Proverbs Chapter 4

pf icon Proverbs Chapter 4

(4:1) The Invitation from a Father

(Prov 4:1 NIV) Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God,” by beginning a new chapter in Proverbs.  Solomon opens this fourth chapter with an invitation.  It is as if he has proven to us by now (after three chapters) that he 1) walks in the wisdom of God, 2) has a sincere desire to share that wisdom with us, and 3) does so because he loves us, like a father loves his son.  Just like I invite my children to sit down and listen to the life-lessons I have learned, Solomon invites us this morning to take a pause and to put ourselves in ‘receiving-mode.’  He sees us as his children and wants us to see him as a father.

The Bible is a book about family.  When God speaks to one person He does not just see them, He sees them and their descendants.  God urges us to establish father-to-son relationships (not limited by gender) with our natural and spiritual children.  It is never God’s intent for the lessons of a father to die with the father.  God wants life lessons to be passed from generation to generation.

When God cut covenant with Abraham He knew that He was cutting covenant with a nation (his descendants).  The promise given to Abraham was to him and his seed.  Abraham took what he learned (naturally) and The Blessing he had received from God (spiritually) and passed them on to his son Isaac.  Isaac did the same for Jacob.  Jacob did the same for Joseph.  It was never God’s desire for a son to have to start from scratch.  No!  Abraham started from scratch, but everyone after him had the benefit of receiving the instruction and blessing of a father.  When the Jews looked back and mentioned their God they called Him the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  In other words, they were saying that He was the God of family, of covenant, and of generational blessing.  Whether its biological sons like: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or spiritual sons like: Moses to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, or Paul to Timothy, Jehovah is a God of family, a God of order, and a God of that desires for instruction and blessing to pass from father-to-son.

Solomon learned many lessons from his Godly father David.  King David taught young Solomon everything he knew; all he had learned from walking and talking with God.  Solomon took over the throne at a young age and as he did he was able to enter this stage of his life with everything he had learned from God directly and everything he had learned from his father.  He had the benefit of being better prepared than his father was.  And now he wants to pass on those life lessons to us.  He sees us as his spiritual children and he wants us to have everything we can learn from God directly, plus everything we can learn from him.  That way we can be better prepared to face the challenges of our life’s assignment.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that you must take the Word seriously.  As we read/study through the book of Proverbs, look at every verse as an attempt by God to speak to you directly and through the writer.  Jehovah is our Lord, that is undeniable, but He has also given us human leaders; some leaders who have lived and died (like Solomon), and some who are alive today.  Learn from these Godly leaders and allow them to mentor you.  This gives you access to everything you have learned from God on your own and everything they have learned from God as well.  When you couple what they teach you with all that you already know, you are better prepared to live the life that God desires for you to live.

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank You for giving me Godly mentors that see me as someone worth investing in and for giving me the righteous example of those that have gone before me, who have lived and died in the faith.  I also thank for the living mentors that pour Your life into me every chance they get.  I will receive a father’s instruction and gain understanding for my own life!  I am better because of generational blessings.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:2) Forsake Not God’s Law

(Prov 4:2 KJV)  For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In the last message from this series we dealt with Solomon’s invitation to us to sit as sons sit at a father’s feet.  That invitation is continued this morning.  Solomon unapologetically tells us that what he is teaching is “Good doctrine.”  The word doctrine means: teaching; instruction; a principle or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief.  Solomon exuded confidence that he was teaching time tested and proven principles that, if applied, would produce Godly results.  He had walked with God and received Godly wisdom beyond any man of his time.  He knew God’s wisdom operating in his life was the center and circumference, the base and boundary of his success.  All that he had done for the nation of Israel and for others could be attributed to the grace and wisdom of God upon his life.  He was not teaching us something that he had learned by way of education.  No!  These are things that he received directly from God.  This was not information, this was revelation and he freely shared it with us.  That is why he could unashamedly say that it is good doctrine.  This is not an attempt at being conceded.  No, this is an attempt to acknowledge his source and strength.

To further drive home the point he ends the sentence by saying, “Forsake ye not my law.”  This is an interesting choice of words.  The Hebrew word used here for “law” is the word torah.  This is the same word used for the law God wrote with His own hands on Mount Sinai (The Ten Commandments) and the subsequent law He gave to Moses documented in the first five books of the Bible – commonly referred to by Jews as “The Law” or “The Torah.”  To me, this is not an attempt by Solomon to ascend his own abilities to the likes of God, but rather an attempt to acknowledge that he is not the true author behind the book.  He knew that he was merely the vessel, the channel, the conduit, the tool in the hands of God.  He knew that this was good teaching and that it was worthy of being accepted as “law,” because he knew that this was God’s law, God’s teaching, God’s instruction.  Now, this is not to minimize Solomon’s role.  The truth of God came through Solomon’s personality, his character, and his experience.  Solomon had a perspective that few, if any, have ever had.  He was ascended to the throne at the tender age of 17 and ruled with the wisdom of God.  He oversaw a building project (King Solomon’s Temple) that would put Donald Trump to shame.  His kingdom thrived under his leadership and he attributed it all to the wisdom of God operating in his life.  He is more than qualified to teach us and even with all his qualifications, he still points the glory back to God.

So what does this mean to you today? Let’s glean a few golden nuggets from this:

1.  Acknowledge God’s role in your life:  Do you have a part in your own success?  Absolutely!  But don’t think that you do it all.  Acknowledge God’s part and welcome Him, through prayer, to continue to work in your life.  Don’t try to live without God.  It’s much better WITH His help.

2.  Settle the issue of the validity of the Bible:  If you are still struggling over whether or not the Bible is truly the Word of God or simply the word of man, then you will never receive all that God wants you to receive from it.  Solomon knew that what he was writing was bigger than him.  Settle that issue for yourself.

3.  Apply the Word and Prosper:  Solomon was successful by any measurement and he knew the source of his success.  If you walk in love and faithfully apply the principles outlined in the Word of God you will experience like success.  Knowing the Word of God and obeying the God of the Word is a formula for life-long fulfillment and total-life-prosperity.

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank You for the example of righteousness You have given me in Solomon.  I learn from him and in-so-doing, I am learning from You.  I apply Your Word, which is Your Wisdom, to my life and I enjoy Godly results.  I know the Bible is Your Word and I live my life in accordance with Your law.  I walk in love, I apply Your principles, and I live the life You desire for me to live.  Use me today, for Your glory!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:3) Sowing the Right Seed

(Prov 4:3 NLT) For I, too, was once my father’s son, tenderly loved as my mother’s only child.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.” In the last two messages we dealt with Solomon’s invitation to us to sit as sons sit at a father’s feet.  Ultimately, he wants us to look to God as the true source of all wisdom, but he realizes that God is using him to share his truths with us, so he asks us to look at him as a father.  Solomon is not asking us to do anything that he did not do.  He could ask us to submit ourselves to him as sons, because he had already submitted himself to his parents.  He had sat at their feet.  He received their instruction.  He allowed himself to be influenced by their teaching.  He could be a good father, because he was a good son.  He developed into a great leader, because he knew how to follow.  He had been the servant, so he was ready to be the master when that time came.  Even in this simple statement about his past I see a lesson from Solomon to us about faithfulness, servanthood, submission, and obedience to authority.

Solomon fulfilled his role as a son, so he was ready to fulfill his role as a father.  He was a father to his own children, a father to his nation, and a father to all those that have received his documented wisdom in scripture.  He sowed the right seed and he reaped the right harvest.  He was faithful over little, so God promoted him to be ruler over much (Mat 25:21).  There’s a lot we can learn from this example.  There is a credibility that cannot be overlooked or underestimated when a person that is attempting to teach you something has already been where you are, has walked in your shoes, and has been successful at it.

So what does this mean to you today? Let’s seek to glean a few golden nuggets from this:

1.  To the son/daughter:  Honor your parents, love them, obey them, and submit to their authority.  Do it because it is the right thing to do and also remember that in-so-doing you are sowing seeds for your own children.  Sow the right seed and you will reap the right harvest.

2.  To father/mother:  Teach your children in love.  Train them in the way of the Lord.  Instruct them in righteousness and do everything you can to prepare them for the their life’s assignment.  Know that the time will come where they will have to stand on their own (with God), and make their own tough choices.  You want to be able to stand before God with clean hands, knowing that you did all you could to prepare them to be productive citizens in the Kingdom of God.  Solomon’s parents (David and Bathsheba) did their part and God (with Solomon) did the rest.  Be faithful to do your part and then trust them and God enough for their future.

3.  To those that are looking forward:  If you are just starting out in business, in your career, in life, find someone who is willing to mentor you and then be faithful to them.  Learn from them and do all that you can do to honor their investment in your life.  Work hard, be diligent, and remember that ultimately you are working for God.  Solomon was faithful and he was promoted.  Be faithful over little and God will see to it that you are elevated to rule over much (Mat 25:21).

4.  To those that are looking back:  If you have been around awhile and are in the latter years of your career/life, then it is good to take the time to look back and take self-inventory.  Think about the many people that helped you get to where you are.  Are you returning the favor?  Are you making an investment into the lives of others?  If not, then start today.  If you are, then continue to do so.  See yourself as a seasoned Solomon, seeking to share life-lessons with those that have yet to learn them.  Do all you can for everyone you can.  Be a blessing today!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank You for the righteous example You have given me in Solomon.  I learn a great deal from him.  I learn to be faithful over little and trust You to make me a ruler over much.  The more I prove myself faithful, the more I sow the right seed, the more I seek to BE a blessing, the more You can use me to make a difference in the earth.  I am a good leader, because I have been a good follower!  Others have made an investment in my life and I now I seek to make an investment in the lives of others – by faith!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:4) Father-to-Son Relationships

(Prov 4:4 NLT) My father taught me, “Take my words to heart.  Follow my commands, and you will live.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In our last message we saw how Solomon talked about his father David.  He lovingly admits that he a son to his father, that he submitted to his authority, and that he listened to his teaching.  If you and I could sit down with Solomon today I am sure his face would glow when talking about his father.  I am positive that Solomon would admit that he was the man that he was, largely in part to the example and instruction of his father.  His father David was a passionate man.  David fought fearlessly, led heroically and sinned horribly.  David knew both highs and lows in God, but when he was at his lowest, after sinning terribly before God, David tapped into the power of repentance.  David cried out to Jehovah, asking God to create in him a clean heart, to renew the right spirit within him (Psalm 51:10).  David was not flawless, but he was overall faithful to God.  He served God with all his might – flaw, failures, and all.  When God looks back on David He looks past his faults and sees a sincerely submitted servant.  Later on, in the New Testament, God speaks through Luke and says that David was a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22).

