Proverbs 4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His wisdom protects our hearts and determines our course in life

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” (7)  Deep.  We probably won’t spend a lot of time dissecting and examining this statement.  It says what it means, and it’s true. Solomon went on to advise that after we get wisdom, we should develop good judgment, not forget her, not forsake her, guard her with our lives, love her, embrace her and exalt her. (5-13)  It’s interesting to note that wisdom is personified as a woman. That’s all I’m saying…it’s just interesting.  That being said, following Solomon’s instructions will involve the commitment of our will, our emotions and our minds.  In other words, our hearts must be committed in the process of getting wisdom.

The care and protection of our physical hearts get a lot of attention in the media today.  As the list of what we should not eat to protect our hearts grows daily, the list of what we are permitted to eat is reduced to oatmeal, fish oil, fruits and vegetables – make a meal out of that, will you.  Billions of dollars have been dedicated to research regarding the human heart, but Solomon had something completely different in mind when he wrote, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”(23)

While billions of dollars have not been spent researching the spiritual heart, we know from scripture that the heart is viewed as the center of spiritual life, involving our intelligence, our emotions, our will and our morality.  Wherever these characteristics are focused, that is where our heart will be.  Jesus said, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21)  The Wisdom of Solomon and Jesus is really the only information we need in order to protect our spiritual hearts.

When asked what He considered to be the most important commandment of all time, Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)  Well, that about covers it – all.  When we love the Lord with everything within us, there isn’t room to love those things  in opposition to Him. We’ll follow Solomon’s advice, “Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers.  Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way.  Turn away and keep moving.”(14-15) In the long run, it’s much easier, much wiser to resist sin at the very start than it is to fight its progress throughout our lives.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  Solomon said we guard our hearts by protecting what we say, “Avoid all perverse talk,”(24) and Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”  We guard our hearts by protecting where we look, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” (25) Eve’s downfall escalated when she looked where the enemy was tempting.  And we guard our hearts by protecting where we go, “Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.  Don’t get sidetracked, keep your feet from following evil.” (26-27)  Solomon offered simple tools, full of wisdom, for protecting our spiritual hearts.

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!”  Deeper than we thought! 

Moving Forward: While eating my oatmeal, fish oil and veggies today, I’ll guard my words, my focus and my steps to protect my spiritual heart.  May I leave a legacy of wisdom to be passed on to my children and to my children’s children. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 1-6

Proverbs 2-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He desires to give wisdom to all those who follow after Him

Everyone wants to be wise.  No one has ever said to me, “I can’t wait to be foolish today!”  Most of us have a natural curiosity about how things are made, where they come from and how they affect us.  When I was a teenager, I was asked what my favorite book was, and without hesitation, I replied, “The Encyclopedia.”  I know this sounds strange coming from a young person, and of course, my answer should have been the Bible, but I’ve always loved moments of random learning.

We couldn’t afford the coveted set of World Book Encyclopedia, and the internet was not available back in the dark ages; but every chance I got, I paged through the volume of knowledge held between the pages of the encyclopedia at the library. However, possessing all this knowledge does not a wise person make.  Wisdom is the ability to apply the knowledge we have, and this is what Solomon was addressing in our reading today. 

@ Proverbs 2
Proverbs 2 is a tutorial on how to find wisdom, where to find it, who it is for and what we receive once we obtain it.  All this in 22 little verses!  Only a very wise man could accomplish this in so few words. 

How:  Listen for wisdom, concentrate on it, ask for it with fervor and search for it like one who is digging deep in a mine for silver.  This proves to the Lord that we respect Him and what He has to say. (2-5)

Where:  Wisdom comes from the Lord. “For the Lord grants wisdom!” (6) 

Who:  God responds with wisdom (knowledge, understanding, common sense, protection) to those who are honest, walk with integrity, are just and faithful. (6-8) 

What:  We will understand what is right, just and fair; we find the right path to walk; we are filled with joy; we are kept safe; we are protected from evil people, including immoral woman and men; and we make right choices. (9-16)

The process is like a chain reaction.  We ask for wisdom and diligently search for it > through His Word we learn how to live a life of integrity and righteousness > He grants wisdom in response to our life of integrity > we are blessed with understanding, guidance, joy and protection.  What a deal!  All of this is ours today for the low, low start-up cost of asking. 

@ Proverbs 3
The mark of a truly wise person is one who follows this advice from Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.  Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.”(5-7) It’s difficult to trust with all my heart in someone I don’t know very well, risky at best.  Trust develops through relationship and time spent together – enough said.

