Read: Proverbs 15
Key Verses: Proverbs 15:17. “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred.”
Devotional: I always hesitate to make blanket statements because we live in a world where God has created each of us with a unique personality, set of interests, likes and dislikes. You would be hard pressed to find two people that agree on every topic or share an identical opinion on a particular issue. With that said, I think we can all agree that a big juicy steak is far better than a plate full of vegetables. If you don’t agree, please know that I’ll add you to my prayer list (just kidding) I couldn’t possibly pray for you (just kidding) I will pray for you because clearly you’re struggling (just kidding) you’re not struggling, you’re just misguided (just kidding). Okay, enough is enough. Let’s move on.
I can only speak from my perspective but if presented with the option of a fat juicy steak or a plate of veggies, I’m always going with the steak. By and large that’s our world right? We generally prefer what’s perceived as the bigger and better option. We prefer bigger and better meals, bigger and better houses, bigger and better cars, bigger and better promotions, bigger and better phones, bigger, better, bigger, better. Where does it stop?
Proverbs 15:17 speaks of our relationships with others like this in the NASB, “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred.”
In other words, bigger and better isn’t always what it seems. “More” by the world’s standard is in reality “less” if love isn’t a part of the equation and “less” is actually “more” if genuine love is in the mix.
Let me stop here and tell you that I appreciate bigger and better as much as the next guy. My concern is when we apply the bigger and better idea to our walks with Jesus. What classifies our relationship with Jesus as bigger and better?
In other words God doesn’t see things the way that I see things. What I perceive as valuable isn’t really valuable in the Kingdom economy. God’s not concerned with my perception of my salvation. He’s not concerned with my perception of the calling He placed on my life. My salvation and calling, your salvation and calling are equal in God’s sight to all those who have received His salvation and answered His call.
We cheapen our salvation and our calling when we focus on the the world’s definition of bigger and better. We cheapen the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. We cheapen the calling that God has placed on our lives when we convince ourselves that it’s not as “meaty” as someone else’s calling. As much as a I prefer a fat juicy steak over a plate of veggies for dinner, I’d much rather have a spiritual plate of veggies that’s straight from God’s table than a manufactured steak from the world’s.
Take Action: How often do you compare your story, salvation and calling with those around you? Do you ever feel like you don’t measure up? Do you ever feel like your “testimony” isn’t as powerful? Make a list of those who could benefit from hearing your story?
Read: Proverbs 14
Key Verses: Proverbs 14:1. “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”
Proverbs 14:3. “In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will protect them.”
Devotional: We can all agree that no one in their right mind would intentionally bring destruction to their own life. For most of us we spend our lives seeking ways to prevent attacks from the outside. We look for ways to protect ourselves and when we do fall under attack from outside forces we naturally go into self preservation mode. We do what’s needed to protect ourselves. We circle the wagons. We batten down the hatches and prepare to weather the storm.
We can easily identify those outside forces that mount an attack against us. Stress at work, strained marriage relationships, financially lean times, unruly kids, lack of time to accomplish all that needs to be done. These all serve as outside forces that can make us feel stressed and attacked. Dealing with one of these stresses can be a lot but imagine dealing with more than one at a time, those are the moments that we feel like we want to pull our hair out right?
Now imagine that in the midst of those “outside in” storms you are also purposely sabotaging yourself by inviting “inside out” turmoil into your life. Proverbs 14 paints this type of picture for us in verses 1 & 3. Verse 1 says, "A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” and verse 3 says, "A fool’s proud talk becomes a rod that beats him, but the words of the wise keep them safe.”
These are great examples of the self destruction that many of us struggle with on a daily basis.
We have developed an acute ability to play the victim in life. We allow ourselves to become convinced that the junk life deals us is out of our control. We think things like:
If we’re honest with ourselves we’ll recognize that much of what we have classified as “beyond our control” or “too far gone” is in reality well within our control and completely redeemable. We’ve simply chosen to think otherwise because the other option requires much more work.
What would it look like in your life to stop the cycle of self destruction?
