guidance

Humility and Trust

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Where do you go when life seems to close in on you? Who can you turn to and trust when your heart is troubled and you feel isolated and alone?

The circumstances of life may seem random, but the Lord's faithfulness is constant, continuous, and he can be trusted at all times.

He alone can make sense of what seems like chaos and randomness. When a person is willing to humble themselves and trust in the Lord, He will reveal the purpose of His ways.

Scripture

By David.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul. I trust you, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame. Do not let my enemies triumph over me. No one who waits for you will ever be put to shame, but all who are unfaithful will be put to shame. [vss 1-3]

Make your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me because you are God, my savior. I wait all day long for you. Remember, O Lord, your compassionate and merciful deeds. They have existed from eternity. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my rebellious ways. Remember me, O Lord, in keeping with your mercy and your goodness. [vss 4-7]

The Lord is good and decent. That is why he teaches sinners the way they should live. He leads humble people to do what is right, and he teaches them his way. Every path of the Lord is ⌊one of⌋ mercy and truth for those who cling to his promise and written instructions. For the sake of your name, O Lord, remove my guilt, because it is great. [vss 8-11]

Who, then, is this person that fears the Lord? He is the one whom the Lord will teach which path to choose. He will enjoy good things in life, and his descendants will inherit the land. The Lord advises those who fear him. He reveals to them the intent of his promise. My eyes are always on the Lord. He removes my feet from traps. [vss 12-15]

Turn to me, and have pity on me. I am lonely and oppressed. Relieve my troubled heart, and bring me out of my distress. Look at my misery and suffering, and forgive all my sins. See how my enemies have increased in number, how they have hated me with vicious hatred! [vss 16-19]

Protect my life, and rescue me! Do not let me be put to shame. I have taken refuge in you. Integrity and honesty will protect me because I wait for you. Rescue Israel, O God, from all its troubles! [vss 20-22]

(Psalm 25:1-22 GW) [Context– Psalm 25]

Key phrase— Make your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me your paths

[bctt tweet="Make your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me your paths" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

How does this prayerful psalm begin? What is said in confident trust, and what is requested?

What does David ask God to remember? What does he ask God to forget, and how are these related?

What assurances are expressed for those who trust and respect (fear) the Lord?

What does David say regarding his own life situation, and what is his final request?

Reflection...

Here's a simple reality of life—at times people let us down, and at times we disappoint others. And then, we also let our selves down, especially in times of failure.

This is why our trust needs to be in the One who is ever-faithful—God.

Try as we may, we can't make everything right when we fail, nor can we stop the ripple effect of our failure from affecting others.

This is where we need God's forgiveness and God's restoration. Thankfully, He delights in extending forgiveness and restoration to all those who would trust in Him in every way and in all things.

Once restored and forgiven, we need to continue in the path of the good and right life God makes known to us. We can only do this through faith—putting complete and utter trust in God daily.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How do you handle failure in your life, whether it's your own or someone in your life?

Do you have confidence in God's forgiveness when you've asked for it?

How have humility and trust been key to the restorative work of God in your life?

How have you seen God make His purpose clear for your life as you trusted Him beyond your life circumstances?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Lacking Nothing

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What's the most well-known and popular psalm in the Bible? Hands down, it's Psalm 23. A favorite at funerals because of its comforting words, it's short and descriptive, making it a memorable favorite.

It is a calming and reassuring prayer that's brought comfort and hope to POW's and millions of other through the centuries.

Psalm 23 could very well be called the Lord's psalm. It's a very personal expression of trust in God. Short, compact, yet richly filled with deep language.

Scripture

A psalm by David.The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. [vss 1-3] 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. [vss 4-5] 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. [vs 6] 

(Psalm 23:1-6 NIV) [Context– Psalm 23]

Key phrase— The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing

[bctt tweet="The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing" username="tkbeyond"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What is the confident statement made by King David at the beginning? How does this first line reveal how personal this psalm is?

What are the ways David sees the Lord personally involved in his life?

Which statements express great assurances and express David's confidence in the Lord?