We may say that we have faith in God, but it is trust that applies the action to our faith.  Faith is the noun, and trust is the verb that demonstrates our faith.  Faith without trust is like knowledge without wisdom – great to possess but not always useful.  When I depend on my own understanding, there’s really only one person to trust in, and that’s me – not very wise when the wisdom of heaven is mine for the asking.

Moving Forward: “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her.” (18)  Today I seek His wisdom in what I do and say.  And I trust His wisdom to guide and direct my steps. 

Tomorrow @ Lamentations

1 Kings 5-9 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our lives with His glorious presence to accomplish His will

“During the fourth year of Solomon’s reign he began to construct the Temple of the Lord…480 years after the people of Israel were rescued from their slavery in the land of Egypt.” (6:1) The construction of the portable Tabernacle that we read about in Exodus was built to last for several lifetimes – 480 years!  God was specific in His instructions for a reason.

Those of us who have been involved in temporary church sites in strip malls and rented spaces understand the cumbersome putting up and tearing down week after week of sound systems, chairs and all that goes with church.  Compared to 480 years, our duration seems insignificant, but because these accounts in the Bible are given to us as lessons, we would do well to consider the reasons for the delay in the building the permanent temple.

During the 480 years, the Israelites were often disobedient and willful against the Lord and were ruled by many judges of like mind.  The people wanted to be like other nations and demanded a king to rule over them because God was not quite enough in their thinking.  King Saul was a major disappointment to everyone, including God, and David the warrior king had too much bloodshed on his hands for the building of God’s temple.

Finally, King Solomon was chosen for this task.  In the building of almost everything, God uses people as his instruments to accomplish His will.  When the building is taking longer than we desire, it never hurts to examine our hearts.  Are we disobedient or willful in our labors?  Is God’s plan enough in our thinking or are we compelled to help Him out, usurping His plan?  No doubt this will slow down our progress.

A significant hindrance to the building of the temple was Israel’s enemies.  From the moment they entered the Promised Land, nobody wanted them there. The Israelites fought to take possession, struggled through the judge era and then through the early kings, but they never gave up.  We can be sure that anything we build for the glory of the Lord, be it family, career or church, will be met by resistance from our enemy.  He will attempt to defeat us at every turn, but we can never give up!  Every demon from hell in local governments will thwart our attempt to build a church or a business for the Lord, raising our costs and burying us in red tape.  The enemy may bring out the big guns by attacking our families, but we can never give up!

How do we defeat our enemy and stay strong in our process of building the temple, our family or whatever it is? We do it the same way we maintain victory once we achieve it.  At the completion of the temple, “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord.  The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the temple.”(8:10-11)  I just love it when the presence of the Lord fills my space to the point where I can no longer perform (NIV) or continue my service, and it becomes all about Him.  Willfulness and disobedience cannot exist there in His Presence, and governments and enemies must bow before Him.  With tenacity to complete the task, I yield to His direction, His handiwork – He is more than enough. 

Moving Forward:  Submitted to His plan for my day, I call for His glorious presence to fill my space, to defeat my enemies and to complete the work He has begun.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 66-68

Proverbs 1 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He supplies all the wisdom we need to live right, just and fair

“These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.  Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just and fair.  These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young.” (1-4)  We want wisdom to be sure, but discipline? Not so much.  Yet, they always seem to go hand in hand.

“Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.”  Well, I’d stand in line all day for that!  Wisdom, however, is not a destination, but a journey.  We never stop gaining wisdom unless we want to stop, “but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (7)  By nature, we don’t really want to hear about the disciplines of God.  We want to hear sermons that only make us feel good about ourselves, pat us on the back and say “Good job!”  Every pastor knows that a feel-good message will draw a crowd, but then according to Solomon, does this mean we are fools?

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.” (7)  To fear God, which is to reverence and respect, to honor, and to obey, is what we are encouraged by Solomon to build upon for our entire lives.  We can only respect and build on what we know. The Proverbs of Solomon, as well as the rest of God’s Word, were written so that we may know His wisdom and his disciplines (1). And the end result is true knowledge.  Everyone seems to search for counsel today, but they tend to seek the negotiable areas of man’s wisdom rather than the well-defined areas of God’s wisdom.  Doesn’t that seem… foolish?

