Friday, July 21, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 58, Being Kind To Others Is Being Kind To The Lord

King Solomon speaks briefly on some family matters and practical matters, then he points out that the person who cares about himself will want to keep God's commandments, and the person who cares about himself and about God will also care about others.

"A foolish child is a father's ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof." (Proverbs 19:13) We don't know whether Solomon is speaking from personal experience or simply from observations. We only know for certain that he had one son, Rehoboam, who swiftly lost ten tribes of the kingdom. It's hard to say whether Solomon suspected his son wouldn't be a good king. With as many wives as Solomon had, some of them may have been quarrelsome, and he says, "Listening to a quarrelsome woman is as aggravating as hearing rain from the roof dripping into a metal pan. It's a constant annoyance. It's enough to make a person go crazy."

"Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord." (Proverbs 19:14) Solomon points out that a good wife is a personal blessing from the Lord. We may or may not have had wealthy parents who are able to leave us something, for we have no control over what families we were born into. But we do have control over who we choose for a life partner, and God will honor the prayer of the godly person who seeks a godly spouse. He is able to bring the right person into our lives at the right time.

"Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry." (Proverbs 19:15) There's something about laziness that breeds more laziness. I find I feel more physically tired if I spend the day lying around than if I spend the day being active. He says it brings on deep sleep, but in the end laziness leads to hunger because the lazy person didn't earn any money for food.

"Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die." (Proverbs 19:16) Solomon has said before that the person who loves himself will heed instruction and will love knowledge. Now he adds keeping commandments to the behavior of the one who cares for his own life. The Lord's brother James agrees with him, saying, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22) Solomon is saying something like, "The wise person will want to know more about the Lord. He will want to hear God's word. And he will want to obey God's word." The best thing we can do for ourselves is be faithful to the Lord. He is the source of all that is good, of all that fulfills us and gives purpose to our lives. Obeying His word will keep us out of a lot of foolish situations, plus He blesses the one who is obedient to Him.

"Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done." (Proverbs 19:17) Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 25 when He told the parable of the sheep and the goats. The sheep represent the godly and the goats represent the ungodly. The King in the parable is the Lord Jesus. The King says to the godly, "I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me." (Matthew 25:35-36) Puzzled, the sheep ask the King when they had ever seen Him in such need and had done anything for Him, and He replies, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40) Being kind to others is the same as being kind to the Lord. Our kindness will not go unnoticed by Him, for He promises to reward us. The King will say to us, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)

The Apostle Paul adds his assurance to the words of Solomon and Jesus, promising us that the Lord will reward the one who does what is right. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 6:9-10) Paul urges us not to become weary because he knows this world has a way of making us weary. He knows there will be times when we feel like giving up, when we feel like all our righteous living is going unnoticed. This is why he tells us to be patient, comparing our reward to a harvest from the fields. A harvest only comes at the proper time. We can't sow the seed this month and harvest next month. In the same way we might not see a reward today for what we did yesterday, but we can be certain the Lord is keeping track of all the times we obeyed His word when it would have been easier not to. We can rest assured He sees every act of kindness and mercy. At the proper time, we will reap an abundant harvest more wonderful than we ever imagined. Nobody can give rewards like God can!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 57, No Other Name

Today Solomon talks about some things he has observed from his position as king of Israel.

"Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts." (Proverbs 19:6) I bet everyone wanted to be friends with King Solomon in order to gain something from him.

"The poor are shunned by all their relatives---how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found." (Proverbs 19:7) He knows if he lost all his money he would lose most, or all, of the people who hang around him. For one thing, they would have no use for him if he couldn't do anything for them. For another thing, they might fear he would ask for help from them.

"The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper." (Proverbs 19:8) It's normal to love and care for ourselves. God created us with an instinct for self-preservation. Living by godly wisdom provides a measure of protection over our lives. It will keep us from engaging in foolish and harmful behaviors that could shorten the years we have on this earth.

The king now repeats something he said yesterday, "A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will perish." (Proverbs 19:9) Many a liar has stood in Solomon's courtroom. Isn't it infuriating when we know someone is lying straight to our face? He's had to endure this a number of times and he knows we have too, so he assures us God will deal with liars and false witnesses.

"It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury---how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!" (Proverbs 19:10) Have you ever heard the saying that having more money does nothing but make us more of who we already are? A godly person will respond to wealth differently than an ungodly person. An ungodly person will use his money to be even more wicked than he was before.

