Proverbs 5-6 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He watches over our steps, providing His wisdom to guide us

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.  Learn from their ways and become wise!” (6:6)  Lazybones – what a great word!  I’m planning to use it in a sentence or two throughout the day, hopefully not describing me.  I can testify that the ants in my kitchen are not lazybones.

My kitchen has been invaded by grease ants; and please be assured, they are not lazy.  One missed potato chip on the kitchen floor caused a frenzy of activity that included the entire neighborhood ant community, forming perfect lines to and from the chip – until I removed the chip.  But while that chip was their focus, they were busy and productive with no foolishness or stray steps.  Hmmm…could this be a lesson?

Solomon’s direction over the next few chapters in Proverbs involves instruction regarding moral and wise living.  The purposed activity of the ants was illustrated to guard against poverty and lack, but isn’t it also a protection from the dangers of infidelity and foolish living? The old saying from the writings of Chaucer comes to mind, “Idle hands are the devil’s tools or workshop.”  A purposed focus keeps us on track, “Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” (4:27)  When we are focused and productive, there’s little time for straying.

@ Proverbs 5
Much of Solomon’s writing focuses on fidelity and the sin of adultery, interesting coming from a man with so very many wives, but powerful nonetheless.  His heart’s desire was to spare his sons the pain that follows immoral living, and these are instructions we should take to heart.  Regarding the immoral woman (or man), he instructs:

1)  “Stay away from her!  Don’t go near the door of her house!” (8)  Don’t click on the website, don’t open the magazine, don’t watch the movie, don’t hang out at his/her desk, don’t think on vain imaginations…we know where the traps are set.

2)  Consider the consequences. “You will lose your honor…lose all you have achieved … someone else will enjoy the fruits of your labor…you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body.” (9-11) Nothing saddens me more than when a man (or woman) loses the honor and respect of his children.  How could anything or anyone possibly be worth it!

3)  Live a life without regrets. “If only I had not ignored all the warnings! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers?” (12-13) A life filled with if only this and if only that saps us of the joy and peace God desires for us.

4)  Enjoy your spouse! “Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.  Rejoice in the wife of your youth…” (18)  Other pastures only appear to be greener.  They require the same amount of attention and care.

Solomon ended this chapter with, “For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.” (21) May He see us busy on our path of purpose, not sidetracked by the immoral man or woman or any evil that would take us off track. A life lived without regret! 

Moving Forward: No lazybones for me!  I’ll stay focused on the path that is set before me, looking neither to the left nor the right and rejoicing in the gift of my husband. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 7-12

Jeremiah 37-41 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He rewards our faithfulness when we face opposition

I always marveled at the tenacity and courage of an elderly man who stood day after day on various busy corners in our city wearing a placard that said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Through the years I saw him receive many signs of agreement with honking, thumbs up and friendly waves.  I also saw crude gestures and unkind words; however, this did not deter the man from doing what he felt was his part in building the Kingdom of God.  He didn’t let his temporary comfort level and the measure of his popularity affect the eternal destination of a soul that needed to hear the good news.  I never heard if anyone’s life was changed by his stand for the Lord, but rest assured, Heaven was keeping track of it.

The story of Judah’s last king is a sad one.  King Zedekiah was only 21 years old when he was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to rule over Judah as his vassal.  Maybe his age played into his poor leadership, but regardless, he was only interested in saving his own life.  The prophet Jeremiah was unpopular with the king and the Israelites living in Judah because his message from God was one they didn’t want to hear – surrender to God or die.

The king’s officials had imprisoned and beaten Jeremiah because they hated his message, yet the king secretly listened to the prophet’s message, “King Zedekiah secretly requested that Jeremiah come to the palace, where the king asked him, ‘Do you have any messages from the Lord?’” (37:17)  Zedekiah was not willing to openly accept the message of the prophet because of fear of what his officials would think of him.  What would they do to him? Jeremiah, however, bravely spoke God’s message no matter what the consequences.

Zedekiah would one day regret his cowardice.  He eventually lost his kingdom, lost his family, lost his eyes and lost his freedom. (39:6-7)  We do not have the promise that our stand for God will always save our lives – many have been martyred through the centuries – but we will be able to look back without regret.

