Friday, May 30, 2014

3 words for the next Generation

Read Ecclesiastes 12.

Out of his wisdom and experience, Solomon wrote for the next generation.  In the book of Proverbs, he often began a passage with the words, "my son."  Here, he spoke to "youth."  The immediate context begins in chapter 11.

1. Rejoice. (11:9)
Living for God is not equal to being glum.  Of all people, those who have experienced the love and forgiveness of the LORD should be the happiest humans on earth.  Enjoy life to the fullest.

2. Remove. (11:10)
And, while you are having fun, be sure to stay away from evil.  Yes, everyone will inevitably have their share of hurts and disappointments from things totally out of their control.   But, the warning is to not bring pain and sorrow on yourself by personal sin.

3. Remember. (12:1-14)
Solomon closed this book with three sobering lifetime reminders.

We are only here for a short time. (vv.1-8)
This is the best description of the aging process in the Bible.  Our bodies were never meant to last but a few years at best.  The question every person should be asking is, "Then what?"  We are not left in doubt.  The LORD answered the question with clarity.  Eternity awaits.  Where one will spend eternity when the spirit leaves the body depends upon how an individual responded to Jesus and His offer of forgiveness in this life.
For those without a commitment to Christ-
"...just as it is appointed for a man to die once, and after that comes judgment..." (Hebrews 9:27)
For those committed to Christ-
"Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8)

We must have God's wisdom while we are here. (vv.9-12)
The number of  voices calling for us to live by their made-up philosophies has no end.  They are all distractions, energized by Satan himself, to keep people from enjoying a personal relationship with God both here and in eternity.  All true wisdom comes from the LORD, that one true Shepherd of life.  His wisdom nails down the absolutes and urges us on to do what is right.

If we live for God, we will fulfill our purpose for being here. (vv.13-14)
It is called "the whole duty of man."  Everything else is temporal and one day we will leave it all behind.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

4 things you do not Know

Read Ecclesiastes 11.

The wisest who ever lived did not know everything.  Four times in six verses Solomon tells us some things we do not know.

1. You do not know what may happen with an investment. (vv.1-4)
Generosity and/or investing in opportunities always carry risks.  One can never tell how coming to the aid of another person or an organization may reap dividends.  But nothing ventured means nothing gained.  Many never give to their church or to help others.  Some never invest in things that matter due to selfishness, laziness, fear of what might happen, or procrastination (v.4).  Profits and rewards only go to those who gave of themselves and their resources.
"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed." (Proverbs 19:17)

2. You do not know how human life is formed. (v.5a)
Certainly, the process of is known.  Babies are born.  But the intimacy and intricacies of what God does in the womb to bring all the physical, spiritual and personal elements together is a mystery.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 140:13-14a)

3. You do not know the work of God. (v.5b)
This is the completion of the thought above.  Not only is human life the work of God, but everything is His.  We can see the results of the LORD's handiwork, but we do not know what, when and how He will move next.  Jesus said that the way of the Spirit is like the wind.  We do not see the wind; only the effects (John 3:8).  As Sovereign Creator, He is the rightful Owner and Sustainer of all things.
"The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world an those who dwell therein." (Psalm 24:1)

4. You do not know what will lead to success. (v.6)
The illustration is of a farmer sowing seed.  He is totally dependent upon the soil, the sun, the amount of rain, and timing.  All out of his control.  Yet, if there is to be a harvest, he must go to work.  He will work hard.  He will probably diversify into planting more than one or two crops to increase the possibility of increased profits.  Then, after he has done all he can do, he must trust God for the outcome.
"So...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Be Careful!

Read Ecclesiastes 10.

Solomon spoke 3000 proverbs and wrote 1005 songs (1 Kings 4:32).  This entire chapter, and into the opening verses of chapter 11, is given to wise observations that teach by contrast or comparison.  Here we are warned that a life of wisdom can be overturned in a moment.

