E-Message Bible/Commentary

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

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PROVERBS
The Beginning of Knowledge
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.  (Proverbs 1:7)
 
This is an age of information where knowledge is plentiful, but wisdom is scarce. So, what's the difference between knowledge and wisdom? The foundation of knowledge is to fear the Lord - to honor and respect God, to live in awe of His power, and to obey His Word. Wisdom means far more than simply knowing a lot. It is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action based on knowledge and understanding. It is a basic attitude that affects every aspect of life. It is to live circumspectly. We become wiser as we become more Christ-like. We learn to make wise decisions in difficult situations. Since God is the source of wisdom, Christians need not grope around in the dark, hoping to stumble upon answers.
 
May all your decisions today be based upon God who supplies wisdom generously to all who ask for it (James 1:5).
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"Didn't You Read My Book?"
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
 
A person recently remarked, "I am not responsible for obeying those commandments of God that I do not know." That person went on trying to explain that it is impossible for a person to act on something that is unknown to him. That remark is logical within itself. However, there are other things to consider. In this society the excuse for not knowing can no longer be a valid argument. Our forefathers did not have the various opportunities, sources and resources to learn, but we do! There was no internet service, no long distance learning, few Bible schools, not as many television ministries, correspondence programs, workshops, seminars, conferences, etc. Today information is available in every source imaginable. No one can say truthfully that there are not opportunities to learn about God's word.
 
You are not exempt from sin just because you ignore the opportunities to know better. What are you going to say when God asks you, "Didn't you read my book?" Hundreds of different versions of the Bible are available. Why don't you open one, read it, study it and let your life be guided by what God is saying? The Bible is the only book you can read when the Author is always present.
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Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding
For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6)
 
Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding . . . so what's the difference? Wisdom is a God-given gift and is the result of an energetic search. Wisdom's starting point is God and His revealed Word, the source of "knowledge and understanding." Wisdom is God's gift to us. He gives it only to those who earnestly seek it. Remember Solomon prayed for wisdom so that he could do his job more effectively (I Kings 3:9). Because God's wisdom is hidden from the rebellious and foolish, it takes effort to find it and use it. True wisdom is God's, and He will guide us and reward us when we seek to study and apply His Word to our daily lives. Seek wisdom and become wise today!
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No Back-Up Plan
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. (Proverbs 3:5)

Most of us have life insurance, health insurance, house insurance, and car insurance as a back up. In case a crisis occurs, at least we have resources to help us. We have spare tires in the trunk of our cars for road emergencies. We have back-up plans when we are short on money. We can get a loan from the bank, the credit union, family or friends. Back-up plans are good to have. But sometimes we are involved in situations where back-up plans fall short. That is the time we should trust only God to see us through. With God we need no back-up plan. 

Sometimes God eliminates our back-up plans so we can depend solely on Him. Abraham had no back-up plan when went to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice Isaac, but God had a ram in the thicket. (Genesis 22:13) Elijah had no back-up plan at the River Cherith during the famine and drought, but God allowed him to be fed by ravens (I Kings 17:3-6). Martha had no back-up plan when she sent for Jesus to heal her brother, but Jesus raised Lazarus after he was dead four days. (John 11:17). Jesus had no back-up plan when he died on the cross, but God raised Him from the dead on the third day (John 20:1-9).

Back-up plans are adequate for some things, but when the going gets really tough, we need to trust God exclusively. True dependence on God does not mean trusting God with a back-up plan. With God we need no back-up plan.

Affirm with me now..."I trust God with all my heart, and I have no back-up plan!" 
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What to Do About Hopelessness
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and  lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

Hopelessness is defined as having no expectation of anything good or successful. It is having the feeling of despair, desperation and despondency. Hopelessness is thinking it is impossible to get well if you are sick. Hopelessness is having the mistaken feeling that there is no cure or remedy for your ailments. Hopelessness is thinking there is no solution to your problem. Hopelessness is having no visions of hope.

That's what hopelessness is when you lean on your own understanding. How does God want us to respond to feelings of hopelessness?

  1. Remember that God is sovereign. We might feel hopeless when we can't get things done on our own. We can be hopeful when we trust God for every area of our lives.
  2. Remember that God is always with you. No matter why you feel hopeless, God is there with you. You are never alone. Replace your hopelessness with the knowledge that God is already working things out for your good.
  3. Remember that God keeps His promises. When our situation seems hopeless, we might be tempted to turn from God, to give up and to stop trusting Him.  This is the time that no matter how bad things get, God will hear your prayers and will respond to your praises, and will rescue you. He will keep His promises!

Your situation might seem hopeless, but remember God is sovereign, He is close to you, and He will keep His promises.
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The Space In Between
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding: In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, told you (1) to trust in the Lord with all your heart; (2) to lean not to your own understanding; and (3) to acknowledge the Lord in all your ways. And then God will direct your paths. If your paths are crooked with obstacles of every kind, perhaps you are not doing these three things God commands you to do. Perhaps you are expecting God to direct your paths without you doing anything at all.

To trust God means to have blind faith. It means to believe God will do what He says He will do. It means to come to the end of yourself and let God take over. The space in between your letting go and God taking over can be large and long or it can be small and short. It all depends on you and what you are willing to let go.

The space in between your letting go and God taking complete control depends on your submission and surrender. If you are not growing spiritually, you need to trust God enough to let go of self and let God take over your entire life. If you aren't making any progress in your relationship with God, you need to give the reins to God and let Him lead you down those paths He has cleared for you.

The space in between your letting go and God taking over depends on how much you trust Him to do so.
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Trust God No Matter What
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)
 
Trust doesn't always come easy. It wasn't easy for Abraham to leave his country and his family when he was commanded by God, "Get out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, unto a land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). But Abraham trusted God. It wasn't easy for David to think he would become king, even after he was anointed (1 Samuel 16:11-13). But David trusted God. It wasn't easy for Moses to believe that he and his people would escape from Egypt, even after God spoke to him from a burning bush (Exodus 3:3-4). But Moses trusted God. It isn't easy for us to believe that God can transform our lives when we see the mess we've made. But we must trust God. He who worked in the lives of biblical heroes is the same God who offers to work in our lives, if we would just let him.
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 A Mission Statement For Living
In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success. (Proverbs 3:6)
 
We don't find it surprising to have a mission statement for our church, our clubs, our workplace, or any other business or organization. Then, we shouldn't find it hard to believe that we also need a mission statement for marriage and a mission statement for life. A mission statement is an overview of what you plan to accomplish. A mission statement is an excellent way to keep focus of your dreams, goal, and objectives for any given project, task, or endeavor.
 
Unless you have a mission statement you will go through life aimlessly waiting for good things to happen. You have no thoughts about what you want to accomplish; therefore, you have no idea how to accomplish anything. Having a mission statement for life allows you to know when you are on target and what to do about it if you are not. Ask yourself right now these questions: (1) What is my life's dream? (2) Where am I in relationship to fulfilling my life dreams? (3) Do I need to go back to school, get more training on the job, change careers, etc. (4) Am I at the place where God wants me to be? (5) Am I pleasing God with my lifestyle and with the choices that I make? (6) What can I do to improve my life? (7) Am I on target in all areas of my life: physical, mental, and spiritual?
 
