Wisdom Devotional: Day 7

Posted on September 29, 2016 by
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Here is day 7 of 365 Days of Wisdom from the Proverbs.  Click the page below to see the full size PDF.  Thanks for reading, and if you find something of value here, please share with your friends and family!

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 6

Posted on September 28, 2016 by
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Here is day 6 of 365 Days of Wisdom from the Proverbs.  I hope these provide  some encouragement to you all!  Remember to click on the page below to get the full size page!

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 5

Posted on September 26, 2016 by
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Here is day 5 of the 365 Days of Wisdom devotionals. You can click on the page below to enlarge and/or download to read later!


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Wisdom Devotional: Day 4

Posted on September 23, 2016 by
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Here is Day 4 of 365 Days of Wisdom.  If you find value in these devotionals, please share them with your friends and family!

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 3

Posted on September 22, 2016 by
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Here is day 3 of the Wisdom Devotionals.

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 2

Posted on September 21, 2016 by
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Here is Day 2 of 365 Days of Wisdom!  Enjoy!

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 1

Posted on September 20, 2016 by
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Here is a new endeavor that I am setting out on…Devotions from the Proverbs. I don’t know how long it will take, but my plan is to eventually put these into a book form, 365 Days of Wisdom. They will all be published here, in PDF form.  I hope that they are something that provides some benefit to your Bible study work!  Click on the image below to see full size version.

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Letting Worldly Thinking Into Our Families…

Posted on August 27, 2016 by
Filed Under General | 3 Comments |

***I started to write this as a simple Facebook Post, but it got too long. It is not the normal type of writing, or format that I usually try to use, but I thought I’d make these thoughts available to any who might be interested.  I am sure this post will draw a lot of criticism.  I reserve the right to delete/censor any comments that I deem to be unprofitable to reasonable discussion.***

It is undeniable that all that is in the world eventually starts to leech into the church. Take all of the divorce scenarios that are accepted in many places, which really allow for adultery to be present in the church. What wasn’t acceptable in society 50 or 60 years ago is readily accepted now, and sometimes even celebrated. The birth of children out of wedlock used to be unacceptable even to society at large, but now is a common part of life…and it is accepted and even celebrated within many churches (with perhaps a modicum show of repentance). There are many different examples that could be used, but I really want to focus on a particular principle that perhaps has been overlooked.

 These issues have leeched into the church as a whole because they leeched into families. Parents sought to protect their children or grandchildren from the repercussions of unwise and even sinful behavior, by being accepting of their folly. This has never been more evident than in our current society. We have put so much emphasis (as a society) on establishing “self respect” or “self worth” in our children that we have gotten to the point that every single opinion, no matter how ridiculous it might be, is considered valid and worthy of consideration. Why do we have kids on college campuses now that can’t deal with people who think or believe differently than themselves? Why do we need “safe spaces” for people to hide from contrary views, or heaven forbid, “mean” words? Perhaps at least a part of it is that these kids (who are not really kids any longer) have never had to face any kind of challenge to what they think or believe. They have been told that whatever they want to think, whatever they want to believe is valid, and shouldn’t be questioned.

 While I see this as a systemic, societal issue, that is not really what concerns me. What concerns me is that it is clearly creeping into Christian families as well. Parents have begun to take on the (very worldly) view that they have to build all the self confidence in the world in their children, and that means never telling them that they have a bad (or even worse, wrong) idea or belief. I understand the concept of needing to let our kids make mistakes, but if we take the position that we are going to just keep letting them go down the wrong path, and never say anything to them, then we are not doing them any favors, and we are not doing our job as a parent!

It has become en vogue to take up some cause, presumably under the pretense that we can show how much we care, and yet we never really consider that they reflect, and even propagate a completely humanistic and ungodly worldview. Organizations like PETA and Planned Parenthood may be represented as compassionate organizations, but they really represent an anti-God view of the world. PETA, for example, is based on an Evolutionary worldview, which places animals and their welfare on the same (or a higher) level than humans. They spout a belief that humans are just living in the animals’ world, and therefore must yield the “right of way” in all circumstances to animals. Any “use” of the animals is rebuked, often with militaristic venom. This view is completely unbiblical. It is not just an “opinion” that differs from mine. It is antithetic to the biblical teaching of why God created animals! We as humans don’t just live in the animals’ world…they live in ours! God created them for our use, and to take a differing position is unbiblical. When we let our young, more enlightened (that is sarcasm) wander off down a trail like this, they are not just expressing themselves, they are not just developing their own, legitimate, opinion. They are in fact, holding, and teaching a doctrine contrary to “sound doctrine” and supporting worldly organizations that intend to undermine the very concept of God.

