Friday, June 30, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 37, Righteousness Will Prevail

Chapter 14 contains a series of proverbs, most of which have to do with the righteous prevailing over the wicked. Godly wisdom beats worldly wisdom any day. We are not going to lead others to Christ with worldly wisdom but with the simple truth of the gospel, the same way the Apostle Paul did. He said to the people of Corinth, "When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Corinthians 2:2b-5)

It might be hard for us to imagine the Apostle Paul trembling with fear as he preached the gospel, but he knew he was not capable in his human weakness of leading others to the Lord. He knew the power had to come from God alone, so he allowed God to take the lead. He was an exceptionally gifted man, highly intelligent and educated, but he knew none of that was going to persuade people to come to Christ. This is why he had a humble spirit when he told people about Jesus. He knew that if God wasn't in the work, the work wasn't going to accomplish much. You and I can have that same humble spirit. In order to lead people to Christ, we don't have to have college degrees or religious training or be gifted speakers. All we have to do is tell about Christ who was crucified for us. All we have to do is share our personal testimonies about how Jesus changed our lives. Our transformed lives are a demonstration of the Holy Spirit. Others around us can't help but believe there must be power in the Lord if He was able to make us into new creatures.

Solomon begins today with a statement that is dear to my heart, "Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy." (Proverbs 14:10) Have you ever been so brokenhearted that you wished someone else could get inside your grief with you so you wouldn't feel alone? Have you ever experienced so much joy that you wished you could make those around you feel the same way? It's impossible for anyone but the Lord to get inside either our grief or our joy with us. Humans aren't able, but He is. In a time of grief three years ago, the Lord showed me how He could be with me in my sorrow. No one could feel what I was one but Him. In the same way He shares in our happiness, especially when we are happy in the Holy Spirit. No human being can share the things with us that Christ can.

Solomon reminds us that righteousness will prevail over wickedness. "The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish." (Proverbs 14:11) The Lord can't bless sin because that would be rewarding wickedness. For a time it may seem like evil people prosper on the earth, but a day is coming when the Lord will sort everything out. "The Lord knows those who are His," and He will reward the righteous for their faithfulness. (1 Timothy 2:19)

"There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12) Worldly wisdom will tell us we aren't sinners and we don't need a savior. Worldly wisdom will tell us that, if we want to find God, there are many paths to God. Man's ways aren't God's ways, for God says there is one way to Him and that is through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 14:6)

"Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief." (Proverbs 14:13) Many times I've pasted a smile to my face while my heart was breaking inside or while I was consumed with anxiety. I bet you can say the same. In times like that, what a blessing it is to know the One who can share our sorrows with us. The public may not see what's in our hearts, but Jesus does, and He cares for us.

Again Solomon points out that there is a day of reckoning for the wicked and a day of blessing for the righteous, "The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good rewarded for theirs." (Proverbs 14:14)

I don't watch or read the news nearly as much as I used to. It brings me down. It makes the world seem like it's gone mad, because there's rarely anything in the news except bad news. It would be easy for us to feel discouraged and hopeless if all we did was view the world through human eyes, but the Lord asks us to look at it from His viewpoint. He says, "I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) He says, "I created the world and it has no power over Me. It has no power over those who belong to Me. I am the One who prevailed over death and the grave. I am the One who gives victory to those who are Mine. I will bring you all the way through this life and you will enjoy eternity in My presence. Do not fear." Jesus has promised to be with us always. (Matthew 28:20) Life may not be without its struggles, but because of Him it's not without its joys.

We will close today with some good news, with a beautiful promise from Isaiah 41:10, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 36, Wisdom Prevents Foolishness

The king has some things today about foolishness and how to avoid it by having godly wisdom.

"A fool's mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them." (Proverbs 14:3) The foolish person blurts out whatever is on his mind. He gets angry easily and he doesn't care who knows it. But the wise person is able to control himself, and this will help keep him out of conflicts.

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests." (Proverbs 14:4) Owning an ox creates work. The ox must be cared for. But in return the ox helps to provide food for the family. The foolish person will be too lazy to have an ox to pull the blow, so the manger will be empty.

"An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies." (Proverbs 14:5) This statement really needs no comment. A person of integrity can be believed, while a liar can't be trusted no matter what he's saying.

"The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning." (Proverbs 14:6) The one who scorns godly wisdom is foolish. He may think he is wise by the world's standards, but Solomon already tried this and it left him empty inside.

"Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips." (Proverbs 14:7) We can't learn anything from a person lacking in godly wisdom. This is the last person we should go to for advice.

"The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception." (Proverbs 14:8) If we are wise in the Lord we will think carefully before we act. We will live honest lives and won't have to fear being caught in lies. But the person who lacks godly wisdom will have a tendency to deceive.

"Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright." (Proverbs 14:9) Good works don't save us, but the person who comes to Christ will naturally want to do better things with his future than he did with his past. Solomon says that the fool doesn't care how much damage he's left behind him. He's not interested in making things right with God or with his fellow man. But the person who has godly wisdom will want to live a life that's pleasing to the Lord.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 35, Wisdom Is Helpful For Family Life

Today Solomon has some proverbs regarding family life and the provision of the Lord for the one who loves Him.

"An unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away." (Proverbs 13:23) I found several different interpretations of this verse, but most of them render it a bit differently than the NIV. It seems to mean that the poor could produce enough food from their land to sustain them, but injustice has taken the land from them. Evidently this has to do with the strong oppressing the weak and the rich taking advantage of the poor.

"Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them." (Proverbs 13:24) This doesn't mean you have to spank your child if you don't believe in spanking. The spirit of this verse is simply that the one who loves his child will teach his child what is right, and he will provide correction when the child disobeys. My mother was a fan of "time out" a couple of decades before it became popular. That's because she quickly realized it had more effect on me than a spanking. It even had more effect on me than the removal of privileges. In the Bible, the "rod" is a symbol of discipline, and it does not have to take the form of a spanking. The Lord sometimes refers to the enemies of Israel and Judah as the "rod" He is using to discipline them. It's a metaphor for any device used to correct wrong behavior.

"The righteous eat to their heart's content, but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry." (Proverbs 13:25) King David made this statement about the Lord's care for the righteous, "The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise Him---may your hearts live forever!" (Psalm 22:26) David and Solomon both tell us, "You may have very little in this world, but God has His eye on the one who seeks Him, and He will keep you from going hungry." I grew up poor, and there were times I would have preferred having something to eat other than what we had, but I never went hungry. As an adult I've gone through a few times when I didn't know how the bills would get paid, but the Lord never let me go through those times on an empty stomach. He has been so faithful and I praise Him for it. He provides those who love Him with their daily bread, but Solomon points out that He makes no such promise to the wicked.