I want you to know a little about David, because the next six verses are dedicated to His teaching.  In verses 4-9 Solomon passes on to us some of golden nuggets his father passed on to him.  Before we get too deep into David’s teaching, I believe this is a good place to mention the special relationship God fosters between fathers and sons (gender nonspecific).  Whether biological or spiritual, God expects us to be sons, brothers, and fathers.  It is said that everyone should have a Paul (a spiritual father to pour into us), a Timothy (a spiritual son for us to pour into), and a Barnabas (a spiritual brother we can be accountable to).  It all starts with connecting with and learning from a father.  The relationship betweens fathers and sons is extremely important to God.  For example, if you read the Old Testament you will see that the nation of Israel had many highs and lows in their relationship with God, the lowest coming towards the end of the Old Testament.  The Israelites were rebellious towards God and the Lord was about to stop taking.  He shut His mouth and it created the 400 years of silence between the Old and New Testaments.  The silence was to be broken with the coming of John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for Jesus.  The last verse of the Old Testament points towards the preaching of John the Baptist and it says, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:6).  Out of all the things that God could have focused on, out of all the problems that needed fixing, out of all the challenges facing the Israelites, God said that his focus would be to turn the heart of the fathers to their children and of the children to their fathers.  This tells you a great deal about God and the importance of family, covenant, connection, and heritage.  Without a father (natural or spiritual) a son may never know himself, he may never know his heritage, and he may never realize what he is fully qualified to receive.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that you should take your natural and spiritual father-to-son (gender nonspecific) relationships very seriously.  Why?  Because God does.  If it is important to God, then it should be important to you.  Turn your heart to your children (both natural and spiritual), and allow their hearts to be turned towards you.  Foster this relationship, nurture and feed it, and watch as heaven smiles upon you and grace, like rain, falls on you.

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank You for the strong emphasis You place on family, covenant, connection and heritage.  I know who I am, because I know where I came from.  I know my spiritual heritage and what I have a blood-bought covenant right to.  My heart is turned towards my natural and spiritual children and so is theirs towards me.  You are pleased with our relationship(s) and Your grace, like rain, falls down all over me!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:5) The Influence of a Father

(Prov 4:5 NIV) Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In our last message I gave you a brief background on Solomon’s father David, because the next few verses are dedicated to his teaching.  In verses 4-9 Solomon chooses to share with us some of what his father shared with him.  The first thing that comes out of Solomon’s mouth about his father’s teaching is: “Get wisdom, get understanding.”  You get the sense that David probably told this to Solomon over and over again.  Just like there are some lessons that we, as parents, drive home more than others, this was the lesson that David chose to drive home.  David knew that his Solomon was born to rule.  Some kids are born to be carpenters, teachers, pastors, lawyers, and etc.  Solomon was born to be king.  His life’s assignment was the throne.  David knew that Solomon would do what he was not able to do and that was to build the house of God.  The Lord told David, “Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name” (1st Kings 5:5).   With this in mind David attempted to prepare Solomon from day one.  He knew that the key ingredient to Solomon’s success would be to operate in the wisdom of God.  So David drove home this message, “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.”  These words were so ingrained in Solomon that I am sure that he shared them with us from the top of his memory.  I believe that this teaching – this emphasis on wisdom – is the teaching that had the greatest impact on Solomon’s life.  I say this because it was, in my opinion, this teaching that led Solomon to make the greatest decision he ever made.

In 1st Kings chapter 3 we find Solomon in a semi-vulnerable state.  His father, kind David, had recently died and he was still a young man.  He was concerned about assuming the throne – and the responsibility that came with it – at such a young age.  The Lord spoke to him through a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (v.5).  This was Solomon’s golden opportunity.  He was young, he was in charge, he was somewhat afraid, and he was seeking God for help.  God told him what he wanted to here, “Ask for whatever you want!”  Now, you know that most of us would have started rattling off a laundry-list of selfish desires, but young Solomon was different.  It is obvious that he had learned many life-lessons from his father.  This was a crossroad decision.  Whatever came out of his mouth next could favorably or adversely affect his life, his time on the throne, his kingdom, and his people.  His life was no longer just his own.  The decisions that he made would impact all those under his authority.  And what he asked for would have made David proud.  I am sure the words of his father rang through his ears as he said, “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (v.9).  Wow.  Solomon had maturity beyond his years.  He did not ask for fame or fortune, he asked for wisdom and understanding; for help in carrying out the duties of the office that he had been charged with.  He knew that he was in authority, but also knew that he was under authority.  He submitted to God so that those that he led would submit to him.  God was pleased with his request.

So what does this mean to you today? As a parent, it means that your words matter.  David’s influence on Solomon is vividly clear.  As a son, it means that taking heed to your parent’s teaching is imperative.  A father’s advice helped Solomon make the biggest decision of his life.  So nurture your parent-to-child relationships and allow God to be glorified in them.

Confession for today:  Lord God, I both receive and release Your wisdom in my parent-to-child relationships.  As a son I receive wisdom from my natural and spiritual parents and as a parent I pass on that wisdom to my natural and spiritual sons.  Use me as a conduit through which You help shape the future of my children.  I allow myself to be influenced by my parents and I use the influence You have given me with my children for Your glory!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:6) There is Safety in His Wisdom

(Prov 4:6 NIV)  Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God,” by continuing with David’s teaching, as shared by his son Solomon.  Solomon is well known for his wisdom and we know that that wisdom came from God.  Solomon was convinced that Godly wisdom was the center and circumference of his success.  Everything that he did that was positive and brought glory to God, he attributed to the wisdom of God operating in his life.  We know this of Solomon, but what we are learning now is that David also exalted Godly wisdom.  David instilled in Solomon a hunger and thirst after righteousness that God was more than happy to fulfill.  David plainly told his son not to forsake wisdom.  Whether or not Solomon heeded his father’s advice was up to him.  Like most things, the choice was his to make, and also like most things, the consequences were his to receive.

I like the language David uses.  He provides his son both a warning and a promise.  The warning is that if Solomon chooses to forsake wisdom he will not be under the protection that comes from being in the center of God’s will.  When you take heed to God’s commands, when you walk in His ways, when you make decisions led by His Spirit, when you incline your ear to His wisdom, then He gets personally involved in the outcome of your decisions.  Why?  Because at that point, your decision was His decision, your choice was His choice, your will was infused with His will.  And as I have shared many times before, if it is God’s will, then it is God’s bill.  Meaning that He will always feed where He leads, and He will always provide where He guides.  There is an inherent safety that comes from walking with and obeying Jehovah!  But then David takes it further than just a warning.  He urges his son (and us) not just to simply avoid forsaking God’s wisdom, but to actually love it.  He wants his son to yearn for God’s Word, His instruction, His will, His way.  In the New Testament Peter describes it well.  He says that as new believers we ought to desire God’s Word like a baby desires milk (1st Peter 2:2).  If you have ever been around a hungry baby you know what Peter is trying to say.  He wants us to desire, to hunger for, to thirst after, to love God’s instruction, His Word, His wisdom.  The promise is that if we love her and heed to her, she will protect us and watch over us.

If you want this type of wisdom, you are going to have to go after it.  No one is gong to be able to force you to do it.  You must develop a hunger and thirst for the things of God if you truly want to grow in Him.  This takes resolve and determination.  This takes commitment and dedication.  This takes passion and purpose.  This is not about a one-time decision, but rather a life full of daily decisions between right and wrong, good and evil, righteous and wicked.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that you too have a choice.  You must choose between chasing after or forsaking God’s wisdom.  There are people all over the world that forsake God when they forsake the assembly of his church (people), when they forsake His ministers (messengers), and when they forsake His Word.  Don’t be like them, pursue God through His Word, gather together with other believers, submit Yourself to Godly authority, and allow Him to teach You His Word.  And please, don’t just do it out of obligation, but love it.  Open up the Word of God with a burning desire in your heart to hear from Him.  The Master of the Universe wants to sit with you and wants you to sit with Him.  Don’t neglect His call, sit at the Master’s feet and say, “Speak Lord, your servant heareth!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I forsake not Your wisdom and she protects me.  I love her and she watches over me.  I connect with a local church and I submit to the authority of a local Pastor.  I hear from You as I hear from them.  I also hear from You as I open up Your Word.  Your Words are Spirit and they are Life to me.  They are health and healing to all my flesh.  Your Word inspires me, encourages me, uplifts me, and protects me.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:7) The Principal Thing

(Prov 4:7 KJV) Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God,” by continuing with David’s teaching, as shared by his son Solomon.  I love this verse.  It is one of the first verses I memorized as a Christian.  I was new to God, to His Word, and to the entire experience of walking with Him.  I listened attentively as my Pastor preached and other teachers taught.  I developed a yearning for wisdom, but most importantly, I wanted understanding.  I did not want to merely quote the Bible, I wanted to be able to live it.  I knew early on that the Bible is not a textbook to study, but rather a life-book to live.  My principal focus was attaining God’s wisdom – His way of doing things – but I only sought to attain it, with the singular purpose of doing what I learned.  I wanted my learning to turn into living.  I wanted to turn the corner from information to application.  Even as a baby Christian I knew that churches were packed with people that had heard thousands of sermons, that had attended countless Bible studies, and that could quote scripture like the back of their hand, but many of these same people were not living what they knew.  That’s not what I wanted.  I wanted to gain Godly wisdom, but I wanted to do it in such a way that I understood what I received – so I could live what I learned.

David made no bones about it; he exalted Godly wisdom above all else.  As the son of the king, Solomon had access to sharpest minds of his time.  He could sit down with intellectual giants and glean from them.  But even with this access, even with the privilege, David drove home the fact that pursuing God’s wisdom must be the principal pursuit of Solomon’s life.  I like to read and I enjoy learning from literary masterminds, but no book ever written is more power-packed and wisdom-filled than the Bible.  You could take a thousand of the brightest minds on the planet and put them together in one room and their combined brain-power would still pale in comparison to the wisdom of God.

I like the way that David then says, “And with all thy getting.”  You and I “get” lots of things as we journey through life.  We pick up all sorts of things along the way.  With everything that we get, with everything that we gain, with everything that we learn, Solomon urges us this morning to get understanding.  Don’t just learn the Bible, live it.  Don’t just be a hearer, commit to being a doer.  If you are a hearer only and not a doer, James says that you literally deceive yourself (James 1:22).  What good is it to KNOW some of the greatest truths ever known if you are not going to DO anything with them?

So what does this mean to you today? Three things:

1.  Get wisdom:  James said, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you” (1:5).  So ask, pray, and study God’s Word.  Make the pursuit of wisdom the principal pursuit of your life.  Exalt His wisdom above all others and pursue with all your might.

2.  With all thy getting:  Keep first things first.  Don’t major on the minors or minor on the majors.  As you walk down the path of your life’s journey don’t lose the eternal for the pursuit of the temporal.  You will pick up things up along the way – and there is nothing wrong with that – just ensure that you give the things of God first place.

