God's Word

The Path of Wise Counsel

Stupidity is fun to the one without much sense,

but a person who has understanding forges straight ahead.

Without advice plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.

…and a timely word—oh, how good!

The path of life for a wise person leads upward

in order to turn him away from hell below. (Proverbs 15:21-24 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 15:20-24 GW)


When I was in school as a young student, we used encyclopedias as references for projects and term papers. The Encyclopedia Britannica was somewhat the gold standard then but the more modern American version—the World Book—was a bit more accessible and easier to use.

If you wondering how long ago, it was after dinosaurs were extinct but before Jurassic Park (LOL). We went to public and school libraries to do research, unless your family could afford to buy a set of encyclopedias. Even then, if you needed several reference sources, you went to the library.

But today, a laptop and a good wifi signal will suffice most of the time. Need some answers? Check Wikipedia or “Google it!” Want to know how to do something? Search YouTube.

But the wired-world of today isn’t nearly as reliable and trustworthy as many believe. It’s a closed system of information and tech-savviness. Wisdom and understanding aren’t contained in articles or downloads that await us in the Cloud.

True wisdom is gained through reading, discussion, reflection, and thinking. But who has time for that?

Godly wisdom requires a similar process but is based on the Scriptures as a primary reference of truth and the wise counsel of godly people.

There was a time when “experts” thought the world was flat and ships would fall off the edge of the earth if they went too far. Of course, this was proven false countless times, centuries ago. The earth, planets, and stars in their orbits was also understood in Bible times (Job 26:7, 10; Psa 19:6; Isa 40:22).

Current wisdom is uncertain and short-sighted. It’s based on insufficient evidence with unverified extrapolations. Years ago, certain foods were said to be unhealthy for us. Now, these same foods are considered essential to good health.

Too often, what may be true to some degree is taken to an extreme. This is true in various fields of knowledge. It leads to what I’d call pop-wisdom. It’s pushed by popular opinion but my cynical self says it’s driven by what’s marketable rather than sound reasoning.

True wisdom—godly wisdom—takes the larger view of things and yet sees the smaller details. It doesn’t rush to unreliable conclusions. It’s also practical. True wisdom applies to everyday life and is time-tested.

Godly wisdom is based on an eternal perspective rather than individual preference. This is seen in the larger context of these verses and is summed up here—

The fear of the Lord is discipline ⌊leading to⌋ wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Prov 15:33 GW)

As spoken of in an earlier devotional, the fear of God isn’t a fearful attitude but a personal, respectful trust in God. It’s not relativistic but a disciplined view of life and truth.

When the wisdom we hold to is no longer based on assumptions and opinions but anchored in a transcendent source of truth, it is reliable and sound.

It includes trustworthy advice from people whose lives are an example of godly wisdom based on biblical truth, not arrogance and self-importance. This is the path of wise counsel.

Reflection—

How are you guided through life? Do you listen to the popular wisdom of the day or rely on the soundness of godly wisdom? True wisdom is gained through reading, discussion, reflection, and thinking on the truth of God with those who trust in Him.

Prayer Focus—

Approach each day with a fresh willingness to seek godly wisdom from the Scriptures—asking God to give it you as you pray and read (James 1:5)—and spend time with the people of God who trust in Him as shown by the example of their lives.

©Word-Strong_2018


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An Exposed Heart

If Sheol and Abaddon lie open in front of the Lord

how much more the human heart! (Proverbs 15:11 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 15:8-19 GW)


I’ve often wondered why people subject themselves to the public scrutiny of reality shows. Is it just for the money? Much of the time, some not-so glamorous moments in people’s lives are laid out for all to see. That is, all who watch.

As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of reality shows. The few times I’ve endured watching them for a while, I find myself cringing and shaking my head at what I see.

I don’t like having my life exposed for everyone to see. People are too quick to draw their own conclusions—often jumping to unfounded judgments of reasons and motives.