The same principles are true about Planned Parenthood. While we act as if we are merely seeking to show compassion to those who need it, this organization is founded on the idea of destroying any concept of morality. They exist on the premise of providing information and product that encourage immoral behavior. They are responsible for the slaying of untold millions of unborn children. They push agendas that are clearly anti-biblical. They often even mock God in their propaganda. Supporting this organization is not a sign of enlightenment. It is not a sign of compassion. It is a sign of a rejection of biblical principles. Why would we as Christian parents allow our children to become involved in these “causes” and even try to defend them when they misuse biblical passages and principles to justify their actions?

This comes back around to our allowing society’s ideas for how we should parent influence us. We buy into the idea that our child’s self confidence is all that is important. We defend them at all cost…even when we know they are wrong. All because we don’t want to hurt their self confidence!  Might I suggest that we try returning to biblical principles?  The New Testament does not task us as parents with raising our children in the self confidence of the world. It tasks us with raising them in the “training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  In fact, the concept of “self confidence” is foreign to the New Testament! Our goal is not to build our children’s confidence in themselves, but in the Lord. Do we want them to have the confidence to go out into the world and be successful? (Success should certainly be the topic of another post.) Yes, we do. But that confidence cannot be placed in “self”! If we let them go off into areas that are clearly wrong, we are doing them no favors. And if we look at our job as being that we are to instill “self-confidence”, we have the wrong idea of our responsibility.

It is time for all parents, but Christians particularly, to stop defending our children when they are wrong. Yes, they will make mistakes. No, I can’t force them to do the right things. However, I don’t have to act as if their foray into wrong areas is acceptable. And, I certainly should never try to defend their unbiblical ideas and practices!

The Call of Wisdom

Posted on August 25, 2016 by
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Wisdom Literature | 1 Comment |

As our task for the current calendar year has been to read through a large portion of the Wisdom Literature of scripture, perhaps it is wise to address the very concept of what wisdom is. This week I was reading a discussion online, and one of the participants appealed to James 1:5 with the intent of supporting the idea that God continues to share new revelation with His people today:

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

Using this passage exposed that this participant did not truly understand what wisdom is! Unfortunately, many people have the same problem when it comes to understanding scripture. They confuse the ideas of wisdom and knowledge.

Biblical wisdom is:

1. LN 32.32 wisdom, prudence, discretion, i.e., the capacity to understand, and hence act. wisely (Col 1:28; 4:5); 2. LN 32.37 insight, a more or less formal kind of educational teaching in the ancient world, so, the content of what is regarded as wise (Ac 7:22; 1Co 2:6)

The emphasis here is not the gaining of knowledge, but the using of knowledge. When James instructed believers to ask God for wisdom, he was not at all suggesting that God was going to be providing new information to any and all who might ask for it. In fact, the New Testament is quite clear on the subject:  God revealed all that He intended man to have in the first century, through His inspired writers. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into “all truth” (John 16:12-15). Paul said that this was exactly what happened, as the Holy Spirit revealed the mind of God to him and the other inspired men, and they wrote it down for everyone to read (Ephesians 3). Paul could confidently tell the Galatian brethren that they were not to listen to any kind of new message, even if they (the apostles) or an angel from heaven should try to proclaim it to them (Galatians 1:6-9). This was because all that God intended for Christians to have was already revealed in the first century. The writings that were given, even though they came following the writing of the book of Galatians, merely repeated what had already been delivered by God through inspired teachers.

Wisdom, however, is something that all believers should be seeking. How do we put into practice the instructions that have been given by God? To achieve that end, it is important to have a biblical view of what wisdom is and the part it plays in the plan of God for mankind!

Proverbs 8 provides some insight from God concerning the nature of wisdom. It expresses how important wisdom is, and reflects how those who believe in God should view and respond to wisdom.

The wise man, in this section of proverbs, personified wisdom. By doing so, we come to know wisdom as a wonderful, godly woman. There are several characteristics that we can draw from the descriptions portrayed by the author.