If you're familiar with King David's life (1 & 2 Samuel), how are all these confident statements reflective of the journey of his life?

Reflection...

King David was a shepherd before he was a warrior and king (1 Sam 16:11-13; 17:34-37). He understood the responsibility of a shepherd caring for his sheep from personal experience.

This psalm expresses confident statements and assurances of God's provision, guidance, restoration, protection, and presence. It's intensely personal.

Perhaps this is why it's such a popular psalm. Anyone can lean into this comforting prayer and profession of trust. It expresses the personal and hope-filled nature of faith (Heb 11:6).

This psalm encourages a person as they repeat it's simple, confident statements, no matter what adversity they may face.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Do you currently have a similar confident trust in God as King David expresses in this psalm?

How have you experienced the Lord's personal guidance and protection in your life?

Are there any of these assuring and confirming statements that are hard for you to accept now?

Are you willing to trust God for His provision, guidance, restoration, protection, and presence in your life?

Some final thoughts...

To gain this level of confidence and trust, the Lord needs to be your personal Shepherd. This is an intimate and personal trust relationship between yourself and God.

This week, especially if you're going through discouraging, challenging times—read and pray through this psalm morning and evening for a week. At the end of the week, reflect on how your view of things changes and how God has made His presence known to you.


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Common Mentoring Myths

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ALitvin No one has all the answers. I'm wary of anyone who thinks they do or thinks someone else does. Sometimes we just get things wrong, I know I do.

If you don't think you do, you're setting yourself up for a fall and will probably take others with you.

The topic of mentoring has become more popular over the past few years, but it's not always what some people make it out to be.

Authoritarian or authoritative?

A while back I came across an article posted on Facebook about authoritarianism. It was related to American politics but it got me thinking.

An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one. I've worked under both and sadly, at times I've acted more like the first than the second.

What's the difference? King Saul of Israel was an authoritarian leader, while King David was more of an authoritative leader. An authoritarian leader acts more like a bully, while an authoritative leader sets a confident example.[bctt tweet="An authoritarian leader is quite different from an authoritative one"]

King Herod was a bully and tyrant (Matt 2:13-18). Herod wielded his authority out of insecurity. He didn't trust anyone and tried to kill anyone deemed a threat, including Jesus.

Jesus led by example, yet His authority was well-recognized—

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

Mentors are not masters

One of the graduating classes from the Bible college in the Philippines gave me a poster filled with their thoughts and thanks. They called me their beloved "Tor-mentor" because their studies were difficult and I could be a tough teacher.

But mentoring is not about being a taskmaster, or any form of master. There may be a time and place to be authoritative, but this excludes using authority in an overbearing way.

Perhaps a more appropriate way to look at being a mentor is to see ourselves as journeymen (or is that journey-persons?). Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves.[bctt tweet="Mentors are people with experience and expertise who aren't stuck on themselves"]

Mentors have something to offer because others have poured their experience and expertise into them. Here is a simple way to look at discipleship—we (mentors) pour into others what God poured into us.

3 common mentoring myths

Here are three mentoring myths that get in the way of mentoring well. They may not be spoken out loud, but are often latent attitudes among those of us who would be mentors.

  • I have the answers to your questions you may have answers to their questions, but they don't need to be given at the expense of the relationship
  • You need to know what I know— this may not be true at all, especially if connected to an air of superiority or arrogance
  • I'm a fount of great wisdom— wisdom can be gained from many sources, you nor I have a corner on wisdom

Perhaps there's some truth in these opinions, but they do more to offend than help. A common reason for generation gaps is an unwillingness to listen. If we, the mentors, aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to us? Jesus understood this (Luke 2:46).[bctt tweet="If mentors aren't willing to listen, then why should anyone listen to them?"]

Here's a reframing of those three common attitudes—

  • You don't have all the answers— You may have answers to many questions, but sometimes you need to admit that you don't know something. This may open the door for a mutual pursuit of an answer.
  • You're not always right— I learned this with my wife and children first, but also with staff and students—I need to admit it when I am. This may be humbling, but it brings opportunities for a more open and healthy mentoring relationship.
  • Your advice isn't always needed— This may be hard to swallow at times, but it's true. If you're not asked, don't feel obliged to dispense whatever wisdom you think you have. This is especially true if you're a Boomer like me.