1. A wise person is careful about their directions. (vv.1-9)
One may live for God and do great things in His name.  Many people may benefit from their service.  Then, with a single foolish decision or act their entire reputation may be destroyed and considered worthless.  The highway sign is a good reminder: Keep Right.
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16)

2. A wise person is careful about their duties. (vv.8-10)
Such a one wants to be the most effective and efficient person on the job.
"...not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man..." (Ephesians 6:6-7)

3. A wise person is careful about their discussions. (vv.12-20)
People respond best to gracious or kind words.  No one enjoys the endless, meaningless rants of a fool.  And, one can never tell where those words, once said, may end up.
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

4 indicators of a thankful Person

Read Ecclesiastes 9.

Call it a rat race or a rut, but life without hope is depressing.  Looking at life from only a horizontal perspective, the same stuff happens to everyone.  Nice guys sometimes do finish last.  So, where is the benefit for one who loves God and tries to do what is right?

When Solomon presented life "under the sun," it was always with a futile tone.  But then in his wisdom he added the view from God's perspective.  The conclusion is that only those who live for the LORD can truly appreciate what God has given to them and enjoy life.

Dr. Norman Geisler once asked, "Should a Christian feel bad when he feels good because he's afraid if he felt better he might feel worse?"

How do people show they are living a life of gratitude to God for all He has done and possess great hope for their future?  Here are four practical principles to observe and each of these is a personal choice we make.

1. A thankful person with hope enjoys their food. (v.7)
One who is depressed often loses their appetite.  More than saying a prayer of gratitude before eating, this refers to actually taking time to appreciate the meal.  Too often in a fast-food world, people are hurrying to get on to something else.  Without slowing down the pace and engaging in good conversation, food can become an necessary inconvenience.

2. A thankful person with hope gives attention to their appearance. (v.8)
A person who is depressed will most often show it in the way they look.  Their countenance will be down.  They cease to care about their weight, clothing, hair and face.  While we cannot always judge a person by their outward appearance, one who lives a life of gratitude and hope cannot hide it.

3. A thankful person with hope loves their family. (v.9)
Specifically, the wife is mentioned here.  A marriage is a life-log commitment regardless of the changes in circumstances-for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.  Remembering that a spouse and children are gifts from God renews the appreciation and care of the relationships.  Forgetting that fact and treating wedding vows as dispensable is an affront to God and a sign of selfish ingratitude.

4. A thankful person with hope engages in their work. (v.10)
Even notice a person who does not like their job?  They become lax in details.  They only want to do the minimum to get by.  They cannot wait to get off work.  But one who is grateful to have a job, to be able to care for their needs, and appreciates the opportunity God has given them, shows up energized.

Monday, May 26, 2014

3 life management Essentials

Read Ecclesiastes 8.

The wisest man who ever lived gives advice on how to enjoy life.

1. Relating to authority. (vv.2-9)
Obey those over you.  This essential is not only for those in power who are godly and right.  The Apostle Paul expanded upon this principle in Romans 13:1-4 with Nero as Caesar.  Five times in that passage Paul stated that those in authority over us have been placed, represent, serve and use force on God's behalf.  Pride and selfishness in the heart wants to rebel to get our own way.  But, what if the authority is wrong or out-right evil?  Solomon wrote, "...the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way" in dealing with it (v.5).

2. Recognizing accountability. (vv.10-13)
Fear God.  The greatest deterrent to lawlessness is quick justice.  Because the consequence for sin is not immediate or speedy, the wrong-doer thinks he may get away with it.  The United States Constitution guarantees a speedy trial but the justice system takes years to prosecute.  Even one found guilty of a capital crime may sit on death row for a couple decades or more without the sentence being carried out.  This distances the crime from the punishment in such way that it refocuses attention on the court system instead of the evil.  Lack of accountability and fear of God becomes the result.

3. Rejoicing on the journey. (vv.14-15)
Enjoy what you have.  Worrying and grumbling about what we do not have will kill our joy.  Yes, life is full of hard work.  Yes, there are hurts and hardships along the way.  Not everything will turn out the way we planned or wanted.  Yet, when we remember that God is sovereign and in control, that our lot in life is not a mistake, that God loves us and extends His grace every moment, that one day we all will stand accountable for what we did with what He gave us, that we have a home waiting in heaven, then we of all people have cause to enjoy this temporary life.

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)  Live like God's masterpiece today.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Thinking through the Issues

Read Ecclesiastes 7.

