The Tortoise and the Hare

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 30

Gold Nugget
Verse 25: “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer.”

Commentary
I liken this illustration concerning ants to the story of the tortoise and the hare. An unlikely character that accomplishes what the likely character seems more apt to do. Without rehearsing a story you’re already familiar with, we will just summarize by saying, the most gifted and talented “person” did not win the race. Although the hare was more skilled, talented, and physically fit, he was also, more egotistical, self-centered and assuming. The tortoise was not as flashy, exciting or popular, but he was committed and long suffering. He was not distracted by what the world around him had to offer. While he never could‘ve beaten the hare outright, he endured long enough to see the hare fall. Much like today’s “gold nugget”, “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer.” Although they don’t have a ruler to oversee them (Proverbs 6:6-8) they stay focused on the path of obedience and finish strong. We often fall into one of these categories. Many of us have natural God given talents and skills that should enables us to accomplish great things for Him, but it’s often those very gifts that He fashioned us with that replace Him and His plan. Like the rabbit, we are so consumed with our gifts and talents that less gifted and talented people finish ahead of us. I don’t know where you fit in the scenario. Maybe you are the hare that has been given much ability to accomplish great things, but know you need to repent and turn back to your Maker's plan. Others may be the hare. You may not think you look good or gain much attention or even appreciation, but just keep pressing on. You will finish the race that some only start.

Prayer
Lord, often I feel like the hare. You have given me certain abilities and talents, but I have too often been distracted by this world and its pleasures. Help me to be slow to sin and quick to repent. Remind me that this isn’t a sprint. This journey is a marathon.  Amen


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Hear Me Oh, Lord

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 28

Gold Nugget
Verse 9: “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.”

Commentary
Today's "gold nugget" touches on a controversial issue. Does God hear our prayers? Now some folks say that He does not hear the prayers of a sinner lest the sinner is praying repentance. Some say that God hears all prayers. One thing we may need to clarify is the definition of "hear". Hear cannot always be taken literally. Often times hear is used in scripture as "understand". "He did not hear", meaning "He did not "understand". Other times it is used as "receive". "He would not hear instructions from the Lord", meaning "He would not "receive" instructions from the Lord". Sometimes it is used literally as the physical act of hearing with your ears. This is important to understand concerning the Lord and hearing. God said this in the book of Isaiah, "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." (Isaiah 1:15) Here we see that God Himself said that He will not hear. As a matter of fact, due to the sinful state of Judah, He refused to even look upon them. Did that mean He couldn't see them and hear them? Well, of course He could see them but, He refused to look upon their willful disobedience and refused to hear their prayers or receive their contaminated worship. It is apparent that God does not receive our prayers when we are in willful disobedience. Today’s “gold nugget” says, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination” We need to understand and accept that our spiritual state of obedience (receiving His laws) or disobedience (turns away his ear from hearing the law), does effect God’s willingness to participate and engage with us in fellowship and communion. We can literally turn God off to us. That is an extremely disturbing thought and makes me shutter as I write these words, but I believe it to be truth. He said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you", but I want more than just His omnipresence (God’s ability to be everywhere at once), I want His presence from an intimate relationship. I can’t stand the thought of being such an offense to Him that he stops up His ears and covers His eyes. I will confess before you now, lest you think it doesn’t happen or can’t happen to you - I have caused Him to do this very thing. I have caused Him to cover His eyes and stop up His ears, but I don’t want to ever cause it again. My desire to be close to Him has grown stronger over the years and I want to please Him more than I used to. So if you think that walking in disobedience from the laws He’s written in your heart and yet maintaining daily prayer, daily reading of your bible and regular attendance in church will keep you in good standing with God, you’re wrong. Obedience is what God wants more than sacrifices.

Prayer
Lord, forgive me of my sins. I want you to be able to listen to me and look at me without being offended by my disobedience. I commit today to remember your laws and purpose to walk in them. Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness. Amen


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Timing

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 27

Gold Nugget
Verse 14: “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, It will be counted a curse to him.”

Commentary
Timing is everything. Making a joke about a chicken getting ran over trying to cross the road, all while at a funeral for someone who just passed away from failing to cross the road safely, would be considered bad timing. In today's "gold nugget", our hero is greeting his friend with loud blessings in the morning. There is a proper time, a proper place and a proper way for everything. I was once told by an elder preacher; "When someone is going through a hard time and you want to encourage them, don't tell them, "All things work together for good to them that love the Lord..." When I first heard him say this, I thought it was horrible for him to discourage me from using scripture to comfort people. After giving it thought, I understood his meaning. Although this phrase; "All things work together for good to them that love the Lord..." comes from scripture (Romans 8:28), it isn't appropriate to say in every situation. When someone is going through a hard time, there are thousands of verses or things we can do to encourage them. When a young mother loses her child suddenly, approaching her to say “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord..." may actually contribute to her to losing faith and blame God. Whether we are complimenting or sharing scripture, there is the right thing to say in the right situation. We need to be walking close enough to the Lord to see what it should be and wise enough to administer it properly.

Prayer
Lord, I would like to think that I have a good word to share with anyone or an encouraging message, but I can't properly do anything without your wisdom and knowledge. Remind me that a word fitly spoken is good, but a word not spoken can sometimes be even better. Help me to know the difference. Amen


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Mind ya Business

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 26

Gold Nugget
Verse 17: “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.”

