August 28

Proverbs 24: 17 – 22 (The Message)

28
17-18 Don’t laugh when your enemy falls;
    don’t crow over his collapse.
God might see, and become very provoked,
    and then take pity on his plight.
29
19-20 Don’t bother your head with braggarts
    or wish you could succeed like the wicked.
Those people have no future at all;
    they’re headed down a dead-end street.
30
21-22 Fear God, dear child—respect your leaders;
    don’t be defiant or mutinous.
Without warning your life can turn upside down,
    and who knows how or when it might happen.

So that’s the end of the Thirty Wise Sayings. I’m not sure why those thirty are singled out for a list, because Solomon goes on for another 6 chapters of advice. But I think I’ll go back to picking and choosing the ones I like best. Hopefully, I won’t have to scratch my head as much.

From this last three, the one that catches my interest is the last one – “respect your leaders”. It seems to me that in the last few years, it is more common to complain about our leaders. We complain about the people leading our country, our province, our city, our church, the organizations we belong to, our kids’ school. You name it, we have something to complain about.

I understand that we don’t move forward and improve things unless we are willing to analyze and figure out where improvements are necessary. If we always just accepted the status quo, things would never get better. But the thing that improves things the most is not the criticisms. It is the willingness to jump in and help make things better. If we see a place where improvements need to be made, we also need to be the one who volunteers to help make those changes.

If anything, leaders need to be encouraged. A comment about how hard they work or how much you appreciate what they do is so uplifting. So think about the leaders you know. They don’t have to be some amazing, well-known person. They may be a member of staff at LSA. They may be on Session at our church. They may be leading your child’s Sunday School class. They may be organizing a neighbourhood event. They may be a leader at your child’s daycare or school. It may be your child’s teacher who is stressing over keeping everyone safe during Covid19. Make a comment, or write a note. Leave a small gift where they’ll find it with a ‘thank you’ written on it. Support the leaders you know by pitching in when they ask for help. So think about one leader you know and do some small thing to show your appreciation.

Our song for today is Grateful by Elevation Worship

August 27 – In Control

“It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. God made man small and the universe big to say something about himself.”
-John Piper

Can you relate to the feeling of losing control? Our human nature takes charge, but as life goes on, we discover things are out of our reach. I think as we grow, we realize, there isn’t much we actually have control over! We can pray and hope for the best, but the tighter we hold something, we find ourselves crushing it with our anxieties. In time, we can conclude to accomplish what is humanly possible, surrender in prayer, and learn the ways of God. Take it from the prayers of Hannah, as she praised God for being able to conceive.

“Nothing and no one is holy like GOD, no rock mountain like our God. Don’t dare talk pretentiously— not a word of boasting, ever! For GOD knows what’s going on. He takes the measure of everything that happens. The weapons of the strong are smashed to pieces, while the weak are infused with strength.”

This simple passage in Samuel stands out as the words of Hannah are quoted, for God knows what’s going on, He takes the measure of everything that happens. Our day to day striving, researching, prodding, and googling can only go so far. Overall, He is bigger. I hope this serves as wake-up over your situation. To persevere, to see your situation through, but know the power in the greatness of God.

For when we let go, miracles happen,
When we surrender in prayer, answers are given,
When we bow our heads, spirits are lifted.
Let’s find our surrender in God and discover freedom in His power.

I lift my hands to Heaven
Here my heart surrendered
I tell my soul again
You are Lord of all
And though the seas are raging
You will speak and tame them
In You I find my rest
You are in control’

-In Control, Hillsong Worship

Further Reading:

“God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight. He covers the face of the moon, shrouding it with his clouds. He created the horizon when he separated the waters: he set the boundary between day and night. The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke. By his power the sea grew calm. By his skill he crushed the great sea monster. His Spirit made the heavens beautiful, and his power pierced the gliding serpent. These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?” 
-Job 26:7-14

“For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect.” 
-2 Samuel 22:33

August 26 – Mmm … Honey

Proverbs 24: 13 – 16 (The Message)

26
13-14
 Eat honey, dear child—it’s good for you—
    and delicacies that melt in your mouth.
Likewise knowledge,
    and wisdom for your soul—
Get that and your future’s secured,
    your hope is on solid rock.
27
15-16
 Don’t interfere with good people’s lives;
    don’t try to get the best of them.
No matter how many times you trip them up,
    God-loyal people don’t stay down long;
Soon they’re up on their feet,
    while the wicked end up flat on their faces.

In some ways, these verses are connected to the ones posted yesterday, but with a slightly different slant. These verses look at the resilience of God’s children. We’re not the “perishing” and “falling apart” people. According to Solomon, you can try to knock “God-loyal people” down, but they’ll get right back up and keep going. Where do they get that resiliency?

The word “honey” in the first verse caught my attention, and it made me think of some verses in Psalm 19.

Psalm 19:7-10 (NLT)
7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
    reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
8 The commandments of the Lord are right,
    bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
    giving insight for living.
9 Reverence for the Lord is pure,
    lasting forever.The laws of the Lord are true;
    each one is fair.
10 They are more desirable than gold,
   even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
    even honey dripping from the comb.

The honey that keeps you fed and secure is God’s Word. Reading your Bible on a daily basis can keep you grounded in what is truth and who God is. That provides such security. Picture in your mind a house or building under construction. If it has a good foundation and the materials used are dependable, that building can withstand a lot of storms. Perhaps some shingles will blow off, or a brick may come loose, the painted trim might look worn, but the building stands.