After presenting those three thought-filled questions, Solomon then spoke to the issues in a series of "better than" statement.

1. Choose the better. (vv.1-9)
The sum of one's life is comprised of the choices we make.  Some choices are eternal; some are major; most are daily.  Practically no one attends a celebration to listen and learn.  It is in the sobering moments of life that we become eager to hear a word of wisdom.

2. Count on the wisdom of God. (vv.10-12)
Where is the advantage?  It is in possessing wisdom along with our material things.  Wisdom from the LORD will give us what money cannot buy; namely, protection and preservation of life.

3. Consider the work of God. (vv.13-14)
Learning to be content with what God has provided is the secret to a satisfying life.  The Apostle Paul learned this lesson through the difficult times and the good times.  "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." (Philippians 4:12)

This wisdom from God is available.  Why then are not more people living is a wise way?
The answer: personal sin.  "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (v.20)  That is why one must come to the LORD and deal with their sin to begin a life-journey of wisdom. See Proverbs 1:7.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Stop! Think about It.

Read Ecclesiastes 6.

In the book of Psalms, there are frequent musical rests inserted with the word Selah.  It is a pause.  Even though we do not have the psalmist's music score, that word encourages us to pause and think about what was just read.  If chapter 6 had been a psalm, then I would expect a Selah in capital letters at the end.

From Solomon's observations, he concluded the following:
1. There is no satisfaction in Luxury. (vv.1-2)
Just amassing stuff will bring no contentment in life.  Not only are the material possessions we have gifts from God, but even the ability to enjoy them is a gift from Him.

2. There is no satisfaction in Longevity. (vv.3-6)
More time on earth does not equal success or a contented life.  Being surrounded by a huge family with all their potential love and support will not meet the most dire need of the human heart.

3. There is no satisfaction in Labor. (vv.7-9)
"Well, I'd be happy if my needs were met."  So, we work even more.  But there is no end to a person's felt needs and wants.  As Solomon observed, all earnings are consumed.  The word "appetite" (v.7) is the Hebrew word for "soul."  The soul is not satisfied by more work.

Then, Solomon asked three questions in verses 10-12.
-So, what's the use?

-Who knows what is good for man?

-What will happen after we are gone?

The answers are in chapter 7. But until then, SELAH!.

Friday, May 23, 2014

"If only I had..."

Read Ecclesiastes 5.

"If I only had .....(complete the thought)...then I would be happy."

Dreaming and doing are mostly healthy activities for the mind and emotions.  Dreams can keep us going.  Doing can provide a sense of accomplishment.  Solomon not only envisioned great things but achieved them along with enormous wealth.  So, here is his wise counsel to the rest of us.

1. Listening to God. (vv.1-2)
Worshiping God is a given in this verse.  Why do we come?  Yes, there are things to give and do in ministry, but the priority should be to hear what God has to say to us.

2. Giving to God. (vv.3-7)
When promises and/or commitments are made to the LORD, He holds us accountable to fulfill them.  How many know they should be serving God in some way?  How many have agreed that God expects them to tithe as a minimum and be generous beyond that in their giving?  How many have stood before God and witnesses to promise themselves exclusively to their spouse, regardless of circumstantial changes, until their death?

3. Living for God. (vv.8-20)
Without the LORD, people will become disillusioned with the emptiness of life.  They will dream and involve themselves with activity so they do not have to think about their hurts and the discouraging world around them.  Solomon mentioned those who are oppressed and seeking justice.  Next, he was very specific that money does not satisfy.  Then, he mentioned how a lack of generosity and the potential loss of money through bad investments makes trust in riches even less desirable as a life goal.  So, what are we to do?
-Recognize it is God who "has given wealth and possessions and power."  This is the first lesson of stewardship.
-Rejoice in what He has already provided.  This is the secret to contentment.
-Remember so there can be joy in your heart.  This is understanding that life-our time and resources here-is a gift from God.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

What are you doing under There?

Read Ecclesiastes 4.

A friend asked, "How are you doing?"  The answer, "The best I can do under the circumstances.  The comeback, "Well, what are you doing under there?"