Commentary
Ever know anyone that has to be in the middle of everyone else’s business? This person feels like every quarrel needs their fighting skills. A peacemaker is worth their weight in gold, but people that want to be in the middle of the drama are a dime a dozen. When we throw the word “drama” in the mix, we unfairly assume that women are the only ones that are hungry for drama. We may not use the word “drama king” as we do “drama queen”, but some people love to fight and it’s a deficiency in men as well as women. For some people, ain’t no business like somebody else’s. Now that we have painted an ugly picture of this horrible person and we have our own little picture in our head of who we know fits this description, let’s turn the critical eye inward. Whether it is a fight or just other people’s business in general, we need to know where we belong and where we don’t. Again, being a peacemaker is a Christian characteristic, but even today’s “gold nugget” indicates that some quarrels are not our business. “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.” When we are too quick to jump in the middle of a quarrel, we may not be aware of all the details. We may have chosen a defense that isn’t appropriate. We may be encouraging someone to continue in a bad direction because we encouraged it with our participation. We need to be quick to bring peace, but slow to choose sides. That being said, we can be just as useless by neglecting to choose a side. It may be popular, but this “I’m not choosing sides” can be encouraging to the one at fault and degrading to the person being mistreated. All this points to the fact that we need to be EXTREMELY cautious when it comes to other peoples quarrels.

Prayer
Lord, I have jumped in on the wrong side of disagreements before and have had someone jump in on the wrong side of my disagreement. I see how foolish it is and know I need your help in knowing when to get involved and when to stay away. Reading your Word and spending time with you in prayer will help me to know the difference. Help me to apply this proverb today and from now on. Amen


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Identity Loss

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 25

Gold Nugget
Verse 4: “Take away the dross from silver, and it will go to the silversmith for jewelry.”

Commentary
Identity theft is a growing problem in America today. More and more people are suffering from their identities being stolen. The financial and emotional strains can cause enormous hurt and damage. However, there is another kind of identity theft that is just as common and yet perfectly legal. People have stolen other people’s identity emotionally. It has been said that when couples come together, often times, one person’s identity is absorbed by the other. Although not exactly stolen, often times it's just as intentional. However, not all identity loss is a bad thing. When two people come together in marriage, they should both experience some identity loss. For one, they are no longer single. Also, they are no longer providing for themselves alone. They begin to think in an “us” mode as opposed to a “me” mode. Another form of identity loss that is for the best is the identity you lose as you grow in your relationship with God. The bible teaches us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” That is to say, you are not who you were, nor who you shall be. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3) I really like the last part of that verse about purifying. That brings us to our “gold nugget” for today. “Take away the dross from silver, and it will go to the silversmith for jewelry.” The “dross” consists of the impure elements in sliver. Silver must be purified before it is of any use to the jeweler as jewelry. Anyone that knows anything about purifying silver or gold will tell you that it must be put through just the right amount of heat to be purified. In doing so, it will lose the “dross” part of its identity and become pure for the jewelers use. Maybe you have been feeling a loss of identity. A little time with the Lord in conversation may reveal that it has been the heat of fiery trials that have been burning away the dross and that the identity loss is leaving more room for Him to make up the difference. See, it’s okay for us to lose our identity as we are absorbed into Christ Jesus. The bible teaches us that He is in us, but it also says in the scripture mentioned earlier, “Therefore, if anyone is IN Christ, he is a new creation”. Can you say that you have experienced some identity loss since you have been serving Him? Have you been feeling the loss of your identity as He burns away the impurities? If so, take joy in being fashioned in His likeness for we shall soon be as He is!

Prayer
Lord, I welcome the burning away of the dross in my heart and life. I like the work that you are doing as I decrease and you increase. I pray that you will be able to make good use of me as the dross is being been burned away. Amen


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All Seeing

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 24

Gold Nugget
Verse 12: If you say, "Surely we did not know this," Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?

Commentary
When I was a kid they used to tell us that on judgment day there will be a big screen (like in a movie theater) that will play our entire life. This was to ensure us of the fact that no deed will go unnoticed. Although this theater experience seems unlikely as described, the fact that every deed is observed is of an absolute truth. Seen are not only the things that we do and say, but even the things that we know and think. As a father I have been in many scenarios where I have been presented with the challenge of knowing whether or not my children are being honest with me. If I find my kids watching TV past their bed time and they claim that they didn't know what time it was, that can put me in a difficult situation. Since they were small, my dilemma was possibly accepting their claim of innocence when maybe they weren't. If they are lying to me and I accept their deception, I felt that it would only encourage them to lie again. That being said, when they were smaller, I would observe them without their noticing and then challenge them to tell me the truth while they thought there was no way for me to know what the truth really was. This approach has gained me the title of “Dad always knows” and made it very scary to attempt the lie. The measures that I went through to try and ensure them of being honest may be considered extreme… and maybe they are. God on the other hand, does not have to go through such measures. He sees all and knows all. Nothing we say or do goes unnoticed. Taking it a step further, He knows more than just what we say and do, but also what we think and know. We will not be able to play “dumb” or ignorant of the truth. We will not be able to say, “…but, I didn’t know”. We would be more consistent in our walk and obedience if we actually accepted this truth. It isn’t just the fact that He sees our every move and will be aware, but more so that He sees everything and feels the hurt from our actions. Hopefully refraining from sinful behavior would be more to prevent from hurting Him than being concerned with Him recording it.