Having a somewhat public life as a pastor and overseas missionary, I’ve experienced some unwanted exposure of my life and endured some unfair and unwarranted criticism and condemnation.

It’s part of the territory for those roles in ministry but it can still be difficult to endure. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion but it doesn’t mean those opinions are right or true or valid.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years—there’s always more to the story. More importantly, whenever anyone of us sits in judgment of others, we’re sitting in a seat that doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the only True and Righteous Judge—God.

There’s not one person on earth who hasn’t sat in judgment on another. All of us do it in some way and to some degree.

We look askance at people for what they wear or don’t wear. How they talk or look or act. People judge each other for what they eat or don’t eat, the music they like or don’t like, their politics, favorite sports team, and what they watch or won’t watch on TV.

What catches my attention about all this is how exposed my heart is before God. Nothing is hidden from Him. Nothing.

It’s not just my heart that’s exposed to God, it’s every human heart. Yours and mine.

Several places in the New Testament scriptures, including the words of Jesus in the Gospels, tell us there will be a judgment to come of all people at the end of the age. None of us now when that will be exactly but it is certain.

Even Sheol and Abaddon—death and destruction—are not hidden from God. After all, He is eternal.

You won’t be seeing me in any reality shows any time soon—not if I have anything to say about it! But even if my life isn’t displayed for all to see, I know the Lord sees everything in my heart—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This humbles me when I consider it. The psalmist David says this eloquently in Psalm 139—here’s an excerpt—

You alone know when I sit down and when I get up. You read my thoughts from far away. You watch me when I travel and when I rest. You are familiar with all my ways.

Even before there is a ⌊single⌋ word on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You are all around me—in front of me and in back of me. (Psa 139:2-5 GW)

I try to keep this awareness fresh in my mind. When I remember my heart is exposed before God, it helps me avoid sliding into any judgment seat. And when I find myself sitting in His seat, I sense God’s Spirit whispering to my heart that I’m not where I ought to be.

Reflection—

All of us have judged someone in some way and to some degree. Whenever we do, we’re sitting in a seat that doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the only True and Righteous Judge—God.

Prayer Focus—

Join me as I daily, even moment by moment, ask God to keep me from judging others and asking Him to forgive me when I do.

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Power of a Gentle Answer

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A gentle answer turns away rage,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.

The tongues of wise people give good expression to knowledge,

but the mouths of fools pour out a flood of stupidity.

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere.

They watch evil people and good people.

A soothing tongue is a tree of life,

but a deceitful tongue breaks the spirit.

 (Proverbs 15:1-4 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 15:1-7 GW)


I don't know about you but I'm fed up with the rancorous political rhetoric and mudslinging that goes on at election time. And it seems to get worse each election!

And the news media, including social media, plays off of it all and ramps it up even more. It doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you're on—it comes from all sides. If it doesn't bother you too, you're probably caught up in it too much.

All of this rancor and uncivil debate confirms the second line of this verse—

...but a harsh word stirs up anger.

But what about the first line of the verse? How can a gentle answer turn away anger or rage? At first glance, it may seem absurd or naive. But it's true. I've seen how it's true firsthand.

I can get emotional and passionate about what I think is right or when I think I'm right in a heated discussion (aka– argument). My wife and good friends have turned away my anger and rage on more than one occasion. Thankfully!

It's been helpful to me personally but also an example for me to do the same. I'm also thankful I've become less easily angered over time, as the Lord continues to work His grace into my heart and life.

Perhaps this is why I'm bothered by combative talk, especially when one party really isn't hearing or considering what the other is saying.

As said many times before, it's not just what you say but how you say it. So, how can a person do this? How can we learn to give a gentle answer in the face of someone else's wrath?

The first thing is to observe how effective it is when someone else does this. For starters, we can all learn a lot from how Jesus deflected the animosity and opposition aimed at Him.

