righteous

Extreme Opposites

Whoever approves of wicked people

and whoever condemns righteous people is disgusting to the Lord.

To punish an innocent person is not good.

To strike down noble people is not right. (Proverbs 17:15, 26 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 17:15-28 GW)


Polarization is the current buzzword used to describe the toxic political and social environment of America. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground based on the loud rhetoric that shouts down any differing opinions.

Even a sense of what is right and wrong is in question. Truth and justice have become relative terms dependent on personal persuasions and feelings.

This is how it appears on the surface but I don’t believe it’s accurate. The north and south poles are at opposite ends of the earth but small in comparison to the world in between.

When the focus on a certain issue or concern emphasizes an extreme perspective, it comes at the cost of the truth. Focus on two opposite extremes obscures the truth which exists somewhere in between the extreme positions.

If this becomes the norm rather than the exception to the rule, truth and justice are set aside and replaced with a distortion of what’s true and just.

Then, those who are guilty and corrupt are tolerated while those who are innocent and righteous are ignored or crushed and oppressed.

This disgusts the Lord and it ought to do the same for those of us who trust in Him.

Cultural shifts take place frequently. A wind of new wisdom and insight blows in and people get swept up and away with whatever the popular current may be. This is not new. History reminds us of this if we pay attention to it.

But, when the cultural current flips our moral standards upside down and ethics are mocked—the people of God must take action.

“What can we do about it,” you might ask?

We need to stand firm in what we know to be right and true and good. This is a continuing message in Proverbs (Prov 1:1-7). This is what the Lord expects of those who trust in Him.

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Does it sound too simplistic, even weak? It isn’t.

Try standing in a swift-moving stream while standing on a rocky and sandy riverbed. You’ll find it’s not so easy.

How about standing in the ocean in knee-deep water where the waves break near the shore with the back and forth movement of the tide? If you’re not careful, it will knock you down and pull you out into deeper water and stronger waves.

Stand firm!

Stand firm in what is right and true and just. Stand up for the innocent and oppressed. Move beyond ideology and rhetoric when confronted with a distortion of truth and justice.

As it says in the book of Romans—

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good. (Rom 12:21 GW)

This is difficult to do in many real-life circumstances but God will honor it. The more you and I stand firm, the stronger we become.

Reflection—

We need to stand firm in what we know to be right and true and good. The Lord expects all people who trust in Him to do this. Let’s move beyond ideology and rhetoric when confronted with a distortion of truth and justice.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for God to make the truth of His written word more clear to you, especially when He speaks of how we are to live and act as His living representatives in this world. Ask for discernment, discretion, and wisdom for how to stand firm for what is good, true, right, and just.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Good Roots

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A person cannot stand firm on a foundation of wickedness,

and the roots of righteous people cannot be moved.

...but the roots of righteous people produce ⌊fruit⌋.

One person enjoys good things as a result of his speaking ability.

Another is paid according to what his hands have accomplished. (Proverbs 12:3, 12b, 14 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 12:1-14 GW)


Every hurricane season, trees are uprooted, seashores are eroded, and homes get flooded. Such is life in the Carribean, Florida, and all along the Gulf Coast.

In SE Asia, typhoon season brings similar scenes. Not only are trees uprooted, many homes are completely washed away with storm surge and flash floods. Though not unusual, it's still devastating for families to lose homes, livelihoods, and even, for some, the lives of loved ones.

Whether trees or homes or people's lives, a solid foundation is vital for enduring powerful storms. Roots are the foundation of a plant or tree and provide a network for sustenance essential for life.

These two verses referring to the "roots of the righteous" speak of two outcomes—they "cannot be moved" and they "produce fruit." Stability and life.

What's the key to these "roots of the righteous?" Their roots are in solid ground and soil that's nutrient-rich with sufficient water.

An immediate reference to the truth of God can be drawn from the larger context of Proverbs and the figurative lesson in Psalm 1:1-3.

I see another reference in verse 14—

One person enjoys good things as a result of his speaking ability. Another is paid according to what his hands have accomplished.

Families and cultures can produce tremendous pressure on a person to conform to what's most likely to lead to a successful future. But many times it's at the cost of a person's identity and integrity—their internal essence—their spirit.

We're all wired differently. We all have different gifts and skills. Many people are not suited for college but do well with practical training in what they do best and countless university degrees never factor into a person's life work.

Each of us needs to stay grounded in who we are as God created us to be.

Some people are good with words, both learning and teaching in an academic environment, or in other ways of expressing thoughts and ideas through words. Others are good with their hands and actions, they build or create things skillfully and are content with doing things well.

How can a person know for sure what they are best suited to do?

When each of us is well-grounded in our relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of our life—the One who knows us best—it's much easier to know what we were created to do best.

The important thing is being rooted in a personal relationship with the Lord and living our life guided by His truth and wisdom.

Reflection—

If you want to know what your purpose in life is—what you were created to do well—then allow the roots of your life to grow deep in a well-grounded relationship with God.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for discernment and wisdom. Ask God to either clarify or give you fresh insight into what He's equipped you to do mentally and physically—according to what fits you best.

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Joy of Integrity

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When righteous people prosper, a city is glad.

When wicked people die, there are songs of joy.

With the blessing of decent people a city is raised up,

but by the words of wicked people, it is torn down.

A person who despises a neighbor has no sense,

but a person who has understanding keeps quiet.