Prayer
Lord, remind me of your presence when I am being tempted to drift from your will and instructions. Just as any of us will behave a certain way when certain eyes are upon us, help me to be just as concerned with your eyes upon me instead of abusing your mercy and grace. Amen


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Pressing On

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 23

Gold Nugget
Verse 17: “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day;”

Commentary
It was late on a Friday afternoon when I wrote this devotion. Although I had much on my plate that coming weekend, it wasn’t much in the way of “me time”. All around, I heard the plans of everyone’s weekend explorations. Some were healthy intentions for family and friends; others were designed for more of an indulgence of the flesh, while some just planned to rest for two days. I on the other hand, had much preparation to do that Sunday when I married my son and his fiancĂ©. I had the rehearsal dinner that Saturday evening. I had a long run with my running buddy early Saturday morning. (He added some extra distance… more than I was interested in.) After that, I had something else of a rather unpleasant nature to attend to. My weekend was gone in a flash and it brought me right back to my desk Monday morning. The next week was full of long commutes, late nights writing, preparing Wednesday night’s bible study lesson and preparing a message for the following weekend. I usually had some time on Sunday afternoons to unwind and get re-focused, but instead had an even a longer run without a refreshing of the body and mind. All that being said… just for a moment, I envied some of the folks around me. They seem to have less on their plates and more time for themselves. A quick check in my spirit put things right back into perspective. Although I was due for some “down time”, I knew that the Lord had much work that He desired be done. He wants us to be refreshed, but He also wants us to have endurance. My rest times come and will come in the right time. As for now, I must press on and let those of the world do their own thing without me. I will obey the scripture that serves as today’s “gold nugget”, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day;” Although it may sound unpleasant the way I described it, in honesty, it was only physically exhausting. I enjoyed visiting with family and friends at the rehearsal and wedding. It was an absolute blessing to watch my son marry a truly amazing woman. The privilege of writing this devotion, teaching and preaching was more rewarding to my soul than I can describe. So although the work is sometimes “work”, the Master that I labor for is the most amazing boss anyone could set out to serve. So the world can have all of its excitement and pleasures. I will “not let my heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day;”

Prayer
Lord, sometimes I just need a little boost from you to get my head on right and my heart in position. There is nothing this world has to offer that compares to the joy of serving you. We must work while it is yet day, for soon darkness comes when none can work. Amen


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A Generous Eye

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 22

Gold Nugget
Verse 9: “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.”

Commentary
When we give, we give from our heart without requiring a return. It is good that God watches and blesses those who have a generous heart. You can be sure of it despite what the immediate evidence may indicate. When God rewards those who walk in obedience to His laws, often times we don’t recognize it when it comes. The reasons why we may not recognize it can vary. We may not get it when we think we should or how we think we should. The day we start expecting it is the day we challenge Him to withhold a return. If you have ever been in a situation where you feel like you just give and give without any return, then you may even see hard times because of your generosity, but don’t lose heart. The Word says, “He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him”. Continue to have “a generous eye”. As today’s “gold nugget” says, “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.” Trust God. If He has put you into a giving situation or opportunity, trust that He will not allow you to be destroyed. Make sure that you don’t have any notions of how and when you should be compensated for your giving. Remember that your intentions count with God. If you have determined to be generous with your heart without expecting a return, you will surely receive one. Keep in mind, it may not be monetary. God knows what your real needs are and responds with the appropriate blessing.

Prayer
Lord, I know that you have plans for my life and will ensure my needs. Help me to give when I should give and trust that you are just and faithful. Amen


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Hold Your Horses

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 21

Gold Nugget
Verse 5: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but the plans of everyone who is hasty, will surely be brought to poverty.”

Commentary
The worst idea is the good idea that was poorly executed. As a former consultant, I was often in front of clients helping them implement industry best practices to increase efficiency and productivity. On occasion, the client would grasp the idea and try to implement it without being diligent in planning out the necessary prerequisites to ensure its success. As today’s “gold nugget” says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but the plans of everyone who is hasty, will surely be brought to poverty.” The old saying, “Good things come to those who wait” still holds true. Just like picking fruit too early or pulling the silver out of the fire before it is purified; trying to reap benefits too early can ruin opportunities for prosperity. Getting married too soon, changing jobs too soon, buying that vehicle or getting into that big house payment before you are financially ready can only bring you to emotional and financial bankruptcy. Waiting for things to develop and opportunities to open demonstrates patience and endurance; two elements that are often in short supply in our lives. Just like trying to grow up too early or retire too early, waiting for the natural or appropriate order of things can increase the probability for happiness. Especially in our walk with the Lord, we find that Jesus teaches of the drawbacks from trying to develop too quickly. Consider His words in the Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13 when He teaches about the sower that cast his seeds upon the earth, “Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.” Sometimes we have great opportunities for success, but we try to pick the fruit too early or fail to plant the seed deep enough to ensure strong roots. Consider today the desires you have that may not have evolved to the point you wanted them to. Don’t be tempted to act too quickly. Your patience will increase the probability of success.

Prayer
Lord, I know there have been times that I bailed on a good idea or plan that you had for me because of being impatient. Help me to see the benefit of waiting on you to open doors instead of me climbing through a window. Amen


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The Peacemaker

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 20

Gold Nugget
Verse 3: “It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel.”

Commentary
Usually it's best to finish what you started, but there is an exception. There have been instances where I have either started or contributed to a quarrel, and then realize how immature and foolish I have behaved. By then your foolish actions are now sealed in foolish pride. Backing down now would only be acknowledging your mistake. Remembering a previous devotion, "The Best Defense is to not be an Offense" we are reminded that once you have stated down the wrong path and engaged in ungodly behavior, you can still demonstrate good Christian character by exercising repentance. Remember what it means to repent; to repent simply means to turn away from your present course. If you have started or contributed to a quarrel you have shown poor Christian character, but you still can repent (turn away from your present course) and "stop striving". This is the honorable thing. As we often find as believers, we must humble our pride and repent.

Prayer
Lord, reveal to me my patterns of initiating or contributing to strife. I want to remember your words that tell me to avoid strife. If I do start to contribute to strife, give me the strength to turn away from it. Amen


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Making Plans

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 19

Gold Nugget
Verse 21: “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.”

