.

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all,” would be encouraging words to any wife. Set aside false measures of attainment for a moment and overlook flaws and faults. Kind words and “husbandly help” and support can solve most problems in a relationship. Too often wives do their very best only to be criticized and condemned and not offered help.

In my many years as a pastor and family counselor, a common denominator in failed relationships was criticism and condemnation. It did not matter what the root causes were, one or the other would seize on a symptom and enlarge it beyond any possibility of resolution and the result led to disaster. How sad!

Consider the rewards of praise. We all need it. We all want it. The demands of managing a home and raising children are often dumped on the wife and when expectations are unmet, criticism begins, praise ends and families unravel unnecessarily.

Prayer: Lord, enable husbands to search for ways to praise their “helpmates” and not hurt or harm them by wicked words. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Mother's Desired Name

Whenever we had any need, we would say “Ma!” If we faced a problem, were in trouble, had a banged up knee or a cut or bruise, we would still say “Ma.” Often it would be “Thanks, Ma” or “Please, Ma?” even “Ma, why me?” or “Ma! I need help!” But all of us called her “Ma.” It contained feelings of warmth and comfort, reassurance in times of trouble and difficulty, or happy smiles and laughing voices on special occasions. Now it brings precious memories of a saint reading her Bible, kneeling quietly in prayer for her children, or leading a large number of children from Garfield Elementary School to Broadway Baptist Church for a Child Evangelism class. She deserved to be called blessed!

Solomon raised the bar on motherhood to its highest level when he wrote, “Her children rise up and call her blessed, her husband also and he praises her.” This verse suggests a scene at a banquet or special gathering when children gather together and publicly announce to the world that their mother is worthy of being called “Blessed.” It is not a term that is used to praise God. Its strict use is for one person to praise another person for some outstanding accomplishment. In this instance, it is children praising their mother for her influence on and in their lives by imparting God’s wisdom as their foundation for successful living and the benefits they have received from applying it to their lives.

The husband is also part of the celebration and “he also praises her.” What a beautiful picture of a family! Too often we hear of dysfunctional families, broken families, single-parent families, blended families and neglected families - every type of family imaginable except families that have a mother who is called “blessed” by her children and “praised” by her husband.

We desperately need homes filled with such mothers.

Prayer: God, give us Christian homes! Homes where the Bible is taught and lived and homes filled with Your love! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Nothing To Chance!

During World War II all Americans were cautious and vigilant about the things they said and did. They did not want to give the enemy any opportunity to gain an advantage that could harm our country.

One of the slogans was “Your resolution will bring us victory!” Being resolute - or determined, and not wavering in one’s opinion, purpose or position - was one of the most quoted. It was a rallying cry that people took to heart because they could not entertain the possibility of defeat.

No wonder Solomon wrote, “She watches over the affairs of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” He knew the alternative of being slothful and compromising, inconsistent and careless, was disaster. “Watching” is a full-time responsibility and an important priority for those God calls to be a “faithful household administrator.”  No matter what other tasks or duties are part of her “job description,” this “wife of noble character” never allows her attention to become diluted or her mind to be diverted to less important items than her household. She is thoroughly absorbed in the things that matter most.

“Idleness” does not imply that this “wife” would be one who watches “soaps” or spends her time foolishly “tweeting” or on Facebook. Not at all. It refers to a “wife” who believes strongly in the fact that whatever she has is a result of her faithfulness to her calling as a wife. She has joyously and graciously fulfilled her obligations as wife, mother, household administrator and witness of the Love of God to all whom He brings into her life.

She is deserving of all of the blessings and benefits of God that she has received because of her untiring faithfulness to God and her fidelity to her husband, children and community.

Prayer: Father, we join our hearts and pray that You will bless those noble wives who serve You with distinction! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Faithful Means Consistent

Imagine what it would be like to go to bed at night and wonder if the sun would be there to greet us in the morning. Or, to fear that the sun would stand still and scorch the earth because the universe lost its way. Or, to see a drought begin and worry that the rain will never come again.

We live in an orderly, predictable universe. It’s the way God created and planned it to be. It is, simply stated, a picture of a God who is faithful, dependable, reliable and trustworthy. Who He was yesterday He will be today and when the sun sets this evening, it will not go into hiding but will rise again tomorrow because of the enduring faithfulness of God.

Faithfulness is important because it gives us the assurance of stability and structure. It creates trust and the possibility of planning. Though we may not desire some of the “contents” that come with predictability, at least we can prepare for them.

