Monday, July 31, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 63, A Blameless Life

Solomon discusses the wickedness that hides in the human heart. He speaks of the faith that makes us blameless in the sight of God, and we talk about the solution for our sins.

"The purposes of a person's heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out." (Proverbs 20:5) We've discussed the human heart before in relation to the prophet Jeremiah's observations about it, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) It seems to be human nature to hide our true purposes at times, even from ourselves. This is why godly insight is needed. We need it to figure out whether our purposes are sinful and whether the purposes of those around us are sinful. Have you ever just had a bad feeling about associating with certain people? Outwardly everything seems completely right about them. They're friendly and kindhearted. But something in our spirit warns us to avoid a close association with them. There have been times I've ignored the warning of the Holy Spirit in these situations (to my regret), and so I've learned to take heed to those feelings of something being wrong. When the Holy Spirit warns us, we don't have to know the reasons why. Our job is simply to obey Him.

"Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?" (Proverbs 20:6) Here is another good reason why we need godly insight. People will claim to love us when they really don't. They may think they do, but then when we're going through hard times they realize they don't love us enough to stick by us. Or they may claim they love us in order to gain something for themselves. A man as wealthy and famous and powerful as Solomon no doubt dealt with many false friends. He says it's hard to find a faithful friend. I'm thankful for the faithful friends I have, aren't you? We need to hold onto our true friends. We need to honor their faithfulness by being faithful back.

"The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them." (Proverbs 20:7) David referred to himself as blameless in Psalm 18:23 and Psalm 26:1,11. We know David wasn't sinless. No one is, plus David's sins are written in black and white on the pages of our Bibles for all to see. He was referring to the blamelessness that comes by faith in the One who can make him righteous. This is the same type of blamelessness we have in Christ. We were unable to live blameless lives, so the One who is perfect lived a blameless life for us and gave Himself as the propitiation for our sins. (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2) There is no other way to achieve blamelessness in the sight of a holy God than to trust in His Son. He says He will not only bless us for our faith, but He will bless our children after us. David and Solomon are a good example of this. Solomon wasn't as godly as David. The Bible tells us Solomon's heart wasn't fully devoted to God as David's heart was. (1 Kings 11:4,6) Yet the Lord blessed Solomon because he was the offspring of David. Who knows how God might decide to bless our descendants simply because we have been faithful to Him?

"When a king sits on his throne to judge, he winnows out all evil with his eyes." (Proverbs 20:8) When he became king, Solomon prayed for discernment. He asked the Lord for wisdom so that he could guide the people of Israel. This wisdom included the ability to see through lies and false witnesses in order to judge court cases fairly. Our God, who is a righteous Judge, will also winnow out all evil with His eyes. Nothing is hidden from Him, which is why it's so important to acknowledge the truth of the next verse and to take appropriate action.

"Who can say, 'I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?'" (Proverbs 20:9) The answer is: no one! No one can truthfully say this! As the prophet Isaiah pointed out, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way." (Isaiah 53:6a) Seeing that we are all sinners, what hope is there for us? Isaiah provides the answer we need, "And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6b) The Lord Himself provided the solution for us. Because we could not achieve righteousness on our own, the One who is righteousness achieved it for us. The Lord laid on Christ all our iniquities so that we could say by faith, "I am blameless in the sight of God through Jesus Christ His Son."

I'm a sinner. You're a sinner. We can't make it through one day without saying or doing or thinking something that is contrary to the word of a righteous God. As Isaiah says, we all have gone astray and wandered off like sheep. But thanks be to God, we have a Shepherd who loves us and who seeks us when we wander. We have a Shepherd who laid down His life for us. We have a Shepherd who took up His life again to prove that His sacrifice on our behalf was acceptable to God. As the old song says, "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog post that we would be leaving early this morning for vacation. We will return on Sunday and resume the blog on Monday morning.

I hope you have a blessed rest of the week!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 62, Reaping What We Sow

Solomon speaks about the fear of the king, then he moves on into the foolishness of quarreling, then he points out that we reap what we sow.

"A king's wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion; those who anger him forfeit their lives." (Proverbs 20:2) Solomon had absolute power over his subjects, which means he also had the power of life and death over anyone accused in his courtroom of wrongdoing. I know I would have trembled in fear if Solomon had frowned on me, and yet knowing he had this power doesn't seem to have dissuaded some from doing wrong, anymore than our modern laws and penalties seem to dissuade some from doing wrong. The one who doesn't respect human authority is going to have a tough time respecting God's authority, even though His wrath is thousands of times more fearsome. No wonder the Bible tells us to "be subject to the governing authorities", for if we can't obey those in charge over us on earth, how shall we obey the One in heaven who is in charge over all things? (Romans 13:1)

"It is to one's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel." (Proverbs 20:3) The Apostle Paul urged his young convert Timothy not to get embroiled in arguments. This is unseemly behavior for the Christian. "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:23-26) It harms our testimony when we scream and yell and behave just like unbelievers. Losing our dignity does not help the cause of Christ and it will not attract anyone to Him. It's going to be difficult to talk today about the joy we have in the Lord if our listeners saw us quarreling angrily yesterday. Jesus never sank down to the level of His enemies. He retained His dignity and honor even while facing opposition. If we are going to have any influence at all on unbelievers, we are going to have to approach them with the same loving heart that Jesus had. Arguing and losing our temper will do nothing but push them away.

"Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look and find nothing." (Proverbs 20:4) This verse has a very practical application. The one who does not plant cannot possibly reap. He won't have any food to put away for the hard times of winter. But I think this verse has a spiritual application as well. If we don't sow good godly seed in our lives, we can't reap a harvest of peace and righteousness. If we don't study the word of God, it can't comfort us when hard times come. If we don't build a relationship with God, we won't feel the peace of His presence when we need it most. If we never spend any time in prayer when times are good, how will we have the boldness to come to the throne of grace when times are bad? The Apostle Paul gives us some vital advice when he says, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8)

We can't spend our lives ignoring God and then blame Him for not being there when we need Him. We can't live according to the desires of the flesh and hope to feel close to our Maker. He invites us to a higher calling. He invites us into His very presence, into the throne room of heaven, to present our requests before Him with reverence and thanksgiving. Human relationships are built day by day, year after year, and our relationship with God is the same. The Creator of all things wants friendship with us! Such a thing is more awesome than my mind can fathom! Let's not turn down such an invitation as this!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 61, The Throne Of Grace

In the second half of today's passage Solomon will tell us how to avoid being entrapped by substances and other devices that will lead us astray. God should be our first resort when trouble comes, not our last.

"A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil." (Proverbs 19:28) Solomon paints a clear picture of the one who enjoys doing evil. He says that person gulps down evil in the same way a hungry person gulps down food. The wicked person can't get enough.

"Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the back of fools." (Proverbs 19:29) In Solomon's day a public flogging was a common punishment for wrongdoing, although he has mentioned before that punishment does little for the one who is morally and spiritually foolish. He's seen too many wrongdoers go right back out and break the same laws that got them into trouble in the first place. Nevertheless, penalties must be carried out when the law is broken, and even though the fool may learn nothing from his mistakes, sentences must still be passed. Solomon would have been an unrighteous judge if he failed to apply the law to the ones who broke the law.

"Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1) When we studied the book of Ecclesiastes we learned that Solomon tried using alcohol to alleviate his depression, but even while doing so he somehow managed not to be "led astray" by wine. He said, "I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly---my mind still guiding me with wisdom." (Ecclesiastes 2:3a) It wasn't in Solomon's character to give himself over to foolishness. He tried to be shallow like those who partied every night, but it just didn't work for him. He wasn't able to drown out the emptiness in his soul with wine, so he gave up on it. The problem with alcohol is that some people have a weakness for it and some do not. Solomon apparently did not, but nobody has their first drink while saying to themselves, "I want to become an alcoholic!" We might not know whether we have a weakness for alcohol until we've been led astray by it, and then we may find it difficult or even impossible to stop drinking.

Many a family has fallen apart due to someone's drinking. Many a person's life and health has been ruined by alcohol. We would be better off to avoid it entirely than to fall into its trap. In the Bible we find that wine is considered a celebratory drink, a blessing from the Lord, and as such it was to be enjoyed only with a sense of reverence and thankfulness. I'm not here to tell you whether or not it's okay for you to have a drink, because each person should be led by his or her own conscience in such matters. But drinking would probably be far less likely to become a problem if the fruit of the vine was enjoyed in the spirit in which it was intended to be enjoyed, not for the purpose of carousing and debauchery, not for the purpose of self-medicating ourselves, and not for the purpose of lowering our inhibitions so we can give ourselves over to sins we wouldn't commit while sober. In the Bible we find positive references to wine only when it is being used in its proper context, such as an offering to the Lord in thanks for a bountiful harvest or for celebrating a wedding or other happy occasion.

Anything can become an addiction if we use it improperly, even things that are good for us like the food we need to nourish our bodies. We must be on guard against self-medicating ourselves with alcohol, shopping, pornography, illicit relationships, food, or anything else that takes the place of God in our lives. (I want to point out I'm not saying anything against taking medication that's prescribed by a reputable doctor for a clinically diagnosed mental or emotional condition. I've had to do this myself and would never criticize anyone for it.) We may experience temporary relief the first time we use alcohol or some type of habit to calm ourselves down. The next time our anxiety reaches the same level, our brain will remind us of what helped us the last time and it will tell us to do it again. It won't be long until we are stuck in a loop. But that loop is a trap because all it does is lead us in circles. God should be our first resort, not our last. What if we got down on our knees in prayer as soon as we began to feel anxious? We, as the children of God through Christ, have the right to enter into the very throne room of God by prayer. We are invited into His presence in the same way Christ is invited into His presence. Why is it we sometimes turn down such awesome help? I've done it myself; I've neglected the most valuable source of power there is in favor of trying to fix things on my own. Let's not do that anymore. Let's accept our position in the family of God. We are His dearly beloved children! Christ has won us a place in the Father's house and how foolish it would be of us to reject the help that the Lord alone can provide. "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 60, It Is Well With My Soul

Solomon emphasizes the importance of fearing the Lord so we can have the peace that comes from being on the same side as our Maker. As long as we live in a fallen world, we will have troubles. But Solomon tells us how we can still say, "It is well with my soul".

"What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar." (Proverbs 19:22) The two halves of this proverb don't seem to be related to each other, at least not in the English translation. Some versions render the first half as, "Greed is a person's shame," so there is some difficulty with the original language of this verse. Whatever its meaning, Solomon has spoken against liars before. He's likely seen so many of them in his courtroom that he can spot a liar from a mile away. He's also used to people telling him what they think he wants to hear, such as false friends who want to hang around with him and enjoy his wealth.

"The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble." (Proverbs 19:23) It was an Old Testament belief that you could tell who was obeying the Lord by the way He blessed them. Old Testament characters expected the faithful person's life to be filled with material blessings and peace of mind. We learned when we studied the book of Job that this isn't always the case. We live in a fallen world where trouble comes into the lives of both the godly and the ungodly. We have an enemy who hates those of us who love the Lord, and he is constantly on the hunt, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) The Lord Jesus didn't promise us an easy life, saying instead in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble."