Remember a mission statement will help you keep focus. Unless you have one, you are shooting arrows into the air, and if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.
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 Paying Homage
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
 
Homage is defined as "special honor or respect shown or expressed publicly." Paying homage is a public showing of allegiance by a servant to his lord or master. There are many outward signs of paying homage to people: with the lips, with pats on the back, with increase in pay, with rewards or bonuses, and with special gifts.
 
God has been very specific when it comes to paying homage to Him. He has commanded us to honor him with our wealth, with our firstfruits of ALL our crops. He says if we do this, then He will PAY homage to us for having paid homage to Him. He will make our barns filled to overflowing, and our vats will brim over with new wine with is symbolic of new blessings and joy.
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Firstfruits or Leftovers?
Honor the Lord with your substance, with the firstfruits of all your increase; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)

It was a law of Moses that God's chosen people were to offer to Him the firstfruits of all they received. As soon as their crops ripened, the people were to offer the first and best of their harvest to God as a testimony of His faithfulness, their gratitude to Him and their confidence in a good harvest to come. (Exodus 23:19) We honor God when we give Him the firstfruits of all that we have. What, then, are firstfruits?

Firstfruits are the first of anything we receive (money, gifts, time, talents, etc.). We should offer the first of everything to God in acknowledgment that He was responsible for us receiving it in the first place.  It is human nature to give God not the firstfruits but leftovers.  A leftover is what is left over after you have used a portion of it. Instead of being the first or cream of the crop as in firstfruits, the leftovers are the last of anything or the dregs.

As God has prospered us in everything, we must honor Him. Since God is the first and best, He must receive the first and best from us. God's right is prior to all others. Therefore, He must be served first. It is a promise of God that if we serve Him with our firstfruits no matter how little, He will make a little much, and much more. It is the surest and safest method for us to receive an increase. Notice the above scripture says, "then your barns will be filled to overflowing." He does not say your bags but your barns.

When we give God our firstfruits, He gives us a greater abundance to that which we have given Him. When we give God our firstfruits, there is not a decrease in our substance but an increase to it. Then, those who do good with what they have shall have more to do more good with.

The firstfruits belong to God. You may do whatever you wish with your leftovers.
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Discipline or Punishment?
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Is there a difference between discipline and punishment? The dictionary says “discipline” is to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control. The dictionary says a “punishment” is a penalty for a fault, offense, or violation. While some people would say there is no difference, theBible does make a distinction between the two.

According to the Bible, the reason for discipline is to teach or to train for the purpose of making disciples. Punishment, on the other hand, is intended to inflict consequences for past misbehavior. Through discipline God wants to instruct His people to live a more pleasing life. Its purpose is to enhance our character and strengthen our faith.

Discipline should not be considered negative. God disciplines us because He wants us to become morally fit for the kingdom. God’s loving discipline enables us to do just that. Punishment is the penalty for a violation of God’s will.It is safe to say that discipline can come before we act whereas punishment definitely comes after an act of disobedience.

If you are being disciplined, it to so you can produce more fruit (John 15:1-2). If you are being punished, perhaps you need to repent for some overlooked sin (Psalm 51:10; 1 John 1:9).
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Get Wisdom, Get Understanding
Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.  (Proverbs 4:5)
 
These words were penned by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. What exactly is wisdom? Wisdom is the ability to make godly choices in life. Wisdom is the result of what happens when a person thinks and acts according to truth as he or she makes the many choices that life demands. Wisdom, therefore, as the Bible defines it has nothing to do with one's IQ. It is not a matter of cleverness or skill. It has nothing to do with age or personal experience. It is a matter of orientation to God, out of which comes the ability to please Him. It is seeing life from God's perspective and then deciding on the best course of action to take. It is thinking and living as God has designed us to live. It is applying knowledge and understanding to everyday life. Wisdom is living circumspectively.
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 God's Road Signs
But the path of the just is as the shining light that shines more and more into the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble. (Proverbs 4:18-19)
 
You probably wouldn't dare drive from New York to California without first having your car serviced. You wouldn't travel without having a map or someone chart your trip for you. In other words, you prepare in advance for your journey. And then you take with you those things you think will make that long trip more pleasant. As you drive you look for road signs to let you know you are traveling in the right direction.
 
Life is a journey. We also need to prepare so that we may enjoy it and know that we are headed in the right direction. We cannot do it alone. We need God's help. Therefore, God gives us road signs along the way. Those road signs will provide us with what we need. If it's food, then feast on God's word by reading your Bible daily and meditating on His word (Joshua 1:8). If it's rest, Jesus said, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). If it is fuel or oil, let the anointing of the Holy Spirit keep your tank full and your batteries charged. If you are lost, you don't have to grope around and stumble in the dark. Ask Jesus to help you find your way because Jesus is the way (John 14:6). When you come to a fork in the road and don't know which way to go, keep your eyes opened, and just look for God's road signs. You will find them every time.
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God’s Medicine
For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. (Proverbs 4:22)

The primary purposes of medicine are to heal, to cure, to make well and to keep us in good health. God has special medicine for those purposes.

“They” in the above scripture are not capsules or pills. The pronoun “They” refers to God’s medicine. What do you think is God’s medicine?

Proverbs 4:20-22 says, “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”

God’s medicine is His words. Let’s take the advice of Solomon and give attention to God’s words. Let’s believe all His sayings.   Let’s take God’s medicine for a healthy existence.
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The True Test of Pride
I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. (Proverbs 8:13)

The first sin was not murder or larceny or adultery. The first sin was PRIDE. Notice that the letter "I" is in the middle of PRIDE." He went on to say, "Whenever pride is involved, people will begin their sentences with the word, "I." The true test of pride is putting one's self above everyone and everything else including God.

The sin of pride shows up when people say, "I did that and I did that." Where is God in that statement? God has been given no credit at all. "I have a big house." Where is God in that statement? Nowhere! "I made this amount of money last year." Where is God? You get the picture. These statements could have easily included God if the person had said, "God allowed me to do, to have or to make."

When some people read the Bible during corporate worship or announce the text from which they are preaching or teaching, the first words out of their mouths are: "I am coming from Luke 24:13-35." No! No! No! It is NOT your text. Therefore, you are not coming from anywhere. The proper way to say it is, "God's word reads..." or "The Word of God is from Luke 24:13-35." You have then acknowledged God's rightful place and given Him honor that is due His name. Refrain from letting the first words out of your mouth refer to you or what you are doing. Always put God first.

Another example of pride is when a person constantly says, "I should have been at home catching up on my ...." or "I should have stayed home because I could be doing so and so." Again, the sentences start with "I" and the person who says them indicate that what they have to do is more important than what others are doing. PRIDE! PRIDE! PRIDE!

The cause of Satan's rebellion and his eventual fall was pride. Satan's ultimate desire was to be above God. In fact, Satan desired to be higher than his own Creator. Satan's selfish nature is recorded in five "I will" statements in Isaiah 14:13-14: "You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds. I will make myself like the Most High.'" Isaiah then gives a warning to Satan and to all those who desire to be above God: "But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit." (Isaiah 14:15)

Solomon, the wisest man who lived during his day, sums it up by saying, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2) "Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)

The true test of pride is to begin most of your sentences with "I" and then dominate most conversations by using "me" "myself," "my" and "mine." Pride is to be caught up in one's own EGO which means to Ease God Out.