God’s covenant with the children of Israel gave them the assurance of His faithfulness. Other gods were created by men but our God is the One who created man. He promised to guide, guard and grant us mercy, grace and salvation because of His great love for His creation.

“Wisdom” speaks of this God, to be sure. But, to be faithful to Him in all things and pass this wisdom on to children as mothers and mentors is something our God desires to be an important priority in Christian homes. “She speaks with God’s wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

Prayer:  Father, we pray for Your strength and dignity to fill all who are called by You to be mothers and mentors. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Prepared For the Future

While growing up I remember an advertisement that was very popular: “Clothing makes the man.” It’s a slogan from the past that has been overcome by ads that are much different. Each time I heard it, I would stop, look at what I was wearing and wonder if it would be a help or a hindrance to what I wanted to accomplish.

Though the slogan is a thing of the past, clothes continue to contribute to the opinions others form about us. And we, also, do the same. More often than not we judge others by their clothing.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come,” are words that describe the “woman of noble character.” How do we identify the garments of “strength and dignity” and is it ever wise to “laugh at the future?”

“Men,” God’s Word reminds us, “look at what people wear. God looks at the person’s heart.” Character and values are something that flow from the inside of a person. The essential qualities described here refer to God at work in the lives of those who surrender their lives to Him. Strength comes from His presence within and dignity is the result of being who He wants us to be so we can walk in a “just pride” because we are His very own children.

When we walk in His strength and not our own and when we realize the benefits of being “His child,” there is no reason to “fear the days to come.” We are in “good hands,” His hands and that is what matters most.

Prayer: Often, Father, we fail to recognize all that we can have through You. Open our heart to Your greatness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Unselfish Service

Where do service and charity end? Certainly, not in the home. Selfish homes produce selfish children and God’s Kingdom and God’s world suffers. What can be done to change this condition?

“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”

There is an obvious route that travels from the head to the heart to the hands. God’s Word enters our lives through our head. We hear the Word preached and taught and read and meditate on the Word each day. But it must not stop there. It must reach into our hearts - the very center of our lives and then move outward through our hands in service and charity to others. It’s the head, heart, hands conception.

What is in our hearts always comes out in our lives. Nobel character is of little good if the character is an end in itself. In fact, the sign of our character is seen in what we do in our homes first and then God’s world. One pastor said, “A saving faith is always seen in serving others.” If we are saved, we will serve.

There can be little doubt that our love for God is always seen in our attitude and actions toward those in need. Proverbs contains many warnings about those who refuse to be charitable and in fact reminds us that giving to the poor is the same as lending to God.

“Open arms and extended” hands, however, is much more than giving “things.” It is giving one’s self. It includes time, talents and teaching God’s way to others.

Prayer: Father, we owe so much to others because of what You have given us. May we all serve sacrificially! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Being Good and Doing Good

Character counts. Character makes a difference. Character can be measured. Character is the difference that God brings to our lives. Character matters because God matters. When He is present and in control of our lives, everything changes because He changes everything. We view life differently because we view life through His eyes, hear voices through His ears, feel pain as He feels pain and give willingly as He willingly gave us His Son.

This “wife of noble character” has an impact on every aspect of her husband’s life: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Imagine an obituary that included that statement, and ended with the words that included “whatever he accomplished in life was because of her homemaking talents and dedication to the well-being of her family.” Certainly a stretch in today’s environment. But, that’s the implication and message.

An important message in this verse is that the wife is focused on the career of her husband and her home. If the wife has a career outside of the home it is secondary to everything else. This is far different from what we see in society today. The career of the husband and the management of the home is first and foremost.

Notice one small, three letter word: her. It may be a subtle implication but the burden for managing the home seems to shift from the wife to the husband if she is called home before him. Husbands and fathers need to be “in training” to assume her tasks if necessary.