"A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense." (Proverbs 19:11) It's more honorable to shrug off an offense than to fight about it. This doesn't mean we're to be pushovers, but we're to do as the Apostle Paul instructed, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18) It's unseemly for the Christian to be a hot-tempered brawler who is easily offended. It's far better to maintain our dignity by agreeing to disagree. Jesus never got caught up in squabbles, even though His enemies would have loved to cause Him to lose His temper. He merely stated the truth of God's word and allowed His listeners to accept the word or not. I don't think any of us would consider Jesus a pushover simply because He refused to get embroiled in quarrels.

"A king's rage is like the roar of a lion, but His favor is like dew on the grass." (Proverbs 19:12) If I were standing in Solomon's court I'd tremble if he yelled at me, but I'd feel enormous relief if he smiled at me. As the king of Israel he wielded enormous power to either pardon or punish a crime. If we would fear an earthly king in this way, how much more should we fear the King of kings? How much more should we tremble at His word and hasten to obey Him? The Lord Jesus was of the same opinion, saying, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) We can either experience God's wrath or God's mercy; the choice is ours. His favor is like dew on the grass. His favor, as King David said, "is life". (Psalm 30:5) When I stand before the King someday, I want Him to show me favor. It won't be favor I've earned, but favor that Jesus Christ earned for me. For the sake of His Son, in whom I've believed, God the Father will grant me life eternal in the presence of my Savior. There is no other way to gain the favor of this King than through faith in His Son, for "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." (John 3:17) If we reject our only means of salvation, we reject the favor of God. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Counseled By The King; The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 56, Wisdom Helps Us Let God Be God

Solomon will talk today about letting God be God, about trusting Him to make all things right in due time.

"Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse." (Proverbs 19:1) Solomon has spoken on this theme before. It's better to have little and be right with God than to have everything we could want and be God's enemy. As the Lord Jesus said, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" (Mark 8:36) Solomon had everything, materially speaking, that anyone could want. But as we learned when we studied Ecclesiastes, at one time he was more miserable than the man who has nothing. He was living far from God and he sank into such a deep depression he almost didn't want to live anymore. His money was no use to him in those circumstances. What he needed was the Lord.

"Desire without knowledge is not good---how much more will hasty feet lead the way!" (Proverbs 19:2) Our carnal natures cause us to want things that aren't good for us. This is why we have to live by God's word. We can't follow His word if we don't know it, so Solomon says we need this knowledge. His father David once counseled, "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) The Lord is able to make our desires line up with His. He will fulfill any godly desire He places in our hearts. We all have God-given goals and God-given talents; He is able to help us reach these good goals and develop our talents for His service.

This next verse is very simple but very profound. "A person's own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord." (Proverbs 19:3) Solomon says, "A person gets himself into deep trouble through sin, then he has the nerve to blame God for his problems." I've noticed that those who don't live close to the Lord are often the first to blame Him when something goes wrong. They accuse Him of punishing them or of hating them. Solomon says this is not the case; it's their own wayward living that landed them in unpleasant circumstances. The best thing they can do now is turn to the Lord for help, submit to His authority, and live according to His instructions. We can avoid a fair amount of trouble in this world simply by keeping on the right path. We can't control everything, but there are some circumstances we can control by the way we live.

"Wealth attracts many friends, but even the closest friend of the poor deserts him." (Proverbs 19:4) Solomon was so wealthy that a lot of people probably pretended to be his friend so they could enjoy all the fine amenities of the palace and all the lavish banquets. As the wisest man in the world, we can safely assume he was able to tell they were false friends. He probably thought to himself, "If I lost all my money tomorrow, how many of these people would stand by me?"

"A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free." (Proverbs 19:5) We sometimes worry that evil deeds will go unpunished. Sometimes it seems like wicked people are prospering and enjoying life and living a long time. But their day is coming. Even if they never have to answer to an earthly authority, they will have to answer to Almighty God. King David spoke these words to calm us when we become upset over the evil in this world, "Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away." (Psalm 37:1-2) David urges us to have patience. He is a man who had to learn patience during the fifteen years between being anointed king and being able to wear the crown of Israel. His life was in danger every day of those fifteen years because of the evil King Saul. At times it must have seemed that Saul was going to keep on getting away with his wickedness, but David decided to place his trust in the Lord and to allow Him to work everything out according to His time schedule. \

Things happen in this world that cause us to fret. We might even feel envious of the comfortable lives that wicked people appear to be living. But David says, "Don't do it! God's favor is on you, not on the one who does evil. In time He will make all things right. Nothing happens in this world that God does not see. He will reward you for your faithfulness and He will punish evildoers. Keep your eyes on Him, not on the upsetting things of this world. God is in complete control and He will work things out in exactly the right way and at exactly the right time."