If you want to please God, don't ease Him out. Give Him first place; even in your speech!
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Unripened Fruit
My fruit is better than solid gold, and my harvest than pure silver. (Proverb 8:19)

The image of fruit is in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It started when God said, "Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit with seed in it, according to their kinds." And it was so. (Genesis 1:11) Later, God gave instruction not to eat fruit from the tree that was in the middle of the garden. (Genesis 1:16-17). Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, God promised to send the Israelites into a land that would yield its fruit so that all could eat and be satisfied. Whenever the people sinned, one of the first things that was affected was the land. It became barren and unable to bear fruit.

Jesus said God would cut off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2) Most people understand the concept of bearing fruit. What some people do not understand is that after they bear fruit, it still takes time for the fruit to ripen.

There is nothing worst than biting into sour grapes, green apples, hard peaches or an unripened watermelon. The taste is repulsive. That's the way it is with people who are being pruned for ministry, and they proceed before they are ready. Most people think because they can quote a couple of scriptures and say, "Have a blessed day" they have all it takes to preach, teach and heal the way Jesus did. They refuse to accept the fact that spiritual growth is a process.

While bearing fruit is commendable, we must wait until that fruit is ripe before we can say like Solomon, "My fruit is better than solid gold, and my harvest than pure silver."
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A Wise Son Vs. A Foolish Son
A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother. (Proverbs 10:1)

In order to understand the Book of Proverbs, one must understand the structure of the 3,000 wise sayings written by Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. The first nine chapters of Proverbs are lessons on the value of wisdom. The rest of the book focuses on putting these lessons into practice.

The second line of each proverb is either similar to or in contrast to the first line. If the second line is similar, the word "and" introduces the second line. If the second line is in contrast, the word "but" introduces the second line.  Notice in the above proverb, the second line is in contrast to the first line introduced with the word "but." The foolish son is the opposite of the wise son; grief is opposite of joy; and mother is opposite of father. That's the structure of the proverb, but what does this particular proverb mean?

Solomon emphasizes family relationship throughout this book. It was important to him that parents set good examples for their children, and children are to value the parents' teachings by honoring them with great success. In the above proverb, the son is invited to think about the effect of his actions as viewed by his parents. This is because parents may be called to task regarding the actions of their son. A father is proud of his son's accomplishments because the family name is honored. In Proverbs 17:25, Solomon again says a wayward son brings grief to the one who bore him. In a small sense, the mother feels there is something she could have done to prevent the foolish actions of her son. In most cases, the father keeps silent waiting for the son to grow up on his own while the mother says like Mary in Luke 2:48, "Son, why have you treated us like this?"

Everyone should read the Book of Proverbs because every single person is included in it. When you read about yourself there, pay attention to the warnings, advice, and principles to live by.
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Psalms vs. Proverbs
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)
Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4)

Our Bible includes 150 psalms. These psalms are a collection of prayers, poems, and hymns that focus on the worshiper's thoughts about God in praise and adoration. David wrote 73 of the psalms. Other psalmists include Moses, Solomon, Asaph, and Sons of Korah. Fifty of the psalms are anonymous.

Our Bible includes 31 chapters of Proverbs even though Solomon is attributed to having written 3,000 proverbs. In the 31 chapters included in our Bible, Solomon mentions 180 different types of people. See if you can find yourself there. If you can't, read what he wrote about liars.

The Psalms and Proverbs are quite different. The Psalms are vertical to God. The Proverbs are horizontal about people. The Psalms are divine counsel whereas the Proverbs are practical counsel. The Psalms include God's commands, while the Proverbs include human opinions. While the Psalms are prayers, the Proverbs are merely wise sayings.

Both the Psalms and Proverbs have value. If you want to know God, feel God's presence and have a better relationship with God, read the Psalms. If you want to know yourself and have a better relationship with others, read the Proverbs. At some point in your life, read all 150 Psalms and all 31 chapters of Proverbs.
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No Sorrow With God's Blessings
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22)

Some of you have things that you think are God's blessings, but here is a rude awakening. They are not really from God. Do you have something that you should be enjoying; yet, it brings you nothing but sorrow? God would not give you something to bring you everlasting misery.

For example, how many times have you heard of people winning the lottery only to experience much sorrow? First of all, Christians should NOT gamble. When they gamble and win, they claim it is a blessing from God. God doesn't bless what He commands us not to do.

What is a true test to determine if something is a blessing from God? If it brings you nothing but sorrow, it is not from God. If it enriches your life and causes you to serve the One and Only True Living God, then the gift is a blessing and a godly one. God's blessings have no vexation of spirit attached to it. God's blessing does not have grief as its twin. God's blessing has no guilt about it at all. There is no tax paid on a blessing from God. Sorrow is not an ingredient in God's blessing as it is in what we accumulate apart from God. What comes from the love of God has the grace of God for its companion.

Evaluate the things you are offered. Will they bring you pleasure or pain? Stay away from those things that bring you nothing but pain. Stay away from those things that bring pleasure mixed with pain. Accept only those things that allow you to serve God totally. This type of blessing makes you rich, and God adds no sorrow to it.
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Four Tongues
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. (Proverbs 10:20)

What we say probably affects more people than any other action we take. It is not surprising, then, to find that Proverbs gives special attention to words and how they are used. Four common speech patterns are described in Proverbs. The first two should be imitated, while the last two should be avoided at all cost.

The controlled tongue belongs to those who think before speaking, knowing when to be silent and give wise advice. (Proverbs 10:19; 11:12; 12:16, etc.)

The caring tongue belongs to those who speak truthfully while seeking to encourage. (Proverbs 10:32; 12:18; 15:23, etc.)

The conniving tongue belongs to those whose speech patterns are filled with wrong motives, gossip, slander, and a desire to twist the truth. (Proverbs 6:12; 8:13; 16:28, etc.)

The careless tongue belongs to those whose speech patterns are filled with lies, curses, quick-tempered words which can lead to rebellion and destruction. (Proverbs 10:8; 11:9; 12:16, etc.)

Which speech pattern belongs to you: controlled, caring, conniving or careless?
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Activate Your Faith
The desire of the righteous shall be granted. (Proverbs 10:24)

When you receive a credit card in the mail, you cannot use it until you get it activated. It is the same way with faith. You have it, but unless it is activated it profits you nothing. God will never bring about any of His great works in you unless your personal faith is activated. How, then, do you activate your faith? Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, in his book, The Fourth Dimension, gives us four basic steps to activate our faith.
 
1. Envision a clear-cut objective. Instead of wishing for something, envision exactly what you want. Stop praying vague prayers. Many people say, "Lord, give me what I stand in need of." How vague can that me! When you pray vague prayers, how do you know when they are answered? Jesus is on the mainline, TELL HIM WHAT YOU WANT, AND ENVISION GETTING IT!

2. Have a burning desire. God does not like anything lukewarm. (Revelation 3:15-16) He specializes in the red hot. When you have a red hot burning desire for something and have the faith to get it, resources will gravitate towards you.
 
3. Maintain assurance. When you have a clear goal and a burning desire then pray for blessed assurance. Assurance is the same as having legal papers or a title deed for something. Sometimes, the assurance or legal papers come instantly, and sometimes you must wait for them no matter how long it takes.
 