Good mentors are not experts looking for opportunities to dispense their wisdom, but people of experience and expertise with humble attitudes.

A different perspective

One thing that helps me is to level the relationship between me and whoever asked me to mentor them. I make a point to not insist on a role of superiority, and don't want to be addressed by any title, such as pastor. I may have experience and expertise someone else doesn't have, but it doesn't make me better than others.

When I make mentoring a mutual relationship at least two things happen. First, I make it clear that whoever I'm discipling know they have value and importance to me. This encourages a much more engaged and committed relationship.

The other benefit is being open to learn from those I mentor. Often I'm able to see things differently because the relationship is more open. This helps me mentor more effectively.

Are there any mentoring myths you've seen or run into?

 

What Fools Believe

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A small percentage of the world's population are true atheists. The majority of the world believes in God, or at least various gods.

Hinduism claims millions of gods, Buddhism thousands, but the earmark of Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam is the belief in one sovereign God.

Even agnostics and atheists believe someone is supreme—themselves and their worldview. But some of those who claim to believe in God live as if they were atheists.

Scripture

For the director of music. Of David.

Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.” Fools are evil and do terrible things; there is no one who does anything good.

The Lord looked down from heaven on all people to see if anyone understood, if anyone was looking to God for help. But all have turned away. Together, everyone has become evil. There is no one who does anything good, not even one. [vss 1-3]

Don’t the wicked understand? They destroy my people as if they were eating bread. They do not ask the Lord for help. But the wicked are filled with terror, because God is with those who do what is right. The wicked upset the plans of the poor, but the Lord will protect them.

I pray that victory will come to Israel from Mount Zion! May the Lord bring them back. Then the people of Jacob will rejoice, and the people of Israel will be glad. [vss 4-7]

(Psalm 14:1-7 NCV) [Context– Psalm 14]

Key phrase— Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.”

[bctt tweet="Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.”"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What do "fools" say to themselves? How are these people described in this psalm?

What does the Lord see when He looks "down from heaven"? Could this be true of today's world?

What assurance is given regarding what is right and for those who are poor?

How do you think the last two statements about Israel relate to the rest of this psalm?

Reflection...

The term "fool" has a broad meaning, but in the psalms it speaks of people without moral soundness. These are people who lack integrity of character and dismiss the normal boundaries of right and wrong.

We've all seen people who think they can get away with something wrong, yet without experiencing any consequences. In some cases, it may be people who have no conscience—no clear sense of right and wrong, while other people may have a conscience, but choose to ignore its warnings. The "fool" characterized in this psalm could be either one.

The key to understanding this psalm is the heavenly perspective—God's view of things. He sees the wrong that is done and cares for the poor and oppressed. He also knows the end result for the foolish.

What can we do as individuals? If we've been foolish, we need to seek forgiveness and restoration from God. When we are pressed and oppressed, we need to seek the Lord as our refuge.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Are there times when you've acted more foolish than wise? If so, have you reconciled with God?

Is your life guided by your conscience or your feelings, wants, and desires?

What guides your life—the culture of the world around you or the truth of God?

How do you keep yourself from being carried along by the current of the culture around you?


Would you like a free study guide for your study of Psalms?

Click Here to get a Free Psalms Study Guide

Inexpressible Groans

Photo credit: lightstock.com But if we hope for what we don’t see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

At the same time the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we don’t know how to pray for what we need. But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words.

The one who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind. The Spirit intercedes for God’s people the way God wants him to. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:25-27‬ GW)


We've all been at that place of not really knowing how to proceed. Perhaps we're in shock or confusion, or it could be a case of analysis-paralysis. Regardless, here's the good news—as believers filled with God's Spirit, God's got our hearts.

Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit who would live in us, teach us, and guide us, and He would be known as the Helper or Comforter (John 14:17, 26). Here we are encouraged that God the Spirit will help us when we don't know how to pray. Even when we don't know how to put what we are struggling with into words, He knows and He prays for us.

