Who is God in Your Life?

Monday

By Rebecca Dauksas

Today North America will be in the direct path of a total solar eclipse, which happens when the Moon completely covers the Sun. In the U.S., the path of the total eclipse will extend from Oregon to South Carolina.  The scriptures are filled with illustrations of the contrast between darkness and light. Proverbs chapter 4 verses 18 & 19 states, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”

How blessed we are to have God’s scriptures to train us in righteousness! They light our way by giving us insight and understanding. For instance, Proverbs 17 is filled with advice on how our conduct can help us manage healthy relationships.  Notice that verse one states, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” We might say, “We would rather enjoy a dry piece of toast with peace and quiet than a delicious 7-course meal with anger, arguments and conflict.”  This statement made me think about how good it is when we can enjoy being a part of a peaceful household.  It might also help us consider how we treat our family members. Do we try to get along with our family? Do we stir up conflict and start arguments?  Making our relationship with God our first priority can help us see God’s wisdom in every relationship.

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Proverbs 17:9 states, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” When we apply this verse to existing healthy relationships, we see that if we want to foster love, when we are sometimes offended, we should forgive and move on. Which agrees with what we are told about love in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter.  “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”  Of course, there are offenses that have to be brought into the open and dealt with, but in this case imagine that a friend or loved one says something that is unkind.  Our tendency may be to tell others, “You won’t believe what she said to me!”  Instead, we can choose to foster love by not gossiping about those unkind words. We can decide that we will not continue to bring it up when our tempers flare. We can choose to overlook it and let it go.

Notice the relationships mentioned in Chapter 17-parent, child, friend, brother, etc.

The way we relate to others gives us the opportunity to show who God is in our lives.

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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

Don’t Fall for the Bait – Proverbs 7

son this is bait

Imagine the following conversation between a daddy bass and a child bass: “Now son, there are all kinds of delicious things for you to eat down here.  There are bugs and mosquitoes that float up on the surface of the water, and when it rains sometimes big, fat, juicy worms are swept from land into the lake and they are delicious for sure.  But you’ve got to be careful with those.  I’ve seen good friends latch onto a worm and then just shoot straight up through the water and disappear altogether.  One tiny little friend came back and shared the most amazing adventure.  He said he bit on the worm and felt something sharp go through his top lip.  Before he knew it, he was being dragged up faster than he could have ever swum. A huge hand grabbed him and pulled on him, he was held up in the air for a few seconds gulping for air, and then, wham, he was thrown back into the water.  Some of the fish didn’t believe his story, but I saw the scar on his lip and I believe it.  So, before you go biting into a big juicy worm, look to make sure there isn’t anything shiny poking out, and no thin little string going up out of the worm… or you might never come back to us.”

bait stop falling for it

Bait!  It’s the worm we use to trick fish to bite on a hook so we can catch, kill and eat it.  Bait!  It’s the cheese we put into the mousetrap so that a steel rod will smash their neck and do away with them.  Bait is all about predator and prey.  Bait is about seduction.  It’s about getting someone to put down their common sense and natural defenses so that we can lure them in for the kill.

In Proverbs 7, the writer provides a scenario of predator and prey.  In this case, it’s the young man and the prostitute. (I know, pretty racy stuff in the Bible).  The young man goes out onto the street in the evening, on the edge of danger.  Maybe he’s not intending anything bad, but he’s curious.  He’s heard that this is the “bad” part of town.  His parents have warned him to stay away, but maybe his friends have told stories about the fun that’s to be had there.  So he goes out to see.  And out comes the prostitute with her seductive clothing and seductive words as she seeks to lure him back into her house where she promises to show him a good time.

Her body and her words are the bait.  How will it end for the young man?  About the same as it does for the fish who bites the worm or the mouse who goes for the cheese.  It usually ends in death.  Oh, maybe not right away.  Maybe the death is slow.  Maybe it’s not the death of the body, but the death of the heart, the inner person, the death of innocence, the death of purity.  It could lead to the death of a relationship.

As I seek to apply this wisdom to our world today, I can’t help but see the comparisons to this story and pornography.  Instead of physically going to the bad part of town, one needs simply to click on a website.  In fact, there are websites that have ads that pop up on your browser trying to lure you in.  Pornography starts off by looking enticing but ends in death.  It kills purity, it kills relationships. It kills marriages.  Sometimes it kills one’s soul.

Sexual seduction comes in many forms and faces.  How many women are pulled into literary pornography (ever hear of 50 Shades of Gray?- that’s literary porn for women).  Seduction is everywhere and it’s impossible to avoid.  Even on Facebook, I get friend requests at least once a week from young women that I know I don’t know and they are usually wearing something seductive.  They are trying to pull me in.  In fact, there’s a thing now known as catfishing, which seeks to pull people in and then take advantage of them.

