7/21/19 “Living in Hope” (Daily Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 9-10)

“This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecclesiastes 9:3-4).

Helen Keller, who at age 19 months contracted an illness which left her both deaf and blind, once stated, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence”. Like, Solomon in the opening verses above, she stresses the importance that hope plays in our lives.

In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon has been searching out the meaning of life (Ecclesiastes 1:13). As he does so, he notes much of what occupies man’s life on this earth, such as building great works, seeking pleasures, and accumulating wealth, is vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11). This is because all are going to face death and cannot take these things with them (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20). However, the knowledge we are going to eventually face death is not all bad. It causes us to consider our purpose for living (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4). Furthermore, as the opening verses above indicate, as long as we have air in our lungs and a beat in our hearts, we can live in hope with regard to our futures.

A sick person can hope to get well. A person stricken with poverty can hope to gain enough wealth to get out of debt and enjoy some prosperity. A lonely person can hope to one day find the right mate for life. However, the greatest hope we have is the hope of enjoying eternity with God in heaven in a place where there is “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Revelation 21:3). While we are still alive on this earth, we have every opportunity to get our lives right with God through His Son Jesus Christ so that this hope may be realized (John 3:16; Mark 16:15-16).

The importance hope plays in the life of the child of God cannot be overemphasized. We don’t hope for the things of just this life. The apostle Paul wrote, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). The Christian’s hope goes far beyond the grave as he or she looks forward to God raising their dead body from the grave at the 2nd Coming of Christ. The Christian’s hope in God is what motivates them to live differently than the rest of the world: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). A child of God has a hope and a faith that are strongly tied together: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Today, as I consider these words of Solomon, I reflect upon the importance hope plays in my life. Praise God that He has given me the opportunity to enjoy salvation and to have a hope not only during my days on this earth, but a hope which goes far beyond the grave. I will strive to cling to this hope which is the anchor of my soul!

“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil” (Hebrews 6:17-19).

7/20/19 “Going to the House of Mourning” (Daily Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 6-8)

“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth; better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4).

So many in our society seem to live to go out and party. They love to dwell on laughing and having a good time. There is nothing wrong with experiencing some laughter and joy in one’s life. Solomon wrote there is a time to engage in such things: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). However, as the opening verses above show, the wise man indicates it is foolish to constantly pursue wanting to go to the “house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:4).

In fact, Solomon indicates it is better to go to a funeral than to go to a party. You may be thinking: “Is he crazy?” However, remember that in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us how he set out to determine man’s purpose in living (Ecclesiastes 1:13). He is seeking the answer to the question, “Why am I here on this earth and what is my purpose for living”?

Going to a funeral certainly helps one focus on seeking the answer to that question. Consider some of the positive benefits of taking time to consider one’s death. First, it reminds each of us that death is an appointment each of us has to keep unless the Lord returns again during our lifetimes. Solomon writes, “…for that is the end of all men” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). The Hebrew writer stated, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Second, going to a funeral, helps us to take the most important matters of life to heart. Speaking about going to the house of mourning and seeing the end that awaits us, the wise man adds, “And the living will take it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). There are things in life I should take lightly such as being able to laugh at times at my own mistakes. However, there are things in life we should ponder deeply such as one’s purpose for living. Going to a funeral and considering that one day it will be me in the casket, helps me to consider deeply the question: “What is my purpose in living?”

Finally, going to the house of mourning brings a “sad countenance” to us which Solomon writes, “by which the heart is made better”. Just as there is a time to “laugh” and to “dance”, there is a time to “weep” and a time to “mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Sometimes, we tend to want to avoid all weeping and mourning and just engage in those activities that are fun and bring laughter. However, the wise man tells us that we should be willing to engage in the emotions of weeping and mourning because they help to make our hearts better. This does not mean we should go around being depressed all the time, but it does mean it is a sign of a healthy heart when one is willing to embrace and acknowledge that they are feeling sadness and want to weep.

Today, I will not fear going to the “house of mourning”. I will embrace feelings of sadness and not seek to avoid them as they help me to have a healthy heart, to think soberly about my purpose for living, and to remind me of my own upcoming appointment with death. I don’t have to avoid thinking about death, but as I contemplate my own death, I can rejoice knowing that following my death I will resurrected to enjoy an eternity with God in my heavenly home!

“Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

7/19/19 “A Time for Judgment” (Daily Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 3-5)

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).

These verses are more than part of the popular song “Turn, Turn, Turn” performed by The Byrds. These words were written by King Solomon centuries before as he was pursuing man’s purpose in living (Ecclesiastes 1:13). As he contemplates on the vanity of one’s trying to live life apart from God pursuing labor, wealth, and power, he considers that there must be more to life than this.

He mentions that God made man unique from the animals. He mentions that both men and animals die: “For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20). Although his initial perception is that both men and animals die, he is aware that our spirits head in different directions following death: “Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:21).

Furthermore, God has placed something within the heart of man that He has not placed within the hearts of animals: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Did you catch that? God has put “eternity” in the hearts of men. Instead of simply living for the here and now like an animal does as it pursues its daily food and mating desires, man should pursue something much greater. Man should be pursuing those things which are of eternal consequence!

