Proverbs 28 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all that we need to follow Him with boldness

A man’s conscience can really play tricks on him when he has done wrong.  The imagined scenarios of being pursued and caught for his wrong doing can drive someone to the point of insanity.  Hollywood certainly has cashed in on that plot line through the years and often manipulates us into rooting for the criminals, even hoping they get away with their terrible deeds.  The terror of constantly looking over the shoulder and behind every door and cowering in dark corners is no way to live.  Of course, those who follow the Lord and live a righteous life are also being pursued by invisible forces, but they have nothing to fear.

“The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.” (1)  This verse makes me think of the sad life of King Saul who always feared that David and others were chasing him.  When the Spirit of the Lord left him, his sins tormented him as did the paranoia he had about his own well-being.  Jacob also knew some troublesome days fearing that Esau was coming after his birthright even though he wasn’t.  What a tragedy to live in fear that “your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)

However, those who follow the Lord should know that they, too, are being pursued. “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6)  Well, in that case, I’ll just stand still and be caught!  And if that isn’t enough to build confidence, “Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.” (Isaiah 58:8)

No wonder Solomon declared that “the godly are as bold as lions!”  With the Shepherd in front of us leading the way, with goodness and unfailing love always pursuing us and with the glory of the Lord protecting us from behind, why should we fear? Sometimes we just forget who is in our entourage!  Unlike the cowardly sinner who is fearful of being caught, we who follow the Lord can boldly move forward and accomplish whatever God intends for us.  And the peace and calm that comes from godly living is extraordinary. 

Moving Forward: I won’t wonder today if I can do what God is asking me to do.  How can I fail with the Shepherd guiding me, His goodness and love chasing after me and His glory protecting me?  Really, how can I fail?

Tomorrow @ Jonah

2 Chronicles 6-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He looks for repentant and obedient hearts

I was one of those nerds in high school and college who actually read the history textbooks.  I love history. I especially enjoy exploring the ruling families and dynasties from the past. God allowed me the privilege of living in Austria for a few weeks, home of the Habsburgs.  This family controlled much of Europe from the 12th century through to the early 20th century, and its history is fascinating.

While many rulers have overthrown countries through wars and bloodshed, the Habsburgs had a different strategy – just marry them!  Their children were farmed out to all of Europe ruling families over centuries, alliances were made and the Habsburg footprint remains today in much of Europe’s ruling families.  However, they were not the originators of this strategy.  Solomon used this approach in keeping peaceful alliances with his neighbors, but unfortunately, it did not serve him well. (June 13 @ I Kings 10-13)  Anytime we sacrifice Godly principles to achieve earthly gain, disappointment is in our future. 

@ 2 Chronicles 7
Things had been going extremely well for Solomon early in his reign.  He had just completed the building of the Temple and called together the entire community as he offered a beautiful prayer to the Lord.  God’s response was a flash of fire to burn up the sacrifices and then His glorious presence filled the Temple.  A lavish festival followed over the next seven days with much animal sacrificing, singing and dancing unto the Lord. There was joy in the land.

Later when Solomon was alone, God visited him with an amazing promise, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (12-14)

God had accepted Solomon’s prayer, yet His response included a caution.  God may allow difficult times to come when His people turn away from Him, but if they repent and turn back to Him, He forgives and brings restoration.  God is merciful.

Sadly, Solomon’s response over the next few years to God’s offer was to disobey Him by marrying pagan women from other countries in order to protect Israel through these alliances.  God really didn’t need Solomon’s help to protect Israel through godless marriages.  Instead of protection, Solomon ushered in the very thing that would one day destroy Israel – idol worship!  Although some of the kings had momentary periods of repentance, Israel never completely turned its heart back to God.

We won’t save ourselves or our country by engaging in alliances, no matter how good they may seem or how well-intentioned we may be, if those alliances take the place of obedience to His laws and trust in His ability to protect us.  Should we falter in this, then humble repentance and seeking His face is what He is looking for. “If my people…”

The help God does want from us is the advice He gave to Solomon, “If you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty.” (17-18) In response to our humble obedience to Him, God’s hand is free to provide personal security for our homes and families and national security for our country.  We need Him more today than ever before.

Moving Forward:  Today I reject any godless solutions to problems that may seem right, and submit in obedience to Him and His divine guidance and protection. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 114-116

Proverbs 25 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is our example of patience and steadfastness 

Cool your jets.  Take a chill pill.  Back off.  Slow it down. Take a little time to smell the roses.  Don’t rush to judgment.  Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care. Take it down a notch.  These are all phrases we use when life comes racing at us, when we need to pull in the reins and look before we leap and…sorry, the colloquialisms just keep coming.  Proverbs 25 has its own brand of cautions for us today. 