Think about it. God created a failsafe process for prayer. We don't need to worry about how to put our requests or our cries for help into words. The Holy Spirit knows what it is and how to convey it to God the Father. Amazing!

Even when we are the most discouraged, we can be encouraged. We are not abandoned or lost, even though we may be at a loss for words. ©Word-Strong_2016

Not Guilty

Photo credit: lightstock.com So now anyone who is in Christ Jesus is not judged guilty. That is because in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made you free. It made you free from the law that brings sin and death.

The law was without power because it was made weak by our sinful selves. But God did what the law could not do: He sent his own Son to earth with the same human life that everyone else uses for sin. God sent him to be an offering to pay for sin. So God used a human life to destroy sin.

He did this so that we could be right just as the law said we must be. Now we don’t live following our sinful selves. We live following the Spirit. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭1-4‬ ERV)


Being "in Christ" is not complicated. It means having a personal relationship with Jesus and, so we can do what He says in John 15:4, "Abide in Me...." Once we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it is a continuing trust in Him personally as God the Son, and in His work of redemption on the cross.

When it speaks of "the law of the Spirit," it's a reminder that this is an intrinsically spiritual relationship based on the power of Christ's resurrection. The indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit enables a believer to be free from the law of sin and death.

We can't free ourselves. We can't make our selves good enough, because we lack that power. But in relationship with Jesus, we gain this power to be free. We become not guilty—free from a sentence of sin and death.

Because Jesus was both human and divine in nature, He could take our place as a payment for sin's debt of death, and destroy its power. Our relationship with Him provides a rightness (or righteousness) with God and His law. So, we have a new way of life.

This new way of life is to follow the guidance of God's Spirit within us rather than our old selfish ways. ©Word-Strong_2016

How to Answer a Fool

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The internet can seem like a maze of opinions that blaze through a forest of knowledge. Many people are earnest in their efforts to post quality articles, news, and resources. But trolls and cyber bullies also abound, thrashing and trashing what's posted without restraint.

What's a person to do? How do you deal with people who look to start a fight and bait people into useless debates? Prevailing wisdom is to ignore them. This may work within the noisy environment of virtual reality, but what about dealing with foolish people in real life?

Scripture

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools! [vss 1-3]

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison. [vss 4-6]

Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool. Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by. As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them. [vss 7-12]

Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own. Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” [vss 17-19]

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. [vss 20-23]

(Proverbs 26:1-12; 17-23 NIV) [Context– Proverbs 26]

Key phrase— There's more hope for a fool than a smug person

[bctt tweet="There's more hope for a fool than a smug person"]

Digging Deeper...

What graphic and descriptive things are said about foolish people? What stands out to you?

How can we make sense of what appear as two contradicting admonitions for answering a fool?

What are the strong, even harsh things said about those who cause trouble by what they say?

What are the expressed and implied ways we are to deal with those who gossip and are quarrelsome?

Reflection...

It's all fine to read these admonitions and indictments of those who gossip and stir up trouble, but how can we deal with real people in real life who do these things?

The key is in the advice for answering fools, which seems contradictory. Which is it? Do you answer a fool according to his folly, or don't you? Yes! There isn't one answer that fits all situations. Here are those two verses (Proverbs 26:4-5 MSG) expressed in a different version—

Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself.
Answer a fool in simple terms so he doesn’t get a swelled head.

It requires discernment, also a reliable base of wisdom, and an objective mindset. Those who trust in God can seek His wisdom and guidance, through prayer and reflection on the Scriptures. Don't get baited into fruitless, emotional arguments. But don't walk away from declaring the truth with integrity.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What will you rely on for wisdom in dealing with foolish and quarrelsome people?

Are you easily drawn into emotional debates that become fruitless arguments?

Do you listen to and pass on information about others that is unnecessary, nonsensical, or destructive?

How can you better answer devious, disruptive, and contentious people?

Leadership Transition and the Value of a Team

What does good leadership transition look like? Should it be on a grand scale and made with great promises? How long should it take, and what's the secret to a successful transition?