A better way to interpret Solomon's words in verse 23 might be something like this, "The fear of the Lord leads to eternal life. The one who has eternal life can have peace in his heart, even when it looks like the world is falling down around him. No matter what comes, he can say, 'It is well with my soul.'" We don't know what we might have to face in this life, but we don't have to face it alone. With Christ on our side, we can have peace in our hearts no matter what kind of battle rages around us. We can say to our souls the same thing Jahaziel said to King Jehoshaphat when a coalition of enemies came to fight against Judah, "This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.'" (2 Chronicles 20:15b) The battle is God's! He doesn't expect us to charge into the fray alone. Sometimes we don't even have to charge in at all. As in Jehoshaphat's case, sometimes God tells us to step back and watch what He will do, saying, "You will not have to fight this battle." (2 Chronicles 20:17a)

"A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!" (Proverbs 19:24) Solomon detests laziness. If asked which quality of character I find most deplorable, I would probably put laziness in the number one spot. Laziness itself is bad enough, but it often leads to covetousness and greed, and to dishonesty and thievery. Solomon says, "I've seen some men so lazy that after they put their hand in the bowl of candy they find it's too much trouble to even lift their hand to their mouth to eat!"

"Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge." (Proverbs 19:25) In Solomon's day it was common to punish criminals publicly in order to show the populace what happens to the one who breaks the law. It was thought to be a deterrent to crime. In our day we still carry out public executions, for a select group of people are allowed to witness them. The family of the condemned person is allowed to be present, along with the family of the person who was killed by the condemned individual. Lawyers for both sides are also invited to witness the event. Solomon is telling us that in his experience it helps the public not to be so quick to commit crimes if they can witness the punishment for the crimes. He also points out that the wise person will learn from rebukes. The wise person won't stub up and go away mad, but instead will take the words to heart and learn from them.

"Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace." (Proverbs 19:26) One of the ten commandments states, "Honor your father and mother." There are parents who brought their children up right but still suffer shame and disgrace over the way their grown children are living. Some children are so wayward that they think nothing of stealing things from their parents. Some children keep getting in so much trouble with the law that their parents lose their homes and all their money trying to pay the legal costs. Solomon says, "What a shame this is! The Lord commands the child to respect and honor his parents. How dare anyone steal from the father who raised him? How can anyone even think of causing his mother to be homeless because she put up her house as security for him? This is a disgrace! The person who behaves this way ought to repent in dust and ashes."

The king takes this opportunity to remind his own son never to forget the godly instruction he's been given. "Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge." (Proverbs 19:27) What would happen to us if we stopped listening to the word of God? If we stopped reading the word of God? If we stopped communing with the Lord in prayer? If we stopped obeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit? We would soon stray from the right path. We would find it easier and easier to fall into behavior that contradicts the word of God. Let's keep our minds and our hearts open to God's holy word. Studying it and putting it into practice will keep us out of a great deal of trouble. Remaining close to the Lord will give us that peace in our hearts that allows us to say, no matter what, "It is well with my soul."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 59, Nothing Can Hinder The Plans Of God

The king begins today by speaking of the value of discipline and then he tells us that nothing can hinder the plans of God. God has made many precious promises to those who love Him, and He will fulfill every one of them.

"Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death." (Proverbs 19:18) Solomon has told us several times that the person who loves himself will love knowledge. Here we see that the person who loves his children will instruct his children and correct them when it's needed. Children are only under their parents' influence for a limited number of years. The time to begin godly instruction is while they are young. My mother did this for me. There were some years when I wandered from the Lord, but her instruction never left my heart. My conscience bothered me because I knew I was living wrong, and eventually I had to return to the Lord.

"A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again." (Proverbs 19:19) It's often best to allow people to have to endure the consequences of their actions. If we keep rescuing them, they will never learn to take responsibility for themselves.

"Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise." (Proverbs 19:20) I want to be counted wise, don't you? We certainly don't want to be counted among the foolish, among the ones who never seem to learn from mistakes. All of us will make mistakes as long as we live in mortal human bodies, but if we are wise we will keep learning and growing in the Lord. We will repent and move on.

"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs  19:21) God's plans for mankind will not be thwarted by anyone or anything. Even before He created the world He had a plan in place for our salvation, which is why Jesus Christ is called "the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world". (Revelation 13:8) The Son of God planned to die for us long before Adam ever sinned, indeed before Adam ever drew his first breath. Nothing could keep the Lamb of God from giving Himself for us. Many times Satan tried to wipe out the Messianic line from which Christ would come, but he was not successful, because no scheme against the Lord will succeed. Likewise, nothing will ever negate any promise of God. Nothing will ever hinder the plans He has for the new heavens and the new earth, for the peace that will reign under King Jesus, or for the eternal life that we have in our Savior.

We will conclude today with a passage from the book of Revelation. The prophecies from that book are "trustworthy and true". (Revelation 22:6) The earth will be restored to an Eden-like state and the Lord Jesus Christ will reign over it forever. All who have loved Him and believed in Him will enjoy all the wonderful things He has in store for His faithful ones. The promises of God are certain and secure; there isn't anyone or anything who can stop Him from fulfilling His word. "And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then He said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" (Revelation 21:3-5) A day is coming in which all things will be fulfilled. We can count on it. God will never break His promises to us.

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?"

Friday, July 14, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 51, True Friendship

The king provides us with several proverbs about foolish people, then he provides us with an example of real friendship.

"Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool bent on folly." (Proverbs 17:12) As dangerous as a mama bear is, a person who is morally and spiritually reprobate is even more dangerous. Solomon says, "Stay out of that person's way, just as you would stay out of the way of a wild animal. At least all a mama bear can do is kill you, but an ungodly person will lead you into sin that can take both your life and your soul."

"Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil for good." (Proverbs 17:13) This is like the saying, "What goes around comes around". Evildoers attract evil to themselves. The one who is always up to no good will someday have his actions boomerang back on him.

"Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out." (Proverbs 17:14) A hole in a dam will probably start out small, but it will grow bigger and bigger. The same is true of quarrels. They have a way of growing. Sometimes they grow into feuds that end up being lifelong. Friends and family members end up going to their graves without ever speaking to each other again.

"Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent---the Lord detests them both." (Proverbs 17:15) I've never followed but a couple of famous trials on TV, but in both those cases I thought the people on trial were guilty. I couldn't believe my ears when the juries came back with a "not guilty" verdict. Of course, in my case I couldn't be 100% certain they were guilty because I wasn't there when the crimes were committed. But Solomon says God knows the truth and He hates it when there is a miscarriage of justice. In our world it's easier to be acquitted if you're wealthy or famous or good-looking. It's easier to be found guilty if you're too poor to hire a team of hotshot lawyers or if you're not educated enough to know your rights. The Lord, as a righteous Judge, hates injustice.

"Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?" (Proverbs 17:16) The king is saying something like, "No amount of money can buy godly wisdom. You can send an ungodly person to the finest Christian college in the country, but he lacks the desire to learn of the Lord. He's incapable of understanding God's word because he doesn't want to understand it. It's a waste to try and teach anything to someone with a prideful and wicked personality."

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." (Proverbs 17:17) In troubled times we soon find out who our real friends are. We learn which family members can be counted on. A real friend will love us at all times, even when times aren't good. They won't suddenly disappear when we're going through tough circumstances. A family member who steps up and helps out when we need it is like a brother or sister to us, even though they may be a distant cousin or only related to us by marriage. Love is what makes a true friend or a true brother or sister.

Solomon will say in Chapter 18 that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. We couldn't choose what family we were born into, and we may have relatives who would never dream of lifting a finger to help us. On the other hand, we can choose our close friends. I have friends I think of as family, don't you? These are people we know we can count on. We can talk to them when we're feeling down. They help us pray about things that concern us. They encourage us in the faith and help us to be better Christians. I consider friends like that to be my brothers and sisters.

The verse about the friend who sticks closer than a brother is often applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. He loves us more than any earthly family member or friend ever could. There is no limit to what He will do for us. He stepped in when we were lost in sin to do for us what no one else could do. We are now related to Him by blood, by His blood, and are the sons and daughters of the living God. "Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters." (Hebrews 2:11) Just think of that! Jesus calls me His sister! He's not ashamed of me. He was willing to do anything it took to save me. He will never leave me or forsake me. He's a friend who will always be by my side.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 50, Love Covers Offenses

Solomon will tell us today that love covers over offenses. We have all committed offenses against our fellow man and against God. But thanks be to God, there is a love big enough to cover our every offense. Christ loved us enough to give Himself in our place and to pay our debt of sin in order to give us the free gift of salvation.

The king begins by pointing out some behaviors of the wicked. "A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue. Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished." (Proverbs 17:3-4) Have you ever known anyone who seemed to enjoy the misfortune of others? God isn't pleased with this attitude. Solomon says the Lord will discipline it. In fact, he will later warn us in Proverbs 24:17-18 not to even gloat when our enemy falls, lest the Lord disapprove of our attitude and turn His wrath away from our enemies. It's very unattractive to take pleasure in someone else's trouble and it's bad for the character.

"Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children." (Proverbs 17:6) It's natural for parents to brag about their children and grandchildren. It's natural for children to look up to their parents. It's a sad thing when this is not the case, when children are so wayward and so lost in sin that the parents are continually in despair, or when parents are so neglectful and irresponsible that when the children are grown they want nothing to do with their mother or father.

"Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool---how much worse lying lips to a ruler!" (Proverbs 17:7) The word translated as "eloquent" can also mean "persuasive". We studied earlier in the week that godly wisdom helps us speak persuasively. Such a gift would be wasted on the ungodly. It would only enable them to lead more people into sin. Solomon says, "The gift of the gab is a bad thing for a foolish person to have, but it's even worse when a ruler is a liar. A ruler is in a position to lead more people astray than the average person."

"A bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; they think success will come at every turn." (Proverbs 17:8) Money talks. Money is used for many sinful endeavors. A person can become so used to getting his way through the use of his wealth that he will depend wholly upon it, which is idolatry.

"Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." (Proverbs 17:9) When someone we love hurts us or makes a mistake, it doesn't help the situation at all to go around talking about them. Some of our other friends may turn their backs on that person because they will feel offended when they hear of their behavior. Love will compel us to keep the matter quiet. Solomon says "love covers over an offense", and I don't know any better example of love covering offenses than the love of Christ which caused Him to shed the blood that is able to cover our every offense. The sins of those of us who are in Christ are under His blood, and He will never bring those things up to us again.

"A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool." (Proverbs 17:10) The king is an experienced ruler. He's probably judged thousands of court cases. He's seen people learn quickly from their mistakes and he's seen people make the same mistakes over and over again. He makes this observation, "When you tell a godly person he has messed up, he will see it and admit it. He will learn not to make the same mistake again. But words are wasted on the ungodly person. I bet if you were to strike him a hundred times you couldn't make an impression on him. He would just go right back out and do the same things over again."

"Evildoers foster rebellion against God; the messenger of death will be sent against them." (Proverbs 17:11) Sin is really rebellion against God, against His authority and against His right to rule over His creation. The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23a) But, as the Apostle Paul said, "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23b) We are freely offered the pardon of sin. Christ loves us and is willing to cover over our offenses with His blood. "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15) Christ died and rose again to earn for us a salvation we were incapable of earning for ourselves. But if we reject Him, we are left with nothing but what we have earned. We are left to stand before our holy Judge with no defender by our side, with no one to say, "This one is Mine! She accepted by faith who I am and what I've done for her. Her sins are covered by My blood and can never be brought up again. I paid for them in her place."

Who doesn't enjoy a nice gift? A gift is a little something extra, not something we earned, but something another person wanted to give us out of the goodness of their heart. There is no greater gift than knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. It's the gift that keeps on giving throughout eternity. It's the gift that helps us in this world and brings us unspeakable joy in the next. The Apostle Paul asks a question that's intended to make everyone really stop and think about the enormity and the severity of leaving this world without Christ, "How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3a) Christ is our only escape. His gift of salvation is free to us because He paid for it Himself. How can we ignore that?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 49, Wisdom Helps Us Cast Our Cares On The Lord

Today Solomon will tell us that the Lord tests our hearts in the same way that fire tests silver or gold. Heating precious metals causes previously hidden impurities to rise to the top. In the same way the Lord is able to see what's in our hearts. Nothing can be hidden from Him.