Prayer: We pray Lord, for husbands and fathers who willingly become involved in caring for their homes. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Unquestioned Confidence

Character breeds confidence. When we cannot have complete confidence in others, doubts arise and questions surface. We worry and wonder, watch and wait for things to go wrong. We sense an uneasiness and do not know what to expect. Perhaps that is why Solomon wrote, “Her husband has full confidence in her (this wife of noble character) and lacks nothing of value.”
“Full confidence” is a broad, sweeping term and covers all of the activities in a home. It includes raising children, managing the family’s finances, the reputation of the family - whatever is included in developing the image of the family in the community. Everything is included in the term “full confidence.”
“Full confidence” is a remarkable term because it is the same term that is used or applied to the term “confidence in the Lord.” Throughout the entire Old Testament it is only used twice in reference to having “confidence” in another person.
This value of having such “confidence” in one’s wife is important because it frees up the husband to become involved in occupational, civic and religious duties. The husband of a “wife of noble character” can commit himself to what God has called him to do because his household is in good, competent and safe hands.
Notice, too, that the husband “lacks nothing of value.” The home is in “good hands” and the “resources,” whether financial, reputation or character will increase.
Prayer: Lord, there is a great need in Kingdom work for wives to know You, love You and serve You faithfully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Search Continues

Consider this: there are twenty-one letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Beginning at verse ten, there are twenty-two letters, forming an acrostic, that begin with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet in the final chapter of Proverbs. Obviously, believing that the Holy Spirit is the infallible author of each verse in the Bible, this did not happen by accident. Certainly there is a significant message contained in these few verses, and the use of the acrostic model was used to make them easy to memorize.

First, the acrostic was used to provide a helpful way to organize information for future use. A wife of noble character, as pictured in these few verses, includes items that young women would want to include in their resumes as they matured. It is also the criteria for men to apply to women when seeking a wife. The traits that are presented in these verses are both goals to be achieved and traits to be sought.

Second, the term noble implies capabilities, character and efficiency. It is the same term used when a wife is spoken of as the crown of her husband.

Third, “who can find?” The noble wife is rare and not easily found. However, it does not mean that the search is not worth the effort. Quite the contrary.

Ruth was described as a “woman of noble character.” Her story echoes throughout history. How fortunate we are that God gave an example for women to follow and men to search for in a wife.

Prayer: Lord, how blest we are that You provide us with detailed instructions on what matters most in life! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Misplaced Trust

We all inherit the same sinful nature at birth. It is very evident in the way we think and act. We have an “inbred” dependence on our subjective, self-focused, self-centered, or perhaps might we be more honest and say “sinful” selves. We tend to rely on our God-given gifts as something we have accomplished on our own apart from Him. It is as though we took a lump of clay from the ground and fashioned a person, endowed him with skills and abilities and said, “Now, let’s do something that we can be proud of!”

“He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” This statement reminds us of the wisdom contained in another proverb: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understandings.” Once again in his wisdom and our lack of it, Solomon took time to remind us of how we easily turn to ourselves rather than God. Trusting in ourselves is normal and natural but not without demonstrating to ourselves, others and God that we are fools.

Notice this: “A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.” This theme, flowing throughout proverbs, is so very important when we relate it to our sinful nature. To “trust in” is difficult because it signals to the world that what we do is not of ourselves but is a gift from God and to God be the glory!

Greed is who we are - though not a word that we want to be associated with. It is something most of us try to avoid. Yet, the only option is to give credit to God.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for seeing who we can be in spite of ourselves. Make us willing to let go and let God! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 28:26 Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Faithfulness Is Mutual

Memories are a gift from God. However, what we do with them, how they affect us or the difference they have on our way of living is what matters most.

When we recall the many gifts that God grants to us each day, do we take enough time to pause and thank Him and share the fact of His love, grace and mercy with family and friends?

When He brings healing and wellness to us and our loved ones, do we give Him the credit He deserves or do we think that He is obligated to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves?

When our financial needs are met and we have a surplus, do we give a “thank you offering” and praise Him for blessing us and giving us more than we deserve?

“A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished,” is a proverb worth noting carefully. God does indeed bless those who are faithful - often much more than can be imagined or deserved. Unfortunately, there are those who believe they have earned what they have accumulated and therefore do not need to give God credit or praise. How sad.

We have what we have because of God’s grace. Whatever we have is a result of Him showing us His favor. The strength and abilities I have come from Him and the opportunities I have to use them come from Him. If we use them to “get rich” without recognizing it’s all because of Him, we can expect a tragic ending.

Prayer: We pray, Father, for grateful hearts. May we never cease to recognize Your goodness and faithfulness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 28:20 A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Eyes of Discernment

Beware the “buts” of life. They are dangerous.

“You know I really love Larry, but he’s too smart for his own good.” Or…

“You know Tony is a great teacher, but he uses the NLT instead of the KJV in class.” Or…

“Jana does a great job keeping all of the records of the Institute, but she made a mistake on my grades.” Or…

“I love the ‘Seeds,’ but wish they used a different, larger sized print.” Or…

And the list goes on.