Last week I started a three-part series on leadership transition, using the illustration of passing the baton in a relay race. A relay race is composed of teams of four runners who must be quick, strategic, and smooth in running, pacing the handoff of the baton, and the handoff itself.

One critical element is often overlooked in our age of super-stardom. The four runners must work together as a team. No one runner is more important than the other. Each has a role to play. Yes, it's great to get off to a good start, and have a strong kick at the finish. But, it's also vital that the second and third runners gain, regain, or keep the lead, along with seamless handoffs so no precious seconds are lost.

Teamwork is critical for good transitions of leadership. But where and when does this teamwork start?

From great to not so great

Last installment (part 1) we looked at the story of Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles. It is a sad example of a transfer of leadership from one leader to another, from King Solomon to Rehoboam, his son. It can also illustrate a transition of leadership in most any organization, including a church.

[bctt tweet="Teamwork is critical for good transitions of leadership."]

One thing especially difficult is a transition from a founding pastor (or leader), to a younger, much less experienced leader, as in this story (2 Chronicles 10:1-19). "Filling the shoes" of someone who established the culture of a church (or organization) is very difficult, and is even more difficult under the shadow of the founder, if they stay within the organization or church.

Here are several questions that should help bring some healthy consideration towards a good leadership transition. Healthy leadership transition shouldn't start as an afterthought, or in the last few months of a leader's tenure, but needs to start early on. It should be embedded in the whole vision of the church or organization.

[bctt tweet="Healthy leadership transition shouldn't start as an afterthought"]

Self-accountability questions for leaders—

  1. How is your relationship with the Lord? Are you going through a spiritual growth period or a dry spell? Are your devotional times with the Lord somewhat hum-drum or are you experiencing some special times as well?
  2. Who are you discipling? Are you investing any of your life and walk with the Lord in someone else? How are you transferring any of what the Lord has done in your life to bless others?
  3. Who are you training up for positions of leadership? Who is able to take your place if you're called to do something different someday? Will what you are doing outlast or survive your involvement and presence?
  4. Are you accountable to anyone? Who? Do they know this? Do you make regular time to be held accountable? If not, who can you go to when you need guidance, help, or restoration?
  5. What vision do you have for ministry now and the future? Do you have a sense of vision for the ministry you're involved with now? Do you have vision for other ministry beyond what you're doing now?

Now rather than later

That's a bunch of questions all at one time, but these are not to be answered once and set aside. They should be looked at and considered from time to time within a given year—maybe 2 or 3 times a year.

Discipleship will naturally produce leaders. It worked well for Jesus, and it still works. It's just a slow and deliberate process, which is why now is the best time to start doing it! Keep it simple, personal, and deliberate. It will spawn good spiritual growth for the discipler, as well as the one discipled.

[bctt tweet="Discipleship will naturally produce leaders, as it did for Jesus"]

Looking ahead

In the next installment I'd like to address some questions for younger leaders. But even young leaders can benefit from the above questions. If Rehoboam followed the advice of the team of advisors to his father (King Solomon), it would be a very different story. But he didn't.

Trusted and proven advisors are a valuable asset to young leaders, any leaders for that matter. New and young leaders can bring fresh vision and energy to the table, but not know how to get things started or how to implement the vision.

[bctt tweet="Trusted and proven advisors are a valuable asset to young leaders"]

Next week, we'll look at a few ideas to prepare for leadership transition long before it needs to happen.

What is your experience with discipleship?

Are you investing any of your life and walk with the Lord in someone else?

Who are you training up for positions of leadership?

What vision do you have for ministry now and the future?

Plans of the Heart

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How are you doing with those New Year's resolutions you made? Maybe you didn't make any to avoid any failure. But then, that's just failure by default.

Plans and goals can be good things, as long as they're attainable and beneficial. But how do you know?

Nowadays, lots of people offer advice, some for free and some for a fee. But how trustworthy or practical is this advice?

Sometimes, the plans we make with our mind are sabotaged by the plans of our heart.