3.  Get Understanding:  Do not be contented with mere learning.  Turn the corner from learning to living, from information to application, from head knowledge to heart knowledge, from religious creeds to righteous acts, and from empty rituals to a fulfilling relationship with Jehovah!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I declare that I get wisdom.  I ask You for wisdom and You release her to me.  I know I will learn lots of things in life, but I will never exalt worldly wisdom above Yours.  I keep first things first.  The pursuit of Your wisdom is the principal pursuit of my life and as I pursue her I do so with the singular intent of DOING what I learn.  My learning turns into living, because I not only get wisdom, but I get understanding.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:8) The Choice is Yours

(Prov 4:8 NLT)  If you prize wisdom, she will make you great.  Embrace her, and she will honor you.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God,” by continuing with David’s teaching, as shared by his son Solomon.  Here David does what most good parents do, and that is to instruct their children in the way that they should go (Prov 22:6).  The verbiage he uses makes it clear that the decision is ultimately up to Solomon (and us for that matter).  The word “if” lays out a condition.  After walking with God for many years, after being exalted from a shepherd boy who supernaturally killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands, after being picked by God above his seven older brothers, after fighting a giant (Goliath) with two armies watching and the fate of two nations riding on the outcome, after running for years from the man he was to replace (Saul), after taking the throne and ruling the people of God, and after recovering from a dastardly mistake, David knows a thing or two about the word if.  He knew what it was to be both high and low in God.  He knew the blessing of walking in Godly counsel and the burden of forsaking it.  He knew the benefit of having God’s favor upon your life and he also knew the danger of having it removed.  So David uses the word if when he teaches his son about the options he had in life.  He made it clear that Solomon had a choice.  David had done all he could do.  He had prepared the way for Solomon.  Solomon was not going to have to endure all that David endured.  Solomon would not have to start from scratch.  Solomon was inheriting the kingdom from his father and more importantly, he was the recipient of the inheritance of the Blessing of Abraham.  Solomon knew who he was, because he knew where he came from.  He understood his heritage and his place in the bloodline.  It was all setup for him, but he still had the if to contend with.

David laid out for Solomon the benefits of being on the right side of the ifIf Solomon prized wisdom, in other words, if Solomon practiced God’s way of doing things, then the result would be greatness.  This is no overstatement.  The Word says great and it means it.  The stars were aligned for Solomon and he could choose to walk in the Blessing and experience greatness, but make no mistake, he could also choose to abandon wisdom, to ignore God’s way of doing things, and the results would be disastrous.  Solomon, like us, did not have a ‘carte blanche’ guarantee to the blessing.  No, the favor of God upon his life was contingent upon his actions, just like it is contingent upon ours.  David tells his son that if he embraces God’s way of doing things that he would be honored, but the opposite is also true.  If Solomon chose to disregard God and everything he knew about God, then the result would be dishonor, disgrace, discredit, and ultimately discontent.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that you too have to contend with the “if” of life.  If you embrace God’s wisdom – God’s way of going things – then you too will experience greatness and honor.  Think about it for a moment.  Think about God’s way of doing things.  God’s way teaches us to work hard, be honest, walk in integrity, submit to authority, love, forgive, walk peaceably with all men, honor the sanctity of marriage, train our children in the way they should go, to say what we mean and mean what we say, to be good stewards over our finances, and the list could go on and on.  If you do these things, if you live the way God wants you to live, then you can’t help but experience The Good Life.  But then there’s that ifLike everything else, the choice is yours!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I declare, by faith, that I am on the right side of the “if” of life.  I embrace Your wisdom, I practice Your way of doing things.  I walk peaceably with all men, I work hard and overcome laziness, procrastination, and idleness.  I am a prompt, diligent, and dedicated person of integrity.  I honor You with my life and actions and You honor me with Your favor.  You bless me greatly, because I choose to live my life the way You want me to live it.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:9) The Grace of God

(Prov 4:9 BBE) She will put a crown of grace on your head, giving you a headdress of glory.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God,” by continuing with David’s teaching, as shared by his son Solomon.  In our last message we saw that David clearly exalted Godly wisdom – God’s way of doing things – to his son Solomon.  David told Solomon that if he walked in wisdom that she would literally make him great and he would receive honor.  Greatness and honor are no small terms, but David was convinced that when we live our lives the way that God desires for us to live them, when we ascribe to His ways, when we apply His teaching, when we allow His wisdom to be the foundation for ours, then we can’t help but experience God’s best!  David was convinced that God wants us to live successful and enjoyable lives in the earth and he was clearly convinced that the way to attain it was through God’s wisdom.

Here David tells his son that if he walks in God’s wisdom, if he submits to God’s way of doing things, that he would receive a crown of grace and a headdress of glory.  I love the term, “Crown of grace.”  The grace of God is amazing.  Grace and mercy are immeasurable.  When I first came to Christ I learned that grace was God giving me what I did not deserve and mercy was Him not giving me what I did.  Even though that definition led me to thank God then and still thank Him today grace and mercy, I have learned along the years that there is much more to grace than simply God giving me what I do not deserve.  Grace is so vast that if you look through any good Bible dictionary you will find many different definitions with all sorts of scripture references.  How can I explain it?  It is so wonderful that one of my former pastors and current mentors, Dr. S.L. Moton, often asked, “Does it get any better than God’s grace?”  My friend, Pastor Jon Bryant and I, when we were young ministers under the tutelage of Pastor Moton, appreciated this question so much that we had a picture of Jesus holding up a man framed with the question placed under it.  This was many, many years ago and the last time I was in Pastor Moton’s office the picture was still on display.  He had remodeled and replaced many things, but the reminder of God’s grace is one that he chose to keep.

The phrase, “The grace of God,” is found 23 times in the New Testament.  It’s so powerful that Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God” (1st Cor 15:10).  The way I explain it is that God’s grace is His empowerment upon ours.  It’s His super upon our natural.  It’s His ability placed upon our ability.  It’s the power of the Holy Spirit being made manifest through a man.  It’s the grace of God.  Yes, I can attest to the words of David this morning.  When you walk in the wisdom of God, when you choose to live you life the way He desires for you to live it, when You choose God’s way of doing things, then its like you literally don a crown of grace upon your head and enter every day clothed with a headdress of glory.  It’s beautiful to walk with God.  Many songwriters have called it, “The beauty of holiness.”

So what does this mean to you today? It means that Godly wisdom is a choice and when you choose her, when you choose God’s way above yours, when you choose His Word above your impulse, when you choose love above hate, forgiveness above revenge, peace above strife, and etc., then you make yourself a candidate for the crown of grace and the headdress of glory!  Believe me, that’s what you want to wear as you enter every day!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I worship You daily in the beauty of holiness.  I choose Your way of doing things and it leads to a beautiful, enjoyable, and satisfying life.  I know that it is Your ability upon mine that enables me to do all that You desire for me to do today.  You will never expect me to do anything that You do not equip me to do and You equip me to do it, by Your grace.  It does not get any better than grace.  Thank You Lord for grace and mercy.  I know that I am what I am by the grace of God.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:10) Live Long and Live Strong

(Prov 4:10 NIV) Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God,” by continuing with David’s teaching, as shared by his son Solomon.  In our last message we saw how David clearly urged his son to walk in the wisdom of God.  David explained that choosing God’s way of doing things is not without reward.  Listen to wisdom, accept her teaching, apply her truths, and you will be clothed with a crown of grace and a headdress of glory.  I call that the beauty of holiness.  There is an undeniable prestige that comes from walking upright before the Lord, from shunning the ways of the world, and from rising above the impulses to do wrong.  When you encounter a person of irrefutable integrity, unquestionable character, unwavering personal courage, and an unrelenting pursuit of God, you leave that person’s presence knowing that you have encountered the extraordinary.  David was that type of person, he taught his son to be that type of person, and now David, Solomon, and Jehovah Himself are attempting to teach us to be the same.  If we heed their instruction, if we reject the ways of the world, if we apply God’s wisdom to our lives, then we will be able to rise above the fray of the norm.  I say the norm, because it is certainly not the norm in the United States to be a strong Christian.  Now, every third person may claim to be a Christian, but most don’t display Christian traits.  When you choose to walk in God’s wisdom, when you choose to live your life by His Word, when you choose to be led by His Spirit, when you consciously choose His way of dong things, then believe me, you will not be the norm.  It is then that you shine as light in the midst of darkness and you become the salt of the earth.  There’s an old adage that says, “If the average person who claims to be a Christian were on trail for being one, there wouldn’t be enough evidence to convict them.”  I hope this could not be said of you.

This morning we learn that David taught his son that if he accepting what he was saying, that if he submitting to God’s wisdom, that the years of his life would be many.  Another translation says, “Listen to me, my child.  Take seriously what I am telling you, and you will live a long life.”  Most people want to live long. The only ones who don’t are the ones that are not living well.  David is not promising a long and miserable life.  No, David is explaining to his son that when you walk with God, when you submit to His way of doing things, then not only do you live long, but you live strong.  You can have a long and satisfying life.  Solomon must have listened, because he himself taught us (in the last chapter), something very similar.  Solomon said, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity” (verses 1 & 2).  Solomon made it clear that he was talking about a long and prosperous life.

God does not just want us to make it to heaven.  No, He wants us to enjoy the ride, He wants our years to be full of purpose.  He wants us to make the maximum impact that we can make while we are here.  That’s why He tells us to stay away from certain things.  The ways of the world, and the vices therein, often impair health and subsequently shorten your days in the earth.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that God wants you to be sober, to avoid destructive habits and to abstain from damaging passions.  Walking in the ways of God (His Wisdom) promotes physical health, mental acuity, psychological stability, and social fulfillment.  Put these all together and you can’t help long and live strong!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank You for a long and satisfying life.  Not only will I make it to heaven, but I will enjoy the ride.  As I enter this day I do so clothed with a crown of grace and a headdress of glory.  I declare that my mind is alert and sharp, by body is strong and healthy, my soul is stable and secure, my emotions are in check – I rule over them, they don’t rule over me, and I have fulfilling personal relationships.  I live long and I live strong so that I can maximize the impact that I make for You in the earth.  Use me as light and salt today!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:11) No Excuses!

(Prov 4:11 MSG) I’m writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I’m drawing a map to Righteous Road.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God,” by continuing with David’s teaching, as shared by his son Solomon.  In our last message David made it clear to his son that accepting his wisdom – which was by de facto mainly God’s wisdom; the sum of all that he himself had learned from God – that he would be able to live long and strong.  David was convinced that God wants us to live long purpose filled lives.  But David was equally convinced that many had shortened their lives by the unrighteous choices they had made.  Many a believer has wrecked his life with destructive habits and unrighteous addictions.  David did not want his son to live this way, but the fact that he knew that Solomon had the ability to do so speaks volumes.  David knew that Solomon was no puppet.  No, he had been born with a destiny, he was a child of both prestige and promise, but at the end of the day, David knew that Solomon’s life was going to be a grand-sum-total of his decisions.  David knew that God was not going to overlook it if Solomon chose to walk away from Godly counsel.  David urged his son, passionately I am sure, to walk in the ways of God.