Commentary
There’s an old saying that says, “If you want to give a God a giggle, tell Him your plans.” You can have plans for you and others can have plans for you, but what of the plans God has for you? I once had to make changes in the area of ministry I was working in. It was said that someone had big plans for me there, but someone else asked, “What of the plans God had for Steve?” We start on a path towards the plan we think is proper for us and sometimes go too far to be able to believe maybe we weren’t going in the right direction to begin with. What then? Do we continue on the wrong course because we've gone too far to start again? A friend of mine in another business often related to a habitual pattern he had seen in the professional field. Many big corporations will continue with a bad plan because of the commitment and effort already invested on their current path. The logic is pure insanity. Building something that won’t work simply because it is too far into the project to turn around is foolishness. If you are halfway in the wrong direction, it will take and cost twice as much to finish in the wrong direction than to change course now. We need to be just a sensible when it comes to conceding to God’s plan now – today. If we have set out with the wrong plan, ask God for direction and then obey His instructions. I would rather be one step in the right direction that God has for me than 5,000 steps in the wrong direction. Your plans need to be as a result of God’s plans for you. Is the plan you have now consistent with the Word of God and leading to spiritual growth? Or is your plan simply YOUR plan? In the words of “Dr.” Phil, “How’s that working for you?” Today’s “gold nugget” says, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.” We can have all kinds of ideas of what we should or could do, but the only plan that will stand in the end is the one the Lord has for you. Do you know what that plan is? His plans for you are revealed through spending quality time with Him in His Word and in prayer. Enough of that and you will begin to hear and recognize His voice. There’s no confidence like having confidence in the Lord.
    
Prayer
Lord, I ask you today to make any necessary adjustments in the course of my life. The plan you have for me is the path I want to follow. Reveal yourself to me and I will obey your instructions. Amen


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Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day...

Reading for Today: Proverbs Chapter 18

Gold Nugget
Verse 24: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Commentary
When I was a kid in the third grade, I came home and told my dad that I had a friend. He told me, “If he is your friend he’ll loan you a dollar.” The next day I went to school and asked my friend to loan me a dollar. He didn’t have a dollar so I loaned him one. If I remember correctly, I think he is the same kid that stole my wallet later that year. I’m not sure why my dad said what he did. I think his dad said it to him and he was just passing down a family tradition. The point is; “What will a friend do for you?” I remember several years ago meeting a friend for our morning run. He listened as I spent several moments in release of some major frustration and hurt. A little later I faced a circumstance even more painful that nearly did me in. I was in a horrible place both mentally and spiritually. I prayed and tried to find motivation. I went outside to check the mail and it was pouring down raining. Doom and gloom surrounded me. Soon after that, I received some very encouraging words from some friends concerning the previous day’s devotional. It lifted my spirits some and I was grateful. A few hours later I got some good news that cancelled out one of the other earlier issues. Sometime during the afternoon another friend asked what I was doing that evening and wanted to hang out. He knew I was in a bad way and would do anything to help me out. That evening he came over, lent me his ear and then took me to dinner. When the check came he insisted on paying and then drove me home. When it was all said and done, I was back at home ready to put an end to the day. Although many things happened that could have put me over the edge that day, several of my friends came to the rescue. God delivered the greatest miracle, but he did so through the hands of several friends. A horribly miserable day was made manageable through the encouraging words of dear friends. So as I put my head to the pillow that night, I was reminded of how blessed and loved I am. Today’s “gold nugget” speaks for itself. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” After putting things in proper perspective, I had a fantastic day!

Prayer
Lord, thank you for providing me with such great friends. Your children know how to respond to your gentle nudges. There is no family like the family of God. Amen


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Contents of the Heart

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 17

Gold Nugget
Verse 4: “An evildoer gives heed to false lips; A liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.”

Commentary
For out of the abundance of the heart, the ear heareth. Although a little play on words from another verse in the bible, I believe they work well together. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” This passage explains to us that the truth that lies in our heart will eventually make its way out. I remember as a kid this used to scare me. Even to this day, if something is in my heart that is evil or wicked, I fight it and expel it as soon as possible before it makes its way to my mouth. This passage can be understood two-fold. If there is truth in your heart it will eventually make it to your mouth as well. Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. He didn’t leave room for us to weigh out either side. If it’s in your heart, it will make its way out. I take this as an absolute truth – it is going to happen either way. If you have evil in your heart and you let it stay and grow, it will proceed from your mouth. Likewise, if you have truth and goodness in your heart, you will not be able to contain it. If you are a Christian and do not speak of His goodness and truth, then I have some serious doubts about what is in your heart. Whether you want to call me judgmental or not, I stand by what Jesus said concerning the contents of the heart. The interesting thought today is concerning hearing and not speaking. That’s where the statement I made in the beginning comes in. “For out of the abundance of the heart, the ear heareth.” I didn’t bold and italicize it this time because it is my words and not scripture. I do however; believe it fits with the teachings of Jesus concerning the contents of the heart. Just as the contents of the heart will proceed from the mouth, the same heart will desire to hear what aligns with its contents. A wicked person hears the worse and assumes evil. If an evil person hears someone else is getting a promotion, their heart hears of someone that cheated to get ahead. The wicked person also loves and takes pleasure in hearing of wickedness. Yes, selective hearing can be a spiritual state also. In turn, a person with a good heart made up of truth can hear of someone that got arrested and will assume that it was a case of mistaken identity. This may be confused with being too trusting and sound like the blind love of a mother or newlyweds. Well, maybe so, but is there a stronger and more passionate love? All of this leads me to one of my favorite verses in scripture. It comes from what is known as the “Love Chapter” of the bible. You have heard it at many if not most weddings. I will just use one portion, “…love thinketh no evil… love does not delight in wickedness, but rejoices in truth… love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthian 13) It sounds gullible alright, but it reflects the condition and contents of the heart. A good heart hears and speaks goodness, while a wicked heart hears and speaks wickedness.