Whoever gossips gives away secrets,

but whoever is trustworthy in spirit can keep a secret.

A nation will fall when there is no direction,

but with many advisers there is victory. (Proverbs 11:10-14 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 11:1-19 GW)


When I hear people complain about the government, I think of the many places I've traveled to and when we lived overseas for 15 years. I know from experience these complaints are short-sighted with a narrow focus.

It doesn't matter where a person's convictions fall on the political spectrum—we all tend to judge things based on our personal view of things, through the lens of our biases and opinions.

No government is perfect because they're made of people and none of us are perfect. But some governments provide more safety and stability than others. A few afford freedoms and opportunities not commonly found elsewhere.

Living and traveling overseas will likely give a person a clearer perspective on all of this unless their eyes are shut—blinded by arrogance, indifference, and prejudice.

As an observer of history and people, I've gained some perspective over the years. Things aren't nearly as dire as some would have you believe nor as wonderful as others might say. I've learned to be thankful and prayerful.

I'm thankful for the Lord's kindness and provision, for the place and time in history I was born into and live, and thankful for the truth and wisdom God gave me that brings clarity and perspective.

I'm prayerful for my nation and for leaders to have integrity. When people of integrity lead a nation it opens the door for prosperity beyond economics—a prosperity not defined by wealth but more of a sense of favor and well-being.

That's what I think of when I read these verses in Proverbs. I know that people of integrity—people of character—who lead in various levels of government—local, regional, or national—are a blessing to their communities and spheres of influence.

I know there's a great need for people of integrity to be raised up in civic, business, and spiritual arenas. When people of integrity lead—that is, people of "understanding" who are "trustworthy in spirit"— there is joy, gladness, and a prosperity of well-being.

The next time you find yourself complaining about the government or leaders in any other sector of life, take some time to be thankful and pray for integrity instead. It will help adjust your perspective and help you to see God's blessings and help you to become a blessing.

I believe this is why the prophet Daniel had such great favor with the emperors he served under (Daniel 2:46-49; 6:28) and why the apostles Paul and Peter exhort us to pray for those in positions of authority (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

These men knew what it was like to live under tyranny and oppression. They had an eternal perspective and were thankful, prayerful men of God.

Reflection—

We're told that when the righteous—people of integrity—are leaders, it's a blessing to everyone and brings honor to a city, even a nation.

Prayer Focus—

Pray for leaders with integrity to be raised up in all spheres of government and influence—including local and national, civic, business, and spiritual leaders. And as you pray, be thankful!

©Word-Strong_2018


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A Tongue of Pure Silver

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Whoever conceals hatred has lying lips.

Whoever spreads slander is a fool.

Sin is unavoidable when there is much talk,

but whoever seals his lips is wise.

The tongue of a righteous person is pure silver.

The hearts of wicked people are worthless. (Proverbs 10:18-20 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 10:8-21 GW)


If you "Google" silver-tongued, you might find something like—a person who has a clever way with words. Or, the old song, The Silver Tongued Devil and I might pop up. It alludes to the dark and evil side of a person hidden behind a saintly smile. Obviously, to be silver-tongued gets a bad rap in public opinion and Google searches!

So, how could it be a good thing to have a tongue of pure silver? 

Pure silver—when it's clean and polished—is beautiful. It shines with a mirror-like luster and understated dignity. Pure silver reflects everything around it through its beauty.

The key to the verse about the tongue of a righteous person being pure silver is found within the context of its nearby verses. Contrasting statements clarify the intended meaning—the exact opposite of the popular perception of a silver tongue.

When I seek to understand a verse in Scripture, I look at the context first, then observe anything the specific wording reveals. I'll compare various Bible versions to help me with other word usages for the same verse.

What stands out as most obvious is the comparison and contrast of the worth of the tongue or lips of a righteous person with the value of the heart of wicked people.

Why does this stand out? The tongue and the heart are different parts of the body having different functions. This is figurative language that illustrates the intended meaning.

The tongue represents a person's mouth and what they say, as made clear from the context of the nearby verses. The heart represents a person's inner being—their nature.

As so often is the case, Jesus helps us connect the dots for a clearer sense of the meaning. In response to some self-righteous religious leaders, He said—

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matt 12:34)

Jesus was blunt and direct in saying this and it stung those to whom it was directed!

We've all said something out loud we wished hadn't come out and then tried to excuse it or explain it away. But the problem isn't with the words so much as where they originated.

Reading the greater context of Proverbs 10:20—verses 8-21—speaks to our need to choose wisely what we hold in our hearts and minds. Sooner or later our true nature will be revealed by what we say.

Reflection—

We all need to be careful about what we hang on to and hold in our hearts and minds. Sooner or later, what is in our hearts and minds—our true nature—will be revealed by the words we speak.

Prayer Focus—

Guarding what comes out of our mouths requires constant self-monitoring but it often seems like an impossible challenge. Prayer—continuous prayer—and the constant presence and guidance of God's Spirit enable us to overcome this challenge.

©Word-Strong_2018


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Precious In His Sight

Loneliness is linked to death nearly as much as sorrow. When a loved one passes out of this life it leaves an empty place. This is especially true in the loss of a spouse, child, or parent but also with close friendships and other close family ties.

The space in our lives once filled by someone dear is not filled up by time or activity or someone else. It can't be filled with something or someone else but we can express this need to the Lord and ask Him to fill us with His goodness and presence.