I love Solomon’s picture of wisdom shouting in the streets, an ethereal form, calling out, “Follow me. Follow me.”  Wisdom calls, “Come and listen to my counsel.  I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.” (23)  When Jesus lived on earth, He was Wisdom personified as He called out, “Follow me! Follow me!” We, too, share in that calling when our message to the lost calls out to follow Him.  “He who wins souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30 KJV)

The wisdom and disciplines of God are a constant source of comfort and security for me because they show me how to behave in life, how to respond to life and how to love in life.  I’d rather know the disciplines of God than to be one who flounders through life like, say, a fool. 

Moving Forward: Today I will look to wisdom in His Word and respond to its call to come and listen to its counsel.  And if I take heed, it will make me wise. 

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 47-52

I Kings 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  Even when others fail, He is our example of a loving father

The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles give the history of Israel’s kings from three different perspectives, and the many books of the prophets give additional insights to this history.  We may wonder why so much of the Bible is focused on the exploits of these kings, yet as we study them, we find their life lessons to be invaluable. 

@ I Kings 1
Chapter 1 begins with David, the mighty warrior and king of valor, near death at the age of 70.  When compared to Methuselah and others like him, this may seem like a relatively young age to die, but we learn that the role of king did not lend itself to long life in general.  David’s challenging early years of survival and his reign as a warrior king took their toll on his life to be sure, and the disconnect he had with his family must have added to his burden.

What little we know about David’s parenting skills doesn’t speak well of him. In light of what we are able to read in the Bible, most of the fathers in the Old Testament seemed almost clueless about raising children.  The patriarchs, kings, prophets and priests often had difficulty passing the family torch on to their sons because their devotion to God had not been accepted by their children.  Willful disobedience and rebellion seemed to be the lifestyle of the sons of many of Israel’s leaders.  What lesson can we learn from this?

Adonijah was David’s son with Haggith who was one of David’s many, many, many wives.  Because of his birth order, Adonijah “began boasting, ‘I will make myself king,’” (5) yet he and everyone else knew that David had chosen Solomon.  David was living the Absalom experience all over again with this willful, headstrong young son.  One short sentence in this chapter gives an explanation as to how this son could disrespect his father by making himself the king, “Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, ‘Why are you doing that?’”  Help.

I’ve never met a child that didn’t require discipline on occasion, and obviously, Adonijah was not the exception.  No doubt Haggith’s threats of “Wait until your father gets home!” carried little weight.  King David had many wives and many children, and with his leadership demands, he probably had difficulty remembering all their names much less worrying about discipline.  However, it’s hard to understand how great leaders can ignore the welfare of their future seed.  Solomon was on the right track for much of his life and wrote most of the book of Proverbs including helpful instructions to young men, but his own son, Rehoboam, was a mess.

We may not be ruling a country, but with all our breadwinning, deal-making, carpooling and errand running, the last thing we feel like doing when we finally arrive home is disciplining our children.  It’s easier to ignore the situation and hope for a better day tomorrow; but as parents, our primary role is to parent – a transitive verb meaning to nurture, raise and develop.  Somebody’s got to do it, and we’re it!

So, what do we learn from this?  Ultimately, our children are responsible for their own decisions and for the course they choose for life regardless of how we have parented.  David’s lack of parenting was not helpful for some of his children, yet neither was Solomon’s advice beneficial to his own offspring.

We can’t make decisions for our children when they are grown, but when they are young, we can do all that is possible through our nurturing and training to put them in a position to make good choices.  If they make poor choices, they will be without excuse with no one else to blame, and that in itself is worth all our efforts. But after spending an evening of pure joy with my children and grandchildren, I can testify that greater still is the reward that comes from our hard work as we watch our seed grow and flourish in the Lord for generations to come. 

Moving Forward:  I will do my part establishing my children and my children’s children in the Lord, doing the hard work when necessary in order to reap great rewards. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 63-65

Job 27-28 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our hearts with wisdom when we search for Him

Over the past 40 years, we have had an understanding in our home that I am the finder of all things lost. Socks, homework, ketchup, tools, pencils, scissors, tape, ties, shoes, brush, camera, clickers – well, I think I’ve painted an accurate picture. My husband and children alike often have trouble locating the things they need the most, and I’m called to the rescue. I’ve heard it said that nothing is really lost until your mom can’t find it. In truth, even I, the crack detective, find myself occasionally baffled by the location of a pair of scissors.

Fortunately, my husband was able to find me, something for which I am eternally grateful and more important is that he found the Lord and helps many others find Him too. In our reading today, Job was looking for something that all of mankind searches for with great effort, and he gave us a clue where to find it.