Frequently, Solomon spoke of what life is like "under the sun" or only from a human perspective.  Without an eternal purpose, disillusionment and discouragement will set in.  People are being mistreated and hurt without any comfort or resolve.  All a person's hard work appears in vain and left to others once they are gone.

To paraphrase his question in verse 8, "Why am I doing this?"

The answer to that question is more important than what one is doing.  It goes straight to our motives and purpose in life.  Am I doing this for my physical health and well-being?  As important as that is, it will only prove to be temporal for a few years.  Am I doing this for financial strength and, perhaps, independence?  The best of us are financially vulnerable to the economy around us and one day we will leave 100% of it behind to others.  Are we doing it for altruistic reasons?  Making life better for others is a noble and honorable endeavor on any level.  Everyone should be involved in some way to help those in need, but in the end it is a band aid, not a solution to the most important lasting need.

When one has God's perspective on life (above the sun), the scenery and sense make a stark contrast.  We discover how the LORD designed us.  We do things that he gifted us to do.  As we work and serve the needs of others, it is with eternity in view.  Our life message is far beyond our personality, experience or achievements.  When we introduce another to a personal relationship with the living God, their lives are changed for now and forever.

Living life with a heavenly perspective is more than positive thinking.  It is understanding and appreciating what God is doing in us and the world.  In His kindness, He has it all written down for us in the Scriptures.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Is it time Yet?

Read Ecclesiastes 3.

The first part of verse 11 in this chapter is the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament.  "He has made everything beautiful in its time."  That statement and the beautiful song written by Diane Ball has sustained us over the years.
"In His time, in His time
He makes all things beautiful in His time
Lord, please show me everyday
As You're teaching me Your way
And I'll do just what You say
In Your time.

In Your time, in Your time
You make all things beautiful in Your time
Lord, my life to You I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to You a lovely thing
In Your time."

The human dilemma is that we want life done by our plan on our time schedule.

1. Time is sovereignly controlled by God. (vv.1-8)
The seasons and circumstances change but they are cyclic.  The LORD who invented time in Genesis 1, continues to oversee the universe and the flow of individual life.  David wrote in Psalm 31:15, "My times are in your hand."

2. There is a time for everything God wants done. (vv.9-10)
Satisfaction is work and the use of time begins with the recognition that this is a gift from God to us to accomplish His will.  Our ability and opportunities to earn come from Him.  "You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth." (Deuteronomy 8:18)

3. Time is temporal. (v.11b)
Life here on earth is only a brief preparation for where and how we will spend eternity.  Every human has a emptiness inside.  Blaise Paschal, the brilliant French mathematician and philosopher, envisioned that within the heart of everyone is a God-shaped vacuum that only He could fill.

4. Our time here is a test. (v.18)
Too often when life circumstances appear to be against us, we can fall into the emotional trap that God's faithfulness is being tested.  He must come through for us in order to prove Himself.  The opposite is true.  Circumstantial changes and seasons of life are tests of us.  Will we be faithful and trust Him no matter what?  Tests come along in His timing to help us to mature in our faith.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What's the Use?

Read Ecclesiastes 2.

Learning from one's mistakes is the road of personal growth.  Learning from the mistakes of others is the road to wisdom.

Life is a pursuit.  When we do not know, when we have  never had the experience, when we do not own, we are left to our dreams and imagination.  But what if we could have it all.  What would that be like?  Would it bring the happiness and satisfaction we seek?

One of the great values of this book is to learn from the mistakes of Solomon.  He had it all.  Count the ways he tried to satisfy his soul.  Pleasure, laughter, wine, work, possessions, money, collecting, music, servants, anything and everything was his to the extreme.  But as Peggy Lee's old song asks, "Is that all there is?"  Solomon asked in verse 2, "What use is it?"  After amassing all this stuff, he concluded in verse 11, "There was nothing to be gained."

Ignorance is bliss.  But when a person comes to a place of understanding that none of that stuff will meet their true needs inside and that all of it will one day be left behind, it can lead to despair (v.20).  Solomon understood and could not sleep at night thinking about it (v.23).

Ah, but he knew more.
1. All things come from the hand of God. (v.24)
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:16)

2. Nothing in this life can be truly enjoyed apart from a personal relationship with the LORD. (v.25-26)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

What do you say to an empty Life?

