Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Put God first
Proverbs 1: Start with God.
The Bible tells us about God and about ourselves. Many of its pages contain a history of God and us, telling us not only where we have been but God’s desire for us in the future. However, there’s more than even that. The Lord doesn’t just want all of us to go to heaven when we die. Rather, he wants us to live the best lives possible in the here and now. That’s what the book of Proverbs is about. These wise sayings aren’t written to tell us our history and they aren’t written to point to way to heaven. They tell us how to live the wisest way today. So, as we begin to read this collection of insights into life we’re immediately given the foundational secret: “Start with God — the first step in learning is bowing down to God.” Theoretically, I might get everything else right, but if I miss this number one concept before long it will all tumble down. Wisdom begins with God and because of that the satisfied, complete life starts here too. Jesus says it this way, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Take Away: When we build our lives around the Lord we have the potential of building a rich, satisfying life…“Start with God.”

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Grabbing the gusto, looking to eternity
Proverbs 1: When you grab all you can get, that’s when it happens: the more you get, the less you have.
As I read this passage I can’t help but think of the beer commercial that tells us we only go ’round once in life so we’d better grab all the gusto we can. I actually think there’s some truth to that. Life is a gift of God filled with many wonderful opportunities and blessings. I can’t sit around talking about “pie in the sky” and get the most out of my life. There’s a lot of living to do right now. The wise man of the Proverbs, though, gives me the other side of that coin. If I make my life completely about living in the here and now, ignoring all that is yet to come, well, I’m setting myself up for a great fall. Life is more than “right now.” This life might be considered to be a warm up for eternity. So, grabbing the gusto can make sense, but that approach must be kept on a leash and not allowed to just run wild because there’s much more to our existence than just going ’round once. Or, as Jesus says in Matthew 6:20, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Take Away: One way to live the best life possible in the here and now is to live with an eye on eternity.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Learning to listen
Proverbs 3: Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go.
We tend to think that hearing from God is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, or maybe that it’s something only saints on earth experience. It isn’t true. The Lord created us for fellowship with himself. From the beginning he walked with Adam in the cool of the day. I don’t have to do some extreme thing to hear from God. All I have to do is listen. But that’s a problem isn’t it? Hearing the Voice of God in the ordinary flow of life takes practice. If I want to hear him speak when I’m sitting in the emergency room of a hospital or when a precious friend is pouring his heart out to me seeking spiritual council I have to practice listening for him when I’m not in the pressure cooker of life. I’m certain that God speaks, and that he does so constantly. Sadly, I am also sure that I’m not a very good listener. For this proverb to work for me; for me to listen for God’s voice everywhere I go, I need to practice the presence of God every day. The way to accomplish that is for me to discipline myself to meet God by creating quiet places in life where I can learn to hear his Voice. Then, when I’m out there in the “everywhere you go” part of life, I will have trained my spiritual ear to recognize the Master’s Voice.
Take Away: It takes practice to learn to hear the Voice of God in the noisy situations of life.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii – lava

God’s the cook, I’m just a waiter
Proverbs 3: Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.
The highest honor in life is to work with God in what he’s doing in the world. It’s amazing to realize that the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, will call on me to assist him in some manner. Jesus uses his disciples to assist him in performing miracles. For instance, when he feeds the 5000 he uses them as waiters who distribute the food. Obviously, transforming a sack lunch into a truck load of food is the biggest part, but the disciples are pressed into service, assisting in the miracle. The wise man of the Proverbs reminds me that I ought to be aware of the needs I encounter in life and realize that God will use me as his assistant to meet those needs. I know that he doesn’t have to have my help. After all, he could rain down manna from heaven. However, I also know that he invites me into partnership with himself. Again, the highest honor in life is to be invited to labor with God.
Take Away: How might the Lord use me, in even some small minor way, to assist him in his purposes today?