Prayer
Lord, I know from these scriptures that I can’t try and control my mouth and hearing near as successfully as I can allow you to change my heart. If you change my heart, I will not have to be concerned with what it hears and speaks. Amen


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Pride and the Fall

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 16

Gold Nugget
Verse 18: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Commentary
Although a common verse and even quoted by people that do not serve God, today's "gold nugget" is often too popular to benefit from it's powerful message. After the tragedy of September 11th, people cringed at the images that were displayed on our televisions. I saw a documentary that explained the numbness that eventually took place and those very images lost their impact for many people. Familiarity does not always equate to application and effectiveness. In similar fashion, many who watched "The Passion of the Christ" wept upon seeing the horrific images that so intently portrayed our Savior's suffering. After seeing the movie more than once, many that were moved with compassion concerning His suffering had lost their connection with it's importance. In commissioning communion at "The Last Supper", Jesus said, 'As often as ye do this, do this in remembrance of me." He knew the importance of remembering the suffering that He endured. In this passage from today's proverb, our challenge is to remember and keep alive the power of an old message despite how many times we've heard it. Many of us take great pride in our strength spiritually and our knowledge of the truth. We need to take seriously the challenge in today's "gold nugget". "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Today we may need to remember the power and impact this verse should have on us and allow it to soak in.

Prayer
Lord, I know that my pride can get me into trouble. I know the pain that can come from the fall that follows pride. Help me to remember how important it is to be humble and forgive me of the times that I've failed you. Amen


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A Soft Answer

Reading For Today: Proverb Chapter 15

Gold Nugget
Verse 1: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Commentary
Today’s verse turns up many times in Proverbs. This book of wisdom uses the old teaching method of repetitious exposure. The importance of learning and applying this lesson is worth revisiting. I’ll make mention of my middle daughter today as an example. Stephanie is a very meek and gentle person. Despite accusations, I do realize she isn’t perfect. My daughters have different character traits. My oldest, Amanda, is very artistic, Courtney is quit the dramatic and my youngest, Sierra, is most like me. Concerning Stephanie’s gentleness, people have often said that if you can’t get along with her, you need to find out what your own problem is. Her meekness has been an issue when playing her favorite sport, basketball. As talented as she is, she’s had to go against her nature to be aggressive. She has managed it some. I remember a game where that was put to the test. The young lady on the opposing team had the difficult task of having to try and cover her and was guarding Steph in a very aggressive and physical manner beyond what was appropriate. When the referee wasn’t looking, she would push and even hit Steph. It really got out of hand and Steph actually pushed back at one point. Evidently at the wrong point. The referee saw that one and called a penalty. After that, Steph decided that she wasn’t going to play to that level. She just started being very nice to the young lady. Although they were still very aggressive, the other girl recognized Steph’s obvious efforts to treat her with respect and changed her behavior.  Gentleness is hard to resist and spurs a gentle reaction. As today’s “gold nugget” says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Well, what do you know? The truth of God’s word is just as true and applicable as it’s ever been. Maybe we need to remember that today. We may be put in a position where a soft answer may be difficult to muster, but see how difficult it will be for them to resist it if you can manage to provide it.

Prayer
Lord, again your Word is reminding us of how we should reflect your image. Help us today to have the strength to be humble and enough love to be gentle. Amen


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Lip Service

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 14

Gold Nugget
Verse 23: “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.”

Commentary
I know of a couple that has suffered a great deal of emotional torment. This relationship has been exposed to the highest form of betrayal - infidelity. I don’t know of anything more painful that a person can endure than to experience this kind of hurt. As if the pain of being betrayed isn’t enough, it is often a cancer to a relationship that will eventually destroy it if it isn’t treated immediately. In this relationship the spouse that cheated has promised, “Things would be different.” Time after time this only proves to be “lip service”. Just as infidelity is the highest form of betrayal, being willing to forgive and rebuild is the highest form of commitment. People that exhibit this highest form of commitment are often rewarded with empty promises and false hope. Empty promises and false hope can be too much for a person to endure after suffering so much already. Thinking that the other person is willing to “work” at making things right and then finding nothing at the end of the rainbow is devastating. Whether we are talking about something as tormenting as an affair or something of lesser pain; issuing ‘false hope” is cruel and unusual punishment. When we say we are going to work at something, we need to be willing to climb the highest mountain, travel through the lowest valley or swim the deepest ocean. When we need to work at something and other people are depending on us to deliver the changes in our lives, we need to stand up and deliver. Today’s “gold nugget” says, “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.” If we work hard and make changes in our lives that improve or (profit) our relationships, we honor God and our loved ones. If we offer “lip service” and fail to follow up with results, it’s just “idle chatter” that leads to emotional bankruptcy (poverty). When we make promises to our spouse, children, friends or even people in our professional life, we are literally asking them to hold on while we make the change. Not following through and crushing peoples hopes is as ugly an act as we can possibly demonstrate.
 
Prayer
Lord, I know that I have made promises to people to make changes in my life. I also know that I have not always delivered on those promises. Help me to realize the destructive and harmful effects I have on people by not following through. I ask you to forgive me and those that you may reveal to me that I’ve hurt in this way. Amen


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Well-Advised

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 13

Gold Nugget
Verse 10: "By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.”