4. Speak the word. You show evident of your faith by speaking the word. Miracles are laws in the spiritual realm, and we have endless resources when we speak the word. Remember, God is not going to do anything for you without it coming through your own faith. Claim and speak words of faith instead of begging God. God told Moses, "Why are you crying to me? Give the command and the Red Sea shall be divided?" (Exodus 14:15-16) Stop begging God and command in faith. 
 
Use these four steps to activate your faith. Then begin to enjoy the things you have envisioned, the things you have a burning desire for, the things you have been assured of having and the things you have spoken the words for.

Activate your faith!

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Take As Well As Give Advice
Wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10)
 
Recently I heard a radio minister tell the story of a saved man traveling on a bus. An unsaved man sat beside him and began to complain and use vulgar language and profanity because someone had stolen his wallet. The saved man began advising the unsaved man to stop complaining because he could always get another wallet and more money.
 
After a rest stop the unsaved man returned to his seat where the saved man was now complaining and using vulgar language and profanity. He announced that someone had stolen his wallet. When the unsaved man reminded the saved man about his recent advice, the saved man replied, "Well, I gave that advice when it was YOUR wallet that was stolen. Now it's mine." The point of this story is that we are willing to give advice to others when it doesn't affect us, but when it comes to our own problems, we have no faith. When you give advice to others, let it hit your own heart first!
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Proper Planning
A wise person thinks ahead; a fool doesn't and even brags about it! (Proverbs 13:16)
 
Would an architect attempt to build without a blueprint? Would a pilot fly a plane without a traffic plan? Would a seamstress attempt to make a dress without a pattern? Could a teacher teach effectively without a lesson plan? Certainly not! Then, why do we think we can live our lives without some type of plan. Every life should have a plan. And everything we do should relate to our ultimate goal.
 
The life of Jesus was ordered by His objective. Everything He did and said was part of His overall plan. It was significant because it contributed to the ultimate purpose of His life in redeeming the world for God. This was the motivating factor governing His every behavior. His steps were ordered by His plan. There was nothing haphazard about His life; no wasted energy, not an idle word. He was about His Father's business (Luke 2:49). He lived, died and rose again according to a plan. Not one moment did Jesus lose sight of His purpose, His pattern, or His plan. And we shouldn't either.
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Being in a Good Place
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3)

Have you ever asked a person, "How are you?" and that person responded, "I am in a good place"? What did that person mean? What does it mean to be in a good place? The expression "being in a good place" has nothing to do with one's physical location. However, it does have everything to do with one's spiritual condition.

Being in a good place means being at peace no matter what you are facing. Being in a good place means accepting where you are instead of kicking against the pricks. Being in a good place means blooming where you are planted. Being in a good place means accepting choices and challenges of the day.

Being in a good place gives you the courage to say like a child, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I shall die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." This prayer says you are willing to lie down in a good place with the possibility of waking up in a better place.

Take inventory today to determine if you are in a good place.
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How to Make Every Day a Feast Day
All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15)

Solomon, the wisest man during his day, wrote that our days are wretched if we are oppressed, but those who have a cheerful heart have a feast every day and not just on the day designated as Thanksgiving. Just two verses earlier Solomon said, "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." (Proverbs 15:13)

So can one get from wretched days of oppression to continual feast days? How can one get through the days when heartaches crush the spirit? In times of lack, sickness and disease, how can one be cheerful? It might seem hard, but it is so easy when you turn a broken heart into a thankful heart. 

If you want to make every day a feast day, become cheerful. How do you become cheerful? By being thankful? A cheerful heart is the outgrowth of a thankful heart. And the cheerful heart has a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15)

Quiz- Birds of the Bible
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Right Action; Wrong Motive
All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. (Proverbs 16:2)

Do you feel you do what is right in the sight of God, but you also feel that God has forgotten you? Do you follow God's commandments, but you feel that God is not blessing you? Perhaps you are doing all the right things in all the right places, but your motive is wrong.

A man's ways are his outward actions. He does things and judges himself by what he calls virtues, but God might be calling them vices. God looks more at the reason and the condition of the heart than at the thing that is done. Before you do a thing, ask yourself these questions:
  • "What is my motive?"
  • "What is my intention?"
  • "Will this act please God?"
If you can give honest answers to the above questions, then the measurement of your motives will match up with the same standard God uses.

Before you do a thing, remember to evaluate your motive.
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Commit Your Work to God
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.  (Proverbs 16:3)
 
Do whatever you do for God and not for yourself. There are different ways to commit whatever you do to the Lord. Don't give God temporary control only to take back what you have committed to God when the going is good. When you commit you work to the Lord, you still need to participate in your own blessings. Maintain a balance in the partnership, trusting God as if everything depended on Him, while working as if everything depended on you. If you are working on a specific project right now, commit it to God, and your plans will succeed.
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 Desired Results
Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)
 
When we embark upon a project, there is no way we can be 100 percent sure of the results. We project, we speculate; we set goals, but we can never know exactly how things will turn out. What we can do and should do is to plan to the best of our ability, commit our work to the Lord and trust Him to give us our desired results. Even though we hope and have a certain measure of faith that things will fall into place and flow according to our desired outcome, we cannot rely solely on human perfection. In order for any project to succeed, we MUST release it to God.
 
We cannot see the end from the beginning. But God can! Therefore, it is imperative that we rely not on our expected results, but on the ONE who can make our desired results come to pass. The beauty of this principle is that when you rely on the ONE who can make the results happen, you get not only your desired results, but you get more of God as well.
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The Final Say
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Why should we ponder a situation knowing that God has the final say? Why should we go through the process of finding answers to our problems if the final decision is really left up to God? Why bother if God might veto our decision anyway?

It might sound strange, but God can and often does veto our decisions. God vetoes our decisions because only God has all the facts concerning a matter. We make decisions based on limited information. Yet, despite what we decide to do, God has the final word. For the wise, this is comforting. For the foolish, it might be frustrating for God to override their plans.

Should we, then, do nothing? We still need to participate in our own blessings and do as much as we can while keeping in mind the whole time that we can go just so far with the decision making process. God will step in ONLY after we have done all that we can do. Then God will either change the situation or change our mind about the situation. Nevertheless, God ALWAYS has the final say.
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Do Your Plans Include God?
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.( Proverbs 16:9)

While it is important to plan, we cannot move one foot unless God gives the force. When we plan with the end result giving God the glory, then God is more willing to order our steps. When we plan with only selfish motives, our plans either do not develop or they develop with much struggle, suffering and pain. When plans are with God in mind, then God determines every step we take. God puts His stamp of approval on our plans because we have made Him a part of them.

When our plans DO NOT include God, we lack the source and resources to accomplish much. When our plans DO include God, then we have His power, His resources, His grace, and His Spirit to help US get favorable results while HE gets the glory. It sounds like a fair principle to me!

So if you want your plans to be established, then include God. Become dependent on Him to lead you by His Spirit. The next time you plan to do anything, whether it is to buy a new car or house or to take trip, get married or change jobs, ask yourself how God can get the glory out of the situation. If God is not included in the plans, how then can you expect Him to be included in the results?
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 God Demands Fairness
The Lord demands fairness in every business deal. He established this principle. (Proverbs 16:11)
 
Whether we buy or sell, make a product or offer a service, we know what is honest and what is dishonest Sometimes we are unfair to others because it gives us power and control over them. We try to advance our own cause and receive more at the expense of others. God expects fairness from us in every aspect of life. When we cheat others, not only are we disobeying God's commandment, but we are cheating God Himself.
 