Read Ecclesiastes 1.

How do you measure a life and its value?  What determines true success?

In 1904, there was a national contest to determine and award the finest definition of success.  After scrutinizing all the entries, the judges selected this one: "He is successful who has lived well, loved much and laughed often."  King Solomon declared in essence at the outset of this book, "I lived well.  I love much.  I laughed often and achieved all my goals.  I had it all-all this life could offer me.  But when I backed off to see the results, I felt empty inside."

The key word he used some thirty-seven times in these twelve chapters is "vanity."  The word means "vapor" or emptiness.  He goes on to say that his endless desire for more was proved to be a "vexation" to his spirit.  All of his efforts seemed like "striving after the wind."  Catch a handful and there is really nothing there.  Read: no satisfaction.

However, Solomon knew that life did have great meaning.  It simply was not to be found in earthly pursuits.  Throughout the book the "A" part of his message speaks of emptiness.  Fortunately, he does not leave us there.  Each time he presents a "B" part that brings the reader to a point of hope.  Apart from God, we are destined to measure life only by achievements that produce culturally accepted results.  But true success in life is much more than being famous, how many sales were closed, or how much profit was made.

Five passages in the book of Ecclesiastes explains that God gives us temporal, material possessions to enjoy as a reward for our labors, to please our spouses, to provide for our families, and to use for the glory of God.  Just remember that they are only temporal.  One day we will leave them all behind.

In light of the fact that we will all stand before the Owner of life for accountability, the most important question is how will the LORD measure my life?  How did I respond to His love and offer of forgiveness in Christ?  Did I use the financial resources, abilities, and time He allowed me to have as a good and faithful steward?  Am I only living for "now" instead of what I can enjoy forever?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What to look for in a Wife

Read Proverbs 31.

Solomon wrote, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD." (Proverbs 18:22)  But there is more.  "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (v.30)

Verses 10-31 is an acrostic poem with each stanza beginning in sequence with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Such a godly woman is praised and has high personal value (v.10) for who she is and what she does.  In summary, here are 7 qualities that this excellent wife demonstrates.

1. Trustworthy. (v.11)
A marriage is dependent upon mutual trust.  The focus on in this verse is that she is trusted by her husband to take care of her responsibilities in such a way that the household prospers.

2. Hardworking at home. (vv.13-15, 20-21, 27)
She tirelessly insures that her household is clothed and fed.

3. Hardworking outside the home. (vv.16-19, 24)
She buys and sells, has merchandise, and makes a profit.

4. Generous. (v.20)
She not only has a heart for the poor and needy but she actually helps them.

5. A valuable partner. (v.23)
She is an asset to her husband.  He has influence in the community, not only because of what he may do, but also because of her good work and reputation.

6. Strength and dignity. (v.25)
Regardless of the situation, she shows herself to be a woman of stability.  Her behavior is honorable and appropriate.

7. Wise and kind. (v.26)
Her speech is characterized by words of good counsel.  She helps others understand life and living in a kindly manner.

It is a rare woman who has such a heart for God, husband, and family who is also gifted in all the areas above.  How thankful and blessed I am and our family continues to hold Diane in high esteem for being such a woman.  As a gift from the LORD, we give her praise.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

5 foundational questions for all Mankind

Read Proverbs 30.

It is by design that humans have inquiring minds to want to know that which is beyond them; to discover how things work; to realize spiritual truth.  How did we get here?  Why are we here?  Where are we going?

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, these are the words of Agur.  At the outset he wrote of how humbled he felt.  How could anyone be able to follow the wisdom of Solomon?  Yet, God used him here, in a single verse (v.4), to ask five of the most foundational questions for all mankind.

1. Who has gone to heaven and back?
Note that in the context this is not a reference to mere space travel.  It is beyond the sky and space to the dwelling place of God Himself.  Unless one has done this, they cannot truly tell us about it.  The answer to the question is Christ Jesus.  He came, He ascended, and He is coming back again.

2. Who controls the wind?
There are scientific explanations of wind current movements and weather but only to a point.  Those of necessity are done by observation and not by control.  Earth has been supplied with oxygen in order to sustain life.  We are dependent on the movements of air in so many ways.  There is only One who takes such credit for providing and controlling the wind.