“Don’t demand an audience with the king or push for a place among the great.  It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table than to be sent away in public disgrace.” (6-7)  Promotion is always better when it comes from the Lord rather than our own efforts alone.  Jesus actually provided us with a parable on this very subject in Luke 14:7-11 regarding a dinner guest.  He advised to take a less prominent seat at the table to avoid being asked to move should a more distinguished guest come to the table, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)  Sometimes being first in line isn’t helpful.

“Just because you’ve seen something, don’t be in a hurry to go to court.  For what will you do in the end if your neighbor deals you a shameful defeat?” (7-8)  It’s often said that 20 observers of any criminal act will have 20 different testimonies of what actually happened.  Jesus offered the solution for when we observe or experience something we believe is a wrongdoing in Matthew 18:15, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.”  Don’t rush to judgment.

“A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” (14)  Wisdom would say it’s better to count the cost before we promise something we can’t deliver.  Most everyone remembers something promised to them as a child that never came to pass – those moments are hard to forget.

“Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can break bones.” (15)  As they say, timing is everything.  Quiet, prayerful patience will do more to get the end result we desire from those in leadership than nagging or yelling.  Yes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but we always remember it demanded our attention rather than deserved it.  My mom never had to raise her voice to me in quick anger, but she had one killer of a look she would give, without breaking any bones, by the way.

For the laid-back person or someone who look at every angle of a situation and seems to get little done in life, Solomon’s cautions may not be needed.  Perhaps taking to heart Proverbs 24:33-34 would be more beneficial, “A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”  In other words, get with it!

However, we all know someone who desperately needs his advice today.  Those Type A’s out there, always moving and clicking away, need to take a few moments each day to read these words of wisdom from Solomon so they will look before they leap, take a step back and punt, remember haste makes waste…enough!

Moving Forward: My prayer today is, “Lord, help me to say and do all that you have for me to say and do, without moving ahead of your plan and without driving anyone crazy in the process.”

Tomorrow @ Amos 5-9

I Chronicles 25-29 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He created us to enjoy intimacy with Him 

@ I Chronicles 28
“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind.” (9)  David was rounding the final bend of his life when he gave these wonderful principles to help guide his son.  Even though his life had some rough moments, David was qualified to give this exhortation because we know from reading the Psalms of his intimacy with God.

When I read them, I think of my mom expressing these words to me, “And Phyllis, my daughter, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately…” because she, like David, enjoyed an intimate relationship with God.  As a young girl it took me quite a while to grasp what David was expressing to his son.

Many years ago I listened to a group of women discuss the challenges of keeping a fresh daily relationship going with the Lord while raising children, working and traveling, and I understood the struggle all too well.  There are days when it’s difficult to even get a brush through our hair, much less spend some devotional time with the Lord.  The consensus in that meeting was that God understands if we put our relationship with Him on hold for a few years until we have more time.  I don’t think so.

The truth is that God loves us no matter what, literally to the point of death, but I don’t think He understands being put on hold until we can make some time for Him.  Somehow in our busyness we have lost our purpose if we think He isn’t going to miss us, and just as David was reminding his son of life’s priorities, we need reminders on our journey as well.

The message is clear from Genesis to Revelation—God created mankind with much more in mind than providing a caretaker for His garden.  We were created for Him to lavish His abundant love on us through an intimate relationship.  Made in His image, our desire for loving relationships in our lives reflects His desire for loving relationships, and He has chosen us!  Our purpose for being is not the roles we enjoy as husband or wife, father or mother, etc.  No, God has given us breath today for intimacy with Him, and everything else, while worthy and fulfilling, is secondary.

I wish I could say that I’m the poster child for intimacy with God, but unfortunately that would not be true.  In recent years, however, I’ve changed my priorities each day.  Sleep is less important to me if I need to get up earlier to spend time with Him. In fact, I desire to put everything else on hold instead of Him.  I’ve learned that the day goes better when I first fulfill my purpose for breathing.

 I’ve learned that He isn’t requiring marathon devotions every day.  He just wants to touch me and be touched, to love me and be loved.  Just like every other relationship, this requires time and care that sometimes may last for only a few minutes or sometimes for much longer. I’ve learned that the more intimate we become with Him, the more there is to learn about Him, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. 

Moving Forward: I’m thankful for the reminder from David to continue to know my God intimately.  God is my first priority today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 108-110

Proverbs 16 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  He fills our mouths with sweet words to encourage others

“Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (24)  It’s hard to place a value on a few kind words.  For those who live and work in a caring environment where kind words are shared on a regular basis, these words are appreciated and make one feel valued.  But for someone who rarely hears a kind word of any sort, a few shared words of encouragement or a compliment could be life changing.