Take Action: Take some time to make a list of those areas of life where you feel like you are in self destruct mode. Make a list of those areas where you have all but given up. Spend some time in prayer asking God to show you your next steps. You are not a lost cause. You are redeemable. You can do this.
Read: Proverbs 13
Key Verses: Proverbs 13:1. “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”
Proverbs 13:18. “Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored.”
Proverbs 13:24. “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”
Devotional: Parenting can be tough. If you have kids or even if you know kids, especially teenagers then you know that they can be a rollercoaster of emotion. One minute they’re up and the next minute they’re down. That’s the life of the average teen. The hormonal rollercoaster doesn’t get any easier to navigate when you have to firmly correct your teenager for their ill timed response, eye roll or flat out disrespectful attitude. If you thought things were rough before, wait until you ground them, take away their phone or shut down the weekend plans: BUCKLE UP and HANG ON.
We’ve been blessed with pretty well-behaved kids. They seem to have developed pretty easy going personalities and as they’ve grown into high schoolers we’ve developed an even better relationship with each of them. They’re open with us, they don’t seem afraid or hesitant to talk about girls they like, their journeys with Jesus or their future plans and dreams. As crazy as it may sound to some, we don’t just love our kids, we really like our kids. They’re fun to be around.
Even still from time to time we have to step in a provide some discipline for our sons. You’ve heard the old adage right, “Son this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”? Growing up, I always thought that was a ridiculous statement but as a parent I’ve come to realize the truth that’s buried there. Sometimes, I want my sons to succeed more than they want to succeed and sometimes that requires tough love.
It really does break my heart as a parent to discipline my sons. It breaks my heart because although it’s necessary, it’s avoidable. There’s a better way to do that, say that, express that frustration, etc. that would not result in discipline. It breaks my heart that my sons have to experience discipline but it’s necessary for their maturity and spiritual growth. One of my greatest desires in the area of raising my sons is that they would be open to discipline and instruction.
Here’s the good news, God not only knows more but He also knows best. In chapter 13 of Proverbs there are several references to the topic of discipline. The majority of these references are in the context of parent/child relationships but sandwiched in there is a line just for us:
“Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored.”
If we’re not careful we become quick to apply the concept of discipline to everyone but ourselves. Our kids need discipline, our lazy co-worker needs discipline, our slouch of a brother in law needs discipline, but what about us? How often are we guilty of blowing off the discipline of God in our lives? God’s greatest avenues for providing us with discipline come through His Word, His Spirit and His people. If we’re truly interested in allowing God to continue disciplining us than we’ll continue to place ourselves on the corners of those avenues. Allow other people to speak into your life. Spend time looking into God’s Word, asking for Holy Spirit inspired discipline.
Take Action: Make a commitment this week to invite someone to speak truth into your life. Ask them to provide you with the “tough stuff” that we sometimes avoid. Are you a good friend? Are you treating your spouse in a God honoring way? Are you giving your all while at work? What area of your life do they see that needs discipline.
Read: Proverbs 12
Key Verses: Proverbs 12:3. “A man will not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will not be moved.”
Devotional: If you own a home then you’ve likely experienced the wonderful world of clogged sewer lines due to tree roots. We’ve lived in our house for over 15 years and we’ve dealt with this on multiple occasions. It’s the worst! Why is it that clogged sewer lines always seem to happen late at night after a long day of working and running errands. It never seems to happen in the morning when you’re fresh and ready to tackle the day right? If you’ve dealt with these awful roots of death then you’ve also likely experienced an even worse feeling of having to “call the man”. You may call him the:
If you’ve had to make that call then you know the feeling of being held hostage. They know that you’re in a bind. Your toilet is clogged and you have no option but to pay whatever they ask for and since it generally happens at night, you’re now stuck paying the “after hours” rate.
