Two Roads Diverged – Proverbs 10

If you didn’t read yesterday’s devotion you should go do that now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…..

Ok, Proverbs 9 sets the backdrop for the next several chapters in Proverbs.  Proverbs 9 gives the contrast between the way of wisdom and the way of folly (foolishness).  One way leads to life, the other leads to death.  With that in mind, chapter 10 begins a lengthy section of Proverbs which give a very clear contrast between the way of wisdom and the way of foolishness.  These Proverbs are technically known as antithetical which is a very common rhetorical device used in ancient literature to hold opposites next to each other.

Chances are, at some point in your educational journey, you became acquainted with the following poem by Robert Frost.

two roads

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

 
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

~ Robert Frost

 

That is poetic and filled with all kinds of metaphorical imagery, and it leaves it to each reader to fill it with its content.  What do the two different roads look like and where do they lead?

Proverbs 10 leaves very little to our individual imagination.  It spells things out like Mapquest.

These are my paraphrases of Proverbs 10:

If you are wise, you make your Daddy happy.
If you are foolish you break your momma’s heart.
If you are lazy, you’re broke
if you work hard, you’ll have plenty of money.

 
If you are wise, you’ll take instructions from those in authority
If you are a fool you’re always running your mouth and you’ll ruin your life because you don’t listen.
If you do things the right way, you have little to fear
but if you cut corners and break rules, it will eventually catch up with you.

 
If you go around spreading hate, it leads to more hate, and fights.
If you love others, it puts an end to the hate and helps bring about peace.
If you willingly accept correction your life will improve
if you ignore correction, you’ll not only hurt yourself, you’ll hurt others too.

 
If you live the right way, you have good things to look forward to.
If you spend your life doing evil things, life eventually becomes a dead end.

 

wisdom verses foolishness

That was fun, putting that wisdom into my own words.

You try it.  Take some of the Proverbs which contrast the way of wisdom with the way of foolishness and put it in your own words.  That’s the practical,  analytical, left-brain approach.

If you are more right-brained, creative and artistic, then write a story or poem or paint a picture contrasting the way of wisdom or the way of foolishness.

And if you’re really into it… try doing both the left and right-brained approach- and then you’ll never forget Proverbs 10.

~ Jeff Fletcher

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Wise Choices lead to the Path of Wisdom – Proverbs 9

path of wisdom

Some of my happiest times are when I go out to eat with friends.  And some really memorable times are when a friend invites you to their house for a dinner party.  Something about the combination of good food and good friends coming together usually results in a lot of joy and laughter.

Proverbs 9 compares two very different kinds of dinner parties.  The first dinner party is hosted by Wisdom.  Wisdom has gone to a lot of work to create a top-notch get together.  She has had a beautiful house built, set up high on pillars, it’s a lovely place.  Inside her house, she has set a beautiful table that would impress Martha Stewart.  The steaks are all prepared to perfection and paired with the best wine.  It’s an elegant set-up to be sure.  And then she sends out her servants to invite people from all over the city to come and enjoy the fine dining experience.

Her invitation isn’t just for the wealthy and elite.  She’s inviting the simple folk to come.  Everyone is welcome at this table.

On the other side of town, there’s another dinner party being thrown by another woman.  But this woman’s name is folly.  She’s throwing a dinner party, but there is no evidence that this party has the elegance and preparation as Wisdom’s dinner party.  There is nothing said about preparing fine meats and wines.  In fact, this whole thing is sketchy.  She doesn’t send out servants with invitations; she’s just sitting on her doorstep yelling at everyone who comes by: “come to my house, stolen water is sweet, hidden food is delicious.”  Sounds pretty un-legit to me.  But wait, there’s more: “little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.”  Huh?  A dinner party where all the guests die from drinking stolen water and secret food?  I may be projecting 21st-century American culture onto this Proverb, but what I hear is “crack house”.  Of course, that wasn’t the original authors meaning, but he was clearly showing the stark contrast between a life lived in pursuit of wisdom vs. a life lived in pursuit of foolishness.