That is so like our lives. Tough things do happen that can be terrifying or just a little scary, but life does go on. But according to the verses you read today, life just doesn’t continue; rather, people are back on their feet after a crisis. That would indicate that they are ready to keep going, instead of barely coping.

There is another psalm that describes Israel as they are going through the desert on the way to the promised land. They have been moving through a large desert area for 40 years, waiting for God to lead them to the land He had promised. That does not sound like a wonderful life to me – 40 years of living in a desert. In Psalm 81, the writer tells the people to praise God using all kinds of instruments in thankfulness for His faithfulness over the past years. The writer of the psalm also chastises them for the times when they rebelled against God and the disasters that brought. But he concludes with an interesting verse with God pleading with His people to trust him no matter what.

Psalm 81:16 (NASB)
“But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Honey from a rock? This tells me that God is willing to provide for me even in the hardest places. It’s that trust in Him that brings resilience to my life. I can keep going despite what happens because I know Him. How do I know Him? Through reading His Word and talking to Him daily. What a foundation for life!

I know through personal experience that it is easy to put my relationship with God on the back burner, and just carry on in my own strength. The busyness of life just takes over, especially with so many people and things depending on us 24/7. But I’ve also learned there is no other way to keep me going strong than by keeping my relationship with God on a priority basis. Foundations are built first in decent weather; they don’t get built while the storms are raging. So I challenge you and me as we face a difficult time in this pandemic that we take that time for a few moments with God every day. Get that strong foundation built.

13-14 Eat honey, dear child—it’s good for you—
    and delicacies that melt in your mouth.
Likewise knowledge,
    and wisdom for your soul—
Get that and your future’s secured,
    your hope is on solid rock. (Proverbs 24)

Our song for today is Word of God Speak by Mercy Me

August 25 – Do I Have To?

Proverbs 24: 10 – 12 (The Message)

24
10 If you fall to pieces in a crisis,
    there wasn’t much to you in the first place.
25
11-12 Rescue the perishing;
    don’t hesitate to step in and help.
If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,”
    will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know—
    Someone not impressed with weak excuses.

I’m not sure I like verse 10. I have a lot of sympathy for someone who falls apart when a crisis suddenly shows up. I am so aware we are human and not perfect. I’ve faced enough crises in my life to know what it feels like to have the bottom drop out. But I guess that verse could mean that if we fall to pieces. and don’t recover fairly well, then we don’t have a secure foundation in life. And that I understand. I may feel like a bomb just went off, but when I stop and get my breath, do I understand that God is in control and is with me? That is where that secure foundation in life that Solomon frequently talks about comes from. It’s not that we personally are really strong people; it’s God’s presence in our lives that makes the difference.

But then the next two verses almost seem to contradict the first one in this section. At first, it says you are pathetic if you fall to pieces in a crisis; then is says we have an obligation to rescue those falling apart people. When you stop and think about it, who is going to rescue ‘drowning’ people if it’s not us? They need to know that we are there to support them, and the reason we can do that is because God is supporting us. Who else can tell them about a Heavenly Father if it’s not us?

So look around you. Are there people you are ignoring? I know we can’t solve all the problems of the world, and you aren’t required to take all those problems on yourself. But take a peek. Is there someone on your street who could use your help? Is there someone who would really appreciate a phone call or a small gift left at their door? Is there a volunteer place at your church that you could fill? Could you donate to a cause in Windsor that strikes your heart? Could you support a child through Compassion International or World Vision? Who comes to your mind when you read, “rescue the perishing’ today?

Before you say you already have enough on your plate, think about this:

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Our song for today is Life Song by Casting Crowns

August 24 – Brains or Brawn?

Proverbs 24: 1 – 9 (The Message)

19
 1-2 Don’t envy bad people;
    don’t even want to be around them.
All they think about is causing a disturbance;
    all they talk about is making trouble.
20
3-4 It takes wisdom to build a house,
    and understanding to set it on a firm foundation;
It takes knowledge to furnish its rooms
    with fine furniture and beautiful draperies.
21
5-6 It’s better to be wise than strong;
    intelligence outranks muscle any day.
Strategic planning is the key to warfare;
    to win, you need a lot of good counsel.
22
Wise conversation is way over the head of fools;
    in a serious discussion they haven’t a clue.
23
8-9 The person who’s always cooking up some evil
    soon gets a reputation as prince of rogues.
Fools incubate sin;
    cynics desecrate beauty.

Today’s title brings back memories of the TV show, Survivor, on the season when they divided the contestants into 3 categories – brains, brawn and creativity. On that show, it seemed that the brawn group with the big muscles always won. And sometimes in real life, that is the way it seems to go as well. The most aggressive and noisy people seem to get their way the most often. You may have experienced this at work or in your extended family. Who seems to get the most attention – the quiet, thoughtful ones or the loud, pushy ones?

Yet Solomon is clear about what the winning side is like. Here are some of the words and phrases that stand out to me – wisdom, understanding, knowledge, intelligence, strategic planning, good counsel and serious discussion. These words emphasize listening and taking careful looks at all the options before making decisions. Frankly, that’s often hard to do. Our culture moves so quickly; decisions are made in a hurry. We often feel like we have to make a move or we will lose out.