But how is really more about who—our character. This isn't an encouragement about self-improvement exercises or things to say. It's about an internal change in us—our heart, our nature.

It's about an internal change in us—our heart, our nature

Reading further in this chapter, three verses stand out to me in relation to this first verse—

The tongues of wise people give good expression to knowledge (Prov 15:4a GW)
The lips of wise people spread knowledge (Prov 15:7a GW)
A soothing tongue is a tree of life (Prov 15:4a GW)

The first two verses speak of the character of a person and how they speak and what they say. Wisdom isn't gained by osmosis or by birth—it doesn't just come by being around it. It's gained by taking wisdom in, considering it, understanding it, and then living by it.

The first part of verse 4, the third verse mentioned, is very similar to the first verse. It's a little different in its wording but conveys the same thing—a gentle answer... a soothing tongue. These words have power but are not intimidating.

When you speak gently to a scared animal, it tends to calm them down. Talking loudly and forcefully only reinforces the fear in an animal or a person.

When a baby is crying it doesn't help to yell, "Stop crying!" at the baby. But when you speak in a soothing way with encouraging and comforting words, it helps relieve tension and is reassuring. This is true for a baby, a child, and an adult.

So, when confronted with someone's anger or rage next time, try answering them in a gentle way and speak with a soothing tongue—whether in person or in some form of social media. Choose to lower the tension. Choose the wise way—the godly way.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Reflection—

If we want to give a gentle answer in response to anger or wrath, we need to embrace the wisdom from above and let it bring a change deep in our soul—our heart and mind.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God daily for His wisdom—it's pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere—so you're able to give a gentle answer in the face of anger or rage.

©Word-Strong_2018


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When Fear Is Strong

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In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,

and his children will have a place of refuge.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life

to turn ⌊one⌋ away from the grasp of death. (Proverbs 14:26-27 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 14:14-33 GW)


The fear of God is often misunderstood. Western culture typically portrays fear as a weakness. It's certainly not seen as a strength. Think of the stories in horror and sci-fi movies that feed off fear as the main attraction and intrigue to keep viewers watching.

Some relegate the fear of God to being an Old Testament concept that no longer applies to followers of Jesus under the New Covenant of grace.

After all, when we see Jesus in the Gospels, we see a man who gives Himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of humanity—a gift of perfect love, and who heals people and has concern for the outcasts.

2 different fears

It's common for people to confuse the general idea of fear with the fear of God but they're different. The fear of God is not what is more typically in mind which is a fear of anxiety.

The simplest definition of the fear of God is reverence. But the fear of God, as expressed in several places in the Bible, speaks of respect, awe, holiness, and so much more. Similar phrases are found throughout the Bible, such as godly fear or the fear of the Lord, probably more than you might think. 

In these verses in Proverbs, the fear of God is "a fountain of life," and a place of refuge and strong confidence. The fear of God as a fountain of life is based in relationship with God and a personal response to His sovereignty as Almighty God.

The "strong confidence" comes from a trust in God because of who He is—much like a young child who looks up to and trusts in the strength of a parent. How many times has a child said something like, "My dad is bigger and stronger than your dad!"

Many times in Scripture, the Lord is described as a place of refuge. This is not an actual physical place of security but a sense of safety and rest based on a trusting relationship with God. God is sovereign, He rules over all and is greater than all and He can always be trusted.

How can the fear of God be a "fountain of life?"

God is the Creator and Originator of all life. When a person has a worshipful awe and respect of God, they tap into the One who truly holds our life in His hands, as the children's song goes.

Here is something Jesus said about fearing God and anxious fear—

Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission. Every hair on your head has been counted. Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows. (Matt 10:28-31 GW)

Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others. So, the fear of God—reverence for God—is a counter to anxious fear.

This is what the apostle John refers to when he says—

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

One last thought on the fear of God as a fountain of life—the book of Proverbs begins with this—

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Prov 1:7 GW)

The fear of God—or the fear of the Lord—is a loving awe and respect for Him—a perfect love that pushes out anxious fear when we choose to trust in the Lord.