Moreover, that same verse (Ecclesiastes 3:11) mentions that no one can find out everything about the work which God does. We simply cannot comprehend it all no matter how hard we pursue it: “I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15). Why does God not allow man to understand everything God does? So that men should “fear” Him! As men live with “eternity” in their hearts, they should do so understanding their relationship to God as their Creator and walk humbly before Him. They also need to realize the day is coming when God is going to require of them “an account of what is past” (i.e. how they lived their lives on this earth).

Solomon sees that sometimes men do not execute justice: “Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, iniquity was there” (Ecclesiastes 3:16). However, Solomon did not despair because he knew, just as there was a time for everything else under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), there was coming a time when God would execute true justice on the Day of Judgment: “I said in my heart, ‘God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work’” (Ecclesiastes 3:17).

Today, as I consider this chapter from Ecclesiastes, I marvel at how God created me different than the animals. Because He has given me “eternity” in my heart, I will pursue those things of eternal consequence so that I will be prepared to inherit the wonderful place He has prepared for me in Heaven when I face Him and give an account of my past life here on this earth!

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

7/18/19 “The Vanity of Living for the Present” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 30-Ecclesiastes 2)

“‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’. What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3).

The key word in Ecclesiastes is “vanity”. The book shows the futile emptiness of trying to be happy apart from God. It is a book so pertinent to today because multitudes will go to their graves this day having tried to live a life apart from God.

In this book, Solomon tells us how he set out to determine man’s purpose in living: “And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised” (Ecclesiastes 1:13). To his credit, Solomon takes time to reflect upon the question: “Why am I here”? Throughout the remainder of the book, he describes the different ways in which he tried to find happiness apart from God.

As he begins, Solomon tries to find happiness mirth and pleasure. However, he did not find joy there (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3). Next, he turns to accomplishing great works such as building houses and gardens, but happiness eludes him still (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6). Then he sought happiness through gathering much wealth and material things (Ecclesiastes 2:7-8). Even though he had become “great” with regard to his riches (Ecclesiastes 2:9), happiness was still not within his grasp: “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and, indeed, all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

In fact, instead of bringing him joy, the accumulation of such vast amounts of wealth brought him sadness as he considered that he will one day have to leave it all to someone else (Ecclesiastes 2:12-16). In fact, he came to despair and hate his life: “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-18). However, Solomon could have found some joy in his labor had he kept it in its proper perspective. His labor wasn’t the place where he would find ultimate happiness, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t experience any joy or satisfaction from his labor: “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24; cf. 3:12-13; 5:18-20).

As I read these first 2 chapters of the book of Ecclesiastes, it is humbling because I am reminded of how I need to stop and ponder the question: “Why am I here”? It is so easy to just get up and go to school or work without taking time to consider, “Why am I doing this”? When I consider a man like Solomon, who had what most people today would consider “everything”, but yet still could not find happiness, I am reminded how easily it is to just live life and at the end of it have many regrets because I failed to consider what life was really about. It is complete vanity to live for the here and now! I don’t want to live a life full of regrets. I want to live a purpose driven life. Today, I will not search for happiness apart from God. Instead, I will relentlessly pursue God and His Will for my life because I know in Him alone will I find true happiness!

“Therefore, do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

7/17/19 “Considering the Cause of the Poor” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 27-29)

“The righteous considers the cause of the poor, but the wicked does not understand such knowledge” (Proverbs 29:7).

Jesus said, “For you have the poor with you always….” (Matthew 26:11). There will always be poor people among us which are in poverty for a number of reasons. Some of the reasons are terrible circumstances such as health problems which have created huge medical expenses, family tragedies such as a parent leaving the family and creating financial hardship for the surviving parent, and economic reasons such as losing one’s job because of job cutbacks from one’s prior employer. However, other reasons for one’s experiencing poverty are self-inflicted such as choosing to drop out of school, engaging in sexual activity before marriage and having children before one is financially prepared to do so, or engaging in harmful activity such as drug and alcohol use.

How should one view the poor? The book of Proverbs warns us about mistreating the poor. First, we should not oppress the poor: “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy” (Proverbs 14:31). Furthermore, we should not look down on the poor: “He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 17:5). Moreover, we should not shut our ears to the cry of the poor: “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard” (Proverbs 21:13).

As the opening verse above indicates, we should “consider” the cause of the poor (Proverbs 29:7). We should not be hasty to assume the reason for a person’s poverty is self-inflicted. Instead, we should approach the poor with an attitude of empathy realizing, but for the grace of God, we also could be inflicted with poverty: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17). We need to remember the Lord made us both: “The rich and the poor have this in common, the Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2).

Our desire must be to help the poor by supplying what they need: “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9). Solomon also states that God will bless those who give to the poor: “He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses” (Proverbs 28:27). Moreover, he notes, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor yet has great riches” (Proverbs 13:7).

Supplying what one who is in poverty needs is not always easy to determine. For example, if the poor person’s poverty is self-inflicted because of drug or alcohol use, is giving them money what they really need? Again, this doesn’t mean we should prejudge every poor person and assume their poverty is self-inflicted. The point is we need to pray for wisdom and discernment regarding how best to help someone who is struggling in poverty. Today, I will guard against looking down and prejudging those in poverty. I will remember that God is the Maker of both those who are afflicted with poverty and me. I realize that, but by the grace of God, terrible circumstances could have happened to me that would have led me to poverty. I will have a generous disposition towards the poor and “consider” their cause and pray for God’s wisdom to know how best to help them.