I once met a patient in the hospital who had been catfished.  He was in his 60’s and had lost tens of thousands of dollars, his marriage, his home and all his friends and had attempted to commit suicide.  Yet, he was still convinced that this poor little young woman from Russia was going to come and marry him if he could just send her a few thousand dollars more (than the thousands he had already sent her).

Proverbs 7:21 warns: “With persuasive words, she led him astray, she seduced him with her smooth talk.”  Of course, this is targeted at young men.  But young women can also be targets of predators, and often are.  You are never too young or too old to be the target of a predator.  Seducers can be male or female, young or old.  They lure you in with whatever bait they think you will go for.  They look for areas where you are vulnerable.

When the Bible illustrates evil and temptation from the devil (or the serpent in Genesis) it operates in the same way.  The serpent uses the forbidden fruit as the bait and seductive words to convince Eve (and Adam) that God is a liar and that they won’t die if they eat the fruit.  In the wilderness, the devil uses Jesus’ hunger and his ability to transform stones into bread as the bait.

Green Apple In Woman Hands

What can we do to protect ourselves from such seductions from evil?  Jesus used God’s word.  Every time he was tempted he used the truth of God’s word to counter the temptation.  This is where Eve missed the mark.  She didn’t have a foundation of trusting God’s word to help her resist the seductive words of the tempter.  Jesus did, and it made all the difference.  Proverbs 7 begins here: “My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you.”  When we embed the word of God deep into our hearts by reading it, studying it, meditating upon it, and living it out, we create for ourselves a foundation of truth upon which we build our lives and it will protect us in times of temptation.

Just remember, worms are delicious, but make sure they don’t have a hook hidden inside before you bite.

~ Jeff Fletcher

Guard Your Heart – Prov. 4

Hello, and welcome to Thursday!

I hope your week is going well, and I’m so glad you’ve decided to stop by and read this today.

This week we have been reading the first chapters of Proverbs, one chapter each day this week. Today we will be reading chapter 4. Throughout this week I have been talking a lot about wisdom and some of its different facets. I’ve also talked about its importance in our lives as Christians. Today I will again, be talking about wisdom. I will be focusing on how and why we should hold on to wisdom and treasure it.

heart guard The first part talks again about how wisdom is taught by parents and passed down from generation to generation. Wisdom and knowledge are gifts given to us by those who have lived or existed before us. Chapter 4:4 “Then he taught me, ‘Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.'” This is the reason we are taught by our elders; so that we may live. This is why we are taught by religious leaders, and our parents, so that we may live.

I really want to focus on the last few verses of chapter 4, which say, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:23-27.

You need to guard your heart because your heart should be the center of who you are, and who you represent. Your heart is very important, and everything you are, everything you share with other people, and how you share God’s love, comes from your heart, guard it fiercely. Keep your mouth free of perversity. Be careful with the words that you say, and remember that you represent our creator. Do not perpetuate lies that people tell you, do not get caught up in drama with friends or at school, or work, or at home, because all of them distract from what you are called to be. Look straight ahead- stay on the narrow path. Do not stray from God, call out to him if you feel yourself straying, he wants a relationship with you, and he wants you to let him be a part of your life.

Wisdom is more than just advice given to us by our parents. It is how we discern right from wrong, it is how we know when to ask God into our lives, (which is all the time). We know how to help people, and we know when we need to guard our hearts. Wisdom is a gift, but it is also a tool to help us in our faith walk.

Thank you for reading with us today, and hopefully, you will join us tomorrow.

God Bless,

– Jana Swanson

 

God of Mercy. God of Justice.

Ezekiel 17-19

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Thursday, March 23

God used the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar to enact His judgment against Israel.  He carried off King Jehoiachin and 10,000 nobles to Babylon and installed Zedekiah to act as his vice regent or king in Jerusalem.  The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that this was God’s judgment and that the exiles would not return from Babylon until the people repented.  But the people didn’t listen and false prophets gave Israel false hope that Babylon might soon fall.  So Zedekiah broke his treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and made an alliance with Egypt.   This led to a revolt against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt.   Eventually, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar and King Zedekiah and family were carried back to Babylon where they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath.  Zedekiah had his eyes put out and his sons were executed.  Israel did not repent quickly nor easily, and because of her stubborn disobedience they continued to suffer.

In Ezekiel 17 God chose to use the allegory of an eagle plucking up the top of a cedar and then replanting it to depict His judgment against his people and to remind them of his power to build and His power to destroy.