"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." (Proverbs 14:1) I made a lot of notes in the first Bible I bought after I came to Christ, and under this verse I wrote "little by little". It would take time to tear a house down by hand, so I imagine Solomon is saying that the foolish woman does it brick by brick, little by little. Not all marriages break down because of big things like affairs. Many of them break up because of smaller things that accumulate over time. For example, a husband may finally leave because his wife has shown him years of disrespect. Or a wife may give up and leave because her husband has shown her years of inattention.

"Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly, but those who despise Him are devious in their ways." (Proverbs 14:2) The Lord Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commands." (John 14:15) We will naturally want to walk uprightly if we love the Lord. We will make mistakes from time to time, just as the characters of the Bible did, but these mistakes will bother us. We will have trouble living in sin because it will put distance between us and the Lord. King David committed some huge sins at one point in his life, and for a while he refused to admit to them, but eventually he had to repent. Solomon says, "The one who loves the Lord may fall into sin from time to time, but he won't be able to stay there. He won't be able to stand it. Eventually he will return like the prodigal son. But the one who despises the Lord will keep on wallowing in the muck of wickedness."

The Bible is full of good practical advice for our daily living. Following Scriptural principles will help us have a happier home. We are to work on our relationships with our spouses and children. Children need guidance from their parents, a godly example to follow. Husbands and wives need to respect and value each other, building their relationship instead of tearing it down. The best way to do these things is to follow God's instructions for family life.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 34, Miscellaneous Proverbs

Solomon discusses several miscellaneous proverbs, some of which have to do with being willing to listen to instruction.

"Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." (Proverbs 13:10) Pride is present when we feel like we always have to be right.

"Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow." (Proverbs 13:11) Money that is gained quickly can also be lost quickly because it was probably gained recklessly. It's far better to work and save and invest so our money grows a little at a time.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12) It's so hard to wait for something we want, but most things worth having don't come easy. When we finally obtain what we want, we are filled with joy. We enjoy it more because we waited for it and we find out it was worth the wait. We live in times when we expect to get everything we want and to get it now, but the Bible says that's not always the best way. It develops character and faith when we have to wait and work and pray for what we want.

"Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects a command is rewarded." (Proverbs 13:13) I've scorned instruction a number of times to my own harm. I was a stubborn child, a stubborn teen, and a stubborn young adult. Nobody could tell me anything and, as Solomon says, I paid for it. Nothing good came of it.

"The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death." (Proverbs 13:14) How do we become a fountain of life? By following the One of whom David said, "For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light." (Psalm 36:9) We can't be a light to others unless we have the light ourselves.

"Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction. All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly." (Proverbs 13:15-16) Some of the bad things that happen to us are a result of our own poor decisions. The Lord doesn't always have to discipline us; our own actions lead to unpleasant consequences. If we are smart we will learn from our mistakes.

"A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing." (Proverbs 13:17) Have you ever known anyone whose word can't be trusted? There have been a couple of times I've said of those who have repeatedly lied to me, "I wouldn't believe them if they said the sun came up this morning." But there's something so wonderful about a person whose word we can trust. They won't lie to us or embellish a story or try to stir up trouble. They will say encouraging words to us.

"Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored." (Proverbs 13:18) Again we learn that godly wisdom doesn't come to the one who scorns instruction. It comes to the one with a teachable heart, to the one who is willing to learn.

"A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil. Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things. A good person leaves an inheritance for their children's children, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous." (Proverbs 13:19-22) Some commentators believe that the longing fulfilled is the longing to do what is right. There is no true joy in sin. There is no peace in sin. So Solomon says, "Do what's right and your soul will prosper. Hang out with people who are godly so you can learn from them and be more like them. Use godly wisdom in every area of your life and you will leave behind a good name. You will have an inheritance to pass along."

Monday, June 26, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 33, Wisdom Is A Light For Our Path

This morning we study a series of miscellaneous proverbs dealing with such things as being a hard worker and being willing to listen to godly instruction, but then Solomon finishes by telling us that we never have to walk in darkness if we follow the Lord.

"The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt." (Proverbs 12:27) Solomon says, "The lazy man sits by his campfire at night with nothing to eat, but the one who hunted game goes to bed with a full belly."

"In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality." (Proverbs 12:28) The Bible does not teach the death of the soul. The soul has an eternal destination, but only those who possess the righteousness that is by faith will enter into the joys of the Lord. This is the type of immortality Solomon promises to those who follow the Lord.

"A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes." (Proverbs 13:1) The king used these proverbs to teach his son. He reminds his son that if he is wise he will listen and take these proverbs to heart.

"From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence. Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin." (Proverbs 13:2-3) It would be interesting to know how many acts of violence and murder began with rash words. Solomon says, "There are some people who are always itching for a fight. They can never let anything go. They just have to have the last word. This propensity for stirring up violence will be the ruin of them."

"A sluggard's appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied." (Proverbs 13:4) The king warns, "If you are too lazy to work, you can expect an empty stomach. If you are too lazy to seek the Lord and His righteousness, you can expect an empty soul. The righteous person seeks and finds, both materially and spiritually."

"The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves. Righteousness guards the person of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner." (Proverbs 13:5-6) Wickedness is like a bad smell; it will cause people to avoid us.

"One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. A person's riches may ransom their life, but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes." (Proverbs 13:7-8) Speaking of people we want to avoid, isn't it annoying to be around someone who is pretentious? There are some who are barely making ends meet because they are living far above their means in order to impress those around them. Then there are those who have plenty of money but always pretend to be scarcely getting by in order to avoid giving to the church or to the community. Sometimes they even run scams so they can receive donations for themselves. Solomon advises, "Don't pretend to be something you're not. Suppose you pretend to be wealthy and someone kidnaps you or a family member for ransom. How will you pay the ransom?"