In this morning’s text the father tells the son that he wrote our clear directions to Wisdom Way; that he provided him a map to Righteous Road.  In essence David was saying, “Son, I’ve done all I can do.  I have provided you the best Godly instruction I can give.  I have done my part.  The rest is up to you.”  Not only do I hear the words of a father in this text, but I hear the words of a loving, caring God who says, “Son, I have made the path to righteousness clear.  Not only have I provided you a father who loves you and who taught you in my ways, but I have provided you a book of counsel, a collection of my wisdom, a life-book by which to live.  And furthermore, I am here for you.  I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Listen and I will speak.  Speak and I will listen.  I am always here when you call.”

It’s like David and Jehovah had both done their part.  David knew his time on the earth was not eternal.  He knew that there would come a time when Solomon could not seek him for advice; when Solomon had to trust what he had been taught and trust the God that his father had pointed him to over and over again.  There would come a time when Solomon had to be his own man, making his own decisions, and reaping his own rewards (good or bad).  Although Solomon grew up in a palace, as the son of a king, and as an heir to the throne, David assured him that the throne would not guarantee him success.  If he wanted success he would have to seek it from God and he would have to choose to do things God’s way.

So what does this mean to you today? It means the same is true for you – there will come a time when you realize that you have a great deal to do with where you end up in life.  Maybe you had a parent like David that provided you Godly counsel or maybe you didn’t.  You will not be judged for what your parents did or failed to do.  No, your life is your issue and you must tend to it.  God has provided you His instruction (The Bible), His precious Holy Spirit (inside of you), and millions of believers in the earth to stand with you.  You have been given directions to Wisdom Way and a map to Righteous Road.  What you do with it is up to you.  No excuses, no pushing off responsibility, no finger pointing.  If you don’t like where you are, then change it.  Accept God’s counsel, walk in His way, and experience His best for your life NOW!

Confession for today:  Lord God, thank You for providing me Your Word.  I do not take it lightly that I have access to Your counsel and I know that Your Word is Your will documented.  As I pick it up and read it I realize that it provides me directions to Wisdom Way and a map to Righteous Road.  I follow the map, I take the directions, and I choose to become the person Your desire for me to be.  I take responsibility for my own actions and I declare, right now, that they will be actions that take me towards Your best for my life!  No excuses!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:12) Sure-Footed

(Prov 4:12 NIV)  When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  We are back now the words of Solomon.  He shared with us what his father shared with him and he now treats us like the son.  He had received and now he in transmitting mode.  He gives us a mental picture of a person that can both walk and run.  He tells us that when we walk with God, when we accept His counsel, when we do things God’s way, that our steps will not be hampered.  In the walking picture he wants us to see a man that is able to overcome every obstacle that comes his way.  He paints a picture of an unstoppable man.  This is not to say that he won’t face obstacles, but the obstacles will not hamper him.  He has the ability to overcome them all.  Then he gives us a picture of that same man running.  This time he says that he won’t even stumble.  He is sure-footedNo matter where his foot lands, no matter how uneven the surface and no matter how unstable the ground, this man has the ability to maintain his balance, his speed, and his forward mobility.  He is running, he is heading towards a goal, and he will not be slowed down by the inconsistency of the path.  It is unreasonable to think that his path will always be easy and that it will never include tricky spots, but this man has the power to maneuver through them all.  Why?  Because he is running with God and God is running with him.

To make it plain, I want you to see this from a couple of others translations.  Another translation says, “When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble.”  Isn’t that what we want?  The ability to continue to move forward, no matter what comes our way, is a desire of many and it is the quality of those that walk (and run) in the wisdom of God.  Another translation says, “When you walk, nothing will slow you down.  When you run, you won’t trip and fall.”  I think that says it all.  When you know for certain that you are doing what God wants you to do, it gives you an unshakable inner confidence that propels you forward against any enemy, obstacle, hindrance, or challenge.  No matter what you face, you face it with the belief that you will come out on top.

The Bible is God’s book of wisdom and when you read/apply it, you can’t help but be empowered and encouraged.  You read things like, “If God be for us, then who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).  “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1st John 4:4).  “You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country… You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out… The LORD will make you the head, not the tail… you will always be at the top, never at the bottom” (see Deuteronomy 28).  The Bible is chock full of promises.  When you read it carefully and thoroughly you encounter a loving and caring heavenly father that wants you to have and enjoy life.  He desires goodness for us so much that He gave us a book by which to live by.  If we do things His way then we experience His results.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that Jehovah is not some mean and spiteful god that is out to get you.  I say all the time that if God wanted you get you, you would have been ‘got’ a long time ago.  No, God wants to bless you.  He wants you to succeed.  He wants you to enjoy life.  He wants you to go to heaven, but he wants you to enjoy the ride.  That’s why he wants you to apply His counsel.  When you do you find yourself having the ability to overcome anything and everything that life sends you way.  You + God = Victory!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I apply Your Word to every area of my life.  You are with me and for me.  You are on my side.  Who can be against me?  I am blessed everywhere I go.  I am the head and not the tail, the winner and not the loser, the victor and not the victim.  I walk and am not held back.  I run and I don’t trip and fall.  I am forward moving, sure footed, and determined to run this race with You!  Thank You for running it with me.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:13) The Key to Life

(Prov 4:13 NLT) Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  Solomon has been teaching us many things.  He has spent over three chapters thus far giving us the wisdom of God.  I am sure that he is conscious of God’s use of him during this period.  He knows that God is sharing eternal truth through him and his personality.  It’s not hard for me to understand how the Bible is God’s Word through man.  Every book is truly God’s Word, but within every book we see the personality of each writer.  I can identify with this, because the same can be said of preaching.  Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones – the early 20th century British evangelist – said, “The preacher is a man who is possessed and he is aware of this.  I do not hesitate to make this assertion.  I would say that I only begin to know something about preaching on those occasions when, as it were, I am looking on.  I am speaking, but I am really a spectator.  I am amazed at what is happening.  I am listening.  I am looking on in utter astonishment, for I am not doing it.  It is true preaching when I am conscious that I am being used; in a sense, I am as much a spectator as the people who are listening to me.  There is this consciousness that is outside me, and yet I am involved in it; I am merely the instrument and the vehicle and the channel of all of this.”  I believe Solomon could have said something similar.  I am convinced that he knew that what he was writing was the Word of God.  When Solomon says, in our text, that his instructions are, “The key to life,” he was not being conceited.  No, Solomon was exalting God.  He was both making an acknowledgement that God has been the source of his success and that what he was sharing was coming from God.

The Good News Bible (GNB) translation of this verse says, “Always remember what you have learned.  Your education is your life—guard it well.”  Once again, this is not a reference to mere secular education.  This is an admonishment to remember, recall, recount, and continually apply the teaching that we receive from God.  The New International Reader’s Versions (NIrV) translation of this verse says, “Hold on to my teaching.  Don’t let it go.  Guard it well.  It is your life.”  Do you get the point?  Solomon is telling us that God’s teaching is not something that we should apply just on Sundays.  This is not just something that we should remember just when things are going bad.  God and His Word are not a bailout plan that we run to only in case of emergency.  No, God’s teaching should be the foundation for our life.  Further the NLT says it’s the key to life.  Both the GNB and the NIrV say it is our life.

In God’s teaching the sinner finds salvation, the wayward finds a way home, the stressed-out finds peace, the worried finds rest, the downtrodden gets encouraged, the heavy burdened is lightened, the seeker find answers, the educated finds revelation, the conniver finds integrity, the shifty finds a solid foundation, and when it is all done, the laborer finds reward – the mortal finds immortality.

So what does this mean to you today? It means God’s Word is true, powerful, and life changing.  Never let it go.  Never stop reading it.  Never stop learning.  The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.  This teaching must be your life.  When you apply God’s Word daily, then your life becomes God’s and God’s becomes yours.  It is then that you realize that you are the instrument, vehicle, and channel that Dr. Jones talked about.  You realize that you are walking with God and He is walking with you.  Together you make a difference in the world!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank You for leaving us Your Word.  Your teaching is the key to my life.  It IS my life.  My life is rooted and grounded in Your Word.  Your wisdom is my foundation.  I apply Your Word so much that my life becomes Yours and Your mine.  I walk with You and You with me.  I am in You and You are in me.  I am an instrument, vehicle and channel through which you can bless others today!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:14) A Call to Godliness

(Prov 4:14 NIV) Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  This verse seems clear-cut and at first read you might think that it could/should go without saying.  Solomon sounds like every good mother or father that knows the perils of being influenced by the wrong people.  But as I read it and re-read it, and then prayed over it, I realized that this verse is not as clear-cut as it seems.  Solomon assumes that we understand who the wicked and evil men are.  He takes it for granted that there is some sort of separation between the sinner and the believer, between righteous and the unrighteous, between the wicked and holy.  The problem is that today’s society is so painted with political correctness, tolerance, open-mindedness, acceptance, and etc. that some people have been programmed to accept everything.  They are so programmed that even after becoming Christians they think that everyone is still OK, that every good person is going to heaven, and the God is somehow going to accept what society has been programmed to accept.  But Solomon lived in a different time.  In his time right was called right and wrong wrong.  People knew what sin was and there was a clear choice between serving Jehovah and serving other gods.  People made their choice and they lived with the consequences.

Somehow people today think that things have changed, but from a Godly perspective, from a Biblical perspective, they have not.  God is still God, He still sits on the throne, He still wants sinners to come to repentance, He still urges them to accept forgiveness for their sins through the cleansing power of the Blood of Jesus, and He will still judge us all based upon whether or not we accepted His Son.  I think it is because believers have been too accepting of the world’s ways that our text is not as clear as it should be.  There should be a clear distinction between the believer and the wicked, between the righteous and the evil.  But the sad reality is that if you filled a camp with 100 people, 50 Christian and 50 not, and then watched them for a week, it might be difficult to distinguish between the believer and non.  This should not be so.