3. Who controls the water?
Without fresh water, human life is not sustainable.  Without appropriate amounts of rain in season, crops cannot produce.  Earth is totally dependent on it.  Inexplicable and foolish thinking is required to believe that such a vital element of life is available to us by accident.  There is only One who takes full credit for life on earth.

4. Who established the earth?
The question is not "what" caused the earth to come into being, as is the attempt of all natural explanations.  The question is "who."  God Himself challenged Job (38:4) by asking, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me if you have understanding."  There is only One who claims to be the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.  "For by him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth..." (Colossians 1:16)

5. What is his name, and what is his son's name?
Since there is only One who fits the answer to all these questions, humans are not given a choice to decide this on their own.  By asking "his son's name", this God of heaven is relational.  There is One who is the Son of God.  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)  Through faith in Jesus, we can be welcomed into the very family of God and enjoy a home in heaven with Him.

"Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." (v.5)

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Where there is no vision..."

Read Proverbs 29.

The English Standard Version (among others) got it right!
"Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." (v.18)

This is one of the most misused and abused verses in the Bible due to the wording in the King James Version.  Too often verse 18 has been used to promote the necessity of organizational vision development and the warning that without it the organization will die.  That is a leadership truism but has nothing to do with this verse.

The vision here is the revelation of God's message delivered to His prophet.  In other words, it is the Word of God that people need to hear.  In the absence of knowing what God has said, people will be left to themselves to determine right from wrong and how to behave.  The Hebrew word translated in the KJV as "perish" correctly means "to loosen" or, as in the ESV, "cast off restraint."

An illustration of Proverbs 29:18 may be found in Exodus 32.  Moses was still on Mt. Sinai receiving commandments of the law from the LORD.  With no word from God and concerned about what may have happened to Moses, the people became impatient demanding they take spiritual matters into their own hands.  They wanted to make idols of gold, like the pagan nations around them.  They gave credit to these made-up gods for delivering them from Egypt!  Without restraint, they presented offerings in worship to their idols, feasted, and then they "rose up to play."

All false teaching stems from a lack of studying and understanding the Scriptures.  Dr. Bill Bright used to say that people are not gospel hardened as they are gospel ignorant.  A major part of our mission to teach all that God has commanded (Matthew 28:20).

Friday, May 9, 2014

4 character qualities of a godly Leader

Read Proverbs 28.

Many great books on the subject of leadership have been written over the past couple of decades.  "Leadership as an Identity" by Dr. Crawford Loritts is one of the best.  Instead of taking an organizational approach, he targets a leader's character.  Such is what Solomon did in several verses in this chapter.

The world has seen too many leaders who use their position only for personal gain and abuse their power in a tyrannical manner.  In great contrast, here are four characteristics of a godly leader.

1. Stability. (v.2)
Wicked rulers do not last and neither will their governments, businesses, or organizations.  The reason is due to their egotistical agendas.  It is all about them.  A godly leader's chief concern is for the welfare and prosperity of the people.  One ends in disgrace and demise.  The other leaves a long standing legacy of good works.

2. Glory. (vv.12, 28)
With good and godly leadership, the people carry a sense of pride in their work and/or their government.  When bad and evil persons get into power, good people look for ways to protect themselves.  They will either do what they can in order to get out from under that leader's control or do what they must as they pray and wait for a leadership change.

3. Humility. (v.15)
There is no greater abuse than when a person of power oppresses, coerces, and threatens the helpless.  Not so with those who recognize their position and opportunities as God-given.  Accountability engenders humility and a service mindset.

 4. Honesty. (v.16)
A dishonest leader is invariably on the take.  Kick-backs and pay-offs are the methods of operation.  Then, that leader must lie and cover up his dealings.  An honest leader understands that sooner or later, the truth always becomes known.  That person works in an atmosphere of transparency.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

4 indicators of a good Friend

Read Proverbs 27.

"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow." – William Shakespeare

There are four references in this chapter as to what friends do.  They give us good indicators of evaluating whether a person is truly a friend or just an acquaintance.