"The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out." (Proverbs 13:9) Again we want to take note that Solomon is not speaking of the annihilation of the soul. A light or a lamp in the Scriptures tends to have to do with this life on earth. As long as we live in this dark world, we need a light to show us where we are going. For example, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105) We are not going to need any type of artificial light when we spend eternity with Christ, because, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp," (Revelation 21:23) and, "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 22:5) Solomon tells us, "The righteous will always know where they are going in this world. They follow the word of God and the instruction of the Holy Spirit. The wicked stumble about in the darkness, stubbing their toes on objects they can't see and falling into pits they didn't know were there." The Lord Jesus agrees, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) Amen! Guide us, Lord.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 32, Wisdom Keeps Us From Being Unequally Yoked

We are going to look at a collection of miscellaneous proverbs today, but among them is a lesson about not being unequally yoked. We will look at that passage along with one from 2 Corinthians that has to do with not being closely linked in a partnership of any kind with unbelievers.

First Solomon presents us with a short series of unrelated proverbs. "The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool's heart blurts out folly." (Proverbs 12:23) I've told you before that I'm the chatty type. As a kid I would tell anybody anything. A person could simply ask me how my day was going and I'd start telling them every detail of it, including things that should be kept private, such as the fact that maybe my parents had an argument at breakfast or that we were worried about paying our bills. My dad would often say to me, "Don't tell everything you know." He wanted me to understand that it's okay to keep certain things back. We can be honest people without discussing private matters that should be kept within the family or within our circle of friends. Solomon says, "The prudent person doesn't talk constantly. The one who talks all the time will soon be giving away information, information that might embarrass someone. The wise person thinks about what he's going to say before he says it. Only a fool babbles everything he knows."

"Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor." (Proverbs 12:24) In Solomon's day a man who got behind on his bills could end up working for his creditors in order to pay off his debts. The one who is diligent won't have to worry about such a thing, because the diligent person is willing to work hard to keep a roof over the family's head and to keep the bills paid.

"Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up." (Proverbs 12:25) There's a reason why anxiety and depression go hand in hand. Anxiety is hard on both mind and body, causing weariness and a sense of despair. I've been battling anxiety lately and have suffered several panic attacks over the past few weeks. The anxiety has led to a general feeling of being down and out, or as Solomon would say, it has weighed down my heart. But he also says that a kind word has the ability to cheer the heart up, and the kind word I've been clinging to this week is the word of God, which says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) I know I can't handle any of the things I'm worried about on my own. But God's holy word promises that I can handle all these things through Christ. 

"The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray." (Proverbs 12:26) The Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, "For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14) This verse is commonly used to teach us that a Christian should not marry a non-Christian, and I agree wholeheartedly, but it has a broader application. It also applies to business partnerships and intimate friendships. Earlier in our study of the book of Proverbs we talked about who we want in our inner circle. We used the example of Jesus whose inner circle consisted of Peter, James, and John. They were the most spiritual of the twelve disciples, so Jesus spent the most time with them. The Bible isn't telling us to avoid unbelievers altogether or to refuse to be friends with them; it's saying to choose carefully who is in our closest inner circle. Are they people who encourage us in the faith? Or are they people who encourage us to sin? The people who are closest to us should be the kind we can count on to help us follow Christ, not turn us away from Him.

In order to understand what it means to be yoked together with someone, we must think about what it means in agricultural terms. A farmer will choose two animals of almost identical size and strength to pull the plow and he will put them in the yoke together. If they are not evenly matched, the stronger animal will pull the plow to one side, making the furrows crooked. If they are not evenly matched, the stronger animal will end up doing most of the work, causing more strain on his body than if he were pulling the plow alone, because he will also be pulling the weight of the other animal. A farmer would never put a powerful and muscular ox in the yoke with a weak and flabby ox. The weaker animal will become even more out of shape because he won't be able to keep up with the stronger animal. He might even end up with a knee or shoulder pulled out of joint. Unequal yoking is a foolish idea in farming and a foolish idea in marriage, business partnerships, and very close friendships. Somebody is going to get hurt.

The Lord says, "Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together." (Deuteronomy 22:10) The Lord had to continually provide visible examples of unequal yoking to the nation of Israel. They were going into the promised land where they would come in contact with the tribes of Canaan who worshiped false gods. The Lord forbade intermarriage with the people of Canaan because He knew the people of Israel would be led into sin. When two people are unequally yoked together, the one with the stronger and more forceful personality will drag the other along with them, just as the stronger ox in the yoke drags the weaker ox along with him. In the case of the Israelites intermarrying with the Canaanites, either the believer would be strong enough to persuade the spouse to convert, or else the pagan person would be strong enough to pull the spouse into idolatry. The Lord wanted His people to avoid such a situation altogether. The pairing of a believer and an unbeliever is a recipe for disaster. It won't be a harmonious situation any more than yoking an ox and a donkey together would be a harmonious situation. They are two entirely different animals who won't make a good team. They won't be able to pull together when the going gets tough. Each will always want to go their own way and eventually one of them will get hurt.

Solomon says to the young people he is teaching, "Be very careful who you choose for a best friend or for a business partner or for a marriage partner. Make certain that person is as strong in the faith as you are. If you are not equally matched you won't make a good team. You won't be able to pull together. You won't be happy together."

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 31, Wisdom Guards The Tongue

Solomon talks today about the role godly wisdom plays in helping us to guard our tongues. He will later return to this subject in Chapter 18 and say, "The tongue has the power of life and death." Words are powerful things. I would be willing to bet you can remember things that were said to you all the way back to your childhood, both good things and bad things. I know I can. I remember the words that encouraged me and made me feel good about myself, but I also remember the words that put me down and hurt my feelings. Some of the deepest wounds we will ever receive will be delivered by words. That's why it's so important to be careful about what we say to others. We don't want to be the kind of people who say hurtful things that someone will remember for the rest of their life.

The Lord's brother James had this to say about the power of the tongue, "The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." (James 3:5-6) Every year we see stories in the news about raging forests fires that were started by a small careless spark. Hundreds of acres, sometimes thousands of acres, are damaged. The tongue has the same kind of power. One small ugly word is capable of setting catastrophic events in motion. James points out that the person who loves the Lord should not allow his tongue to speak hurtful things, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be." (James 3:9-10) To curse our fellow man is to curse the Maker of our fellow man. James says that if we love God we have to love the people God created. The Apostle John agrees with James, "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or a sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." (1 John 4:20) Today Solomon will add his opinion to those who were the leaders of the early Christian church. He will tell us that we need godly wisdom to guard our tongues.

"The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult." (Proverbs 12:15-16) The king says, "A foolish person will only want to talk. He will not listen because he can't control his tongue. When he feels offended he will lash out with ugly words. He won't even stop to think before speaking. But the wise person will know how to hold his tongue. The wise person will stop and think before speaking."