“There is one who scatters yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. The people will curse him who withholds grain, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it” (Proverbs 11:24-26).

7/16/19 “Repeating Folly” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 23-26)

“As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).

Do you ever wonder why some people make the same mistakes over and over again? More importantly, as I look at myself, why do I find myself repeating the same mistakes over and over?

The book of Proverbs has much to say regarding the subject of “repeating folly”. The foolish person appears to take pride in being foolish: “Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment, but a man of understanding walks uprightly” (Proverbs 15:21). The fool has convinced himself that he is right and everyone else is wrong: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15; cf. 14:12; 16:25). “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Rather than humbling himself before God and trying to learn, the fool considers lightly the consequences of his sin and deceives not only his own heart, but he also works at trying to deceive others as well: “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor” (Proverbs 14:8-9).

As a result, the foolish person often finds themselves suffering hardship from their choices: “Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). The fool finds himself constantly having to endure punishment: “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the fool's back” (Proverbs 26:3). Moreover, the Scriptures say, “Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and beatings for the backs of fools” (Proverbs 19:29). Punishment is afflicted upon the fool in an attempt to “beat” wisdom into him: “Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary; rebuke one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge” (Proverbs 19:25). Furthermore, Solomon adds, “When the scoffer is punished, the simple is made wise; but when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge” (Proverbs 21:11).

However, often instead learning from his mistakes, the fool just continues to repeat them: “Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him” (Proverbs 27:22). The foolish person often continues to defend himself and isolates himself from all those who would try to help him: “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). Solomon adds, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment” (Proverbs 18:1). Even though the foolish are suffering the consequences of their own actions, they often turn against God and blame Him for their own self-caused misery: “The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord” (Proverbs 19:3). Solomon summarizes the foolish person: “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1).

As I read all these verses, I can say I have known a lot of people that fit Solomon’s description of a “fool”. However, rather than pointing a finger at them and patting myself on the back, I need to consider that I do not want to act like a fool. I need to be wise and be willing to accept correction: “Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, but a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding” (Proverbs 10:13). I need to consider the path I am taking and the decisions I am making: “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished” (Proverbs 27:12). Today, I will strive to gain wisdom and not repeat my folly!

“Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear” (Proverbs 25:12).

7/15/19 “Stirring Up Strife” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 20-22)

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore, do not associate with one who flatters with his lips” (Proverbs 20:19).

Erma Bombeck once said, “Some say our national pastime is baseball. Not me. It's gossip”. Unfortunately, I have to agree with her because this is a sin which is very prevalent. Gossip is a temptation that begins early in life as teenagers engage in a lot of “drama” regarding their relationships with each other at school. It continues as we are tempted to talk about others with whom we are at odds whether at our workplace or even in the church. As the opening verses above indicate, we are warned not to associate those who want to partake in gossiping about others.

For some gossip is appealing: “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body” (Proverbs 26:20-22). The words of a “talebearer” can be “tasty” (i.e. they can pique our interest). However, gossip is not a harmless activity. It is evil. In fact, note that the wise man describes a “talebearer” as being “perverse” and “ungodly”: “An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire. A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:27-28).

Many problems arise from gossip. It creates strife among people and it separates friends: “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Proverbs 17:9; cf. Proverbs 16:28). Gossip also prevents peace from being able to occur between two who at odds with each other because continuing to spread gossip causes the contention between them to grow: “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore, stop contention before a quarrel starts” (Proverbs 17:14).

Although we may know that gossip is not an activity in which we should engage, how should we react when we see it occurring all around us at the workplace, school or even at church? First, avoid the temptation by not associating with those who are prone to gossip (Proverbs 20:19). Second, resist from meddling in a quarrel that is not your own: “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears” (Proverbs 26:17). Third, be wise enough to not believe just one side of the story of a person’s grudge against another: “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Finally, instead of letting hate fill your heart and gossiping about the hurt someone has done to you, follow the example of Jesus and seek to cover up the transgression committed against you with love: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12).

Gossip is a terrible evil that too many, even among Christians, want to overlook as just a “small” sin. It is not. It is ungodly and is an activity in which only those who are perverse in mind and spirit engage. What was true in Solomon’s day is still true today: “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter” (Proverbs 11:13). Today, I will strive to avoid the sin of gossiping by avoiding known gossips, by resisting the temptation to listen to the “tasty trifles” about others, by having wisdom to hear both sides of a matter before reaching a conclusion, and by striving to follow the example of my Savior Jesus Christ to cover up the hurts done to me with love.

“It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).

7/14/19 “The Challenges of Parenting” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 18-19)

“Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction” (Proverbs 19:18).

Speaking about parenting is difficult. I do not pretend to know everything about parenting, but I am glad that God has given guidance through His Word to equip me for the challenging task of guiding my children in the Lord. What does the book of Proverbs have to say about this subject?