Solomon tells us not to even set foot on the path of the wicked; because he knows that it might tempt us to remain on it.  Make no mistake about it, sin is tempting.  I know that when I was a sinner I was a good one.  I had fun and lots of it, but I can honestly and unreservedly say that I have more fun now.  I am convinced that life in Christ is better, much better, that life without Him.  I am so satisfied, so fulfilled, so happy, and I have so much fun that I don’t need to follow the temptations of the wicked.  But I would fool myself if I thought that they were not there.  When commenting on this verse Matthew Henry said, “Venture not into the company of those that are infected with the plague, no, not thinking that you are guarded with an antidote.”  I know that I don’t have an antidote against sin, I must simply resist it, and one of the best ways to resist it is to not surround myself with it.  Solomon’s father David said, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (Psalm 1:1).  David knew the dangers of hanging with the wrong people.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that God is not politically correct, nor is He all accepting.  He draws a line between the sinner and believer, between righteous and unrighteous and He expects us to abstain from even the very appearance of evil.  I know that this type of teaching is not popular today, but this is not about popularity contests, this is about living the life that God wants you to live!  God says, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1st Peter 1:16).

Confession for today:  Lord God, I accept Your call to Godliness, righteousness, and holiness.  I am now and I will continue to live a holy life, because You are holy.  I resist the temptation to sin.  I abstain from the very appearance of evil.  I refuse to set my feet on the path of the wicked.  I was once a sinner and that is the point.  Sin is in the past-tense in my life.  I live for You and I enjoy it.  Use me to draw others to Your abundant and overflowing life!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:15) Avoiding the Path of the Wicked

(Prov 4:15 NIV) Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In our last message Solomon told us not to even set foot on the path of the wicked.  He urged us to avoid the perils of falling back into the world of the lost after having connected with God.  If the worldly life was fun, then the Godly life is glorious.  Life in God is not a letdown.  Solomon acknowledges the temptation of the world and tells us not to even test the waters of evil.  Once you have crossed over into God, once He has translated you into the kingdom of His dear son, it is utterly dangerous and foolish to go back.

When I first gave my life to Christ my pastor at the time told a story of a book of five chapters.  It’s a short book.  In chapter one a man is walking down the street and he falls into a hole.  That’s the end of chapter one.  In chapter two the same man is walking down the same street, this time he sees the same hole and he… falls into the hole.  That’s the end of chapter two.  In chapter three the same man is walking down the same street, sees the hole, stops, tries to go around the hole, and… falls into the hole.  That’s the end of chapter three.  In chapter four the same man walks down the same street, sees the same hole, stops, backs up, stretches out, takes a running start, and tries to jump over the hole, and… you guesses it, he fell in the hole.  That’s the end of chapter four.  In chapter five… he went down another street.  Solomon tells us that there will come a time when we must travel down another street.  The way of sinners, the path of the wicked, the street of the ungodly, should not be the way we travel any more!

So what does this mean to you today? Let’s take a closer look at Solomon’s counsel:

  • Avoid it:  Acknowledge the seriousness of the threat of sin to your life and progression in God.  Sin is not something to be cavalier about.  If you play around with sin you can find yourself in a stronghold, an addiction, and a hole so deep that you will be grasping at straws to get out. It’s a sad commentary, but many a Christian delves into the realm of sin on a regular basis.  Solomon tells you this morning to avoid it at all costs.  Now, to be clear, I am teaching that God’s grace will not keep you, that God’s will turn His back on you, but Paul asked the question: shall we go on sinning so that grace may continue to cover it?  “God forbid,” he says.  No way!  We are in Christ and we should be dead to sin (Romans 6:1,2).
  • Do not travel on it:  Don’t ever take the path of sinners.  No, not for the sake of worldly gain, nor to appease others.  You must have the courage to be different.  You must have the audacity to live your life the way God wants you to live it.  Trust Him, not others, for your promotions.  Trust that if your life is pleasing to God, if you ascribe to His way of doing things, that He will see to it that you climb the corporate (and every other) ladder.  Don’t compromise for what seems like gain, because you will be sowing seed for a harvest that you really don’t want.
  • Turn from it:  Make a decision today – whether it be the first time or one of recommitment – that you will turn from the path of sinners and CHOOSE never to return.  Settle in your mind and in your heart the issue and the matter of Godliness.  Be like the person in the book with five chapters; decide to go down another street!
  • Go on your way:  You can’t really stop doing something until you start doing something else; until you replace it!  Replace the path of sinners with the path of God.  Go on your way in Christ. Determine to maximize your potential in the Kingdom of God.  Commit to living your life in God to the fullest.  Live the abundant, overflowing, and glorious life He wants you to live and live it full-throttle.  No looking back.  Forward ever, backward never!  The best is yet to come!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I declare that I am in You and You are in me.  I am in the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of God is in me.  I have been delivered from the power of sin.  I have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness.  Sin has no power over me.  By the power of the Holy Spirit I am able to walk in Godliness, righteousness, and holiness.  I live full-throttle for You, Lord.  No looking back.  Forward ever, backward never!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

Thanksgiving is a Lifestyle

(1st Thes 5:16-18 NIV)  Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This morning we take a pause from our current series from the book of Proverbs.  We slow down long enough to say, “Thanks” to God.  Tomorrow is the day that is formally known as “Thanksgiving” in the United States.   Most Americans won’t work tomorrow and we will probably be too full on Friday to read email, so this will be the last message I send out this week.  For the past week and a half and I have been on vacation with my family in Providence Rhode Island.  This past weekend we visited my family in New York City.  I have had a great time with family and friends.  I am leaving for Iraq soon and this time has allotted my family and I to take a much-needed break prior to the deployment.  It has also provided me an opportunity to reflect on this past year, the past several years, and what I am believing God for in the years to come.  Through it all I can truly say that I am thankful.

This year has involved moving my family cross-country, putting our home up for sale/rent (that is still on the market), dealing with new work environments, new schools, new childcare, a new church, an upcoming deployment, and etc.  Yes, 2008 has been a bit more hectic than some of the previous years, but with it all, through it all, and IN it all, I am thankful!  As I sit here in my sister’s kitchen, writing this email to you, early in the morning, I can sincerely say that my heart is filled with thanksgiving.  Yes, I know that many consider thanksgiving to be about turkey and stuffing, macaroni and cheese and cornbread, and pumpkin or sweet potato pie; about football and snow, fireplaces and family, and about eating too much and resting too little.  I will admit that I enjoy all of those things.  But thanksgiving to me is bigger than all of that.  Thanksgiving is an attitude, thanksgiving is a lifestyle.  Every day should be a day of thanksgiving!

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica he taught about living a life that is pleasing to God.  In his closing remarks he said, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  What was Paul saying?  What was He teaching us?  I believe was telling us that the secret to living a life that is pleasing to God is to maintain your joy, to keep an active prayer life, and to GIVE THANKS to God IN all circumstances.  Notice that he said “IN” all circumstances and not “FOR” all circumstances.  If we will be honest we would admit that not everything that happens to us is good and we don’t always like everything we face.  But the point is that we should trust God enough to believe that at the-end-of-the-day we will still come out on top.  I may not always be able to Thank Him FOR IT, but I can still thank Him IN IT.  This is how I live a life of THANKSGIVING!  A life of Praise!

So what does this mean to you today? It means that as you walk with God you will not always get what you expect and you may not always get what you want, but you can have confidence in God enough to know that when it is all said and done, you will not be disappointed.  This reality, this confidence, is what enables you to live a lifestyle of Thanksgiving!  Look back and be thankful.  Look forward and be excited.  You serve a God that has blessed you, is blessing you, and will bless you.  You have lots to be thankful for.  So as you eat too much and rest too little, as you enjoy football and family, turkey and stuffing, take the time to thank God tomorrow and every day.  Develop a lifestyle of thanksgiving!  Give thanks in all circumstances!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I may not always like my circumstances.  I may not even be able to thank You FOR my circumstances, but I declare that I will thank You IN them.  I know that when it is all said and done, the situations I face will work out for my good, so instead of waiting until I see it to say it, I praise You now!  I am excited NOW!  I am expectant NOW!  I am THANKFUL NOW!  Every day, for me, will be a day of Thanksgiving!  Form this day forward Thanksgiving is part of my lifestyle!  Praise is what I DO!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:16 & 17) Choose Your Friends Wisely

(Prov 4:16 & 17 MSG)  Evil people are restless unless they’re making trouble; They can’t get a good night’s sleep unless they’ve made life miserable for somebody.  Perversity is their food and drink, violence their drug of choice.

First of all I pray you enjoyed the Thanksgiving weekend.  I had a great time with my family as we enjoyed way too much food and had lots of fun.  I am back on the West Coast now and still trying to catch up on missed sleep.  That’s interesting, because this message has something to do with sleep.  So as we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God,” we pick up where we last left off.  Solomon has been going to great lengths to warn us against walking down the path of the wicked, against associating with the wrong people, against picking the wrong friends.  Here he makes it plain.  He paints a clear picture of the people that we should stay away from.  As I read these two verses I knew right away that I did not need to look up the Hebrew meanings of the words, look through several commentaries, or Bible dictionaries, no, I needed only to think about the many people I have met through the course of my life that meet this description.

I am sure you have met your lot of troublemakers.  It seems like they are unhappy unless they are ‘stirring the pot.’  They find pleasure in making others miserable.  They get excited when they have incriminating evidence to spread in gossip.  Solomon says that they can’t get a good night’s sleep unless they have negatively affected someone’s life.  In other words, when others are doing well it keeps them up at night.  They find a preserve satisfaction in knowing that they have done their part in disrupting the peace of another.  Wickedness provides them sleep and rest, perversity is their food and drink, violence is their drug of choice.

We make hundreds of choices every day.  If we think about it, our day is full of choice, after choice, after choice.  Getting out of bed in the morning is a choice – one that I sometimes don’t like to make.  We choose to brush our teeth, take a shower, what we will eat, what we will wear, what path we will take to work, what we will do when we get there, and the list can go on and on.  Obviously, some decisions are more important than others and therefore require more deliberation.  You should take more time, for example, in choosing whom to marry and connect with for the rest of your life, over what to eat for lunch today.  One of the decisions that we should place in the important category is the decision of whom we will call our friend.  You can tell a lot about someone by looking at his or her friends.  Most people choose friends that have like interests, ambitions, character, and lifestyle.  I know the term is used lightly today, but it should be reserved for someone that you can pour into and someone that can pour into you; someone you can let your guard down around and know that they will not make your pay for it.  Since your time on the earth is limited you should choose carefully whom to spend that time with.  Solomon tells us NOT to spend our time with the ungodly, unrighteous, mischievous troublemakers that can’t sleep unless they have made someone’s life miserable.