Have you been fair in all your dealings with people? Have you sincerely been sensitive to all involved or have you been motivated by selfish reasons?
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Twin Sins That Hold You Back
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
Pride goes before destruction. And a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Proverbs 16:18)

Sin is sin, but there are twin sins that hold you back and keep you from moving ahead in all areas of your life. One of these two sins by itself causes much damage to your spiritual development. When both of them are present in your life, you don't stand a chance of growing in any area . . . financially, emotionally, intellectually, professionally, socially, or spiritually.

What are these twin sins? If you had to guess, what do you think they are?

UNFORGIVENESS. Unforgiveness is a sure way to stop you in your tracks and cement your feet to the pavement. You CANNOT move forward with unforgiveness of any kind in your heart. It is a command of God that you MUST forgive others no matter what they have done to you. Unforgiveness hurts you, and it keeps you from receiving God's blessings. So if you are not satisfied where you and have noticed that you aren't moving forward, perhaps there is still a trace of unforgiveness in your heart toward someone. If you want God's favor on your life, the surest and quickest way is to forgive those whom you believe have hurt, harmed or hindered you. Sure it is hard to forgive someone, but the benefits and blessings are worth it. When you rid yourself of all unforgiveness, you will become unstuck so you can move farther and faster than ever before.

PRIDE. Pride is the other sin that keeps you frozen where you are. Pride is described in the Bible as arrogance, conceit, and haughtiness. Pride shows up in one's speech through boasting, defiance, and indifference. In other words, pride is the excessive belief in your own abilities that interfere with recognizing the grace of God. Proud people have an EGO problem because they Ease God Out! Pride is the sin on which all other sins arise.

The twin sins of unforgiveness and pride are the two sins that will definitely hold you back. Unforgiveness and pride are the reasons you have a lack of favor with God; and therefore a lack of success in your career, your relationships, your ministry and every other area in which you are involved.

Eliminate the twin sins of unforgiveness and pride and watch how quickly God's favor will be upon you.
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Should You Take Ten Years From Your Age?
Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. (Proverbs 16:31)

Both men and women color their gray hair mainly to keep from looking older. In fact, the hair color companies promise that if you use their product you are guaranteed to "take ten years off your age."

Which ten years? The ten years you were in a bad relationship? The ten years you were imprisoned? The ten years you were unemployed or unhappily employed? The ten years you were in a lifeless marriage? Which ten years would you take from your age?

Would you have the option to choose the ten years you want to take off? Must the ten years be consecutive years? Is there a guarantee that the good years won't disappear as well? 

There are so many variables. So many that it might give a person gray hair just by thinking about it. I think I will keep my gray hair and leave the ten years attached to my age. There is no need to take ten years off my life because the God of my black hair is also the God of my gray hair.
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 True Friends
A true friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. (Proverbs 17:17)
 
Loyalty is an essential part of true friendship. Do you have true friends? Are you loyal to your friends? Can you depend on your friends to do anything for you at anytime? Who is a true friend?
 
A true friend is one who knows all about you and loves you anyway. A true friend is one who rejoices with you when you have good news to share. A true friend is not a fair-weather friend who runs away at the first sign of trouble. A true friend is one who hurts when you hurt and cries with you when you are in pain.
 
The greatest evidence of genuine friendship is loyalty. Loyalty means being available to help in times of distress or personal struggles. Think of the type of friend that you are. Assess your loyalty. Be the kind of true friend the Bible encourages. A true friend is a friend telling a friend about the best friend there is: JESUS!
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 Our Gifts
Our gifts make room for us and bring us before great people. (Proverbs 18:16 paraphrased)
 
Have you ever wondered why you notice something that needs to be done, but no one else notices or seems to mind? The needs you see are opportunities to use your gifts. When God allows you to see and be burdened by a need, that is a clear indication that you can do something about it. Often, the needs you notice are the very ones you can have a part in meeting. For example, if you notice the need for more education in the church, then God is inviting you to do something about it. If you notice a lack of organization in the church, what gifts do you have that can help. After all, you recognized it.

Maybe no one else did because it is YOU and YOUR gifts that God wants to use. God has given you gifts that match various needs. Offer those gifts in service to Him.
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Don't Go to God Empty Handed
A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men. (Proverbs 18:16)
 
It is a custom in some cultures not to go into the presence of great men empty handed. No matter how small the gift is, it is always accepted as a form of honor and respect from the giver to the recipient. Without a gift of some kind, no favor was bestowed upon the visitor.
 
This holds true for us when we approach the altar of God. We are expected to give God a gift or an offering. God is pleased when we present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). He is pleased when we give Him the sacrifice of praise continually (Hebrews 13:15). He is pleased when we cast our burdens upon Him in exchange for His blessings (1 Peter 5:7).
 
So let's not go to God empty handed. Offer Him something to work with just as Jesus offered Him the fishes and the loaves and God supplied abundantly!
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What You SAY Is What You Get
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. (Proverbs 18:21)

Do you believe you bring curses on you and your family by the words you say? If you could replay the conversations you had throughout the day, you would be surprised to discover how many times you spoke negative things into your own life.

Words have power to help or to hinder. To affirm negative things from your mouth invites negative things to happen. For example, if you say you are going to have a bad day, you will likely have a bad day because you have spoken it forward. What you SAY is what you get. So, if you believe death and life are in the power of tongue, why not speak life and positive things?

Also, avoid using such expressions such as "my aching back" or "my splitting headache." There is no need to personalize a condition. When you do that, you speak ownership over that condition that will probably linger with you longer.

What you SAY is what you get! Let' speak blessings instead of curses.

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Be Careful What You Think; Be Careful What You Say
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. (Proverbs 18:21)

Some things that happen to us, whether good or bad, happen because we will them to happen by what we think or by what we say. When you don't want to do something, you think of a way to get out of doing it. The power of your thoughts surely will give you an excuse.

There are some people who never miss church because they don't conjure up an excuse not to go. On the other hand, there are people who want an excuse; therefore, the universe grants their wish. Something always happen to prevent them from doing what they didn't want to do in the first place.

Whatever happens to you is the manifestations of something you have either thought or said, whether good or bad.  Call only good things to you by speaking words of blessings; not words that curse. Think good and pleasant thoughts so that what happens to you will be what brings pleasure to you and to God.

Let's think and speak only the good, positive and pleasant things in order to draw the good, positive and pleasant things into our lives!
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 "TURN THE STUPID SANDWICH OVER!"
Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. (Proverbs 19:20)

Last Sunday night my four year-old grandson spent the night with me. He wanted me to watch Nickelodium with him. That's the channel where programs are designed especially for kids. During one of the programs, a kid gave advice to another kid who insisted that she had a "serious" problem. Her "serious" problem was that her mother made her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the wrong way. She likes the peanut butter on the top and the jelly on the bottom. However, her mother makes them with the peanut butter on the bottom and the jelly on the top. The kid adviser gave this advice: "TURN THE STUPID SANDWICH OVER!"

Often times our solutions are just that simple. All we have to do is TURN THE STUPID SANDWICH OVER! We spend hours and hours trying to find a solution when the solution is right there in our hands like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We look at the problem from only one angle, but the answer is on the other side if we would only TURN THE STUPID SANDWICH OVER!