"An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies." (Proverbs 12:17) Bearing false witness against someone is breaking one of the ten commandments. (Exodus 20:16) Keeping our tongues from lying about someone is so important that the Lord included it in His top ten rules for living.

This next verse is one we can all relate to, for we've all been victims of words that pierced us. "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Proverbs 12:18) I've had words spoken to me that have cut me to the quick, haven't you? We don't want to be the type of people who are capable of harming others in this way. We want to be the type of people of whom it can be said, "The words from their tongues bring healing! They always know what to say when I'm feeling down. They have helped me be stronger in my faith. They have used their tongues to pray for me, not to talk about me." I can thankfully say that I've been blessed to have had many people in my life who have spoken words of healing to me. If anyone has ever said something to you that encouraged and strengthened you and made you feel better about yourself, thank God for that person. Pray that He richly blesses the one who said such comforting things to you. I praise God for everyone He has ever sent to encourage me and to pray for me. I don't know where I would be without godly friends and acquaintances who knew just what to say when I felt at my lowest.

"Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. " (Proverbs 12:19) The pleasure that comes from embellishing a story and spreading gossip is short-lived, but there is a feeling of satisfaction in doing what's right. Yesterday my husband and I were moseying through a quaint little antique store and I saw a decorative wall plaque with this quote by John Henry Newman, "Virtue is its own reward". There is a peace that comes with living an honest life. We can lie down and sleep at night without fearing our deceit will be found out at any moment. We can rest securely in the knowledge that there is nothing hampering our relationship with the Lord. Solomon takes Mr. Newman's platitude a step further and says that God has a reward in store for the virtuous. The Lord has stored up treasures and rewards for those who are faithful to Him, and those treasures and rewards will last forever. They are not temporary like the treasures and rewards of this world.

"Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy. No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked will have their fill of trouble. The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in people who are trustworthy." (Proverbs 12:20-22) In case you need to hear some encouraging words today, the Lord says He is delighted with you if you are trustworthy. What higher praise can there be than for the God of the universe to say He admires your integrity? The Creator says to you, "I am proud of all the times you could have told a lie but didn't. I am thrilled that you perform your job at work in a trustworthy manner even when no one is watching. I am pleased that you say kind and helpful words to your fellow man instead of flying off the handle over every little thing. I couldn't be happier when you choose to be honest even when it would be easy to be dishonest. I am a proud Father. I am delighted with you!"

Friday, June 23, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 30, The Righteous Versus The Wicked, Part Two

We continue on with Solomon's short and easy-to-remember proverbs about the difference in outcomes when a person either lives righteously or wickedly. I think it's possible the young men he taught actually memorized some of these proverbs. These proverbs would have been helpful in their daily lives as they went out into the world to become responsible members of society.

"A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised." (Proverbs 12:8) To be prudent is to be discerning, sensible, responsible, and respectable. To be warped is to be deviant, corrupted, depraved, or twisted. Solomon says, "Your character will either earn you honor or dishonor. It's up to you, but if I were you I'd want my behavior praised, not despised."

"Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food." (Proverbs 12:9) The king advises, "Work hard and do what's right even if it never earns you a high rank or a big title. What use is being of noble birth and being called "lord" or "duke" or "prince" if there isn't enough food on the table? Don't ever think you are too good to work because of who you are." Solomon could easily have lived a life of leisure twenty-four hours a day, but he was a hard worker. He was never content to be idle. While it's true he knew how to play hard, he also knew how to work hard. Work was a priority for him.

Next Solomon speaks one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible about animals, "The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." (Proverbs 12:10) Bible scholar Adam Clarke says, "One principal characteristic of a holy man is mercy; cruelty is unknown to him." Amen! There is something desperately wicked in the heart of anyone who can be cruel to an animal. If we need an example of a warped mind, this is it: a person who enjoys hurting the helpless. A person who will harm an animal also has the potential to harm children or the handicapped or the elderly. I wouldn't put anything past a person who is cruel to animals. God has several things to say in the holy Scriptures about the care of animals; therefore I expect He will judge every act of cruelty against them. He talks about animals because they matter to Him. I don't believe He will allow cruelty against them to go unpunished.

If a man treated his animals poorly, he would soon have no oxen to pull the plow, no cows or goats to give milk, and no sheep to give wool. Solomon lived in a mainly agricultural society and he knew that only a fool would fail to take good care of the animals the Lord had entrusted to him. Solomon is saying that a godly person cannot be cruel and neglectful to his animals because it isn't in him to be cruel and neglectful, but he's also saying a smart man will see the practical value in keeping his animals in tip-top shape.

"Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense." (Proverbs 12:11) Solomon asks, "Do you want to eat this winter? Then you better get to work. Get your head out of the clouds. Stop following get-rich-quick schemes. You are probably not going to win the lottery or come up with an invention that makes you a millionaire overnight. Get up, get your overalls on, and get behind the plow. If you don't sow the seed you won't have a harvest."

"The wicked desire the stronghold of evildoers, but the root of the righteous endures." (Proverbs 12:12) The wicked believe they can make and hold onto wealth by doing what is wrong, by simply taking what they want. But as we studied earlier this week, the wicked will someday be uprooted. The righteous, however, will never be uprooted, but will grow and flourish under the care of the Lord.

"Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble. From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward." (Proverbs 12:13-14) King David is believed to have written these words, "Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours." (Psalm 128:1-2) David sees a direct correlation between a person's deeds and a person's blessings. Honest work performed in the fear of the Lord will bear fruit. We may never become millionaires or be given a fancy title, but our needs will be supplied. The prophet Isaiah agrees, for the Lord said to him, "Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds." (Isaiah 3:10) The works of the wicked will also bear fruit...ugly fruit, worthless fruit, fruit that earns them judgment. "Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done." (Isaiah 3:11)

We have a choice, just as Solomon's students had a choice. We can live lives that bear godly fruit or we can live lives that bear evil fruit. It's up to us. But this is what is promised to the one who lives for Christ, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a) Who doesn't want a life filled with joy and love and peace? Now that's some fruit worth finding!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 29, The Righteous Versus The Wicked, Part One

King Solomon is going to take us through a series of short proverbs today that compare the outcome of righteous living with the outcome of wicked living. This is his favorite teaching method, and we must keep in mind that he used these proverbs to instruct his young son, so they are simple and to the point. We've noted that at times Solomon gives his instruction to "sons", and although the Bible doesn't tell us whether Solomon had more that one son, it's the opinion of several commentary books that he was in the habit of teaching in classrooms where young men gathered for religious instruction. If so, as an older man in a position of authority, it makes sense that he would address these young men as "sons". In the book of Ecclesiastes he refers to himself as "the Teacher" (the Hebrew koheleth) and this is likely because he was known by this name. Solomon not only held the title of King of Israel, but he also held the title of Teacher. Each teacher has his or her own individual style, and Solomon's style is to construct short descriptive sentences that contain one bad thing and one good thing. His goal is for his students to clearly understand the difference between the good and the bad and to choose the good.