Jeremiah had suffered much because he took a stand in the face of opposition, but he ultimately came out the winner.  Jeremiah was offered freedom and protection by the Babylonian king who took Israel captive.  What a different outcome than that of Zedekiah!  The words of Jesus come to mind in Luke 12:8, “I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels.”

God may never lead us to wear a sign on the street corner, but He is expecting us to boldly stand for truth whenever and wherever we are given the opportunity. Whether it’s a new job or new neighborhood or perhaps a new relationship, taking a stand and proclaiming truth in love are just easier over the long haul.  They involve no cover-up or fancy footwork, promise no regrets and secure a place in heaven before God’s angels. 

Moving Forward:  May I live this day without regrets, not missing even one opportunity to take a stand for the One who will one day take a stand for me before all of Heaven. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 3-4

Job 39-40 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He will humble us when necessary to produce complete trust in Him

For anyone who is questioning negative circumstances in your life today, read on.  You are in good company!  Many leaders in the Bible questioned God about what was happening in their lives – David, Moses, Gideon to name a few.  I believe that God understands our questioning, and He wasn’t threatened or angered by their questions. However, it appears that Job had crossed a line in his own defense.  When we consider ourselves so righteous that nothing negative should ever happen to us, we imply that God has made a mistake and He was wrong in allowing troubles to visit our lives.  At one point Job had the audacity to declare, “Look, I will sign my name to my defense.  Let the Almighty answer me.” (31:35)  And answer He did!

After a series of direct questions to Job regarding some of His incredible creation, the Lord asked him, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?  You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” (40:1-2)  Ouch.  Job had been waiting for this moment for quite some time, the moment when he could defend himself directly to God against this terrible injustice brought on him.  However, all he could say was, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers?  I will cover my mouth with my hand.  I have said too much already.  I have nothing more to say.”(40:4-5)  Good answer, Job.  It was best to cover his mouth.

Yet, God’s rebuke continued. I imagine with each of God’s pointed questions, Job sank a little closer to the ground.  In the end, I envision him a little puddle on the ground with a turban resting on it.  Sad to say, I can imagine this because I’ve been there.

God’s questions cause me to think about His creation in a different way.  Have we ever thought about the horse the way God describes it?  In days past, its bravery carried men to battle, with its snort and pounding hooves.  Other animals would have run from the terror of battle, but not the horse.  The silly ostrich with wings yet no ability to fly does not possess enough wisdom to protect its young, yet can run faster than the brave horse.  And the Behemoth, whose identity seems to range from an enormous elephant to the Loch Ness Monster, is the strongest of creatures, yet eats grass.

God has given us the ability to choose any or all of His other creation’s attributes.  We can be brave or fearful, strong or weak, silly or wise, cunning or foolish…vegan or carnivore, the list is endless.  How can we fail to trust the One who has placed so much trust in us?

God’s questions to Job could have gone on for all eternity, literally, but all of His questions beg of me a greater question or two.  Will I trust the One who made me and all of creation?  Is there a chance that His wisdom in any given situation is greater than my own?  I cover my mouth… 

Moving Forward:  In awe of Who you are, I cover my mouth and trust your divine design for my life.  You do not make mistakes.

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 37-41

Job 37-38 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He uses the challenges we face to perfect us, to make us more like Him 

@ Job 38
“Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:  Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?  Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’” (1-3) This is not the way I want the Lord to begin a conversation with me.  Job had asked his whys? But God answered with Who?

The trial against Job had continued for quite some time.  The four accusers had laid out their case against him and each time Job had risen to his own defense, disputing their accusations.  At Chapter 38, God entered the courtroom.  He was not a witness to be cross examined.  He was not the prosecuting attorney for the four accusers.  He was not the defense attorney that Job was hoping for.  He was the judge.  “Brace yourself like a man!”  Help. 

Who laid out the universe, formed the seas with their tides and created darkness and light?  Were you there from the beginning, Job? Who made snow and rain, ice and frost and the laws of the universe that regulate all temperatures?  Who placed the constellations in the sky and directs the sequence of the seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall?  Because Job felt so free to question God’s dealings with him, it seems God was giving him an opportunity to evaluate whether or not he thought himself on the same level as Him.  Who? Indeed.