From now on when we have a "serious" problem, let's stop criticizing those who set out to help us. Let's TURN THE STUPID SANDWICH OVER!  It might be just that simple.
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Guidelines for Making Godly Decisions
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

Admittedly, some decisions are harder to make than others. It is easier to decide what to have for dinner, but when it comes to making decisions that could affect the rest of your life, the process is much harder. You don't have to panic when it comes to making major decisions about which college to attend, which house to purchase, which job to take or which person to marry. God should be the source of all decisions. Seek God's will and then do it. 

Before you make any decision, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Is it something I can take to God with a good conscious and ask Him to bless it. Is my decision based on the word of God. God is NOT going to bless anything that contradicts His word.
  2. Is it something I can thank God for? Can I truly say my decision is part of God's plan?
  3. Will my decision bring glory to God? If not, I won't do it.
  4. Will my decision help others or will it be a stumbling block to them?
  5. Will my decision heighten my spiritual life or cause me to spiral downhill? Will my decision edify me? Will my decision bring peace to my inner being? Will it bring me closer to God or push me farther away?
  6. How will the devil react after I make my decision? Will my decision make the devil victorious or will he be angry and disturbed? I won't do anything that causes the devil to celebrate.
  7. Is my decision a confirmation of the Holy Spirit's promptings? Have there been signs and miracles relating to my decision?
  8. Will God be pleased with my decision? Would Jesus do what I plan to do? Does the Holy Spirit bear witness to my spirit?
  9. Will my decision promote love and harmony?  Will others be able to enhance their lives because of my decision? Will I be a good example or role model for others? What will be the consequences of my decision?
  10. Is my decision based on God's guidance? Will I be honored to be doing this when Jesus comes again?
God wants us to make decisions, but He wants to be part of the process. If the above guidelines are followed, four things will happen.
  1. Our plans will succeed.
  2. We will please God.
  3. We will please ourselves. 
  4. We will please others.
Go on and make your major decision. Notice, procrastination wasn't listed as a guideline.
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Looking for One Thing, But Finding Another
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)

God's plan for our lives is so ordered that when we are pursuing righteousness and kindness, our lives become much better than we had ever anticipated. God wants us to eat from the fat of the land, to be happy and prosperous, and to enjoy living the good life.

In order to experience all God has for us, we need to be obedient to His word. God wants us to be in right standing and right relationship with Him. While we are pursuing righteousness and kindness, God is working behind the scenes to make sure we also find life and honor.
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Adversities: Teaching Tools
If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.  (Proverbs 24:10)
 
Adversities serve their purposes. There is value in the valley. Crises carry with them the opportunities to grow beyond what we thought we could bear. For Christians, there is always hope and joy within and beyond adversities. Adversities compel us to practice submission before God. Adversities are those unpleasant passages in life whereby if we remain true to God during those times, we come through strengthened with more wisdom and understanding. We can't really know the depth of our character until we see how we react to adversities. It is easy to praise the Lord and say we are blessed when things are going well. Our faith is measured at those times of sufferings if we can say like the psalmist, "I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities" (Psalm 31:7).
 
Adversities teach us to trust God beyond our normal level of understanding. Adversities teach us to rely totally on God. No one wants to experience adversities deliberately, but when they do happen, let's think of them as teaching tools.
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Impulsivity
Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

My six-year old grandson, AJ, is in first grade. When I go to visit him, I look at his schoolwork to keep up to date on his progress. Last Sunday when I visited, I saw a sheet of paper where he had drawn a line down the middle to make two columns. At the top of the first column he had written the word, "Non-Impulsivity" and at the top of the second column he had written the word, "Impulsivity." I thought to myself, "Those are big words for a first grader."

AJ explained that impulsivity is doing something spontaneously without thinking about it; whereas non-impulsivity is thinking about what you do before you do it and being aware of the consequences.

Kudos to AJ's teacher for teaching him about impulsivity in first grade. Now when he goes to high school, he will already know what it means. It will not be a new thing for him in college.  In the boardroom, he will not be impulsive to make harmful or dangerous decisions. He will not be impulsive with his wife and with his children. He would have learned at an early age that he needs to think on things before he acts. (Philippians 4:8)

A lot of conflict would be resolved if we did what six-year old AJ did. Let's draw a column on a sheet of paper and write down all our "Non-Impulsive" actions and all our "Impulsive" actions. At the end of the day, let's see how many of our actions were non-impulsive versus impulsive.
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Coals of Fire
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22 and Romans 12:20)
 
In biblical times almost everything was carried on the head. Water, jars, fruit, fish, vegetables all alike were carried on a person's head from one place to another. Cooking was done on small burners outside the house. If the fire went out, someone would fill a bucket with live coals and carry it on his head to his neighbor. Such an act stood for warmth and neighborliness. To be kind to our enemies, even forgiving them, is like heaping "coals of fire on their head." Evil is replaced with love and forgiveness.
 
Has someone mistreated you lately? Show love and forgiveness by heaping "coals of fire" on that person's head. The above scriptures says, "The Lord will reward you." Try it. You will feel better and so will that individual.
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 Don't Get Angry, Get Even More Lovable
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:22)
 
When people mistreat us, the first thing we think of is getting even. God tells us to get even more loveable. His advice for retaliation is different from ours; yet more effective. Through the words of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, God commands us to love our enemies, to feed them when they are hungry and to give them water to drink when they are thirsty. Being even more loveable toward our enemies when they have hurt us is similar to an Old Testament custom. Practically everything is carried on the head; water, jars, fruit, fish, vegetables, live coals, etc. When one's neighbor's fire had gone out, one would take a bucket of live coals to his neighbor to start his fire again. To be kind to our enemy is like heaping that bucket of live coals on his head. Such an act stands for warmth, neighborliness and friendliness.
 
Paul also quotes this proverb in Romans 12:19-21 when he tell us to respond with kind actins. Jesus encourages us in Matthew 5:44 to get even more loveable by praying for those who hurt us. Jesus tells us NOT to retaliate or to take the law into our own hands. By returning good for evil, we acknowledge God as the intermediator in our disputes and trust Him to be a fair judge.
 
So, don't get angry with your enemies, get even more loveable.
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 No Curse Without a Cause
Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserving curse does not come to rest. (Proverbs 26:2)
 
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote the book of Proverbs to give us practical advice on how to live a more enriched life. In Proverbs 26:2, he tells us that the sparrow and the swallow, both small birds might flutter, flit and dart in the air but they never land on us. These small birds might be flying overhead, but they disappear as birds of passage and never light on the innocent person below. In the same manner, an undeserved curse will never land on a person. Even when your enemies are out to curse you and do you harm, if you are in covenant with God, your enemy will not harm you; rather, God will turn that harmful situation into a blessing. Remember the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50). His brothers did it for evil, but God did it for good. Deuteronomy 23:5 says, "However, the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you."
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"An Open Door Policy"
As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.  (Proverbs 26:2)

Your boss probably has an "Open Door Policy" where you can enter and talk to him or her when a need arises. Your pastors, teachers, and other authority figures probably have extended an "Open Door Policy" to you. Did you know every time you sin, you extend an "Open Door Policy" to Satan? Satan loves dark places and considers every dark place an area where he can enter and work havoc. According to the above scripture, NO curse comes without a cause. Sin is the "Open Door Policy" for Satan. He comes into your life for several reasons.
 
Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy.
Satan comes to stop us from doing God's work. 
Satan comes to oppose us.
Satan comes to go against God's will.
Satan comes to corrupt all God has created.
 
Satan is roaming the earth to see whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) He goes to those with open doors. If he finds no open doors, he seeks to get in through the window. If no window is open, he squeezes in through any crack he can. Sin provides those opened doors, windows and cracks.
 
As long as you keep an "Open Door Policy," you are inviting and welcoming Satan into your life. If you want to get rid of Satan, close those doors and close them NOW! He will leave you for a season, but he will come back again and again to check to see if  you have an "Open Door Policy."
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How Proverbs Can Help Us
Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. (Proverbs 26:9)
 
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, left us a legacy of proverbs. A proverb is a wise saying that teaches us how to live godly. A proverbs gives instruction, advice and practical wisdom for daily living.
 
A proverb is helpful only to the extent that it is received and used. Many times people think proverbs are for others but not for themselves. That's what the above scripture illustrates. When the preacher says something, it is not uncommon for us to say, "So and so should have been here to hear that" when actually the message was for those who did hear it.
 
Normally the first prick of a thorn alerts us, so we remove it before it does more damage. A drunk person may not feel the thorn and it will do damage to the flesh. Similarly, a fool does not heed the advice of a proverb because he thinks it is for others. The next time you hear good advice from the pulpit or from other sources, ask yourself, "Is there a message in it for me?" Otherwise, you are just like a drunkard with a thorn in your hand.
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 Which Is Worse: Gossiping or Listening To It?
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts. Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. (Proverbs 26:22-23 NIV).
 
According to the Jewish laws found in the Book of Leviticus, which is worse: the person who listens to gossip or the person who tells it? You might be surprised to know that the person who listens to gossip is even worse than the person who tells it. Why? Even though they both are forbidden by the scriptures, no harm could be done by gossip if no one listened to it. Listening to gossip gives it power to continue. If we refuse to listen to gossip, it would die instantly. But to listen to gossip is to help stab a person with a sharp-edged sword. It is said that gossip kills three: the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told. Let's stop killing people with our mouths and with our ears!
 
Much harm can be done through one's speech. The harm is worse than stealing or cheating someone financially because amends can be made for monetary harms, but the harm done by speech can never be repaired. It is like opening a pillow full of feathers on a windy day on the top of a mountain. You can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can collect all the feathers and put them back into the pillow.
 
So, let's watch our language, and let's stop gossip in its tracks by refusing to listen to it!
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Let's Be Sharpened!
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

God doesn't want us to be dull. God wants us to be sharp. So how do we become sharp and how do we stay sharp?

Solomon was wise enough to know that when one piece of iron is rubbed against another piece of iron, both pieces become sharpened. So it is with us. When we engage in conversations with others, we become sharpened. When there is an exchange of information, we become sharpened. When someone shares things with us from a different perspective, we become sharpened.

Like iron rubbing against iron, in any friendship, relationship or partnership, sparks will fly, but the end result is worth it. Each person becomes sharper than before.

God wants us to be in relationship. God wants us to be in partnership. God wants iron to sharpen iron. God doesn't want any dullness among us.
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Iron Sharpens Iron
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
 
Have you ever seen the host at a table sharpening one knife by rubbing it against another? Or sharpening the carving knife by rubbing each side against a hardened steel rod with fine ridges? Just as the action of iron against iron sharpens, so the interchange of ideas among people makes them more alert in their thinking. The meeting of the minds can help people see their ideas with new clarity and gain new insights. It pays to be around positive people. It pays to be around wise people. It pays to be around creative people. There is a mental sharpens that comes to those who are around such people.
 
Iron sharpens iron! It pays for Christians to be around other Christians. If you are weak in some areas, being in the company of other Christians who are strong in those areas will help you. If your faith is weak, don't hang out with someone whose faith is also weak. Rub against someone who has strong faith. If you are deficient in praying to God, get in the habit of being with others who pray. If you are embarrassed to praise the Lord, hook up with someone who does. If you have the habit of neglecting to study the Bible, get in the company of someone who studies God's word diligently.
 
Iron sharpens iron! Associate with those whose qualities you want to rub off on you.
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Learn From Your Mistakes
He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

No matter how hard we try not to, everyone sins and makes mistakes. We sin in thoughts, words and deeds. It is human nature to try to conceal our sins from others. But we know we have sinned and so does God. Therefore, our blessings are blocked until the sin is confessed.

A sin is a bad mistake. We should learn from our mistakes. But it is hard to learn from a mistake that is concealed and not acknowledged. A mistake should teach a lesson. To learn from a mistake, we need to (1) admit it; (2) confess it; (c) analyze it; (d) and make adjustments so that it doesn't happen again.

Everyone makes mistakes. Only fools repeat them!
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The Great Cover Up
He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

A story is told of a woman who was on a diet and her husband challenged her not to eat the half cake that was left on the counter when he went to work. During the day the woman couldn't resist; so she ate one slice and hoped her husband wouldn't notice. One piece tasted so good she couldn't resist the second piece. This went on until no cake was left. Fearing what her husband would do when he got home, the wife quickly baked another cake. Having a whole cake on the counter would seem quite odd. So she ate half of it.

That's the way some people treat sin. They do what is evil and think no one will notice. Then they sin a little bit more and think for sure that it is their little well kept secret. Before they realize it, they are deep in sin. They reason with themselves that since they have already sinned, they might as well sin some more. Paul asks, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2)
 
Covering up our sins damage us in the long run. It leads to poverty of spirit, dullness of thought, and general ineffectiveness as a servant of Christ. Once we cover a sin, we are like the woman who ate a whole cake to keep her husband from finding out she ate half a cake. Sin begets sin. Therefore, the best way to keep yourself from sinning is to resist the first slice.
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The Great Cover Up
He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

A story is told of a woman who was on a diet and her husband challenged her not to eat the half cake that was left on the counter when he went to work. During the day the woman couldn't resist; so she ate one slice and hoped her husband wouldn't notice. One piece tasted so good she couldn't resist the second piece. This went on until no cake was left. Fearing what her husband would do when he got home, the wife quickly baked another cake. Having a whole cake on the counter would seem quite odd. So she ate half of it.

That's the way some people treat sin. They do what is evil and think no one will notice. Then they sin a little bit more and think for sure that it is their little well kept secret. Before they realize it, they are deep in sin. They reason with themselves that since they have already sinned, they might as well sin some more. Paul asks, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2)
 
Covering up our sins damage us in the long run. It leads to poverty of spirit, dullness of thought, and general ineffectiveness as a servant of Christ. Once we cover a sin, we are like the woman who ate a whole cake to keep her husband from finding out she ate half a cake. Sin begets sin. Therefore, the best way to keep yourself from sinning is to resist the first slice.

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Two Things That Keep You Stuck
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12) A man's pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit. (Proverbs 29:23)

Do you seem to be stuck in your relationship with God?  Do you feel that you are not growing spiritually? Do you see God's favor on others, but you feel that you are left on the sidelines? If so, you need to evaluate your life and see if there are two things that shouldn't be there. Once you have identified that these two things do exist, you MUST get rid of them immediately. These two things keep you from growing in your relationship with God and from growing in your relationship with others. These two things are non-negotiable, and as soon as you rid them from your life, you will begin to experience God's presence immediately.