We use “buts” to hide our true feelings and intentions. We speak the truth and then try to cover it up so others will think we are tentative, thoughtful and want to give the other the benefit of the doubt. In other words, we want it both ways so we won’t be convicted of our true position or feelings.

“A rich man may be wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him.”  In other words, the rich is unable to see himself for all the good things he is doing. He is unaware of his inadequacies, his deceit, his taking advantage of others, even his greed. Perhaps refuses to recognize might be a better way to put it than unaware.

What is more important than the words we use to describe others is the fact that we are more likely to see the faults and failures in others than the flaws and failures in ourselves. We must look inward not outward.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to look at ourselves in light of Your Word and correct ourselves before we try to correct others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 28:11 The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.

Friday, April 17, 2015

On Being 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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Committed Living

Throughout the Book of Proverbs, Solomon does not allow “wiggle” room. It is either “this is the way” or “that is the way” or “do not forget the way.” It’s like a visit to a physician: “If you want to be healthy, you must follow these directions and take this prescription.” If anyone has a desire to honor God, live a life that is pleasing to the Lord, avoid doing what is wrong, walk in ways of the Lord, Solomon leaves no doubt about what we are to do. He is also very clear about the dangers and consequences of following our own ways and selfish ends.

“Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.” There is little doubt about who Solomon had in mind when he wrote these words: Evil men are those who are committed to doing evil things. When we examine the lives of “evil men” we find evidence of evil thoughts, evil deeds and evil friends. Their lives are so centered on acts of evil that they have lost their understanding of justice. Their lives are so corrupt, so devious and so unjust that they cannot see or even recognize “right from wrong.”

On the other hand, those who “seek the Lord” are fully capable of making the right choice when facing a difficult decision. From his own experience as a leader and from following the advice of his father, King David, Solomon learned that if anyone has a commitment to do what God will honor, God will grant that request. When our thoughts are God’s thoughts, choices become clear.

Prayer:  Empower us, Father, with the strength and courage that comes from Your Word, to do what is right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 28:5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Peace of a Clean Conscience

“God’s gonna’ get you for that!”
Every time someone did something that Brenda thought was “unChristian” by her standards, she would wag her finger and repeat her warning that was known by everyone on campus. Ever since she arrived with her freshman class, and now about to graduate with honors, she served with distinction as the campus “conscience.”
Perhaps we would make life better for others if we each had our own personal “conscience cop” - one who would go before us and alert or warn us before we did something sinful. Most of us can quote Paul’s wise words about “no temptation without God’s spirit giving us some way out.” Most of us, however, think of that after we have “gone astray” or are overwhelmed by the temptation and plead for “grace and mercy” because we are only “too human and still growing in Christ.”
Solomon knew the “peace that can come from a clean conscience.” No doubt he had a few “skeletons” in his closet, as we all do, and wanted to share some of his “self-help” wisdom and insight on “worry-free” living. So he provides us with a warning that will work for all of us all of the time: “The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
The “key” is righteous living. Though easier said than done, we can free our minds from guilt and fear by living by and through the Word of God in the power of Christ. We all have a past that follows us wherever we go. But, we also have “Christ in us” who can protect us.
Prayer: Father, Your Word is before us but will do no good until it is within us. Fill our lives with Your power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture for Today: Proverbs 28:1 The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Making History

There is a vast difference between a legacy and an inheritance. An inheritance is a collection of “things” that are passed on from one generation to another. It is usually considered to be wealth or the things that can be bought with money or negotiated by “deals” between individuals or sometimes items that are “traded.”

A “legacy” is much different. It is composed of the opinions and observations of others who watch us as we make our way through life. It is a result of what we do, the things we say, and how well we serve or do not serve others and our attitudes about the material things and temporal things in life. Unfortunately, for most, it is more important to leave an inheritance for others than a legacy that inspires and challenges others. Most want to be remembered for the balance sheet of life than the good they do for God and others.

“For riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations,” wrote the wisest and one of the wealthiest men of history. His net worth exceeded one hundred-sixty billion dollars. Obviously, he knew how to “make a dollar” but was wise enough to know that it was impossible to keep.

Now, as we look at his-story we see what he “left behind” that has meaning and enduring value was not his wealth, but his legacy. Year after year and century after century people look to his writings for God’s wisdom and guidance, God’s insights and promises, God’s values and the blessings that come from honoring Him.