I don’t know what decisions you have to make today, or this week – decisions about finances, about a job, about a big purchase, about a health issue, about whether to send your children back to school, etc.. But take Solomon’s advice and think it over. Get some good counsel. Have some serious discussions with people you respect. Make sure you understand all the consequences and advantages of what you are planning to do. “It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation” (v. 3). That’s what we really want more than anything.

There’s another verse that comes to mind when I think about this issue. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46: 10 (NIV). Pray about those decisions. There is no better counsel than our “discussion” with our Heavenly Father.

Today’s song is Take My Life by Chris Tomlin.
It’s an older hymn written in 1874, but the words are so appropriate for 2020.

August 21 – What Can I Say?

There are no comments I can make on these pieces of advice from Solomon. He says it as clear as can be. When I decided to plow through the 30 pieces of advice, I knew there would be some sections that were pretty self-explanatory, and this is certainly one of them. I’m glad it’s Friday, and we can start with something a little more upbeat on Monday.

Proverbs 23: 26– 35 (The Message)

17
26
 Dear child, I want your full attention;
    please do what I show you.
27-28 A whore is a bottomless pit;
    a loose woman can get you in deep trouble fast.
She’ll take you for all you’ve got;
    she’s worse than a pack of thieves.

18
29-35 Who are the people who are always crying the blues?
    Who do you know who reeks of self-pity?
Who keeps getting beat up for no reason at all?
    Whose eyes are bleary and bloodshot?
It’s those who spend the night with a bottle,
    for whom drinking is serious business.
Don’t judge wine by its label,
    or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavor.
Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with—
    the splitting headache, the queasy stomach.
Do you really prefer seeing double,
    with your speech all slurred,
Reeling and seasick,
    drunk as a sailor?
“They hit me,” you’ll say, “but it didn’t hurt;
    they beat on me, but I didn’t feel a thing.
When I’m sober enough to manage it,
    bring me another drink!”

August 20 – Your Word

“So you can see that it’s not the same thing as reading the latest issue of your favorite magazine or a Shakespearean sonnet. There’s something different here — something that the creator of the universe wants to tell you and wants you to understand about him and yourself. By jumping into the Bible, you open your eyes to God’s world and see how he includes you in his story.”
-Eugene Peterson, The Message Remix

As I scroll daily through several social media accounts I at times feel bombarded with opinions, information, facts and headlines. I’ve caught myself many times needing a news break. The headlines these days are consistent and readily at our fingertips. It is quite easy to express a view on each and any article that comes out. Where media, previous to our age, was a one-way outlet, it now has become a two-way street; a dialogue. Instead of what everyone else is doing, or the state of our world, I’m reminded there are ancient words that have been penned that give us hope, revelation, strength, clarity and much more.

  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
– Psalm 119:105

Before the beginning of the world God’s word was there. The words became among us and through us. Our life stories unfold through the knowledge of the Bible. God’s word is overall, a text supreme, where we find our purpose and fullness. A much-needed pause in our day, these words will never change or go out of style.

“Before the Earth knew its foundations
You spoke the dust, into creation
Until the end, when all has withered
Then still your Word, will endure forever”

-Hillsong Worship, Your Word

Perhaps you also could use a break from the usual scrolling, and like myself appreciate the simple reminder of the freshness of simple Biblical reading.

Eugene Peterson summarizes this well when he states:
“As we read, and the longer we read, we, begin to ‘get it’ — we are in conversation with God. We find ourselves listening and answering in matters that most concern us: who we are, where we came from, where we are going, what makes us tick, the texture of the world and the communities we live in, and — most of all — the incredible love of God among us, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. “Through reading the Bible, we see that there is far more to the world, more to us, more to what we see and more to what we don’t see — more to everything! — than we had ever dreamed, and that this ‘more’ has to do with God. This is new for many of us, a different sort of book
— a book that reads us even as we read it.”

Trading our usual media this week for Bible time may open more doors than we can imagine.

Further Reading:

“Blessed are you who give yourselves over to GOD, turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,” ignore what the world worships; The world’s a huge stockpile of GOD-wonders and God-thoughts. Nothing and no one comes close to you! I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words. Neither numbers nor words account for you.”
-Psalm 40:4-5 MSG

August 19 – Look Behind and Ahead

Proverbs 23: 22 – 26 (NLT)

22 Listen to your father, who gave you life,
    and don’t despise your mother when she is old.
23 Get the truth and never sell it;
    also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.
24 The father of godly children has cause for joy.
    What a pleasure to have children who are wise.
25 So give your father and mother joy!
    May she who gave you birth be happy.
26 O my son, give me your heart.
    May your eyes take delight in following my ways.

The Message paraphrase:

16
22-25 Listen with respect to the father who raised you,
    and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her.
Buy truth—don’t sell it for love or money;
    buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight.
Parents rejoice when their children turn out well;
    wise children become proud parents.
So make your father happy!
    Make your mother proud!
26 Dear child, I want your full attention;
    please do what I show you.

This section of Solomon’s advice is interesting because you can apply it to two generations – the one before you (your mom and dad) and the one following you as you parent your little ones.

If you are anything like me, there are things you learned from your mom and dad that you treasure, and there are things you’ve sworn you will never do. From my mom I learned how to love each child deeply and let them know how much they mean to me, how much I enjoy them. I also swore I’d never make any comments to my kids about what their house looked like – my mom was a neat, clean freak, and having her come to visit me was always big-time stress. From my dad, I learned leadership style – humility and being inclusive even when you are the leader. I also learned that I should never go into science or math areas; I still remember his sighs as he tried to explain physics and math concepts to me while I struggled with them in high school.