As the father of two beautiful daughters, I deeply love my children. However, God, through the book of Proverbs, teaches me some realities about my children that I need to understand and embrace if I am to give them the guidance, they need to have a successful and blessed life. First, Proverbs pictures a child as being full of foolishness and, as a parent, one of my responsibilities, is to drive the foolishness out of them: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). Parents who are willing to endure their child not “liking” them for instilling in their children the discipline and the correction they need, will be able to “rejoice” in the future when the parents see their children maturing in the Lord: “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17). Again, the wise man adds, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad and let her who bore you rejoice” (Proverbs 23:24-25).

On the other hand, a foolish child will bring great pains to a parent: “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him” (Proverbs 17:25; cf. Proverbs 10:1). How does a child grow up to be foolish? First, foolishness in a child can be caused by a parent’s failure to correct the child: “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). Second, a child can become foolish by the child’s own failure to embrace the correction received from parents: “A fool despises his father's instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent” (Proverbs 15:5). Again, the writer warns children about their attitude in receiving instruction and correction from parents: “Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in deep darkness” (Proverbs 20:20). In other words, both the parents and the child have a part to play in determining whether or not the child will become wise or foolish: “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother” (Proverbs 15:20).

The 18th century poet, Alexander Pope, is credited with coining the phrase, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree”. As parents, early in our children’s lives, as if bending the twig of a young tree, we are to act upon them to help shape and mold them so they may grow into all that God would have them to be. The action God expects parents to take to bend and mold their children may seem harsh to many in today’s society: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24). Furthermore, God’s Word adds: “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod and deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14). The Bible does not advocate physically abusing one’s children, but it does emphasize that strong measures may have to be taken to correct them.

Today, the task of parenting in such a permissive age is extremely challenging. In many homes, it seems the children are controlling the parents instead of the parents having control of the children. Today, I will strive to follow God’s guidance and have the determination and resoluteness I need to train my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord!

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

7/13/19 “Slow to Anger” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 15-17)

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

Chuck Norris once said, “Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth”. As the opening verse above indicates, much is said in the book of Proverbs regarding the need for a person to be able to keep their temper under control. In fact, the ability to “rule” one’s spirit is esteemed of greater value than of an army leader’s ability to capture an entire city (Proverbs 16:32)!

The person who is “quick tempered” is going to constantly be engaged in needless strife with others: “An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression” (Proverbs 29:22). He “abounds” in committing many different types of transgressions. In fact, He acts so foolishly that people don’t enjoy being around him: “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated” (Proverbs 14:17). His failure to keep his temper under control makes him an easy prey for Satan’s attacks (1 Peter 5:8). Satan knows his weaknesses and easily exploits him: “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).

In fact, we are encouraged to avoid those who cannot keep their temper under control: “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25). In keeping company with the quick-tempered man, we can find ourselves beginning to emulate him and find ourselves in fights with others: “A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows” (Proverbs 18:6). Such a person will get in trouble again and again because of their failure to control their temper. “A man of great wrath will suffer punishment; for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again” (Proverbs 19:19).

Do you struggle with keeping your temper under control? Proverbs is filled with wisdom we can glean to learn how to better “rule” over our spirits. First, we need to determine to exercise self-control and work on being “slow” to want to get angry: “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). Solomon adds, “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention” (Proverbs 15:18). Second, we need to use discretion and choose what things we should get angry over and what things we should simply overlook: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11). Discretion is the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information. It is the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation. All because something bad happens to me or someone I love, doesn’t mean I have to choose to get angry over it. I can choose to simply overlook it, let the matter go, and give it over to God. God still gives me the power to choose the path of glory and “overlook” the transgression!

Have you ever known people who seem to angry over everything? “Ruling” one’s spirit is no easy task. I have struggled with this my whole life and it is a constant battle. However, I know that Christ can strengthen me to do this (Philippians 4:13). Today, I will strive to be slow to get angry and work on reigning in my temper that I may glorify God. I will work on choosing to “overlook” many of the transgressions committed against me as God has chosen to “overlook” my sin by forgiving me through the precious blood of His Son (Matthew 6:14-15; John 3:16).

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

7/12/19 “Guarding My Mouth” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 11-14)

“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction” (Proverbs 13:3).

In certain sports athletes wear a mouth guard which is designed to protect the teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injury to the teeth, arches, lips and gums. Unfortunately, there is no device that we can wear that can prevent the injuries we can do with the words that come out of our mouths. Proverbs is filled with wisdom regarding how we use our tongues.

God warns us about the destructive nature of our many of our words: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Like a sword unsheathed, our words can hurt others: “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (Proverbs 12:18). Not only can we commit sin, but we can provoke others to sin with the words we use: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). We can also show our own foolishness by the words which come out of our mouths: “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness” (Proverbs 12:23). Solomon adds, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs 29:11). Because of the destructive nature of our words and what they say about the state of our hearts, we need to consider what we say. Much damage can result if we put no restraints on the words we use!

However, Solomon also writes that our words can accomplish good. The tongue has the potential to be a “tree of life”: “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4). With our words we can encourage others: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). There is both “death” and “life” in the power of our tongues (Proverbs 18:21). The key is to have the wisdom to know how to properly use it.