So what does this mean to you today? Someone said, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.”  Think about your friends for a moment.  What do they say about you?  What do their lives say about your decision making process?  Are they people that build up or tear down?  Are they people who help or hurt others?  Choose your friends wisely, whether you like it or not, they do make a difference in your life!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I know unrighteous, ungodly, mischievous troublemakers that take pleasure in making others miserable, but these people are not people that I consider friends.  I choose to associate with people of like-precious-faith; people that help build up and not tear down.  I surround myself with people that help me feed my faith and starve my doubts; people that are making an impact for Your Kingdom in the earth.  I walk with them and they walk with me.  Together we make a difference!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:18) The Path of Light

(Prov 4:18 KJV) But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In our last message Solomon told to choose our friends wisely; telling us not to associate with the ungodly, unrighteous, mischievous troublemakers that can’t sleep unless they have made someone else’s life miserable.  He has already told us about the perils of their path, the path of the ungodly, the path of wicked.  He now gives us the alternative.  It would not be a choice if we did not have another option.  The good news is that we do.  Solomon does a wonderful job of describing the path of God, the way of the righteous, the life of the just.  He says that it is like the shining light that shines more and more as the day progresses, until it is a perfect (full) day.  I like the way the King James Version put it, but the Contemporary English Version makes it even clearer, saying, “The lifestyle of good people is like sunlight at dawn that keeps getting brighter until broad daylight.”

Just like daylight starts out as just a glimpse of light over the horizon and continues to increase until the sun is shining brightly overhead, our life in Christ should progress to the point where we wake up one morning and realize that God’s goodness is shining brightly all throughout every facet of our lives.  I can identify with that glimpse, that glimmer of light breaking through the darkness, and how it grew brighter and brighter as I walked with God.  On August 27th, 1995 I gave my life to Christ.  On the morning of August 28th, I knew that I was different, I knew that my decision the night before had changed everything, but I did not know what to do next.  I knew there was a new path before me, but that path was nothing more than a glimmer of light coming over the horizon.  It wasn’t enough light to keep me from stumbling, it wasn’t enough light to expose all the pitfalls within the darkness, no, it wasn’t even enough light to see down the road, but what I did have was enough light to take one more step.  And that’s what I did.  I took baby step after baby step in Christ until that light became brighter and brighter.  And then one day, I am not sure when, I woke up and I realized that I was living it the light.  Not only was I living in the light, but I had become light.  Not only was God shining brightly TO me, but He was shining brightly THROUGH me.  Not only was I on the road to God, but I represented that road for others, for those that were still in darkness, for those that were seeking that glimmer just beyond the horizon.

The Message Bible translation of this verse explains my experience well, it says, “The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine.”  If the path of the wicked is gloomy, dark, and dangerous, then the path of the just is welcoming, bright, and safe.  The longer you stay on it, the more you become it.  You become light in then midst of darkness, peace in the midst of chaos, love in the midst of hatred, an emissary of God in the midst of others.

So what does this mean to you today? It simply means that you should continue down the path of God.  It doesn’t matter if you have been walking down this path for 50 years or if you just got on it, the point is that you should continue to move forward.  The more you go the more you grow; the more light you receive the more light you become.  First God becomes the difference FOR you, then He starts to make a difference in the lives of others THROUGH you.

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank You for shining brightly for me to see.  When I first came to You your path seemed like nothing more than a glimmer of light breaking over the horizon, but the more I walked with You the more the light became my life.  I woke up one morning and realized that not only is Your light is shining brightly FOR me, but it is shining brightly IN me and THROUGH me.  Use me as light for someone else today!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:19) The Path of Darkness

(Prov 4:19 MSG) But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker– travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  Solomon, for several verses, gave us an extensive warning against the way of the wicked.  In yesterday’s message (v.18), he finally gave us the alternative – the path of the just.  We learned that the path of the just is the path of light and the longer we stay on it, the brighter the light shines and the more light we receive, the more light we become.  God’s path of light starts out as just a glimmer of light breaking over the horizon, but it then grows unto the brightness of noonday.  We walk and walk with God until we get to the point where we realize that His light is shining brightly over us, in us, and through us.  It is important to understand the vivid picture of light, brightness, goodness, and safety that Solomon painted for us when describing the path of the just, because for this morning’s text he goes back to the path of the wicked.  He painted such a clear picture of the path of the just, the path of light, because he wanted to contrast it with the path of the wicked, the path of darkness.

If the path of the just is a path of increasing light, then the opposite is also true.  Solomon tells us that the path of the wicked, the road of wrongdoing, gets increasingly darker.  The darkness grows until the traveler doesn’t know where he/she is going.  They stumble and they don’t know why, they trip and they don’t know what they are tripping over.  They have no way of seeing where they are going, nor the pitfalls that await them.  They may be taking steps, but they fail to make progress.  They have activity, but not productivity.  They have continuous and strenuous effort, but to no avail.  They started out with just a decision or two of darkness, a sin here and a sin there.  “No big thing,” they thought.  But their darkness grew and grew and before they knew it, they woke up on a path so dark that they can’t seem to find a way out of.

Now, when Solomon talks about a dark path and he does not describe what most Americans envision.  Most Americans envision a path at night, but with our modern society, extensive power grids, and expansive lighted infrastructure, even at night in the US you can see what lies ahead of you.  But I remember going to the Dominican Republic many times as a kid and the village where my grandmother lived did not have electricity.  When it got dark, most people went to sleep.  Why?  Because when it was dark, it was utterly dark.  Unless the moon was clear and provided some light, the paths were too dark to travel down without accepting the dangers inherent to the darkness.  If you chose to walk around in the darkness you were also choosing to accept the risk of stumbling, falling, or worse.  This is the type of darkness that Solomon knew; darkness so deep that it consumes everything and creates an environment full of ignorance and error, uncertainty and confusion, danger and misery.  I guess the worse part is not knowing what you stumble over.  The travelers of this path stumble over unrecognizable dangers.  They fall into sin, but are often not aware of how they got there; which means they have no way of avoiding it the next time.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that, once again, you have a choice.  You can choose the path of light or the path of darkness, but make your choice wisely.  Each path will grow on you.  One will create increasing light that produces warmth, intelligence, peace, and safety.  The other will create increasing darkness that produces cold, ignorance, fear, and danger.  I hope the choice is clear – choose the path of God, the path of light!

Confession for today:  Lord God, thank You for giving me the ability to choose and I thank You for making the choice so clear.  I choose Your path, the path of light, and I grow in grace and in the knowledge of Your Son daily.  I see clearly and I am able to avoid pitfalls, hindrances and obstacles.  If I ever do stumble, I am able to quickly repent, to learn from my mistake, and to avoid it from ever happening again, because I am on the path of light!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:20) Incline Thine Ear

(Prov 4:20 NLT) My child, pay attention to what I say.  Listen carefully to my words.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  Solomon, to this point, has taught us a great deal.  He has painted vivid pictures of a path of light and a path of darkness and he has instructed us to take the path of light.  This morning he reiterates his paternal role and calls us (the readers) his children once again.  Just as a father wants to se his children prosper, he wants to se us grow in God, in grace, and in the knowledge of God’s Word.  With the admonishment and love of a father he tells us to pay close attention to what he is saying.  The King James Version says, “Incline thine ear.”  The sense is that if we were physically listening to Solomon in an open forum, at this point he would urge us to sit up, to slide to the edge of our seats, to tune in carefully with Godly anticipation to what he will say next.  For the next few verses (if not all scripture) are very powerful.  Verses 20-23 are part of a list of scriptures that my Spiritual Father gave me early on this year.  They have been part of my meditation all year long.  So needless to say, I am excited about getting to this portion of Proverbs.  But getting back to Solomon’s point, he doesn’t want us to miss what he is saying.  He wants us to take his words (God’s Words) seriously.  He knows that humans have a tendency to listen, without truly listening; to read, without truly reading.  He urges us to peak up our senses and our attention.  He wants us to be in strict listening/receiving mode.

This reminds me of a passage in Nehemiah chapter eight.  The Bible says, “And when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their towns.  And all the people came together like one man into the wide place in front of the water-doorway; and they made a request to Ezra the scribe that he would put before them the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.  And Ezra the priest put the law before the meeting of the people, before the men and women and all those who were able to take it in, on the first day of the seventh month.  He was reading it in the wide place in front of the water-doorway, from early morning till the middle of the day, in the hearing of all those men and women whose minds were able to take it in; and the ears of all the people were open to the book of the law” (verses 1-3).  Let’s glean a few golden nuggets from this passage:

1.  They came together as one man:  Not only were they tuned in to what God was saying through Ezra, but they tuned in together.  This is what happens when you are in a church where everyone is tuned in to what God is saying through the man/woman of God.

2.  They asked Ezra to bring the Book:  They were not there to hear the words of man; they were gathered together to hear the Words of God.  They asked Ezra to ‘bring the Book.’  Sometimes I imagine you, the readers of Today’s Word, telling me to ‘bring the Book’ as I prepare each morning to share what God gives me for you.

3.  The ears of all the people were open to the book:  Ezra read for six hours and the people were tuned in the entire time.  See, they did not have the luxury of having their own copy of the Bible.  They knew the value of God’s Word and they valued it enough to listen attentively for hours.  Their ears were open, their hearts were attentive, their souls were in receiving mode.  They knew that what they were hearing could change their lives.

So what does this mean to you today? Quite simply, it means that you should always come to God’s Word with your ears and your heart tuned in to what He is saying.  Don’t allow distraction to cause you to miss what God is saying to you as you read and listen to His Word.

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank You for giving me access to Your Word.  I don’t take it lightly.  I submit to what You have said and what You are saying.  When I read Your Word I read it attentively and carefully.  When I listen to Your Word I listen with my ears and heart open; ready to receive.  I block out all distractions, because I know that Your Words are life unto me.  They govern my conduct, encourage my soul and protect me from harm.  Your Word is the ruler by which I line up my life!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:21) His Word – My Heart

(Prov 4:21 NIV) Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In our last message Solomon told us to pay close attention to what he was about to say next.  What he was about to tell us was part of the keys to his life’s success.  He now tells us not to allow his words, or better stated in this case, God’s Words, out of our sight.  Solomon instructs us to keep them within the midst of our heart.  Have you ever met someone who had access to something that they needed, but since they failed to exercise that access they failed to enjoy the benefits of it?  A simple example would be a person that has a winter coat in his house, but he can’t remember where he put it, so he is resigned to entering the cold weather unprotected.  Now he faces the elements in an exposed, defenseless, and vulnerable state.  He subjects his body to the risk of illness and injury, all because he cannot remember where his coat is.  He knows that he has a coat.  He fondly remembers the warmth that it provided when he had it on, but since he can’t remember where he put it, he has to deal with the consequences.  It’s almost worse than the person that never had a coat at all.  That person never enjoyed the warmth and protection of the coat, so they really don’t know what they are missing.  But the person that knows what a coat can provide, and is then haunted by the fact that they have access to one, but simply can’t remember where they put it, this person has to live with the pain of a failed memory.