But overall, when I look back at the generation before me, I am so thankful for their teaching and encouragement. I know my parents were really proud of each of the four of us, and it was a wonderful opportunity to give back as they aged and needed our help and encouragement. But as I look ahead at my own kids and grandkids, I also look at verse 23 – “Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” That’s what I want to stress with my kids and grandchildren. I want to encourage them to get their priorities in the right order. In all those daily activities – play, chores, school, sports, church – how do I encourage them to make wise choices and enjoy learning? How do I encourage them to seek the truth and not get sucked in by all the social media and cultural influences?

It’s a real challenge for sure! But there’s one good thing to look ahead to if you manage to parent wise children.
“The father of godly children has cause for joy.
    What a pleasure to have children who are wise.
So give your father and mother joy!
    May she who gave you birth be happy” (verses 24 and 25)

Our song for today is Lead Me by Sanctus Real

August 18 – Lots More to Think About

When The Message paraphrases these verses, it actually puts in the number of the 30 pieces of advice. So that is why you see those numbers before each grouping of verses as you read.

9
9 Don’t bother talking sense to fools;
    they’ll only poke fun at your words.

10
10-11 Don’t stealthily move back the boundary lines
    or cheat orphans out of their property,
For they have a powerful Advocate
    who will go to bat for them.

11
12 Give yourselves to disciplined instruction;
    open your ears to tested knowledge.

12
13-14 Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;
    a spanking won’t kill them.
A good spanking, in fact, might save them
    from something worse than death.

13
15-16
 Dear child, if you become wise,
    I’ll be one happy parent.
My heart will dance and sing
    to the tuneful truth you’ll speak.

14
17-18 
Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels;
    soak yourself in the Fear-of-God—
That’s where your future lies.
    Then you won’t be left with an armload of nothing.

15
19-21
 Oh listen, dear child—become wise;
    point your life in the right direction.
Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk;
    don’t eat too much food and get fat.
Drunks and gluttons will end up on skid row,
    in a stupor and dressed in rags.

So which ones of those pieces of advice made you stop and think? For me, there is a down side to my decision not to leave out verses as we go through these 2 ½ chapters. Sometimes I’m scratching my head while I figure out what to comment on. Those are the days when I wish I could just leave it all to you to make the comments with your reactions.

So I’m going to pick one that many of you might say – “Oh No – not that one”

12
13-14 Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;
    a spanking won’t kill them.
A good spanking, in fact, might save them
    from something worse than death.

Right up front, I’m going to say that I’m not a fan of spanking, although I have spanked my children. The interesting thing in my years of parenting young children, the number of spankings went down dramatically as the years went by. My oldest daughter likely got the most spankings, and I don’t think the youngest one was ever spanked. I don’t think that had anything to do with their personalities. I do know my oldest was the most stubborn and ‘in-your-face’ one, but my youngest could give her a ‘run for the money’ in the stubborn department. I think it had more to do with gaining experience in dealing with unreasonable, scary preschoolers.

I do need to say that in no way do I condone spanking done by an angry, upset parent who lashes out at their child. That is abuse! But, sometimes a spanking or smack on the hand makes a young child realize that what they are doing actually puts them in danger. They need to understand that what they are doing leads to being badly hurt – better by you than by a car or a hot stove.

I know that our culture really frowns on spanking, and I understand that comes from seeing way too much abuse of young children. The fact that we are grown adults with much more muscle power and speed does not give us the right to inflict hurt on defenseless children. But the word “spanking” is not the main idea that jumps out at me when I read those verses.

“Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones” is what gets my attention. In our culture of “more is better” and “success is what counts”, I think we may tend to lead our children down a path that won’t serve them well. How many times do we buy our kids toys and clothes so that they are the cutest, and most delighted kids? How many times do we push our kids because we don’t want them to be behind the development of our friends’ kids? How much do we jump to our child’s defense telling them that “it’s not their fault’ when something doesn’t work out for them? Mommy/daddy will do it for you.

What is your goal for your child? What are the most important characteristics you want developed in your child? Is that where your corrections lead? I’m not going to say anything more. I just want you to reflect on those questions and your own parenting style.

August 17 – Getting Ahead

Proverbs 23: 1 – 8
While dining with a ruler,
    pay attention to what is put before you.
2 If you are a big eater,
    put a knife to your throat;
3 don’t desire all the delicacies,
    for he might be trying to trick you.

4 Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.
    Be wise enough to know when to quit.
5 In the blink of an eye wealth disappears,
    for it will sprout wings
    and fly away like an eagle.

6 Don’t eat with people who are stingy;
    don’t desire their delicacies.
7 They are always thinking about how much it costs.
    “Eat and drink,” they say, but they don’t mean it.
8 You will throw up what little you’ve eaten,
    and your compliments will be wasted.

These next 3 pieces of advice seem to centre on how to get ahead, or how to get rich – except, the usual ways of doing that are put down by Solomon. If you hang out with rich people, you might find that they are actually trying to take advantage of you. If you hang out with really thrifty people as you try to figure out ways of saving that will get you ahead, you will figure out it’s really not worth it. In fact, the thriftiness may make you sick.