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid." (Proverbs 12:1) Everybody messes up, but the smart person learns from mistakes. The smart person takes correction in the helpful spirit in which its intended. But the spiritually foolish person doesn't learn from mistakes and keeps on making the same ones over and over.

"Good people obtain favor from the Lord, but He condemns those who devise wicked schemes." (Proverbs 12:2) The Lord holds the godly in high esteem. He knows how difficult it is to live in a fallen world, so His blessing is upon those who choose to do what's right, especially when it would be easier to do what's wrong.

"No one can be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted." (Proverbs 12:3) Like a plant that fails to sink its roots deep into the ground, so is the person who lives wickedly. A day is coming when he will be uprooted because he is not grounded on the solid Rock that is Christ. But the righteous are like plants with roots that go deep into the ground where the vital minerals can nourish them and where the water can refresh them. They cannot be plucked up, not by their fellow man, not by Satan himself. Solomon's father David once described the security of the godly person in this way, "But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever." (Psalm 52:8)

Because he is speaking to young men, Solomon has something to say about choosing the right kind of wife. Men in Solomon's day often married in their late teens, and at that age it's easy to fall in love for the wrong reasons. A young man of eighteen might be so attracted to a particular girl's looks that he fails to check out her character, so the king emphasizes the importance of choosing a wife of godly character. She should be as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. "A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones." (Proverbs 12:4) He asks, "Do you want a wife who will make you proud? If you choose a godly woman you will always be able to hold your head up in public. But if you choose an ungodly woman she will bring you shame. You will be embarrassed when you go out in public because you will know your neighbors are talking about her."

"The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them." (Proverbs 12:5-6) You've probably heard the expression that you have to have a good memory to be a liar. I like to watch the true crime shows on television and it always amazes me how many times the suspects change their stories. You would think they would come up with one story and try to stick to it, but somehow they can't. It's just simply harder for the brain to remember a lie than to remember the truth. The brain has a recording of the truth that it can play back like a video, so it takes a fair amount of effort to remember an event one way but to describe it in another way. A lie doesn't embed itself in the brain's memory in the same way an actual event embeds itself. This is why Solomon says, "Liars will be caught sooner or later. Their words will testify against them. But the righteous don't have to remember their lies because they won't tell them in the first place."

"The wicked are overthrown and will be no more, but the house of the righteous stands firm." (Proverbs 12:7) The wicked may flourish for a time, but judgment is coming. Even if they are never convicted in an earthly court, we can be certain our holy Judge will convict them of the crimes they have committed and the cruelties they have perpetrated. David was confident of this, so he said, "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...The blameless spend their days under the Lord's care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish." (Psalm 37:1-2, 18-20a)

It's believed that David also wrote Psalm 92, which assures us that a day of reckoning is coming for the wicked. We mustn't fall into despair when we see evil people getting ahead. God will reward them according to their deeds. We can trust Him with the fate of our adversaries. Our job is to keep our eyes on Him and to keep on doing what's right in a world that seems like it's always going wrong. God's blessing is upon the godly. His strength and comfort will be with us in this life, and He has an inheritance waiting for us that will last forever. We will close today by reading Psalm 92 in its entirety.
"It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,

proclaiming your love in the morning

    and your faithfulness at night,
 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp.
 For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord;
    I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
 How great are your works, Lord,
    how profound your thoughts!

Senseless people do not know,

    fools do not understand,
 that though the wicked spring up like grass
    and all evildoers flourish,
    they will be destroyed forever.
 But you, Lord, are forever exalted.
 For surely your enemiesLord,
    surely your enemies will perish;
    all evildoers will be scattered.
 You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox;
    fine oils have been poured on me.
 My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
    my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.
 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
 planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
 They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 28, WIsdom Makes Us Generous

Solomon speaks on the subject of using our blessings to bless others. He believes in helping those who are less fortunate than we are. I don't know how much money he was in the habit of giving to the poor, but I think we can feel fairly certain he gave a tenth of all his earnings to the Lord, bringing his tithe to the temple as required by Old Testament law. This money was used to support the priests and their families and to provide for the needy in the community. Though Solomon participated in idolatrous rites with his pagan wives, I doubt he entirely abandoned the rules of the faith in which he was brought up, for the Bible describes him in this way, "he did not follow the Lord completely". (1 Kings 11:6) I fell this means he did continue going through the motions of his religion, but he wanted to straddle the line, keeping one foot in the church and one foot in the world, so to speak. He followed the Lord in some ways, and he still believed in the God of Israel, but he did not completely follow the Lord. He was not wholly devoted to God. He held back a part of his heart because he was unwilling to give up his carnal desires and the unholy practices his foreign wives had enticed him to follow. He held back a part of his heart, but evidently he did not hold back a part of his money.

Today Solomon talks about being generous with our blessings. The one who possesses godly wisdom has a healthy attitude toward money. Our security is not in our money but in our God, therefore we have the freedom to be generous. The one who does not trust in God clings tightly to his material goods, afraid of losing them, because they are what make him feel secure.

"The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath. One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." (Proverbs 11:23-25) It was up to the citizens to help those less fortunate by giving to the poor and by giving to the temple where aid was dispensed to the poor. Solomon says, "The man who has compassion on the poor and needy will be blessed for his generosity. God is pleased with this. You can't outgive God; He will increase the possessions of the one who has pity on the needy. But God is not pleased when a man turns his face away from those in need and refuses to feel pity. That man has made money into an idol and he is in danger of having his wealth taken from him."

The Apostle Paul agrees with Solomon's words, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: 'They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.' Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." (2 Corinthians 9:6-11) Paul quotes from Psalm 112, whose author is not named, which deals with the subject of generosity. The unnamed author states in verses 4 and 5 "Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice."