UNFORGIVENESS will keep you separated from God and from others. It will keep God's blessings from you. God did not stutter when He said in order for you to be forgiven by Him, you must forgive others. Forgiveness is a debt owed. Do you know how you feel once you have paid off a debt? Forgive and feel even better than paying off a natural debt. If you are having problems getting rid of unforgiveness, know this: You will receive the same degree of forgiveness from God as you give to others. Also, God will not let His Spirit flow through you with unforgiveness in your heart. His Spirit will not duck and dodge and take detours in order to get around that UNFORGIVENESS lodged in the crevices of your heart. So, GET RID OF IT NOW!

PRIDE is the one thing God despises. He will NOT reward you with any amount of pride in your life. To say you have no pride is a sure indication that you do. Another sure indication of pride is to monitor how many times you say, "I," "me," or "my" in a conversation. If you try to top what everybody else says by using yourself as an example, that's pride. The first line of Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life is "It's not about you." If you don't understand and embrace that principle, there is absolute no reason to read the rest of the book. If you are having problems getting rid of pride, think about why Satan was kicked out of heaven. Again, God will not duck and dodge and take detours to get around any PRIDE that is lodged in the crevices of your heart. So, GET RID OF IT NOW!

Remember in order to grow spiritually and to be in a position for God to use you for His glory, you MUST eliminate all UNFORGIVENESS and all PRIDE
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Spiritual Deposits
The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer. (Proverbs 30:25)

We all know about bank deposits. We know that in order to make a withdrawal, we should have put money in the bank earlier. We also know that we cannot make a withdrawal if we have a zero balance. So it is with spiritual deposits.

If we want to withdraw from our spiritual bank at a later date, we must make a spiritual deposit today. How do we make spiritual deposits? We pray and praise God BEFORE we need something from Him. Like the ants, we should build up our reserve in the time of fatness so that during lean times, we will have enough to sustain us.

It is true that the Bank of God is always open. However, we must have an account there in order to make deposits and withdrawals. In other words, we must put something in the bank if we expect to get something out.

Make a spiritual deposit today so that you may make a spiritual withdrawal when you need to.
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Missed Opportunities
Who can find a virtuous woman? (Proverbs 31:10)
There is a story about a young man who wanted to find the perfect mate. A wise old man told him to go   on a journey and surely God would send a virtuous woman along his path. There were two stipulations:
#1 The young man would not know in advance where and when the journey would end; and
#2 Once he missed the opportunity for his perspective mate, he would never get the chance again.

So the young man set out thinking his task would be easy. He passed the first woman and decided not to pursue her because she was just a little taller than he was. He passed the second woman and dismissed her because he thought she was too skinny. He passed the third one and dismissed her because he thought she was too fat. The man passed up hundreds of opportunities. After many years, the man was no longer young, and he still had not made a choice. By the time he was 70 years old, his health was failing. As he continued along his journey, he no longer had to refuse the women because they were refusing him.  At 80, this man was not in any shape to choose anyone, and surely no one was choosing him. He died alone as an unfulfilled old man only because he was unwilling to take a chance on happiness when he was young enough to enjoy life.

We, like this man, stand a chance of missing opportunities on our journey. We, like this man, do not know when our journey will end. We, like this man, might be indecisive about major life issues. If that is the case with you, seek God’s wisdom on every issue that concerns you; whether it is choosing a mate, having a baby, changing jobs, relocating, buying a house, or going back to school. God, in his infinite wisdom, knows what’s best for you. He will give you  signs along the way. When you ignore the signs, you miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

It is sad to come to the end of your life and die alone and unfulfilled as the man in this story. Let God guide you on your journey. Don’t get to the end of your life and wish you had made major decisions that could have brought you joy and contentment.
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The Proverb 31 Woman
"Who can find a virtuous woman?"  (Proverbs 31:10)

Sermons from Proverbs 31:10-29 are normally preached at Women's Day Celebrations. I have never used this passage for a Women's Day sermon. I would however use it for a Men's Day sermon. Proverbs 31 was written for a man. King Lemuel's mother taught him how to find the ideal wife. She asked him, "Who can find a virtuous woman?" Then she gave him a composite portrait of the ideal woman found in Proverbs 31:10-29. One might wonder why the list does not include the woman serving God as Number 1 as it was in the list for the "Mighty Men of Valor" that was submitted yesterday. The reason is that in the original Hebrew, this closing section of the book of Proverbs is written in the form of an acrostic, each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in its proper order.

If Lemuel would take his mother's advice, he would find a virtuous woman based on her worth, works, witnesses, wisdom and worship.

HER WORTH
  1. A virtuous woman is one who is capable, diligent, worthy and good. She is worth more than costly jewels.
  2. A virtuous woman's husband has full confidence in her. She is honest with respect for her husband. Her finest efforts are put forth to help him; she never fails to cooperate.
  3. A virtuous woman surpasses all other women.
HER WORKS
  1. A virtuous woman  is a homemaker always looking for wool and flax and enjoys converting them into cloth. She is a good shopper who knows the best bargains.
  2. A virtuous woman does not procrastinate. She arises before daybreak to prepare food for her household. She is a great administrator because she gives her maidservants not only their breakfast but their work assignment for the day. [One might wonder why the wife arises early to give the maidservants breakfast. Perhaps that's why she is called a "Virtuous Woman"]. She works late into the dark to complete all her tasks before going to bed.
  3. A virtuous woman knows how to handle money, and she does not hesitate to invest it in fields to plant vineyards.
  4. A virtuous woman helps the needy. She unselfishly shares with those who are less fortunate.
  5. A virtuous woman takes care of the house with full confidence that her husband has devoted himself to public affairs without worrying about conditions at home.

HER WITNESSES
  1. A virtuous woman looks after her family. Her children realize that she is an outstanding mother, and they tell her so.
  2. A virtuous woman greatly enriches her husband's life. She will not hinder him. Her husband trusts her. He praises her as a God-given wife. In fact, he says, "There are many good wives in the world, but you excel them all."
  3. A virtuous woman is publicly praised at the city gates.

HER WISDOM
  • A virtuous woman's words of instruction are wise and kind.

HER WORSHIP
  • A virtuous woman is one who fears the Lord.
Lemuel's mother asked her son, "Who can find a virtuous woman?" That question should be asked of all men. That's why I would preach it as a Men's Day sermon.
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Proverbs 31: A Twist
Who can find a virtuous woman? (Proverbs 31:10:a)
 
The above scripture is generally used as a text for sermons preached on Women's Day or Mother's Day. Some women even refer to themselves as being a Proverbs 31 woman. The main focus they have is on the woman, and it really seems that the woman is the subject of Proverbs 31 since King Lemuel's mother taught her son the godly description of a woman. She taught him about the type of woman he should choose. We tend to overlook that the subject is not on the woman but on the subject "WHO." Therefore, I preach from this passage on Men's Day and not on Women's Day since the instruction was clearly given to a man.
 
While it is certainly true that a woman should possess those qualities described in Proverbs 31, the woman should not be the one seeking the man. The Bible is clear on who should find whom. The man is to find that virtuous woman. If it is done any other way, then it is not scriptural. God is to present the woman to the man just as He presented Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden. "WHO can find a virtuous woman?" A virtuous man, of course!
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