David often questioned God about things that were happening and defended his actions on occasion, but his heart was always one of repentance.  Job seemed to be a little too proud of his goodness to accept what had happened to him, implying that he knew better than God.  Perhaps this pride was the catalyst for Job’s great test as much as Satan’s request in Chapter l.

In all his goodness, was Job beginning to reflect the arrogance of Lucifer before the fall?  Where would it lead?  These questions are without answers, but they cause me to examine my own life.  Each day I ask God to purify my heart of pride and little roots that can take hold and imply that any goodness in me could come from anywhere but Him.  I want to avoid those brace yourself moments with God.

Job proved Satan’s accusation in Chapter l wrong.   He did not curse God when his world was attacked as Satan had predicted, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.” (19:25) Job had passed this test.  However, God often uses difficult times in our lives to bring about something better in us.  God was perfecting Job, and Job soon learned the what in his experience, what would make him a better man. God’s response to Job was not one of a casual acquaintance, where attitudes and weaknesses are just ignored. His response was based on relationship, personal and intimate.

The old saying comes to mind, “God loves you just the way you are. But he loves you too much to let you stay that way.”  I love Him for this, that He loves me enough, that He is mindful enough of little me, to change me and make me more like Him. 

Moving Forward:  I will focus today on Who He is.  I may or may not learn the why of the challenges I face, but in knowing Who, I will soon learn what He is perfecting in me. 

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 32-36

Exodus 21-24 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His presence protects and guides us

Much of the remaining book of Exodus consists of laws and regulations for living.  Throughout history, one of the first acts of any group or gathering is to establish guidelines that bring protection and order to the group, and this new nomadic group of Israelites was no exception.  Because of God’s special covenant with their forefather, Abraham, God took special care to establish the very best guidelines for their success.

The laws were based on common sense and respect for others.  Many of the laws are similar to our laws today but they were met with very different consequences when broken.  Death was often an immediate penalty.  An eye for an eye was the rule of the day, especially in cases of personal injury.  If this was the law today, lawyers would be out of business, television commercials would be completely different, and we would definitely keep our goring ox under control to be sure.(29)  Exodus 22 dealt with the protection of property, the proper treatment of others and finally, their responsibilities to God. Sorcerers, sexual deviants and idolaters were put to death – zero tolerance.  Regardless of how much we abhor such sins, we can be thankful today for God’s grace and His ultimate justice through Jesus Christ. 

@ Exodus 23
Hidden within the laws of justice (1-9), the Sabbath laws (10-13), the Festival laws (14-19) and the laws of consecration (25-33) was an amazing promise to the Israelites.  “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.  Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions.  Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion.” (20-22)  What angel would have the ability to forgive or to not forgive?  Many believe this angel to be a manifestation of God, even an Old Testament appearance of Jesus.  He certainly was, at the very least, a representative of the presence of God in the same way as the pillar of cloud and fire.  This angel was sent to go before them and lead them to the Promised Land.  What a blessed people!

And what a blessed people we are!  Those who have accepted the manifestation of God’s only Son, Jesus, have this same promise of protection and guidance for their lives.  It’s easy for this amazing promise to get hidden by all the laws of man, laws of nature and laws of God that we follow each day.  This account in Exodus of God’s faithfulness to His imperfect people serves as our reminder:  In our obedience to God, His presence is with us to protect and lead us through life. “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) It just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward: So thankful that I live in this day of His grace and experience His presence to protect and guide my life as I follow closely after Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 10-14

2 Corinthians 6-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

It’s the time of year we give honor and attention to the one person on this earth we know loves us unconditionally – Mom!  The list of great qualities our mothers’ possess is endless, but most will agree that generosity is right near the top.  Only a mother would stay up half the night sewing costumes or baking cupcakes for her children.  She will give and give until it hurts and then give even more, sometimes to a fault. A mom’s generous spirit reflects the love of God within her. Her thrifty manner with coupons and sales stretches each dollar and provides for the family. Unfortunately, in our reading today the Apostle Paul had to deal with a situation where individuals were less than generous and nothing like our mothers. They hadn’t learned the secret to financial freedom 

@2 Corinthians 7
Paul had a turbulent history with the church at Corinth.  The Corinthians had been plagued with insurrection within the church, misuse of spiritual gifts and flagrant sin, just to name a few of their problems.  Paul addressed their issues with a difficult visit as well as at least one previous letter.  Many believe the letter mentioned in verse 8, called the severe or harsh letter, was lost and not recorded in the Bible; others believe it to be I Corinthians.  In any case, their response to Paul had been cold at one time.