The real deal is the second piece of advice. Trying to get rich is not the best goal in life. Wealth can disappear, and then what have you got? If getting ahead is your ultimate goal in life, you may end up distraught. “Be wise enough to know when to quit,” Solomon says. That’s some good advice. Figure out how much is enough, and know when to accept what you have or when to push for more.

This kind of reminds me of my grandson, Caleb (13 years old), who has been a goalie for travel hockey teams for several years. In his early years, his notion of success was winning every game, and not letting more than one goal get in his net at most. When he didn’t achieve that, he got really upset and sometimes lost it. Goalies flopping on the ice in all their equipment is not a pretty sight – actually, it’s rather sad and funny at the same time. His parents talked a lot to him about how hockey is just a game, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. They talked about how it’s not always the goalie’s fault when a puck goes in the net; sometimes it’s your team that lets you down. But in the end, life goes on just fine. But at his young age, you could see Caleb struggle with this more sane approach to hockey. So, his parents figured out a way of helping him calm down when a goal is scored against him. Janet yells, “Reset” as she sees him start to smack his goalie stick against the goal posts. A couple of years later, she doesn’t have to do that anywhere near as much.

I think that’s what Solomon is saying in these verses. Reset your priorities, and don’t make getting wealthy (or getting ahead) one of your main goals. Be wise enough to know how much is enough.

Our song for today is Keep Me in the Moment by Jeremy Camp

August 14 – Lots of Advice

Proverbs 22: 17 – 21 (NLT)

17 Listen to the words of the wise;
    apply your heart to my instruction.
18 For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
    and always ready on your lips.
19 I am teaching you today—yes, you—
    so you will trust in the Lord.
20 I have written thirty sayings for you,
    filled with advice and knowledge.
21 In this way, you may know the truth
    and take an accurate report to those who sent you.

The above verses start a long list of advice that takes us through chapters 23 and 24 – the list of those 30 sayings. Over the next while, I’m going to post all of these verses in order. So you’ll read several verses that contain a variety of advice, and you can concentrate on the ones that make you stop and think. So here are the verses that conclude chapter 22.

Proverbs 22:22-29 The Message

22-23 Don’t walk on the poor just because they’re poor,
    and don’t use your position to crush the weak,
Because God will come to their defense;
    the life you took, he’ll take from you and give back to them.

24-25 Don’t hang out with angry people;
    don’t keep company with hotheads.
Bad temper is contagious—
    don’t get infected.

26-27 Don’t gamble on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,
    hocking your house against a lucky chance.
The time will come when you have to pay up;
    you’ll be left with nothing but the shirt on your back.

28 Don’t stealthily move back the boundary lines
    staked out long ago by your ancestors.

29 Observe people who are good at their work—
    skilled workers are always in demand and admired;
    they don’t take a backseat to anyone.

So there are the first five pieces of advice. Which one – or ones – made you stop and perhaps reread them? One of the things that I love about the Bible is its ability to speak to me in whatever circumstance I’m experiencing at the time. So because of what is happening around me, a particular verse might really make me stop and think things over. Another time, reading the same verses, a different idea will resonate. These ideas resonate for a variety of reasons. One might be that I recognize that what it says is true, and I should act on it. Another might be that I recognize that what it says is true, because I’ve seen it in my own experience, and it affirms that I’m on the right path.

One piece of advice that caught my eye was the last one – “observe people who are good at their work”. A couple of years ago, my granddaughter, Rebekah, was at a Youth Leadership event put on by the Rotary Club in Michigan. Most of the students who attended were sent by their schools because of their leadership roles at their school. One of the comments Rebekah made when we were asking her about the weekend was that she couldn’t get over how nice everyone was. She had never met so many people in one place who were kind, had great ideas, who listened to each other so much – just were so comfortable to be with. I think this especially struck her because she was nervous about going since she literally didn’t know anyone who would be there. I was really glad she had that chance to “observe people who are good at their work” since I’m sure it encouraged her to think about what really counts in leadership roles – good leaders make everyone feel included.

So there is one example of how Scripture resonates with our everyday life. I don’t know which one of those five pieces of advice made you stop and think. If you’d like to be brave, share which one struck you the most.

August 13 – The Deep

The Deep

“I’ve lost control, but I’m free”
– In Over My Head, Bethel

A familiar passage in the story of Jonah reads:

“In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God.
He answered me.
From the belly of the grave I cried, ‘Help!’
You heard my cry.
You threw me into ocean’s depths,
into a watery grave,
With ocean waves, ocean breakers
crashing over me.
I said, ‘I’ve been thrown away,
thrown out, out of your sight.
I’ll never again lay eyes
on your Holy Temple.’
Ocean gripped me by the throat.
The ancient Abyss grabbed me and held tight.
My head was all tangled in seaweed
at the bottom of the sea where the mountains take root.
I was as far down as a body can go,
and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever—
Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive,
O God, my God!
When my life was slipping away,
I remembered God,
And my prayer got through to you…”

– Jonah 2:2-8 (MSG)

‘As far down as a body can go’ the passage says that Jonah sank into the depths. As Jonah sank literally into the abyss I think it’s a familiar feeling for us all, sinking, deep. Whether its sinking into fear, helplessness, spiraling into hopelessness, or buried by our schedules. We can be consumed by our difficulties. I’m wondering if you can relate to days where you’re simply trying to stay afloat. A song put out by Bethel Music says:

“And whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head” 
If it makes no difference, it tells us to release all of these sinking feelings. When you’ve hit the bottom, there’s nowhere else to go.