What wisdom can we glean from Proverbs that will help us to make better use of our speech? First, we must guard what we say: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23). Figuratively, we need to picture having a guard that stands outside our mouths guarding what comes out! Second, we need to work on being swifter to hear and slower to speak (James 1:19). We need to listen intently trying to understand the other person’s point of view: “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Proverbs 18:2). Solomon adds how we need to hear the other person completely out, before giving our answer: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13). Finally, when we do speak, we need to give thought regarding the words we use and how we say them: “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil” (Proverbs 15:28).

I am greatly humbled as I read the wisdom found in Proverbs regarding the use of my tongue. This is an area in which I need to grow. While the task is daunting, I am grateful that God gives me guidance on how to use the words which come out of my mouth. Today, I will strive to guard my mouth and use my words in a way which glorifies God and edifies others!

“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus, no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom (James 3:10-13)”.

7/11/19 “The Hand of the Diligent” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 7-10)

“He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame” (Proverbs 10:4-5).

When Adam and Eve sinned, God told Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19)." Ever since then, man has worked and sweated for his bread. How do I feel about having to work? How do I view my job and the labor I do for my employer?

For many, “work” is a dirty word. They hate the idea of having to work. As the opening verses above indicate, such an attitude leads to poverty and shame. Proverbs is filled with warnings about having the wrong attitude towards work. For example, the wise man warns us about loving sleep instead of wanting to work: “Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread” (Proverbs 20:13). Again, we are warned about loving pleasure instead of valuing a good day of work: “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (Proverbs 21:17). It is comical how Proverbs describes the lazy man who doesn’t want to work: “The lazy man says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!’ As a door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed. The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; it wearies him to bring it back to his mouth. The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly” (Proverbs 26:13-16). Do you know anyone like this?

On the other hand, Proverbs speaks much about how one should view labor and work. Over and over again we are encouraged to be diligent: “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). This is because such an attitude and ambition, brings much the blessings of plenty and wealth: “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Proverbs 13:4). “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). This does not mean one should trust in riches. Wealth is a tool that can be used to do much good as well as providing for our families. In addition, material prosperity prevents one from having to be slave to those to whom he is indebted: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).

While encouraging diligence, God does warn against being unscrupulous in an effort to get rich: “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (Proverbs 28:6). In addition, the wise man also warns against becoming a “workaholic” in an effort to get rich: “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:4-5).

Today, I will strive to have the right attitude towards my work. I will guard against laziness because it brings trouble and poverty. I will endeavor to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and thus honor God and provide for my family: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep-- so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11).

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

7/10/19 “Guarding Against the Immoral Woman” (Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 3-6)

“My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell” (Proverbs 5:1-5).

It is amazing how much time the Proverb writer spends in Proverbs chapters 5-7 in trying to warn men of the dangers of going astray after an immoral woman. Certainly, all women are not immoral. I have been blessed to be married to a terrific, godly woman for the past 30 years. However, one has to only look at the boom in pornography and the way seductive women are used in TV ads to realize many in our society have made a lot of money exploiting man’s weaknesses when it comes to sexual immorality. I would encourage all of you men to take time to read Proverbs chapters 5 through 7 to gain wisdom in dealing with this weakness that is so common to many of us men.

First, the writer speaks of how easily the foolish man is led astray by an immoral woman (Proverbs 7:6-23). As he concludes how the immoral woman tempted the young fool to go after her, the inspired writer states, “With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, with her flattering lips she seduced him. Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks” (Proverbs 7:21-22). Because sexual immorality is a sin with which so many men struggle, it is essential that men seek after God’s wisdom in how to avoid this temptation: “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call understanding your nearest kin, that they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words” (Proverbs 7:4-5).

Second, the wise writer warns men to be aware of the tactics of the immoral woman. She uses smooth, flattering words to entice her victims (Proverbs 5:3; 6:24). She uses her beauty to seduce men (Proverbs 6:25). Those who give in and go after her will find trouble: “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:27-29). The writer makes it painfully clear the end that waits for the foolish man who caves into her temptations. Following her leads to: (1) pain and bitterness (Proverbs 5:4), (2) losing your honor (Proverbs 5:9-13), (3) destroying your own soul (Proverbs 6:32), and death (Proverbs 6:33-35).

Finally, the author shares with us some wisdom when it comes to dealing with the danger of being tempted by an immoral woman: First, don’t go near her path. Don’t even ponder for a moment going after her (Proverbs 5:6; Proverbs 7:24-27). “Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8). Second, for those who are married, be content and rejoice in the sexual relationship you enjoy with your wife with which God has blessed you (Proverbs 5:15-20). The marriage bed is honorable (Hebrews 13:4). However, the bed of the fornicator and adulterer will not only lead to shame, disgrace, and dishonor. It will also bring God’s judgment!

All because society tries to exploit men’s weaknesses with sexual immorality, I don’t have to be a fool and give into it. Today, I will strive to be wise and avoid the immoral woman and beware of the tactics she uses to lead my heart astray into her path of destruction. I will be content and rejoice with the wife of my youth and praise God for the sexual relationship we enjoy together!