Perhaps like me you’re stuck into calling “the Man” because your knowledge of how to clear the roots is rather limited. I just don’t have those kinds of tools. While my knowledge of root clearing is limited what I do know is that most trees have really deep roots that spread both out and down from the base of the tree. A mature tree's roots can spread 2-3 times the diameter of the tree’s crown or canopy, so a tree that's 30 feet tall can have roots that reach out anywhere from 60 to 90 feet from the trunk. That’s crazy to think about. A tree in my yard could be clogging someone else’s pipes two doors down. Can that be proved? I’d hate to get stuck with someone else’s plumbing bill. Yikes.
Roots are a powerful force. Not only can they cause tremendous destruction, they can also provide unbelievable strength. Trees that look as though they should tumble over in the midst of heavy sustained wind manage to hang on because of the power of those rascally roots.
The writer of Proverbs talk about the power of roots in verse three of chapter twelve. Verse three says, “A man will not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will not be moved.” Think for a minute about all of the ways that you and I attempt to establish ourselves: money, security, physical prowess, status, looks, education. I won’t throw these things into the category of wickedness but we drop the ball when we classify these things in the same category as righteousness. Nothing will hold you more secure than righteousness. The righteous will not be moved. The righteous will endure the storm. The righteous will brave the elements of life and come out stronger on the other side. When the storms of life hit and our bank accounts dwindle, our beauty fades and our friends abandon us, will you remain? How are you establishing yourself? Are you rooted in the things of God?
Take Action: How are you currently seeking to establish yourself? Status? Promotions? Size of house, bank account, social media subscribers? If a massive storm were to strike your life tomorrow would you be able to endure? What changes need to be made for you to tap into the root system of God?
Read: Proverbs 11
Key Verses: Proverbs 11:14. “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.”
Devotional: I’m a huge fan of guys like John Maxwell and Craig Groeschel who have carved out an amazingly impactful niche in the world of leadership. Maxwell has written dozens of books on the topic over the last several decades and Groeschel has produced a widely circulated and ever growing podcast on a variety of topics within the vein of leadership. The insight these guys provide is practical and applicable to everyday life as it relates to business, church, family and everyday life leadership. Leadership resources such as these abound. Take just a moment to peruse your local bookstore or do even a cursory Google search on the topic of leadership and you’ll be amazed at how many resources are out there. Leadership help is everywhere. Regardless of your level of leadership in the corporate world, in your local church, in your family or school there are plenty of resources for you to tap into to become wiser, stronger and more effective. Even if you don’t consider yourself a leader, rest assured that you do lead.
The writer of Proverbs gives us an amazing bit of insight into one of the most overlooked keys to leadership success. Proverbs 11:14 tells us that there is safety in having many advisors.
At first glance this seems to counter the traditional model of top down leadership. We have too often assumed that an effective leader is one who can seclude himself or herself in their large corner office and hand out directives that can successfully navigate the organization through even the most difficult of times. We’ve bought into the idea that a successful parent is one who always knows the right answer, the right direction and the right response. We’ve bought into the fallacy that a good leader is someone who doesn’t need the opinion of others, doesn’t need the expertise of those around them and can manage and direct all areas of the organization, family or group singlehandedly.
Proverbs 11:14 reminds us that we need one another. We exercise wisdom when we allow others to speak into a tough situation. We practice Biblical leadership when we open ourselves up to new concepts, fresh ways of handling a tough situation and new approaches to an on going struggle.
Effective leadership is about bringing together a group (family, church family or employees) and guiding them towards something greater. In order to do that your people need to know that you are confident but not cocky. Your family needs to know that you have a plan but are also open to new ideas. Seeking insight from those whom you lead will only serve to endear them to you and your vision for your organization, church or family.
Take Action: Take some time today or tomorrow to keep a record of how many times throughout the day you share an idea and how often you listen to a new idea. Make an effort to run all of your new ideas past at least 3-5 people before putting them into place.
Read: Proverbs 10
Key Verses: Proverbs 10:19. “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”
Devotional: Before I make this next statement, let the record show that I was a much younger man. This was prior to me obtaining the vast wealth of maturity that I now possess (wink, wink). Remember when people would unscrew the tops of salt shakers just before someone would attempt to apply just a touch of salt to their meal? What about loosening the cap to the ketchup or mustard? Awesome right? I mean, that’s extremely immature and…I’m sorry it's pretty funny. I can't deny it.