The way of wisdom leads to life, the way of foolishness leads to death.  This is just common sense.  With that being said, who on earth would choose the way of foolishness?  The answer, fools.  You can’t make decisions for other people.  You can’t force other people to make wise choices.  And nobody can force you to make wise choices.  At the end of the day, we are each responsible for the decisions we make in life.  Proverbs sets it out in simplistic language and or course there are exceptions.  Even good and wise people occasionally suffer accidents and calamities that impact or prematurely end their lives.  And yes, sometimes people who make terrible life choices still manage to survive and live long and somewhat successful lives.  We can usually find exceptions to almost any rule.  However, in the most simple and general way, if you make wise choices in life, things usually go well, and if you make stupid choices in life, they usually end up not so well.

I have a friend from high school that I haven’t seen in over 30 years, but we keep up with each other via Facebook.  This friend and I made some radically different life choices when we were in our late teens/early 20’s. My friend rejected God in college and embraced a life of atheism.  My friend rejected the traditional Biblical route of marriage and family, spent years shacking up with others.  Finally married, my friend divorced after a short time, remarried, but chose not to have any children so they could “enjoy life.” This friend recently posted that their spouse was gone on an extended trip when their birthday came, so they chose to go out and celebrate their birthday alone at a fancy restaurant (the bill for just my friend came out to over $250.00).  My friend took pictures of every course of the meal and the final bill to prove how much they had spent.  I read their birthday post with great sadness.  My friend has arrived at a place in life where they are all alone on their birthday with no one to share it with except their friends on social media where they tried to impress us with how much they spent on themselves for their birthday.

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My last birthday was spent at home with my family.  They cooked foods I liked, they made my favorite desserts and sang happy birthday and gave me my “obligatory birthday gifts”: (That’s actually what the gift bag my daughter gave me said on it- she has my sense of humor). The meal for 9 of us probably came to less than $25.00.  There were some pictures taken (not by me).  I was certainly not alone, and I was extremely happy.  How did I arrive at such joy?  I took a path that I believe was the path of wisdom.  I married a godly woman while I was in Bible college, we made having a family and raising godly children a priority, and we are now enjoying the blessings of a life where we chose the path of wisdom.  Now, we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way and we are far from perfect, but together we’ve made a great life and are now enjoying our 11 children and 4 grandchildren.  And we are part of an extended family of believers around the world in the Church of God.  We love God, and we love life.

How do you want your life to go?  Make sure you go to the right dinner party.

The first step of wisdom is to make God first in your life and center your life around God.  God is an Awesome God. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)  That’s our memory verse for the week, and it’s how you make sure that you get on the right path for life.

~ Jeff Fletcher

Pursuing Wisdom – Prov. 1

If you have not yet seen the video for the beginning of this week’s readings, I encourage you to go ahead and watch it. As a reminder, this week’s memory verse is Proverbs 3:5-6.
This week I am going to be talking mostly about wisdom.
Today I will be specifically talking about what wisdom is, where it comes from, and why we need it and need to respect it. Proverbs 1 tells us that wisdom comes from knowledge, and knowledge begins with the fear of the LORD. 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” This chapter also says that we need to listen to our father’s and mother’s because their teachings have knowledge and wisdom in them. Verse 9 says, “They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” Where are most tiaras or crowns held? A box, or a glass case- this means that those physical items are taken care of very well, and protected. We should treat teachings from our parents the same way, as they are just as valuable as tangible objects that we hide away, or protect fiercely.
The rest of the chapter talks about why we NEED to have wisdom. The Bible says that there will be people who are stuck in their wicked ways and will try to entice you into going along with them. They will say things like, “we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; cast lots with us; we will all share the loot” (verses 13-14) Now obviously in this passage, these people sound like they are up to no good, but there are people in our daily lives that will try to lead us astray, and they will be better at covering up their true intentions. Have you ever had a friend say, “Oh they changed their mind, they don’t want to play with us today.” but deep down you know that your other friend was really excited to spend time with you? Have you ever heard someone say, “One little sip can’t hurt anyone?” even though you know that your parents don’t allow you to drink pop, or you aren’t old enough to have wine. These are the exact same as what Proverbs is warning us against. When these things are said to you, you probably have a weird feeling in your stomach, and this is wisdom. Wisdom helps you to discern when someone is trying to lead you away from the path you are called to. This passage tells us that those who ignore what wisdom is telling us will kill them. “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them and the complacency of fools will destroy them” (verse 32).
However, the very end of Proverbs 1 gives hope to those who gain knowledge, and work to learn and understand wisdom. Proverbs 1:33, “but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease without fear of harm.” If we trust in the knowledge and the wisdom taught to us by our parents, and ultimately from fear of the LORD, we will have safety and should not be afraid of harm.