@ Job 28
“Food is grown on the earth above, but down below, the earth is melted as by fire. Here the rocks contain precious lapis lazuli, and the dust contains gold.” (5-6) We rarely think about the treasures that lie beneath our gardens, buildings and superhighways, but deep within the earth is an abundance of precious gems and fuels. Even in Job’s day, man had found these hidden treasures through his digging and searching, shining light in the darkness and exploring the farthest reaches of the earth. (3) Without a trusty flashlight and a good supply of batteries, I’m not sure how this worked for them, but clearly, it did.

With all our wonderful discoveries on this earth, however, there is one thing we cannot find here, “But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding? No one knows where to find it, for it is not found among the living.”(12-13) We run to the internet to find answers to some of our dilemmas but discover 150,000 different solutions in response to our searching. Which one is wisdom? Some individuals travel to distant lands and climb high mountains to receive knowledge from an old sage. They believe he must be right because the wisdom was so very difficult to achieve.

Job had it right! “God alone understands the way to wisdom; He knows where it can be found…And this is what He says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’”(23,28) So, it seems that when we need wisdom for a difficult situation in our lives, we should surrender first to the Source of all wisdom instead of soliciting answers from those who are only guessing.

We fear the Lord not by cowering in dread of His mighty hand, but by showing reverence and respect in much the same way we reverence and respect others. We hang on His every word and honor all that He does and says. Our search for wisdom will find us on our knees in prayer, digging into His Word and shunning all that is evil and unrighteous. And according to God, this, in and of itself, is wise. Solomon agreed with Job, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” (Proverbs 9:10)

So in our search for wisdom to help us with all of our life issues, if we find Him, we find wisdom. Somewhere through the pages of His Word or through His still small voice and through Holy Spirit guidance, we will find the wisdom we seek. He is utterly faithful!

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful that I don’t need to travel to the top of the world or search for an internet signal to find the wisdom I need in life. It’s all right here in Him.

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 7-11

Song of Solomon 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He calls us to fellowship with Him and with all those we love

Indifference in a marriage or in any relationship is an indicator of trouble and disharmony, and it’s a signal to us that requires a response.  I don’t care much for the old adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” but familiarity does sometimes cause us to take for granted those who are dear to us.  The Young Woman of Song of Solomon responded to this challenge in our reading today and discovered the truth in another old adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” 

@ Song of Solomon 5
“I slept, but my heart was awake, when I heard my lover knocking and calling:  ‘Open to me, my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night.’  But I responded, ‘I have taken off my robe.  Should I get dressed again?  I have washed my feet.  Should I get them soiled?’” (3-4)  She heard her lover knocking and calling to her, but she hesitated to receive him because she had washed her feet?  Well, she was asleep and obviously in bed for the night, but this doesn’t sound like the Young Woman from earlier chapters, so desperately in love.  When she finally came to her senses, he was gone, leaving only the scent of his cologne on the door handle.  Help!

When we take for granted the familiar and the comfortable, we miss an opportunity to enrich that relationship and secure its future.  The Young Woman came to her senses, “I searched for him but could not find him anywhere.  I called to him, but there was no reply.”  He was already gone, and in her search for him she met with further heartache and trouble. (7)  The longer his absence, the fonder her heart grew as she remembered his handsome features, his love for her and their friendship. (10-16)   We all love a story that ends well, and thankfully she finds herself with her beloved once again, a little wiser and more responsive to his love. (6:12)  A valuable lesson for us.

Jesus addressed this issue on another level in Luke 9 when he called to those around him to, “Come, follow me.” (59)  Just like the Young Woman, they responded with Yes, but…“Lord, first let me return home and bury my father…Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.  But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.’” (59-62)

Jesus was not insensitive to their family needs, but He was looking for devote followers.  He is knocking and calling at our heart’s door as well and is looking for a quick response without excuse, regardless of washed feet, sleepiness or family needs.  When we respond to His call without hesitation, He helps us with the needs and challenges that may follow

We are challenged through our reading today to never take for granted the familiar, the love of our spouse, our children and our friends.  If we have been hesitant in our response to them, we should seek them out and cherish our time with them.  If we have been hesitant in our response to God, He is waiting to be found just like the Young Man, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:13)   May our hearts grow fonder for those we love without the need of absence or hesitancy to wake us up, and may we be ever ready to respond to His call. 

Moving Forward:  I’m listening for the knock, for the call from those who are so dear to me, never wanting to take them for granted.  And I respond to His call for fellowship with me today. 

Tomorrow @ Revelation 12-17