Scripture

The plans of the heart belong to humans, but an answer on the tongue comes from the LORD. A person thinks all his ways are pure, but the LORD weighs motives. Entrust your efforts to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. [vss 1-3]

By mercy and faithfulness, peace is made with the LORD. By the fear of the LORD, evil is avoided. When a person’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better a few [possessions] gained honestly than many gained through injustice. A person may plan his own journey, but the LORD directs his steps. [vss 6-9]

Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall. Better to be humble with lowly people than to share stolen goods with arrogant people. Whoever gives attention to the LORD’s word prospers, and blessed is the person who trusts the LORD. There is a way that seems right to a person, but eventually it ends in death. [vss 18-20, 25‬]

(‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭1-3, 6-9, 18-20, 25‬ GW) [Context– Proverbs 16]

Key phrase— A person thinks all his ways are pure, but the LORD weighs motives

[bctt tweet="A person thinks all his ways are pure, but the LORD weighs motives"]

Digging Deeper...

What insight is given to us about motives and plans, and God's guidance with them?

What are the ways we can find peace and escape evil and heartache?

What are the pitfalls of pride? What are the benefits of humility? 

Why is it hard for us to know the difference between our self-motivated plans and God's guidance?

Reflection...

Intellect is not the same as wisdom. A person can be intelligent and diligent, yet unsuccessful with their plans. When a person gains wisdom—insight and understanding— it enables them to see things with a better perspective.

Arrogance could be described as a combination of pride and ignorance. Arrogance distorts a person's view of the world and people around them. Humility and respect, especially a healthy fear of God, open doors of opportunity, and provide for a better perspective on the world and people.

When our heart is filled with ourself, with our motives left unchecked, we're headed on a destructive course of life. When we listen to God's wisdom and allow Him to guide us, the road ahead is sound.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you seek out wisdom from God when making plans, or just ask Him to bless what you think is best?

Do you have contentment and peace in life, or anxiety and frustration?

How have you learned from past failures, and plans that didn't turn out well?

What direction is your life headed in now? Are you willing to make any course adjustments with the Lord's help?

An Internal Compass

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Many parallels exist in our world and lives, which we may not even notice. Children's stories and rhymes often teach a moral or life lesson. Each major strata of our physical world—the ocean, earth, and atmosphere—has its own ecosystem, yet they are interdependent.

People are not merely mechanical bodies, but each human has a soul—an inner life. Each human soul has instinctual drives that are, hopefully, tempered by an over-riding conscience.

Although some disagree, people are created with an inner, spiritual compass. When this internal compass is nurtured, it guides and protects a person's whole life.

Scripture

My son, obey the command of your father, and do not disregard the teachings of your mother. [vs 20]

Fasten them on your heart forever. Hang them around your neck. When you walk around, they will lead you. When you lie down, they will watch over you. [vss 21-22]

When you wake up, they will talk to you because the command is a lamp, the teachings are a light, and the warnings from discipline are the path of life to keep you from an evil woman and from the smooth talk of a loose woman. [vss 23-24]

(Proverbs 6:20-24 GW) [Context– Proverbs Chap 6:20-35]

Key phrase

Fasten them on your heart forever

Digging Deeper...

  1. Where is the son's instruction for life to be gained? Is there a difference between obedience and the exhortation to "not disregard" this instruction?
  2. How is this instruction to be attached and integrated into a person's life? What does this picture tell us? What are the three ways this instruction will guide us?
  3. Why is this guidance able to "keep" or preserve us? What are the three ways they to us?
  4. What are we "kept" from? Is it merely the seduction of sexual immorality, or can this be an illustration of any kind of temptation?

Make it personal...

What is the foundation of your life? From whom or where do you draw guidance for your everyday life?

Do you have an internal compass that guides you? What governs the self-talk that goes on in your mind?

What source of truth guides your decisions in life? What enables you to move forward to navigate life's challenges, including successes and failures?

Reflection...

A navigational compass is based on a "true north"—a magnetic reference point. The calculation of distance or measurement of any kind needs a point of reference, or some reliable starting point. The difference between a teaspoon or a tablespoon of salt in a recipe makes a big difference in taste! The principle of a reliable reference point applies to daily life.