“The only storm that can really destroy—the storm of divine justice and judgment on sin and evil—will never come upon you. Jesus bowed his head into that ultimate storm, willingly, for you. He died, receiving the punishment for sin we deserve, so we can be pardoned when we trust in him.”
– Timothy Keller, The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy

Our deep is not too deep for God. There is nothing too far from God’s rescue, no prayer he can’t handle, no despair he doesn’t attend too. We can surrender our despair to him.
God is with us in the depths, and as he provided Jonah with a whale, he again gives us a second chance. Maybe we don’t recognize our second chances? I wouldn’t at first assume being swallowed by a whale a second chance.

Beneath the waves we can find the will to surrender.
Whether I sink, or whether I swim.

In time, I wonder if we could see the depths as a place of turn around; a chance to reevaluate and reassess. To remind ourselves of gratitude, or to dwell on the storm that Jesus has fought and won for us. I want to encourage you that no ocean is too big for his grace, his power, and love. 

Let it go

“If you were a hundred times worse than you are, your sins would be no match for his mercy.”
– Timothy Keller, The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now”

– Oceans, Hillsong United

Hoping we can learn to take each day in strides, to pursue gratitude and release the feelings of defeat to Jesus, whom gives us mercy and second chances at the bottom.

August 12 – Gracious Speech

Proverbs 22: 10 – 11 (NLT)

“Throw out the mocker, and fighting goes, too.
    Quarrels and insults will disappear.
11 Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech
    will have the king as a friend.”

In this pandemic time, there is so much said about how dangerous the virus is, where it has spread and how many people are infected, how to stay safe, etc. There are various theories on social media such as it’s a ploy by governments to control us, to know exactly where we are, and what we’re doing. Governments want us to stop using cash, so they can control us through our banking cards. It was a bioweapon developed in China to harm the West and put China in control. Bill Gates advocated the spread of Covid 19 to develop a vaccine with a microchip to track people. And there are theories about medication that cures Covid such as hydroxychloroquine.

Personally, I prefer the statements made by science and health professionals around the world. It is a virus that can kill vulnerable people, and can also leave survivors with difficult health issues. We should distance ourselves as much as possible, wear masks in public to help prevent the spread, and wash our hands frequently.

When I read the advice from Solomon today, I see my role as someone who will avoid arguments and concentrate on being gracious. There are differences of opinion on how we should conduct our lives right now. Some think officials are being overly cautious. Some think they are not cautious enough. As school begins this fall, some parents will send their children back to school; others will decide to keep them at home with online classes, or homeschooling plans.

Our job as Christ followers is to love everyone no matter what their opinion is. God loves every single one of us whether we are like Nicodemus who followed the letter of the law as much as possible, or whether we are like the Samaritan woman who had separated from 5 husbands and was working on #6, or whether we are like several of the disciples – just ordinary folks doing the best we can.

Just to reinforce Solomon’s advice on being gracious, here are some verses from other places in the Bible that encourage us to be kind. God has been so kind to us, how can we not be gracious to others.

Galatians 5:22
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Psalm 145:17
The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness.

Zechariah 7:9
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.

2 Corinthians 6:6
We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.

Colossians 3:12
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Our song for today is The Goodness of God by Bethel Music

August 11 – A Plan for the Future

Proverbs 22: 6 (NLT)

“Direct your children onto the right path,
    and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

I love this verse. I think I’ve thought of this verse often ever since my kids were little – hoping and crossing my fingers it was true. I know – faith isn’t about crossing your fingers. But, that desperate hope down deep inside many of us parents is sort of like that. You do your best and hope your kids will turn out all right.

Now that I’m older, and I’ve seen my kids grow up and am now watching my grandkids grow up, and I’ve seen my friends’ kids grow up and their grandchildren … you get what I mean. I look at that verse and know in my heart and experience that it’s true.

Now that doesn’t mean that you won’t have some bumps along the way, worries and heartaches, but what children learn in those early years really does shape them significantly. So face the future confidently, and put all your energy into what you are doing now. Think about the values you want your children to have. It might even be a good idea for you to write them down to make sure you have them straight in your own mind. Then pray and ask for God’s help to live out those values in front of your children, and look for interesting ways to teach and reinforce them with your young ones.

Recently I talked with a group of parents about a series on parenting that they thought was excellent. The videos are short and entertaining, but full of good content. I’ve seen a couple of them, and thought they were good as well. You can access it on YouTube, and I’d recommend watching it with your partner.

Intentional Parenting by Doug Fields

You can access it on RightNowMedia OR on YouTube

CLICK HERE!

August 10 – What’s Really Important?

Proverbs 22: 1, 2, and 4 (NLT)

“Choose a good reputation over great riches;
    being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.
2 The rich and poor have this in common:
    The Lord made them both.

4 True humility and fear of the Lord
lead to riches, honour, and long life.”

The Message
“A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich;
    a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank.
The rich and the poor shake hands as equals—
    God made them both!