First the king provides us with several miscellaneous proverbs. "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." (Proverbs 16:33) Decisions were often made in Old Testament times by using two objects known as the urim and thummin. It's unknown exactly what these were, perhaps two different colored stones or sticks. The priest wore these in his breastplate and when seeking the Lord's will in an important decision, such as whether there would be victory if Israel went to battle, the priest could shake these items in the lap of his robe and whichever one came out determined what Israel was to do. The Lord was not endorsing divination, which was forbidden to Israel, but was supplying a method in which to prayerfully seek His will. The practice began dying out during the time of the prophets and it disappeared completely after the Holy Spirit began to indwell believers following the resurrection of Christ.

"Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, and strife." (Proverbs 17:1) The Apostle Paul said, "The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6) Solomon agrees, saying something like, "It's better to be poor and have the peace that comes from knowing God than to be wealthy and have a life full of uproar and sin." Peace in the home is priceless. Who wants to live in a house that's always in an uproar?

"A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the family." (Proverbs 17:2) The Lord is able to promote the one who is godly and who performs his work in an honorable manner. Two examples of this in the Bible would be Jacob's son Joseph who was sold into slavery but later became second in command to Pharaoh, and Daniel who was taken as a captive to Babylon but rose to a high position of power in that foreign land. No matter what our position is in life, the Bible says "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:23-24)

"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart." (Proverbs 17:3) Silver and gold must be heated in order for the impurities to rise to the top to be skimmed off. Once heated to the proper temperature, the dross cannot be hidden. Neither can the dross in our hearts be hidden from the Lord. As unpleasant as it is, sometimes the Lord has to heat up our situation so He can skim the impurities from us. Job said of his troubles, "When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold." (Job 23:10b) Job was a good man before calamities came into his life, but he was an even better man after. He emerged from his trials in a purer and more honorable form. Not all afflictions are a result of sin, as Job's case proves. Sometimes they come for the purpose of making us more like Christ. But in other cases calamities do arise as a result of sin. The author of Psalm 66 spoke of the testing Israel went through as a result of wandering from God, "For You, God, tested us; You refined us like silver." (Psalm 66:10) The Lord said something similar about the troubles He brought upon Israel because of her sins, "I have tested you in the furnace of affliction." (Isaiah 48:10b)

I've been afflicted with anxiety for several months now. I'm the type of person who doesn't deal very well with change, and there have been several changes in my life this year. They've actually been good changes for the most part, but I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, so anything that upsets my routine causes me to feel constantly unsettled and anxious. What I want most is for my uneasiness to go away, but perhaps the Lord wants to use it to make me more like Christ. Like the Apostle Paul, my heart's desire is that God would take away this "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7), but it's possible He gave it to me so I would have to depend on Him. It may be that I wouldn't know Him as well as I do or love Him as much as I do if I didn't have to lean on Him in my weakness. I would love to hear Him say, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." (Luke 13:12) But He may choose instead to say what He said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you." (2 Corinthians 12;9) Either way, I hope will come forth as gold. Affliction is bad enough on its own, but how terrible it would be if it were wasted! I want to take something away from the difficult experiences of life, don't you? I believe the Bible assures us that we can, for the Scriptures urge us, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 48, Wisdom Gives Us Patience

Solomon begins by talking about the folly of the foolish, then he concludes with a profound statement about the value of patience.

"Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools." (Proverbs 16:22) Since he is a king, Solomon has likely seen many examples of the differences in circumstances in the lives of the wise and the lives of the foolish. He's seen bad choices come back to haunt people. He says, "The wise person will avoid a great deal of trouble, but the foolish person causes himself harm."

"The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction." (Proverbs 16:23) This is similar to a verse we studied yesterday, in which Solomon said the wise have persuasive words.

"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (Proverbs 16:24) I know which people to talk to when I need encouragement, don't you? They can be counted on to strengthen us in our faith. They speak wise words, godly words, that we need to hear.

"There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 16:25) Solomon previously made a similar statement in Chapter 14. We can't trust our human instincts. We have to live by the word of God. The things that seem right to our carnal minds may be contrary to what He's said. For example, eating the fruit seemed right to Eve. It was attractive to her. It looked tasty. The serpent promised it would make her like God. But all it did was drive a wedge between her and her Maker. That's what sin will do.

"The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on." (Proverbs 16:26) The king says, "A man who doesn't work will soon be hungry. When the pantry gets empty he will be driven to work. This is a good thing. There's nothing wrong with doing honest work to put food on the table."

"A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire. A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." (Proverbs 16:27-28) I don't know what makes a person want to keep people at odds with each other. Life is so much nicer when everyone gets along. It's very un-Christian to stir up trouble, for the Lord Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35) Our testimony won't have much influence on unbelievers if they don't see the love of Christ in us.

"A violent person entices their neighbor and leads them down a path that is not good. Whoever winks with their eye is plotting perversity; whoever purses their lips is bent on evil." (Proverbs 16:29-30) It's not enough for some people to be troublemakers themselves; they want to be a bad influence on those around them.

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness." (Proverbs 16:31) A person who is both old and wise is a person sought after for advice. Living righteously doesn't guarantee a long life, but there is honor in having lived many decades for the Lord. Likewise, it's a shame to have reached old age and still be living in sin and to have learned nothing from mistakes.

"Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city." (Proverbs 16:32) This is one of those verses that stings me a little. I'm an impatient person, as I've mentioned before. I have a very intense awareness of time and whether or not I'm using it wisely, so anything that holds me up during the day has a tendency to make me irritable. Multi-tasking makes me incredibly happy because it makes me feel like I'm getting the most out of my day. But there's a downside to all this productivity, because it sometimes hinders me from obeying this command, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10a) I get so caught up in everything I'm doing that time with God gets pushed to the side. I start thinking I'm in control of my life instead of trusting in the Lord. I miss opportunities to be a godly influence on others because I'm so caught up in my own stuff that I hardly notice what's going on around me.