In Ezekiel 18 God gives a very clear teaching to His people on the nature of sin, righteousness, judgement, repentance and forgiveness.  Each person is responsible for their own actions.  Parents are not held responsible by God for the sins of their children, and children are not held responsible by God for the sins of their parents.  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  In the same way, you don’t get credit for your parents good behavior if you do bad.  Each person is responsible for their own sin and will be judged accordingly.

There is good news imbedded in Ezekiel 18.  God doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing wicked people die.  God wants to see people who do evil turn away from their evil.  God wants everyone to repent.  If an evil person repents, God will not punish them.  If a righteous person turns evil, they will be punished for their evil behavior.  God is a God of both mercy and justice.  He will punish unrepentant evildoers and he will forgive and restore those who repent of their evil.  This chapter is best summarized in the final three verses:  30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

 

In Ezekiel 19, there is a lament for the end of the Messianic dynasty that came from David.  Since the time of David, his descendants, beginning with Solomon reigned as Kings over Israel.  But that has been brought to an end.  There were no more descendants of David serving as the Lord’s anointed over Israel.  Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We live on this side of the New Testament.  After several hundred years of NOT having a descendent of David as King of Israel, one was finally born in Bethlehem and his name is Jesus.  One day, Jesus will sit upon the throne and rule over not only Israel, but all the earth.  In the meantime, we have a choice, we can turn away from our sins and turn to God, or we can face the judgment.  Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our salvation.  We go to him to get a new heart and a new spirit.

-Jeff Fletcher

Enduring Faithfulness

Job 27-30

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Tuesday, December 20

Yesterday, we tackled Bildad’s question to Job about the righteousness of man before a Holy God.   With a new frame of mind, we can answer and confidently place these words of Job in our heart:

“I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it;  my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” – Job 27:6

Our conscience, our friends, and our family are not our judge, only the Lord God Almighty.  If he has made us new through repentance, then that we are indeed.  Do we continue in sin? NO! (Rom 6:1).  Do we walk around saying, “You are not my judge!” NO! (Heb 10:24) We become part of the church, pray, study, do good works, give cheerfully, share His good news, not to earn merit badges for the Kingdom of God but as loving and faithful acts of a pardoned people.  No matter our past or present circumstance we must not conceal what God is/can do in us.  Today, you can move forward declare and renew your innocence through Him.

“I will teach you about the power of God;   the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal” – Job 27:11

Along the same vein, another reflection for today comes from the second half of today’s reading (Job 29 – 30).  Job essentially is contemplating the “good ole days”, before his fortunes turned south.  The power, the respect, the friends, and the wealth he once enjoyed all are gone.  While our fall might not equal Job’s, far too often when things take a turn for the worse, we quickly forget about the faithfulness of God.  We become as the children of Israel, longing to return to slavery so our belly can be momentarily filled. (Ex 14:20) We cry out, “God, why have you taken this from me?” yet we forget who gave it to us in the first place.

Your present life may not include the finite features of your past.  Death, debt, despair, and destruction may have become more commonplace; however, there is one infinite feature that is constant: the love and faithfulness of an unchanging God.  Look upon the past not to remind you of the “good ole days,” but of his enduring faithfulness; use the lamp unto your feet to know that your future is secure, no matter what life’s storms may bring.

-Aaron Winner

Maggots! And Great Grace!

Job 22-26

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Monday, December 19

Job is repeatedly told by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that it is Job’s actions that have brought this wicked fate upon him.  In today’s reading, Bildad poses a question to Job, but really, calls into question the righteousness of every man.

 

How then can a mortal be righteous before God?  How can one born of woman be pure? – Job 25:4

 

The truth is that Job, his friends, you, and I have all suffered from the same condition.  We have sinned: an act of contempt against our Creator.  It doesn’t matter if we strayed for a moment or a lifetime, it separates us from a Holy God, and it makes us like maggots clinging to garbage; our righteousness is like filthy rags. (Job 25:6; Isaiah 64:6)

 

There is nothing that man can do to gain the grace of God.  It is a gift that no amount of church attendance, prayer, Bible study, charity, or good work earns.  Redemption comes only through our faithful Father’s plan of salvation.  (Ephesian 2:8)

 

The inverse of this is an equally powerful message.  No man with the breath of God in his lungs can lose His grace.  You cannot be selfish enough, you cannot hate enough, you cannot deny his existence enough, and you cannot curse his grace away; it is there faithfully following and patiently awaiting confession and surrender.  (Isaiah 59:1; Romans 8:38-39)

 

A small glimpse into tomorrow’s reading reveals our new attitude because of this:

Until then,

Aaron Winner