Solomon goes on to say, "People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God's blessing on the one who is willing to sell." (Proverbs 11:26) Wealthy and unscrupulous men had a habit of storing up grain following plentiful harvests and holding onto it until a drought came and the crops failed. Then the price of grain would be much higher. The longer a man held onto the grain during a famine, the higher the price would go. A person who is hungry enough will give almost anything in order to be able to eat, including every penny he has, his land, and his livestock. What use are those things when he's starving? In this way, evil and greedy men became even more wealthy by oppressing and exploiting their fellow citizens in their time of need.

"Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it." (Proverbs 11:27) The Biblical expression of "seek and you will find" goes both ways. The one who seeks God finds Him. The one who seeks wickedness finds it. Godly living blesses us, but the deeds of the wicked will destroy him.

"Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf." (Proverbs 11:28) Those with godly wisdom know it's not their money that sustains them, but God. The wicked are trusting in something that doesn't have the power to sustain them. They will fall into sin to make their money; they will fall into sin to keep their money.

"Whoever brings ruin to their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise." (Proverbs 11:29) Sinful and excessive living has ruined many a family. In Solomon's day, running up foolish debts could not only result in the loss of property, but in the loss of freedom. A man might end up as an indentured servant to the person he owes until he pays off his debt.

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives. If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!" (Proverbs 11:30-31) Those who are faithful to God are able to lead others to the Lord. Godly wisdom, as we learned earlier this week, blesses those around us. There is some disagreement among scholars about the translation of verse 31 into English, with many of them feeling it should be translated as the Apostle Peter did, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (1 Peter 4:18) The idea here is that the righteous are saved only by the skin of their teeth....not through their own works, but through the works of the One who pulled off a miraculous rescue and act of redemption. We who are in Christ will make it into heaven only because He is going to vouch for us. We are going to enter into the joy of the Lord through faith in Christ alone, not because we deserve it due to our own good works. So Solomon, and the Apostle Peter, urge everyone to think about their spiritual condition and their eternal destination. If the godly barely make it into heaven, what hope is there for the wicked?

Compassion and generosity are admirable qualities, as Solomon has pointed out, but he also wants us to understand that good works won't save our souls. There are unbelievers who give to the poor and have compassion on the needy. God will bless generosity, even the generosity of the unbeliever, but no one will enter the presence of the Lord without faith. No one gets in by presenting the Lord with a list of good deeds and saying, "I never believed in You and I never had any interest in knowing You and I rejected the doctrine of redemption, but I did have compassion on my fellow man. I'm actually a pretty good guy, even though I was never a religious guy. Look at all these nice things I've done!" No, we make it into heaven with this testimony, "Lord, I am a sinner. Even at my best I've fallen short. No matter how hard I tried to be perfect, I made mistakes. I'm not counting on my own good works to get me into heaven. I'm counting on the good and perfect works of Christ my Savior. He did for me what I could not do for myself. I'm coming to You on the basis of my faith in Him." In other words, as the old hymn Rock Of Ages puts it, "In my hand no price I bring. Simply to Thy cross I cling."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 27, Wisdom Causes Us To Thrive

The king discusses several ways in which godly wisdom causes us to thrive and bear fruit in this world. Wisdom helps us stay out of unwise business deals, it helps us attain honorable names, it wins us the favor of our fellow man, and it bestows upon us blessings from the Lord.

We've noted that money is never far from Solomon's mind. It's never far from anyone's mind, since we need it to provide our basic necessities. He reminds us that the wise person will know better than to enter into a risky financial venture. "Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe." (Proverbs 11:15) Earlier in the book of Proverbs, Solomon warned us against putting up security for a neighbor. He said we must be very cautious about co-signing for anyone, no matter how well we know them. With that in mind, we should completely avoid promising to pay a stranger's debt if he defaults on it. There's probably a good reason why someone we don't know very well would ask us to do this, and it's likely because he has already asked all his family members and friends and they have said no. They have said no because they know him well enough to realize he's not going to pay his debt.

Now Solomon moves on to speak about how our own character improves when we are wise, and he uses a woman as an example. "A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth." (Proverbs 11:16) In Solomon's day women weren't treated equally with men, so it's important to note that he takes the time to point out that many women attain what many men do not: honor. Honor is something that must be earned. It cannot be taken by force. Ruthless men gain wealth by force, and by doing so they may earn the fear of others, but they won't be liked and respected and honored. A good woman earns an honorable name. A woman with a kind heart is respected and loved by those around her. In a time when men were viewed as being far superior to women, Solomon is very forward-thinking when he says, "If I had to choose who I could be in this world, I would rather be a woman who is kind and honorable than to be a man who is ruthless and cruel."

"Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves." (Proverbs 11:17) Our mood doesn't benefit when we give in to grouchiness or bitterness. We just sink further into misery. If we go out of our way to be nice to others when we are feeling blue, we will soon find that we feel more positive about life. I once read an article about a scientific study that indicated that the act of smiling activated "feel good" chemicals in the brain, automatically improving the mood. So we should try to smile even when we don't feel like it for, as Solomon will later say in Chapter 17, "A cheerful heart is good medicine". A smile on our face is healthy for our body and mind.

"A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward." (Proverbs 11:18) The wicked person has deceived himself into believing it's alright to earn his money dishonestly. But he can't count on keeping his dishonest gains. If caught he will have to repay the money along with his debt to society, which may include a prison term. But the one who lives honestly earns a reward that can never be taken away. Even if the righteous person doesn't become wealthy in this life, he is building up treasures in heaven, and those treasures can never be lost.

"Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death. The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but He delights in those whose ways are blameless. Be sure of this: the wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free." (Proverbs 11:19-21) Solomon says, "You can count on God to set things straight. It may look for a while like the wicked are getting away with their cruelty, but their day is coming. God is a righteous Judge. He will reward the wicked for their evil ways, and He will reward the godly for their righteous ways."

The king has something else to say about women, and this time it's about women who are devoid of godly wisdom. "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion." (Proverbs 11:22) Personally, I think pigs are kind of cute, but to a Jewish man like Solomon pigs were unclean animals. They were not to be consumed, so Jews did not raise pigs or have any contact with them. Solomon probably didn't think pigs were very cute, so he says, "You can put a gold ring in a pig's snout but it's still a pig. Beautifying it on the outside doesn't change what it is. In the same way, no matter how beautiful an ungodly woman makes herself look on the outside, she's still morally and spiritually corrupt on the inside. You should avoid this type of woman as strictly as you avoid unclean foods. She will corrupt you and make you as bad as she is." The dictionary defines discretion as "the quality of having or showing discernment or good judgment, the ability to make responsible decisions, the ability to separate or distinguish". Godly wisdom will provide us with discretion, then we will be beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside.