Commentary
Once someone came to me and asked me a technical question that pertained to my area of expertise. He needed direction in order to achieve a task that was before him. I gave him the answer, but it wasn't to his satisfaction. With resistance, he began to strive with me for a different answer. I urged him to receive the information as truth whether it came to his liking or dis-liking. In order to prove to me that my answer was not valid, he called another person with the same background that I have. When that person gave him the same answer I did, he began to strive with him as well. He had a pre-determined, desired answer and expected someone to validate it. When it wasn't agreed upon, his pride would not allow him to be redirected. Instead, he began to strive with those that would not support his theory. Today's "gold nugget" deals with this very issue. "By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.” He had the opportunity to be the "well-advised" mentioned in the latter part of that verse, but refused the advice. He called on two people with knowledge in the area that he needed advice in, but pride would not permit such progress. Whether it's in business or personal situations, when you find yourself in need of direction, be sure that you look to someone that has been down that road, walked in those shoes and have the tee-shirt and ball cap to prove it. It is in your best interest to be the "well-advised" person that receives direction from a subject matter expert. Many of us have found ourselves in need of direction or wisdom, but we have a pre-determined response that we want to hear and will refuse anything else. Remember this, when you need some help, don't ask for it and quickly dismiss it because it wasn't what you wanted to hear. Sometimes council is difficult to receive. Council that is pleasant to your ears may not always be what you need.

Prayer
Lord, I want to be humble enough to receive good council when you send it to me. Help me to receive it when it comes despite the fact that it may come from a different person that I want it from, a different time that I want to receive it at or a different response than I wanted it to be. Amen


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Friends

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 12

Gold Nugget
Verse 26: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Commentary
Many people do not see the connection between the character of their friends and their own character. We think that our friend’s personal lives are their own and have nothing to do with us. Although we don’t have to be responsible for everything that our friends say or do, there should be some prerequisite to being our friend. Today’s “gold nugget” says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”  We don’t want to think that people could influence us to do things that we wouldn’t normally do. This is foolish and prideful. The wise person acknowledges his vulnerability to others and avoids the company of ungodly people. Even if you are the one that insist that you are not affected by the people around you, maybe even you will acknowledge the fact that a negative, hateful or complaining person will ruin the atmosphere for others around them. Even if you do not join in, you will still suffer the effects of the negativity around you. It is better for you to avoid those that do not contribute to a healthy, pure and positive environment. The scriptures often deal with the effects that ungodly people have on others. Paul wrote the church at Corinth concerning their tolerance and association with ungodly people. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6b) Remember also 2 Corinthians 6:17, “Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” The truth is, hanging out in a dirty room will get you dirty. Walking in the rain will get you wet and rubbing elbows with sinful people will bring sin into your life. We can no longer associate ourselves with people that practice immoral and sinful acts. It is our responsibility to God and ourselves to “come out from among them and be separate”. Just like you don’t want even a few germs in your soup, God doesn’t want you to be contaminated either.
 
Prayer
Lord, I know there is a healthy point of ministering to the lost and the association that it brings, but there is also a line that is drawn on who I call a friend. Knowing the difference is only obtained by staying in your instruction manual for life. Help me to stay in the bible and receive the knowledge needed to walk in wisdom. Amen


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Gossip - Men do it, too

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 11

Gold Nugget
Verse 13: "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret."

Commentary
A while back in a men's bible study I attended, we had a great discussion concerning the same issue that today's "gold nugget" deals with. It seems that our culture, with as many downturns as it's taken, has a few upsides. Concerning men, we have in some demographics, begun to allow each other into our lives. That is to say, we share more today than maybe we used to. We have even gone so far as to talk about our "feelings". However, we still find some difficulty going against the old fashioned approach to keeping everything bottled up. In our discussion we found that men are more apt to open up based on the level of trust we have in one another. Today's “gold nugget” says, "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." One of the reason men are reluctant to open up about issues that they may be having or areas of weakness that they need strength in, is because of the lack of trust they have in each other. Despite how much we may like to claim that gossiping is a woman's weakness; the fact is we all have the ability to fail in this area. I have found in my experiences that men have just as much fault with gossiping as women. We just have a different style and delivery. We both want to share our inside information as well as get the inside information. Our topics of choice or maybe better said, our targets of choice may differ between women and men, but the immoral act of gossiping is the same in God's eyes. Today's "gold nugget" covers two angles of gossiping. Just in case you might wonder if gossiping is when you reveal a secret someone told you, be sure that it's more than that. If I know of someone's secret by hearing it or observing it first hand, revealing it to others is just as much betrayal and gossip as if the person had revealed it to you in confidence. It is not our place to spread someone else’s business - period. If we are to ever be able to open up to one another and benefit from each other's wisdom and accountability, we must, must, must be able to have confidence in one another's ability to be trust worthy.