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

How’s your heart doing?
Proverbs 4: Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.
I try to keep an eye on my weight and sometimes I do a better job at it than I do at other times. I also pay attention to my bank account. Each month I take time to balance my checkbook and, while I’m no expert at it, I watch my retirement account, trying to do what’s prudent with it. There are lots of things to watch: maintenance on the car, paying the electric bill, mowing the lawn. The wise man of the Proverbs reminds me to keep an eye on my heart. Of course, he isn’t talking about lowering cholesterol. It’s the spiritual heart he’s talking about. I want to be sure I keep my heart centered on the Lord and to know that, as I seek him and his Kingdom, other things will take care of themselves. It isn’t that I’m to neglect watching my weight and my bank account, it’s that all else functions in my life as it should only when my heart is right with the Lord.
Take Away: It’s not a bad idea to do a “spiritual checkup” once in a while…just to keep an eye on things.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Looking at life “backwards”
Proverbs 4: Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions.
When the proverb writer advises us to ignore all the distractions of life he’s just stating common sense but, obviously, it’s something easier said than done. For instance, before I can focus on the goal I have to know what that goal is. Right off the voices of the snake oil huskers begin selling me their bill of goods. They tell me that whatever they’re selling is just the thing I should give my life to. Some of the offers contain just enough truth to sound right. I’m reminded of all the sports leagues that demand so much of a families’ time. There’s a great deal of good happening in such activities, but, honestly, they aren’t worth committing one’s life to and they sure don’t deserve the status they’re given in many families. So what is it that’s worthy of my focus? I think the answer can be found by looking at life “backwards.” When I’m at the end of my life, when they’re closing the lid on my coffin, what will matter? I say it’s my relationship with God. Of course, other things will matter: family, friends, and how I’ve impacted the world in my brief life. However, eternity is, well, forever. The goal of life has to be to prepare for forever. With that in mind, I can read this proverb and better identify not only what truly matters, but what needs to be kept in its proper place as well.
Take Away: How are you doing in preparing for forever?

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Don’t play with fire
Proverbs 6: Can you build a fire in your lap and not burn your pants?
King Solomon is credited with writing Proverbs. I guess a man married to as many women as he was either knows a lot about women or nothing at all about them! I’ll give him credit for knowing a lot about life in what he says about extramarital affairs. In some ways his comments on this topic that cover the greater part of three chapters of Proverbs are out of date. His picturing the man as some foolish, gullible fellow being seduced by some worldly woman seems out of date to me. I’m not saying that never happens, but it’s just as common for the shoe to be on the other foot and it’s the female who is fed a line. In fact, I have the idea that often it’s both who are victims of an entertainment media and popular culture that treats sexual intimacy as something far less than was intended by God when he gave it to us as a wonderful gift. However, if I think Solomon is rather narrow when he focuses only the young man as the gullible one, he’s right on when it comes to the consequences. The loose lifestyle causes terrible emotional pain. Couples think they’re entering into “no fault” relationships, and when one is ready to call it quits they’ll both just move on. It never works that way. Both are cheapened by the experience. They’ll never know the depth of what might have been. Our society has been sold a bill of goods that’s supposed to be freeing and fulfilling. Instead, to use Solomon’s description, many are being burned and will spend a lifetime dealing with the scars of their so called freedom.
Take Away: Despite what culture says, God’s way is still the best way.

Devotional on Proverbs

2009 – Surfside Beach, TX

My most precious gift
Proverbs 8: Don’t squander your precious life.
Proverbs eight and nine contain an imaginary conversation with “Lady Wisdom.” She offers us all kinds of advice as well as shares her lofty credentials. My favorite statement from her is “don’t squander your precious life.” Some things I think are valuable are like counterfeit money; not worth the paper it’s printed on. The day will come when someone will sift through all of my “valuables” deciding what’s worth passing on and what needs to go out to the curb to await a trip to the land fill. I’m pretty sure most of it will come up short. Sadly, we’re all prone to spend our lives chasing after things that prove to be worthless when all is said and done. Today, as I read these words I remember that life is precious indeed; an amazing and undeserved gift from God. Every breath is to be prized and great care should be taken to not waste it. I don’t want to live my life in pursuit of worthless things, spending my most valuable resource foolishly. On the other hand, I can use up my life in a quest of excellence. The question I must ask myself is, “How can I best live my life and spend this, my most precious gift?”
Take Away: How can I best live my life?