Wisdom is vocal…

Solomon portrays wisdom as a woman who is crying out to all who will listen to her. This is a description that he uses more than once in the collection of proverbs (Proverbs 1:20, 21; 9:3). Wisdom is not something that only the elite have opportunity to hear and apply. She calls out, and gives opportunity to all to hear. Solomon depicts her actions as desperately seeking someone to listen to her, pleading with them to respond:

She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city, At the entrance of the doors: “To you, O men, I call, And my voice is to the sons of men. O you simple ones, understand prudence, And you fools, be of an understanding heart. (Proverbs 8:3–5)

Wisdom is available to all who will listen to her. This is why James could instruct us to ask God for it, and He will provide it liberally. Those who are already willing to appeal to God for such wisdom have their ears open to her cry, and are seeking to employ her righteousness!

Wisdom is righteousness…

Solomon clearly identifies the words of wisdom as being righteous. It is prudent to think of the idea of righteousness as being right-ness. There is a standard of what is right and what is wrong. God’s word defines that for us. Wisdom demands that our actions follow that which is right! One cannot continue to follow that which is sinful, that which is against the revealed will of God, and still either consider himself wise or hold himself up as an example of wisdom!

Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, And from the opening of my lips will come right things; For my mouth will speak truth; Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. (Proverbs 8:6–7)

Wisdom is valuable…

Some may ask the question, “What good is wisdom?”  Sometimes it may seem that those who proceed in their actions with wisdom don’t have much to show for it. But, the problem is that when we make such judgments, we are looking at a small snapshot of a situation, and not the big picture. Solomon said that there is an innate value to wisdom, and that value is far above those things that many believe to be of the greatest value:

Receive my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choice gold; For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. (Proverbs 8:10–11)

Sometimes, if wisdom does not produce something tangible (like money can) its value is overlooked or ignored. Of course, such a reaction, in and of itself, represents a lack of wisdom. One who is so shortsighted as to not be able to see the bountiful blessings that come by acting with wisdom are not exhibiting wisdom anyway! Wisdom has the ability to accomplish so much more for us, both in this life and looking toward eternity, than foolishness could ever hope to do.

Wisdom is powerful…

Those who employ wisdom have the ability to harness power. Of course, power can be snatched by those who are foolish, but their power cannot last long. Power established on wisdom is true and long lasting. Solomon said:

Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength. By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, All the judges of the earth. (Proverbs 8:14–16)

This type of power is evident when we examine the rulers of the world at large. Those who show wisdom have a power that is far more stable than those who rule in foolishness. We should appeal to our rulers, wherever we may live, to seek wisdom, and not just human wisdom, but that wisdom that comes from appealing to God’s instruction (James 3:15-18).

As Christians today, we are not looking for some kind of earthly power. We can see, and even appreciate, how earthly rulers can rule well by appealing to wisdom, but that is not our focus. The kind of rule that we want to employ has much more to do with our spiritual wellbeing. Fathers are to rule their families well (1 Timothy 3:4). Elders are to rule the church well (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Neither of these positions are domineering positions of rule, but rather valuable leadership positions in the family and in the church. Wisdom will differentiate between the two attitudes! With wisdom, we may not be the kind of people who rule nations, but we can be the kind of people that develop homes and churches that reflect what God wants them to be.

Wisdom is eternal…

Solomon describes the wisdom of which he speaks as being in existence from before the time of the creation:

“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. I have been established from everlasting, From the beginning, before there was ever an earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills, I was brought forth; While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields, Or the primal dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there, When He drew a circle on the face of the deep, When He established the clouds above, When He strengthened the fountains of the deep, When He assigned to the sea its limit, So that the waters would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth, Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, (Proverbs 8:22–30)

Wisdom has its source from God. It is an innate characteristic of God. It is one of His characteristics that we are to learn to emulate! This wisdom stands in direct contrast to worldly wisdom. James makes this point clearly:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13–18)

Our responsibility is to draw our actions from the wisdom that is “from above,” which will be evident by the characteristics that are listed by James. When we are acting within the confines of this type of wisdom, we are becoming more and more like God, which should be our goal in this life!