Women have it rough in this world, for we are constantly told we have to be young enough, thin enough, and sexy enough in order to be of any value. The word of God wholeheartedly refutes this idea. The word of God says the most beautiful way we can adorn ourselves is with the good deeds that come from a godly heart. (1 Timothy 2:10) The Bible says our true beauty is "that of the inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight". (1 Peter 3:4) Solomon was married to many beautiful women, women whose character evidently let him down, since he said out of a thousand women he had not found one who was righteous. (Ecclesiastes 7:28) He was in a unique position to know how valuable a godly woman is, since he had so much trouble finding one. He says, "Beautiful women are a dime a dozen. Because I'm the king of Israel, and because I'm wealthy and famous, I can have any woman I want. But what I'm really looking for is a woman of character. I'm looking for a woman who is beautiful on the inside. I'm looking for a woman who is intelligent and honorable and respectable." The book of Proverbs will end with a discourse about godly women, and it will reassure us that the things the world values in women are not the things God (or a godly man) values in women. "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate." (Proverbs 31:31)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 26, Wisdom Blesses Those Around Us

Today Solomon talks about some ways our wisdom blesses us personally, but he also points out that our wisdom blesses those around us. It blesses our neighborhood, our community, and even our nation.

First, as he often does, Solomon mentions money and counsels us that wisdom is more use to us personally than wealth, "Wealth is worthless on the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death." (Proverbs 11:4) He knows that money can't buy us peace with God. He also knows money can't buy us peace with ourselves. He spent a good portion of his life living in sin, then he fell deeply into clinical depression. Money was no use to him in either of these situations, so he says, "Wealth will be no use to you when you stand before God in the judgment. He is a righteous Judge who cannot be bribed. He isn't impressed with your status or your bank accounts or your stock portfolio. God looks only on the heart. It's no use being wealthy by worldly standards if you are destitute by spiritual standards."

"The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires." (Proverbs 11:6) Our faith will testify either for us or against us. The righteous are saved by faith, while those who lack it will have nothing to say for themselves at the judgment.

"Hopes placed in mortals dies with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing." (Proverbs 11:7) If we are trusting in a religious leader or a political leader to turn the world around, our faith is misplaced. David once said to the Lord in troubled times, "Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and trample down our enemies." (Psalm 108:12-13) The Lord is the only one who will ever bring peace on the earth. He's the only one who can ever bring peace to our hearts.

"The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead." (Proverbs 11:8) Solomon isn't saying that life is always going to be smooth sailing for the righteous. He's not promising there will never be stormy skies. He's speaking more on eternal terms. The righteous will never have to fear what the wicked fear. The wrath of God will pass over the righteous in the same way the death angel passed over the children of Israel in the book of Exodus. The plague did not strike anyone in the houses where the blood of the lamb was painted on the doorposts. In the coming judgment the Lord will see the blood of the Lamb on those of us who are in Christ and He will say the same thing to us that He said to the children of Israel the night before the Exodus, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." (Exodus 12:13)

Now Solomon moves from the subject of how godly wisdom helps us personally and speaks of how it blesses those around us. "With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape." (Proverbs 11:9) The godly person is a good neighbor. He can be trusted to keep peace in the neighborhood. But the wicked person slanders the reputation of his neighbor and keeps trouble stirred up.

"When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy." (Proverbs 11:10) A person who does good to others while he is poor will likely continue to do good to others if he becomes wealthy. A person who is dependable and trustworthy in a low position can be counted on to be dependable and trustworthy in a high position. A community can rejoice for an honest, hard-working person when he gets ahead. But a community mourns when a wicked and cruel person gets ahead; it's only when the wicked person perishes and is no more that the people around him can breathe a sigh of relief.

"Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed." (Proverbs 11:11) A person with godly wisdom possesses good leadership skills. Decisions will be made thoughtfully and carefully according to what is best for the city. But the wicked will make poor decisions and the citizens will suffer.

"Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue." (Proverbs 11:12) We may not always like everyone we have to deal with, but we don't have to make the situation worse by keeping conflict going.

"A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret." (Proverbs 11:13) Has anyone you thought was a close friend ever betrayed a confidence? It's happened to me. I once shared some very upsetting news with someone I had every reason to believe I could trust only to have her spread the story to every mutual friend and acquaintance we had. It was shocking. I felt hurt and angry, but one thing it taught me was that I don't want to be that type of person. Something is not right with us spiritually if we take enjoyment in betraying a confidence. We need to get down on our knees and repent before God if friendship is far less important to us than the temporary attention we will gain while we spread tales around the community.

"For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers." (Proverbs 11:14) We should never think we know it all. A foolish person will make reckless decisions, believing he knows what's best and that he has no need to consult with anyone else. A wise person will look at the problem from all angles and will ask for advice. If we are ever placed in a position of leadership we will need people around us whose strengths make up for our weaknesses. We will need people who have experience in areas where we lack it. The only person who ever lived who didn't need to ask the advice of his fellow man was the Lord Jesus. The rest of us need a little help from our godly friends.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 25, Wisdom Protects Our Integrity

Solomon is a man who values integrity. He does not believe we can possess this quality without godly wisdom. The dictionary definition of integrity is, "adherence to moral and ethical principles, soundness of moral character, honesty". The thesaurus says integrity is the same thing as "being honest, principled, sincere, good, honorable, righteous, decent, moral, possessing restraint, virtuous, consistent, dependable, faithful, loyal, diligent, stable, trustworthy, reverent, obedient, and respectful". Who knew integrity was all these wonderful things? I thought it simply meant to be an honest person, but it means so much more. To Solomon it means being a hard and dependable worker. He says it means being a person who does what is right and not what is evil. He feels it means being a person whose mouth speaks helpful words and not harmful words. To him, to possess integrity means to be honest and humble and obedient to the Lord.