4 The payoff for meekness and Fear-of-God
    is plenty and honor and a satisfying life.”

This theme that riches are not the most important thing in life repeats itself a lot in Proverbs. I find it interesting since Solomon was considered to be one of the richest people in his world, along with his reputation for wisdom. So I guess if anyone should know whether being rich is very important, it would be Solomon. In another book he wrote – Ecclesiastes – Solomon wrote, “The sleep of a working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but, the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep … As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labour.” (5: 12 and 15 NASB)

So what does Solomon say is most important – “a good reputation”/“being held in high esteem” or wealth? I don’t think that means you have to be a widely known, popular person. Just the next-door-neighbour can be a wonderful person. Good reputations are built on integrity and kindness. Someone you can trust and someone who looks out for others as much as themselves is a person with a good reputation. That is the person you would turn to when you needed a friend and advisor.

So what does that mean for us ordinary folks? It means you don’t have to have perfect kids. It means you don’t have to have a big house furnished with all the latest decorating tips, or the latest model car/SUV. It means you don’t have to concentrate on being the best dressed person in your friendship group. It means you don’t have to be able to entertain lavishly or go on expensive vacations. You don’t even have to be the best example of an accomplished person in some skill, trade or profession. You don’t have to be wealthy or even a middle-class earner.

You can relax and just be honest. People can know they can count on your word. When you say you’ll do something, you can be counted on. When you recommend something, people appreciate your opinion. You can be kind and friendly. You can invite people to your house even though you don’t have enough money to buy coordinated living room furniture yet, or serve a gourmet meal. People just know you care about them.

That’s what Solomon is telling you. Having lots of stuff isn’t the most important thing. It’s being well thought of by the people around you.

Our song for today is Love God, Love People by Danny Gokey

August 7 – What a Relief!

Proverbs 21: 31 (NLT)
“The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.”

 “Do your best, prepare for the worst—
then trust God to bring victory.” (The Message)

I like what this verse means. Lots of preparation goes into the battle plans, but the outcome is really left up to the Lord.

We don’t just sit around doing nothing and wait for God to do everything. We clean our homes, make good meals, dress our kids nicely, make sure they get all the medical attention they need, make sure they have friends to play with, take them to activities that we think will help them develop well, teach them about God, discipline them so they understand rules and good behaviour, assign them chores to develop their sense of responsibility, and on and on we go. Doesn’t that list make you tired?

At our jobs, we look for ways to be more efficient. We enroll in training to update our skills. We look for ways to get a promotion so we can ‘up’ our standard of living. If we are the owners of our business, we look for ways to make it more profitable. We look to hire good people.

At our church, we have committees that assess the programs we have. Is there a way to do things better? Is there a way to attract people to our church? How can we encourage spiritual growth in the congregation? How can our church help our community, our world?

We are made in the image of God. Genesis 1: 26 – 28 says:
“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
27 So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

God made us to be creative and plan things. We were given the earth to “reign over”. So, there is nothing wrong with all of our planning and preparation. But what we must realize is that God is the one who provides the victory. What does that mean?

Pray. Pray. Pray.
Seek God’s will and then give God all the credit and all the glory.

Our song for today is Great Things by Phil Wickham

August 6 – Fire

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in

– Hillsong United, Another in the Fire

Prescribed burns are implemented for a healthy ecosystem. It is the idea of intentionally burning off what isn’t useful in order to make room for new growth. Crews will take the specific precautions, plan down to the last detail what needs to burn and where. Burns are carefully isolated to one area and are fully controlled. Many times, biologists oversee these projects to determine correct plant life and what the new flora will look like when regrowth happens.
Fire is an element that kills whatever is in its tracks. We prevent forest fires, criminalize arson, and protect our homes with smoke detectors. We are prepared for an unexpected fire. But what if there is something to be said about burning intentionally? This analogy allows us to see fire as a means of renewing. As a biologist sets fire to the forest floor, perhaps there are things inside us that could go. For example: negative mindsets, poor perspectives, unhealthy hobbies, addictions, a sour worldview, to pick a few. There are things in our souls that could be burned off in order to make room for new seeds of change. 

….provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendour. – Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

The bible symbolizes fire as purification, including the power and zeal of God. Both with the element of destroying and cleansing.
Yet, not out of our own strength can these changes be made, but out of the planting of the Holy Spirit.

Similarly, fire is hot, and it is both positive and negative. It symbolizes both refining and purifying, on the one hand, and death and destruction on the other. – Forerunner Commentary

The character of God is described as a holy fire. Burning that within us that has no use to us anymore. Fire symbolizes God’s radiant glory as an aspect of His holiness.

“For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.”
– Deuteronomy 4:24 (KJV)

Light up the fire of love inside and blaze the thoughts away. – Rumi

God desires to free us from that which holds us back in our lives. Things that aren’t serving us. Intentionally burning welcomes change and rebirth.

So let’s burn off anything that has no use to us. Embrace a holy fire. Turn ashes to beauty and grow again. 

Grow up and grow within. 

Because in our fires He is always fanning our flame. 
To become and to change, to be increasingly like Christ.

Further Reading:

“You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..” – Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

August 5 – Giving or Getting

Proverbs 21: 26 (NLT)

“Some people are always greedy for more,
but the godly love to give!”

This is an interesting contrast between people who love God and people who love money. The Bible actually has a lot to say about that.

Jesus taught about our priorities here on earth, and He was very clear about money not being a big priority. I don’t have to explain these verses at all; the message is very obvious.
Matthew 6:19 (NLT) “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Matthew 6:24 (NLT) “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

I really think this is a message that our culture today needs to hear. I do think today’s younger generations are more concerned with social and environmental issues than previous generations. So I think progress has been made in that area. But we still tend to admire and want to follow the example of folks who have made lots of money. I really enjoy watching the various shows on HGTV. Home renovations intrigue me, but if I really think about what I’m watching, it’s how to spend money and have your home look like a home décor advertisement. Is that really our priority?