Truly, God is Good…

Posted on July 21, 2016 by
Filed Under Exhortation, Home and Family | 78 Comments |

Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart. (Psalm 73:1)

As I begin this article, I believe it is imperative to convey to you, dear reader, that this is a much more “personal” article than I would normally pen. However, the events of the last couple of weeks in the life of my family have spurred my thinking, and I am hopeful that the thoughts that I now put to paper will be of great encouragement to others.

Over the last few days, I must, unfortunately, admit that there were times in which I have felt more like the psalmist Asaph from verse 2 rather than from verse 1:

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. (Psalm 73:2)

Like Asaph, I had allowed the circumstances that had arisen in my own life to bring doubt, and struggles with faith. Let me give just a bit of background. Two weeks ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to share our great joy with friends and family:  We were expecting our 4th child! That happiness quickly changed to sorrow when at a routine checkup, my wife was told the baby had no heartbeat. We had, like so many other couples, lost our baby.

It is my hope, that by writing a bit about the spiritual process that I have traversed in the last few days, I can encourage others that have either gone through the same tragedy, or who have faced similar tragedies in their own lives. There are several ideas that have been a part of my thoughts over the last few days, which I believe fit together with the grieving process that you can read much more about through psychology books. I hope that as you read and study the thoughts of this article, it might help you in your struggles of life, either now or in the future, when some type of challenge is sure to face you in life!

Everyone Struggles…

No matter how strong we might believe ourselves to be, the time comes when everyone has doubts, and when everyone struggles with faith. In fact, we are warned that just when we think we are at our strongest, that may very well be when we are our most vulnerable:

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Sometimes, as Christians, we do not realize that even those we think of as being “strong in the faith” have times of weakness. We think that elders and deacons and preachers (and their wives) are somehow protected from the struggles that others face. This is simply not true! Those who have made it their life’s ambition to serve others in their times of trouble have the same types of troubles that enter into their own lives.

As I thought about the circumstances that faced our family, I could not help but think of the many friends that I have that have lost their precious children. I know many who have lost their babies before they were born. I know some who have had to bury their children, a proposition that seems completely unfair. I know aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and grandparents that have mourned over these losses, with parents. Most of all, I know that going through these circumstances could not be easy for them all. I have always been able to sympathize with these dear friends…but now I can empathize.

Struggles Can Lead to Doubt…

Asaph, as he looked around him at the prosperity of the wicked and then considered his own circumstances, had a moment of doubt in his faith. The same thing can happen to us today as well. When it appears as if the wicked have everything their hearts desire, and that nothing bad ever happens to them, it is easy to begin to doubt. It becomes easy to question God, and it becomes easy to begin to lose faith.

Satan Attacks When We Are Most Vulnerable…

There is no doubt that when we are at our weakest, Satan is there doing all that he can to dissuade us from serving the Lord. He will, as he did in the garden of Eden, lie to us about what is really going on around us. I realize that the devil is not going to speak to us audibly like he did to Eve, but that is his influence that we hear in our ears when we feel our faith begin to falter. That is him telling us that “a loving God wouldn’t have let your baby die!” That is him whispering in the ear, “You prayed so hard, and God didn’t care!” That is him making you wonder if praying for something else now is of any value.

Perhaps, when we are suffering the most is when we think we deserve a break from the attacks of Satan. But, that is not how he works. He works to exploit every possibility.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

This imagery depicts for us the nature of our adversary. He is stalking us. He is hunting us. He will take every opportunity to strike when we are at our most vulnerable.

Is It All God’s Fault?

In our weakened state, it is tempting to think that the whisperings of the devil are the truth. We did pray earnestly for our child, and yet something tragic happened. Was God ignoring our prayers? Does He not hear? Does He not listen?  Worse yet, did He hear, and respond with such a negative answer?

It is beyond the scope of this article to explore all of the philosophical arguments and issues that can come to light when addressing the idea of evil in the world. However, the bottom line is that such tragedies exist in the world not because God is uncaring, but because of sin. Once sin entered the world, the utopia that God had created was fractured. With that came weakness, disease, and death. Those things are not respecters of persons; they attack all people indiscriminately. God has not promised the righteous that they will be spared from all sickness and sorrows. The very nature of the world we live in brings these things into our lives, regardless of our standing before God.

Other Faithful People Suffer…

Sometimes, in the midst of suffering, we think that we are the only ones that have to endure such difficulty, such heartache. We begin to think of how unfair it is that our lives are so difficult.