I remember doing these very things as a kid growing up in a house with two older brothers. Mom or dad would grab the salt shaker and we would just wait with bated breath for the inevitable to occur. Or if I was feeling particularly bold I would unscrew a few tops just before leaving a restaurant. Of course the downside being that I never received the satisfaction of seeing a mound of salt dump all over some unsuspecting person’s plate of food. Bummer right?
This particular verse in Proverbs chapter 10 reminds me of this long forgotten rebellious stage of mine. Salt can be a really good thing in the right environment and with the right amount. The same is true of ketchup and mustard. They each have the ability to add a little flavor to a perhaps otherwise bland meal. But too much salt, too much ketchup, too much mustard can ruin even the choicest of meals.
The same can be said of our words. Our words carry a tremendous amount of power and potential. But too many words can quickly lead us down a dark and lonely road. As my now teenage sons were beginning their journey into the world of sports I recall the words that I would say to them as I dropped them off at their first practice or conditioning at the start of each new season. Before they jumped from the car to run in, I would simply say, “Son, less is more.” I had to explain myself the first few times but eventually those words were enough to remind them of this powerful lesson.
“Less is More” can certainly apply to our words in everyday life as well. Too often we are tempted to fill the dead air with something. Too often we desire to be understood before we fully understand. We feel the need to speak when words aren’t really necessary. When we aimlessly fill the air with words we run the risk of inviting sin into our lives. It’s when we speak too much that our words become less guarded. The Psalmist says it like this, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
We should strive for fewer words with greater substance.
Take Action: Take a guess at how many words you speak on an average day. Now look up that stat on the internet and compare yourself with the average. Regardless of whether you are above or below average, how many of your words are necessary? Are you guarded in your words? Make a list of settings where you feel as though you let your guard down when it comes to your words and make that setting a point of prayer. Ask God to give you wisdom and strength to only speak when needed.
Read: Proverbs 9
Key Verses: Proverbs 9:13-18. “The woman named Folly is brash. She is ignorant and doesn’t know it. She sits in her doorway on the heights overlooking the city. She calls out to men going by who are minding their own business. “Come in with me,” she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says, “Stolen water is refreshing; food eaten in secret tastes the best!” But little do they know that the dead are there. Her guests are in the depths of the grave.”
Devotional: We all know that one person who seems to make consistently poor choices. It’s obvious to everyone, except them right? We scroll their social media in disbelief at their inability to see it. We clearly see the ramifications of their ill thought out decisions. It’s as obvious as the nose on their face, yet they miss it altogether. Poor choice after poor choice, they continue on as if it all makes perfect sense.
Very few people are fully aware of their own ignorance. Most people assume that they’re doing okay. It’s the old adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know because you don’t know it.” That’s why those who aren’t aware of their own ignorance can so convincingly lure other unsuspecting people into their ridiculousness. It’s why they can come across so confident as they speak of their own foolishness.
Proverbs 9 gives a name to this person. “Folly” is painted as an adversary to wisdom. She is brash and ignorant. She positions herself in places of prominence and reaches out to those who are simple, to those who lack good judgement. With all that she has she attempts to convince others that she has discovered another way. Folly believes in what she is doing. She believes in her way of life. She believes in her choices. She believes that she is on the right path.
Because of her passion and conviction, there is a danger is conversing with Folly. Pause long enough and Folly will bend your ear as well. She will make promises that unbeknownst to her, she is unable to keep. Folly seems plausible.
You and I can have many similarities to Folly. We often become convinced that our choices, our habits and our words are correct without ever stopping to run them through the filter of wisdom. So passionate are we that we spend time luring others into our way of thinking, our way of speech and our way of living. It all makes perfect sense…to us.