This letter, probably needed more today than in his day, was a rough one, “I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while.  Now I am glad I sent it not because it hurt you but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways.” (8-9)  At the time of this writing, Paul was in Macedonia facing many conflicts and admitted to discouragement (6), but Titus arrived from Corinth with the good news that the Corinthian church had responded well to the severe letter and Paul was encouraged. 

@ 2 Corinthians 8
Paul was encouraged, things were better and Paul took the big leap and decided to address the “M” word…money.  Paul was a brave man.  Citing the example of the very poor Macedonian church and their generous giving to the struggling church in Jerusalem, Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to do the same.  “I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.” (8)

As the saying goes, we know when someone is really a Christian when their commitment reaches all the way to their pocketbook.  Paul, always the disciple-maker, was willing to risk his new peace with this congregation in order to teach them about giving gifts.  “Give in proportion to what you have.  Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly.  And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.” (11-12)

Paul’s instruction on giving was reasonable.  Jesus was blessed more by the extravagant giving of a widow’s all than He was by the large gifts of the wealthy in Mark 12:41-44.  I want to bless Jesus in that way.  In my heart, I want it all to belong to Him so that when a need arises, I’m not counting the cost, counting the percentages or counting the dollar signs. When there is a need somewhere, I want to give with joy, and like the widow, not miss an opportunity to bless Him.  To me, this is financial freedom. 

Moving Forward:  May I approach this day with a generous heart, blessing Him with my response to those in need of help. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 21-24

2 Corinthians 4-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  “And God has given us the task of reconciling people to Him.”

When election time rolls around, we have an opportunity to choose by ballot individuals who are elected to represent us in the federal and state governments.  Compared to many forms of governing around the world, this system of representative government is desirable over dictatorships and communism. However, we run into problems when the representatives choose not to represent their constituents and succumb to pure politics. Any time representatives or ambassadors fail to perform their duties, there is a breakdown in communication and the system fails.  May we never be guilty of failing to serve faithfully in our roles as ambassadors. 

@2 Corinthians 5
“And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him…So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us.  We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (18-20)

Just like Paul, as believers in Jesus, we are His ambassadors.  Just what we need – another task!  We are already spinning so many, many plates – providing income, meals, clean clothes, clean homes, raising children. Where would we find the time to be an ambassador?  An ambassador is an official representative of a country or organization.  The definition alone is daunting, yet our message is so simple:  “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.”  (17-18)

I guess I would feel pretty silly, being His representative and all, to stand before Him one day and explain that I was just too busy washing those dishes, frying that bacon or working on the job to tell someone the simple truth of His gift of love, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (21) 

@ 2 Corinthians 4
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.  We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God…Yes we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus.” (8-11)  I can’t help but think of missionaries when I read this – heroes willing to leave their homes, families and friends and venture out to parts unknown around the world as His ambassadors.  They can’t help it.  It’s all they know to do with the task of sharing the wonderful message of reconciliation to those who do not know about it.  Like Paul, many of them face difficult situations and even death, but they would say with Paul, “But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, ‘I believed in God, so I spoke’” (13)

Will I speak today to that troubled co-worker or neighbor?  Will I share God’s love with the unhappy sales clerk or waitress who so desperately needs Him?  Will I speak, “Come back to God!  Come back to God!” 

Moving Forward:  Today I pray that I won’t be able to keep from sharing His wonderful message of reconciliation with those who don’t know Him.  When I stand before God one day, a clean house or my job performance really won’t matter.  He’ll be looking for those I brought along with me. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 17-20