Prayer
Lord, despite what I might think - I know that my nature may want to hear things that are not my business out of curiosity. I know that makes me a party to gossip just as much as a recipient. Forgive me of this immoral behavior and help me to be mindful of the character that I can reflect when refusing to share or receive gossip. Amen


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Temporary

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 10

Gold Nugget
Verse 4: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

Commentary
I remember the funny old story about a rich man that made special arrangements to be able to bring all his gold with him to heaven when he died. It took all he had to drag it to the pearly gates where Saint Peter asked, “Whatcha got there old man?” He replied with excitement, “Gold!” At that Peter called out inside the gate, “Tell God the guy’s here to fix the potholes!” Of course it’s an old joke, but unfortunately based on a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but these folks are living their lives as if the things that are temporal are eternal while living like the things that are eternal are temporal. Yes, we have got it backwards these days. With all of our drive to pursue the things that rust, bust and collect dust, we neglect the things that will never perish. Moms and dads are consumed with gathering unto themselves all that they can, while neglecting their children. Yes, they spend some time with them, but most of it involves teaching them to follow in their parent’s footsteps. They teach them to be consumed by education, sports, working, etc. Although all those things in themselves are okay and even important, they are only supposed to be supporting elements to a greater focus. The greater focus is to prepare them, not for an education, not for employment and not for retirement, but for eternity. If we prepare ourselves and our children for an education, work and retirement and fail to prepare them for eternity, we have failed them and ourselves miserably. Today’s “gold nugget” says, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” Everything we do here on earth is building up to something greater or worse. What are you building up to? What are you teaching your children to build up to?

Prayer
Lord, it is easy to get caught up in the things of this world. Remind us that we are a people on a mission and we are to be about our Father’s business. Don’t allow us to get lost in the forest for the trees. Amen


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Supply and Demand

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 9

Gold Nugget
Verse 4-5: "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.

Commentary
They say the key to finding an opportunity in business is to provide a product or service that is in high demand, but with limited supply. The old "supply and demand" scenario plays well in today's "gold nugget". In a way, wisdom is limited in supply in one aspect, but abundant in another. The limited is due to the fact that true wisdom is only found in the Lord. No one else possesses the wisdom of God. All others that seem to be wise through many religions have been foolish by rejecting the truth that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. Anyone that seems to have wisdom and yet has rejected Jesus as the way, the truth and the life has made the most foolish mistake of all. Even those who have passed along wisdom are often just borrowers or plagiarizers of His truth. For instance, I once had someone tell me that a philosopher had written that "karma" is a reality because of the evidence that supports it. The fact that God cornered the law of "reaping and sowing" in the beginning does not prevent people from producing counterfeits that do not recognize God as the source for all truth and wisdom. As mentioned earlier, "wisdom is limited in supply in one aspect, but abundant in another". The abundant supply of wisdom is not in how many people have authored it, but by how much the Author has to offer. Remember James 1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him".

For something that is desperately needed and yet in abundant supply from God, wisdom is so often left neglected and crying out, "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed." And still she cries with so many passing her by. Will you stop in today? Take the Word of God as a living well of abundant life that is both adequate and applicable to every area of your life.

Prayer
Lord, let me not forsake the wisdom found in the pages of your Word. I want to pursue you with all that is in me. I need your wisdom and knowledge to get me through this life. I am reminded of my life as it was before you took it over. I wan't you to remain the source of all my needs. Amen


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Hating Evil

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 8

Gold Nugget
Verse 13: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.”

Commentary
There was an episode of 20/20 or Dateline, I’m not really sure which one, who put some actors in a public place to do studies on human behavior. One of the studies involved several teens in a park harassing and ganging up on another teen. It was amazing how many people passed by without attempting to defend the person being abused. Another involved a man being verbally abusive and threatening to a young lady that was obviously extremely scared. Again, people passed by without intervening. It was the rare individual that would be bold enough to get involved. Too many people do not take issue with horrible behavior. Some things should be such an offense to us that it stirs us into action. Unfortunately, where we should be offended, we are too often numb to evil behavior. If His Spirit is in us, we should be offended and take issue with evil. It may not mesh well with our modern teachings that are centered on tolerance and “love”, but we are to mimic the examples set before us in scripture. We are suckered into believing that Christians demonstrate love through tolerance. When we do have righteous anger towards evil, it is falsely labeled as hatred. One day people may claim that their attraction to under-aged people is because of the way they are designed. They will claim that they were born that way and anyone that takes issue with them must not be a Christian, but instead are filled with hatred. Well, I say the latter part of that should be true. We should be filled with hatred of evil things. Today’s “gold nugget” says, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” Hate is a very strong word, but there are things that we should feel very strongly about and even against. The old saying applies here, Hate the sin and love the sinner. Although we should never be hateful to people, our feelings towards evil things should be so strong that hate would not be an inaccurate description of our position towards the deed and not the doer.

Prayer
Lord, it may cost us friends and popularity to stand up and take issue with sin, but the examples set before us in scripture does not seem to be concerned with how popular they would be. Help us to make our position towards evil behavior clear. In so doing, we shine the light on the lines between right and wrong. Amen


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The Painter

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 7

Gold Nugget
Verse 21:  “With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, With her flattering lips she seduced him.”

Commentary
The devil sure paints a pretty picture as to the pleasures of sin. It's his desire for you to see only the upside of walking in disobedience. He is quite skilled with his paint brush of deception. With smooth strokes on the canvass of her mind, he convinced Eve that her act of rebellion in the garden would actually put her on the same level as God. He didn't reveal the curse that would be enacted as a result of her actions. When David pursued Bathsheba, the tempter didn't give him any insight as to the anguish he would suffer from his abandoning of the Lord's principles and laws. When Judas betrayed the Lord, the enemy presented his masterpiece of art to Judas' fleshly desires. The benefit of a mature Christian who walks in wisdom is the ability to see the immediately the inevitable destruction that comes from disobedience. To them, they can see the perils of rebelling as sure as someone that falls from a cliff. To the foolish the enemy can describe the rush of excitement from that same fall as something to be enjoyed. As far-fetched as it seems, the spiritual destruction that comes from willful disobedience can be as evident to the wise as the person that falls to their death on the rocks below. Don't be deceived by the skilled painter that portrays your sinful acts as harmless. Your temporary pleasure will soon be replaced with continual suffering.