 

Wisdom is an important tool that every Christian should practice, and learn. Wisdom will help us find our way on our path with God, wisdom will help us to trust in the plans he has for us, and wisdom will protect us, in many ways.
Thank you for reading today. Tomorrow, we will delve even more into where wisdom comes from, and what it can do, and why it is important for us in our daily lives. May you have a wonderful day, and God Bless.
~Jana

Make a Choice! – 2 Chron. 34

 

scrolls
This picture is from the Memorial Scrolls Trust (http://www.memorialscrollstrust.org/), a collection of 1600 Czech Torah scrolls saved from the destruction of the Holocaust.

 

Wow! This week has been such a great reminder for me about the importance of scripture! We began this week by looking at our memory verse from Deut. 30:19-20:

 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

We’ve learned how we can choose life through desiring and studying God’s word this week. What does choosing life look like?

Let’s pause for a moment this Saturday morning and turn to 2 Chronicles 34, our key text. The Israelites in the Old Testament always seem to be getting into trouble and turning away from God’s paths. At this point in 2 Chronicles, the kingdom of Israel that Saul and David had established had been divided in two, with the ten tribes in the north making up Israel and the two in the south, Judah. The nation of Israel had become so wicked that God had sent them into exile. The kingdom of Judah had not gotten that bad, yet. But still, the people, under the king’s directions, had begun to worship other gods and neglected the one true God. In 2 Chronicles 33, we find the temple in disrepair and the law of God lost. The nation of Judah was choosing death.

But, in 2 Chronicles 34, we find hope in the form of a boy named Josiah, anointed king at only 8 years old. The Bible said that “he did what was right in the LORD’s sight and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or the left” (v. 2). Josiah according to this verse was obviously choosing the path of life. But, what does that actually mean? What did he do that was so righteous?

The rest of this chapter goes on to say that he tore down the false gods that his people were worshiping and cleansed the land. Then, he began to restore God’s temple to how it should be. While the priests were looking through the temple and cleaning it out, they found something pretty important. In verse 14, it says that “Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the LORD written by the hand of Moses.” The people of Judah had walked so far down the path of unrighteousness that they totally neglected the law of God and lost it. Later on, it says that the court secretary, Shapan, just told King Josiah, “Hilkiah the priest gave me a book.” The law to him was nothing more than an old book!

Shapan read the law aloud to Josiah and when Josiah heard this, he got so upset that he tore his clothes! He realized that his people hadn’t been choosing the way of life; they hadn’t been keeping “the word of the LORD in order to do everything written in [it]” (v. 21).

choose life

This week, we’ve been meditating on the importance of scripture. We have a wonderful gift already because we have such easy access to the word of God! But, just like the people of Judah, we may neglect it to chase after other things. This year, we have another opportunity to commit ourselves to learning how to choose life from God’s word, both through these devotions and more simply through dedicating ourselves to God. Beginning tomorrow, we will learn more Godly wisdom from the book of Proverbs. Make a choice now to dedicate yourself like Josiah did to the daily reading of God’s word so that we can follow the paths of righteousness that lead to life.

What path will you choose? – Jer. 17:5-10

trust in God

Breaking News::

Humans have been found to have an uncontrollable and incurable disease. As of yet, there have been no tests by humans that have been created to test for the disease. Worse yet, this disease can’t be seen; it’s almost undetectable. The only thing that can test for it is God. What is this disease? The conditions of our heart.

 

Though physical heart disease is an important and often fatal problem, we have an even more deadly disease in our spiritual hearts. If we look at Jeremiah 17:5-10, we see a portrayal of opposites that centers around the heart, and more specifically, on who the heart trusts in.

The first person is someone who trusts in mankind. They trust in themselves or in others. In doing this, this person has turned their heart from God. They are like a dead bush, a tumbleweed, in the middle of a desert.

The other person is a beautiful picture of someone who trusts and has confidence in God. They are like a tree planted beside water that stands firm even in hot weather because they are deeply enrooted by the life-giving stream.

jeremiah-17_7

Like our memory verse for this week states, in our lives, we have a choice. We choose who we will trust in. That choice affects everything in our life. It affects our thoughts, actions, and feelings. In our lives, we tend to rely on our feelings and thoughts, the things that make up what the Bible calls the heart, to determine our choices. This shouldn’t be!