We need a reliable internal compass to keep us from living life as if we were a piece of driftwood afloat in the ocean. What's your internal compass based upon?

Mine is based on my personal relationship with God, the truth of His written Word, and the guidance of His Spirit within me.

Self-Preservation at Its Best

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It's been said that self-preservation is a basic instinct. But what's key to preserving oneself? Is it self-indulgence or is self-control a more valuable asset?

When our hearts start wandering, they are not the best guide. This is when self-discipline becomes important.

Is your life driven by desire or guided by discipline? Each has a very different end point.

Scripture

Drink water out of your own cistern and running water from your own well. Why should water flow out of your spring? Why should your streams flow into the streets? They should be yours alone, so do not share them with strangers. [vss 15-16]

Let your own fountain be blessed, and enjoy the girl you married when you were young, a loving doe and a graceful deer. Always let her breasts satisfy you. Always be intoxicated with her love. Why should you, my son, be intoxicated with an adulterous woman and fondle a loose woman’s breast? [vss 17-20]

Each person’s ways are clearly seen by the Lordand he surveys all his actions. [vs 21]

A wicked person will be trapped by his own wrongs, and he will be caught in the ropes of his own sin. He will die for his lack of discipline and stumble around because of his great stupidity. [vss 22-23]

  (Proverbs 5:15-23 NCV) [Context– Proverbs Chap 5:7-23]

Key phrase

Each person’s ways are clearly seen by the Lord...

Digging Deeper...

  1. What is the primary focus of these exhortations? What picture is given and how is it a reminder to guard our hearts?
  2. What are the questions and encouragements directing this person to do? How is this the best kind of self-preservation?
  3. What two things are we reminded of about God and the lack of self-discipline?

Make it personal...

What areas in your life are difficult for you to have self-control?

Are there times when you feel isolated and disengaged from important relationships?

What are some simple things you can do to develop self-discipline and self-control in your life?

Reflection...

Our culture in America exalts self-gratification and promotes self-absorption. This is a destructive and disruptive focus. When desire is pursued—whatever its flavor—and comes up empty, what is left? Relationships are tossed aside and disillusionment is the reward.

Self-discipline and self-control are not popular topics in our culture, yet there is great need for them. In the end, a person who is not driven by desire and who honors valuable relationships will enjoy the best kind of self-preservation.

 

Springs of Life

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What motivates you? What seems to move you through life?

Are you concerned about your appearance or status? How important are the opinions of others, or their agreement with what you choose to do or not do?

Do you find it hard to navigate various distractions and allurements in life? If so, maybe it's time to recalibrate your internal compass.

Scripture

My son, pay attention to my words. Open your ears to what I say.

Do not lose sight of these things. Keep them deep within your heart because they are life to those who find them and they heal the whole body. Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it.

Remove dishonesty from your mouth. Put deceptive speech far away from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead and your sight be focused in front of you. Carefully walk a straight path, and all your ways will be secure. Do not lean to the right or to the left. Walk away from evil.

  (Proverbs 4:20-27 GW) [Context– Proverbs Chapter 4]

Key phrase

Guard your heart more than anything else

Digging Deeper...

  1. What is the fatherly advice given in these verses? How is it both similar and different to the advice in the verses before this?
  2. What is the most important thing to guard above all else? Why does it say this is so important? In what way does the source of our life flow from our heart?
  3. What are the simple and practical directives given in the last few verses? What are the three  general areas involved?
  4. Looking at all these verses— What are the encouraging assurances given to a person who follows this fatherly advice?

Make it personal...

When you hear the truth and seek to gain wisdom, do you think and mediate on them?

Can you discern the difference between what goes on in your mind, and what is settled in your heart (soul)?

What are the areas you struggle with the most? What you say? Where you wander (mentally or physically)? Or, what you gaze upon?

Reflection...

Some things in life can be controlled...for a while. Most any effort we make to control our behavior will fall short at some point, unless we have a reliable internal compass. But where can we get such a compass, and how can it be developed?