A while back I was making a mad dash through the grocery store, very focused on my list in hand, but I wasn’t too focused to notice a very discouraged looking woman with three squabbling children.  The kids weren’t disorderly or loud, but I could tell they had gotten on her very last nerve.  When my children were young, I often shopped at 11:00 pm when the store was quiet, empty and the soft music was actually audible…and my kids were in bed.  Unfortunately, this mom was not alone.

As I was about to walk past the foursome, I saw her bright blue eyes flash at her children with that look that said “straighten up or else,” and I also noticed how much her turquoise top brightened her eyes and flattered her.  I stopped and told her just that.  At my interaction with them, the children stopped fighting and the mom lifted her head with tears in her eyes and said, “Thank you so very much.  I haven’t heard a compliment for such a long time.”  Well, I realized only the Lord could have filled my mouth with those sweet words that lifted her heart.  When we parted, this weary mom walked away with her head held a little higher, shoulders back and perhaps a sweeter soul. It’s hard to place a value on a few kind words.

Even though my personal world is filled with gracious and kind souls, I will testify as one who can feast for quite a while on a few kind words.  Maybe I’m just easy, but I think most of us feel this way.  Kind words just make us look better, feel stronger and think right.  In our busy world of high rollers and self indulgences, concern for the feelings of others is not top priority.  If we listen to too many news commentators and political ads, it’s easy to get accustomed to serving up sour grapes instead of sweet honey, and I think the terse jargon of today can affect the health of both the speaker and the listener.

Better to follow Paul’s advice in Ephesians 4:29, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  Sweet! 

Moving Forward: “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”   Sweet and healthy – imagine! I hope to sweeten someone’s life today. 

Tomorrow @ Daniel 1-6

Proverbs 13 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His wisdom helps us raise Godly children

To spank or not to spank – now that’s a debate for today.  Gaining momentum is the idea that spanking promotes anger and hostile behavior in children.  Many others take a more traditional position and believe that spanking when done without anger is an acceptable means of correcting disobedient children.  Having followed the traditional position, it was somewhat disconcerting for me to learn recently from my grown son that the spankings I gave him when he was young never really hurt him.  When I reminded him that he always cried, he gave me a sheepish smile and informed that he did that to make me feel better about it all.  I honestly gave it my best shot.  In spite of this, he’s grown to be a godly father and husband today.

There was no debate in Solomon’s mind regarding corporal punishment – he was all for it!   He began the chapter with, “A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline; a mocker refuses to listen to correction,” (1) and added in verse 24 a stronger statement, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” “Discipline your children while there is hope.  Otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (19:18) “A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away.” (22:15)  “Don’t fail to discipline your children.  They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.” (23:13-14)  Well, I think we know where Solomon stood on the subject.

The most abusive discipline by parents that I have seen came from words spoken rather than spanking. However, spanking need not be our first course of action in disciplining our children, and so very often other methods will take care of the situation we are facing.  When I resorted to this form of discipline, I followed the advice of so many others and never disciplined in anger but did so when emotions were calm and thinking was clear.  Any form of discipline administered without instruction, in my mind, is useless.  The purpose of discipline is to bring correction, to bring about a change in behavior.  How can these dear ones learn how to change without our instruction and help?  Following discipline, I often asked my children to tell me what the correct behavior would have been.  There was a lasting reinforcement in the matter when the answer came from their mouths instead of mine.

There were a few months in my daughter’s early teen years where there was a battle for supremacy between us.  Because of my determination to win, I was considered by her at times to be one of the “meanest mothers in the world.”  I must admit that I wore that label with some pride.  Then one day everything changed when my daughter told me about an exchange she had with a close friend.  She was complaining to her friend about how strict I was, never allowing her do what she wanted to do.  Her friend tearfully responded, “Well, at least she cares about you.  At least she cares about what you are doing and where you are going.  I wish my mom did.”

I believe we both won that battle.  My decisions and instructions were now received without question; my daughter finished her teen years without regrets and is today a beautiful woman of God.  No matter what form we use, disciplining children takes time, tenacity and a willingness to be disliked from time to time, but if we really love our children and care about their future, we will do it.  “Those who love their children care enough to discipline them… Physical discipline may well save them from death,” said the wisest man who ever lived. 

Moving Forward: I move forward today with a grateful heart.  Grateful for the wisdom from His Word that produced the wonderful children I enjoy today. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 37-42

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