Prayer
Lord, I don't want to trade the peace and security that comes from being obedient for any pleasures of this world. Help me to be able to see the enemy as he tries to paint a deceptive portrait of what could be gained from leaving the path you've set before me. I will follow you without looking to the left or to the right.  Amen


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Sluggard

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 6

Gold Nugget
Verse 9: 
How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?

Commentary
Whether it is physical laziness that keeps us from getting up and making things happen in our day or a lack of mental drive for making things happen in our life, we will suffer the effects of failure either way. Knowing the right thing to do and not doing it can be the result of several deficiencies. It could be from fear, laziness, selfishness and so on. Whatever the reason, it is in our court to get the ball back over the net. We may have to overcome many obstacles, including laziness. We know or have known people that have literally slept their days away and suffered the financial, social and even health ruins as a result.  Any of those ruins can be the results from sleeping your life away by not finding the motivation to put in the hard work. Laziness, or slothfulness (as the bible describes) reveals itself in many ways. Those of us that wake up and go to work on time may think we are excluded from the “slothful” category, but there are other ways of being lazy than we normally identify as laziness. If we work hard at our jobs we consider ourselves anything but lazy. However, there are many areas of our lives that require work also.  We can put in 40+ hours in the workplace, but fail to put in the work to restore, heal and maintain relationships. There is work to be done in relationships with our spouse, children, extended family and most importantly, our relationship with God. All of these relationships require work. If we are not willing to put in the work to tend to these relationships, then we are lazy, no matter how hard we work in our Monday-Friday work week. These relationships are in need of our attention. The question is, as today’s “gold nugget” asks, How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?

Prayer
Lord, there are other areas of my life than just the work place that I have been guilty of being a sluggard. Help me to take greater concern in tending to my relationships with family, friends and most importantly you. Amen

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Trapped

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 5

Gold Nugget
Verse 22: “His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin.”

Commentary
When I was a kid I got tricked into putting my fingers in a Chinese finger trap. I remember pulling my fingers apart only to find the trap tighten down on them. An immediate panic set in and instinctively I pulled harder trying to free myself. Watching my torturers roll with laughter at my frustration, I suspected that I needed them to somehow break their code of silence and reveal to me the way to freedom. As I know now, and many of you can attest, simply relaxing and pushing your fingers together instead of pulling them apart will allow the material to loosen, expand and free your fingers from it death grip. It’s still great fun to watch unsuspecting children and adults suffer the “traumatic” experience of wondering if they will ever see their fingers again! This reminds me of what we are faced with when it comes to getting trapped by our sin. We will slide into that sin as willingly as I slid my fingers into that trap. Yes, maybe I was coerced and deceived into doing it, but I chose to put myself in the trap. Just like the Chinese finger trap, once it has its grip on us, our struggling and panic will only cause the sin to tighten its hold on us. All the while, our enemy is taking great pleasure in our suffering. We cannot free ourselves from this squeeze the devil has us in. Our only hope is to stop struggling and start repenting. Repent means to turn from your current path and go the opposite direction. Just as I was trying to pull those fingers apart, I had to do the opposite thing and start pushing them together. The young folks used to say, PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens). I like that. If you have been tricked, or just decided poorly to get involved in something that has taken you over, stop struggling and start PUSHing. Pray Until Something Happens. Repent to your Father and watch Him set you free from the bondage that sin has put you in. We must accept that, as today’s “gold nugget” says, “His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin”. We got ourselves in this mess, but only He can get us out. Repent today and be set free!

Prayer
Lord, one of the hardest parts of getting free from the situation that the enemy has trapped us in, is accepting our role in it. We would rather view ourselves as victims instead of accepting that we made bad decisions. Help us to accept responsibility for the mess we’ve gotten ourselves in and witness the redemptive power of a merciful God. Amen


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My Lover

Reading for Today: Proverb Chapter 4

Gold Nugget
Verse 6: "Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you."

Commentary
I really love how Proverbs speaks in a language we can understand. To just say, "Stay true to wisdom and wisdom will keep you from being overtaken", just doesn't ring as close to home as "Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you". When Solomon put these words to scrolls, we inherited the profound gift that he received from God. His treasure was made available to all who seek it. Using a little imagination, we are asked to see "wisdom" as a person. Solomon speaks to men as if wisdom was a lover. Those of us who have been in love are aware of the drastic, potentially crazy, and unlimited lengths we will go to in order to catch and embrace that lover. Proverbs illustrates to us that the passion we would have for this potential lover is the same level of passion it will take to catch and embrace wisdom. There isn't a mountain too high, a valley too low, a river too wide that could keep us from our lover. Proverbs teaches us throughout the book that she (wisdom) is more precious than silver, gold or rubies and there is no limit to what we will do to find this treasure. Seeking after wisdom with this degree of passion is a distant concept to most of us, but it will take nothing less to obtain it. I wish I could say that I always have this level of desire for her, but in fact, it comes and goes. The one thing that I can say for sure is I have had it more and more over the years and can't go as long without embracing her as I used to. The truth is, to love wisdom is to love a character trait of God. He is wisdom. This passion that I have for wisdom is a passion for Him. His wisdom is like the words of a lover; we hang on each part that's spoken. To gaze into His Holy Word is like gazing into a lover's eyes. You can get lost for hours. Today's "gold nugget" reminds us of our true love and how we should not forsake wisdom, "Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you." The next time you hear someone say they are in love with Jesus - don't think them strange. Consider how much you may be missing by not pursuing God through His wisdom and Word with such intimacy and passion.

Prayer
Lord, thank you for reminding me of who you are and what your Word means to me. I thank you for showing me the immeasurable joy and passion that comes from having an intimate relationship with you. Amen


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