Who would have thought a patient person deserves more honor than a mighty warrior? But that's what Solomon is saying. His own father rose to fame because of his victory in battle. No one had ever heard of young David from Bethlehem until he killed Goliath, the Philistine giant who no one in Israel wanted to fight. David was a mighty warrior all his life, but Solomon says it's even better to be a patient person. He says that self-control is better than brilliant battle strategy. The Bible tells us that God is patient. Being patient makes us more like Him.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 47, Wisdom Makes Us Persuasive

Solomon explains some differences between living wisely and living unwisely, then he points out that wisdom helps us speak with persuasive words which are able to lead others onto the right path.

"How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!" (Proverbs 16:16) Solomon is a man with all the gold and silver he could ever need or want, but his wealth never made him happy. When we studied the book of Ecclesiastes we found him sunk deep in clinical depression. It wasn't until he returned to the Lord and gained godly wisdom and insight that Solomon found purpose in life.

"The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives." (Proverbs 16:17) The Lord Jesus said, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) The wide gate of destruction is easy to find. We don't have to look for it; all we have to do is follow the crowd. But the one who finds the narrow gate is the one who seeks it. This is the person who knows there has to be more to life. This is the person who wants to live a life that's fulfilling and purposeful. Solomon says, "Watch where you're going! Don't just let yourself be swept along with the crowd. Think for yourself. You know there's more to life than pleasures and greed. Seek the narrow way and live."

"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18) We spoke the other day about it being pride that tells a person he isn't a sinner and doesn't need a savior. This is why pride leads to destruction. To be haughty means to be scornful, superior, cold, hard-hearted, and unapproachable. A person with these attitudes is likely to stumble and fall a lot along life's journey because he will not have a teachable spirit. The one who never accepts correction and never learns from mistakes is going to be in and out of trouble all the time.

"Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share the plunder with the proud." (Proverbs 16:19) I have never been wealthy and probably never will be, but I'd rather enjoy what I have and know that I came by it honestly than to have riches gained by wickedness. The only way we can enjoy something that isn't rightfully ours is if there is no fear of God in us. If I took the wealth of another dishonestly, I would be living in constant fear of discipline from the Lord. I might not get caught by mankind in my thievery, but God would know about it.

"Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord." (Proverbs 16:20) The prosperity of verse 20 may or may not include material wealth, but it definitely includes spiritual and emotional wealth. When we have a spirit that willingly listens to instruction, our relationship with God prospers. Our relationships with others prosper. We become better workers on our jobs. We become better people in our homes and in our communities. We become more responsible stewards of the things God has blessed us with. The one who trusts and obeys the Lord is blessed by Him.

"The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction." (Proverbs 16:21) Another translation of this would be, "Gracious words are persuasive." We are to be gracious when presenting the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter, under whose first sermon 3,000 people came to Christ, says this about graciously explaining the gospel, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15b) Peter expects that others will ask us why we are so happy and hopeful. They will observe our manner of living and be curious about the joy we have in Christ. We are to answer with gracious words, with gentleness and respect, not in a condemnatory tone that denounces them as sinners. I doubt we would persuade many people, if any, with an attitude that looks down on them. Christ died for all of us equally. He values all of us equally, and we have no right to consider ourselves superior to anyone else. The Lord Jesus used gracious words when speaking with those who came to Him for help. We should do the same.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 46, The Favor Of The King

Solomon tells us how to behave in order to please the king of Israel, and these are the same ways we should behave in order to please the King of kings.

"When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone's way, He causes their enemies to make peace with them." (Proverbs 16:7) The Lord is able to make a clear path for the righteous to reach their goals, even when that includes causing their enemies to have to make peace with them. He will move obstacles from our path. He will cause people to show us favor. He will make opportunities for us.

"Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice." (Proverbs 16:8) We can sleep soundly at night when we live honestly. But the wicked person always has to worry about keeping hold of what he gained by doing wrong. He tosses and turns at night in fear of being caught.

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." (Proverbs 16:9) We spoke on this subject yesterday. God sometimes says no to our plans. He wants us to get in step with His goals for our lives, then He will establish our plans. (Proverbs 16:3)

"The lips of a king speak as an oracle, and his mouth does not betray justice." (Proverbs 16:10) The kings of Israel were to follow the word of the Lord. They were to judge according to what was right, not favoring one person over another because of wealth or position.

"Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of His making." (Proverbs 16:11) Merchants in Solomon's day used scales to weigh out goods, such as foodstuffs, and to weigh money. A merchant would carry weights in a bag so he could compare them on the scales to either the goods he was selling or to the money he was accepting. An honest merchant would use accurate weights, while a dishonest one would use false weights to cheat his customers.

"Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness." (Proverbs 16:12) Not every king of Israel or Judah was a righteous man. In general the reigns of wicked kings tended to be shorter than the reigns of righteous kings. Solomon isn't saying an unrighteous man will never ascend to the throne, but that the Lord only "establishes" the throne of the righteous. The Biblical definition of "establish" would be to bless, settle, secure, affirm, approve, endorse, or validate. So we find that the king who lives rightly is blessed and approved by the Lord, while the king who is wicked has no stamp of approval from God.

"Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right." (Proverbs 16:13) False words are of no value to a king. He has to rely somewhat on advisers and officials to provide him with accurate information. He also expects those who come before him in court cases to tell the truth. It's infuriating to have someone lie to your face, and Solomon finds it as distasteful as anyone.

"A king's wrath is a messenger of death, but the wise will appease it." (Proverbs 16:14) I would be very frightened to stand before a powerful king like Solomon and have his face turn wrathful and angry. He says, "If you're smart you will come into my presence with respect and honesty. You won't do anything to make me feel unfavorable toward you."