1. A friend will rebuke us when we are wrong. (v.6)
It is a faithful friend who will step in at the right time and provide needed correction because they love us.  One who does not care will ignore our wrongs.  One who cares only about themselves will rebuke in an unloving way.
"A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you." – Elbert Hubbard

2. A friend will refresh us with good advice. (v.9)
Such conversation is helpful and kind.  It makes us glad for the opportunity to talk things through with them.
"My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me." – Henry Ford

3. A friend will remain with us. (v.10)
Through thick and thin they are there.  Loyalty, especially in times of adversity, is a true test of friendship.
"Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over." – Octavia Butler

4. A friend will reignite our personal growth. (v.17)
We are responsible for our own spiritual, occupational and personal development.  At times we can become lax or stuck.  It is a true friend who comes alongside, providing some encouragement and urging us forward.
"No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow." – Alice Walker

"Friends are the family you choose" – Jess C. Scott

So, choose your friends wisely.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

10 things you should know about a Fool

Read Proverbs 26.

How should we respond to a fool?  The comparisons and contrasts of wisdom versus foolishness dominates the opening verses of this chapter.  Instruction is given here in regards to the understanding and treatment of fools.

1. Honoring them. (v.1 and v.8)
Do  not do it.  It will prove harmful.  Snow or heavy rain at the time of harvest would ruin the crops and destroy profits.  Someone is going to get hurt.

2. Correcting them. (v.3)
Restricting them or inflicting some pain appears to be the only means of controlling them due to the fact you cannot reason with them.

3. Answering them not. (v.4)
Sometimes the best course of action to a foolish rant is to ignore it.  Often, it is only a taunt with the intent to bring you into a fight.

4. Answering them. (v.5)
Sometimes responding to them in kind may help them realize they are not as smart as they thought.  Wisdom is required to know when and when not to respond.

5. Relying on them. (v.6)
Expecting a fool to faithfully carry out his duties will prove harmful to the one who sent him.

6. Teaching them. (v.7)
Wise words are useless to a fool because his heart is not right with God.  Being wise is an inside job.

7. Understanding them. (v.9)
A fool lacks sense.  His feelings are numb to certain things in life.  He does not feel the impact of wise words.

8. Hiring them. (v.10)
A fool in the work place can jeopardize the morale and production of all the other employees.

9. Enduring them. (v.11)
He will keep on making the same bad decisions over and over until there is some strong correction or a change of heart.

10. Comparing them. (v.12)
There is someone worse than a fool and that is the egoist.  A person who is full of themselves thinks they know better than everyone else.  Like the fool, they do not listen to wisdom.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How to treat someone who has wronged You

Read Proverbs 25.

Forgiving someone who has lied, stolen, betrayed or otherwise hurt you is difficult.  Some would say they cannot forgive.  In doing so, they only harm themselves emotionally and spiritually.  The only basis in the universe for forgiveness of sin is the full payment Christ made on the cross.

We do not deserve to be forgiven by God.  It is an offer of His grace to us.  Therefore, those who have experienced God's forgiveness are free to forgive others their wrongs against us.

Jesus included that thought as an element for our prayers.  "...and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to to us." (Luke 11:4a)

Forgiving another person is one thing but how we treat them afterward is the proof.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "You have heard it said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...'" (Matthew 5:43-44)

Proverbs 25:21-22 gives specific illustrations of how to put that into practice.  If a household did not have coals for their fire, they could not cook and/or had no heat.  Providing starter coals for a family, which they could carry "on their heads," would have been an act of kindness.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul coupled Deuteronomy 32:35 with Proverbs and expanded the application.  "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'  To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.'  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." ( Romans 12:19-21)

Monday, May 5, 2014

How to turn a house into a Home

Read Proverbs 24.

The problem with most premarital counseling is that no one is listening.  Trying to discuss real life issues and potential conflicts with two people who are at an emotional peak may prove to be fruitless.  The tragedy is that most couples spend all their time getting ready for the wedding, which lasts only a few minutes, and none getting ready for the marriage in which they promise to keep until their death.

What are those key elements that every person, every couple, and everyone in the family needs in order to build a home that will last?