Devotional on Proverbs

2006 – Surfside Beach, TX

I did it God’s way
Proverbs 10: God’s blessing makes life rich; nothing we can do can improve on God.
The greater part of the book of Proverbs is made up of wise “one-liners.” Well, they’re actually “two-liners” that follow the format “This does this, but that does that.” One of the many wonderful strengths of “The Message” is how beautifully Peterson handles the parables, giving them new life for his readers. Today, I’m reminded that all the good things in life come from the Lord. He’s the “Blesser” giving us so much to enjoy. One of the lies of the Garden of Eden is that people can pull themselves up to God’s level and thus “bless themselves” in doing things their own way. The truth is that nothing I do on my own to create a satisfied, happy life equals what God can do for me. Getting my own way won’t give me a rich life. Instead, I’ll have spent my assets on a bag of worthless rocks. It’s only when I realize that God is the only One who can make my life worth living and that he desires to do just that that I have a hope of living the “rich life.” Sometimes, I have to simply accept God’s blessings in a sincere spirit of thanksgiving and not try to do it my own way.
Take Away: When the Lord blesses me the proper response is to say “thank you” and then go about enjoying the blessing.

Devotional on Proverbs

2006 – Surfside Beach, TX (one of my all-time favorite pics)

God and me
Proverbs 11: The more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.
Western culture exalts the individual. In the words of the song, “best of all, I did it my way.” We like our independence. It’s true even in our religion. We Protestants don’t have a pope and we don’t even want the church to tell us what to believe. Instead, we prefer “us and God” — an approach that can often be more truthfully stated, “Me.” We don’t have a pope, but when we’re honest with ourselves, we like it when we can be our own pope: “I’ll get my Bible and decide for myself what it says.” Now, I know that there are some positive aspects to this. After all, the “protestors” who became the “Protestants” did have something to protest about. Still, doing religion “my way” isn’t necessarily an improvement. Doing it “my way” leads to aberrations of doctrine. Walking down the “me” road isn’t the road to God. In fact, it’s the original path away from God that’s described in the opening pages of our Bibles. Learning to listen to others and even being willing to submit to the authority of those who the larger body of believers has recognized to be uniquely prepared and gifted to lead will, in the words of the proverb “better your chances” of staying on the right road to God.
Take Away: “Me and God” quite often is really just “me.”