Prayer: Lord, grant us Your insight, wisdom and courage to leave a legacy of service to others as You did. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:24 for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Praise Worthy?

“He who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall be substituted,” was the favorite “proverb” of Ray O., a dear friend during my days in college. Whenever anyone would begin to describe their “greatness” or why they were “superior” to anyone, he would immediately reach for his Bible. He would furrow his brow, focus his eyes, and begin to fumble through the pages of the Word and say, “I know that verse is in here somewhere. I read it just this morning during my devotions. Oh well, trust me. You know it has to be here somewhere! It’s the truth and you know where to go for truth.”

He was never able to find the verse, but we all knew what he was talking about. Some people, usually those who have accomplished little, want to make sure that we think they are “super heroes.” For whatever reason, perhaps fear of being overlooked or under-appreciated, they have the need to “bore” us with words that contradict the reality of their lives.

Perhaps Ray was looking for the proverb that supports his position: “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise of others.” There are proven ways to refine metals to make certain that they contain no impurities. When we speak of ourselves, however, it is easy to forgo the refiner’s fire, and praise ourselves to make good impressions. All of us want the respect and esteem of others. It is normal. But the most accurate observations of who we are come from reading God’s Word and the perceptions of others.

Prayer: Help us Father, to work diligently and with determination to develop a reputation worthy of praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:21 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How We Are Seen

Among the many photos I have collected over the years is one of a bridge in Yosemite Falls. Actually, it is the picture of a bridge and its reflection in still waters. When viewed, it appears to become an oval with water in between two bridges. The top of the photo is the actual bridge while the reflection in the water is an exact replica of the bridge. They both seem to be the same with the water dividing them.

Reflections are an interesting part of life. One psychologist believes that children who grow up without seeing their image in mirrors are at a disadvantage. He is convinced that they are unable to develop a picture of what they look like, who they are. As a result they cannot develop their identity and become mentally healthy people. Although this argument is open to debate, what we see when we look into a mirror may be much more than an image of ourselves: it is a reflection of our heart.

“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Are we being encouraged to “look deep within ourselves” to discover who we are? Are we to sit and contemplate our identity? Are we to wonder who we are and where we are going without resolving the problem?

First, God’s Word presents the best picture of who we are and where we are going without His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. In Him we find our true identity. We also have the insights of those who speak on His behalf as they share His truth with us.

Prayer: Lord, may we see ourselves as You see us and change our ways and become worthy to bear Your name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:19 As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Preparing Wisely

All through college it was my desire to be on the debate team. I would sit quietly, listen carefully and watch intently as the “team” would present their side of an issue. When finished, the other team would take “issue” with their position and attempt to dismantle the carefully stated opposing view. Although I saw the debate, I did not see the preparation. Both teams came to the “contest” thoroughly and carefully prepared. Both teams expected to win. Both teams were mentally alert and physically prepared. Both teams were ready to do battle with words, ideas, thoughts and illustrations.

We saw the debate but we never saw what the teams did to prepare for the debate. Their preparation, however, is exposed by a proverb of Solomon: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Knives are first shaped and fashioned for their intended use. They are crafted for a special or specific purpose and then polished to give them beauty and elegance. The handle must “fit” properly and be smoothed to perfection for a sure grip. But the final step in the process is when they are sharpened by the knife-maker. The work is completed when one metal is used against another metal to sharpen the blade to perfection.

No one knows everything about anything. We all have “mental” gaps and “space” in our brains for more knowledge, wisdom and insight. Though the Bible is the best place to prepare for life, we must use other resources - books and friends - to “sharpen” our minds.

Prayer: Father, bring others into our lives who will challenge our thoughts and ideas to become our best. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Watch Your Step!

We live in a “politically correct” society. Each day brings new challenges and attacks on our faith, beliefs, values, families, churches, and… the list, actually seems endless. What was once the source of strength, hope, courage, encouragement, inspiration, wisdom, guidance and the guardian of our lives - God’s Holy Word - has now become irrelevant, constantly under attack by those who are godless, and has been replaced by humanism.

Listen, however, to the wise insight of Solomon: “The prudent see danger and take refuge; but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” There is a very important distinction between “the prudent” and “the simple.” The “simple” are those who are “open-minded” to whatever is popular at the moment. They have no standards or criteria to distinguish between right and wrong. If it is in fashion or fashionable, popular or predominate in the lives of celebrities or politicians, the “simple” fall in line and become believers and leaders in the revolt to take God from His rightful place in His world.