“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24)

7/9/19 “Receiving the Instruction of Wisdom” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 150-Proverbs 2)

“To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion-- a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:2-5).

The key word in the book of Proverbs is “wisdom” (i.e. the ability to live life skillfully). A godly life in an ungodly world, however, is no easy assignment. It is challenging to navigate. Through Proverbs, in God’s infinite wisdom, He provides detailed instructions for His people to deal successfully with the affairs of everyday life: how to relate to God, parents, children, neighbors, and the government.

Regarding wisdom and the role wisdom plays in our life, God has much to say. First, wisdom will enter our life only if we fear the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Wisdom begins when one places his faith in God!

Second, wisdom will not force its way into our lives; it must be welcomed: “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9). Solomon adds, “Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words: ‘How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge. Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you’” (Proverbs 1:20-23).

Third, not only do we need to welcome wisdom into our lives, we need to seek it as we would seek treasure: “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5). If we will exercise such diligence in seeking wisdom, God will give us wisdom in abundance: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints” (Proverbs 2:6-8).

Finally, whether we seek and welcome wisdom into our lives, or choose to reject God’s wisdom, wisdom’s principles will prevail. Wisdom is described as saying to those who reject her, “Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes” (Proverbs 1:24-26). However if we embrace the wisdom which God offers to give us, wisdom will lead us to a safe and secure life: “For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:32-33).

The book of Proverbs is a marvelous treasure filled with God’s wisdom for daily living. Today, I will welcome God’s wisdom into my life and seek after it as after hidden treasure so that I may live and safe and secure life. Praise God for the wisdom He gives!

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

7/8/19 “Praise the Lord!” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 146-149)

“Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful” (Psalm 147:1).

It is interesting that the last 5 psalms from the book of Psalms all begin the same way: “Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 146:1; 147:1; 148:1; 149:1; 150:1). Why did the Holy Spirit believe it was important to end the book of Psalms in this way (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21)? I believe He is trying to stress to us that it is important for us to take time to praise God!

The psalmist mentions a number of reasons of why he praised God. First, he praised God for God’s work in creation: “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:4-5). It is hard to imagine, but not only does God know the number of stars in the universe, He also has named each of them. This is because His understanding is beyond our comprehension. His understanding is infinite.

Second, the author also adds how he praised God for how He provides for His creation and His people. God continues to nourish His creation: “Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens that cry” (Psalm 147:8-9). The blessings God’s people enjoy are because of God’s bountiful care: “Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you. He makes peace in your borders and fills you with the finest wheat” (Psalm 147:12-14).

Third, the psalmist praised God for His deliverance and comfort during times of affliction: “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:2-3). He adds, “The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground” (Psalm 147:6). It is comforting to know that God shows tender care to those whose hearts have been broken. He is always there to bind up our wounds when we turn to Him!

Finally, the author praises God for the power of His Word. He mentions the power of God’s Word over His creation: “He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow” (Psalm 147:15-18). It is awesome to consider the power of God’s Word at work as it swiftly goes to all corners of the globe to carry out God’s desires. Not only is God’s Word powerful as it works in the world, but it can also powerfully work in the lives of His people if they will let it: “He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 147:19-20).

God has a special regard for those who fear Him and who render such praises to the Lord: “He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (Psalm 147:10-11). Today, I will praise the Lord for His work in creation, for his providing my daily needs, and the comfort He gives me when I am brokenhearted. I will also praise Him for His Awesome Word that is at work in all of creation and is at work in my life helping me to become all that God wants me to be!

“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:1-2).

7/7/19 “The Unsearchable Greatness of God” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 143-145)

“I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3).

Man loves to search for new things. Great explorers such as Christopher Columbus searched for new lands. Great scientists like Albert Einstein researched to explain great scientific mysteries. Great inventors like Thomas Edison sought and discovered new devices which have enable man to enjoy modern conveniences.

However, as the opening verses above show, regarding the extents of the greatness of God, one cannot search its depths. God’s greatness is unsearchable. The vastness of the greatness of God is like the universe and just seems to go on and on. David was in awe of God’s greatness and he meditated upon it often. He also believed all should declare God’s greatness to the coming generations: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness” (Psalm 145:3-6).

God’s greatness is both seen in His Character and in His Creation: “They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness and shall sing of Your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power” (Psalm 145:7-11). David describes that God has stamped “His tender mercies” upon everything He has made. In other words, the sun that brightens the day, the rain that falls from heaven, and the crops that grow up from the fields are all ways in which God has shown his “tender mercies” to both men and animals. Regarding God, David says, “The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16).

Furthermore, David mentions God’s greatness is seen over His care of His people: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:18-20). Those who serve God have are special to God. David adds, “The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:14).

Failing to recall God’s greatness is one of the reasons people, as well as nations, fall. Regarding the Gentiles who fell away from God, the apostle Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:20-21). Today, I will remember God’s greatness as seen in His character, His creation, and in His care of those who faithfully follow after Him. Like David, I stand in awe of God’s unsearchable greatness and I will share God’s greatness with those around me!

“My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh shall bless His holy name Forever and ever” (Psalm 145:21).

7/6/19 “Commendable Suffering” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 140-142)

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked” (Psalm 141:3-5).