"When a king's face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring." (Proverbs 16:15) Imagine going into the throne room of King Solomon with a request for help and having him smile at you. That smile would be as welcome as the spring showers on a freshly planted garden. When a person smiles favorably at our request, we know he or she is about to say yes to it.

Solomon speaks today about the types of behavior that please a godly king. These are the same types of behavior that please our God and King. He loves honesty. He rewards righteous living. He establishes the plans of the one who commits all his ways to Him. These things brighten His face, causing Him to smile on us.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 45, Atonement For Sin

Solomon speaks today on the sovereignty of God. We can either accept His authority over our lives and bow our knees to Him, or in our pride we can turn down the most important invitation that has ever been extended to mankind.

"To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue." (Proverbs 16:1) Bible scholar Adam Clarke translates it this way, "Man proposes his wishes, but God answers as He thinks proper." Have you ever been thankful God said no to some of your prayers? I've asked for some foolish things and God was right to say no to them. I didn't know at the time that those things were foolish, but God knew, and He protected me from them.

"All a person's ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord." (Proverbs 16:2) This is why we can't always know what's best for us. We think we want things for all the right reasons. But it's possible for us to deceive ourselves. As the prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) No man can understand the heart, but God can. He also knows the future, so when He says no to something, He is being a good father to us.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans." (Proverbs 16:3) If a particular activity or goal cannot in good conscience be committed to the Lord, then it is sin and must be avoided. This is the test of whether we are on the right track. But God will help us meet the goals He places in our hearts. He will guide us as we seek His will. His plans will become our plans. His wholesome desires for our lives will become our desires for our lives. If we merely follow our hearts we will get into trouble, for as Jeremiah said, the heart is deceitful. But if we follow the Lord we won't have to fear being led in the wrong direction.

"The Lord works out everything to its proper end---even the wicked for a day of disaster." (Proverbs 16:4) I bet all of you are familiar with this verse, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) God has plans for those who love Him. As the Apostle Paul promised, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) God has begun a good work in those of us who are in Christ. He is constantly at work conforming us to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29) It's normal for us to look like our natural parents because we belong to them, and it's also normal for us to look like Jesus because we belong to Him. God is going to keep working on us until the day of the Lord finally comes and we are transformed and made perfect and "shall be like Him". (1 John 3:2) There is also a "proper end", as Solomon says, for the wicked. Those who are saved by faith in Christ will receive their reward, and likewise those who have rejected and despised Christ will receive their reward.

"The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished." (Proverbs 16:5) Pride is what tells a person he isn't a sinner. Pride is what makes a person scoff at the idea of needing a savior. Pride is what causes a person to refuse to bow the knee to a higher authority. Pride is what entices a person to go his own way and reject the sovereignty (and the grace) of God.

The one who continues on in his pride will never know the free pardon of sin through Jesus Christ the Lord. That person will have spurned the love and faithfulness Solomon speaks of next, "Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided." (Proverbs 16:6) The love of Christ for us and His faithfulness to the Father's plan of salvation are what led Him to the cross to make an atoning sacrifice for us. Our love for Him and our faithfulness to Him is shown in our acceptance of His atoning work on our behalf. There is no other way to atone for sin. We could never do enough good works with our imperfect hands and our imperfect minds. We can't even get through one day without a sinful thought, word, or action. The Lord alone performed the work of salvation. The Lord did for us what we could not do for ourselves. All the glory is His. All the praise is His. When we walk through the gates of heaven someday, we will say nothing on our own behalf, but we will say, "It's by Christ alone! Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe!"

Below is a link to a song about the One to whom we owe it all.
In Christ Alone

Friday, July 7, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 44, Wisdom Brings Us Honor

Solomon asks today whether we want to be honored by the Lord. If so, we have to first have the godly wisdom that tells us to fear Him and honor Him.

"The Lord tears down the house of the proud, but He sets the widow's boundary stones in place." (Proverbs 15:25) The Lord humbles the one who takes pride in himself, but He establishes the house of the poor widow who trusts in Him. When we're proud we believe we've done it all by ourselves and that we can hold everything together by ourselves. The Lord is within His rights to allow it all to fall apart so we will understand we must trust in Him and not in ourselves. The poor widow in Solomon's proverb has learned to trust in the Lord for all things. She depends on Him for her daily bread and for everything else. The Lord will honor her for her faith.

"The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but gracious words are pure in His sight." (Proverbs 15:26) Even the secret thoughts of the wicked are detestable. The Lord knows their minds and is displeased with them. But He is pleased with the one who thinks and speaks according to godly wisdom. The one who loves the Lord will have the same attitude as David, who said, "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

"The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live." (Proverbs 15:27) It might seem like the way to get more for ourselves and for our families is to be greedy. Opportunities may come along for us to be dishonest and gain more income. But Solomon says this will only bring ruin on our households. God looks with disfavor on dishonesty, but He blesses the house of the honest person. The honest person may never be wealthy or climb to the top of the ladder at work, but God will put food on the table.

"The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil." (Proverbs 15:28) We've noticed several times in the book of Proverbs that Solomon believes we can spot a foolish person by how much he talks. That's because the one lacking in good godly sense won't think before he speaks. He will have an opinion on every subject. He will give advice for every situation. No matter what the occasion, he knows it all and has been there and has done that. In contrast Solomon says the righteous person thinks before he speaks. The righteous person is careful to make certain his words don't violate any of God's commandments. He wants to say things that will build others up, not tear them down. He's also careful about not agreeing to things he will regret later.