But “the prudent” are different. They are filled with insight and good judgment. They carefully view all alternatives before making a decision. They are careful and cautious and use good judgment in all situations. In this verse “prudent” people are people who apply God’s wisdom to life’s situations and follow His directions.

In another proverb Solomon wrote, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” Thank God for His wisdom!

Prayer: Thank You, God, for providing us standards for successful living. May our decisions reflect prudence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:12 The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pass It On

Many parents strive to leave an inheritance for their children. They have a sense of obligation and duty to work and sacrifice to make certain that those they leave behind will have more than they did. They didn’t have much of this “world’s goods” so they want to make life a little easier and more comfortable for others who are left behind.

It is one thing to leave an inheritance and quite another to leave a legacy. An inheritance is made up of “things” - monetary, physical, tangible, negotiable items that have a “cash value” attached to them. However, a legacy is quite different.

While not all parents leave an inheritance for their children, all parents leave their children a legacy. Legacies are the core values of life that are passed on to children that guide and guard them. It is a process of instilling attitudes in children that makes life work to the glory of God. Godly legacies will provide wisdom, insight and knowledge that shape behavior and give purpose and meaning to life.

An inheritance is something parents can leave to their children but a legacy is much more than that. A legacy is a way of life that is planted deep inside the heart of a child that produces Godly behavior.

“Be wise my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.” It is obvious that Solomon wanted to leave a legacy for his children that exceeded his wealth: A God-like character.

Prayer: We pray, Father, that each of us will leave legacies that honor You and inspire others to follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:11 Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It's All About Who

Perhaps the most boring people in the world are those who enjoy heaping praise on themselves. They have a view of themselves that far exceeds the reality of who they are and what they have accomplished in life. As one person so aptly said, “They have ‘I’ problems” - “I have done this and I have done that and I am better than you are and my opinions about myself are trustworthy, reliable and verifiable. And if you do not believe me, ask me and I’ll go into more detail and explain more clearly what I have already achieved in life with more to come.”

Solomon must have known people who were not only self-centered, but self-sufficient, self-serving and self-satisfied. They had completed a “self-evaluation” survey and broken all previous records. Wisely, Solomon provided some sound advice for those who fall into that category: “Let other people praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.”

“Praise” is not the problem. If we see someone doing something that is commendable, helpful, kind and gracious in serving others on behalf of God, they are certainly worthy of recognition. So, being recognized or praised is not the problem either.

The problem lies in the fact when we evaluate ourselves by ourselves we normally overlook our flaws and frailties and “think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.”

Jesus said it best: “I am not seeking glory for myself.”  If we glorify God, others will praise our works.

Prayer: We pray, Father, for an attitude of humility as we work to bring honor and glory to Your name! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:2 Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Best Laid Plans

The only certainty in life is that life is uncertain. We never know, from one moment to the next, what God may have in store for us. Our God is eternal and in control of everything, everywhere, all of the time. And although we may have the utmost confidence in the plans He has for our lives, we must always be alert to His gentle guidance and compassionate care, at times His stern discipline and chastening. We know that He has a plan for each of us and that it is a good and perfect plan.

But we must never become complacent and feel that we have more knowledge about our lives than He does. It is foolish to chart a course for ourselves, close our eyes to His plan, stop our ears to His voice and try to take control of things and plan our future without Him.

Solomon wisely said, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Plans for any future date can never be certain because we do not know what God may have in store for us. Now, does that mean we are not to plan for tomorrow?

The ability to plan is a gift from God. We see it throughout His carefully crafted creation. Since we are created in His image, we are endowed with the ability to plan. However, the warning contained in this proverb is the folly of presumptuous boasting - doing what we want to do without taking God’s will into our plans. God is in control of His universe and that includes each of us. We must take the gifts He has given us, look for the opportunities He sets before us and seek His guidance.

Prayer: Father, may we look to You each moment of every day asking You to reveal Your plans for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Stop It!

My sister, “Sis,” was an outstanding piano player and could imitate many pianists with her skills and talents. She also authored many hymns and gospel courses and was well-known for her talents and love for the Lord. She was part of evangelist teams that were popular years ago. Everyone loved “Sis” for her sense of humor and keen insights.

Whenever she became bored with someone who talked too much she would ask politely, “What would you say if you could not talk?”