Jesus caught a young rich man in that dilemma. The young man wanted to follow Jesus; he was likely very attracted to this man who was challenging the current religious practices. But Jesus realized there was an issue he had to deal with – his wealthy family and life of privilege. So Jesus made him face that issue right on.

Matthew 19:21 (NLT) “Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Sadly, when he realized that money couldn’t be a priority, the young man left.

There are some verses in the New Testament written by Paul that instruct Christ followers about money. Again, these verses are very clear and need no explanation.

1 Timothy 6:10  (NLT) “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”

1 Timothy 6:17, 18 (NLT) “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.”

An interview with Melissa Gates that I once watched at the Global Leadership Summit intrigued me. Melissa and Bill Gates, owners of Microsoft, are one of the richest couples on the planet. Yet Melissa was dressed in an outfit that she could have bought at any clothing store. She wore navy dress pants, a cream plain blouse with a pink jacket. She had a plain wedding band, and no other jewellery. She talked about how her faith prompted her and her husband to share the wealth they had by establishing the Gates Foundation. They have made such a difference in the world by funding health and education projects, and they are encouraging other billionaires to get involved as well. There were some picture clips of her sitting cross-legged with Third World women – something she does several times a year because she wants to know firsthand the issues those women face. She talked about how she needs to spend more time in quiet meditation on those trips in order to keep her focus in the right place. It seemed to me that Melissa Gates demonstrated what those verses said.

Over my lifetime, I’ve struggled between how much I can accumulate or purchase, and how much I should give away. I think it’s important to really think and pray about that issue, especially since we live in such a wealthy country in comparison to most of the world. Solomon challenges us to have a giving mindset.

“The godly love to give.”

Our song for today is Do Something by Matthew West

August 4 – Ouch!

Proverbs 21: 9 and 19 (The Message)

9 Better to live alone in a tumbledown shack
than share a mansion with a nagging spouse.

19 Better to live in a tent in the wild
than with a cross and petulant spouse.

Today’s devotions will be short – just like Solomon’s advice here is short and to the point. How do you treat your partner?

How much do we roll our eyes? How much do we criticize for not getting things done when we want them done? How much do we sigh dramatically when we’re not happy about something? How much do we nag? How much are we just “cross” – hard to get along with? How much do we pout?

You know – those verses are absolutely right. So just for today, let’s make sure that we don’t criticize anything our partner does – not even the tiniest bit.

In fact, let’s commit to saying and or doing at least 2 complimentary, encouraging things.

Do you think they’ll notice?

August 3 – What Motivates Me?

Proverbs 21: 1 – 4; 8 (The Message)

“Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God;
he directs it to whatever ends he chooses.
2 We justify our actions by appearances;
God examines our motives.
3 Clean living before God and justice with our neighbours
mean far more to God than religious performance.
4 Arrogance and pride—distinguishing marks in the wicked—    
are just plain sin.

8 Mixed motives twist life into tangles;
pure motives take you straight down the road.”

These verses really make me think about motivation. What motives are behind my behaviour? When I volunteer to help in an organization, why do I make that commitment? When I agreed to be a leader in some situation, why did I do that? When I agree to help with some project that I really don’t enjoy, why did I do that? There are so many choices that I make every day, and to be honest, I’m not always sure why I do what I do.

One thing I do know is that I want people to like me. I want people to think I’m reliable and willing to support good causes. I want people to think I’m smart and competent. I want people to think I’m really committed to my faith. When people think of me, I want them to essentially say – “Oh isn’t she wonderful!” And to be honest, I think that is likely true of most of us. Who wants to be thought of as a failure or pathetic? Solomon sums that up so well – “We justify our actions by appearances”. We want to look good, so we do what we think makes us look that way.

“Arrogance and pride – distinguishing marks in the wicked – are just plain sin.” That verse makes me cringe. Arrogance is something I certainly don’t want to be associated with. The dictionary defines it as “offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride”. But pride? That doesn’t sound quite so awful. We use that word more often when we encourage someone. We might tell our children we are proud of them for doing something well. It doesn’t seem so wrong to be proud of ourselves for staying on task and completing a job well done. However, again, this verse points to our motivations -to feel good, important.

How much of my motivation for doing things is connected to God? “Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God;  he directs it to whatever ends he chooses.” Leadership doesn’t necessarily mean being the president of a country or a big business. We are leaders in our homes. If you are a Sunday School teacher, you are a leader there. If you are on some kind of committee, you are part of the leadership there. Every single one of us leads somewhere.

But the major idea in that verse is that God controls what is happening – “a channel of water controlled by God.” That is such a lovely picture. Water is a necessity in our lives. It comprises 60% of our bodies. Science says we need 11 to 15 cups of water a day. We need it to keep clean. On the hot days of summer, we need it to keep cool. Our world needs us – “water controlled by God”. When God controls our motives and behaviour, we are a blessing to those around us. Wow!

That makes me stop and think. What motivates me the most? That is something I really need to pray about. I need to ask God to motivate me, to direct me. I suspect that is something we all need to do.

“Mixed motives twist life into tangles; pure motives take you straight down the road.”

Our song for today is Lord, I Give You My Heart by Michael W. Smith