"The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous." (Proverbs 15:29) Why is He so far from the wicked? Because they have pushed Him away from them. As the prophet Isaiah once said, "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2) The only prayer God wants to hear from the wicked is a prayer of repentance. The reason they are not getting other prayers answered is because they are stubbornly persisting in a life of unrepentant sin. God wants to take care of the main problem first, which is their sin and their separation from Him. The righteous, however, are seeking God. They know they mess up from time to time and are quick to sincerely ask for forgiveness and for help to do better. He is pleased with the faith and the prayer of the righteous. As the Apostle Paul said, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)

"Light in a messenger's eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones." (Proverbs 15:30) We can usually tell if someone is bringing us good news by the look in their eyes. Before they even speak we know we're going to be happy with what they say. Good news makes us feel better in every way: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It's no wonder the word we translate as "gospel" actually means "good news". There is no better news than hearing that Jesus loves us so much He gave Himself for us, dying in our place and rising again to secure the eternal salvation of all who will trust in Him.

"Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise." (Proverbs 15:31) It's foolish to ignore correction when we go wrong, but the one who learns from his mistakes will be on a course of continuous improvement.

"Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding." (Proverbs 15:32) There is a form of self-love that has nothing to do with pride. It's an inbuilt instinct for self-preservation. It's a natural desire to protect ourselves and to do good for ourselves. Solomon says, "Despising wisdom and discipline is the same as despising yourself. You'll end up in all kinds of trouble. You will bring harm on yourself. The person who loves himself will want to learn the right way to live. The person who loves himself will seek the Lord and His favor."

"Wisdom's instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor." (Proverbs 15:33) The first thing godly wisdom teaches us is that we must reverence the Lord. Until we humble ourselves and honor Him, He cannot honor us. David spoke these words on the day the Lord gave him victory over King Saul, "You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty...You armed me with strength for battle; You humbled my adversaries before me." (Psalm 18:27,39) After the prophet Samuel anointed the young David as the future king of Israel, David spent fifteen stressful years in fear for his life. King Saul wanted him dead. Every hour of every day David had to be on the alert. David was not a prideful young man but even he had to learn to depend on God before God could place him on the throne. He learned to be humble before the Lord, so the Lord honored him. James, the brother of Jesus, said, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." (James 4:10) We can brag on ourselves all we want to. We can think we're a pretty big deal. We can trust in our own strength. But this is nothing but a house of cards and someday it will come tumbling down. If we brag on anyone, it should be the Lord. If we think anyone is a pretty big deal, it should be the Lord. If we trust in anyone's strength, it should be the Lord's. Then He is able to reach down and lift us up. We will be in the right spirit for Him to honor us.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 43, Wisdom Leads To Real Living

King Solomon provides us with some miscellaneous proverbs today before telling us how to get to heaven. He will tell us we don't have to spend our lives on earth in useless pursuits and we don't have to spend a useless eternity separated from God.

"A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel." (Proverbs 15:18) The Lord Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (Mathew 5:9) There's something not quite right spiritually with a person who enjoys stirring up conflicts. The child of God wants peace. The child of God likes to see people love and care about each other.

"The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway." (Proverbs 15:19) A lazy person achieves his goals as slowly as if he were chopping through a jungle trail. He isn't getting anywhere fast. But the person who seeks God's will in his life will have a way made for him. When God places a goal in our hearts, He gives us the ability to meet it.

"A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother." (Proverbs 15:20) I want to take a moment to give dating advice to ladies who are single or divorced or widowed. If you are dating a man who doesn't show love for his mother, you better run for the hills. Solomon says a man like that is a fool. If he doesn't respect his mother, he won't respect you. Likewise, if a young lady doesn't respect the position her father holds in the household, single men ought to beware of her. She might have trouble respecting the position her husband will hold in the household.

"Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course." (Proverbs 15:21) When he speaks of the person who has no sense or who is a fool, he is speaking of the person who is spiritually and morally corrupt. He says, "Foolish people enjoy doing stupid things. They take pleasure in things that are wrong. The person with godly wisdom won't be able to take pleasure in sin, not for long. The person with godly wisdom rarely gets sidetracked."

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." (Proverbs 15:22) In 1 Kings 12 we find Solomon's son and successor, Rehoboam, rejecting the good advice given to him by the men who were advisers to his father. Instead he takes the advice of young men, men who lack the experience and wisdom that comes with age. This proves to be disastrous. It loses Rehoboam ten tribes of the kingdom. If only he had heeded his father's advice and had accepted the wise counsel of Solomon's many experienced advisers.

"A person finds joy in giving an apt reply---and how good is a timely word!" (Proverbs 15:23) Doesn't it bless our souls when we are able to give someone a word of encouragement? We find joy in knowing we have helped someone. And how wonderful it is when someone speaks a timely word to us! When we're down and out, depressed and discouraged, it's a beautiful thing when a godly person comes alongside us and encourages us in our faith. I don't know where I'd be today if no one had ever spoken timely words to me. The Lord has so often used others in my time of need to say the words I needed to hear.

"The path of life leads upward for the prudent to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead." (Proverbs 15:24) Solomon believes in life after death. He also believes in separate destinations for the righteous and the wicked. There is no Scriptural basis for believing that the existence of the wicked is snuffed out at death. God created each person with an eternal soul that lives on after the death of the body. That soul must go somewhere when the body dies. Solomon says, "You can either be right with the Lord and go to be with Him, or you can reject Him and spend eternity separated from Him. Eternity with the Lord is real living. It's light and love and joy and peace. Separation from Him is not real living. Life on earth is unfulfilling and disappointing without the Lord. Just imagine how unfulfilling and disappointing eternity would be without Him."

Solomon ought to know about unfulfilling and disappointing living. He spent many years of his life chasing after the wrong things and drifting from the Lord. He wants us to know we don't have to live like that. We don't have to spend our lives on earth like that, and we don't have to spend eternity like that. The Lord invites us to the abundant life. Life on earth is exciting and rewarding when we follow Christ. Eternal life with Him will be so awesome that the prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul could only say that no eye has seen and no ear has heard and no mind has even imagined all the wonderful things God has prepared for those who love Him. (Isaiah 64:4, 1 Corinthians 2:9) We don't want to miss that! Nothing is worth missing that!