Her question would usually end the “talkers” talking and bring the conversation to an abrupt end. It would force the “talker” to realize what was being said and the conversation would soon end.

“Without wood a fire goes out, without gossip a quarrel dies down,” said Solomon. All too often quarrels go on endlessly because those involved in the dispute are not listening to what the other person is saying.

Beyond that, often they are not listening to what they are saying, either. Neither has any idea of what they are saying to the other. So, the best way to stop a quarrel is to stop the gossip.

James offers some great advice: “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person…”

Without gossip, quarrels end and sanity can return.

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to control our tongues by filling our hearts with Your love and wisdom, grace and peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 26:20 Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Clouds And Rain

On July 12, 1990, Pastor Trenny Thomas called the members of his Evergreen Baptist Church, Metter, GA to a day of prayer. The farmers of this small, rural area had endured a long, devastating drought and were about to lose their crops. They gathered together and prayed for twenty-four hours. At the end of the vigil, there was no rain.

The congregation decided to begin another twenty-four hour time of prayer when clouds suddenly began to appear. Suddenly the clouds exploded with rain and an inch covered the dry, thirsty land. The rain turned into a mist and lasted through the night. The crops and families were saved by the grace of God.
Said Rev. Thomas, “It was a feast. It was just like the manna falling from heaven when God fed his people. It was a divine intervention from God.”

“Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of gifts he does not give,” said Solomon. Here he presents the picture of a man who boasts of talents and gifts he does not have. He represents himself to be more than he is - like clouds without rain that appear to tease the hopeful and destroy faith.

Perhaps “that man” does have talents and abilities, skills and power and can do good things for those in need. But empty promises and vain promises are not what others seek in times of a “drought.” When others have needs we can meet, we dare not taunt them with promises we do not intend to keep. False promises destroy hope.

Prayer: Thank You for Your faithfulness, Father. May we honor our word to others as You have to us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 25:14 Like clouds and wind without rain is one who boasts of gifts never given.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Apples Of Gold

Words wound and leave scars. Words are often used by design to discredit or destroy the hopes and dreams of another. They are spoken with disgust and disapproval to hurt or harm a person’s best intentions or desires. Words can be cruel and hateful, spiteful and repulsive. They can be disastrous to a person’s reputation and future goals.

But words can also be blessings and bring hope and encouragement. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” What a thought provoking scene. Imagine if you will, fruit carved from gold by a craftsman and then placed in a brightly polished bowl made from silver - a sight that would excite the senses and bring a sense of amazement.

The phrase “A word aptly spoken” suggests saying the right thing at the right time in the right place. It may be sharing a verse of Scripture with a loved one as they are passing through a difficult experience. It may be sharing words of comfort and hope, encouragement and support or matching tears that are flowing from the eyes of one who is experiencing the loss of a loved one and is unable to deal at that time with the grim realities of grief. One thing is certain: Not all words fit all occasions. Not all words are good for all occasions. There are times to speak and times to be silent. There are times to talk and even more times to listen. It is the listening heart and the love of God that can flow through us when those in need are waiting for a “word aptly spoken.”

Prayer: Seal our lips, Lord, from speaking harsh and harmful words. May they bring help, hope and healing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 25:11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hide And Seek

One of my favorite pastimes when I was a child was playing “hide and seek” with my neighborhood friends. It was always more fun to play at dusk when shadows from trees and building would provide secret places. The first one found from the previous round was always given the task to count while others hid from his sight. Then, the search began for those who were quietly hiding in places they thought were impossible to find. On occasion, someone would find a place that no one had thought of before and the one searching would have to give up and the game would start again.

God “conceals” His glory in much the same way. He does not do it in a malicious manner or play a game with us. Rather, it is His way of revealing His majesty and might, power and presence. He is always there doing something in some way. But it is not always obvious.

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings,” said Solomon. In fact, on a previous occasion, he said, “The Lord has said that He would dwell in a dark cloud.”

So, where does all of this leave us? Why would He not be obvious all of the time? Why does He hide from us at all? It is because He is above and beyond us though beside and within us anxious for us to seek and trust Him.

God is worthy of worship and wonder even when He cannot be seen when dark clouds gather. Though we may walk through the valley of the shadow, His light is always waiting for us when we walk by faith and trust in Him.

Prayer: Give us courage, Lord, to walk in faith when days are dark, nights long and the journey difficult. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.