When the truth and wisdom of God are internalized, they becomes the basis for us to have a reliable internal compass. The truth and wisdom of God need to be embedded in our inner nature. When this takes place, our day-to-day responsibility is to guard ourself from disruption or corruption of this internal source of guidance.

 

An Internal Plumb Line

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A building needs a level and solid foundation, so that everything built upon it will stand. Everything built upon it must be measured against a plumb line— the vertical level that is square to the horizontal level.

What is the plumb line for your life? What enables you to stand firm and move forward in a good and true way?

Scripture

Then you will understand what is honest and fair and what is the good and right thing to do. Wisdom will come into your mind, and knowledge will be pleasing to you. Good sense will protect you; understanding will guard you.

It will keep you from the wicked, from those whose words are bad, who don’t do what is right but what is evil. They enjoy doing wrong and are happy to do what is crooked and evil. What they do is wrong, and their ways are dishonest. It will save you from the unfaithful wife who tries to lead you into adultery with pleasing words.

But wisdom will help you be good and do what is right. Those who are honest will live in the land, and those who are innocent will remain in it. But the wicked will be removed from the land, and the unfaithful will be thrown out of it. (Proverbs 2:9-16; 20-22 NCV) [Context– Proverbs Chap 2]

Key phrase

Wisdom will come into your mind, and knowledge will be pleasing to you. Good sense will protect you; understanding will guard you.

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are the benefits of getting the understanding that comes from gaining wisdom?
  2. How, in a general sense, will gaining wisdom be a protection? What can it protect us from?
  3. How does wisdom become a plumb line of guidance for a person's life?
  4. What are the far-reaching benefits of gaining wisdom, and consequences for ignoring it?

Make it personal...

Where do you find wisdom, or do you pursue it all? Are the Scriptures a plumb line for your life?

Since it's a matter of wise choices that bring understanding, how will you begin to pursue this wisdom?

How committed are you to gain wisdom and receive its benefits? What will you do to gain wisdom?

Reflection...

The Proverbs contain general truisms rather than iron-clad promises or guarantees (see Proverbs Study Guide). The key to gaining the benefits of wisdom is to have knowledge combined with understanding. The Proverbs are not just rules or theories for having a good life, but practical guidance for a better life. These guidelines lead to understanding for making wise choices in life.

He Taught Them

WS-devo_PMSSo [Jesus and the apostles] left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:32-34 NLT) Jesus saw the people and their need for a shepherd—lost and without direction. So He gave them sound guidance. He taught them many things. Look around you, how do you see people? We need the eyes and heart of Jesus for those around us. ©Word-Strong_2014

Let Me Hear

WS-devo_PMSAnswer me quickly, O Lord. My spirit is worn out. Do not hide your face from me, or I will be like those who go into the pit. Let me hear about your mercy in the morning, because I trust you. Let me know the way that I should go, because I long for you. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord. I come to you for protection. Teach me to do your will, because you are my God. May your good Spirit lead me on level ground. O Lord, keep me alive for the sake of your name. Because you are righteous, lead me out of trouble. (Psalms 143:7-11 GWT) Want God's direction? Answer to your prayer? Call out to Him early in the day. Make this your first priority. Seek Him, know His mercy in the morning. He will answer. ©Word-Strong_2013

Young One

©tkbeyond/www.word-strong.com How can a young person keep his life pure? He can do it by holding on to your word. I wholeheartedly searched for you. Do not let me wander away from your commandments. I have treasured your promise in my heart so that I may not sin against you. Thanks be to you, O Lord. Teach me your laws. I find joy in the way shown by your written instructions more than I find joy in all kinds of riches. I want to reflect on your guiding principles and study your ways. Your laws make me happy. I never forget your word. (Psalm 119:9-12, 14-16 GWT)

Young or old, male or female, how can we find purity in a corrupt world? When the truth of God penetrates our lives. God who is true and undefiled will guide us. ©Word-Strong_2013

My Portion

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Psalms 73:21-26, 28 NIV84)

What fills your heart? What do you hold on to in this life? Whatever it is, it will hold onto you…But the Lord never let’s go of us. ©DailyDevo2012