The prophet Jeremiah says that the heart is more deceitful than anything else. It’s incurable and unknowable on our own power. Only God can examine the mind and test the heart to know what is in it.

Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us in this place. God can transform our hearts! In Romans 8:29, it says that God has predestined us so that we would be “conformed to the image of His Son.” Through God’s Spirit, we are being made into the perfect image of Jesus! On our own power, we cannot change the heart. It will guide us down wrong paths that seem correct according to worldly wisdom. But, through God’s help, our hearts can be revived and transformed to become a man or woman after God’s own heart.

 

God’s Spirit works in us in many ways, one of which is through the wisdom that it gives. We learn what true wisdom is from God’s word (Prov. 1:2). James 1:5-8 says, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.” If we come to God and ask for wisdom through prayer, he will give it to us through his word and wise counsel.

This week, we will be talking more about the importance of gaining wisdom through God’s word for choosing the right paths of God. Remember: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

Choices and Truth

 

Jeremiah 24-26

jer-26

Monday, March 6

I had two major thoughts when reading Jeremiah today…

1) We are free to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices.

2) Speaking a tough truth is hard to do!

God has rules for us to follow.  In fact, He has an entire book of what rules we need to follow and examples of how to follow them.  And yet here we are… still breaking the rules.  And no one is forcing us to break them, it’s all on us!  Jeremiah 25:7 says “But you did not listen to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and you have aroused my anger with what your hands have made and you have brought harm to yourselves.”

We make choices every single day.  Some are good, some are bad.  But we have the freedom to choose how we will live our lives.  What we do not have is freedom from the consequences of what we choose.  Sinner or saint, Christian or not, at some point we will all have to stand before the throne and answer for our choices.  God makes it clear, He explains exactly what will happen when we don’t follow His rules.  Nothing is going to spare us from the wrath His cup will pour out (25:15) except for our own choices.  I would much rather have God’s eyes watching over us and building us up (24:6), wouldn’t you?

Chapter 26 tells us about how Jeremiah prophesied the hard truth to the people of Judah.  He told them that their city would become desolate and deserted (26:9).  Obviously, they did not take that too kindly and ended up threatening his life!  But Jeremiah did not back down from the truth he knew he was speaking.  He opened himself up, he told them to do whatever they wanted to him but that it wouldn’t change his message (26:14-15)!  Because of this, God protected him and they spared his life.  Now let’s jump down to Uriah’s story.  He preached the same message as Jeremiah did to the same people, yet his life was not spared in the end.  The difference?  Uriah fled when they threatened him.  He was afraid of what people were going to do to him.  He lacked the same faith and trust in God’s protection that Jeremiah had, and he suffered because of it.  So, how can this apply to your life?  Speak truth and don’t back down.  God’s got your back, even when it seems like you’re on your own against an angry city!

-Sarah Blanchard

 

(Photo Credit: quotescodex.com)

May Our Choices be Righteous & Courageous! (Joshua 22-24)

Thursday, September 29

joshua-24

Nikki Green

As we wrap up the book of Joshua, we find our strong and courageous leader in the last days of his life.  Joshua calls the twelve tribes together to review all God had done for His people.  Joshua states that the LORD fought for Israel and drove out the other nations.  He urges the Israelites to remain faithful to God.  He warns them not to worship foreign gods or marry outside the Israelite nation.  He cautions them not to disobey – not to turn to the right or the left.  The theme of courage is echoed again.  He reminds them that what God gave, He can take away.  The land has always been His.  Joshua’s words of wisdom lead to a choice when he says, “Choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh 14:15).  The Israelite people responded with the commitment, “We will serve the LORD, for He is our God” (Josh 24:18).

After the remarkable history lesson and reflection on the mighty deeds of God, we read that Joshua died at age 110.  He was buried in the land of his inheritance – the Promised Land.  Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua, which speaks volumes about his leadership and authority.  The book of Joshua ends with the completion of a generation of heroes.  We are reminded of Moses and Aaron, the dynamic duo, who began this great land repossession quest.  Joshua and Eleazar, the priest, jump in and prove to be the next generation of heroes.  Joshua was mentored by Moses.  Eleazar was the son of Aaron, Moses’ brother, and received outstanding mentorship from these men as well.  The book ends with the death of these “super men” and symbolically completes the story of conquest and conquer as “The LORD Saves” (Big thanks to Moses for Joshua’s new name & the answer to what we all need)!