(see below for more on the fear of God)

Reflection—

Which do you choose to rule over your heart and life? Anxious fear or the fear of God? Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others.

Prayer Focus—

If anxious fear seems to have a strong grip in your life, consciously and prayerfully remind yourself of God's greatness, His sovereignty over all, and His perfect love. Look up all the references to the fear of God (fear of the Lord) and consider these truths as you pray and entrust your life to the Lord.

©Word-Strong_2018


Here are some previous posts related to the fear of God—

The Purpose and Value of Proverbs

Honor and Respect

Taste and See

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The Fallacy of Common Sense

 Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

The teachings of a wise person are a fountain of life

to turn ⌊one⌋ away from the grasp of death.

Good sense brings favor,

but the way of treacherous people is always the same.

Any sensible person acts with knowledge,

but a fool displays stupidity. (Proverbs 13:14-16 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 13:14-25 GW)


Whatever happened to common sense? If it's so common, why isn't there more of it? It turns out... common sense isn't so common after all.

If you haven't said it, you've probably heard something like—"Use some common sense!"—as an admonition to use good judgment, act wisely, or think wisely before making a decision.

Sadly, common sense or good sense seems in short supply. The idea of good judgment that follows logical, rational thought just isn't so common or ordinary.

There's no question that it's valued but it doesn't appear to be common for the general population. Why not? What seems to be the hindrance?

Common sense, in order to be good, sound judgment, needs to have a sound basis or origin. Is there really such a thing as common sense? Yes, but at present, it's suppressed in our culture by what's popular, trendy, or whatever is most appealing at any given time.

For common sense to be sound, it needs to have a frame of reference and a reliable point of origin. Also, consistency and continuity are required for something to be common or accessible for everyone.

When something is uncommon, it's in contrast or at least significantly different than what is common. In other words, for something to be an exception to the rule, there needs to be a rule—a standard.

In a way, common sense gets pushed aside with a new common. The new standard is relativism and individual preference. These have become a new frame of reference for truth, morality, fulfillment, and even spiritual truth or spirituality.

Consider how flexible and accommodating companies and the service industry have become. Menus with "no substitutions or changes" are going by the wayside. Most of the time, you can have it your way for a small up-charge.

The consumer public wants their personal preference to prevail. We don't want what everybody else has unless it's customized to suit us. This demand for accommodation and individuality permeates our present-day culture in so many ways.

Even the truth is affected, or should I say, infected with this expectation for individualistic expression. Individualized interpretation of the truth results in confusion and a lack of understanding when it comes to theology and spirituality in general.

When everyone has their own interpretation of the truth or what truth is, there's no reliable standard to base truth on, which also affects what is considered sound judgment.

When you or I go to buy something at a store or fill the car with fuel, it matters what the cost is based on. What taxes are added to the cost? When it comes to measuring things, is it metric or American standards? When traveling abroad, what currency is used and what is the exchange rate based on?

Common sense needs a common point of reference as its basis, its standard. Otherwise, it has no lasting value. When it comes to navigating life and our relationships, we also need consistent and reliable values.

So, what is the standard for your life values? What truth are you relying on?

When you rely on your own interpretations of the Bible and its truth, you'll run into the same troubles others have who choose to go their own way and common sense will elude you.

If the truth of God written in the Scriptures isn't your point of reference, you don't have a trustworthy standard of truth. This is the message of the wise writings throughout Proverbs.

Good sense brings favor

Reflection—

Do you think you have common sense and good judgment? What truth are you relying on? If God's truth isn't your point of reference, you don't have a trustworthy standard of truth and likely lack sound judgment.

Prayer Focus—

Seek the Lord regarding whether or not you have common sense based on His truth. Ask God to give you discernment and confirmation of what good sense is and if you have it and are experiencing His favor.

©Word-Strong_2018