The wisdom of Proverbs 9 tell us to perform regular check ups on what we’ve become convinced is the right way. We must never allow ourselves to be convinced by ourselves. Right living is always affirmed by wisdom. If the only people who agree with your choices, behaviors and speech patterns are you and those you have chosen to surround yourself with, tread cautiously. Folly has become your companion.
Take Action: Think through why you are convinced that what you say and do is right. To whom or what are you looking to for comparison? Are you often the only one that agrees with what you’ve done or said? Can you readily identify Folly as your companion? What would it look like for you to end that relationship and develop greater intimacy with wisdom?
Read: Proverbs 8
Key Verses: Proverbs 8:22-31. “The Lord formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else. I was appointed in ages past, at the very first, before the earth began. I was born before the oceans were created, before the springs bubbled forth their waters. Before the mountains were formed, before the hills, I was born - before he had made the earth and fields and the first handfuls of soil. I was there when he established the heavens, when he drew the horizon on the oceans. I was there when he set the clouds above, when he established springs deep in the earth. I was there when he set the limits of the seas, so they would not spread beyond their boundaries. And when he marked off the earth’s foundations, I was the architect at his side. I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence. And how happy I was with the world he created; how I rejoiced with the human family!”
Devotional: Have you ever watched someone struggle to do something while they refuse to ask for help? Maybe someone changing a tire? Maybe someone struggling to open a jar? As you sit and watch you laugh to yourself as you think, “Why wouldn’t they just ask for help?” The situation turns from laughter to minor frustration on your part as you continue to watch them struggle knowing full well that you are not only capable of helping but you are in fact an expert in what they’re struggling with. You may even offer to help but you’re immediately refused and given the standard reply of, “I got this, I just need a minute.” Frustrating right? Why would someone refuse help from someone who knows exactly what to do? Why would someone exhaust every other option before eventually giving in? Don’t they know that they are only making things harder for themselves?
If we’re honest this very situation describes our lives on many levels. Too often we allow the wisdom of God in our lives to become a secondary, last minute, plan B kind of thought. We map things out according to our best line of reasoning and our current resources and then run that route until we hit a dead end. Once we hit the wall, we may scrabble together another plan or two before we eventually find ourselves banging our heads again the wall in frustration. Only when we’re at the end of our ropes do we turn to seek the wisdom and knowledge that God possesses for our current situation.
According to Proverbs 8 wisdom has been around since the beginning. Before the earth began, before the oceans were filled, before the mountains burst forth, before the horizon. As the clouds were set in place, when the springs were established, when the foundations of the earth were set. Wisdom was there.
Imagine having access to wisdom that predates us. Imagine having access to wisdom that’s been around since the beginning of time. Imagine having access to wisdom, the same wisdom that laid the foundations of the earth. Can we just agree that foundation laying, earth creating, ocean filling, cloud setting, mountain making wisdom is far better than anything we can come up with?
Let’s make a commitment to seek His wisdom for our lives first. Before we bang our heads against the wall again, before we cry ourselves to sleep again, before we lose another relationship, let’s look to Him. He has the answer.
Take Action: Make a list of the situations in your life right now where you are in need of God’s wisdom. What kind of “I got this, I just need a minute.” moments have you had with God in the past? What would it look like to yield to God’s wisdom first before hitting the brick wall in your life?
Read: Proverbs 7
Key Verses: Proverbs 7:21-23. “So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery. He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter. He was like a stag caught in a trap, awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart. He was like a bird flying into a snare, little knowing it would cost him his life.”
Devotional: As a parent of two teenage sons I can fully attest to the reality that sometimes teenagers don’t fully think through what they are doing in their lives. They’re good at mapping out point A and maybe point B but they usually fail to see point C, point D, point E and beyond. Having been around the block a few times we as parents try to teach out kids to think critically about which path they are on and where their current, seemingly harmless choices could possibly lead.
To teenagers and sometimes even to “seasoned adults” certain options can seem really appealing at first glance. We can sometimes be guilty of shadowing the heels of those in front of us without ever raising our heads to see where it is that we’re headed. We shuffle along following what’s in front of us without fully thinking through where this road will lead us.