When we have time to honestly step back and evaluate our circumstances, it is clear that we are not the only ones who suffer. Peter told us that such would be the case. After the above warning about the nature of our adversary, the devil, Peter wrote:

Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. (1 Peter 5:9)

There are other faithful brethren who are not only facing the same types of struggles, but they are overcoming! Peter’s writing is not given so that we might take some sort of sick pleasure in the fact that our brethren face the same difficulties that we do, but rather so that we can gain encouragement from their successes.

After reflection, I was reminded of the many friends that I have that have suffered similar losses to ours. One dear couple lost their baby much later in the pregnancy than we did. They had such grand expectations and excitement. They responded to their loss with complete faith, determined, like King David, to work diligently in serving the Lord so that they would one day be reunited with their child. I will never be able to express just how much encouragement they provided for me, both during that difficult time many years ago, and in the recent weeks as I recalled their wonderful example.

Another family had their child born with a terminal and debilitating condition. He was not destined for a long life, but the time he spent on this earth was impactful. As I watched how our friends dealt with such difficulty, I was amazed at the faith that was shown. I saw parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents (all of whom I count very dear friends) deal with the situation with grace and faith.

As I have viewed these circumstances, I have often wondered how they managed. I know that I never had the opportunity see their actions or reactions behind closed doors, and I certainly have no idea what might have been a part of their private thoughts. But, I do know where they all ended up. They praise the Lord, and celebrate the blessings that He has provided.  Whatever the circumstances we might face, this is our goal. We must respond like Asaph, praising the Lord!

These great examples provide strength for those who are having to face similar difficult times. I wonder if they ever think about how much encouragement their faith provides to those who are looking on?

Seeing the Big Picture…

Part of the problem with dealing with a difficult circumstance is that we often become quite myopic. We become consumed by what is happening to us! There is a need to step back, and see the bigger picture. Asaph’s plan of action was based on this idea.

When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me— Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. (Psalm 73:16–17)

Asaph was reacting to the prosperity of the wicked, and his own perceived injustices. However, his approach is one that we can take for dealing with any difficult circumstance, including personal tragedy. We can appeal to the word of God, and gain the faith and confidence to continue on in faithful service!

Sometimes, we also have to consider the bigger picture immediately around us. I cannot and will not minimize any personal tragedy by declaring that someone needs to just “get over it.” That is not reasonable, nor fair. However, we might need to have a bit of a different perspective. My wife, in the midst of some of the most difficult times of this process, said to me something along these lines:

“This is hard. But we still have 3 wonderful kids. Think how hard this would be for our friends who have lost their first child…”

That made me think of others, instead of only myself and my family. It made me consider their suffering, and remember their examples. It made me see the bigger picture, and gain encouragement from both those examples, and that of my own wife who showed such strength.

God is Good…

Asaph began his psalm by reminding the reader, “Truly God is good to Israel…”  Perhaps he did not want his reader to doubt his conclusion as he addressed his struggles with faith. Like Asaph, we may have those things that arise in life that cause us to doubt, that cause us to struggle with our faith. But, hopefully, we reach the same conclusion that Asaph reached. God is truly good!

All we have to do to come to this realization is to see the many blessings that are provided to us by God on a constant basis. One of the greatest blessings that God provides, especially in difficult times, is the family we have in Christ. When we were suffering the most, our local spiritual family was there immediately to provide comfort, and many of the physical needs that arise in such times. There was no hesitation or consideration of personal inconvenience. Dear friends and physical family reached out from far away with loving thoughts, words of encouragement, and physical provisions as tokens of their support and concern. Even though distance separates us, we can feel like our friends are with us. As a couple of dear friends communicated to us:  “We are with you in every way but physically.”  Such sentiment is both comforting and encouraging!

Having a spiritual family that responds so graciously does not take away the pain, but it does help to shoulder the pain that is present. And that is what I think God intended when He designed the church for us.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

When things are difficult, we can help one another shoulder the burdens that we face. We can encourage one another. We can build one another up. And we can comfort those who struggle. We have certainly experienced all of that first hand, and are thankful for it.

I will close with a slightly altered version of Asaph’s conclusion:

Truly God is good to [us], To such as are pure in heart. (Psalm 73:1)

God is good to us. Let us never forget it, even when times are difficult! When we struggle with faith, let this be our compass that brings us back to the right perspective!

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