Our job is not to fret over things we can't control. Our job is to keep following in the Lord's footsteps. Our job is to trust Him to work things out. All we have to do is be still and remember that He is God.

I heard this song for the first time yesterday and I think it goes great with the theme of our study today, so I'm including a link to it below.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 55, Friendship With The Lord

King Solomon offers us a few miscellaneous proverbs and then he discusses the type of friend who sticks closer than a brother. We talk about the most important Friend we can ever have.

"A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great." (Proverbs 18:16) This is not the same as a bribe, which Solomon deplores, but a gift brought to honor the person you wish to see. Solomon had visitors from many other nations and they brought him lavish gifts.

"In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines." (Proverbs 18:17) There are two sides to every story. He has learned to listen to both sides before rendering a verdict.

"Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart." (Proverbs 18:18) Solomon previously said in Proverbs 16:33 that the decision of the lot is the Lord's, so he may be referring to the practice of the high priest in casting lots to determine God's will.

"A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel." (Proverbs 18:19) Holding a grudge against someone is like building a wall between us and them. It's very difficult to get through.

"From the fruit of their mouth a person's stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18:20-21) The Lord Jesus said, "What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them." (Matthew 15:11) Our hearts are revealed by what comes out of our mouths. The Apostle Paul tells us the type of things that should come out of our mouths, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29)

"He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22) The Lord said of the first man, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18) Solomon is telling us that it is a blessing from the Lord for a man to have a wife, to have a suitable helper. It's easier to face the trials of life with a partner than to face them alone.

"The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly." (Proverbs 18:23) Solomon has had people from all walks of life appearing before him in his courtroom. He's noticed that the poor are humble and respectful. They haven't learned to rely on their money because they don't have any money. But he's noticed that the wealthy aren't very careful how they speak in his courtroom. They've gotten used to getting away with things because of who they are.

"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24) We discussed this verse several days ago when Solomon was speaking about friendship. We have to be careful who we choose to be in our inner circle. If we rely on the wrong kind of people we will soon learn they can't be trusted. When hard times come they will desert us. But there are some friends who stick with us through thick and thin. They are like family to us. We know they can be trusted because they have proven themselves to us. Anyone who has at least one friend like this should thank God for that person. What a blessing to have a friend who sticks closer than a brother!

Whether or not you have an earthly friend who sticks closer than a brother, I can promise you have a Friend seated at the right hand of God who is willing to stick with you all the way. I'm so glad Jesus wants to be my friend! I have several wonderful friends who stick closer than a brother, but none of them is able to save my soul. None of them is able to change my circumstances when I need a mountain moved. None of them can say to my anxious mind with the authority of God, "Peace, be still." Only Jesus, who was called "a friend of tax collectors and sinners", can do for me the things I need most. (Matthew 11:19) Jesus considers me His friend, and I know He does, for He said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) He laid down His life for me! How can I ever doubt that He considers me His friend? No one else has ever loved me enough to die for me. No one else's death has the power to save my soul.

Thank You, Lord, for being a friend of sinners, because that means You are a friend of mine. I'm a sinner and You saved me. You did for me what no one else could do. You are that friend who sticks closer than a brother. I love You, Lord!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 54, The Wise Person Accepts Help

Today Solomon talks about having a humble spirit that is willing to accept help. He praises the wisdom of being humble enough to realize we don't know it all.

"Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor." (Proverbs 18:12) Haughtiness is similar to pride, pride we may not even know we have. But anytime we think we can take care of ourselves without God's help, we have gotten prideful. We think we are a big enough deal to handle things, so the Lord has to show us we are wrong. Verse 12 reminds me of something that happened when I was a little girl. I was the kind of kid who never wanted anyone to help me with anything. I thought I was a big girl and didn't need my hand held while crossing the street. I didn't want help with tying my shoes or buttoning my coat or any of the things parents have to do for a little kid. I remember being with my mom at the post office one winter morning and she was trying to hold my hand to help me down the snow-covered sidewalk. I refused to let her have my hand and I slipped and fell on my bottom right there in front of everyone. I felt so humiliated. I'd never read any of King Solomon's sayings at that young age, but if I had I would have known he was right when he said, "Humility comes before honor." I would have had to agree with David who said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word." (Psalm 119:67) You can bet the next time my mom wanted to hold my hand, I let her. And that's how it works with God. We refuse His help, then we take an embarrassing tumble, and then we learn we should always take the hand He has held out to us.