Figuratively speaking we keep our heads down, only raising our eyes high enough to what’s right in front of us. With that being our only directional point of reference we simply keep moving.
Proverbs 7 paints a powerful picture of someone witnessing first hand the ramifications of an ill-advised youth failing to critically think through his choices. The writer uses powerful words such as “seduced” and “enticed”. We’ve all been there right? We’ve all felt the powerful lure of instant notoriety, instant money in our pocket, instant pleasure. We each have our own stories of “one being led like an ox to the slaughter”. It’s often these scenarios that we find easy to spot, especially in the lives of others. We use phrases like, “Any idiot could have seen that coming.” or “I could have told you that was going to happen.” or “I’d never be so stupid.”
What’s interesting is that the writer also uses another analogy that we perhaps overlook as one and the same. He uses the words “a stag caught in a trap, awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart”. This feels intentional to me, I think the writer was painting two pictures: one of instant death and the other of eventual death.
We often pride ourselves as mature adults who can easily spot obvious pitfalls and would never make a decision without critically thinking it through. However the writer also points out that not all “pitfalls” are so easy to spot. The stag isn’t killed immediately, it’s first trapped. What perhaps looked like an appealing or delicious opportunity to the stag, in the end only served to ensnare it. The stag wasn’t killed right away, the arrow to its heart came later.
Take Action: What opportunities have you been faced with in the past that didn’t pan out or end up as great as they first seemed? What opportunities are currently on your horizon? Take some time to map out what points B, C and D will look like for each of those opportunities.
Read: Proverbs 6
Key Verses: Proverbs 6:6-11. “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
Devotional: I love a good nap. You know what I’m talking about right? One of those rainy day, window cracked, shades slightly pulled, fan running in the background kind of naps. I almost slipped into a nap as I wrote that.…excuse me while I wipe the drool from my mouth. Naps for me are great but if I’m not careful I can allow those “short naps” to develop into more of a mindset for my week. In other words I can get lazy pretty quickly.
We live in a day and age where lots of people want things handed to them. I’m not talking about the “widows and the orphans” that Jesus so clearly commands believers to look after (see James 1:27). Jesus makes clear that those on the fringe of society are to be taken care of by the church. I’m talking about people like you and I who can get lazy when it comes to getting things done, especially when no one is looking. We long for the consistent "rewards of work" while fail to consistently produce a "quality of work".
Let’s imagine a scenario where the boss is away for the day and things around the office have, how shall we say, “relaxed” a little. People let their hair out, shirts might come untucked a little, ties are loosened, everyone breathes a collective, “sigh of relief”. Does the work still get done? Sure it does, but perhaps not as efficiently as it would if the boss were around.
This really has everything to do with our motivation. Why do we work so hard when the boss is around? Do we put in the extra effort only if we’re sure that it will get noticed? What if we know that no one is watching, does our work ethic shift to a lower gear? These are tough questions to answer but God’s Word makes clear that you and I as believers are called to work at everything as if working for the Lord (see Colossians 3:23).
The Proverbs gives us a powerful example of what our work ethic and motivation should look like in the tiny ant. Ants scurry around gathering, preparing and storing for the coming winter out of necessity. If winter hits an unprepared ant colony, it’s "Adios" to the ants. While our laziness could probably go undetected for some time and our families would likely continue to eat three squares a day, our motivation should be higher than mere survival. As believers, we work hard not to survive but to thrive. When we work as if working for the Lord we thrive in our spiritual development. When we work hard at our jobs even when the boss isn’t looking, rest assured that others are looking. Co-workers and those in your office who are evaluating what it means to be a Jesus follower based on how you act, are sitting up and taking notice.
Take Action: Take some time to evaluate your level of dedication and hard work when the bosses are watching and when they are not watching. Are they different? Make a list of those in your work community who could be taking notice of your work ethic? Would they see an accurate representation of what it means to be a Christ follower by watching your life and work ethic?
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