He begins by pointing out that the person with integrity is a hard worker, someone who can be trusted to do his best. "As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them." (Proverbs 10:26) He says, "It's so annoying to have someone lazy working for you! They can't complete the simplest errand without taking forever. Having to deal with a lazy employee is as irritating as getting smoke in your eyes. It sets your teeth on edge like tasting a spoonful of straight vinegar. When you send them out on your business, the whole time you're waiting impatiently with your eyes all squinted up and your teeth grinding together because you know they aren't reliable."

"The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short." (Proverbs 10:27) We may have no control over our genetics, but we do have control over whether or not we live a healthy and responsible lifestyle. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and as such they are deserving of respect and care. We are the ambassadors of Christ in this world and we can better perform our duties if we are healthy in body. If we respect the Lord we can't help respecting these bodies He gave us. We want to do the very best we can for the Lord, and that will entail keeping ourselves fit for service. But Solomon says the wicked cut their years short on the earth. They abuse their health with substances. They take reckless chances. They don't respect God, they don't respect their fellow man, and they don't respect themselves.

"The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing." (Proverbs 10:28) The promises of God's word belong to the righteous. No one can take our joy in Christ away from us. But the wicked desire the wrong things and, even if they obtain them, these things will never bring them true joy because they lack the ability to fulfill the soul.

"The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless, but it is the ruin of those who do evil. The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land." (Proverbs 10:29-30) We don't pull up the flowers when we're tending our gardens; we pull up the weeds. In the same way the Lord will never uproot the righteous, but the weeds He will pluck out. 

"From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced. The lips of the righteous know what finds favor, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse." (Proverbs 10:31-32) The king advises, "You can't trust a word that comes out of a wicked person's mouth. If you need spiritual guidance you must go to a godly person. You need to seek advice from someone who has integrity, someone who is faithful to the Lord."

The person with integrity is honest. "The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with Him." (Proverbs 11:1) The Lord is very unhappy when we defraud someone. There will be times in our lives when we have the opportunity to cheat someone, and we might even be able to do it without ever being caught, but our Father in heaven will see it. Have you ever heard the saying that the test of your integrity is what you would do if you knew you wouldn't be caught? God is going to bless us for refusing to do wrong even when we could have gotten away with it. 

The person with integrity is humble, recognizing the authority of the Lord. "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2) It's hard to learn anything when we already think we know it all. A humble spirit is a teachable spirit. A humble spirit is of great value in the sight of God because a humble spirit is a spirit He can work with. 

The person with integrity lives a life of purpose, a life of direction, a life with goals, and a life that achieves things for the kingdom of God. "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity." (Proverbs 11:3) When we possess the integrity that comes from godly wisdom, we have an inbuilt spiritual GPS. We can feel in our spirit whether a decision is sinful or not. The Holy Spirit troubles our consciences when we get off the right path and says, "Make a u-turn now". Honest living will keep us out of a lot of trouble. But the one who is dishonest will get himself in all sorts of jams. He will get in trouble with his neighbors and co-workers, with the legal system, and with the Lord. He will have little of value to show for his life. But the person who walks in integrity earns a good name. The person with integrity has many things of value to show for his life. The person of integrity can look back on his life and feel satisfied with it.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 24, Wisdom Is A Safe Harbor In The Storm

In today's passage Solomon speaks of the security of godly wisdom. There is no security apart from the Lord. We can't trust the temporary things of this world for our security. But we can trust the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

First Solomon has something to say about money. Solomon is a man who has many things to say about money because he knows a lot about it. He understands there is a type of worldly security in money, but he wants us to understand that God will only bless money that is gained honestly. "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it." (Proverbs 10:22) What type of wealth is he talking about? He can't be promising us wealth without work, for we've already noted in both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes that Solomon has a poor opinion of laziness. He also has a very poor opinion of dishonesty, which we've been studying this week. So I think what he might be saying is that we are free to enjoy the blessings God gives us as a reward for our good honest work. There's nothing sinful about enjoying the blessings of food on the table, a roof over our heads, bills that are paid, clothes on our backs and shoes on our feet, or any of the other things the Lord has given us the health and strength to work for. Our enjoyment only becomes sinful when we start believing we've done everything on our own, without Him. Solomon says there is no "painful toil" that comes along with the blessings God showers on us because we can enjoy them wholeheartedly.

But the dishonest person can't enjoy his wealth and possessions in the same way the godly person can enjoy them. He knows they weren't granted to him by God. He knows he didn't work for them. The only pleasure a dishonest person can take in his wealth is a guilty pleasure. "A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom." (Proverbs 10:23) Solomon says, "You're a fool if you enjoy doing wrong! Why would you want to defraud others? Why would you want to steal? Only a spiritually reprobate person could take delight in such things."

The one who has gained wealth by dishonest means will always be looking over his shoulder, wondering when or if he will get caught. "What the wicked dread will overtake them; what the righteous desire will be granted." (Proverbs 10:24) A day of reckoning will eventually come. If no earthly judge finds the wicked person guilty, the heavenly Judge certainly will. Both the wicked and the righteous receive the reward they have earned. The righteous, who desired to live godly and honest lives, will be blessed. But the wicked, who lived in opposition to God and in opposition to their fellow man, will be sentenced to an eternity apart from the God they rejected.

"When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever." (Proverbs 10:25) I'm reminded of the lyrics of a song by Edward Mote titled "My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less". It says, "On Christ the solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand." The winds of wrath will sweep over the wicked, carrying them away because they have no foundation, no security in Christ. But the righteous will never be shaken. Our security is in Christ alone. No one can take Him from us. No one, not even the devil of hell, can tear us down, because the foundation under us is Christ our Rock, and He can never be moved or shaken. Because Christ stands firm forever, we who belong to Him stand firm forever.

We see and hear a lot of dreadful things in this world. Schemes and scams abound. Those who are powerful and dishonest take advantage of the poor and needy. Sin is rewarded by the world. The movies and songs and books that top the charts are usually those which contain the most filth. The world rewards sin because sinners belong to the world. But Christ rewards righteousness because those who are righteous belong to Him. I would rather have the blessings given to me by Jesus than anything this world can give me, wouldn't you? The pleasures of sin are temporary but the rewards for godly living are eternal. Someday, if we still have news channels when Christ reigns over the world, we will hear nothing but good news when we turn the TV on. We will never again get our morning paper out of the box to see a horrifying headline. Deceivers will be no more. Cruel and inhumane people will not be here. Those who hate Christians and engage in religious persecution will be gone. The One who conquered the world spiritually when He died and rose again will conquer the world literally when He comes to reign as King of kings forever.

"All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:11-13)