1. "By wisdom a house is built." (v.3a)
Proverbs 9:1 states that "Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars."  James 3:17, then, lists seven characteristics of godly wisdom: pure, peaceable,gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere.  This requires the filling of the Holy Spirit, self-discipline and a lot of practice.

2. "By understanding it is established." (v.3b)
Understanding each other's personal strengths and weaknesses, abilities and needs, what to do and what not to do, takes a lifelong commitment of time.  This requires a willingness to learn and ability to adapt.

3. "By knowledge the rooms are filled..." (v.4a)
Here is the starting point.  Proverbs 1:7-"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge."  Without a personal relationship with the Savior, the most important decision for a successful marriage will be missed.  Living each day with the mutual awareness of God's life principles and the realization of accountability to Him provides the very glue that is necessary.

Friday, May 2, 2014

3 wise questions to evaluate Motives

Read Proverbs 23.

In the opening verses of this chapter Solomon warns "do not" four times.  His purpose is to cause the reader to evaluate what they are doing and why.  It is the fool who blindly consumes and only desires more.  But there are motives behind every action; not all are pure.

Here are three questions to ask in evaluating motives.  The point is to think and be careful.
1. Why is a wealthy person showing kindness to you? (vv.1-3)
How should you respond and act when a person of financial means or high position extends an invitation?  A fool sees selfish opportunity and wants to get all they can from the engagement.  Think and be careful.  Most often there is a reason behind the invitation.  Yes, it could be to extend friendship, perhaps a reward, or even something mutually beneficial.  However, just as often it is because they want something from you.  A wise person is humbled to be included and restrains themselves.

2. Why do you do what you do? (vv.4-5)
Knowing one's purpose in life according to God's design is essential to a fulfilling life.  Too many work hard only for the money.  Money is deceptive and fickle, like a bird that lights on a tree limb and then flies away.  At best, all our finances are temporal.  Money is a tool to be used, not a goal in itself.  So, the moral evaluation in our labors has to do with what we are trying accomplish.  A wise person thinks and is careful.  Once we recognize that God owns everything (Psalm 24:1), we see our work and our wealth as a stewardship to take care of what God has allowed us to have and to expand His work in this world.

3. Why is a stingy person showing kindness to you? (vv.6-8)
It is unusual for a person who is known to be tight with their finances to demonstrate generosity.   A wise person thinks and proceeds carefully.  Have they had a change in heart, are they doing this out of some forced obligation, or are they after something?  Of course, we always want to be kind to our host but understand that their motives may not be pure and our compliments, then, wasted.  Without caution we may be setting ourselves up for huge regret.  Stingy is often translated "evil".  This is in contrast to Proverbs 22:9-"Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor."

When it comes to interacting with others, Jesus taught His followers to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).  When it comes to our behavior, we are to be generous and give with pure motives, "expecting nothing in return" (Luke 6:35).

Thursday, May 1, 2014

11 words about the Word that will change your Life.

Read Proverbs 22.

1. Incline: My Granddad was hard of hearing.  So, when someone spoke to him, he would place his right hand to his ear, bend the flap, and lean forward.  It was a sign that he was intent on what was being said.
2. Hear: The Hebrew word has to do with giving one's full attention.
3. Apply: It is one thing to listen to knowledge, it is quite another to know where to put it into practice.  Until we implement what we heard, we really have not learned.
4. Pleasant: When one sees the benefits and embraces the truth it is a delight to the soul.
5. Kept within: This involves memorizing verses and/or principles.  Then, reviewing them in our thinking over and over.
6. Ready: When the opportunity arises we have something to say.  Not an opinion, but God's timeless perspective that will be helpful to others now and for eternity.
7. Trust: God's goal is that through knowing and applying the Scriptures our faith and reliance on Him will keep on increasing.
8. Written: Though Solomon was specific here, the entirety of Scripture is written down for us.
9. Know: We may have absolute confidence in God's Word about what is right and wrong, true and false.
10. Give: The purpose is never for arrogance, or to be used against others.  It is always our greatest resource in serving the true needs of those around us.
11. Sent: We who have committed our lives to Jesus are on a mission to tell the world of God's wonderful message to them.
1 Peter 3:15-16a, "But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..."