Do you ever struggle with remaining godly while you are being treated ungodly by others? Does it tempt you to want to lash out at them for treating you this way? I admit that I struggle greatly with this. It is so easy to want to do unto them as they have done unto you. But is this what God wants?

One of the aspects of King David’s life that I am always amazed at is during the years when Saul was persecuting him and chasing him all over the countryside in an attempt to kill David, David had opportunities to exact revenge on Saul and kill him, but he did not. On 2 different occasions David chose to spare Saul’s life instead of taking matters in his own hands (1 Samuel 24:1-15; 26:5-25). David chose to remain godly and not take matters in his own hands by striking God’s anointed king.

How was David able to remain godly while being treated ungodly? In Psalm 141 we get an insight of what David did during times when he was being treated wrongfully by others. This psalm was written during a time when David’s life was being severely threatened. David writes, “Our bones are scattered at the mouth of the grave, as when one plows and breaks up the earth” (Psalm 141:7). His enemies had plotted against his life: “Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, and from the traps of the workers of iniquity” (Psalm 141:9). During such times, David turned to God instead of trying to take matters in his own hands: “But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute” (Psalm 141:8). He called upon God to hear his prayer: “Lord, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:1-2).

Not only did David pray for deliverance from such a trial, but he prayed that God would help him to conduct himself in a godly manner in the midst of such persecution: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies” (Psalm 141:3-4). He asked God’s help to control his tongue and to give him the self-restraint not render evil for evil by entering into plots with men who wanted to work iniquity. David was even open to the being rebuked if any of his actions were ungodly: “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked” (Psalm 141:5).

I learn from David the actions I need to take when I am treated wrongfully by others. Rather than lashing out against them, I need to take my case to God in prayer. I need to ask God to help me control my tongue and actions as I face harsh treatment from others that I may honor God by my life. Today, I will strive to suffer commendably when wronged by others!

“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:19-20).

7/5/19 “The Lord Who Knows Me” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 137-139)

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

Have you ever talked to someone who you felt was not paying attention, but was thinking of something else as you were talking to them? I am sure most of us have experienced that. It makes us feel they do not care about us, what we have to say, and it leaves us feeling they don’t really want to know us and what is on our hearts.

In Psalm 139 David paints a very different portrait of God. David describes God as One Who is so attentive, He knows everything about us. First, as the opening verses above describe, God knows where we are (i.e. “my sitting down and my rising up”, “my path and my lying down”, Psalm 139:2-3). Second, God knows what is going on in our hearts and minds (i.e. “understand my thoughts afar off”, Psalm 139:2). David adds, “For there is not a word on my tongue, But, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4). As David contemplates how well God knew him and understood him, he exclaims, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).

Furthermore, David believed nothing could distract or interfere with God attentiveness to David: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You” (Psalm 139:7-12).

Why was God so attentive to David? God created David and cared for the welfare of His creation: “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book, they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:13-16). God attentiveness to David was so great that God’s thoughts regarding David were too numerous to count: “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You” (Psalm 139:17-18). David took great comfort in serving such a God who cared about him and understood the struggles of his heart: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms. When I get to feeling down and thinking no one cares about me, this psalm is such a wonderful reminder that God cares and that his thoughts to me are too numerous for me to count. Today, I will praise God and ask Him to: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

7/4/19 “God’s Ever Enduring Mercy” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 134-136)

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:1-3).

Justice is when you get what you deserve. Mercy is when you do not get the punishment you deserve. Grace is when you are blessed with what you do not deserve. Throughout Psalm 136 the 2nd phrase of each verse says, “For His mercy endures forever”. The psalm constantly stresses the significance of God’s mercy in the lives of His people.

John Gill states, “This Psalm was very probably composed by David, and given to the Levites to sing every day (1 Chronicles 16:41). Solomon his son followed his example and made use of it in singing at the dedication of the Temple (2 Chronicles 7:3-6); as Jehoshaphat seems to have done when he went out to war against his enemies (2 Chronicles 20:21). Charles Spurgeon, regarding this psalm, adds, “From the striking form of it we should infer that it was a popular hymn among the Lord's ancient people. Most hymns with a solid, simple chorus become favorites with congregations, and this is sure to have been one of the best beloved. It contains nothing but praise. It is tuned to rapture and can only be fully enjoyed by a devoutly grateful heart”.

In reading the psalm, the phrase, “For His mercy endures forever”, should not be viewed as something which is just redundant. Instead, it should be viewed as something for which we continually need to praise God. In Psalm 136 we see a number of reasons why God’s enduring mercy should continually be on the minds of His people and should be expressed with gratitude as they sing of His enduring mercy with their lips. First, God is good (Psalm 136:1-3). Second, the Lord showed His mercy in giving man a beautiful earth on which to live (Psalm 136:4-9). Third, Jehovah shows mercy to His people by protecting them as He defeats their enemies such as ancient Egypt during the time of the Exodus and as they went on to conquer and dwell in the Promised Land (Psalm 136:5-22). Of the Lord, the psalmist wrote: “Who remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever; and rescued us from our enemies, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:23-24). Finally, the author states that God shows His mercy by giving all flesh, both man and beast, their daily food: “Who gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136:25).