Devotional on Proverbs

The north Jetty at Surfside is about a mile long

The whole truth and nothing but the truth
Proverbs 12: Truth lasts.
I gave a computer away. It was the first computer I ever built from the ground up, buying the components and putting it all together. That was six years earlier. That machine served me well, running 24 hours a day for several years. After I replaced it with new laptop the old machine was just taking up valuable space. A friend needed a computer for checking email and the like, so I passed the computer on to him. When I put that computer into service I knew that someday it would be replaced, but I admit I was somewhat unprepared for the seeming shortness of its value to me. Some things just don’t last. The proverbs writer reminds me today that, while that’s true, some things do last and one of those things is “truth.” In other words, if something was “so” 2000 years ago it’s still “so” today. I’m not talking about various truisms here; clearly some things thought to be truth in the past are proven wrong in the long run. However, in the case of genuine truth, well, it lasts. For instance, when Jesus says he’s the Way to God that’s an absolute truth. That fact can never get old and it can never be improved upon. I know that some folks think that such a claim is narrow minded. However, by its very nature truth is somewhat exclusive. Today, then, I remember that some things simply don’t last so I’m wise to not put the full weight of my trust on them. I also remember that the eternal truths of God do last. Jesus said it this way, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
Take Away: We can depend on the Lord’s truths.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Dare to discipline
Proverbs 13: A refusal to correct is a refusal to love.
I love being around my grandkids. There’s nothing better than spending time with these little ones. However, believe it or not, even my own precious grandchildren aren’t always perfect! I’m sure they come closer to perfect than any grandchildren who’ve ever lived, but still, there are a few little things that have to be kept in check. That’s what their dad and mom, along with maybe a little help from their grandparents, are supposed to do. Parents need to provide loving discipline to their children. I’m not trying to debate the value of a particular type of discipline here, but as I read the words “a refusal to correct is a refusal to love” I’m taken by the common sense truth being stated. Parents who love don’t just throw up their hands and let the kids do “whatever.” Loving parents step up to the plate even when they’re worn out from the day. Even then, they expend the energy to take their children in hand, insisting that they behave themselves within the limits of their capability. The disciplining part of parenting isn’t the fun part, but it’s one of the loving parts. As the wise man says, “love your children by disciplining them.”
Take Away: Children are a gift of the Lord, but that gift does come with responsibilities attached.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Follow the leader
Proverbs 14: The mark of a good leader is loyal followers; leadership is nothing without a following.
There’s no such thing as a leader without followers. The Bible has several stories of leadership. Moses led for 40 years. David led not only in military and affairs of government but in worship as well. His son Solomon led to prosperity. Here are three things that come to mind when I read about these leaders. First, each of these men is not only a leader, but is also a follower who accepts the authority of the Lord and spends time with him getting his marching orders. Second, these men know how to share leadership and to train leaders. They don’t try to do everything themselves and surround themselves with capable people to help carry the leadership load. Third, they lead people to meaningful goals. These men have God given visions that gives their leadership real purpose. People believe in them and they believe the goal set out for them is worth their sacrifice. Leaders such as these have no problem attracting followers.
Take Away: God-called leaders lead with purpose in a God-chosen direction.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Learning humility
Proverbs 15: First you learn humility, then you experience glory.
Humility has to be learned because we’re all born thinking the world revolves around us. Unless I learn humility I spend my life, not necessarily thinking I’m better than others, but thinking that everything that happens should happen the way I want it to. For me to be humble is for me to realize that I’m not the center of the universe and that the world has no obligation to please me. Beyond that, to be humble is for me to come to the realization the most satisfying life is not all about my getting my own way about things, but is, instead, found as I live with others in mind. Jesus said that I’m to “love my neighbor as myself.” The result of such a life, according to the wise man of the Proverbs, is “glory.” That is, others will be irresistibly drawn to me and my life will influence them in positive ways. Not only that, but God will be pleased with me for patterning my life after that of his own Son who humbly lived and died for others. This proverb reminds me that the route to glory isn’t by my taking power and trying to shape the world to suit me. Instead, it’s achieved by loving others and placing their needs at a level equal to my own.
Take Away: Contrary to what we may think, humble people are some of the most influential people there are.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Communicating with kindness
Proverbs 15: Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.
Several years ago I started watching a news talk show on CNN named “Crossfire.” Every day a conservative and liberal team of hosts interviewed a guest who was caught in their “crossfire.” Depending on the guest, one host played “good cop” and the other played “bad cop.” I found the show to be unique and interesting. That program has influenced a lot of TV news and we see programs similar to it all the time now. Aside from TV though, I don’t think “Crossfire” influenced society as much as it reflected society. Kindness and gentleness is out and “telling it like it is” is the approach of the day. On the internet I’ve seen people who I’m sure are fine, caring Christians in person who can however, when on line, cut and slash with their words without mercy. I think there’s a great need for kindness in society. Most people don’t need to be put in their place nearly so much as they need to be treated as people of value. Whether we’re talking about how we conduct ourselves while driving in traffic or how we speak to the slow moving clerk at Walmart God’s people ought to lead the way in this. We’re to be “helpers” and “healers” and not “wounders” and maimers.”
Take Away: When under pressure or when somehow operating “out of the box” our words are windows to our hearts.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Leadership, not dictatorship
Proverbs 16: A good leader motivates, doesn’t mislead, doesn’t exploit.
Solomon knows a lot about leadership. He’s watched his father, David, lead Israel for many years. Then when he becomes King he asks God for wisdom that he might lead His people. In all this he comes to understand leadership dynamics as well as anyone who ever lived. In the passage before me today I get just a taste of his philosophy of leadership. The guy who says these things isn’t some pastor with an all-volunteer staff of church people who might just walk off if they don’t like the way things are going. Rather, he’s King of Israel. He has “off with their heads” authority. In other words, if he wants he can order the direction and everyone has to follow. However, Solomon has learned that dictatorship isn’t leadership. He says his job is to motivate people to move together in positive directions. He says he isn’t supposed to promise what can’t be delivered and he isn’t to get people to do what he wants just to get something for himself. Honesty, unselfishness, persuasiveness — these are leadership qualities Solomon brings to my attention today.
Take Away: Dictatorship isn’t leadership.