"To answer before listening---that is folly and shame." (Proverbs 18:13) This is another example of a haughty heart. We don't know it all. We should listen to the whole matter before we offer an opinion on it. It's better to think about our answer and be correct than to blurt out something silly and be wrong.

"The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14) Sometimes it's easier to be sick in body than to be sick in mind. I went through an odd immune system illness back in 1998 that caused my body to attack and inflame all my joints. The pain was worse than anything I'd ever experienced or have ever experienced since. But the mental anguish was even worse. I didn't know what the outcome was going to be, so I panicked often about whether or not I was going to be able to keep working, whether or not I'd end up unable to walk, and whether or not I'd be in pain for the rest of my life. It came to the point that I felt I could endure the physical ailments if my mind could just be at peace. We can get through pretty much anything as long as our spirit isn't broken, as long as we can find it within ourselves to not give up. This is why David once prayed, "Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (Psalm 51:12b)

"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out." (Proverbs 18:15) The wise person is willing to learn because he doesn't think he already knows it all. The wise person has a hunger for God's word and a desire to know Him better and better every day.

The truth is that we need God for everything. He created us. He sustains us. He supplies everything we need. Imagine if a wealthy and powerful earthly king came to our house and knocked on our door and said, "Everything you will ever need...I've got it! When you're sick I'm your healer. When you're discouraged I'm your hope. When you have material needs I'm the one who will supply them. There's nothing you could ever need or want that I don't have." Would we slam the door in his face? Would we say, "No thanks, I believe I can take care of myself"? I think we'd invite him in and give him the finest chair in the house and start serving him coffee and cake. I think we'd listen to everything he had to say. So why do we treat the King of kings any differently? Why do we spurn the hand of Almighty God, the hand that created everything that exists? There's nothing we could ever need or want that He doesn't have! Let's invite Him into our homes, into our hearts, and into every aspect of our lives. There's no need to go it alone. The One who possesses infinite power is ready and willing to help us.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 53, Wisdom Helps Us Trust The Lord

Solomon is still expounding on the theme of foolishness, but he ends today by helping us to place our trust in the right place.

"A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him." (Proverbs 17:25) As he did yesterday, Solomon speaks of how painful it is to have a child who is wayward.

"If imposing a fine on the innocent is not good, surely to flog honest officials is not right." (Proverbs 17:26) The king is a man who hates injustice. As a politician he's seen examples of the innocent being punished and the guilty being set free.

"The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues." (Proverbs 17:27-28) We've noted before that it's Solomon's opinion that foolish people talk all the time.

"An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach. The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream." (Proverbs 18:1-4) He says, "What a shame it is to start quarrels and to have to always be right. The wise person speaks words of encouragement, words that are as cheerful as the sound of gurgling waters."

"It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice." (Proverbs 18:5) Solomon was a man who prayed for wisdom. He knew he could not rule the nation or judge court cases without it. He didn't always live for the Lord, but he believed in being fair.

"The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts." (Proverbs 18:7-9) Speaking without thinking can bring on a heap of trouble. It's so important to be careful what comes out of our mouths. Solomon mentions another unattractive character trait: gossip. The one who enjoys gossip enjoys it in the same way he would enjoy scrumptious food.

"One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys." (Proverbs 18:9) He says, "The one who halfway does his work is as dangerous as the one who purposely sabotages the work."

"The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale." (Proverbs 18:10-11) Some wealthy people don't know the Lord, and they trust in their money for protection. But the one who knows the Lord trusts in Him. I've never been wealthy and so I've had to trust in the Lord to supply all my needs. David had to trust in Him too, so he said, "Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You." (Psalm 9:13) He also said, "Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him." (Psalm 32:10) He said these encouraging words that we can pray in our difficult times, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in You." (Psalm 56:3) The sons of Korah, who wrote several of the psalms, make us this beautiful promise, "Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in You." (Psalm 84:12) Let's not misplace our trust by putting it on ourselves, on others, or on our wealth or possessions. God alone is our refuge and strength. He is present and ready to help us in our troubles. (Psalm 46:1)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 52, We Don't Have To Live In The Past

Solomon has much to say today about foolishness, which is a condition he wants us to avoid at all costs. It's a shame the word "fool" has come to mean something different in our day. We might call someone a fool who is just silly and goofs off all the time, or who seems to always make dumb decisions. In Solomon's day a fool was someone who wasn't spiritual, who was morally corrupt, and who enjoyed living contrary to the laws of man and God.