It is interesting that among God’s people, singing this phrase, “For His mercy endures forever” was important to them as we see them sing it at the dedication of the temple and during times when the Lord had given them victory (2 Chronicles 7:3-6; 20:21). In fact, it appears David wanted God’s people to be reminded of God’s enduring mercy every day as it appears he gave this psalm to the Levites to sing daily. If this is the case, should I not be contemplating on God’s enduring mercy every day and the manifold ways in which God shows His mercy to me? Today, I will strive to keep my spiritual eyes open and look for different ways in which God shows His enduring mercy to me! “Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136: 26).

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7).

7/3/19 “Dwelling in Unity” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 131-133)

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Do you observe the divisions among people? Turn on the news and you’ll see people screaming at each other over political differences. Division among people is not limited to politics, it even occurs in churches. The early church struggled with divisions among them (cf. Acts 15:1-11). Paul wrote, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you” (1 Corinthians 1:10-11).

Unity among God’s people requires a great deal of effort because, in our weaknesses, we tend to want to fight with each other. The apostle Paul wrote how we need to be “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Jesus prayed for unity among His followers: “"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21). Jesus, who has been tempted in all points which we have (Hebrews 4:15), knew it would be challenging for His followers to keep united.

However, when the followers of God endeavor to keep unity among them, something beautiful occurs. As the opening verse above indicates, it is “good” and “pleasant” when brethren dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1). The psalmist likens this unity to 2 separate things. First, regarding brethren dwelling together in unity, the author writes, “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments” (Psalm 133:2). When Aaron became high priest, Moses took some of the holy oil which had which had been used to anoint the tabernacle and all of its furnishings (Lev. 8:10-11), and anointed Aaron by pouring this holy oil upon his head (Lev. 8:12). Thus, as the holy oil was used to make holy the tabernacle and its furnishings, the holy oil was used to indicate Aaron was holy and ready to serve God as High Priest of the Israelite nation. Unity among brethren is holy! It is sacred and it should be cherished! Furthermore, the holy oil flowed from Aaron’s head and beard and ran down to the edge of his garments. When a spirit of unity exists among God’s people, it flows throughout the church and blesses everyone who is in it.

Second, the psalmist tells us regarding unity among God’s people: “It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing-- life forevermore” (Psalm 133:3). As the dew that fell upon Mt. Hermon eventually descended and provided water for God’s people in Zion (i.e. Jerusalem), so unity among God’s people is a great source of nourishment for God’s people. It is encouraging knowing I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are united with me and are a source of spiritual encouragement to me.

Today, I will “endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). I will not focus on differences in personalities and personal opinions that often separate brethren. I will submit to the standard of God’s Word and encouragement my brethren to do the same so that we may all say together, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

“Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (Philippians 3:16)

7/2/19 “My Soul Waits for the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 127-130)

“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I do hope” (Psalm 130:1-5).

In the depths of the cave, as well as in the depths of the ocean, there is complete darkness. One cannot even see their hand in front of their face in such places. In Psalm 130, the psalmist speaks about crying unto the Lord “out of the depths”. The picture is one in which all appears dark and hopeless for the writer, yet He calls upon God to hear his voice (Psalm 130:1-2).

In the title of Psalm 130, it mentions that this was “A Song of Ascents”. These “Song of Ascents” were sung as the worshippers ascended the road leading up to Jerusalem as they went to attend 3 Jewish Feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16). As the ancient Israelites were going up to worship God by singing these “Song of Ascents”, they were reminding themselves of why they should worship God.

In this psalm the author asks the question, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3). If God were, as some people picture Him, One whose sole focus was upon pointing out our faults, none of us would have a chance because all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). However, while God is just and will punish those who persist in sin, His main focus is to save man from sin. The psalmist adds, “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:4). Why is it that the author fears God? It is because with God there is forgiveness!

Charles Spurgeon, in writing about this verse says regarding this phrase, “that You may be feared” states, “This is the fruitful root of piety. None fear the Lord like those who have experienced his forgiving love. Gratitude for pardon produces far more fear and reverence of God than all the dread which is inspired by punishment. If the Lord were to execute justice upon all, there would be none left to fear him; if all were under apprehension of his deserved wrath, despair would harden them against fearing him: it is grace which leads the way to a holy regard of God, and a fear of grieving him”. Only when one understands and appreciates that they have been blessed to be a recipient of God’s wonderful grace, as shown in Him forgiving their sins, will they develop a healthy fear of God!

Because the author understood God’s grace in forgiving him of past sins, he will now wait on God in spite of the turmoil of the depths which surround him at the present moment: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning-- yes, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130:5-8). When we understand just how great of an act it was for God to forgive us of our sins, it helps us to trust in His power to deliver us from any other trials we may face!

Today, I will fear God, not because He is going to bring His wrath upon me if I do not. I will fear God because there is forgiveness with Him! I revere Him because I realize how great it is for Him to extend to me the forgiveness of my past sins through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). Because I fear the Lord, whatever trials come upon me this day, I will “wait for the Lord” to deliver me. I will hope in Him because with Him there is “mercy” and “abundant redemption”!

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)