Solomon’s father (David) knew the importance of a good memory, especially in our walk with God.  He asked the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?”  Think about that for a moment.  This is not just a man, but David explains that he is a young man.  A young man full of hot passions and desires, poor in knowledge and experience; how shall this young man find purity and then keep it?  How shall this young man resist the multiple temptations to do wrong?  David gives us the answer, saying, “By living according to God’s Word.”  This seems a bit obvious, but we all know that you can’t give what you don’t have, you can’t teach what you don’t know, you can’t lead where you haven’t gone, and you can’t recall what you have never learned.  For you to live in accordance with God’s Word you must first know it.  You must have read it and read it in such a way that you are now able to recall it.  That’s why David went on to say, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (see Psalm 199:9 &11).  David knew that if the young man, the old man, and every man in between, was able to take God’s Word and hide it in their hearts – in the inner most portion of their being – then they would be able to walk in purity, to resist the luring power of sin.

Solomon no doubt learned this lesson from his father and he now takes it one step further with us.  Since he understands the importance of remembering God’s Word, he tells us not to let it depart from out of our sight.  Another translation says, “Keep my message in plain view at all times.  Concentrate!  Learn it by heart!”  Another says, “Don’t forget a single word.”

So what does this mean to you today? It means that you should do whatever you need to do to keep God’s Word before your eyes.  Do whatever you need to do to remember.  Whether its 3×5 cards, a Christian screensaver, listening to the Word on audio CD, whatever.  Do whatever you need to do to receive and retain God’s Word.  It’s not good enough to wear God’s Word ON your heart like a charm on a necklace.  No, God wants you to take His Word and put it IN your heart where it reside as a rule – as the ruler by which you judge every decision.

Confession for today:  Lord God, how can I keep my way pure?  I know You have given me all that I need to walk in purity, holiness, and righteousness.  I am covered by Your blood, anointed by Your Spirit, and I have access to Your Word.  The onus is now on me to read, retain, and live what I learn.  I declare, by faith, that I hide Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.  Your Word is IN my heart as a rule and it is the ruler by which I judge every decision.  I live a life that is pleasing to You by living in accordance with Your Word!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:22) The God Kind of Life

(Prov 4:22 NLT)  For they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In our last message Solomon taught us that God’s Word should not just be on display in our lives, as a necklace ON our heart, but it should be the foundation for our lives, as a rule IN our heart.  Now he tells us why.  Solomon gives us motivation to read, memorize, and live the Word.  He says that God’s Words bring life – the God kind of life – to all those that find them and healing to their whole body.  Let’s break this down into two parts:

1.  For they bring life to those who find them:  This is a quite interesting statement because just as Solomon was supernaturally led to write these words, I believe he knew – although he had no way (humanly) of knowing – that these words would some day find their way to the hands of the common man.  The Bible is the #1 all time best seller.  The average Christian today owns several copies of the Bible.  But the sad reality is that most Christians don’t read, with any regularity, any of the several copies they own.  Solomon makes it clear that God’s Words will bring life to those that find them.  This implies that: 1) they did not have this ‘type’ of life prior to coming in contact with God’s Word, and 2) not everyone is going to find them.  Although all humans that walk the earth today are alive (physically), that does not mean that they are alive to God (spiritually).  God’s Word provides the truth, the gospel, the way to eternal life.  When a person accept Jesus the Christ as Lord they are Born-Again (see John 3).  They had already been born once, a physical birth, by they were lacking a second birth, a spiritual birth, a newness of life.  We might have been existing before coming to Christ, but we were not truly living.  Now that we are in Christ we have life, true life, eternal life, the God kind of life.

2.  And healing to their whole body:  For the word healing other translations use the word health.  While it is true that God’s Word is full of healing promises for the sick, the ultimate goal, God’s best, is for us to walk in health or wholeness.  Nothing missing, nothing broken – that’s the life that God wants us to live.  And then it says “whole body.”  This is a reference to the entire man.  You are I are tripartite beings like God.  God is Father, Son and Spirit.  We are Spirit, Soul and Body.  When we find God’s Word, and then allow it to be the rule by which we live, we position ourselves to enjoy health in our Spirit, Soul, and Body.  No, God does not want us to be saved, but then miserably saved.  He wants us to go to heaven, but He wants us to enjoy the ride.  He wants us to possess a Spirit that is tuned in to His Spirit, that is capable of leading us in righteousness.  He wants us to have a healthy Soul.  Our Soul is comprised of our mind (our thinker), emotions (our feeler), and will (our chooser).  God wants our mind to be sharp, our emotions to be in control, and our will to be inclined to choosing things that please Him.  And finally, he wants our body to be healthy.  He wants us to physically be able to carry out our destiny.  This is the strong, stable, and secure life that God wants us to have and this is the life that we can have if we find, ascribe to, and live by His Word!

So what does this mean to you today? It means that God wants you to be spiritually attuned and attentive, mentally astute and alert, psychologically stable and sound, emotionally under control, and physically fit and strong.  This is the type of life that God’s Words can unlock for those that find them, apply them, and ascribe to them as a rule!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I declare, right now, that I want the life that You want me to have.  I find Your Word, I read it, I meditate on it, I observe to DO it, I ascribe to it as the rule for my life.  Your Word brings life to me and health/healing to my entire being.  My spirit is submitted to Your Spirit and attuned to what You are saying daily.  My mind is alert and awake, ready to face the challenges of today.  My psyche is stable and secure.  I am sound in all my ways.  I rule over my emotions, they don’t rule over me.  And I am physically fit, healthy, and strong.  I have the discipline to eat the right foods, exercise, and promote long life!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

(4:23) Keep Your Heart

(Prov 4:23 KJV) Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In our last message from this series Solomon urged us to remain steadfastly focused on the Word of God.  When we allow God’s Word to be the rule by which we live we make ourselves prime candidates for His grace and blessing.  In essence, remove all the blessing-blockers and we allow his blessing to flow unconstrained.  When we choose to ascribe to His Word, not as a textbook to merely study, but rather as a life-book to live, then we literally make our own way prosperous and we enjoy good success (see Joshua 1:8).

Solomon has given us many principles, countless golden nuggets to this point, but this text ranks up there with the top of them.  He tells us to keep our heart with all diligence.  Why?  Because out of it flows the issues of life.  Some scholars say that the heart here is a reference to our spirit, others says that it is our soul, and then some believe it is a matter of the spirit and the soul.  I agree with the latter.  Solomon’s reference here is to our inner man, both our spirit and soul.  Our spirit, where our true essence resides, and our soul where our mind (thinker), emotions (feeler), and will (chooser) reside.  The only part of us left out of this equation is our body.  And yet many people focus way more attention, energy and effort on the condition of their body, their outward man, than they do their heart, their inner man.

The word keep here gives us the sense that Solomon is urging us to protect our inner man; to put up a wall of defense against the errors of undisciplined conduct.  It is utterly dangerous to allow our mind to stray or remain idle, to allow our emotions to fluctuate unchecked, to allow our will to choose what we know is wrong, and to allow our spirit to wander without direction.  Yes, this is our inner man and it is here that decisions are made at forks in the road, that chances are taken at divine opportunities, that the faith line is crossed at life-changing moments.  The New Living Translation says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  I guess that says it all.  For while many spend countless hours in the gym building their bodies – and let me say that physical fitness is important, but just not as important as the condition of your internal man – the danger lies in leaving their inner man un or underdeveloped.  Greater than the discipline required to get up in the morning for a run, is the discipline required to abstain from sin, to do what is right the sight of God, to walk circumspectly before Him, in essence, to keep our heart.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that, in general, all the actions of life flow from the heart, from the inner man.  So make no mistake, if you want to become the person that God desires for you to be, if you want to arrive at the final destination He envisions for your life, if you want to enjoy Godly success in life, then you will have to develop the discipline required to keep/guard/protect your inner man.  It’s in your inner man that the course of your life is determined.  It’s in your inner man that you either thrive or starve in God.  It’s in your inner man that you either overcome or succumb to the temptations of the enemy and the flesh.  You may fool others by being a big, strong, and physically fit imposing specimen, but God looks past the outward appearance and He judges the heart (1st Sam 16:7)  How do you look on the inside?  How fit is your inner man?  How do you look to God?

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank You for teaching me the importance of both physical and internal fitness!  I keep my heart with all diligence, because I know that that’s where true discipline is needed.  I keep my mind sharp and alert.  I read and study to keep it crisp and ready.  I ruler over my emotions and keep them in check.  I train my will to line up with Yours.  And I submit my spirit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  My inner man, my heart, is fit, firm, and focused.  I will arrive at the final destination You want for me!  I am confident of this, because my heart is right before You.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:24) Watch Your Mouth

(Prov 4:24 NIV) Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

First of all, I want you to know that I am now in Iraq, I am getting settled in, and am looking forward to being used by God mightily here.  Thank you for your prayers.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  When I sent out the last message I wrote it about Proverbs 4:23, but I failed to remove the previous day’s verse from the email, so I apologize for any confusion that might have caused.  I was in an open bay barracks in Kuwait at the time, and I was a bit tired from the trip.  What the verse actually says is, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  The point of the message was that the course of our life is determined from the inside out.  With that in mind, the development of our heart – our inner man – should be the primary focus of our lives.  Solomon knew that true change, lasting change, eternal change, always happens from the inside out, and that is important to understand as we move on to the following verse where he said, “Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.”  There is a direct connection between the condition of your heart and the fruit of your lips.  In other words, what comes out of your mouth is an indicator of what resides in your heart.

I often say, “What’s in you abundantly will come out of your eventually.”  I get this from something that Jesus said in Matthew 12.  He said, “A tree is identified by its fruit.  If a tree is good, its fruit will be good.  If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad… For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart” (verses 33-35).  Another translation says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  Your words are very important, for many reasons, but one of the greatest reasons why your words are so important is because they are an indicator of the condition of your inner man.  Just like the quality or character of a fruit is an indication of the quality or character of the tree, your words tell us (outwardly) where you stand (inwardly).

Where the Bible says, “The abundance of the heart,” it could also be read, “The deposit of the heart.”   Your heart is your deposit.  Whatever you allow through your eye and ear gates continually will eventually get down into your heart.  What you watch and listen to become deposits that will affect your inner man.  Whatever you allow through your gates (ears and eyes) will either feed your faith or starve it, either help you resist doubt or help promote it.  Be careful what you allow in, because it will eventually come out.  And then all of this comes back to your words, because your words are birthed out of the reservoir of your soul.

So what does this mean to you today? A few things:
1.  The words you speak are a litmus test for the condition of your heart (deposit).  If you don’t like your output, then its time to change your input.  Check what you allow in your eye gates and ear gates.

2.  Your words matter:  The power of death and life are in the tongue (Prov 18:21).  I did an entire series on the importance of your words.  In many ways your tongue is dictating the course of your life.  Additionally, daily your words are telling everyone else who you are.  You are your words and your words are you.  If you speak perversity and corruption every day, then that’s who people will think that you are.