Solomon also wants us to know that just because we've been foolish in the past doesn't mean we have to be foolish for the rest of our lives.

He begins by warning us not to promise to be a surety for another person's debt. "One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor." (Proverbs 17:18) I would have to be very close to a person and know their character extremely well before I would co-sign a loan for them. There are times you might need to co-sign for one of your children or grandchildren when they are young adults and don't have a credit history yet, but Solomon says to be careful about co-signing for a neighbor. (And a neighbor can be any of our fellow human beings, not necessarily the person who lives right beside us, as the Lord pointed out in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37) We might not know whether an acquaintance will be responsible enough to pay the loan back, and then we will be responsible for it ourselves, so it pays to know who we are dealing with. There are people I know well enough that I'd trust them with pretty much anything, and there are people I know well enough that I wouldn't trust them with anything, and there are people I don't know well enough to say whether they are trustworthy or not. We have to use common sense in such situations, as Solomon warns us.

"Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction." (Proverbs 17:19) What makes anyone want to fuss and fight all the time? That would make me so exhausted! I love a peaceful atmosphere, don't you? Peace is good for both mind and body. We have enough stress to deal with in the world without adding to it by constantly being in conflict with those around us. I was puzzled by the second half of this verse, but in consulting some commentaries I found that it means something like, "The one who builds a high wall for security and a lofty and impressive entrance gate is letting others know he has many valuables inside his palace." So it seems that Solomon is saying we shouldn't brag about our possessions either by words or by actions. If we go around behaving like we are really something, we might just come home to find our palace has been broken into. The wrong person might decide we have a lot of valuables inside. It's best not to be too flashy and show-offy.

Sadly, many a parent in the centuries since Solomon has probably been able to relate to this next verse. "To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool." (Proverbs 17:21) There are moms and dads who had to go to bed last night without even knowing where their wayward son or daughter even was. Their grown child is living far from God, caught up in sin or addictions, unable to live a responsible and honorable life. There are mothers who cry every day because of a child who was brought up in the church and in the fear of the Lord but who wants nothing to do with Him. Fathers are walking the floor in worry over a child who keeps going to jail for DUI or who can't stay clean from drugs. No wonder Solomon says the parents of these children are grieving and that they have no joy. There's no peace of mind for these moms and dads. They don't know from one day to the next what trouble their child will get into or whether the police will come knocking on the door with news of an overdose. I don't have children of my own, but I know several families who deal with these types of circumstances on a daily basis, and my heart breaks for them.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22) Feeling cheerful in heart makes us feel better all over, doesn't it? When we get good news or we're feeling happy in the Lord, even our usual aches and pains don't bother us as much. We can endure a lot of things when we have joy in our hearts. But a broken spirit makes us feel bad all over. Stress causes a surprising number of physical side effects. When I'm stressed I tend to feel lightheaded, my neck muscles tighten up and I get a tension headache, my stomach feels like it's full of butterflies, and I become nauseated. I've been so stressed at times that I hurt all over, so no wonder Solomon says a crushed spirit dries up the bones, because we hold so much tension in all our muscles that it starts to feel like every bone in our bodies is sore.

"The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice." (Proverbs 17:23) Isn't that the truth? We hear about all sorts of scandals, especially in politics, so just imagine all the things that happen that we don't even know about. Bribes are accepted in secret all the time.

"A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth." (Proverbs 17:24) Solomon's father David was a man who kept godly wisdom in view. He had a continual awareness of the presence of the Lord, so he said, "I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:7-8) As long as we live in these mortal bodies, we will never be perfect. Neither was David. But keeping our eyes always on the Lord will save us from many of the terrible mistakes the ungodly person makes. If we love the Lord we will be grieved in our spirits when we sin against Him. We will want to make things right with Him as quickly as possible. We will want to get back on the right path and move forward.

I've made some bad mistakes. You probably have, too. We've all taken some unwise detours. But we don't have to stay on that dead end road. We can never mess up so badly that we can't let Jesus take our hand and lead us on into a better tomorrow. I've never killed anyone and you probably haven't either, but several men in the Bible had blood on their hands, like Moses and David and the Apostle Paul. We wouldn't be reading about them in our Bibles if any of them had said, "Well, I've really messed my life up. God can't use me now. I might as well sit here on the curb of this dead end road until I die." No, they reached up for the hand that was reaching down for them and they allowed the Lord to restore them. They refused to give up. They said, "I won't allow my past to ruin my future. The Lord can do amazing things with my life if I let Him. Why should I sit here in shame and despair when He's offering me something better?"