Devotional on Proverbs

2004 – Big Island, Hawaii

Friends and family
Proverbs 17: Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.
I’ve lived long enough to know that “all kinds of trouble” comes to every life. Sooner or later its each person’s turn to face disappointment and be let down by people and circumstances or be betrayed by their own humanity. At such times it becomes easier to see what and who matters the most to us. I’m thankful today for family of both the “blood line” and the “relationship” variety. There’s power in positive relationships. Even when we’re at the end of ourselves, we can draw strength from those dear ones who stand with us. I’m reminded today that, first, I need to appreciate precious friends and family and not take them for granted even though they love me enough that I could probably get away with it. Also, I remember that I’m privileged to be such a friend to some. It’s an honor, but it’s also a responsibility that I must take seriously no matter what the “weather.”
Take Away: Thank the Lord for friends and family and, thank the Lord for the privilege of being friend and family to others.

Devotional on Proverbs

2005 – Galveston, TX

Love and marriage
Proverbs 18: Find a good spouse, you find a good life — and even more: the favor of God!
Solomon was either the world’s greatest expert on women or else he was the world’s greatest dunce! He married hundreds of women and then tells us that having a good wife promises a man a good life and the blessings of God. Seriously, I know that his marriages were nothing like the marriages of my culture. For him, as Head of State, marriage was part of sealing a treaty between one nation and another. Since Solomon’s influence spread throughout the known world there were lots of treaties to be sealed! With that in mind I’ll cut him some slack on this one. Another thing that brings a smile is that he tells the other side of the story in the next chapter. If finding a good spouse equals having a good life, finding a nagging one, he says, is like having a leaky faucet in the house: drip, drip, drip. Apparently, some of his “treaty wives” weren’t all that much of a blessing! When I put these two proverbs together I see what a powerful influence husbands and wives have on one another. We can become a constant irritation, making the other miserable or we can be a source of joy and blessing. It’s reasonable that every husband and wife take stock once in a while to be sure that their spouse views them as evidence of the favor of God on his or her life.
Take Away: Be a blessing and not a constant “drip, drip, drip” to the person you love the most!

Devotional on Proverbs

2002 – Newport, RI

Free will with strings attached
Proverbs 19: People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does God always get blamed?
The Proverbs have a strong undercurrent of self-determination that runs counter to the mysticism I hear so often. For instance, a person uses tobacco for years. When they’re diagnosed with cancer, they say, “God gave me cancer as punishment for smoking.” The wise man of the proverbs would say, “No, you gave it to yourself, don’t blame God for it!” Now, I do believe God is active in this world and touching our lives in many ways. Still, I’ve been given free will and with that freedom comes responsibility. I can’t have things both ways, declaring that I’ve been granted the freedom to choose and, at the same time, think that everything that happens to me is brought about by divine intervention. The Lord will walk with me and will guide me in my choices if I’ll allow it. However, he’ll also let me make dumb choices if I insist. When I, in my own free will, decide to get on some toll road I shouldn’t be surprised when I come to a toll booth!
Take Away: The Lord is willing to help us with our choices, but, ultimately, we’ve been granted the freedom to choose.

Devotional on Proverbs

2002 – New Hampshire

My children’s inheritance
Proverbs 20: God-loyal people, living honest lives, make it much easier for their children.
Parents have responsibilities far beyond providing food and shelter for their children. We’re to teach them how to live. In fact, we do teach them whether we want to or not. “Do as I say, not as I do” was dumb the first time it was said and it remains dumb. Kids watch their parents and the values of the parents become theirs. As the years pass grown children are surprised that they not only look more and more like their parents, but they act like them too. This learned behavior can be absolutely destructive as a person finds himself or herself treating their children in some unacceptable way that they, when they were children, promised themselves they would never do. However, there’s a positive side to this. In fact, that’s what God intended when he created us as he did. If I’m faithful to the Lord and honest in my relationships my kids are likely to adopt the same life-style. Their lives will be better lives because of that. The greatest thing I can pass on to my children is not an excellent stock portfolio; it is a rich value system.
Take Away: Ask the Lord to help you be the kind of parent who passes a solid value system on to your children.

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