3.  You can change:  If you don’t like the message your words are portraying about you, then it is time to change.  If you change your input you will change your heart; if you change your heart, you will change your words; if you change your words, you can change your life!

Confession for today:  Lord God, my words come out of the abundance of my heart.  My heart is filled with what I see and listen to.  I check my input and ensure that I fill my heart with good things.  As I fill my heart with things that are pleasing to You, my words will indicate the condition of my heart.  My words will be words of blessing and not cursing, good and not evil.  Once my input is pure, my heart is right, and my words are righteous, then I cannot help but be blessed.  I change my life by changing my words and I walk in the Blessing!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:25) Eyes that are Fixed and Focused

(Prov 4:25 AMP) Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In our last message Solomon taught us about the power of our words.  Truly, if we can get a handle on our tongue, then we will have a firm handle on our lives.  Solomon now tells us to keep our eyes looking forward, with fixed purpose, towards the path that we believe the Lord is heading us down.  When you first read this verse it seems pretty simple, just look forward and keep going straight.  But if you have lived in the earth for more than two days you know how difficult this can be.  The distractions – today, more than ever – seem endless.  The motivation to do right is scarce and the temptations to do wrong are plenteous.  That’s why Solomon tells us to keep our eyes looking straight, looking forward, looking down God’s path, and to do it with fixed purpose.  This is easier said than done.  To accomplish this our eyes must be:

  • Fixed on the Prize:  Paul said, “Friends, don’t get me wrong: by no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus.  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Phil 3:13,14 MSG).  Dr. Cedric Britt of Houston Texas says that we must have a “Bulldog tenacity” when it comes to our walk with God.  We must know where we are going and we must pursue it daily and with all our might.
  • Not wandering aimlessly:  Yoggi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up somewhere else.”  Obviously, for you to continue down a path, you must first find it.  Spend time with God in prayer and in the Word if you are not certain of the specific path He wants you to take in life, but even while you are searching for your life’s purpose, you will still know the difference between right and wrong.  Follow that which is right, walk down the path that is straight, and do it with fixed focus.  People that are purpose-driven don’t try everything.  They stay focused on the path set before them.
  • Not enticed by everything they see:  I often say, “If you let the devil get your attention for five seconds, he will have your mind for five minutes.”  I have already told you that your eyes are a gateway to your soul.  If you allow the wrong things to enter your eyes you will be enticed down the wrong path.  By keeping your eyes focused and fixed you are protecting your soul, protecting your path, and protecting your life.  Resist the temptations to do wrong and resolve to keep your eyes fixed on the path that is right!

So what does this mean to you today? It simply means that we must make every effort to remain steadfastly fixed and focused on the path God has set before us.  But there is one more thing I must bring out and that is about personal forgiveness.  The Good News Bible translation of this verse says, “Look straight ahead with honest confidence; don’t hang your head in shame.”  While it is true that when we walk with fixed and focused eyes we develop an honest confidence, it is also true than when we slip and fall we often hang our heads in shame.  The initial conviction is good, because it should drive us towards repentance, but to continue in guilt, shame, and conviction is bad, because it will rob us of our confidence.  John told us that we are liars if we claim to be without sin, but He also said that if we confess our sin to God He will forgive us our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing (1st John 1:8,9).  Once God has forgiven you, you must learn to forgive yourself.  So repent, receive forgiveness, and move forward!  Walk with a renewed confidence.  Enter this day with your head held high!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I declare, by faith, that my eyes are fixed on the prize.  I know what You want me to do in life and my eyes are faithfully committed to the path.  I am purpose-driven.  I walk with focused aim.  I resist the many temptations to do wrong.  I enter this day with a bulldog tenacity to do right.  And I also thank You for both being committed to forgive me, if I ever slip, and for blessing me with the gift of being able to forgive myself.  I don’t allow condemnation to set.  If I slip, I am quick to repent, to receive forgiveness, and to forgive myself, so I can enter every day with fearless confidence!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:26) Making Course Corrections

(Prov 4:26 AMP) Consider well the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established and ordered aright.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  In our last message Solomon told us to keep our eyes fixed and focused.  When we allow the enemy to get our attention for five seconds, he will have our mind for five minutes.  These temporary lapses in focus get us off course.  This is why Solomon now tells us to consider well the path of our feet.  In other words, he is telling us to carefully scrutinize our course.  Why?  Because we all have the tendency to put our lives on autopilot.  We believe we know where we are going and we believe we know what we need to do to get there, so we simply set out on that course, fully expecting to arrive.  This technique sounds good and it could work if our path was free of obstacles and detours.  The problem is that our path is never without resistance.  Even subtle changes, if unchecked, can get us severely off course.

Let me explain it this way.  Let’s say that you were a pilot and that you were expecting to fly a cross-country flight from New York to Los Angeles.  You took off from JFK, arrived at the cruising altitude, put the plane on the proper heading (azimuth), and then relaxed.  Well, it would not take long for the plane to get off course.  The plane will encounter resistance from rain, wind, atmosphere imbalances, etc.  The resistance will force the plane, albeit slightly, off course.  To get back on course the pilot must make a course correction.  Now, if you chose to put the plane on autopilot and you remained watchful in the cockpit you would realize that the corrections would be made automatically.  Every few minutes the autopilot would initiate a small correction.  These corrections would keep the plane on the proper heading and you would arrive at LAX as scheduled.  However, without these periodic and seemingly routine corrections, you could wind up in San Francisco, Portland, or somewhere out in the Pacific.  The corrections may have seemed small, but they were very necessary.  Over time the need for small corrections could accumulate and cause you to be hundreds or even thousands of miles off course.

The Word of God is good for correction (2nd Tim 3:16).  If we would slow down long enough to “consider our path,” like out text says, we will be able to identify whether or not we need to make any corrections.  Theologian Matthew Henry said, “Put the word of God in one scale, and what you have done, or are about to do, in the other scale, and see how they agree.”  Taking self-inventory is a necessary exercise.  We are in December of 2008.  More than likely you set out goals or a roadmap for 2008 in January.  Have you gone back to look at those goals?  Have you periodically checked the roadmap throughout the year?  If you never took self-inventory and if you never compared your plan with your current state, then chances are that you are off course.  If you are going to arrive at God’s desired end for your life, then you are going to have to do it ON PURPOSE.  Don’t think that you will just haphazardly arrive at His best.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that God has a plan for your life, it means that He is willing to reveal that plan to you, and it means that knowing His plan does not guarantee the completion of it.  Once you are on the right azimuth, it will take conscious course corrections, on your part, to remain on it.  The constant resistance you face in life is designed to get you off course, but when you take the time to take self-inventory, then you are more apt to make the necessary corrections, to remain on course, and to arrive at God’s best for your life!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I thank you for giving me Your Word.  I weigh Your Word against my actions and my path.  I also thank You for blessing me with Your Spirit.  Your Spirit convicts me, from time to time.  I respond to those convictions by taking self-inventory and making the necessary corrections.  These actions keep me on course to arrive at Your desired end for my life.  Thank You for loving me just the way that I am and thank You for loving me TOO much to leave me that way!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

(4:27) No Swerving!

(Prov 4:27 NIV) Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

This morning we continue our series, “Unlocking the Power of Proverbs – Walking in the Wisdom of God.”  A few messages ago Solomon told us to keep our eyes fixed and focused.  In our last message he told us to consider well the path of our feet.  Now Solomon tells us not to swerve from the path, neither to the right or the left.  He urges us to keep our foot from evil.  Do you see the theme?  The theme here is a recurring theme throughout the Bible and that is that we have a responsibility to make conscious decisions that keep us on the path to God’s desired end for our lives.  Some people make the mistake of thinking that everything is God’s will; that everything that happens, God must have permitted to happen, and therefore, it must be His will for our lives.  No, God’s will is documented in His Word.  When we make decisions that go against God’s Word, then we are making decisions that go against God’s will and we will reap the harvest of those decisions.  Solomon is not teaching us that God will keep our eyes fixed and focused.  He is telling us that we must do that.  Solomon is not teaching us that God will consider the path of our feet.  That responsibility falls on us.  In this morning’s verse, Solomon is not telling us that God will keep us directly on the path, that He will force us not to swerve to the right or to the left.  You and I both know that God will not force us to be blessed.  We can choose to do right or we can choose to do wrong.  We can choose to remain on the path or we can choose to get off of it.  We are no puppets.  We are free moral agents.  God will show us the path, His Spirit will guide us towards the path, and He will send others our way to help direct us towards it, but if at the end of the day we choose to go another way, then God, even though He loves us, will allow us to make our own mistakes.

So what does this mean to you today? It means a great deal.  The cumulative message here is that we must accept, embrace, and apply God’s wisdom to our lives, so that we are equipped to make the decisions that God wants us to make.  With that in mind, let me share a few golden nuggets – not all all-inclusive list – that I believe can help steer you down this process:

1.  Establish a baseline:  The first step is to establish where you are.  It is healthy to periodically take a self-inventory.  How are you doing?  Are you growing?  Where do you stand today?  In what areas are you strong in your walk with God?  In what areas are you weak?  What do you need to work on?  It’s hard to know what you need to do next if you don’t know where you stand.

2.  Learn the Word:  This is a life-long process.  Connect with a Bible-teaching church and allow the Pastor and leaders to take you through a systematic study of the Word of God.  Also, take the time to read and study yourself.  You can’t apply what you don’t know.  You must make every effort to learn what it is what God has left us in His Word.

3.  Renew Your Mind:  Every time you read something in the Word that is in conflict with your norm, then make the effort to change your norm.  You must seek to transform your thoughts to God’s thoughts; your ways to His.  Slowly, but surely, you will find your way of thinking morphing and merging into His.  This is mind-renewal and it is of the utmost importance.

4.  Walk by Faith:  Everything you do in God is done in faith.  Learn to walk, pray, live, fight, and overcome by faith.  It’s an exciting way to live.  When you step out on what you believe God has said, even when you have no sense-realm evidence to support what you are doing, and then you see God backup His Word, it is an awesome thing, and it is the way He expects us to live!

5.  Remain Committed:  This can’t be a one-time thing.  You must remain committed – not turning to the right or the left – every day of your life!

Confession for today:  Lord God, I know that You have a part and I have a part in my life.  I can’t put everything off on You and I won’t.  I commit to making self-evaluations, to working on my areas of weakness, and to remain consistent in my areas of strength.  I learn the Word, I make every effort to renew my mind, and I walk by faith.  Walking by faith in You and in Your Word is the way that I live.  I walk down the road of faith daily and I declare, by faith, that I will not swerve from it, neither to the right or the left!  I keep my feet from evil.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!